Late last night he had found himself on the familiar route to Beth’s apartment. He parked a couple of blocks away as usual and ignored the neighborhood dogs that barked as he made his way down the block to her apartment building. He spied her bedroom and it was dark, the curtains floating lazily in the soft breeze that blew in through the open balcony door.
He really needed to talk to her about closing and locking that door, this is LA he thought as he took a familiar seat under the balcony, nestled in between the forsythia bushes and the large mimosa tree that stood next to the building. He leaned his head back against the siding and felt the cool against his head and listened to the light breeze that rustled against the leaves of the various trees in the yard. It was almost musical and relaxing to him and he sighed and inhaled a deep breath, absorbing the quiet of the dark, moonless night.
It took a while before he realized that he was hearing more than the sounds carried on the winds; he heard soft moans and it registered in his brain that it was Beth. He stood up and looked up at the doors; it was still dark in her room but the sounds were louder now. He couldn’t tell if they were moans of pain, or hurt or passion and since he couldn’t scent her either he only got more concerned as he stood there and listened.
The balcony was too high up for him to be able to jump; as a human that was. He cursed his humanity for a moment, hating the fact that he couldn’t jump up to make sure she was okay. He eyed the mimosa tree and walked over to it, seeing if he could reach one of the lower branches; if he could he might be able to get closer.
A small jump and he caught a lower branch and swung himself up until he had a better hold and his legs could wrap around the branch as well. From there he stood up and found another branch and slowly he made his way up until he was even with the balcony. He was only about 4 feet away from it and he pondered for a moment whether or not to try to make the leap. If he were running it would be a piece of cake, but from a standing position it could be risky.
Maybe if he climbed a bit higher he could jump down instead of across but the higher branches offered nothing closer. As he stood there debating what to do he heard another sound from Beth and this one was definitely a sob.
Decision made, one long leap had him over the railing and landing on the balcony. He fell forward, his hands hitting the deck and getting a bit scuffed up but he was fine he realized when he stood up. Jumping 4 feet while he was still healing was probably not the wisest thing he had ever done with all the other injuries he had but it didn’t matter; he had to know if she were okay.
He stood in the darkness and saw the dial glowing on her alarm clock; 1 am. She was restless and had kicked the covers off of her legs. She wore a short nightgown he saw in the dim light of the clock but could see little else. He caught a glint of her long blond hear as well and ached to run his fingers though it and comfort her.
Beth and Mick were struggling to keep Josh alive and when it was finally to the point where nothing was working Beth said, “Turn him, he’ll live!”
“That’s not living Beth. I can’t do it,” he told her and she could tell by the look on his face that he meant it.
“Please, for me!” she almost yelled, pain and desperation saturating her words and making her voice sound almost ragged.
“I can’t,” he’d said simply.
Suddenly Coraline was there, pushing Mick aside. “I’ll turn him!” she said, and tore open her wrist. Josh grabbed for her wrist greedily, sucking the blood from her in huge gulps. Mick stood back and shook his head, watching the horrific spectacle in front of him in stunned silence.
Josh stood up and embraced Coraline, capturing her lips in a heated kiss and she purred, “He’s mine now!” They walked off together as Mick and Beth both stared at them in shock.
“Josh, she’s evil! Coraline, leave him alone!” The words rang out in the night, wrenching Beth awake. She sat up in bed, her breath coming in quick pants, as she tried to suck air into her lungs that felt starved for oxygen. She looked out the balcony door and hairs on her arms stood up for a moment as she realized someone was there, watching her.
The stance, the hesitance to move forward told her it was Mick and suddenly she felt safe again. She slid out of the bed and went to him, wrapping her arms around his waist and pulled him close to her.
Mick’s arms wrapped tightly about her and he buried his head in the golden silk of her hair, inhaling the soft jasmine smell of it. He couldn’t hear her heart but he could actually feel it beating frantically against his chest. He ran his hand down her back, lightly caressing her in a comforting way. He felt the front of his shirt grow damp and became conscious of the fact that she was crying, silent tears slipping down her face to be absorbed by the shirt.
“Beth,” he murmured against her hair. “I’m here.”
He held her for a few minutes until she calmed down and started to pull away from him. Her hand caressed his cheek as she stared at him in the dark cloak of the night and she leaned up to kiss him briefly. Her lips felt warm and moist as they moved against his in a tender caress and Mick caught his breath, praying it wouldn’t end. She took another step back and wiped a tear away, staring at him with sad and unreadable eyes.
He pulled her back for one last quick hug and maybe it was the sound of the breeze blowing gently in the trees but for a moment she thought she heard him say, “I love you.” He turned and leapt back into the tree and she stepped forward to watch him as he climbed down and started down the block to where the Benz was. He never looked back.
The fact that Beth had called out Coraline’s name in her sleep disturbed him, especially when said in connection with Josh’s name. He didn’t have any idea what the dream was about but he knew it hadn’t been good; not at all.
As a quick image of Coraline flitted through his brain he realized that he had been feeling a bit of guilt over her seeming self-sacrifice to Lance for him. He had thought about trying to find out where they took her but a couple of things stopped him; first off, he was human now and knew they could easily kill him and second, he believed that it had all been staged for his effect. Because deep down Mick knew that most of what Coraline did was staged; hadn’t the past few months shown that?
Hadn’t their lives together demonstrated that? Everything she did she did with a purpose in mind; to manipulate him.
Mick and Coraline had been separated this time for almost two years; he wanted it to be over this time, really over but he knew better. When he had run into her at a small club he frequented he felt the rush of excitement that only she could stir in him. A few dances later he had gone back to the house with her and before he knew it he was visiting her more and more often. She promised things would be different and he wanted so desperately to believe her; God help him, but he loved her. Josef said she was his drug of choice and that he needed to find a way to beat the addiction but so far he hadn’t.
He was working a case one night in the warehouse district, staking out a building that supposedly had a lot of teen activity in it. It wasn’t known if they were runaways or if it was just a gathering place, but Josef and Mick had heard about it through their vamp connections and Mick decided to check it out.
As he watched a familiar vamp strode into sight and he became alert. It was 11 pm and when Leo Sellini got involved Mick was immediately on alert. Mick detested Leo and knew that if he was involved something nefarious was happening. Mick watched as teens began arriving, in twos and threes and after seeing 20 or more enter the building he decided he needed to see what was going on in there.
Leo was one sick son of a bitch; he liked kid’s blood and while Mick knew that Leo wasn’t the only vamp that did it disgusted him to the bottom of his soul; that is supposing he had one. Coraline and her crowd had no boundaries about kid’s blood which was one of the reasons he had left her, time and time again. He’d had blood of teenagers before, if they were older that was but he drew the line at the 17-18 year olds. He felt a sharp pain rush through him as he remembered what he used to be; he often couldn’t believe some of the things he had done with Coraline, but he’d had enough.
He jumped up to the top of the building looking for a good vantage point and saw not only Leo, but several other vamps inside along with the kids. Some of them were really young Mick noticed, maybe not even 13 or 14. Too damn young to be here he decided. He knew there were too many vamps for him to take single-handedly so he knew that he would have to have backup and made a quick mental list of who he’d get to come along tomorrow night. Just then he noticed Leo gathering a group of 4 of them and heading out the building. Mick jumped down and decided to follow him, just to see where they were going. At least he might be able to save this group.
Leo led them all to his car and headed up to Hollywood Hills. Mick grew more and more uncomfortable as they wove their way on the twisty roads and felt a sinking sensation in his gut as Leo pulled up at Coraline’s.
No, she told me she didn’t do this anymore. She promised…
He knew exactly what was going to happen to those kids and he got out of the car and wretched. Nothing came up but a slight feeling of nausea still sat in his stomach. He heard the kids chattering excitedly to be going to such a glamorous place to party. It would be their very last party Mick knew. The house was ablaze with light as the usual crowd tittered about their soon to be had meal.
Mick leaned against the side of the Benz trying to decide what to do. Finally he decided the best course of action was to just join the party and see if he could scare the kids off before anything happened to them.
As he wove his way through the crowd a few people spoke to him and he nodded curtly at them, focused on the kids. As he got closer he realized that a couple of them probably weren’t even teenagers yet and he felt his stomach roil again. He stopped in front of them and opened his mouth when Coraline spotted him and pulled him close and placed a kiss on his lips. Mick immediately wiped it away and saw her eyes flash for a brief second before she smiled at him again.
“Mick darling, I thought you were working this evening?” she asked but he could tell from her tone that she was pissed, probably because she had been caught in the act.
“Yeah, funny thing that. I was watching a warehouse where large groups of teens had been gathering when I saw your friend Leo gather these four and head here. What the hell Coraline? You promised me you didn’t do this anymore!” He couldn’t help it when his voice grew louder and soon everyone at the party was staring at him wondering what was going to happen next.
“Come inside honey and we’ll talk,” she cooed into his ear, wrapping her arm though his and tried to pull him away.
Mick yanked his arm away and looked at the kids who looked scared now. “You get out of here, run,” he told them and they only huddled closer to one another, afraid to move. Suddenly he vamped out and yelled, “Get the hell out of here if you want to live!” and they scattered, running wildly through the crowd of astonished partiers.
Soon the sound of their footsteps could no longer be heard and Mick looked at Coraline whose eyes flashed at him again and she growled, taking a stance. “You had no right Mick, this had nothing to do with you!”
“It has everything to do with me, when my wife promises that she wouldn’t kill kids anymore just to get their blood.” He strode over to Leo and grabbed him by the collar and hissed, “Leo, if you ever bring another single child here I will personally hunt you down and cut your head off. Do you understand me?”
Leo nodded and as soon as Mick let him go he ran for his car and screeched down the driveway; many of the others were doing the same. Mick watched them flee with satisfaction and then turned back to Coraline. He couldn’t believe he once thought she was beautiful and sexy and mysterious. She made him sick.
Coraline saw the shift in Mick’s eyes and forced her anger down; she knew this was a pivotal moment for them and any misstep would send him away. She took in his rigid stance, hands clenched at his sides and saw the hatred that was streaming from his eyes and suddenly she understood that maybe it was already too late. “Mick, it was only a party you know; some of these people, well, it’s what they expect,” she offered timidly.
“This is it Coraline, I’m done. This marriage is over.” He turned and headed down the driveway to the Benz and pulled the door open and sat down. He was shaking a bit form the surge of adrenaline that was fueled by his anger. Finally he started the car and pulled away.
Coraline stood watching him but knew he would cool down and come back; he always did. Three days later she received the divorce papers and it suddenly occurred to her that she had been wrong. He had never done this before and she realized he wasn’t bluffing.
A plan began to form in her mind; it would require a child and would be exquisite revenge. She’d show him that he couldn’t walk away from her.
Good riddance he thought; it was probably all a set up anyway, just a way to get him to follow her. It wouldn’t work; he’d had enough of her manipulations. He knew that love didn’t have to be about who won this round. If he could only work this out with Beth maybe love would save him; save him from himself and this life of loneliness.
He wanted that more than he’d ever wanted anything in his whole life; maybe even more than being human again.
He headed off to the shower to get his day started and realized he felt better than he could even imagine feeling, aches, pains and all.
After he finished his shower he got dressed and headed downstairs to see make some coffee. While he waited he turned on the computer to check out the latest news and saw Michaela Martinez reporting for Buzzwire. She looked nothing at all like Beth but she really copied her style, hoping for a way to get Beth’s job no doubt. He quickly found the local newspaper site and had just begun to read when the lock clicked on the door and Josef walked in.
“Shit Josef, I could have shot you!” he declared with a glare at his best friend.
“You’re not fast enough human Mick,” Josef said and sunk down onto the couch without saying anything else. Mick poured him a glass of the remaining B + that he had and silently handed it to him and then poured a cup of coffee for himself and settled on a chair across from the couch. He took a sip of the steaming brew and waited for Josef to speak.
Josef took a sip of the blood and grimaced as he looked around at the pillow and afghan that was still lying on the couch and said, “How long has this been sitting in there anyway? Tastes terrible. Is it too much to expect you to have a bit of fresh stuff around? Yeah, of course it is…” he trailed off and took another sip before finally setting the glass down on the coffee table. He picked up the pillow and ran his hands over it, poking at the plush fabric before tossing it down to the other end of the couch.
Mick had silently watched all this and knew that something was wrong. Since it was Josef and he wasn’t ranting, it wasn’t about money, so that left something personal. “Josef, what’s wrong?” he finally asked.
Josef opened his mouth to speak and then closed it abruptly; Mick watched as he repeated the gesture as if trying to find the right words. Patience finally paid off when Josef said, “The doctor I hired to examine Sarah has told me that there is no hope. She uh, she stroked out and there’s nothing left, in her head that is. Nothing. She said it might not have even been caused by the turning, probably wasn’t in fact.”
Mick waiting a dozen heartbeats before speaking, letting the words settle in. He cleared his throat and said, “Josef, you did all you could.”
His friend nodded and Mick saw a glint of a tear in the corner of Josef’s eye. “I know, I know. But all these years I selfishly kept her alive, hoping. That might have been worse for her, you know? Sarah was catholic, she, she might have been able to pass on to her idea of heaven, if I hadn’t done that. Maybe, I don’t know.” He leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees and looked Mick directly in the eye. “You’re catholic Mick; did I make it worse for her?”
Mick shook his head and said, “Josef, what you did you did with love and I can’t believe that love is ever wrong.”
“Is there such a place as heaven Mick?” The words were all but a whisper and Mick had to strain to hear them.
“I hope so buddy, I really do. And if there is Sarah will certainly find her way there. I take it you have decided to let her go?”
Josef nodded and several more tears made their way down his grief-stricken face. He hastily wiped them away and stood up, preparing to leave. “I’m heading to New York in a little while. The good doctor is accompanying me.” He walked around the couch and stopped by the door with Mick following on his heels.
“Want me to come with?” Mick asked.
“No, this I gotta do alone Mick.” The door opened in and he was gone in an instant, heading down the stairs, not taking time to wait for the elevator. Mick shut the door and leaned against it for a moment, feeling a rush of pain wash over him for his friend. Maybe this would be a good thing and Josef will be able to move on he thought; he hoped anyway.
Beth was just finishing dressing when she heard a knock on her door. She padded into the living room in her bare feet and opened the door, surprised to see Elka standing there wearing a smile and carrying a vase of flowers.
“Hi Beth. Am I intruding?” Elka asked softly.
“No Elka, um, come in please,” Beth answered, stepping aside so Elka could pass.
“I saw these flowers and they reminded me of you,” she said, handing the beautiful crystal vase to Beth. “They look delicate, but they are actually very sturdy and adapt well to new situations,” she said as she looked around Beth’s apartment.
“You mean like weeds?” Beth teased, admiring the flowers. She sat the vase down on the coffee table and added, “Can I get you anything to drink Elka? I mean, well I don’t have any blood, but anything else?” Her face flushed scarlet at her words and so he motioned to the sofa and asked Elka to have a seat.
“Some of the most beautiful flowers are actually weeds, like sunflowers. But they bring a beauty to this world beyond compare.”
Beth chuckled and nodded her head, getting Elka’s point. “You’re trying to tell me that I will be okay and go on from all this?”
“In a manner of speaking, yes.” Elka reached out and took one of Beth’s hands between her own and inquired, “How are you Beth?”
For a moment Beth’s eyes brimmed with tears and she quickly blinked them away. “I’m taking one day at a time.” She shrugged and added, “Nothing else I can do.”
“So true. But it is hard, is it not? I lost my husband and son when I was but a very young woman. They were killed in a battle with the Crow. They were the love of my life and I’ll never love anyone like that again.”
Beth’s eyes opened in surprise as she heard that. “Elka, I’m so sorry to hear that. I didn’t know, Mick never said anything.”
Elka nodded and said, “It is not his story to tell. But it has all worked out for me, one way or another.” She lightly bit her lower lip, thoughtful for a moment and then said, “Beth, have you talked to Mick?”
“Not exactly,” she said, remembering his visit to her balcony last night. “I want to Elka, but it’s so hard to let go of everything.”
Elka had heard what had happened from Josef and knew how Beth had lost Josh; her heart ached for the young woman but she knew that Beth’s destiny did not include that young man. Instead, it involved a vampire that needed her as much as she needed him, whether he was temporarily human or not. “Reach out to him Beth; he needs you as you need him.” Elka stood up to leave and Beth stood with her.
“I will, I promise.” A tear made its way down her small face and she let it fall as if it could carry her pain with it. She reached for Elka and hugged her; she didn’t know who was more surprised, herself or Elka.
‘The pain will fade and the sunflower will sprout soon Beth, it is the way of the world. Nurture it, as you would any precious thing.” She slipped out the door and Beth watched her leave, feeling hopeful for the first time since Josh’s death.
Mick picked up his keys in preparation to leaving the loft on his shopping trip. He started to reach for his duster and then laughed as he realized he didn’t need it. He pulled the heavy door closed behind him and pressed the button to lock it and headed to the elevator. He whistled a little Etta James as he went and if he wasn’t moving as comfortably as he would like he was still walking in this world in human shoes.
Vampire or not the bright sunshine demanded sunglasses and he pulled on a favorite pair as he slid into the Benz. He decided to keep the top up since he had so many purchases to make and it would be easier than having to raise it later.
He had spent a good amount of time on the internet looking at bed options. He had two large rooms upstairs and either one would make a good bedroom. What he wasn’t sure of was whether or not he wanted to invest in a bed that he would only use temporarily. It wasn’t about the money, there was plenty of that but it was about how much need he would have for it in the future.
A blond head in the car next to him brought another one to mind and he considered it from a ladies perspective. If that particular lady happened to be human, well, they couldn’t get too friendly in the freezer and the couch, while reasonably comfortable to sleep on wouldn’t allow much luxury when one was occupied with other things.
Right now he was going to focus on his immediate needs and had decided on one of those inflatable air beds. Not fancy, but it would meet his needs while he considered the other situation. He actually wanted to rush out and buy a whole bedroom set right away but he had this nagging feeling; like it would be jinxing it all. He pushed that sobering thought out of his mind as he turned into the mall to begin his hunt.
Two hours later he had purchased the temporary bed and the necessary bedding to go with it. He laughed at the choices for sheets and pillows these days. Used to be cotton; you had cotton sheets, that’s what everyone had, at least everyone he knew. Now days it was percale or Egyptian cotton or cotton blends or polyester blends or flannel or silk. He eschewed the polyester ones and the flannel sheets as well; he couldn’t imagine trying to sleep on flannel sheets, how hot would that be? Instead he chose the Egyptian cotton ones, along with several blankets to go with them. Pillows were another thing that had changed. He had had a feather pillow in the past, but fiberfill seemed to be the pillows of choice now days. He bought 4 of them because they felt so damn good as he held them against his head. He tried to ignore the shocked looks from other shoppers but frankly he just didn’t care. He was having a blast.
He decided to stop in the kitchen ware area and wandered the aisles looking at all the electronic appliances and kitchen gadgets available. He went a little crazy here too, buying a toaster, a blender and several other items that the sales lady told him were indispensable. He admitted the juicer might be nice but wasn’t sure he would ever use the food processor. The kitchen gadgets amazed him even more than the appliances did; what the hell did someone need an egg slicer for? Didn’t a knife do that and what about a zester? Really, he thought with a smile? He purchased it all and finally had to make arrangements for it all to be delivered later that afternoon.
As he left the mall he saw a Starbucks on the corner and pulled the Benz in to grab a cup of coffee. When he walked in the door an irresistible aroma hit his nose; coffee and other delectable scents he couldn’t name. He walked up to the counter and saw the huge menu board but decided to go for the basics.
“I’ll have a cup of coffee, please,” he said to Julia, the counter girl. She had long dark hair that was pulled back into a pony tail and she looked about 16, but she had an infectious grin and he returned it, feeling suddenly carefree.
She looked at him expectantly and finally said, “Latte, cappuccino, espresso, mocha, macchiato…” her words trailed off, waiting for a decision from him.
“Um, regular?” he asked, hoping there was such a thing. He stared at the board again and changed his mind. “Wait, I’ll have a cappuccino,” he said with confidence. Everyone was always talking about drinking cappuccino and now he was going to have a chance to try it.
“Short, tall, grande, venti?” she questioned, waiting for him. He heard several other people standing behind him and he tried to make up his mind but he didn’t really know what all that meant.
“Uh, regular? I mean, those are sizes aren’t they. Just a regular size.”
“Tall then. Fat-free, low-fat, breve, regular or soy?” She watched the confused look on his face and added, “The milk we make it with.”
“Regular?” he stated and he could tell she was mentally rolling her eyes at him.
“Regular, decaf or half caf?” was the next question and Mick began to panic a bit. How many damn questions did you have to answer just to get a cup of coffee? “Let me guess,” she said, “regular?”
He swallowed hard and nodded, praying there was nothing else.
“Do you want a shot?”
If Mick could have crawled under the counter he would have. A shot? A shot of what? From the impatient and frenzied huffs of the people behind him he knew he had to hurry up. “NO shot, just, you know, regular.”
“Okay,” she said, “regular it is.”
Two minutes later Mick had his cappuccino and took his first sip. It was fantastic he decided, worth the forty questions. He licked the foam off of his top lip with a smile and decided he was never going to Starbucks again.
His next stop was at Kuan Yin Palace for Chinese food. He had heard Beth talk about Kung Pao chicken and he couldn’t wait to try it. As he entered the restaurant the enticing aromas tickled his nose and he grinned like an idiot. He was going to like this he realized as he was shown to a table.
His first course involved Hot and Sour soup and it was delicious. That was followed by an assortment of dim sum and each one a delight. Finally the Kung Pao chicken, extra spicy arrived and it smelled positively orgasmic! He picked up his fork, leaving the chop sticks to the pros and dug in.
The first bite exploded on his tongue, attacking his taste buds with a vengeance. It was, it was like dynamite had exploded in his mouth and he grabbed for his glass of water and drank it straight down and then looked around frantically for the waitress so he could get more. She saw his red face and the beads of sweat that were running down his face and bought a pitcher.
“Leave it,” Mick asked hoarsely and quickly drank down the next glass. It still didn’t stop the burning; he wondered if it had burned the skin off of his tongue because it felt so raw. He picked up a spoon and tried to look it to see if his thought was correct.
The waitress brought him a glass of milk and said, “It help, better than water!” She smiled and stood there watching as he drank the milk. Finally the pain started to recede a bit and he gave her a faint smile. She grinned and bowed at him, happy to have helped.
“I”ll uh, just take the check,” he said, ready to leave.
“You want doggy bag?” she inquired.
“No,” he said with a shudder. Never again, never again…
His final stop was at Jarmin, Markham and Associates. He looked at the listing of offices in the building and saw they were on the fifth floor and headed to the elevator. When the doors closed he punched the button for the 5th floor and waited as it moved swiftly upwards all the while serenading the travelers with Muzak.
When the door opened he saw his destination straight ahead, Jarmin, Markham and Associates. He walked through the double glass doors and looked around the office. It was pleasant with a small waiting room filled with magazines and a television set playing to help people be entertained as they waited.
“May I help you,” an efficient receptionist asked, eyeing the handsome man in front of her. She gave him a brilliant smile and waited for him to speak.
“I’d like to make a deposit. For uh, my own use.”
Next week we return to the next episode, Fated to Pretend. Will Mick stay human or return to the vampire world? If given the choice, what would he do?
Don't forget to stop in for 'Freshie Friday' this week. This next story is called 'If Forever Never Comes'. It is a 'what if' story about Mick, Beth and Coraline and not in Beth's Diary universe. I hope you will enjoy it. See you there!