Tuesday, November 15, 2011
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…
Posted by Hope at 7:26 PM