Where Evil Lurks

Welcome to Moonlight Madness - Where Evil Lurks

This is the fourth story in my Moonlight saga.

Story One - The Beginning - Beth's Diary

Story Two - With Arms Wide Open

Story Three - Barely Breathing

Cast of Characters

Monday, November 28, 2011

Chapter 7

Josef pulled the Ferrari to a stop and cut the lights and the ignition. He was about a block from the cleaners headquarters and he waited while Ryan and Mike pulled up behind him. He saw a Bentley parked to the right and knew that it was Miguel. As he got out of the car to speak with Miguel he noticed that he had also brought backup with him. Good thing, Josef thought because Katrina wouldn’t go down without a fight. A big one he anticipated and hoped that Miguel and his men were armed with the right ammunition.

Moving almost silently across the asphalt Josef, Mike and Ryan headed over to the shadows to join Miguel. Josef had heard from Colleen a few minutes before who had told him that Katrina was in her office working. Even though this would be the last night that Colleen worked with the cleaners Josef had told her to make herself scarce while all this was going down; he didn’t want anyone in the group that was loyal to Katrina to figure out that Colleen was working with him.

“Are we ready?” Miguel asked. Even though his voice was hushed it sounded loud in the quiet night.

“Yes. Colleen says she’s in her office and that the night has been quiet so far. Let’s get this over with. Oh, and by the way? Subdue her anyway you like or need to but then she’s mine. Does everyone understand that?” Everyone nodded, including Miguel who raised his eyebrows at Josef’s vehement words. They didn’t surprise him a bit; Josef took care of his own. That was one of the things that Miguel admired most about the vampire named Josef Kostan.

“Let’s go then. Inside the building, only Miguel and I will enter Katrina’s office; the rest of you hang back out of sight. She’ll scent you, can’t help that but better she doesn’t see you too.” With those abrupt words Josef headed down the street, staying in the shadows and walking with determination. Once they reached the door, they moved fast, hands on weapons as they made a beeline for Katrina’s office. Miguel and Josef entered without knocking on the door causing Katrina to look up with irritation until she saw who her guests were. The irritation shifted into caution as she sat up straighter in her chair, trying to seem unconcerned. Josef could scent the truth though; she was just this side of panic at the sight of them.

“Katrina,” Josef said, stepping a bit closer. “We have some business to attend to.”

Katrina stood up and inhaled, smelling several others outside her door. She wasn’t sure what was going on but it didn’t bode well for her she knew.

Katrina had been the head of the LA cleaners for over 30 years; she not only knew where the bodies were buried – she’d put them there. This job had been lucrative for her; lots of vamps liked to pay for anonymity and she’d taken full advantage of that, keeping much of that business off the books. Several million dollars worth at last count and she’d kept count frequently. Dual bookkeeping was a marvelous thing as were bank accounts in the Cayman Islands. Only a few of her most trusted employees knew the truth and shared in the spoils of the business. She sighed inwardly, knowing that the time had come; Kostan had finally caught on to it all but it was okay, she wasn’t without a backup plan. She stood up and let her foot run under the edge of the desk, seeking and finding a small button hidden carefully away. Her toe touched it lightly and she was rewarded by the almost imperceptible ‘click’ that meant freedom.

Josef’s ears perked up at the sound but he couldn’t tell where it had come from. Could have been anything he realized but he took another step towards her, leaning over the desk until his face was only inches from Katrina’s. “Don’t try anything foolish Katrina. Do you know why we’re here?”

“No idea at all Josef,” she said coolly, still meeting his gaze. “Why don’t you tell me so we can all know what this is about?”

“Playing games Katrina? Okay, I’ll play. Last night a ghost appeared and attacked Beth St. John. The good thing is, she really IS dead this time. But I’m curious whose ashes you showed me before? Could they have been Billie’s?”

Kelly! Damn the bitch! She just couldn’t stay away from St. John. I should have known better than to let her live.

Keeping her face as straight as possible Katrina said, “She escaped that night Josef; I – I was afraid so I killed Billie. I didn’t know what to do because I knew you’d be so angry.” She could only hope that Kostan would buy it and feel a bit of pity for her predicament. At his look of anger she could tell it hadn’t worked. She backed up a bit from him, only partially faking the look of fear on her face. He was out for blood – hers and she knew that this was it; all the preparations that she had made over the years were going to be tested. “It was a foolish thing to do Josef, I know,” she said, inching backwards towards a floor to ceiling bookshelf that lined the wall behind her desk.

“You’ll pay for that fuck up with your life Katrina,” Miguel said softly. He pulled a gun out, loaded with silver bullets and took aim. “Come around the desk now and I won’t shoot. Let Josef handle this for you because you really don’t want to feel the burn of the silver.”

“As opposed to the burn of the flames?” she said, her voice tight and high as she started to feel the steely cold fingers of fear for the first time. She needed to get out now and leaned back against the shelves behind her.

Josef scented the fear rolling off of her but there was also the scent of satisfaction and he didn’t understand that at all. A moment later he did as Katrina vanished before their eyes, slipping behind the shelf that had pivoted when she pushed against it.

“Fuck!” Josef yelled, jumping over the desk and pushing at the shelf with no luck. From the other side of it he head a distinct thud as it was barricaded and then footsteps running away. “Outside now, she has to come out of there somewhere. Find her!” Mike, Ryan and Miguel’s two men took off towards the outside door in search of Katrina.

Miguel rounded the desk, helping to push against the shelves but Josef knew that it was no use; she’d locked them from the other side. “It’s locked Miguel, I heard it. But I also heard a click when she stood up, there’s some type of mechanism here,” he said as he started feeling along the desk and floor. “It has to be here somewhere.”

Wendy, one of the newer cleaners knocked on the doorway as she had heard what happened. “I think there is a catch or button under the bottom of the desk. I’ve seen them use it before, but they didn’t know that I knew.”

Josef’s head snapped up at her words; she was young, in human and vamp years alike and how the hell she had ended up here, with this nest of vipers was beyond him. Maybe her youth was only a ploy and behind that innocence beat the heart of a devil. Who knew?

“Who are you if you knew that why didn’t you report that information before?” He stood directly in front of him and noticed that she met his eyes without flinching.

“I’m Wendy, I’ve only been here a few months. I saw her use it, taking some books in there. I don’t know if it’s a room or what. I was trying to find out more information before I reported it Mr. Kostan because it could have been nothing, you know?”

Josef watched her and decided she was telling the truth. “Show me how to get in there Wendy.”

She walked around the desk and started moving nimble fingers around the bottom of the desk and finally found what she was seeking. They all heard a click this time and Josef pushed on the shelf and it gave way. All three of them stepped into the inky blackness of the room on the other side. Josef searched for a light switch and finally found what he was looking for. The lights came up, making all of them blink at the brightness.

The small room held a safe and a small desk and chair. A tunnel led out of the room on the other side and Josef headed towards it. After about twenty feet he found that the tunnel split three ways and he couldn’t pick up a scent as to which way she went. Damn, he needed Mick and his ability to read a scene. He walked back into the main room hoping that the boys had better luck outside.

In the room he saw Miguel studying the safe, a frown marring his face. “Any luck?” he said over his shoulder before coming to his feet.

“No, there are at least three other tunnels leading out of here and I couldn’t tell which one she took. Can you get into the safe? She certainly didn’t have time to open it and I have to wonder what’s in there.”

“Couldn’t get in, but I know someone who can.” Miguel picked up his phone and quickly dialed a number, speaking in rapid Spanish to someone on the other end. He closed it shut with a snap and grinned. “Benito is coming over, he has a gift, you might say,” he told them with a broad grin.

“I think I’m going to like Benito. Now Wendy, anything else you know that would be helpful?”

“Not really Mr. Kostan. Maybe that Katrina, Diane, Lorinda and Marcia were all very close and seemed to have a lot of meetings, behind closed doors I mean. If anyone knows anything it would be them. I’m so sorry Mr. Kostan, I’ve never worked as a cleaner before and I didn’t really realize that anything was wrong with their behavior, for all I knew it is always like this.”

She stared at him with huge blue eyes that reminded him of Beth and he felt his heart soften a bit. “Wendy, as long as you’re telling the truth you’ll be fine. Do you happen to know where I might find the other three?”

“There’s a duty roster on the computer out there,” she said indicating the on duty room with a nod of her head. “It should say where they are if they are working.”

Josef nodded and headed to the computer terminal; it seems there was more work to do this evening than he had planned.


Sunday had been a busy day for Lani; she’d done laundry, bought some groceries and gone to see Robbi and strangely enough, that was the hardest task of all. Robbi was somewhat cold to her and didn’t feel like talking at all. Lani put it down to pregnancy fatigue but in her heart she knew better; Robbi was hurt and there wasn’t anything that Lani could do to help. Instead she tried to be bright and cheerful and keep the conversation going but it was like talking to a wall and Robbi gave no response to anything she said, even though Lani studiously avoided the subject of Beth. Bri wasn’t even there to provide another focus because Kevin had taken her with him to go out to the Institute to work for a while.

After an hour of trying to make conversation she gave up and got ready to leave. “I had better get going Robbi; I’ve still got to stop at the store on my way home. Can I get you anything before I leave?” she asked hopefully. It hurt her to see Robbi like this and she felt more than a little guilty because she knew that it had to do with Beth not being here. Robbi suspected something and since Lani wasn’t talking Robbi just decided not to talk either.

“You could tell me the truth about what’s going on with Beth,” Robbi said, staring Lani in the eyes.

Lani blushed and looked away hastily; what Robbi asked was impossible and it made her hurt for Robbi, to be excluded like this. “I can’t Robbi; it’s not my story to tell. If I could tell you I would. It’s not something that is easily shared and Beth and Mick have to be the ones to tell you. Please accept that,” she said, feeling the burning sting of tears as she tried to blink them away.

“Oh my God, something is wrong with her isn’t it?” Robbi said, suddenly scared for her friend. “Lani, please tell me! I can’t stand this silence from everyone. I talked to Dorothy and she said everything was fine but I don’t believe any of you!”

“Robbi, what I can tell you is that she really IS okay. But she can’t come home for a – awhile anyway. And it’s not the kind of thing you talk about on the phone. You weren’t purposely excluded Robbi, honestly you weren’t. You just have to accept that she loves you and when she can talk about it she will. And until then I can’t say anything more. Please Robbi, please accept that.”

“Just leave Lani, okay? I can’t deal with this right now. I’ll call you, I promise,” Robbi said, wiping away tears. Damn she hated this; she seemed to cry constantly and she was tired of it.

Lani left – there was nothing else to do. She finished her errands and headed home. As she carried the groceries up she realized she was hungry and looked over the offerings she’d brought home. Nothing looked good at all so she called in an order for sushi all the while laughing at herself about the hundred buck’s worth of groceries that she didn’t want to eat.

She climbed into the shower, replaying the conversation she’d had with Robbi. When Beth called this evening she had to let her know how bad this was. It could affect Robbi’s pregnancy, all this pain and stress. She was genuinely worried about Robbi and hated the position she was in. She supposed that she could have lied to her and said everything was fine but Robbi knew better than that and she didn’t want to compound one lie with more.

Out of the shower she climbed into a pair of shorts and a tank top to await her sushi. She hunted through the wine rack for a bottle of Fuki, Japanese plum wine which would go well with the sushi. It was better cold but would have to make do with a little fridge time she decided; it would at least make it cool.

When she shut the door to the fridge she heard the door bell ring and jumped; it had only been 20 minutes since she’d ordered and it always took about an hour for it to get here. She headed into the living room, stopping to grab a twenty out of her purse and flung open the door only to see Josef standing there, wearing a cock-eyed grin on his face.

“Well gee Lani, you don’t have to pay me to come visit!” he teased.

Lani rolled her eyes and said, “What Josef? What do you want; I’ve had a rough day and I’m waiting for my dinner to be delivered.”

A serious look flashed across his face for a moment and chewed his lower lip for a moment. “I kind of know that feeling; things didn’t go so well with Katrina last night.”

Alarm spread rapidly though Lani and she stepped aside, bidding him to enter. “What happened Josef?” she asked, already pouring him a glass of scotch. She pointed to the sofa and handed him the glass which he gladly took.

He took a sip of the drink and was tempted to down it all at once; instead he held it up to the waning afternoon light and watched the dappled sunlight glinting through the amber colored liquid. A couple of unnecessary breaths later he finally spoke up, telling Lani what had happened at the cleaners offices.

“So after we got into her room we found a safe and when we got it open we discovered that she had been keeping a double set of books; skimming the profits.”

“Who gets those profits Josef? Is it a corporation or something?”

“No, the cleaners themselves. It’s a profit sharing independent organization. They all work and share the profits equally, except for the leader or head cleaner that gets 10% above the others. In this case Katrina had been skimming 30% over the total amount that the other cleaners never even saw. She took lion’s share of that money and shared 10 % with three of the other cleaners who were in on it with her. We got their names and called them in. Fools all, they had assumed that if Katrina ever got caught she’d give them a heads up, but she didn’t. She had almost 3 million dollars socked away in an offshore bank account. Thanks to Logan, that money is all gone now.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of money. So what happens now?” she asked.

“The other three were executed and two others were fired because we suspect that they had an idea what was going on. So, we’re down a half dozen cleaners in LA right now and that’s not so good. Colleen is going to work for me but will stay with the cleaners for a few days until we can get a few hired on. And we have a new lead cleaner coming in with no connections to cleaners anywhere. He’ll be here tomorrow.” He tipped the glass up and swallowed the last of the scotch and felt the burn as it slipped down his throat.

“You really did have a rough day or night I guess. Mine can’t really top that but I did have a very uncomfortable conversation with Robbi. She knows that Beth lied to her and she knows that I have answers. I assured her that Beth is okay, but it didn’t really help anything Josef. I don’t know what to do because I feel rotten about it. We’ve always, always been together; a secret for one was a secret for all. Now she’s left out and I can’t make it better for her.” She was interrupted by the door bell and stood up saying, “Now, that is surely my dinner. I’ll be right back.”

Josef thought about what she’d said, about Robbi and felt helpless as well. It wasn’t his place to tell Robbi and Kevin, just as it wasn’t Lani’s. This was where difficult, dangerous and complicated got a foothold and dug in. Every single vamp out there he knew had had to walk away from someone they cared about when they were turned and that may have to happen here. It was just so much more complicated in this case because of the connections the girls had. How do you brush aside 20 odd years of friendship with one of them and stay with the other?

Josef caught a familiar scent and for a moment he smiled at the memory it stirred. Lani carried her dinner into the kitchen and Josef followed, leaning lazily against the doorway as Lani transferred her dinner to a plate. She sat it down on the bar counter and grabbed the bottle of Fuki and two glasses and set them down as well before taking a seat. She opened the wine and held a glass up to Josef who nodded with a smile.

“Sushi! Man, that brings back a memory,” he said as he watched her smear some green wasabi on a piece of tuna temaki and dip it in soy sauce.

Lani quirked one eyebrow up in question as she chewed the bite of sushi. After she swallowed and took a sip of the wine she asked, “Why? Surely they didn’t have sushi before you were turned!”

“Um yes but we called it bait,” he said with a laugh. “When Mick was human he set out to try as many human foods as possible, especially ones that he had seen Beth eat or heard her talk about, sushi being one of them. I just happened to be lucky enough to see it.” He started laughing in earnest then, remembering Mick’s reaction to the wasabi.


“He put a huge piece of the wasabi on the bite and popped it into his mouth. That was right before his head exploded, well figuratively anyway. He dumped the whole load of it into the trash and said it was ‘fucking dangerous to eat nowadays’. See, he’d sort of had a bad experience with Kung Pao Chicken, extra spicy as well. I think he stuck with steak and burgers the rest of his human time.”

Lani had taken a sip of the Fuki and choked on it when she started laughing so hard. Almost no one could take the extra spicy stuff like Beth did. As she dabbed wine off her face she started giggling again, imagining poor Mick and the ‘dangerous’ food. “I guess food probably has changed some since 1950.” She took another drink of the wine which thankfully went down okay and asked, “Why do we always end up talking about food?”

“Um, because you’re always eating? Seriously, for such a tiny girl you really do eat a lot!”

She laughed and threw her napkin at him and then answered, “I guess that’s because about the only time I got to eat when I was young was at Beth’s house. My parents weren’t around much and the housekeeper didn’t think it was her job to make sure the kid was fed.”

Josef stared at the golden wine in his glass as he contemplated her words. “So, you’re parents weren’t around much?”

“Not if there was any type of social event somewhere. My parents are true socialites and thrill to being invited to every event they can get to. They may hate one another and I’m sure they do, but just let someone hold up a camera in front of them and they are like two teenagers in love. Yes, Marcus and Eloise Parker are quite the thing.”

“Your father is Marcus Parker? Sponsor of Bright Beginnings?” Josef was amazed; he’d met her mother and father many times at business gatherings and never knew they had a child. Marcus’ foundation helped third world countries acquire new technology to help in communications and farming. Josef had donated several million to the foundation over the years. “I’ll be damned.”

“So, you’ve heard of them then? Not surprised at all. They revel in hanging with the rich and famous. Just not their daughter. Or each other when they are alone I might add; they fought violently at times and so I spent a good portion of my time with Dorothy and Beth; I love them both so much and Robbi was a part of that as well. They were all my foster family when Mom and Dad were AWOL.”

“Is that all the family you have? Brothers or sisters?” he asked, curious.

“Nope, only me. My dad has a strange brother, twin actually named Martin. He only comes around whenever he needs money, which is too frequent for my tastes. He gives me the creeps actually. My mom has a brother who lives in New York, my uncle Paul. He’s married to my aunt Pat and they have 3 girls. I used to take vacations with them in the summers sometimes; I always enjoyed that.”

The pieces of the puzzle were beginning to fall in to place. This explained so much about Lani; her independent nature and the need to hold herself back with people. Other than Beth, Robbi and Dorothy that is because she grew up feeling loved by them. She didn’t want to get close to anyone because it meant she might be rejected. Another thought occurred to him – she said her parents fought violently. Did that violence include her? He couldn’t ask because it would upset her but he was going to do a bit of investigating on his own.

This also made him think about the situation with Robbi; this wasn’t just keeping information from anyone, this was from family and while there wasn’t anything they could do about it right now he understood the hurt that all three girls must be feeling. He needed to talk to Mick about it all, without the girls around.


Logan pulled into Audrey’s driveway and cut the engine in the car. He had a bag of some clothes and blood with him but he’d been thinking about this situation all evening. He’d went home to catch some freezer time and to feed and check messages but he was back now and intended to stay the night again. They needed to talk about the living arrangements. They might not have been together all that long yet but he knew that she was his mate, he knew it deep down inside and they needed to figure all this out. Her place wasn’t big enough, but his was a wreck. That could be remedied though and he hoped she’d be willing to try.

He hoped with all his heart because he knew he didn’t want to be apart from her every again.


Ben looked through the file yet again, searching for a clue about Mick St. John. How did Mick St. John, born in 1922 relate to the current Mick St. John? They looked identical, mirror images of one another and had to be related, but after months of investigation he still couldn’t find a connection. He was missing something, somewhere, he had to be. When St. John married Coraline Duvall in 1952 he disappeared, was probably dead because their hotel room was covered with blood. They got some fingerprints but DNA evidence didn’t exist then, so there was no blood or other types of evidence in storage. But if he died then, could he have had another child that was unknown before then?

He leaned back in the chair and tapped the pencil he was holding on the desktop. He’d hired a private investigator in France to check out the Duvall family and got little information. The branch of the family that lived in the Duvall chateau claimed that they didn’t know anything about Coraline and Mick, whether they were dead or alive. The investigator thought that they knew more than they were telling but felt positive that they weren’t going to talk about it. So, he was checking out the Duvall family in hopes that something would turn up. He also hoped that he might get an unhappy servant to talk as well.

He needed answers and there was only one person who might still hold a few. He headed off to see Margie, with the hope that she’d remembered something since the last time he had seen her.

To be continued…

Monday, November 21, 2011

Chapter 6

A/N: This is sort of a dark chapter as Mick struggles with his emotions. The transistion in this story isn't only about Beth, it is also about healing for Mick. I beg you to indulge this as it is necessary for him to see his way clear.


Chapter 6

Robbi was weighing heavily on Beth’s mind when she got off the phone with Lani. She felt terrible and guilty about avoiding her friend and decided to call her, even though she felt weary and tired. Those feelings amazed her since she didn’t realize that vamps could feel tired.

Beth stared at her phone for a few minutes, trying to figure out exactly what to say. Robbi wasn’t anyone’s fool and knew Beth well enough to know when she wasn’t being honest and that bothered Beth most of all. She didn’t want to lie to Robbi, but what other choice did she have? Keeping the secret was the number one priority; she understood that and was prepared to live with it but how could she keep this secret from one of her oldest and dearest friends when the other one knew the truth. She was finally beginning to understand difficult, dangerous and complicated.

She was growing more tired by the minute and realized she couldn’t put it off any longer so she took a deep, unnecessary breath and punched the button that would connect her with Robbi, who answered on the first ring.

“Beth! Bethy, I’m so glad you called.” Robbi said and Beth noticed the fatigue in her voice.

“Hey Robbi, I’m sorry I haven’t called you back sooner but it’s been kind of crazy here, getting settled in and all. How are you doing?”

After a short laugh Robbi said, “Feeling like a beached whale, but that’s perfectly normal for a woman who is about 15 months pregnant!”

Beth laughed too, understanding how it must feel for her friend to be cooped up in the house, resting constantly. She’s was experiencing a bit of that herself right now. “Well, it shouldn’t be too much longer. What’s the doctor say?”

“Any day now, actually. I’m fully effaced and dilated to 3. He’s at zero station and pressing down hard. I think he’s a bit anxious to come and meet the world...”

Beth heard the sadness creep into her friends voice and knew that Robbi really wanted her to be there. When Bri was born in Alaska Beth had been so sorry to miss it that she had promised to be there for the next one and now she was breaking that promise.

“I’m so sorry I can’t be there Robbi; I know this is terrible timing. It all just came down really fast, you know?”

“Well, actually I don’t know because you haven’t really told me what’s going on Beth. Lani said you and Mick headed up there last night; seems pretty sudden to me.”

Beth heard irritation in Robbi’s voice and tried not to let it get to her. Mick carried a mug of blood into her to sip on while she spoke to her friend and she accepted it gratefully. She took a sip while considering her reply.

“I know Robbi. I haven’t really wanted to say anything because you were having problems, but Mick and I have been trying hard to conceive and there was just too much stress in LA. The, um, doctor suggested we get away, from the city, from the pressure and all, so we did.” Beth’s words were rushed and hesitant, a true tell to Robbi.

“Beth, for heaven’s sake, you two just got married! Why the rush?”

Mick, who could hear every word sat next to her on the couch and rubbed her leg softly, trying to show his support because he knew how difficult this was for Beth. Beth cleared her throat and said, “There are some special considerations here Robbi, things that are hard to talk about right now. I’m sorry, but we’re doing what we have to right now. I know you’re upset with me and I’m so sorry for that. I’ll talk to you every day, I promise. Can you accept that?”

Robbi was silent for so long that Beth checked her phone to make sure the call was still connected. If she had been listening carefully she would have heard Robbi’s heart, beating quickly on the other end and her shaky breaths. Finally Robbi said, “I don’t understand this but I love you Beth and only want the best for you. I’ll look forward to talking to you. Listen, I really need to go; Kevin is getting ready to feed Bri and that’s always a disaster. I’ll talk to you tomorrow, okay?”

“Okay, talk to you then Robbi,” Beth said, realizing that Robbi had already ended the call.

She laid the phone down on the coffee table and looked at Mick, her eyes a deep, dark blue color and full of pain. She knew how much she had hurt Robbi and it stabbed at her own heart, slicing sharply as the tears flowed. Mick wrapped his arm around her and pulled her onto his lap, holding her close. There wasn’t anything he could do to take this pain from her but he would comfort her as best he could.

Beth wrapped her arms around Mick and sobbed into his chest and he rocked her like a small child. He let her cry and hoped that the tears helped to wash the guilt and the pain away.

“This is my fault baby, all my fault,” he told her as he smoothed the hair back away from her face and kissed her tears away. “Not yours Beth, my fault.”

Beth was suddenly more alert as she thought about his words. “Just how is this your fault Mick?”

“I should have watched over you better, I let you down.”

“Let me down? Watched over me better? How is that even possible Mick? What, you want to smother me constantly until I feel like I can’t breathe? I have to have freedom Mick, I couldn’t live like that.”

“I know, but I let you down. Because of me you are living a life that you weren’t ready for, making up lies and excuses to friends, all because I didn’t take care of you right.”

This was all getting really old to Beth, this constant guilt he had over her turning. He was right, they hadn’t planned on it this soon, but it was going to happen eventually. A new thought occurred to her and she stared at him for a moment, a frown marring her pallid face. “You can’t handle me being turned so soon, can you? What, I’m not as attractive to you as a vampire? You can’t savor my rich, human blood like you used to? You didn’t really think you’d be stuck with me forever?”

Her words stabbed at his undead heart and shook him to the core. For a moment he could only stare at her in utter amazement; surely she didn’t believe any of that? What would you think Mick if she were reacting this way to you, if the roles were reversed?

It was a sobering thought.

He’d be suspicious and hurt about her reasoning, that’s how he’d feel. How could he expect anything less from Beth?

Beth, I…I know that you are okay with this, but try as hard as I can, I remember how I felt, what I gave up, the people I sacrificed in my life because of this. It’s like an invisible cloak that covers me and I can’t seem to shed it. I can’t imagine what it feels like, to actually want this life. But I’m trying Beth, for you I am trying as hard as I can.

“But you want me to be human still don’t you?”

“No, not exactly. I just didn’t want this for you so soon. I guess I imagined we’d have more time before you were turned, that you’d have more time.” He watched her face as he spoke and saw understanding begin to play across it. “And Beth? This has nothing to do with your human blood baby. Nothing at all. You are more exciting to me as a vampire than I’d ever imagined. I’ve never felt this…communion of souls before, this magic that we share and create. Please believe me Beth. We share this path, we are not alone.”

She nodded and laid her forehead against his, loving the contact. Her hands cupped the side of his face as she kissed him tenderly, a kiss of healing and love.

It was enough for now. Mick still had demons to deal with and she intended to help him slay them. “I’m going to go and take that nap; are you okay down here?” The roles were reversed and they both felt the cosmic switch; she worried about him, being the caretaker.

“I’m fine. Go and take you’re nap Beth.”

She nodded and kissed his lips one more time before heading upstairs.


As Robbi punched the end key on her phone Kevin stood in the doorway, closely watching his wife. The past few days had been rough for her and this thing with Beth wasn’t helping. He saw tears running down her face and he went to her, kneeling between her legs and tried to wipe the tears away.

“What’s wrong honey? Are you okay?” he asked, his tone full of concern.

“She lied to me Kevin. I don’t know why, but she lied.” She started sobbing in earnest then and Kevin leaned forward to hold her, shushing her and stroking his fingers through her hair.

“Honey, you’re really emotional right now; I’m sure she didn’t lie to you.”

For a moment she considered an angry retort but she knew that he was right about her emotions, they were constantly blasting off and out of control. She held him tightly, trying to stem her tears. He reached over to the table beside the couch and handed her a couple of tissues and waited as she wiped her eyes and blew her nose.

“I’m not imagining it Kevin. I know her as well as I know myself and she was lying. And even more than that, Lani knows what’s going on; when I talked to her earlier I could tell that she did and assumed that Beth would tell me too. I’m the odd one out here and it hurts so much.” The tears started again and Kevin held her close, not knowing what to say. If this was true, if Beth was excluding Robbi he would never forgive her or Mick.


Mick had certainly been telling the truth when he told her that as a fledgling she would be much like an infant, feeding, sleeping and craving bodily contact with him. She had to keep telling herself that he wouldn’t leave her but the separation anxiety could be horrible. He told her it would get better soon and she hoped he was right because dependence on another person, even one she loved as much as Mick was difficult for her.

She pulled off her clothes and left them lying on the floor where they had dropped. That wasn’t really like her but she figured she’d slip them on later, when she got up. She crawled into the freezer and set the temp to 40 degrees. She could handle 38 when Mick was in there but she really preferred 40. She used the digital display to select some soothing music to lull her to sleep. She really didn’t need it but she enjoyed it. When Mick had read through the manual for the freezer he discovered that there was a huge multi disk changer below and they loaded it with music and it made for a nice mood, for whatever they might decide to do. That brought a definite smile to her face and she told herself to hurry up and sleep because when she woke up she was going to have her way with her sexy as hell husband!


Mick stretched out his long legs on the couch and leaned back, replaying the last few minutes with Beth. His guilt and bitterness wasn’t only killing him, it was killing them.

She didn’t look at it the same way he did; he’d always known that he was in a minority compared to many vamps. Not that they had all wanted to be turned, but most not only learned to live with it, they liked it and thrived.

Why couldn’t he do that?

How do you reconcile yourself with living forever when you can’t forgive yourself for the past? Even before Coraline he’d left a devastated wake in his path, starting with Ray and Lila. Meet Robert and Jacob has brought it all back into focus, his past that is.

He had been genuinely happy that Robert had been Ray’s son but that didn’t ease the gut-wrenching ache in his own gut; a feeling of isolation, of loneliness. Beth filled that spot but isn’t it natural to want to leave a legacy behind? That had been his shot, but it hadn’t actually been one at all.

He and Beth thought that they had a shot, but that didn’t work either. Did he have to have a child to feel fulfilled, to feel complete? No, he felt those things with Beth and if he were really honest, their bond had increased so much since she was turned it almost scared him. He felt angry that their chance was ripped from them, their dream torn asunder. He could so easily imagine Beth with a child; himself holding them close, loving them forever.

He shut his eyes tightly as if to spurn that vision but it was replaced by another. Margie, the woman that he had left abruptly for Coraline. Margie was every guy’s dream, so beautiful with the most gorgeous red hair that glimmered copper in the sunlight. He remembered all the times they had spent on the beach, planning a future and then in a snap it was gone. As soon as Coraline came along.

That guilt was still overwhelming for him. He’d hurt her more than probably anyone in this life. He didn’t know how her life had turned out but he hoped that she had lived a good, happy life.

The guilt didn’t stop there either; it only morphed into something that was unthinkable. A monster? He was in ways that he didn’t ever want Beth to experience. Josef had taught him that you didn’t have to kill to exist and for awhile after he went back to Coraline he’d stuck with that. Coraline had plenty of cash; the expense of freshies was nothing to her but by using them Cora didn’t get the fun that she craved – the hunt, the kill. Eventually she had taught him to crave it too, until it became too much of a sickness for him.

Worst of all though was when Beth was 17, on the beach and kissing a boy while he’d lurked in the shadows. He’d wanted to kill that boy for touching her, for tasting her sweetness. He knew that if he didn’t leave LA that he eventually would do something like that. So he left and ended up here and began to heal.


It played over and over in his mind, like a film loop gone wild, that moment on the beach when Beth was being kissed by that guy. He’d played out different scenarios, he’d rushed to her and demanded that he leave her alone and she’d look up at him with grateful eyes or he’d punch the kid’s lights out…or worse. Fantasies, all of it but it was steeped into his brain until he felt like he was going crazy, like he was crazy. It wouldn’t stop and each time he felt guiltier, until that was about the only emotion he had left.

Guilt, it was vile, poisonous and grabbed you by the balls and refused to let go. All the bitter guilt that had seeped into his soul, things he couldn’t change now. He couldn’t forget it all and he couldn’t escape it, could he? He only knew of one way but that thought scared him too.

He needed air; he needed to breathe in the cool, moist air that held the tang of Puget Sound. He decided to get out of the house and he paused outside and sucked in a sharp breath and felt it fill his lungs and then whoosh out. He stood for a moment, trying to decide between heading east to the sound or west to Tim’s fire circle where the Cheyenne man was surely sitting, chanting or praying, as the mood took him. It was a nightly ritual for him Mick had learned and the couple of times he’d been there it had been relaxing.

Of course, there was another draw on this evening, fire, ever present, crackling bursts of heat that leapt into the heavens. Would his ashes leap to the heavens too he wondered. Was that where he was heading? To seek a final end to a life that was no longer really a life? How long had it been since he had felt happy? Truly happy and excited to be alive?

Far longer than he could remember.

There had been moments of happiness, where the guilt wasn’t overriding his being. How much was a person supposed to handle in a lifetime, or rather a life that wasn’t and went on forever?

How did he forget the monster within and how did he forgive himself for it all? If he chose to end it, what did the next level of existence hold for him, for any vampire? Was there another place?

He had long given up the idea of hell; walking a vampire’s existence was hell enough. But what about heaven? Would it be a place of peace? A place where he could forgive himself? He wished he knew.

He headed off to Tim’s fire, knowing that this night he needed the companionship of his friend. He scented the various types of wildlife in the forest around him, scampering away as he quietly walked the pine needle path that softly crunched under his footfalls. He could already scent the fire, pine wood burning lazily in the night. There was a nip in the air and he exhaled a long stream and watched as the vapor streamed out in front of him like a small cloud misting in the night.

As he approached the fire Tim stood up, staring at him intently. Mick saw his head lift as he scented the air and caught the frown that spread across his face.

“The fire is not for you tonight na’hae. It is not the doorway you seek.”

Mick stuck his hands down into the pockets of his jeans and thought about the words that Tim had spoken. The toe of his boots traced little circles in the damp earth and when he finally looked up he saw that Tim had moved closer to him, eyes silvered in the glow of the firelight.

He got the point; Tim wasn’t going to allow anything to happen tonight. With a resigned sigh Mick sat down on one of the thick logs that were placed around the fire. Tim retreated back to his seat and sat down, still watching Mick for any sudden signs of movement.

“I am lost on my path Tim; I have no peace in my heart or my head. I cannot resolve the past so that I can find joy in the future. How do I do this?”

“You must accept yourself and all that you have done. Only then can you move forward. Your past is like a weight that pulls you down; you must never forgive the past for it is what has made you the man you are. The past hurts na’hae; it is easier for us to push it out of our minds but that does not let us move forward. As a man and a vampire you have done things you regret and you wear the guilt like a steel cloak, surrounding yourself with it. Accept that you cannot change those things; let them be a memory that shows you the right path to follow, so that you do not make those mistakes again.”

“How do I do that? I’ve tried Tim, I have.”

“You are caught between what you think a man who is a vampire is and what you feel you are. A man can easily be a vampire but a vampire cannot so easily be a man. No one truly knows the nature of a vampire. Are we intently good or made for evil? The truth is that you can be whatever you desire to be Mick. Good or evil; you create your own path.”

“Do you believe that vampires have souls?”

“I believe that all of the Great Spirits creatures have souls. Do you believe that you do not?”

“My behavior has been soulless at times. Since we are not truly alive or dead, how can we have a soul?”

“You walk upon the earth; your body still functions, just in a different way than before. Whether you are alive or not is a matter of opinion na’hae. I choose to live. What do you choose?”

Mick nodded, staring into the dancing flames of the fire. He picked up a handful of soil and let it slip through his fingers; it felt cool and moist in his hand and he breathed in deeply, trying to pull in all the wisdom that Tim shared with him.

“I choose to live,” Mick said simply. Tim nodded with satisfaction.

Mick stared at the fire that burned in the fireplace. It’s funny, most vampires feared fire, a fear born of understanding the enemy, true death. Mick didn’t fear it, it soothed him, lulled him at times and this was one of them.

He had chosen to live as a vampire again to save her.

Beth chose to live as well, chose a life of forever with him and in a way that was saving him. He remembered back to Tim’s words that long ago night and realized that it was all up to him. The guilt pulled him down, sucking him into a bottomless morass that he felt incapable of escaping from. It suddenly occurred to him that he had exactly what he needed to pull himself out; he had Beth and her love. It was more than enough.

He heard her rise from the freeze upstairs and before he even had a chance to think about it she was on his lap, clinging to him.

“Mick, I needed you,” she told him as she held him tightly.

“You have me. Remember I told you that sometimes fledglings are like a baby? They need to see their sire. Its okay love, I’m here and I’m not going anywhere.”

She nodded as she relaxed and stretched out on his lap. She hadn’t taken the time to put her clothes on and Mick watched the mellow flames of the fire spread a liquid gold color over her body. She was so beautiful it made him ache for her.

“Do you need to feed baby?”

“Yes,” she replied, her voice a mere whisper.

He turned her so that her back was to his chest and her legs were resting on either side of his own. As she settled in Mick inhaled her scent, a potent miasmic swirl of Beth and sex and love. He brought his left arm around her and she took it in her small hands and stared in rapt fascination for a moment before she kissed his wrist softly and then traced her tongue lazily along the vein, seeking the sweet spot for both of them.

Anticipation rocked him in the gut and he couldn’t wait to feel her baby fangs against his skin. When she bit, she did it with precision and little fuss; a clean bite just deep enough for the blood to leisurely pool in her mouth. She let out a soft growl of satisfaction and craving as Mick scented her desire.

His jeans grew uncomfortable and tight and he tried to shift on the cushion without disturbing her but she moved with him, her limbs flowing over his like honey from the comb. His hand reached around and teased along her bare skin, traveling slowly and sensuously along the firm planes of her belly until swept upwards and captured a firmly rounded breast in his hand and kneaded lightly, sweeping nimble fingers over her aroused nipple and making it stiffen even more.

She moaned, a moan of desire and he scented the liquid need that was flowing from her body. He breathed deeply and letting it wash over him, through him. He kissed her neck, stroking it with his tongue and playing it like the finest, most revered instrument as his hand strummed along her quivering tummy. She had all but stopped feeding and he felt her spread her legs farther apart so that he would have no doubt as to what she wanted, craved.

Long teasing fingers made their way to the curly blonde hair that covered her sex and he cupped her, rubbing against her lightly. She thrust upwards against his palm, rhythmically trying to increase the contact. His fingers dipped into the sweetly flowing nectar and traced lovingly over the swollen folds and drew gentle circles over the hardened nub of desire that quivered at his touch.

He inserted a finger and then two into her, working them in and out of her tightly gripping body. She started feeding again as he increased the tempo and she strained against his hand and suddenly she felt the pinnacle of joy wash over her and her eyes shut tightly as she rocked with it. Mick gentled his caresses until he felt her body stop contracting around him and slipped his fingers out of her, leaving wet trails up her belly.

Beth pulled her fangs out and sealed the wounds with a kiss, still marveling at quickly they healed. She stood up and looked down at him, her body alit in the fires glow and she held her hand out to him, urging him to follow her back upstairs.

He couldn’t do anything else. She was his choice.

To be continued…

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Chapter 5

After Beth’s phone call Ben tried to make sense of it all. It was just so – just so sudden and unexpected. She sounded fine, better than fine in fact. She sounded happy and if that was the case he was happy for her but something just didn’t feel right about it. He picked up his phone and called Carl, hoping for some understanding of the situation because Carl seemed to know both Beth and Mick pretty well.

When his phone rang Carl picked it up and saw that it was Ben calling, which meant that they must have a case. He clicked the remote to turn the Padres game off, cursing as he answered.

“Hey Carl, I’m glad I caught you,” Ben said quickly. “I hope I’m not interrupting anything major today.”

“No, just the Padres game,” he said with a groan. He was a San Diego boy born and bred and even though he lived in LA he still rooted for the home team.

“Um, sorry about that. I won’t keep you long but something happened and I wanted to get your input.”

“So this isn’t a case?” Carl questioned hopefully.

“No, uh, definitely not.” Ben sat back in his chair and let out a long sigh. “Beth called me a little while ago and quit her job. No notice, just said she wouldn’t be back.”

Carl let out a low whistle and frowned as he listened. Beth could be impetuous and impulsive but there was always a reason for it. “Did she say why?”

“Said that she and Mick wanted to concentrate on having a family; that all the stress of life lately has made it difficult and so she is eliminating some of the stress.”

“Things been that hectic?”

“No, not really. This makes no sense to me at all. I don’t know if I’ve pissed her off or something, not a clue.”

Carl chuckled and said, “Trust me, if you had pissed her off you’d know about it; Beth is pretty vocal about things like that!”

“How the hell would you know? You don’t work with her all that much.”

“Work with her? Well no, but back in college Beth and I were together for a while. I know her pretty well.”

The words shocked Ben; why he wasn’t sure. There had always been something in Beth and Carl’s relationship that ran deeper than a surface look would warrant but they had been together? As in ‘together’? Ben couldn’t help but wonder what Mick thought about that.

At the continued silence on the other end of the phone Carl waited patiently. Yes, it boggled even his mind sometimes, he and Beth. The memories were good but sad at the same time; saying goodbye to a relationship is hard enough but Beth was special. He knew that she loved Mick with all her heart and that helped things a lot. He didn’t have any regrets, not really. They weren’t made for one another and they both had accepted that but there was always going to be a thread connecting them and he’d probably worry about her until – well forever. He knew for a fact that Mick had the capabilities to keep her safe and that couldn’t have made Carl happier, but it also begged the question – did that have anything to do with what was going on?

Ben finally found his voice again and said, “I just hope that St. John isn’t making her do this.”

“I can guarantee that he isn’t Ben. No one is going to make Beth do anything she doesn’t want to, believe me. Now, does she just want to be with him? Maybe. I’ll go and see her,” he promised.

“Well, you’d better call the airlines because they are in Seattle, not LA. Part of their ‘getaway’ apparently.”

Carl’s eyebrows raised a fraction as he heard that information. “Well, maybe I won’t then but I’ll give her a call and sound her out. How’s that?”

“Sounds good Carl. Let me know if you think anything is going on that I should be worried about.”

They ended the call and Carl sat and stared aimlessly out the window for a few minutes. Mick would never hurt her – but what would he do to protect her? That was the question on Carl’s mind as he dialed Beth’s number. When it went to voice mail he left a message and hoped that she’d call him back soon.


After heading back to the city from Lani’s beach house Josef headed for the office to make a few calls. It was Saturday and only a couple of guards were there; the markets were closed so the office was blessedly silent. He went to the fridge and poured a glass of some B- and sipped it cautiously. It was two days old and that definitely wasn’t his beverage of choice but he drank it anyway because he needed to be able to focus.

He had messages from Colleen and Ryan both, telling him that Leo was now out of the picture, permanently and he nodded in satisfaction. Bringing Colleen on board had been a great idea, a bit of serendipitous luck you might say. She had a long and promising career ahead at her with Kostan Industries because Josef valued loyalty about all and that girl had plenty of it.

He next placed a call to Miguel Estrella, one he wasn’t really looking forward to making but one that couldn’t be avoided. He leaned back and rested his Ferragamo loafers on the desk top, ignoring the possibility of scuff marks on the smooth teak surface. He punched in the number and waited impatiently for the call to be answered.


Miguel picked up on the third ring after noting who the call was from. “Josef. This is unexpected. Do we have a problem?” Miguel knew that Josef didn’t ever call to chit chat so something was definitely up.

“Yes, we do.” Josef explained what had happened and Miguel listened silently, only asking questions when Josef was done speaking.

“So it’s time to take out Katrina, yes?”

“Yes, she disobeyed a direct order and understand this, the bitch is mine Miguel.”

‘Um hm, um hm, I get that. Would expect it in fact. We have an image to maintain. The board will support you on that, 100% Josef.”

“Yes, I know they will. Tonight, 10 pm at the cleaner’s headquarters. Can you be there?”

“I wouldn’t miss it for the world my friend.”

“Come armed Miguel; she’ll fight hard I anticipate. I’ll have a couple of people with me as well.”

“The young woman who provided you with the information?”

“No, I want her to stay out of it. The cleaners here have coalesced into a vipers pit under Katrina’s guidance and that ends tonight. I want Colleen’s name to stay clean.”

“Is she interested in the soon to be vacant position?” Miguel thought she sounded like a good choice.

“No, she doesn’t want anything to do with it at all. She’ll be working for me tomorrow. But I have another suggestion. We need someone with no ties to the LA crew, or to cleaners as all. I’d like to recommend Tango Smythe; he’s strong and has excellent leadership skills. And he will be 100% loyal to us Miguel.”

“And you know this how?”

“Let’s just say that Tango and I have a long history together; his loyalty is beyond reproach. How about if I get him here and you can form your own opinions?”

“Alright Josef, I’ll agree to that. He sounds intriguing.”

“Good to hear. I’ll see you tonight?”

“I’ll be there, with a little protection of my own.”

Josef listened to the line click off and smiled.

Who said the Legion and vampires couldn’t get along?

After taking care of a few emails Josef finally put in a call to Tango. No telling where in the world he was so any time was as good as another to call. He again waited for the call to be answered, this time a bit more impatiently.

“Hullo,” a lazy voice on the other end of the call drawled.


“Tango, how the hell are you? Where the hell are you?” Josef asked with a laugh.

“Josef! I’ll be damned, I was just thinking about you a couple of days ago. What’s up?”

“Tango, I need you here, for a while anyway. I have a situation that needs your finesse.” He explained all that had happened and what he wanted Tango to do.

“You want me to be a cleaner? Are you daft man? I’ve never done anything like that!”

“No, that’s true enough but you can lead people Tango and you have a firm hand and that is what’s called for here. And you’re such a charming son of a bitch that no one ever even realizes that they are being ‘handled’. Come on Tango, I really need you here.”

“Bloody hell Josef, you know how I feel about the colonies; I’m a sore loser, remember?” he chuckled.

Josef laughed, knowing how true that was. Tango was definitely on the other side of things. “Yes, well this will broaden your horizons, maybe change your mind even. They’re not so bad here you know! Besides, I remember how much you like Hawaii!”

“Yes, well they weren’t a part of the states back then either, as I’m sure you remember?” he teased, remembering an idyllic year the two of them had spent on the ‘Sandwich’ islands and the many native girls who had enjoyed it with them. He finally sighed in resignation and said, “Okay. I’ll be there tomorrow Josef.”

“Glad to hear it. You might just decide you like it here you know?” Josef gave him the information that his pilot would need to land at the small airport where Josef’s hangar was and assured him that there was plenty of room for his jet. A few more details and they ended the call, both of them smiling.

It was a little after six when Josef finished up at Kostan and as he climbed back in the Ferrari he realized he hadn’t heard from Mick and Beth yet. He wondered if Lani had heard anything and decided to call her but as he stared at the phone he thought better of it. A personal visit was just the ticket he decided devilishly and headed the car towards her condo.

As he stepped into the elevator he realized that he felt a bit nervous. It was such a foreign feeling that he didn’t recognize it at first. But yes, he was nervous alright, sweaty palms and all. When the elevator stopped on the penthouse floor he took as step out and looked around, trying to determine if he really wanted to do this. Maybe a call would be better after all.

Shit! Grow up Kostan!

He rang the buzzer and waited for Lani to open the door. He heard her soft footsteps padding quietly across the floor and then heard her heartbeat speed up when she looked out and saw who rang the bell. He waited as she decided whether to answer the door or not and just when he thought she wouldn’t, she opened it wide.

“Josef,” she said with an arched eyebrow. Chocolate brown eyes stared at him, but she made no move to stand aside so that he could enter the apartment.

“Hi, uh Lani. I was near here and was just curious if you had heard from Beth yet? I haven’t,” he said and almost laughed at how he practically stuttered over the words.

“Really? Near here? I must say I’m amazed.”

“I was at the office for a while and then ran a couple of errands that brought me near here,” he told her and hoped she believed him. Vampires were bad liars, no matter how old they were.

Her eyes narrowed as she listened to his words; she’d bet her next paycheck that they weren’t true but then decided to let it go. He was worried about Beth too she knew. She sighed and said, “Do you want to come in Josef?”

A quick, impertinent grin spread across his admittedly handsome face and she suddenly felt like slamming the door on it. She watched as he eyed her up and down briefly, taking in her tank top and low-cut flannel lounging pants. Her hackles rose as he stared boldly at her bare belly button and she wanted to tug her shirt down or her pants up but neither fabric would stretch that far. “Well?” she demanded.

“I don’t know Lani. You want to go and throw on some silver? I see you’re not wearing any.” The grin spread broader, making his sherry brown eyes sparkle.

She wanted to stamp her foot in frustration; instead, she plastered a smile on her face and retorted sweetly, “Do I need any?”

“After the other night, I’d say that any vamp who is thinking about going up against you would be a fool.” As soon as he said the words he wanted to kick himself in the ass because her beautiful face crumbled for a moment and she turned around, hiding the tears that sprang to her eyes.

The tang of the salty tears stung his nose and ripped his heart out and he stepped forward, ashamed at what he had caused with his callous remark. He placed his hands on her shoulders and attempted to turn her around to face him and she shrugged away from him, heading into another room. Josef stood there watching as she left the room and feeling like a giant jackass. He reached behind him and softly closed the door and headed over to the bar and poured them both a finger of scotch, hoping it would help when she made a reappearance. He didn’t have long to wait and swallowed quickly as she entered the room, head held high and no sign of the tears.

“Lani, I’m so sorry. It was a stupid remark. Please forgive me?” he said, handing her the glass that had a finger of scotch in it.

She accepted it and nodded to him, not saying anything else. She took a sip, eyeing him over the rim of the glass.

He cleared his throat and wandered over to the windows, which lined one whole wall of the apartment. “Have you talked with Beth?” he asked again.

“No, not yet,” she said, joining him by the window. “I talked to Dorothy earlier though and she said that Beth sounded great; happy in fact.” She tipped up the last of the scotch and swallowed, feeling the burn as it slid down her throat. “Listen Josef, I was just going to make a sandwich for my dinner. I – I’m sorry, I don’t have anything to offer you, other than the scotch that is,” knowing that wasn’t necessarily true, but they would never go there.

Josef caught the unspoken words and smiled, “I had something before I left the office actually. Please, don’t let me keep you from your dinner though. What are you making?”

“A peanut butter, honey and banana sandwich, grilled. It won’t take me long so please have a seat,” she said, indicating the living room. She headed into the kitchen and realized he was following her. She did her best to ignore him as she finished making the sandwich, which was waiting to be grilled. As it toasted she poured a glass of milk and set it on the kitchen bar counter where Josef had already taken a seat. She grinned as she turned back to the stove and pulled the sandwich off the grill and placed it on a plate. She cut it in half, on the diagonal of course and then set the plate on the counter before taking a seat herself.

“Smells…interesting. Good actually.” Josef watched as she took a bite and a small bit of peanut butter leaked out and caught in the corner of her mouth. Her tongue slipped out and licked it off quickly before she took another bite. “I’ve never tasted peanut butter or bananas,” he told her matter of factly.

“Really?” she asked. How was that possible? Then she remembered how old he was and it made sense.

“Really. They didn’t have peanut butter when I was human and we certainly never saw bananas either. We did have honey, though I don’t really remember what it tastes like.”

She took another bite and chewed thoughtfully for a moment. She wanted to ask questions but was a bit afraid to. She wiped her lips with a napkin and then licked them, staring at her plate.

Josef knew perfectly well that she wanted to ask questions but was debating whether or not to do it. He decided to share a little bit and see if it prompted more questions or answered them. “I was born in 1599 Lani and turned in 1625. I was the oldest son of a local lord.”

“Oh, my goodness, I didn’t know that. I mean, I knew that, well Beth said, that um, you were like 400 years old, but I never…” She digested his words for a few moments and then asked, “Where are you from, originally that is?”

It had been many, many years since Josef had talked about that other life; the last person he had told was Sarah. Vampires didn’t usually talk about this stuff, it was sort of regarded as sacred to the person and you just didn’t ask about the human life. Still, he was strangely comfortable talking to Lani, something that surprised him a great deal.

“Ireland, I’m from Ireland, the village of Kinnock, on the eastern coast.”

“Is that where you were turned? Someone in the village?”

“I was turned there, but not by someone from the village. No, she was definitely not from the village,” he laughed. “She was a pirate; I guess I was part of her booty that trip.”

“So you were turned by a pirate? Did you become a pirate?”

He laughed outright. Oh Lani, the tales I could tell you. Shock you right to the core no doubt. “I was a pirate for awhile, until I got to the new world that is.” He shrugged, grinning broadly.

“What was your name, back then Josef?”

The one question he had never answered for anyone, not even Sarah. He debated for a moment and almost jumped when the phone rang.

Lani jumped up with a totally girlish squeal and ran to the living room to grab her phone. Josef wasn’t sure if he was thankful or not, but the question of his name would remain a secret for now. He watched Lani come back into the room, talking excitedly into the phone.

“Yes, I’m so happy to hear from you Bethy. Hey, Josef is here, I’m going to put you on speaker, okay?”

“Josef is there, with you?” Beth asked, clearly surprised.

“Yes, he stopped in to ask if I had heard from you yet. Is Mick there?”

“Yes, I am Lani. Hey Josef,” he said, as surprised as Beth was that Josef was with Lani.

“Mick, Beth. So how is our little fledgling doing?” Josef asked, trying to get the conversation back on track.

“I’m good, actually, I feel great! I don’t like the freezer when it’s too cold though and things are really bright, you know? And coffee still tastes great, even though Mick says I can’t taste it, but I CAN Josef! And I can jump too!”

Josef laughed as she seemed to run out of steam and puzzled over the coffee bit. “So you’re drinking coffee? What about blood?”

“Oh, that too. Mick tastes really good, I must say!” she said with a low sound that sounded almost like a purr.

Josef watched a blush sweep up Lani’s face; she didn’t realize how being a vamp could change someone’s outlook. Most vamps were very earthy, sensual and it sounded like Beth was no different. “So you can jump, huh?”

“Yes, but Mick yelled at me. He’s all worried that I might hurt myself but I’ll heal if I break a bone won’t I Josef?”

“Yes, you’ll heal but it will still hurt Beth.”

“Exactly what I told her. She doesn’t listen very well, I gotta say,” Mick said sorrowfully.

“Now Beth, be a good fledgling and listen to your sire! He might have to spank you otherwise,” Josef said with a snicker and then laughed outright at the totally embarrassed look on Lani’s face. “Sorry,” he mouthed to her silently.

“He…he wouldn’t, would he?” Beth asked, her voice trembling.

“Look what you have caused Josef,” Lani scolded. She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she listened to Beth cry on the other end of the phone and Mick trying to soothe her. Lani and Josef both heard a few snuffles as Beth stopped crying; had there been a handy knife around Josef would be sporting it right about now Lani decided.

Lani and Josef listened as Mick consoled her, assuring her of his love and that he wouldn’t ever spank her, that Josef had been teasing. Finally Beth seemed to be okay and asked the question that both Mick and Beth needed the answer to.

“Lani, what happened there? I only remember a rush as Kelly flew past and that’s all. Mick was watching me, so we don’t know what happened.”

It all rushed back at Lani, last night on the beach. It seemed a long time ago or maybe only a heartbeat, it was still so fresh in her mind. With quiet words she told them all that had happened as she watched.

“You killed her? Kelly? Oh Lani,” Beth cried, her heart aching for her friend. “I’m so sorry, so sorry.”

“Don’t be – I don’t regret it a bit. I – well, it’s hard but I don’t regret doing it Beth. I’d do it again. It was just so hard watching everything that happened after that.”

They all knew that she was talking about Beth’s turning. Each one remembered how it had happened, in their own way. Josef, wondering if Mick could do it and Lani panicking as she thought Mick wouldn’t do it. At least it was done and Beth was okay.

“You’re okay Beth? Really okay?” Lani asked again, needing the reassurance.

“Yes, I’m happy Lani. I don’t regret it at all. I called Ben and resigned, told him that there was just too much stress and Mick and I were here trying to have a baby. I guess I’ll tell Robbi something along those lines. She’s called me twice and Carl called once as well. I’m sure that Ben told him I’d quit and that’s why he called.

“So that will be our story? The baby thing I mean?” Lani asked, knowing that she would have to be able to back that up with Robbi at least.

“Yes, I don’t know what else to say. Do you think it will work?”

“For awhile, but Beth, sooner or later, well, Robbi you know? We can’t keep it from her forever.”

“I know,” Beth said, her words barely audible as she thought about her friend. “When the time comes we’ll figure something out. Lani, I miss you and I love you too. I wish I could see you.”

“Ditto Bethy. Call me tomorrow night again?”

“Yes, I will. We’ll make it a nightly thing, okay?”

“Okay. Bye,” Lani said, pushing the end key.

Josef reached across the counter and lightly squeezed her hand, a gesture of comfort. And the surprising thing was, she let him do it.

To be continued…

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Delayed Post

I just realized I left my flash drive that has the story on it at a friends this morning as we were working on the HR consulting work I am doing for her.  She left this afternoon for Oklahoma City and won't be back until Tuesday sometime so I won't be able to post the new chapter until Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning, as soon as I can get the drive back.  

So sorry for the inconvenience and disappointment everyone! 


Monday, November 7, 2011

Chapter Four

Mick and Beth took a cool shower and she reveled in it. “I can’t believe this could feel so good,” she whispered against his chest, her tongue tracing little circles around his nipple. Her soapy hand crept down his belly to stroke him lazily and she giggled when she felt him stirring in her hand. “How about it Mick?” she teased.

The feel of her hand and mouth on him was driving him crazy but they both needed to feed and so he took a step backwards and turned her away from him, urging her to rinse off. She cast a look over her shoulder, her bottom lip pouting and he caught a hint of those baby fangs again and was almost lost to the temptation. They were a siren song for him; one he would never have believed.

It had never been like this with Coraline; when the fangs came out with her it was predatory and not in a good way. He had never seen the beauty of her vamped out, all he saw was the monster. It didn’t mean that it wasn’t sexual because it certainly could be but he understood now that it wasn’t love – it was never love. But he also remember the pull of his sire and knew that Beth felt the same thing and he was determined to do the very best he could with her so that she would never feel the heartache and anguish he had felt with his turning.

“No Beth, we both need to feed. There will be plenty of time later. Now come on, let’s get out of here and get dressed so we can both feed.”

“Um, do you feel a bit weak-kneed right now? I’m trembling all through my body,” she said, demurely, batting her eyes. Her mouth found his wrist and he felt her fangs pressed against his skin in the most enticing way. His belly tightened with the most delicious sensations and he wanted nothing more than to give into them.

“Yes, that’s because we need to feed,” he stated again, stepping out of the shower. Some of the soap hadn’t been rinsed off but if he didn’t get out now he might not at all. God, she made every nerve in his body come alive with need, with throbbing desire; he had no resistance against her. He pulled a towel off the rack and quickly wrapped it around his waist and then handed her another one.

Beth’s eyes sparked silver for a moment; she knew exactly what was going on. Her new sense of smell told her he wanted her, badly. He wanted her as much as she wanted him but she decided she had to pick her battles. She stepped out of the shower and slowly wrapped the towel around her, detesting the rough texture against her sensitive skin. She stepped in front of him, only a fraction of an inch separated them and she murmured seductively against his lips, “Whatever you want Mick.”

He snapped his eyes closed quickly and turned around, trying to stifle the groan that threatened to escape. He headed for the door that led into the bedroom, unable to stay in that small space with her for another minute. When she finished carefully drying off she found him already dressed and getting ready to head downstairs.

“That towel was rough Mick. I thought Egyptian cotton was so soft; I don’t remember them being that coarse before.”

“Beth, your skin is really sensitive right now. Remember, every sense you have is heightened; light will not only hurt your eyes, it will hurt your skin. Sound, smell, everything is going to take some getting used to for you.”

She nodded, remembering how it had literally hurt her ears when he had yelled earlier. She looked at the clothes that were in the bag because they hadn’t taken the time to unpack them yet, a puzzled frown on her face. “What should I wear? Do I have to wear anything?”

“Yes, you have to get used to the feel of the fabric against your skin. It won’t take too long and you’ll be used to it baby, I promise you. Why don’t you wear these soft cotton pants and a tee shirt? Those shouldn’t be too bad.”

She nodded glumly and pulled on the pair of cotton lounging pants. They didn’t feel too bad she decided; they were loose and hopefully wouldn’t get too scratchy; the same for the tee shirt. She decided to forgo the bra and looked at herself in the mirror, noting the way her nipples poked against the thin fabric. She turned away from the mirror with a smile because she knew that Mick would notice too. She remembered to grab the wraparound sunglasses on the way out and headed down the stairs, tempted to ride the banister down but she figured that would really hurt.

Downstairs Mick had poured two glasses of blood for them, choosing the O+ because most vamps thought it seemed to have a milder flavor. He glanced up at her as she entered the room and a slow smile tugged the corners of his mouth upwards. She looked so cute, blonde hair trailing down her back, sunglasses in place and …and nipples playing peek-a-boo through the tee shirt. He quickly snapped his eyes shut again and turned around to place the bottle of blood back into the fridge.

“Okay Beth, here we go.” He held out the chair for her and she smiled; it could have been a 5 star restaurant he was acting so formally. She smiled at him and sat down, staring at the glass of blood sitting in front of her.

She lifted her head and scented it; it smelled like blood, and yet somehow different. It was much more fragrant than ordinary blood with hints of things she didn’t know how to identify. She picked up the glass and realized she was hungry, thirsty – whatever and took a sip, letting the cool liquid flow over her tongue. It was delicious and she couldn’t believe she thought so. After all, it was blood and she was a vampire!

Mick explained about this particular blood and told her about some of the different things that could flavor it. This came from Josef’s girls and they were in top health. He didn’t tell her that morgue blood would taste a good deal different. In time, he’d have to tell her, but not today.

Mick brought her phone to her and she looked at the missed calls; Robbi had called 4 times, Mick 3 times she noticed and asked him about that.

“When you were at the beach and we found out that Kelly was following you – I tried to call, you and Lani and Elka.”

“What did happen on the beach Mick? I-I don’t remember much.”

He explained all that he had seen but admitted that he didn’t know all of it. “Lani could tell you. We’ll need to call her and Josef, but before that your Mom and Ben. Has to be done Beth,” he said as he saw understanding creep over her face. She took her last swallow of the blood and set the glass down and stared at it for a moment.

“You want more?” Mick asked, realizing she might still be hungry.

“Yes, please.” She called Ben on his cell, waiting for him to answer as she watched Mick fill both glasses again. He sat it in front of her and heard Ben answer on the other end.

“Ben? Hi, it’s Beth,” she told him, waiting as he greeted her and asked he what was up.

She steeled herself for what she was getting ready to do but pushed ahead with it. “Ben, you know that Mick and I have been trying to have a baby and things, well, things have been pretty stressful and it’s hard. I- we are in Seattle, and I have to quit my job Ben, effectively immediately.”

Mick heard Ben’s confusion and protests on the other end of the phone, offering her a week or two to just relax. She closed her eyes as she listened and Mick knew how much she hated to give the job up because she loved it.

“I’m afraid we’re going to be here much longer than that Ben. I don’t know exactly how long but maybe a month or more. Please try to understand Ben, while I love that job I have to do what’s best for me, for Mick.”

“Has he made you do this Beth? You don’t have to do it.”

The accusatory words stung Mick who felt appalled that anyone would think that he could force her to do something she didn’t want to do. He blanched and quickly turned his head away from her, hoping that she didn’t see the pain on his face.

“No Ben, he didn’t. Please Ben, I’ve never been happier and Mick and I just need this time together and it’s not fair to you to keep that job hanging.”

After that there was very little to be said between them and Beth pushed the end key with a heavy sigh. “Could have been worse I guess,” she offered, sure that he had heard Ben’s remarks.

Mick nodded and picked up their empty glasses, rinsing them and putting them in the dishwasher. She stood up and wrapped her arms around his waist, not in a sexual gesture but rather one of comfort. He placed his hands over her and squeezed them lightly, staring out the window.

“Are you okay Mick?”

Was he okay? Hell, he didn’t even know. He had brought her into his world and now hers was caving in around her. It was all his fault; if he had only stayed out of her life she’d still be alive. And he’d still be…alone.

He could handle that, he could.

But his heart knew better even if his head refused to accept it; they were mates and they needed each other like earth needed water. His eyes squeezed tightly shut and he pinched his nose for a moment to clear away the anxiety that he was feeling. Finally, he turned around in her arms and kissed her, drinking in her love.

“I am happy Mick; I meant what I said to Ben. This is the life I was meant to live, with you like this.”

“But you had to sacrifice your job, your hopes to have kids Beth. All because of me.”

Suddenly her eyes flashed silver, icy silver and she shrugged out of the embrace and pushed away from his hard chest and huffed a deep breath. “Don’t you ever, ever, say something like that to me again Mick. I mean it. I am here, where I want to be and you know what? I do not hate it at all. If you want to live your life in guilt and misery, thinking of yourself as some kind of monster, I can’t stop you but I’m not going to do that because I’m not one damn bit sorry and I am NOT a monster! Neither are you but I don’t suppose I can convince you of that. You’ve been rolling in that for so long it has seeped into your soul.”

They stared at one another silently for a moment, Beth worrying her lower lip with her teeth and Mick staring at the floor silently. Beth went to the cabinet that held the coffee and pulled it out, preparing to make some. Maybe it was partly habit and maybe it was just something to do, she didn’t know but she knew that right now she needed a damn cup of the magic brew.

“Beth, you can’t drink that. You won’t be able to taste it.” Mick watched her as she went about placing a filter into the coffee maker and measured out the coffee grounds before filling it with water and pushing the button to start the brew.

“You know what Mick? I CAN drink it and maybe I won’t be able to taste it but Cami drinks coffee everyday and it doesn’t hurt her. Logan eats popsicles and you drink wine or scotch. Nothing happens…what goes in comes out.” She stared at him defiantly, daring him to contradict what she had said.

The problem was, she looked so damn cute that Mick had to fight to keep from chuckling. Her arms were folded over her chest and one small foot was tapping the floor in a rapid staccato. He finally held up his hands in a gesture of surrender, knowing that she had won the battle.

But the rest of it? Well, they were going to have to work on that. They both had some valid points, okay, she had more he admitted. He was quiet for a moment, taking in the aroma of the coffee as it brewed and he watched her pull a mug out of the cupboard and set in on the counter.

“Beth?” he asked, watching her back stiffen. “Beth? Can you please teach me how to see myself the way you do?” It was such a simple request and it broke her heart.

Suddenly she was in his arms, holding him tightly and crying against his chest. “You are my hero Mick, the man I waited my whole life for. When you look at me that is what you see shining in my eyes and I’ll work forever to teach you that.”

He couldn’t speak, only hold her close and whisper words of gratitude and love against her soft hair, knowing that she could easily hear them.

“I love you Mick; I love you forever.” She smiled at him as he brushed the tears away from her face with tender fingers. The salt in them was a curious scent she realized and she smiled; she had so much to learn.

She pulled away when the coffee maker stopped gurgling and grinned impishly. “You want a cup?” she teased, pointing at the mug.

He laughed for a moment and shook his head. “But you’d better put an ice cube in it or something – it will feel much hotter to your vamp senses.”

She thought about that for a minute and decided to call her mom while she waited for it to cool a bit. She sat down at the table again and watched and sniffed appreciatively when Mick sat the mug in front of her. She inhaled the heavenly scent and pushed the button that would connect her with her mom.

“Bethy!” Dorothy exclaimed when she answered. “Oh baby, are you okay?”

Beth laughed and said, “Yes, I’m great Mom! It is incredible.”

If Dorothy was surprised by the enthusiasm in her daughter’s voice she hid it well. “Honey, I’m going to put you on the speaker so that Clark can hear too, okay?”

“That’s great. Hi Dad,” she said and listened as he returned her greeting.

“Beth, honey it’s so good to hear your voice! Is Mick there too?”

“Yes, he can hear.” She reached across the table and laid her hand on his, squeezing it lightly. “I’m happy and feeling great, so you guys don’t need to worry, okay?”

“Beth, we’re your parents and I’m sorry, it’s in the job description!” Dorothy smiled broadly, realizing that Beth really was okay.

“Mom, how are you? How are the babies? I know it had to be a terrible shock for you. You haven’t had any problems have you?”

“No, other than not getting much sleep, which is to be expected I guess. I’ll sleep like a log tonight I’m sure. You, um, everything is okay? No ill effects or anything?” Dorothy held her breath as she spoke the words, so afraid that something could be wrong.

“Nope, but I don’t know how my husband is going to survive this. I already scared him by jumping down the flight of stairs, but for heaven’s sake, vampires can do that! I thought about sliding down the banister on my way down here a little bit ago but decided that it might hurt; my skin is really sensitive right now. Everything is sensitive!” she declared. She took a cautious sip of her coffee and smiled and the warm brew hit her tongue.

“I remember after Logan came home, how he was more sensitive to everything too. But it got better.” Clark said, remembering the first time he saw Logan after his turning.

“May I just say that siring Logan was probably a piece of cake compared to Beth? She is going to question everything and Dorothy, I blame that all on you!” Mick teased and heard her laugh over the phone line.

“Well, she wouldn’t be my daughter if she didn’t Mick. I guess it was quite a night, huh? Josef, Lani, Logan and Audrey came over to tell us and it was a shock to everyone it seemed. Beth, if you haven’t talked to Lani yet please do it as soon as you can. Honey, she is having a really hard time with it all.” Dorothy didn’t tell her any more about Lani; she knew that the young woman would need to share it on her own.

Beth took another drink of the coffee as she listened to her mother’s words. It was a very sobering thing for Beth to hear; she hadn’t taken in to consideration her how her best friend would handle it all. She hated vamps, for the most part. Beth wondered if she would lose Lani’s friendship because of this. The thought saddened her a great deal.

They chatted for a few more minutes and Mick noticed that Beth was growing tired. She didn’t yet understand that fledglings usually rested a lot, as well as feed and the other things that tempted him so. He couldn’t complain really but they did have other things to learn as well

“Mick, you take care of her for me. I know you will,” Dorothy said, trying to choke back tears.

“Always Dorothy. With my own life I’ll protect her.”

“I know, I know you will Mick. I love you both!”

“Love you both too,” Beth said, tears sparkling in her own blue eyes. She pressed the end key and sat back in her chair, feeling weary. “I think I need a nap.” She sat the coffee cup down after she took the last drink and added, “By the way, I CAN taste it Mick.”

He looked at her askance, shaking his head slightly. No use arguing with her so he said, “You’ll probably take a lot of naps for a few days Beth. Your body is still getting used to the virus that is in your system now. In many ways you’ll be like a baby, resting, feeding and such.”

“Come up with me?” she asked softly.

“Baby, we both know that you wouldn’t get any rest if I did. I’m going to check in with Tim and check for messages from the office and stuff. You’ll rest for a few hours and then when you wake up later we’ll see what you feel like.”

She laughed and it was a very wicked laugh. “Mr. St. John, I can tell you exactly what I’ll be wanting.”

“Yeah, yeah, go on now. He lightly smacked her on her bottom as she walked out of the kitchen. She turned around and stuck out her tongue at him and he grinned like a kid. Did she have to be so damn hot AND tempting?

A half an hour later he had checked the messages from the office and got it all squared away; he had turned several pending cases over to Robert Parker, a friend of his that he worked with occasionally. That should keep clients happy and keep him from worrying. About that anyway.

Like Beth, Mick didn’t know exactly what had happened out there on the beach. He saw Kelly come up over the rocks and the only thing he paid attention to was Beth, getting to her. He remembered seeing shoes sticking out of the fire so he assumed that was Kelly but what the hell did happen? He hoped that Josef had some answers.

Clearly Beth didn’t blame him, but it was obvious where the blame lie; with him. He didn’t protect her, he wasn’t there and she had paid the ultimate price as she walked the path of a vampire now. She thought it was all great but as time went on she would see that this wasn’t really life, despite what Josef thought. He felt so alone right now and helpless.

A quiet knock on the front door startled him out of his reverie and as he headed into the foyer he caught Tim’s scent and saw the imposing shadow of the 6’8” man on the other side of the door. He opened it with a smile, glad for the company.

“Tim, come on in. Is Mary with you?” he asked as Tim stepped through the doorway, ducking his head slightly. His head didn’t hit the top here but it was a precaution he performed and had all his life. It had been his experience that most doorways didn’t accommodate his great height.

“No, she’s meeting with the gabby girls; probably plotting something.”

Mick grinned at Tim’s description of the ladies tribal group that met regularly. They supported the orphanage on the reservation by sewing clothes and having bake sales and anything else that would bring in a bit of money for the impoverished tribe.

“Beth is resting, I think,” he said with a frown towards the stairs. “She should be anyway. Can I get you something to drink? Beth made some coffee a bit ago and then informed me that she could taste it.” He gave a wry laugh as Tim sat down at the table in the kitchen.

“No kidding? Well, in her mind she probably thinks she does Mick; it’s likely a coping mechanism for her,” the wise Cheyenne man stated.

“She’s not struggling or unhappy. You’d think she’d been given the biggest and best Christmas gift ever.”

“Is that a bad thing Mick? That she would be happy about it?” Tim watched Mick’s face closely as he thought about his answer.

“I don’t know how she couldn’t be unhappy about it. Her humanity was stripped from her and now this is all she has left!”

“And you think all this,” he swept his arm across the room but he meant more than that, “Is so little that she should be unhappy? She made the choice Mick; this wasn’t your turning. It is very possible that she is happy and excited to experience this with you. She is with you, her mate and her inner vamp obviously recognizes that.”

Mick listened to the words, wanting desperately to believe but try as hard as he might he couldn’t. He couldn’t let go of his own pain and anger at his turning, of all the years afterwards feeling so alone and lonely.

“Mick, you’re not alone anymore nae’ha.”


Tim sat at the fire, watching the solitary man walking towards him in the chilly night. His footsteps made a soft crunching sound as he stepped on the fallen pine needles, the loud sound a sure sign of a tsêhésevé'ho'e, a white man who did not walk gently upon the earth.

Mick stood opposite Tim who was sitting on the ground wearing a pair of leather buckskin pants and no shirt. He had a feather in his hair and he had been chanting some unknown song until Mick came upon him.

Mick had been in the lodge for a week now and kept to himself. A loner apparently but there was more to it than that. Mick had a hurt that he was carrying around and that never did a man any good.

Tim, Aenohe Nestoohe, (Howling Hawk) had been a shaman in his tribe, a position of great respect. A healer, a wise man, a trusted leader among his people and he read the young man easily. The pain of his past wore on him like an angry beast and insinuated itself into his life. This young man had cut himself off from friends, from his own life. It was sad to see in him and Tim believed he needed a great deal of healing. Mick watched as he took a pouch that hung around his neck and opened it, pulling out several large pieces of a dried plant and started chanting and then throwing the pieces into the fire.

A curious smell hit Mick; it sort of smelled like Thanksgiving and he shook his head as a memory of his childhood scrolled through his head. Finally he asked, “What is that?”

“It is sage, it pleases the Gods; heškevóho hetaa'óma'o'e, (our mother who walks the earth) and Ma’heo’o Tsehehe’tovatsemenoto tsehestoestoveto he’amo’omee’e, (God the one who is our father who is in heaven).

He started chanting again and Mick sank to the ground, settling down as he watched and listened. The song was rhythmic and almost hypnotic and he leaned in a bit closer to the fire, inhaling the pungent scent of the burning sage.

Tim’s chanting continued on and he raised his arms to the sky, speaking words that Mick couldn’t understand. A prayer perhaps, Mick couldn’t tell but as Tim continued his chant Mick felt pulled into it all, a part of the song, the fire, the night. He closed his eyes and felt himself swaying in time to the chant and picked it up, humming softly with it. Mick’s eyes opened momentarily and he saw that Tim danced, danced for himself, for Mick, for the Gods in hopes that they would aid this young man. Or maybe for some other reason but Mick felt a part of it, understanding without knowing. He thought he heard a drum, beating in time with some earthly heartbeat and he laid his hand flat on the ground to feel the beat. The intensity of the music, the drumming and chanting pulled him in and sightless eyes stared at all around him, connected in a way he didn’t understand.

You are not alone.
Your path is shared with another.
Open your heart
You are not alone.

They words were spoken quietly in a voice that was not Tim’s. They seemed to come from inside him and he strained to hear more. Finally his eyes snapped open and as he looked across the fire he saw Tim sitting before it, his legs crossed and watching him calmly. Mick struggled to his feet and swayed a bit unsteadily. He heard an owl hoot, the sound tearing through the night eerily and looked around him before taking a step back.

“Are you alright Mick?” Tim asked, watching the young man with concern.

“Yes, yes. I think I’ll head home Tim.” He turned abruptly and let his long stride carry him swiftly away from the fire and from the experience that he must surely have imagined.

As he made his way quickly back to the lodge he again heard the words:

You are not alone.

He looked around him but the whisper had definitely come from within. Was the voice right? It was something to contemplate.

“Mick, you’re not alone anymore nae’ha.”

Mick looked into his friends eyes and nodded his head, accepting the words without question. Life had changed and his place was to accept it. Was he up to the task?

Time would tell.

To be continued…

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