July 11, 2008
It is breathtakingly beautiful here at the house in Seattle. Actually, it’s not really Seattle, it is across Puget Sound from Seattle and we’ve found on clear evenings you can see the city far across the water, decorating the landscape with lights that twinkle in the starry sky. If I never had to leave here I could be very happy for I’ve found that I am completely at home here in the cool breezes that blow in off the Sound. The air here is moist and crisp and stirs something within me, long forgotten memories of vacations taken to Yosemite or the High Sierra’s. We would pack up gramps’ old station wagon and head off, not any real plan just a group of vagabonds heading to sights unseen. I remember standing in the mists of Yosemite Falls and breathing deeply as the vapor spun iridescent rainbows around me and laughing with delight.
That’s sort of how I feel here; I feel young again and whether it is because I’m sharing this with Mick or because we are just beginning our lives together I’m not sure. I’m looking at life in a totally different way and so far I love the view.
There are apple trees that grow on the property, several varieties actually as well as a few pear trees too. I long for autumn, when the trees will share their bounty with us and Mick has promised to bring me back then so that I can indulge my love for that very often over-looked fruit that is so delicious. Right now the trees are beginning to show the promise of the future harvest but it still smells wonderful, walking among them in the evening shade. Mick has a caretaker and his wife who watch over things for him and she makes applesauce and butter, cider and other apple treats and sells them in the fall. And the craziest part of that is that they are vampires! She can’t taste the treats that she makes but they have won awards at fairs and such. Mick says that a vampire’s sense of smell is so acute that you can often get a very good sense of when something is seasoned correctly – if you know what it is supposed to smell like in the first place that is.
Did I mention that I am a very happy married woman? An ecstatically happily married woman in fact? We have both let down our walls and just soaked up all the other has said, regardless of what it is. So much of Mick’s life story has been heartbreaking to me and honestly, I don’t know how he has had the strength to go on sometimes. He told me that he often thought about ending his existence after he was turned but something always held him back. He feels with all his heart that he was meant to save me and that we were fated for one another.
It feels weird to think about that in some ways; I know that he was out there all those years but he knows so many things about me that it sort of freaks me out. He was there when Brian kissed me on the beach that long ago July night and that was what made him move here because he realized that he was beginning to see me as a woman, not the little girl any longer. What would have happened had he stayed in direct contact with my family I wonder, if I had grown up having him as a tangible part of my life? Would we still have fallen in love or would that have been too creepy?
I guess I’ll never know.
After they rented a car at SeaTac they headed for the ferry that would take them over to the west banks of Puget Sound. They caught the ferry at Edmonds and would ride to Kingston where they would take 104 over the bridge and eventually to Mick’s house. It was a wonderfully clear day in Seattle, the temperature about 72 this morning, a blessed relief from the heat of Las Vegas.
On the ferry they walked around, looking out over the water as the huge boat skimmed along. The water was very gray, a surprising thing to Beth who was used to the varying shades of blue back home.
“Is it always this gray? The water I mean?”
“No, sometimes it’s more of a blue-gray or even a trifle green,” he answered, watching her cheeks pinken delightfully in the cool, salty breezes. She lifted her head slightly, scenting the tang in the air and he thought she had never looked more beautiful.
This was a poignant journey for Mick. How many times had he thought of her when he lived here? How many times had he literally ached to show her this place that he loved and despaired because he knew he never would? And yet her she was, his wife going to the house that had been his refuge; it could have easily been his prison if Elka hadn’t come along and made him face his demons. Being here with Beth was going to open up floodgates that he had been holding back for too many years; he was ready to surrender the pain of the past because he knew that he couldn’t go forward if he didn’t. It still wasn’t going to be easy he knew. But Beth was worth it, the promise of happiness with her was worth it.
After years of hating what he was, the vitriolic, internal rot in his soul had been healed by this woman, this amazing woman. Watching her grow up had kept him going, even hating the monster within. Loving her had brought him hope and dying, again, for her had made him realize that this was what he was put on this earth for, to love her and to share life with her. Coraline had clinched his fate all those years ago; it just wasn’t what either of them had imagined it would be.
He was a vampire and happy to be one. It had saved this woman more times that he wanted to remember; it was the way it was supposed to be. One day, she would join him; he told himself that every day so that he might get used to it, accept it.
He just hoped it wouldn’t be too soon.
As they drove through the forested roads on the way to Mick’s house Beth watched mesmerized out the window as the blue-green trees sketched across a pristine blue sky. She watched an occasional puff of a cloud float by inspiring whimsical images of clowns and cotton candy. It took her back to lazy summer afternoons as a kid spent with Lani and Robbi, on their backs and making up things.
Beth snuck a quick look at her husband beneath lowered lashes; she could tell that he loved it here. He had talked about it almost non-stop on the trip up here and the way he pointed out different landmarks and things made her realize how happy he was to be back.
It was intriguing to her; Mick had always struck her as loving the city, the bustle of that world. Nothing like it here, just a calm, sedate world that made her question everything she knew about Mick. No traffic here, no jazz clubs, not really even a good size town on this side, at least that they had driven through.
Before long they turned off to the east, down a bumpy dirt road that winded through towering pines, their clean, sharp scent a pungent delight to her nose. Around one more bend in the road and Mick stopped the car in front of a magnificent house. It was huge; a log house with windows that soared upward to a peaked roof and surely let in more light than a vampire would be comfortable with. The amazing thing was, it fit in so well with its surroundings that it almost seemed as if the forest had grown around it as an afterthought.
“This is your ‘house’? Looks more like a mansion to me. How big is it anyway?” she asked as he opened her door so she could get out of the car. Pine needles crunched underneath her feet as she took a few steps forward to look in wonder at the beauty of this place.
“It was originally a lodge but the owners sold it when they found out that their guests couldn’t hunt the game here, a restriction imposed by the tribe. It only has 6 bedrooms, each with its own bath, but yeah, it is huge. I gotta deal…”
Beth’s eyebrows raised and she grinned, “I guess so. Well, let’s go in and explore!”
Mick scooped her up in his arms and she giggled against his neck. “Again?” she asked.
“Yep. I mean, ‘cause you know, this is our house. We still have our loft back in LA too, so get used to this baby.”
Beth rolled her eyes but snuggled in closer to his neck, placing a quick kiss against his skin. “Well, lead on then. You know Mick, I could actually get used to this – my own personal chauffeur, so to speak.”
“You keep kissing my neck like that and we sure won’t get too far,” he promised.
His voice was a low and sexy rumble and a shiver of delight crawled up her arms. “Um, how far to the bedroom Mick?”
“Not far,” he said and before she knew it she was on the bed, minus her clothes and he was in her, driving them both mad with need. Nothing could have been more perfect.
Ten minutes later they were sweaty and flushed, but very satisfied. Beth sucked in deep breaths while Mick was still resting between her thighs, his tongue lapping gently at his marks and then lightly stroking them closed. Beth was enchanted with how that felt; all he needed to do was lightly blow on them and they tingled. She remembered how the marks on her wrist felt after the desert and while she didn’t exactly understand it, she loved the sense of connection it gave them.
Mick shifted his weight and lay back on the bed, a very playful grin on his face as he rested with his arms behind his head.
She poked him lightly in the ribs and teased, “Well, that didn’t take long!”
“Didn’t have to, did it?” he countered with a wink.
“Don’t get too proud of yourself; maybe I haven’t had enough?”
For a moment his face fell and then he noticed how hard she was trying to hold back a giggle. He flipped over to face her and said, “So, you didn’t get enough huh? Well, I’ll have to see what I can do about that. I’ll start with this,” he said as he started tickling her. She immediately started squealing with laughter, trying to move away from him in the huge bed.
Suddenly Mick’s ears picked up the sound of a vehicle outside. His head rose up and he told her, “Get dressed! We have company.”
She felt very relaxed but managed to roll across the bed and start looking for her clothes, finding a piece here and a piece there. She managed to get them all on by the time that Mick was dressed and downstairs. As she padded down the stairs she ran her fingers through her disheveled hair and wondered who the company was.
Mick had thrown open the door and stood grinning at the older man who was walking up the porch steps. “Hey Tim, how are you?”
“Mick, good to see you. We’ve missed you around here.” Tim Tallchief was exactly that, very tall, at least 6’8” and muscular too. He looked to be about 60 but still looked very lithe and athletic.
The two men shook hands and Tim looked over his shoulder at Beth, smiling broadly. He took his hat off and nodded at her and said, “Is this your missus?”
“Yes, it is. Tim Tallchief, this is my wife, Beth. Beth, Tim and his wife Mary are the caretakers of the property here for me; they live in a house about a ½ mile away. Hey Tim, come on in.” He stood aside and Beth watched as he ducked his head to get under the door threshold.
“Mary sent a couple of treats for your missus, being as how she can enjoy them. I’ve got some of her apple and pear tarts and some applesauce and apple butter. I hope you enjoy them ma’am!” He held out a bag containing the goodies and Beth took it excitedly.
“Oh, thank you so much! I was just thinking on the drive in that it was a shame that it wasn’t the fall so I could taste some of the apples; please thank your wife for me. And please call me Beth,” she added. She couldn’t help but wonder why he had said that ‘you can enjoy them’. Were they vampires?
He and Mick were chatting when Beth went exploring the house for the kitchen. When she found it she was amazed; it was huge and ultra-modern. She checked out the Sub-Zero refrigerator and the restaurant style six burner stove. It was all incredible and she wondered if it had all ever been used even? Certainly not since Mick had bought the house.
She sat the bag on the counter and opened the refrigerator, staring at the goodies with a grumbling tummy. The apple tarts looked wonderful and when she spied a microwave built into the wall she headed over to it with one of the tarts to heat it up. She popped it in and then found a plate and a fork and then counted down the numbers as the microwave heated her treat. When it went ‘ding’ she opened the door and pulled the heated tart out and held it up to her nose and inhaled deeply. Oh, heavenly she decided.
She slid the tart onto a plate and cut into it with the fork, scooping up the bite and blowing on it gently as she inhaled the invitingly fragrant steam. She could smell cinnamon and maybe nutmeg and something else she couldn’t make out. She impatiently nibbled on the bite and then sucked in her breath because it was so hot. She waved her hand in front of her mouth and began to chew the bite; that was all she needed to know that it was delicious.
She was sitting at the island savoring the tart when Mick came in. “Hey, how’s the apple tart?” He wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her cheek, inhaling deeply. “Smells really good!”
“It is fantastic. I’m curious though, are he and his wife vampires? If so, how does she cook like this?”
“Yes, they are and with our acute sense of smell, it’s not too hard to tell by smell how things will taste; if you know what something is supposed to taste like anyway.”
“Oh. So is that how you knew how to season the chicken that night on the roof top?”
“No, I didn’t know what it should taste like, so I was really hoping that it was okay.”
“It was good. This is wonderful though; I can’t figure out what it is seasoned with though.”
“Well, you can ask Mary yourself, they are stopping by later so you can meet her.”
“Awesome,” she said, wiping her mouth with her hand. She laughed when she realized what she did and got up and put her plate in the sink and washed her hands and her mouth, totally happy.
“How about you show me more of the house?” she asked, curious to see more.
“How about I show you the bathroom in our bedroom. It’s got a really big shower,” he said innocently.
Beth flashed him a totally roguish smile and licked her lips slowly, letting her pink tongue slide over them teasingly. “What are you waiting for?”
Nothing, he was waiting for absolutely nothing she realized when he again had her upstairs before she knew what was happening.
God, she loved this man!
Ben was sitting at his desk looking over a file when Carl knocked on the door. He glanced up and motioned Carl to come in and sat back in his chair, a slight frown marring his face.
“Hey, what’s up?” Carl asked, taking a seat and crossing his legs. Judging by the frown that marred Ben’s face something was bothering him and Carl was worried that it might have something to do with St. John.
Carl and Ben had been working together a great deal and Carl admired the way that Ben thought; he had a way of weeding through the bullshit and staying clear headed when things got dicey. He was also smart; really smart and that worried Carl a bit.
When had he gotten to the point of feeling as if he had been appointed St. John’s protector? It wasn’t only because of Beth, although he knew he would do what he could to help her. No, it was St. John himself; Carl trusted him and if there was something different about him, Carl was more than willing to overlook it as long as his sense of justice didn’t involve harm to decent people. Carl was almost amazed at how easily he could get behind taking someone like Tejada out; he’d spent too many years as a cop watching criminals get away with heinous crimes because the law had too many loopholes. There were times when Carl wished that he had the nerve that Mick did.
And the fangs too? A puzzling thought.
Ben sat looking at Carl for a minute, his pen tapping restlessly on the pad on his desk. He had things he didn’t understand, but he didn’t know how to ask the questions to get the answers he needed. Hell, he didn’t even know the right questions if he were honest. He had far too many questions about Mick St. John and many of them had nothing to do with the list, or even the pictures he had. Nothing about him checked out; there seemed to be plenty of information out there, but it didn’t jibe. Did Carl have any answers he wondered? He was close with Beth and seemed more than comfortable with Mick as well.
So where were his loyalties?
“Have you had any thoughts on that list Carl?”
Carl smiled and shook his head. Actually, the thought he had he was not going to share; he really didn’t know what all those names had in common – if anything. Still, it was pretty interesting seeing them all together like that and it made a guy wonder.
“I can’t see anything in common about them. I mean, Josef Kostan and Marquis de Sade? What in the hell could they possibly have in common? What do you think?”
Ben ran his hand through his hair, his long fingers ruffling the normally smooth style. “I’ll be damned if I know. St. John knows Kostan obviously and Logan Griffin as well as Guillermo Gasol. What’s up with this? What do those people have in common with the others?”
“I wish I knew,” Carl answered and realized he really did wish that. His eyes met Ben’s and he watched indecision play across the ADA’s face.
“Somewhere in this list lies an answer, some tiny little detail will make it all come together; it has to or there is no reason for it.” He scanned the list again and said, “You ever heard of this Miguel Estrella?”
The name was familiar to Carl but he couldn’t place it. He thought for a moment and finally shook his head and said, “It seems familiar, but not sure why.”
“He is an immigration attorney, but mostly does consultations only; other than that there is nothing of note about him. I wonder if he knows the others.”
“Is he involved in the Tejada case at all?” Carl asked, frowning because he didn’t remember seeing the name anywhere.
“Not that I’ve heard of. You never know though,” Ben shrugged. “Okay, well I just wanted to check in and see if you had any ideas.”
Carl stood up and straightened his jacket and tie, knowing that it was time to go. “I’ll let you know if I come up with anything Ben.”
“Yes, same here,” Ben nodded as Carl left the office and closed the door. He opened the file on Mick again, looking at Josh’s notes and the pictures. Somewhere in here there has to be answers as to why his name was on that list.
Later that day, after christening almost every available piece of furniture and various other places in the house Mick and Beth came up for air. “Mick, where is your freezer at in this house?” She looked around her curiously because though she had seen much of the house, she hadn’t seen that.
He smiled and stood up and crooked his finger at her. “Come with me, Mrs. St. John!”
He led her into the walk-in closet and pushed a button on the back wall that was tucked away among the shelving. A door slid open and he ushered her into the darkened room. There were no windows in it, which was strange because there were windows all over the house. A dim light overhead came on automatically and she saw his freezer, in the middle of the room. It was much like his freezer in LA she noted.
“This used to be a dressing room and walk-in closet combination, but I closed it off. When this door closes,” he said, pushing another button, “It lock’s from the inside and no one can get in. Pretty crafty, huh?” He grinned at her and wiggled his eyebrows in a mock sinister leer.
“Wow, it’s amazing,” she agreed as she walked around the room. “Not enough room in there for two though,” she teased.
“We’ll take care of that, when the time comes baby.” He walked to her and pulled her into his arms and held her close, suddenly somber.
Mick heard Beth’s stomach rumbling and decided it was time to feed her. He had bitten her a number of times, never taking more than a mere swallow but even that adds up he knew so he led her to the kitchen so they could scavenge for food.
Tim and Mary had brought in groceries so he knew that there were things for her to eat. As she dug through the fridge, pulling out roasted chicken and cottage cheese, he grabbed a bottle of A+ and a glass.
Beth sliced up some of the chicken and put in on a plate and added a heaping scoop of cottage cheese. Mick noticed some tomatoes on the window sill and picked one up and handed it to Beth, who grinned and nodded her head. Once she had sliced it she sat down to eat her feast while Mick sipped his dinner across from her.
“Um, this tomato is really good. Do they grow them do you suppose?” She speared another piece of the succulent fruit and popped it into her mouth.
“I don’t know; could be. But Pratt’s Junction, the little town 5 miles away has a farmer’s market too, or at least they used to; could have got them there.” He watched as she popped a bite of chicken into her mouth and chewed it and she suddenly felt a bit embarrassed as he watched her eat. She flushed bright red and looked down at her plate, moving the food around for a few moments.
“What’s the matter Beth,” he asked as he saw that she wasn’t eating any more.
“I – I just sort of feel sort of funny, sitting here eating in front of you. It must be awful for you, having to watch me eat when you can’t.”
He smiled and raised his glass, “I eat. Not the same thing as you do but I do eat. And I know that you will have a hard time understanding this but to a vampire, this is delicious. There is variety, the different blood types that is and its all okay. I would be lying if I said that there aren’t things I miss, like fresh corn right off the cob or watermelon, all those summer things when it gets hot. But I’ll tell you one thing, no, two things I will never miss,” he said with a laugh.
“What?” she asked, intrigued.
“Kung Pao Chicken and sushi! You can have them both!” He laughed, remembering both of those dishes that he had tried while he had been human again.
“WHAT? How would you even know what they taste like?”
“When I was human, I tried both of them. The Kung Pao Chicken almost killed me; my gut hurt for two days afterward. I couldn’t get enough milk down and the sushi? First off Josef called it bait and I have to admit, it sort of was. But the worst part was that green stuff – it just about took my head off; I had a fire in my sinus’ that didn’t stop for a half an hour. Hell no, that stuff is dangerous!”
Beth was laughing so hard she had to put her fork down and wipe her eyes because they were tearing up with her mirth. She could see Mick, trying the strange foods and being surprised by them. She wiped away the tears away hastily and looked at him, almost laughing again as he tried to look affronted at her laughter.
“Seriously Beth, how do you eat that shit?” he asked, falling into laughter himself.
She took a sip of her water and grinned. “I’m new school Mick. Let’s face it; it’s a whole new world out there. But don’t worry Mick, I’ll protect you!” she declared, which caused them both to laugh again.
It felt so good, perfect. Both of them hoped that it would always be like this.
To be continued…