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, January 30, 2012

Chapter 19

Chapter 19

Audrey and Logan were pouring over catalogs, checking out the different types of options for solar energy when there was a knock on their door. Both of them jumped slightly and rose to their feet, unused to such interruptions. Logan lifted his head and frowned when he caught a whiff of eau de vampire. He looked at Audrey and mouthed, ‘stay here’, pointing to the chair where she had been sitting. She sat down wordlessly and watched as Logan headed through the living room to get to the front door in the foyer. It was quiet for a few moments and she imagined Logan looking into the security monitor to see who it was. Pretty quickly she heard the bolt slide open on the door and relaxed as she heard him welcome their guest.

As she walked into the living room she spied Josef standing in the middle of the room, looking around him with interest. It must seem so small and tacky to him she decided; after being at his house for the party recently she could only imagine how their home looked through Josef’s eyes.

Audrey might have been surprised at Josef’s thoughts had she been privy to them. She was right that he thought the place looked small but he also thought it looked like a home, a real home where people who loved one another lived and shared their lives. He couldn’t imagine why on earth he had these thoughts but none the less they came unbidden into his mind.

“I’m sorry to intrude on your evening, but I needed to speak with you,” he told them, watching how Logan had wrapped an arm around Audrey. Clearly, it was a gesture of comfort and love and it made Josef smile.

“Josef, you’re not interrupting our evening; we were actually in the kitchen looking over catalogs since we are building a house; Clarks company will do the work but we’re trying to decide what we want. We are going ‘green’,” Audrey said with a smile. “Would you like something to drink?”

“No thank you Audrey. But I’d love to hear about your new home sometime,” he said with a smile. “Do you mind if I take a seat?”

“No, please help yourself,” Logan said, and watched as Josef did just that. He couldn’t help but wonder what this was all about.

Josef sat down in a straight-backed chair, similar to a Queen Anne chair and yet more modern somehow. He crossed his legs and got to the point. “Logan, would you be interested in coming to work for me at Kostan Industries? Sesumi Co is installing a state of the art computer setup with a new type of security system that no one has ever seen before. I need a computer expert to handle the job, someone with software knowledge and the ability to manage OP systems.”

Logan and Audrey had both heard a bit about the system at the party, it was on everyone’s mind that night, even if the details were being kept quiet. It was quite a venture that Sesumi and Kostan were sharing.

“Josef, I’m pleased and amazed that you have offered me the job, but I’m not a systems expert at all. Hardware is my forte and investigation, not the software aspects.” He watched as Josef tried to contain his disappointment and failed.

Josef had wanted ‘family’ in this position and someone whom he knew that he could totally trust. This young vampire had proven several times that he was of the ilk that was needed. Being Mick’s fledgling provided an extra bit of insurance as well because true loyalty couldn’t be bought.

“Josef, may I make a suggestion?” Logan ventured. At Josef’s nod he continued, “Audrey is just the person you are looking for. She had the experience and knowledge to work with those systems – hell, she’s even built systems like that and as a systems operations manager all that experience will be put to good use.”

Josef looked at Audrey closely; she was embarrassed that Logan had suggested her and yet as Josef remembered that it had been Audrey and her program that had gave them their first big lead in tracking Katrina he began to see that it was very possible that she was exactly who he needed. “Would you be interested Audrey?”

“I – I think so. But would I fit in there? At Kostan I mean,” she asked. Kostan was a company full of vampires, would they accept her? She wasn’t afraid of vampires really but the thought of working around them made her a bit nervous.

As if reading her mind Josef told her, “They aren’t all vampires actually and in the IT area more aren’t than are. Your safety would always be assured.”

“Why aren’t you promoting one of your internal people Josef?”

“Because I have a leak somewhere Audrey; maybe it’s in the company and maybe not but for the past two years someone has been moving funds around, skimming off the top and cancelling buy and sell orders. This new system is going to pinpoint exactly who and where it is being done from. I need someone that I can trust absolutely in this position.”

“Okay. I will come work for you then. When do you need me? I’ll have to give notice at Currington, where I’m working now.”

“I’ll need you as soon as possible. The install begins this week and Lani wants to start training soon after that.”

“I’ll give notice tomorrow and see if we can work something out there. I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know what date I can begin.”

They shook on the deal as Josef prepared to leave. He knew Trent Currington well; hopefully he could strike a deal with him so that Audrey could start quickly. And he wanted to talk to Clark about the new house for the youngsters. Maybe he could help a bit with that. He smiled as he climbed into the Ferrari, feeling good about the outcome of this visit.


Mick and Beth lay in their freezer after making love. They were both feeling replete and enjoying the closeness of the other after last night’s absence of contact. He glided a gentle finger down her jaw line and then dipped it lower to trace her collar bone. It brought a slight shiver to her and he smiled, realizing that they might not be done for the night after all. His lips followed the path his fingers had traveled and he heard Beth sigh with pleasure.

Both of them were still amazed by Tim’s revelation about Beth’s ability to allure Mick. It explained so much and yet Beth had no idea just how she did it. She told Mick as much as they lay curled around one another.

“Allure is usually something we consciously do Beth; we focus our intent on someone and they will generally do what we want. Some vamps use it when they bite someone; maybe to calm them or even to make them forget what happened.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead and then the tip of her nose; he had so missed their cuddling last night and tonight he felt as if he couldn’t get enough of her.

“Did you use allure? When you had freshies I mean?”

Mick knew this was dangerous territory; Beth didn’t handle his past very well. He couldn’t lie about it now; she would be able to tell so he took a deep breath and said, “Yes, occasionally when one was afraid. Beth, it is just something that happened in the past, it meant nothing.”

“I understand that now Mick; I really do. When I drink from you it is all about the love I feel for you, that you feel for me. A vampire and someone who was a freshie only couldn’t share that, at least I don’t believe they could. I understand so much about the bite now Mick, things I could never have understood before. Like when you drank my blood in the desert or when I saw you drinking from Simone.”

He ran his fingers through the silken blonde tresses that spread out around her, circling her head like a halo in the dim glow of the display lights in the freezer. Music was playing softly in the background as they relaxed and talked.

Beth let out a long sigh and ran her hand down his stomach, tangling in a few of his curls as well. She felt him stirring beneath her fingers and smiled wickedly at him. He started to fall into the gaze and realized she was alluring him again; not that he was complaining at the moment, but they needed to figure out how to stop it from happening every time she looked at him. But for right now, he wasn’t a fool and he willingly fell into her gaze, rolling her over onto her back and settling between her legs.

“Have I mentioned Mrs. St. John that I adore you? You make me a very happy man.”

Beth wiggled her hips against his and the motions caused him to squirm a bit. He was trying hard to keep his need in check and she wasn’t helping at all. He felt the wet warmth of her sliding against him and groaned.

“I intend to make you happy again Mr. St. John, over and over in fact,” she told him, her voice a warm whisper in his ear that made him shiver with anticipation. Her lips captured an earlobe and she nipped it gently and then drew it into her mouth, savoring the tiny pinprick of blood that trickled onto her tongue. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and her legs around his waist, grinding against him.

His eyes closed for a moment and he reached down between them and slipped himself inside of her, reveling in her heated and saturated depths. His mouth found her shoulder and grazed it tenderly as his tongue lapped at the warm blood that beaded on the silken covering of skin. He moved to kiss her mouth, drinking deeply of her love and desire. When he pulled back for a moment he took in the tiny fangs that peeked out between passion-swollen lips and realized she had never been more beautiful.

Beth’s mouth found his chin, rubbing her tongue over the 5 o’clock shadow that was always present before it settled into the sexy divot that always made her weak in the knees. She traced it lightly, drawing circles before lapping at it as if she were dying of thirst and it was the only thing that could satisfy her. She felt loved and cherished and the thought occurred to her that no one else had ever, could ever make her feel this way. Her hips rose to meet his, her back arching wildly, meeting him thrust for thrust until they were both on the edge of pleasure. She tilted her head, exposing her neck to him.

The scent of her blood drove him wild; he buried his nose against her neck, inhaling the scent that pure Beth. His tongue traced the vein and stroked lightly before sinking in gently and as he felt her do the same they both exploded, all their love and passion bursting forth in their blood. He held her tightly as they rocked together until the trembling stopped before flipping over to his back and taking her with him.

They were both out of breath and for a few minutes all that either one could hear was the breathy sounds of the remnants of their love. They might not have solved the allure problem but they had come a long way towards opening their souls to one another. Each day it became a bit clearer that eternity just might not be enough for them.


Carl walked into the office and saw Luca at his desk, reading something intently. As he passed by Carl got a good look at it and realized it was the list that Ben had with all the names on it. He wondered if Ben had given it to Luca to investigate; it didn’t seem likely but he needed to check on it because if he didn’t then there could be more problems on the horizon.

Carl realized that Ben didn’t know anything about vampires, or he was about 99% sure of that anyway. Carl also realized that for some reason unknown to him Ben was interested in Mick and that made Carl nervous because what affected Mick affected Beth. Carl was still running down leads as to where in the Seattle area they were and felt confident that he’d get it figured out. He had booked a flight to Seattle in two days time and he meant to confront Mick and Beth with his knowledge and assure them he was no threat to them. He never had been but now that Cami was in his life it was more important than ever that they knew that.

Things were going well with her and he was anxious to deepen their relationship but he was also aware that she was afraid; afraid of the intimacy and also most likely of telling him what she was. Cami was a contradiction in terms in many ways, self-confident in her life for most things but in the romance area she was very shy. Carl couldn’t help but wonder how old she was. Did vampires age and die or was it like the movies, they never aged? He had so many questions and as of yet no answers. He could only hope that would change in a few days.

A little while later Luca had to go to court to testify and left the list on his desk, tucked into an envelope under some papers. Carl used the opportunity to make a copy of it before tucking it back into place. He also decided to go visit Ben to see if he could get any answers about the list and what he had done with it.

Ben was on the phone when Carl knocked on the door but he signaled his friend to come in anyway. He covered the receiver for a moment and said, “I’ll be done in a moment,” in hushed tones.

Carl took a seat and sat back, crossing his legs and relaxing a bit. He liked Ben a lot; they’d met for drinks a couple of times and even went to a Dodgers game once, Ben’s treat. They were scheduled to hit a Padres game next week, Carl’s treat and Ben kept making jokes about defecting to ‘brand X’, meaning a team who weren’t the Dodgers.

When Ben got off the phone they chatted a few minutes about a case they had worked on together and about the trip down to San Diego for the game. Finally Carl asked Ben about the list.

“Did you ever decide to do anything with that list you had? You know, the one with St. John’s name on it?”

“Nah, I shredded it. I still think it was some kind of a hoax, you know? What on earth could St. John and Kostan have to do with those historical names or the fictional ones. Some nut case with nothing better to do I think.”

Carl debated a moment over that answer. He believed Ben but then how did Luca get a copy of it? It worried Carl a great deal; whoever was behind it wasn’t going to stop apparently and that made it dangerous for the vamps on it. He believed he only had one choice now and it was a scary one, but he had to let someone know what was going on.

“I think you are right; it’s ridiculous what some people will do for a little attention.” He stood up and prepared to leave, making plans to meet for a drink the next day after work.

“See you then Carl,” Ben said as his friend left the office with a wave. It made him curious why his friend had asked about that list after all this time; maybe Carl would tell him when they had drinks.


When Luca returned from court he saw the envelope tucked under the stack of papers where he had left it. He had decided to shred it; he didn’t know what it was about but it had the feel of ‘prankster’ all over it. It made no sense at all and he had far better things to do with his time that ponder this. He took it to the shredder and watched as the turning blades made scrap of it in a couple of seconds.

He felt better already; it was like the damn thing had been wearing him down and he was suddenly free.

It was a good way to feel.


Back in his car Carl pulled the list out and read through it again. He didn’t know what the reason was, but he knew that there was a purpose to it. Could he pull it off? Hand it over and maintain that he didn’t know what it was about? He had to try, he knew.

The next stop could very well end his life, but he didn’t think so. If he couldn’t bluff his way through this he would swear silence on the matter or whatever it took. Even though Beth’s or Cami’s names weren’t on that list if something was coming down to the vampires then it would affect both of them and he’d do anything to protect them both. As he walked into Kostan Industries he patted the folded sheets of paper hidden in his breast pocket. In the offices a young blonde haired assistant greeted him politely.

“I’d like to see Mr. Kostan, if he’s available.”

“May I have your name and I’ll check on that for you,” the young man stated.

“Davis. Uh, Detective Carl Davis of LAPD.”

A blonde eyebrow arched upwards at that information but he pushed a button and spoke into a headset, telling Josef who was here.

“Send him in Thor, thank you,” Josef said, extremely curious about this visit. Carl had been at the party with Cami the other night, a strange pairing Josef had thought at the time but everyone had the right to date as they chose. He hoped that Cami had made a good choice; but then again both Beth and Mick trusted the lieutenant so Josef was willing to hear what he had to say.

He stood up as Thor showed Carl Davis into the office and shook his hand, seemingly at ease. “Detective Davis, please come in. Would you like a drink? Are you still on duty?”

Carl glanced at his watch and saw that it was almost six and decided the drink might be a good ice breaker. “I’m off duty Mr. Kostan and I’d love a drink.”

Josef nodded and headed to the console where a variety of bottles rested. “So, I take it that this isn’t an official visit then?” He pointed at the different bottles as if to ask what Carl would like.

“The scotch, neat will be fine, and no, this isn’t an official visit.”

“Ah, well then, what is it about?” Josef poured a couple of fingers into a high ball glass and added a twist of lemon before handing it to his guest who had taken a seat in one of the chairs across the desk from his own. Josef took his own seat after handing Carl his drink and sat back, waiting for his guest to speak.

Carl looked reflective for a moment, obviously mulling over something. He finally reached for his jacket pocket and brought out a folded sheaf of papers and handed them to Josef. He took a long drink to steady his nerves before speaking. “I thought you might find this interesting Mr. Kostan.”

Josef heard Carl’s heartbeat kick in; whatever was in these papers clearly made him nervous. He took the papers and unfolded them, looking them over. It suddenly occurred to him what he was looking at – the papers that Beth had seen in Ben Talbot’s office months ago. How the hell did Davis turn up with them and why was he brining them here?

“Why do you think I might be interested in these papers Detective Davis?” Josef asked as he watched his guest closely.

Carl took another sip and answered, “Well, they have your name and Mick St. John’s name on them. I don’t know who most of the other’s names are, but I thought it was something you might want to look into.”

“How did you come by this list Detective?”

“I first saw it several months ago in Ben Talbot’s office, but he destroyed them, believing them to be a hoax of some kind. I ran across it again today in the possession of a fellow investigator. I don’t know who compiled the list but for some reason they are trying to get someone to investigate it. Since your name is on it, I brought it to you. Had Mick been in town I would have taken it to him.”

“I see,” Josef said, still curious as to what Davis might know about it all. “And you have an idea or opinion as to what this list of names means?” Ah, Davis’ heartbeat skipped a couple of beats and then beat a rapid staccato for a minute. He knew something that he wasn’t saying.

“Not really, but it seems to me that it isn’t a good thing. Mr. Kostan, I am very loyal to my friends, to people I care about and if there were any threat to them I would want them protected.” Carl meant Cami as much as Beth and he decided that maybe honesty was best here and hoped that Josef Kostan didn’t believe in shooting the messenger. “Mr. Kostan, I am currently dating a very lovely young woman by the name of Cami Kinney. I care about her a great deal, as I do for Beth and Mick St. John and if their lives or existences were in any way threatened, I want to be prepared to help neutralize that threat.”

Josef digested the information with a blank look on his face; centuries of masking his features made him seem calm but in reality he was astounded by what Carl was saying, or rather what he wasn’t saying. He knew about vampires? Or he guessed? Were things far enough along with Cami that she had told him? No matter what Josef was going to find out what the hell he knew and decide whether he could be trusted.

“Detective Davis, may I call you Carl?” he asked as when Carl nodded he continued. “I believe that you are trying to tell me something without actually saying it. Now, begin again and just say it please.” He leaned forward and rested his arms on his desk, deadly attentive as to what Carl might say.

Carl swallowed hard and decided that this was the moment – what happened next might determine whether he lived or died. And since he was determined to live he chose his words carefully. “I believe that those names are vampires Mr. Kostan. Maybe not all and I don’t understand the fictional or historical names but still, I believe you, and Mick and some of those other names I know are vampires. Now before you decide to take me out please understand that no one has told me this but I believe I’m right.”

“I see. And you believe you are correct why?”

“Months ago Josh, Beth’s then boyfriend told me that Mick was a vampire, something that I found totally impossible. But over time I began to notice things, how Mick’s hands always felt chilled and that he seemed physically very agile, more so than even an above average guy. Actually, what really convinced me was when Tejada turned up missing; one of the girls there said she saw a devil, with huge teeth and a snout like a dog. That part was exaggerated I believe but the teeth made sense. Busto’s told us tales of ‘El Diablo’ referring to Mick. It just all seemed to make sense. Look, I admire the hell out of him for taking Tejada out because he would never have been convicted in the criminal system. Since then I’ve just paid attention.”

“And attention tells you that there are vampires?” Josef asked quietly. It seemed that Carl Davis was very astute and that could be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on what he planned on doing.

“Yes, it does. Look, you don’t have to confirm or deny it Mr. Kostan. Just know that I am on your side and my thought in bringing you this information was only to let you know what was going on. Nothing more, well other than to tell you that I intend to protect Cami and the St. Johns in any way possible.”

“You realize that if I were a vampire I could kill you in a snap,” he said, smacking the desktop quickly, making the glasses and pens on the desk rattle wildly from the force of the blow. “Especially if I thought that you were going to tell anyone about this.”

“I understand that Mr. Kostan, but to me the risks out-weighed the consequences. I won’t risk letting Cami be hurt if there is some kind of war starting.”

“War? You think this heralds war?”

“I don’t know what it heralds, but I don’t think it’s just a friendly list of names. You have my word, my allegiance, my oath, whatever it takes to make you understand that I only want you all protected.”

The words stunned Josef, shocked him in a way that he could rarely recall happening. “Why?”

“Why? Because something’s, some people are worth standing up and fighting for, regardless of what,” he stumbled for a word for a moment. “Regardless of what type of being they are.”

Josef nodded, still amazed at what had happened. Carl hadn’t exactly won him over completely, but he did trust the detective for some reason, as displaced as that trust could turn out to be. He’d definitely be watching what he did, that was for sure.

“Alright Carl, for now we’ll see what happens.” He stood up, signaling that the meeting was over and when Carl rose as well he shook his hand and registered the clear look in the detective’s eyes. He was sincere Josef believed, but sincerity could still mean betrayal, all in innocence. “You will not tell another person about this, do I make myself clear?” he asked, meeting Carl’s look.

“Yes, I do understand that.”

Josef walked to the door and opened it as his guest walked silently out. He shut it and quickly made some calls. A short while later Heroku, Miguel, and Tango arrived, all curious about why Josef had insisted they get over to Kostan immediately.

Josef explained his meeting with Carl and the others listened carefully. He then showed them the list and watched as they digested the information.

“Idea’s gentlemen?” Josef asked the group.

“There are vamps on that list to be sure, but there are human’s as well. Some of them are currently in the Legion aren’t they Miguel?” Heroku stated.

“Yes, currently and some of them from the past. He pointed to several names indicating that they had been members several hundred years ago. “They were members who were all involved in VALA though, not renegades.”

“So it isn’t vampires who created the list most likely but Miguel could it be some of those renegade Legion members?”

“Unlikely Tango, I don’t even know of any that are left. Most of us know that the peace is kept by working together.” Those words sparked a memory for him, as it did for Josef.

“What if…do you think Josef?”

Josef nodded and said, “I think so. I think we may be dealing with the Equalizers, but the question is, why? What do they have to gain by this?”

“Who are the Equalizers?” Tango asked.

Josef and Heroku shared a glance and Josef nodded at him to speak. “They are a fringe group who surface every century or so; mostly vampires but they have human subjugates whose desire is to be allowed to become vamps. Why they would do this I’m not sure though.”

“Do you think they are trying to cause war between us?” Miguel asked. Something about all this was wrong, just …off.

“Perhaps. If we’re fighting we either expose ourselves or we’re not watching what they are doing. A war between Legion and vamps would make a damn good decoy. What do they want to do?” Josef said, growing angrier by the minute. He stood up and paced in the room for a few moments. “Any idea where we might find Malcolm?”

“Haven’t heard anything of him for a very long time. Likely has a new name by now. I have some contacts that usually keep a fairly good idea on them; I’ll see if they know anything.”

Josef nodded, a jerky movement that demonstrated his anger. “Okay, then let’s just all keep our heads about us until we get more information.”

Tango took a drink from his glass, tipping it up before he realized he had already drained it. “How trustworthy is this Detective Davis?” Tango asked. “Do we have a problem with him that we need to take care of?”

Josef had been asking that same question to himself. What did they do with Davis?

To be continued…

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chapter 18

Heroku and Tango stood along the wall sipping their drinks and watching Lani and Josef. There were too many people in the room to be able to hear what was being said but it was clear that it wasn’t good, judging by the look on Lani’s face. Neither man knew who the couple was that stood talking to them but Lani looked very angry. When the couple moved on Lani headed to the doors and as she swept past them they could scent the rage and pain rolling off of her. Josef followed her quickly after a few words with some of the others gathered around them.

“This is not going to be good; I think he should let her be,” Tango said, taking another sip of his drink. He was torn about whether or not to follow Josef and try to coax him back inside.

“You are right my friend; Lani is too upset to speak at this moment. I believe that the couple who she was speaking to are her parents. Lani is not close to them, for reasons I am not privy to.” Heroku looked around the room, seeing who had paid attention to the situation and other than the people near Lani and Josef, everyone was otherwise occupied.

“Josef never knows when to let something be, especially when his heart is involved,” Tango said, frowning a bit.

“He does care for her doesn’t he?” Heroku said, a momentary smile playing across his face.

“Yes, he does, although I’m sure that he doesn’t really realize it. And Lani? You know her well I believe?”

“Yes, she has been like a daughter to me for the past 5 years. I believe that she also cares for Josef; however, she will not give in to it easily Tango. She knows about vampires because two of them attacked her at my house in Tokyo; I saved her and so she is very wary of them although trusting of myself. I believe that when she recently killed the vampire that attacked her best friend that she is now a bit more comfortable. But as far as why she runs from relationships with men, that I do not know.”

“That would be Mick St. Johns wife I believe. I’ve never met the chap but Josef cares about him and thinks he has great potential in our world.”

Their conversation was interrupted when Josef came back into the room, a fading imprint of a hand on his cheek. Lani was conspicuously absent. He looked around and caught them observing him and headed their way.

A waiter walked by and Tango said, “Scotch,neat,” and the waiter nodded and moved to get the drink. He was back moments later and Tango handed it to Josef who drank the two fingers of rich amber liquid straight down.

The three men stood together wordlessly and Josef’s jaw clenched and unclenched with his emotions. They were interrupted by one of the women that had been talking to Josef and Lani earlier. She was pregnant both Tango and Heroku noticed and both men smiled at the fact.

“Josef,” Dorothy said as she laid her hand on his arm. “She needs time. Her parents,” she paused for a moment and tried to think of the best thing to say. “Lani and her parents aren’t close; I don’t know why exactly but I have my suspicions. Truly, they care little for her and it’s hard for her to be around them. Please don’t take it personally.” Clark was at her side, an arm draped casually around her shoulders but it was also a protective stance they all realized.

Josef’s eyes met Dorothy’s and a sick thought permeated his brain. That bastard wouldn’t have… would he? As if understanding what Josef was thinking she responded, “No, I don’t think that is the case Josef; Clark and I both questioned her about it when she was young. She was just so unhappy growing up, we really tried to be there for her and let her be a part of our family. Time Josef, she needs time.”

He nodded tersely and motioned for the waiter to bring another drink. Time? He had all the time in the world but sadly, Lani didn’t. He began to look at Marcus Parker, the great philanthropist differently that night. Whatever the past was, Josef was determined to find out just what that bastard had done to hurt Lani so badly.


Lani slept late the next morning and woke up feeling better than she had in a long time. She had really enjoyed her chat with Mrs. Carter last night; it almost pushed the earlier fiasco out of her head. Almost…

She had slapped Josef; she was humiliated and really sorry about it but at the same time she had asked him to back off. It was horrible to know that she couldn’t control herself any better than that. She’d never, ever hit anyone in her life and the fact that he had only been trying to help when she lost control made it all worse. She really wanted to crawl under a nice shady rock and hideaway but that was out of the question because Monday they started the install at Kostan. How on earth was she supposed to look at him and not feel ashamed?

Her flight had taken her to Mrs. Carter and that she had enjoyed. Mrs. Carter reminded her of Grace, Beth’s grandmother; Mrs. Carter had the same relaxed air and matter of fact ideas. Somehow she had soothed Lani and she was grateful for the care that was shown her.

Lani reached for her phone and dialed the florist and ten minutes later she had ordered a bouquet of flowers for Mrs. Carter, white and purple ones that she hoped that the elderly woman would enjoy.

A half an hour later she had finished breakfast, a toasted English muffin and a tall glass of orange juice while reading the news on the computer. She was ready to go take a shower when her doorbell rang. Her heart skipped a beat or two and she was afraid to look out the peep hole because she was afraid it might be Josef, coming to gloat over her loss of control last night. Instead, she was surprised to see a woman with flowers for her.

“Ms. Parker? I have a delivery for you,” the young woman said. She was holding a very elegant and costly Waterford crystal vase that held two dozen cream colored roses with dusky pink edges that were still budding.

“Oh, thank you,” she said, reaching for her purse to get money for a tip.

“No ma’am, that’s been taken care of. Have a nice day!” she said politely and turned and left.

Lani closed the door and inhaled the sweet fragrance of the roses. She knew who sent them and for a moment she felt even guiltier but she sat them on a table and pulled the card out.


I hope that you are well this morning. Please accept this very sincere apology from me for ruining your evening last night. These roses remind me of you; classic and burgeoning with promise.


Lani sank down onto the carpet and read the note again; tears rolled down her cheeks and finally her head bent down as she sobbed. Embarrassment for her behavior and happiness over this simple wish vied for dominion in her head and heart. The happiness won out as it was intended to.


Mick and Beth had spoken very little after the problem the night before. It wasn’t really an argument; just a wall that seemed to be building between them and neither one knew how to handle it or to tear it down for that matter.

Mick glanced at her from time to time, covertly he hoped, from under his lashes. They were both in the gym, he lifting weights and she on the tread climber. She’d been pushing it hard for the past 45 minutes, watching tv as if she were alone in the room. No conversation, no longing looks cast at him, just dedication to that damn machine. Right now Dr. Phil was on talking about runaway teens, a subject that he just didn’t see her being all that interested in.

He’d moved on to the weight resistance machine but in all honesty the only reason he was still at it was to be near her. Last night in their freezer they hadn’t made love, had barely spoke or touched even. This morning when he woke up she was already out of the freezer and when he came downstairs she was sitting at the table drinking her coffee silently. He kissed her, aiming for her lips and only got her cheek as she turned her head.

“Have you fed Beth?” he ventured. Usually in the mornings she would feed a bit from him. It was no longer necessary, but it was a comforting act between them, intensifying their bond. This morning didn’t quite seem real without that loving act between them.

“Yes. I didn’t want to wake you,” she had said quietly.

As he thought back those words had been the most she had offered all morning. After she finished her coffee she rinsed the cup and headed into the gym and he heard the machine pumping away. When he went in she was seemingly immersed in her program so he didn’t say anything, only went to the free weights but it was hard to see her from there so he changed to the machine.

He finally gave up and said, “I’m going to take a shower Beth.”

She barely nodded in his direction and turned the machine off and headed to the free weights. She grabbed two of them without paying attention and he noted that they were 20 pound weights. She was lifting them all wrong and he knew that she would have aching muscles later.

“Beth, baby, you’re not using them correctly. And uh, it would really be better if started with the 10 pounds first, to build up, okay? Here, let me show you how to use them, okay?”

She watched silently as he demonstrated, showing her how to work the different muscle groups. She could see how she would have hurt herself the other way and thanked him. “I understand what you’re showing me. Thank you Mick.” Her words were sincere but spoken as if she were talking to a stranger.

“It’s okay baby.” He stood there for a moment, watching her and feeling as if they were a world apart. She wasn’t angry, there was no scent of it on her; it felt as if she was just removed from it all, a very strange place to be.

After his shower he got dressed and headed down to the office. He stared at the phone and when he heard Beth start a shower he picked it up and called Josef, who answered on the first ring.

“Josef, I don’t know what to do. I think she hates me and I am fucking this all up!” he exclaimed into the phone.

“Hate you? Extremely unlikely Mick, don’t exaggerate so much. What happened?” he queried, leaning back in his chair and resting his Gucci loafers on the smooth mahogany desk.

Mick related the events of the day before, not sparing his own part in the fiasco. “I was such an ass Josef; I told her in front of everyone that she was imagining it and that she needed to stop.”

Josef’s lips pursed together in a silent whistle, amazed that Mick had done that. Both of them could be hot tempered as he had reason to remember and this was a totally emotional hot button for them both apparently. “Mick, why is this so important to you? I mean, maybe she can taste it. It sounds like she didn’t have any problems distinguishing between the different items.”

“Josef, we can’t taste food! I think she is missing her humanity and this is the way it is manifesting, a false sense of taste to food.”

“Not likely. Look, if she really were missing humanity I don’t think she’d be tasting food Mick. And I have to say, we’ve talked almost every day and I don’t think Beth is missing anything about her humanity.”

Mick heard what Josef was saying and he knew that Beth did seem to be adapting really well. But how could she not be mourning her human life?

“Mick, you’ve got to let all your own regrets go; Beth doesn’t share them but if you keep on like this she will gradually start to associate vampirism with all the regret and misery you carried around for 50 years. You have to let it go boyo – let her settle into her new life. Maybe she can taste – who knows? If she can’t eventually she’ll figure it out. Just lighten up!”

Mick heard Beth getting out of the shower upstairs and ended the call with Josef. Maybe his friend was right and he just needed to let it go. He was just so worried that deluding herself would cause more problems later on but he decided he would just drop it.

Before too long he heard Beth come downstairs and when he went looking for her he found her watching a movie on the new big screen tv. It was a sappy girl movie and he decided to just hang out with her. They needed to connect and if it meant watching her he could live with that.

As he watched a wedding fiasco on screen and he asked her what the movie was.

“Sex and the City,” she told him. Her blue eyes were sad when they met his hazel eyes that were a darker shade of green today.

“It’s uh, kind of sad don’t you think?” He remembered that it used to be a tv show, but he didn’t realize it was this tragic.

“This part is, it’s about how sometimes two people can love each other but if they don’t communicate then things can fall to pieces.”

Fuck! Was she trying to tell him things were over? He couldn’t let that happen; she was his love, his life, his fledgling – neither of them would survive without the other.

“Wha…what are you trying to say Beth?” he asked, a husky tremor in his voice.

She looked at him, meeting his gaze squarely and she smiled. “I’m not saying we’re over Mick. In the movie, neither Carrie nor John listened to the other, really listened, but then they each never really explained what was important either. That built a wall around each of them, separately. They each played by their own rules and didn’t take the time to make any rules together.”

His face clouded as he thought about her words and he realized exactly what she was trying to tell him – that if they didn’t get on the same page about things that they would grow apart. That would never happen; he’d do anything to prevent it.

“I’m sorry Beth, so sorry for last night. I’m sorry for telling you in front of everyone that I didn’t believe you. I will accept that you say you can taste baby, I will. I’ll never embarrass you like that again.”

“But you don’t really believe me do you?”

“I don’t know Beth, I just don’t know. We, vampires can’t taste, or at least not any that I know of. It just seems impossible to me.”

“I understand that; I get it, I really do. But understand this Mick, I really can taste things. I don’t know why, but I can. Maybe it’s my AO- blood, or the fact that I share your blood and Coraline’s and Josef’s, I don’t know but somehow I can taste things. Vampires do have taste buds you know; we can taste different kinds of blood for heaves sake. Logan says he can taste pineapple popsicles for heaven’s sake and you don’t tell him he’s imagining it!”

The stunned look on Mick’s face amused her for a moment. “I never heard that he could do that, he never told me,” he finally stammered.

She laughed for a moment and said, “Is it any wonder why?”

They both looked up when they heard a knock on the door and both of them lifted their heads, scenting the air.

“Tim and Mary,” they said in unison, rushing to open the door. “Come in,” Beth said, standing back so that their guests could enter.

As usually happened when Tim and Mary visited they migrated to the kitchen and Mary helped Mick pour them all glasses of blood so they could visit a bit.

Tim shifted his eyes from Beth to Mick, watching the young couple carefully for any signs of stress but they both seemed to be in better space today which made the old shaman happy. As they all took their first sips Tim said, “Beth, Mick, would you both be willing to try a simple experiment for me?”

One of Mick’s eyebrows quirked upward and Beth tilted her head, a sure sign of curiosity.

“May I ask why?” Mick said as he sat his glass down on the table top.

“Um, yes but I don’t want to reveal too much yet, although afterwards I’ll explain fully. I saw something the other night and I just want to see if it was my imagination.”

Mick and Beth cast quick looks at the other and Beth grinned, shrugging as she did so. “I’m game!”

Mary pulled a folded piece of paper out of her pocket and told Beth to take it into the other room and read it and then to follow the instructions without saying anything.

Beth looked at the plain white paper and took it from her friend before heading into the living room. She read the words curiously, several times and decided to give it a try even though it seemed nonsensical to her.

Back in the kitchen Mick, Tim and Mary chatted about the orchard and some plans that Tim had to expand the pear crop. Beth sat down and grinned at Mick with a slight shrug and took a sip of her blood. As she sat it down she looked at Mick, focusing on him and before long he reached across the table and ran his fingers through her hair, enjoying the silken texture of it.

“Oh my gosh,” Beth exclaimed, looking at Tim and Mary quizzically. “I don’t understand?”

Mick’s glance swept each one of their faces, realizing that they all knew something that he didn’t. He sat up a bit straighter, waiting for an explanation.

Na’ hae, I believe that Beth is using allure on you,” he said and watched both of the young ones bristle at his words. He held his hand up and continued, “She isn’t doing it for control, but I think it is something that she does unconsciously, a product of the strength of your bond. Beth, show Mick the note.”

Beth slid the paper across the table and Mick read it.

Focus on Mick silently and ask him to stroke your hair.

“Why? I don’t understand?” Mick finally said, confused.

“Several times I have watched Beth’s ability to communicate with you without saying a word. The other night I saw you blazing with anger that magically disappeared as she looked at you.” He watched their faces as they remembered the night that Beth had broken her leg and realized that Tim was correct.

“It is normal for sire/fledgling relationships to have a deep connection; added to that is your love for one another and a bond that goes back to when Beth was a child. She focuses on you, her heart open and you follow it na’hae. It is…to be expected. But, you must work with her to learn control of that very powerful gift.”

Memories flittered through Mick’s brain, of Beth just looking at him and of his response which was to just fall into whatever she desired. He had never even questioned how he immediately knew what she wanted, he just did it. This was totally new to him; with Coraline he had never experienced anything like this, not even close. He was connected to her to be sure, but non-verbal communication never worked for them.

“I’m sorry Mick, I – I don’t know how to not do that; I thought it was normal for a sire/fledgling relationship. Can you help me? Teach me?”

Mick looked at her and took her small hand in his larger one and said, “I will teach you Beth; I will listen to you as well, always,” he told her.

It sounded much like a vow to Tim and Mary and they both smiled as Mick and Beth spoke from their hearts. These two were creating a magical bond that would last forever. It was a blessing to know them.

To be continued…

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thank you Moonlightlover60 for the beautiful picture! Your talented offerings really brighten the story.

Chapter 17

The harder Ben searched for a clue as to what happen to Michael R. St. John, alias Mick St. John the fewer leads he got. He’d searched the genealogy web sites, name traces, all the government sites, nothing showed that he existed after 1952 when it appeared that he and his wife were killed. Except that he apparently had a grandson who was the mirror image of him. However, there were no birth records for Mick’s son.

People didn’t just magically appear. In desperation he might consider asking Mick, but then that opened up a whole new can of worms – one that might be best left unsaid. According to his private investigations application, he was born November 15, 1977, which made him 31. How could Ben have found an apartment lease under his name going back to 1986? THAT had to be his father, who was named Michael St. John as well. But again another dead end because there was not a single other piece of information about him.

Ben thought he’d struck gold with Coraline DuVall, except that in the end that one fizzled out as well. She apparently owned a house in the Hollywood hills in the early 1950’s. The owner ship transferred to a Cynthia Xavier Davis sometime after Coraline’s presumed death in 1954. Davis was apparently a relative of some kind. The house was sold to Morgan Vincent in early 2006; Morgan Vincent remained the current owner, except that he couldn’t find her.

She had worked at Buzzwire as a photographer while Beth was there and then had some sort of accident that nearly killed her. She left the hospital without her doctor’s knowledge and no one had seen her since. Calls to her family in Chicago hadn’t provided any further information because she hadn’t been in contact with them since 2005. They had presumed her dead.

A central character in this seemed to be Beth, and while he had her number he couldn’t really call and start asking questions without alerting Mick. Maybe Mick would be happy to provide answers, who knew? He might be able to explain it all and then the mystery would be solved. But Ben wasn’t ready for that yet; he still had a few other leads to try first. He was going to take a look at the crime scene evidence from the hotel where Mick and Coraline were killed, supposedly.

Except he now believed that they weren’t killed. They went into hiding, he’d bet his next paycheck on it. Which lead to the big question: why?



Lani drove up into the Hollywood hills to Josef’s humble home. What a laugh she thought, calling it that. It was brightly lit tonight in preparation for the party but as yet there wasn’t a crush of party-goers. She handed her keys to a valet and walked up the winding flagstone path that was lit with luminaries. The door was promptly answered by Franklin who regarded her with a slight smile and bow.

“Good evening Ms. Parker. How lovely you look tonight,” he stated quietly. He might be 300 years old but he still knew a pretty lass when he saw one. The question was, did his employer?

“Thank you Franklin. My, the house looks bright and festive,” she said, referring to the decorations gracing the ballroom, which could be seen through the large double doors to the left. The foyer was magnificent as usual, it’s marble floors and stairs shining with a gleaming glow.

“Well, we could have nothing less now could we?” he asked, his eyes sparking brightly in the well-lit room.

Josef entered the foyer, closely followed by a very attractive man and headed straight for Lani. “Lani, your gown is exquisite, and so are you by the way.”

“Well, I was instructed to have a ‘fabulous’ gown. I’m glad to know it meets your expectations. Who is your friend?” she inquired, staring at Tango.

“Ah yes, excuse my manners. Lani Parker, may I introduce Tango Smythe, a friend of mine for many years.”

“As in centuries Josef?” she said with a dimpled smile. She held out her hand to Tango and greeted him, surprised to hear his British accent.

Tango bowed low over her hand, kissing it delicately. “Might I add that Josef is correct, you look positively stunning my dear. It is with great pleasure that I make your acquaintance. And yes, centuries.”

Oh my, Lani thought. Wickedly handsome and charming to boot. And the accent, oh, she loved the accent! “Um, well, you seem to have survived it. I’m sure you both are devils and have had some interesting escapades. Care to share?” she teased.

“Oh, indeed we have. Might I lead you into the ballroom where we can chose a drink and chat? I’ve many stories I could relate; surprisingly Josef doesn’t always come off well in them, but he is a charming rascal, isn’t he?” He cast a wicked look over his shoulder as Josef watched open-mouthed as he led Lani into the ballroom.

Josef watched them walk away, Lani’s hand resting on Tango’s arm. What the hell just happened? She hated vampires and yet that British bastard had just walked off with her, twittering like an adolescent girl. He wasn’t going to let this happen, hell no. He followed them, listening to the chat as Tango told her about a time when the two of them were briefly thrown into a jail in Siam. She was listening raptly as they ordered drinks; white wine for her and tequila for him.

“So you see, we had to bust out of there quickly, Josef can’t go without his beverages of choice for long,” he told her. She was laughing merrily at the tale.

“And did you tell her just how we ended in that jail Tango? Because you tried to seduce the king’s daughter? Actually several of them if memory serves me right.”

Tango laughed out loud, a deep laugh that rumbled from his admittedly handsome chest Lani thought. Oh, this one was a player and she enjoyed chatting with him a good deal, especially because for some reason it was bothering Josef.

“Yes, well, that might have been the reason,” he said with a wink for Lani. “Oh, it was an adventure though!”

Suddenly they all realized that Heroku had joined them; he had been watching for several minutes and it had been a very interesting few minutes for sure. Heroku chuckled to himself, wanting to see where this went because Josef was beside himself with jealousy, except that he didn’t seem to understand it.

Yes, this would be a most interesting evening.

An hour later Lani and Josef were still making the rounds, greeting guests and smiling until Lani’s jaws ached. She didn’t know how Josef did it; he showed no signs of fatigue and stress over it all, just welcomed and smiled, making everyone feel welcome.

Logan and Audrey were here, Logan looking as uncomfortable in his tux as he did at the wedding and Audrey in a beautiful gown that was totally the wrong color for her. Lani decided that a shopping trip needed to be planned, some girl time. Dorothy and Clark were there too, Clark wearing his tux with ease and Dorothy looking fabulous in a gown that made her look young and vibrant – and very pregnant.

Cami was there with Carl and he managed to look completely relaxed. Their second date had gone very well and she felt comfortable enough to ask him to attend with her. Lani smiled each time they danced by her line of vision; they both looked so happy. The small band had played steadily, soft music for slow dancing or easy conversation. All in all it was quite pleasant, until Josef heard Lani’s sharp intake of breath and felt her stiffen at his side.

Marcus and Helen Parker stepped in front of them and Josef heard Lani’s heart beat rapidly for a moment. Marcus offered his hand to Josef, who shook it amicably even while he wondered what Lani’s reaction was about.

“Lanelle,” Helen said, air kissing both cheeks. “What on earth are you doing here?”

“Mom, I work for Sesumi.”

“Really? I had no idea,” Helen said, looking around the room for acquaintances.

“Yes Mom. Remember I was in Tokyo for 4 years?”

“No, not really. I can’t keep track of your life for heaven’s sake. Must move on dear!” and like that her parents walked past them.

Dorothy and Clark had witnessed the whole conversation and Dorothy saw Lani’s face go from pale white to flaming red. “Clark,” she said, knowing that Lani was livid from the conversation.

“Give her a few minutes Dorothy, you know that’s best where Lani is concerned.” She nodded and then watched as Lani moved swiftly across the room, heading for the door that led out to the terrace.

Josef stood dumbfounded by that exchange. Her father didn’t acknowledge her at all and her mother didn’t seem to have a clue as to where her daughter worked. He watched as Lani all but ran across the floor and started to follow her but was stopped by a hand on his arm.

“Josef, give her a few minutes,” Dorothy said.

“No, she’s upset. I need to make sure she’s alright. What the hell is up with those parents of hers anyway?”

Dorothy and Clark both just shook their heads; it had always been the same for Lani. “Just trust me Josef, let her cool down before you try and talk to her.”

“I can’t. She’s here at my request and I’m responsible. Excuse me, please?” he said, already moving towards the door, following the scent of Lani’s pain and hurt.

“Clark, this isn’t going to be good,” Dorothy said sadly.

Clark nodded in acknowledgment. Across the room both Tango and Heroku had seen all that happened. They didn’t know what the right thing to do was but it was out of their hands. Lani and Josef cared for one another a great deal – they had to find their own path.

Josef followed Lani’s scent to the back of the gardens, near a gazebo. She climbed the steps and sat down, crossing her legs. He watched quietly for a moment as she kicked the crossed leg, a nervous habit of old. As he got closer he scented tears and they tore his heart out. He didn’t understand what had happened, but he felt responsible.

“Lani? I’m so sorry.”

She fixed him with angry eyes that flashed brilliantly due to the tears that clouded them. “Get out of here Josef – leave me alone!”

“I can’t do that; I’m concerned about you. Please, tell me what is wrong?”

“LEAVE ME ALONE!” she yelled and he was sure that they could hear her inside. She stood up and walked down the steps, getting ready to move to a different part of the gardens.

Josef reached out to stop her and she shoved his hand off of her arm. For a moment she looked at him so intensely it almost hurt. “Why Josef? Just tell me why you didn’t tell me that you had invited them?”

“I didn’t think about it. I mean, they’re your parents and it never occurred to me that there would be a problem…” he said, trailing off as he saw more tears well up in her huge eyes.

“You should have.” She took a step back and again as she moved around him he put out a hand to stop her.

“Lani, talk to me…” he said. His only response was a sharp, stinging slap across the face. He pulled his hand back and watched as she disappeared through the garden. He didn’t understand what happened, but he intended to find out.


Lani ran to the valet and requested her car. She wouldn’t stay here another moment, she couldn’t stay here another moment. She couldn’t breathe here, not with those two so close. How on earth could they be her parents?

Once she got her car she put the top down and started the trip down the hillside. It was a new moon tonight so the only light came from the street lamps along the way. The road was twisty and required care to traverse it safely. Each turn brought a bit of relief from the rage she felt, from the pain and hurt of the past. As she made one of the last turns before she drove out of the hills a small animal appeared on the side of the road. Lani slowed down drastically, just before it tried to run in front of her.

“Damn it,” she muttered, bringing the Maserati to a stop in a drive way and hoping that she hadn’t hit it. As she opened the door a floppy-haired brown dog whimpered and raised a paw up as if to say ‘help me’. Lani rushed to the animal and scooped it up, trying to check and see if it were hurt.


Lani heard someone calling the dog and walked towards the voice. An older woman walked slowly down the drive calling the dog’s name. He started whimpering when he saw the woman and jumped out of Lani’s arms, racing to the woman who scooped up the fluffy mop top dog and told him ‘bad dog’.

“I hope he didn’t scare you too much. This one is an escape artist; I just can’t figure out how he does it.” She looked over at the tightly spaced, 4 foot tall white picket fence with a scowl. “See, when he gets caught he whimpers and cries, trying to get some sympathy; but I know exactly what you’re up to bad dog!”

Lani smiled as the cute dog tilted his head and again raised his paw. She reached out and scratched his head and said, “Uh uh, I got your number buddy!”

“I’m so sorry he scared you my dear. Won’t you come in for a cup of tea? Unless you are on your way to a party,” she said eyeing Lani’s attire.

“No, I was just leaving one. I’d love a cup of tea actually,” she told the woman. She glanced at the mail box which had the name ‘Carter’ on it and followed the woman into the large, sprawling bungalow. It sat back about 50 feet from the road and was surrounded by towering trees; it looked idyllic, like something from a old fashioned painting. She should probably go home but somehow the thought of a pleasant cup of tea with this woman who didn’t know her sounded like the best thing in the world. Since she didn’t know her she wouldn’t judge her or criticize her. Relax, that’s what I need to do.

Inside the house Lani looked around her, there were old family pictures on the far wall and a beautiful painting about the mantle of a wooded grove with purple flowers everywhere. “Come on into the kitchen honey and we’ll get that tea.”

In the kitchen the woman indicated the old fashioned table with vinyl covered chairs. The table top was white, faded to off white after undoubtedly many years of use and the faux marble looking vinyl on the chairs was lilac colored. In fact, the whole room was done in lilac and white including the dishes she noticed as the woman pulled down delicate bone china that was white with purple colored flowers on it. Even her cotton house dress was covered in purple flowers.

“So Mrs. Carter,” she said, using the name on the mail box, “I take it you like purple?”

Mrs. Carter chuckled and said, “Yes, I do. The china started it all off, it was my mothers. I coveted that china even as a little girl. A sin, I know, but just the same I loved it.” The tea kettle began shrieking and she walked to it and removed it from the burner and poured the water into the teapot where she had already put the tea bags.

She carried the tea pot to the table and then went back to a cabinet and opened a cookie jar and removed a few cookies to a plate which she added to the array on the table before sitting down. She was quite spry Lani thought as she watched her move around.

“So honey, a man has got you twizzled. What happened?”

“Twizzled?” Lani laughed. “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that term.”

“Betwixt and between, out of sorts. I saw that word on one of them day time talk shows!” she said proudly. “So tell me about him.”

“Really, it’s not that, or not like you think. I co-hosted a party with him and he didn’t, well, I didn’t know who was coming and was surprised, that’s all.”

“His wife maybe?”

“Oh heavens NO. But it wouldn’t matter if he was married because we’re not romantically involved.”

‘Um hm.” Mrs. Carter took a sip of her tea and offered Lani a cookie. “Try one of these honey. They are lemon crackle cookies and they go just fine with this tea.”

Lani bit into a cookie and immediately a smile spread across her face. Very lemony and light, it was wonderful. “No, really, he’s a man that my company is doing some work for. The party was a celebration of a new program that we’re setting up for him.”

“Who did he invite that got your goat?”

Lani smiled inwardly at that term; you didn’t hear that too often nowadays. “He invited my parents, who are wasteful socialites. I guess it’s fair to say that we don’t get along.”

“You don’t get along with your parents? I can’t imagine that honey.”

“My youth was hard – on them I mean. Raising a child takes time and care, neither of which they had much of. Tonight my mother said she didn’t know that I had been working at this past job for almost 5 years. She said, she couldn’t keep track of me. I’m an only child by the way so it’s not like she had a whole bunch of us.”

The old woman studied her young guest with interest. She was beautiful and poised and had impeccable manners and was clearly unhappy. She could understand why she was upset with her parents – what kind of people were they anyway to neglect their daughter like that. But, it still had something to do with a man, that much she was sure about.

They talked of inconsequential things for another half hour. She learned the little dogs name was Noodle because his mama was a poodle and the dad a neighborhood mutt. He lay in the kitchen by the back door watching them carefully and Mrs. Carter joked that he was hoping for a bite of cookie. “Yes, he’s a totally bad boy sometimes,” she laughed, at the same time breaking a cookie in two and sharing half with him.

When she left, Lani felt so much better. She hugged the old woman and took note of the house number, 19404 and decided to send her a big bouquet of flowers tomorrow.

Purple one’s of course.

To be continued…

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chapter 16

Beth stormed out of Tim and Mary’s house at vamp speed, heading for the trees. She was so angry with Mick that for a bit she couldn’t even see straight. He didn’t believe her, believe that she could taste the apple butter or coffee. He said as much in front of the others, embarrassing her and then angering her. She ran for a few minutes, finding herself in a part of the forest that she wasn’t familiar with. She jumped into the canopy, being careful as to where she jumped this time and then climbed higher still. She perched on a sturdy branch and sucked in a few deep breaths, trying to calm herself down.

It was humiliating, his inability to believe what she could do. He was her husband; he knew that she didn’t lie about things to him, how could he not accept what she said? She wiped a few tears off of her cheeks and blinked in the bright light. She wasn’t in direct sunlight, but it was bright and her skin felt warm, maybe a bit too warm. She looked around, to the south was the mountains, towering over the land and to the east a bird’s eye view of Seattle proper. It was quiet and should be soothing to her, but it wasn’t. Her heart hurt; if Mick didn’t believe her then who would?

Suddenly she caught his scent and she looked down. He was standing below the tree, looking up at her. He looked sad she thought and for a moment she felt guilty because she knew that he had worried about her, until he found her. She truly didn’t mean to scare him but she needed some space.

“Do you mind if I come up there with you?” he asked.

“Yes, I do mind. Mick, I need some time. Go away.”

He looked down and shook his head almost imperceptibly. “Beth, do you know where you are? How to find the house?”

She wanted to be able to tell him yes, but she honestly couldn’t. She thought she had run south, but she wasn’t sure. She couldn’t see Tim and Mary’s house or their house. She knew she had probably run several miles but run to where? As much as she hated to admit it, she needed directions. When she told him he didn’t mock her or make fun of her, simply told her what she needed to know.

He pointed to the left and said, “You are northwest of the property, you need to head back this way, about three miles. At that point you should recognize where you are. Beth, please be careful when you get out of that tree and come home to me, so we can talk.”

“In a while Mick. I’ll be careful.” He made a show of walking away, but she knew better; he was out there, keeping watch over her. He might doubt her ability to taste things, but he loved her and would make sure she was safe.

Mick walked a ½ mile away and then doubled back being sure to stay within the cover of the trees. He kept his footsteps quiet as he got close enough to see the tree where she was perched, even if he couldn’t see her. When she climbed down he would see it and know that she was safe.

He was worried about her; this insistence that she could taste food was dangerous for her. She was so happy to be a vamp but clinging to the trappings of humanity was something she had to move past; he just had to find a way to help her.


“Josef, its Logan. I thought you might like an update on Katrina.”

“Only if it’s good news Logan. Well, I suppose any news is good news. What do you have?”

“Well, it’s not the best news but it is a development. She tried to access her island bank account from an anonymous proxy server. It wouldn’t let her in of course because we changed her password, but we had put a ping on it so that we’d know if she tried.”

“What the hell is an anonymous proxy server? Speak English Logan.” Josef scowled as he listened to the young vampire. What he wanted to hear was that they knew exactly where Katrina was so that they could end her.

“An anonymous server makes it possible to hide your location; in other words, it shows a false IP address that can’t be tracked. Mostly…”

“What the hell do you mean ‘mostly’? Does that mean you can still find her?”

“Well, maybe get a general location. Each anonymous server has a base location and generally, it has IP numbers that it creates. If we can use that number to find the anonymous server, we can maybe backtrack their log ins to find where it was accessed from.”

“And that will work?”

“Um, it’s a shot. Ryder is working on it as we speak. We are sure it is a South American server and since that’s where he is it might be a bit easier for him.”

“Okay, okay. Let me know? Oh, did you help Colleen?”

“We’ve got a good start on it. The most complicated thing will be getting those transcripts from the university. I’m creating false documents so that Audrey’s neighbor can go in and request copies of her transcripts. She’s the right age and thinks it’s a ‘lark’ which I assume means a caper or something. Anyway, she will go and get them and we can figure out where Colleen stands.”

“Good, thank you Logan, I appreciate your hard work,” Josef said, ending the call. Things were starting to fall into place; now if Katrina could just fall into their hands things would be great.


Beth sat up in that tree for several hours, until sunset. She didn’t mean to stay so long, but she got lost in her thoughts.

She understood why Mick and everyone else would doubt that she could taste things; vampires lose that ability when they are turned but for some reason, strange and unbelievable as it was she could actually taste. And she still didn’t feel sick either. She had performed the ‘blind’ taste test with Mick watching and then they had tested her on pear butter and the apple butter; she nailed it every time.

She could taste. Why she didn’t know, but bottom line was, she could. What it meant in vampire terms she couldn’t even begin to guess.

Was she some strange sort of vampire? Did it have to do with the fact that she had blood from 3 different vampires in her? Coraline was AO-, as she was, maybe that had something to do with it? But Mick had Coraline’s blood as well and he couldn’t taste anything so that probably wasn’t it. She didn’t know and honestly, it made her head hurt to think about it.

She looked around and saw that it was late, the sun had set and all she could see were stars. Vampire vision could be deceptive; night time could look like daylight but she knew that down amongst the trees it would be darker. She knew she had to go now and get back because Mick was undoubtedly worried about why she was up in the tree so long. Providing that she could actually find the way home and suddenly, she wasn’t so sure she could.


Mick sat at the base of a tall tree about 200 yards away from Beth.

He and Beth had both pondered the same subject this evening; her ability to taste food. Whether that was a real ability or only perceived was the question.

He’d been a vamp for 50 odd years and never in all that time had he meant one that could taste anything other than blood. Was it ever possible he wondered or was she trying to hang on to her humanity by the claims? What could even be worse was that she didn’t taste things but imagined that she did.

He was worried and afraid that he was not doing his job as her sire but how did he fight something like this? She believed she could, he believed she couldn’t; a clear line was being drawn and he only wanted to make it all go away.

He could just tell her he believed her; that was the simple thing to do. If he did, would she know somehow? Could she taste his lie to her? It would certainly make him feel guilty and that might be discernable in his blood.

He didn’t want to hurt her; he did want to support her. All he had to do was find the way to do that.

It was growing darker by the minute and he was starting to get concerned. It might be difficult for her to find her way back during the day, but at night it would be worse. He got up and moved as close as he dared, staying out of hearing and he hoped scenting distance. He could hear the tree rustling and realized that Beth was moving down it. The thought made him happy because it meant that she wasn’t trying to jump the fifty some odd feet down to the ground. He stood hidden among the shadows and trees when he picked up a scent that wasn’t Beth’s.

Suddenly, the game changed and he knew she was in danger.


Beth got to a low branch and decided to make the jump down to the ground. She was still a bit cautious after yesterday’s broken leg. Even though it had healed quickly, it had still hurt terribly. She decided that she may be an impetuous and inexperienced vampire but she definitely was not a brave one. No more broken bones for her.

At about 15 feet above the ground she decided to make the jump, landing smoothly onto the pine needle littered ground; she landed in a squat with her back to the tree. As she prepared to stand up and brush her butt off since there were bits of dirt and bark clinging to it she looked towards what she hoped was the correct direction and then caught a scent on the air that she didn’t recognize.

She lifted her head and inhaled deeply and tried reaching out with her mind to see if she could figure out what it was and where it was. She couldn’t hear a heartbeat so it wasn’t that close, but her sense of it was that it was big. A bear maybe or cougar or wolf? They were all indigenous to the area Mick had told her. And all of them big enough that they might not be intimidated by the smell of a vampire.

She closed her eyes and listened as she scented the air; there was a musky, acrid smell to it, it was definitely an animal. If she could figure out what type she might know what to do. If it were a wolf, she could climb the tree and wait for Mick to come for her. She still knew that he was out there; probably already aware of what was happening. If it were a cougar or bear, climbing the tree was out of the question because they could climb as easily as she could.

Think Beth, think!


Mick tried to work his way around closer to Beth without disturbing the cougar mom and her two cubs. The cubs made her especially dangerous because if she thought they were threatened there would be no holding her back.

The cougars don’t usually come this close to people but he was sure that Beth’s vampire scent brought out the predator; it wasn’t afraid of her apparently. Would it be content to keep its distance? That might depend on what Beth did. He had to get to her quickly.

Moving as silently as possible so that he didn’t disturb Beth or the mother cougar he circled around the back side of the trees. So far Beth was staying still so she must have scented the cougar. He didn’t dare speak to her yet, but he prayed to whatever god was out there to keep her safe.

Suddenly he heard the cougar scream and take a few steps forward. It sliced through the air and he knew he was going to have to move fast.


The shriek that split the air scared her, sending shivers up her spine. It was a cougar so that meant the tree wasn’t safe. And it was closer as well because she could hear its heartbeat now. Maybe a second and third one as well – could be a mother cougar and cubs, which just made it all worse.

She could survive a fight with it, she was sure, but it would be terrible and she didn’t want to do it. She also didn’t want to leave a couple of cubs motherless. She tried to wrack her brain for information on cougars. Female cougars could be up to 150 pounds or so, big. They were powerful with massively strong jaws and razor sharp teeth, the better to eat you with. What would happen if the cougar drank some of her blood?

A question she didn’t know the answer to. She closed her eyes again and reached out for Mick; he was near now, she knew. She just didn’t know where and she didn’t know where the cougar was either. When she opened her eyes she had the answer to one of the questions.

The cougar was standing about 20 feet away, hidden in the shadows but its glowing golden eyes shimmered in the dim nightscape. She might have to make a run for it but she didn’t want to make any sudden moves.

She stared to stand, scooting up with her back against the tree, coming up a couple of inches and then pausing, waiting to see what the cougar did. It watched her unblinkingly and let out a screech. Beth might be a vampire, but her heart was pounding now and she was shaking like a leaf. Another couple of inches and the cougar stepped closer to her while continuing the screams.

Every curse word she knew ran through her head as she fought off panic. She had to get herself under control and she tried to take some deep breaths in an effort to facilitate that.

She stayed put for a minute or so, calming herself and hoping that the cougar understood that she meant it no harm. A few more inches and she was nearly standing fully erect. The cougar crept closer, still making threatening and frightening sounds. Beth wanted to dart behind the tree, but she knew the sudden move would be a mistake.

Where the hell was Mick?


Mick was about 15 feet directly behind her, but he still didn’t want to say anything because while Beth could hear him, so could the cougar. The female had moved closer still to Beth, still not attacking but not backing down either. Beth was slowly coming upright and that was good because it would make it quicker to get away. Mick knew they could out run the cougar because she wouldn’t leave the cubs alone and they couldn’t keep up. A few more feet and he would speak to her in vamp tones.

“Beth, I’m behind you about 10 feet. When you feel me touch you on your right shoulder, step around the tree and grab my hand; we’re going to run baby.”

“What? No, it will catch us!” she said, terrified of trying to outrun the desperate mother cougar.

“No, it won’t. Please baby, trust me and just do as I say, okay? Okay Beth?”

“Okay,” she told him, her voice shaking badly. The cougar was now only a dozen or so feet from them and her knees were a trembling mess. If she were still human she would have peed her pants by now.

“Now,” he whispered and she felt his hand on her shoulder. It crept down and she felt his it clasp hers and she turned suddenly, following him as he rushed away at vamp speed. They ran for several minutes before he stopped and listened; nothing was following them.

Beth wanted to collapse from the drama but they started running again and in a few minutes they were at the house. Relief flooded over her and then the tears came, rolling down her pale cheeks in great rivulets. She was shaking and humiliated that she had yet again gotten into trouble because she wouldn’t listen. It was time for a change; time to get serious about her training.

“Mick, I’m so sorry. I didn’t think, I just didn’t…think.”

He handed her a glass of blood and indicated she needed to drink it. She was starving it seemed, drinking that glass and another straight down. Maybe part of what she had been feeling was hunger.

They carried their glasses that had been refilled into the living room and sat on the sofa, cuddling together as they spoke.

“I never thought about the danger; it put me and you into danger by my impulsive behavior. I’m so sorry.”

He listened to her apology and knew that it was sincere; he never doubted that. He was sorry too, for embarrassing her in front of everyone at Tim and Mary’s house. He kissed the top of her head and slid an arm around her, holding her close. “It’s okay baby. I know you didn’t mean for this to happen. It’s just as much my fault as yours. I’m so sorry you were so afraid.”

“I knew you were out there Mick, that you wouldn’t leave me. I just didn’t anticipate the fact that I would need you like that, although I was afraid I’d get lost trying to find home,” she told him sheepishly.

She heard him chuckle, the low rumble reverberating through his chest. Wisely, he didn’t say a word.

“What hurt Mick was the fact that you don’t believe that I could taste those things. I really can – I know you just don’t believe it, but it’s true.”

“Beth, baby it’s impossible. Vampires can’t taste food. I think – I think somehow that you just miss the taste of things and imagine that you can still taste.” Privately, he thought that it was a repercussion of her turning; just like he missed human things so did she. She didn’t understand it yet, but that was surely what it was.

“Really? Then how do you think that I did the blind tastes and go everything right? Hm Mick, tell me that?” Red hot anger was rising within her again.

He didn’t exactly know the answer to that – maybe it had something to do with the scent; most likely that was it. When he told her so she suddenly stood up, glaring at him.

“I am not imagining it, or wishing it or any other thing. I tasted it all, whether you believe me or not. And if you can’t, then what the hell are we doing together in the first place?” She turned and ran up the stairs and he heard the bedroom door slam.

This time he wondered not when she would cool down but if.

To be continued…

Monday, January 16, 2012

Chapter 15

Chapter 15

Carl dialed Lani’s number, realizing that it was only an hour or so before noon but he hoped he might be able to score a lunch date anyway since he was in the general vicinity of her office. To his surprise she answered almost right away and agreed to go. He made arrangements to pick her up in front of her building in 45 minutes and ended the call with satisfaction.

He didn’t know how much information she would give him about Beth, but he was hopeful that it might be enough to track them down. Of course, he tried to ignore it but he also was curious what Cami had thought about him. He felt as green and inexperienced as a high school boy playing the ‘but does she like me or does she like like me?’ game.

He couldn’t stop thinking about Cami; she made him feel alive for the first time in years, maybe ever really. He felt in tune with her and so comfortable when he was near her that it was almost scary. He’d really only met the woman and yet he was already ready to surrender himself to her. He didn’t understand it and he could only hope that it didn’t kick him in the ass, a broken heart he didn’t want or need.

He’d been engaged a couple of years ago, but that had ended when Clarisse decided that he couldn’t spend as much time with her as she needed; and boy did she need – constantly. He could never go more than an hour or two at the most before she was calling or texting, not understanding why he couldn’t always respond immediately. The tears, the fights had just gotten to be too much in the end. To say that it was not an amicable parting would be a huge understatement; he never wanted to go through anything like that again.

At the appointed time Carl pulled up in front of the Billings Market building and saw Lani walking towards him. So typical for Lani, she looked professional and hot at the same time. Her suit was fuchsia colored, a slim skirt and bolero jacket that looked perfect on her. Her lips matched the color and yet still looked natural. He didn’t understand the mysteries of makeup, but Lani apparently knew her stuff.

He put the car into park and got out to open the door for her but she beat him to it, sliding into the unmarked police car with a grin. “I’m not helpless you know Carl; never have been!”

He laughed, remembering well how independent she always was. “Okay, okay, I get it. Mexican okay with you?”

She might have known; this was typical Carl. “Sure, but none of those little taco stands; I want to go in and sit down to eat, got it?” she laughed.

“Yes ma’am! No taco stand; actually, I have the perfect place in mind.” He signaled and pulled out into the flow of traffic smoothly and eventually moved to the far left lane so that he could make a turn. A few minutes of idle chatter later they parked in front of a small bodega.

Lani’s eyebrows rose sky high as she peered out of the windshield and she said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Carl?” she asked as he opened the door for her to get out of the sedan.

“Just don’t judge a book by its cover because looks can be deceiving,” he teased, leading the way into the small market. They walked towards the back of the store and out a swinging door into a small garden set with a few tables. There was a trellis growing overhead full of colorful bougainvillea in every shade of purple and pink imaginable. The small patio space was shaded and fragrant, both with the flowering trellis and the rich, spicy smells of the food that was being served.

The day’s offerings were written on a white board with colorful markers and Lani perused the choices before deciding on grilled tilapia with fresh mango lime and pepper salsa and a jicama salad. Carl opted for fire-roasted rolled tacos with extra hot Pico de Gallo sauce. Even the smell of it burned Lani’s nose. Both dishes were served with homemade corn tortillas, hot off the grill and tender and delicious.

Carl watched as Lani’s nose wrinkled as she smelled the peppery Pico de Gallo and he grinned; in college Lani was notorious for shying away from the spicy foods that he and Beth lived on. Anytime they offered her some she always asked about the heat level. Either you could handle it or you couldn’t and Lani definitely couldn’t.

Carl had thought over his strategy for asking questions and was totally unaware that Lani too had a strategy. She was curious as to why he was so considerate about Cami and sunlight. Not that Carl wasn’t a considerate guy because he always had been, but this seemed curious to her although she was willing to admit that it most likely was just coincidence, maybe due to Cami’s fair complexion and blonde hair.

“Still can’t handle the hot stuff, huh Lani?” he asked, taking a bit of the taco after he had spooned some of the sauce over it.

“Some things just don’t change you know. And besides, hot I can handle, but that stuff you and Beth eat demands a whole new description for the word.” Her own grilled tilapia was exceptional, grilled to perfection and the sauce was a delicious accompaniment to it. She took another fork full and chewed it thoughtfully for a moment before adding, “Josef told me that Mick had recently tried Kung Pao, extra spicy and about died in the process. The server at the restaurant finally had to give him milk to help him it was so bad. I believe Josef said Mick’s words were, “This is fucking dangerous!” She didn’t feel at all bad about the little white lie that distorted Mick’s actual words, it was still funny.

The words gave Carl pause; Mick could eat food? Could Cami? “I didn’t know that Mick could eat? Chinese food I mean,” he hurriedly added.

Her eyes looked startled for a moment but she made a fast recovery. “Not Kung Pao extra spicy he doesn’t,” she said with a silly grin and a shrug. “So, what do you think of my god son? And be careful what you say…” she laughed.

“He’s a fine looking boy. I stopped by the hospital the day after he was born and admired him. Robbi and Kevin are pretty proud of that little bundle and rightly so. I mentioned Beth and the whole temperature cooled about 20 degrees in that room though. What’s up with that?”

Lani tried to choose her words carefully, there were too many questions that could lead to other, unwanted ones. “She’s upset that Beth wasn’t here for the birth; she and Beth skyped during it, but it wasn’t the same. When Bri was born Beth missed it and promised to be there for the next one.”

“So why didn’t she just come back for this one?”

Lani suddenly looked down at her plate so that he couldn’t read her face. She took a long moment to choose another piece of fish while she composed herself. After she chose one she popped it into her mouth, giving her another few moments. “I think she and Mick are working on a project there that they couldn’t get away from.” She took a sip of her iced tea and waited for his reply.

“Um, well I understand that. Have you ever been to their house up there? In Seattle is it?”

“No, but when they get ready to come back to LA I hope to talk Josef into flying the jet up there so I can see it; it’s quite large and beautiful I’ve heard. It’s not in Seattle proper though, Josef said it’s across Puget Sound and you can see Seattle I think.”

Carl noticed that she had mentioned Josef Kostan’s name 3 times in the past couple of minutes. He wondered if there was more to that story. Maybe Cami knew. He had to laugh at himself- grilling Lani about Beth and Cami and Cami about Lani. “So how does an LA boy end up with a house up there? Relative leave it to him or something?”

“No, I think he bought it himself; I know he lived up there for awhile.”

“Really? He’s been a PI here for quite a while.”

“Yeah, I think maybe 10 years or so ago. Not sure.”

So he might have been a PI there too. It was a lead; a couple of leads actually that would hopefully lead to some answers. He decided to switch topics. “So, did Cami say anything about our date?”

Lani laughed, she knew this was coming sooner or later. “Why yes, she did!”

Carl waited while Lani took another bite but she didn’t offer anything more, thereby making him prompt for more details. He knew how to play this game! “Did she enjoy herself?”

“Why yes, I believe she did.” She looked at him over the rim of her iced tea glass and saw that he was practically dying of curiosity; maybe it was time to end the torture and besides, she had a few things to say. “She was very excited about it Carl. And she’s looking forward to the next one. Why did you pick a night game anyway?”

“Why, does it matter?” he countered.

“No, just most games are day games is all.”

“Yes, but this is a date, so I thought a night game would be a bit more romantic.”

“A baseball game romantic? Carl, you need a bit of educating in the love arena!”

“Hey, it will be relaxed and fun. Isn’t that a good thing?”

“Yes, I guess so. You know Carl, Cami is pretty inexperienced in the dating world. You need to go slow with her.”

“Well, a baseball game is hardly intimate. I can tell she’s pretty shy, which I have to say is a bit surprising; the girl is beautiful. It’s hard to imagine that she isn’t going out constantly.”

“I don’t believe that she has had a date since her ex husband. You have to understand Carl, they were missionaries, on their way to South Africa on their honeymoon, when they were basically captured by pirates.”

Carl assumed that it was Somali pirates; they were much in the headlines the past few years. He couldn’t help but wonder what Cami might have suffered at their hands. “I understand Lani; I won’t push her, okay? I really like her and want to see where this goes.”

“Like her or like like her?” Lani teased. She could have sworn that Carl blushed. All in all, it was a great lunch. When he dropped her off a little while later they made plans to do it again. And she couldn’t wait to tell Cami that he liked liked her!


When Beth got to Mary and Tim’s the smell of apples filled the air, delighting the senses. Mary was in the kitchen, stirring a huge stock pot full of apples and apple juice.

“Oh wow, it smells fantastic in here Mary,” she told the older woman as she stood beside her at the stove, peeking into the pot that Mary was stirring. On the counter next to her were different jars of spices, waiting until just the right moment to be added to the mixture. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

“In the pantry you’ll find a large mouthed funnel that we’ll need once the apple butter is ready to go into the jars; can you get that for me please and then spread several large towels on the counter and set the sterilized jars on them?”

“Sure,” Beth said as she gathered up everything she needed and set it up according to Mary’s instructions. She watched as Mary grated cinnamon and nutmeg into the pot, inhaling the spicy aroma with pleasure. She peered over Mary’s shoulder as she continued stirring the spices in.

“Millie Stumblingbear is coming over to help; she wants to learn how to do this. I hope you don’t mind Beth,” Mary said, waving her hand over the simmering pot as if to better inhale the scent.

“Oh, no I don’t mind. But is she…?” she hesitated. She was so anxious to see a human, but on the other hand she was also afraid.

“Yes Beth, she is a vampire.” Mary smiled at the young one; she was still so uncertain of things but given a bit more time she would be fine.

“Mary, how will I ever know if I can be around humans if I never am around them? I don’t understand.”

Satisfied with the simmering concoction Mary placed a lid on it and led Beth to the table and nodded for her to sit down. “Beth, there is no magic answer to that; usually it’s a matter of time though; time and training. Learning to control your impulses basically.”

Those words made Beth take a good hard look at how she acted as a vampire. She did have a hard time controlling herself, last night was a perfect example but she had always been impetuous, impulsive. “But I’ve always been impulsive Mary and I’ve always found it hard to control. I’ll never get to go home…”

“Of course you will Beth, I am sure you miss your family and friends.”

“Yes, I do. My mom is 5 months pregnant and my best friend just had a baby. I promised her that I would be there for the birth and I know she is upset with me. I need to see her and not just by skype.”

“So you’ll tell her, about what happened?” Mary’s question was spoken quietly; Mary herself was reserved and quiet by nature and she felt as if she were prying now.

“It’s so complicated. Lani, Robbi and I have been best friends since before kindergarten. We’ve done everything together. Lani found out about vampires on her own while living in Tokyo a few years ago, but Robbi doesn’t have a clue. If I don’t make things right with her that friendship will be over. She is already hurt, I know that and they only way to remedy that is if I tell her. But if I do, how will she react? How did you handle it Mary, I mean, telling people you cared about?”

“Well, that was pretty simple Beth; we didn’t tell anyone.” Seeing Beth’s eyes open wide she reached across the table and squeezed the young vampire’s hand. “On November 29, 1864 the Colorado Militia attacked the Cheyenne and Aparaho who were united under Chief Black Kettle. It was called the Sand Creek Massacre and the battle was brutal, scattering our people. Tim was wounded and eventually turned by a warrior from another tribe; it was an act of hatred, visiting the evil on an enemy. How Tim survived those first few months, on his own I don’t know, but he did. I thought he was dead, the whole tribe did and we mourned the loss of Aenohe Nestoohe, Howling Hawk. He was a great shaman, a wise man and revered for his knowledge. Our son took his place among the tribe as he had already taken part of the Sun Dance. I was slowly dying Beth, dying of a broken heart because I missed him so very badly. By Cheyenne custom I was allowed a morning period and then would either be married to another or forced to work for another. The Cheyenne were a very practical tribe and everyone worked and paid their own way, so to speak. One night, I heard someone slipping into my teepee and raised a knife to protect myself. I sliced across Tim’s chest as he reached me, covering my mouth so that I didn’t scream.” Mary’s eyes darkened at the memories of the past and Beth was sure it must have been heartbreaking for her.

“I watched him heal right in front of me and eventually he removed his hand when I calmed down. I knew he was different but he explained what had happened. There was never a doubt that I would go with him. We left then, taking little with us; I didn’t, couldn’t say goodbye to our son or his family, my sisters, anyone. I think they all thought that I was overcome with grief and took the death walk, to leave this world. Instead I entered another and I’ve never regretted it; we are together and I love that man more each day I spend with him.”

Beth nodded, touched to have heard the story. She wiped away the cool tears that traced down her face and knew that she understood how Mary felt because she felt the same way about Mick. It didn’t provide her with any answers about what to do about Robbi though. If she chose not to tell her, their friendship would surely be over and it wasn’t just her that would be affected – there was Lani to consider because she would be smack in the middle of it all.

They heard a knock at the front door and Mary lifted her head, scenting the air. “It’s Millie,” she said, hurrying to the front door. Beth heard her greet her friend and stood up in preparation to meeting her.

Millie was tall and beautiful and very friendly. She’d been turned by her husband 10 years ago and was very happy to be a vampire. She worked as a teacher on the reservation and obviously thought of Mary as a mother figure.

Mary explained the process of making the apple butter. “How you flavor it will depend on what apples you are using; some are sweeter, tarter, things like that. Some cook up better than others as well so time and practice are the best teachers – oh, and having a human around to taste for you, until you learn what it should smell like.”

All of this was so fascinating to Beth, the apple butter that Mary had given her before, as well as the apple tarts had been seasoned to perfection. It was difficult to imagine that she did it without being able to taste it. The three of them were standing over the pot, which was almost ready. Mary held a spoonful up and sniffed it carefully and then passed it to Millie to scent. Both women inhaled deeply, their eyes closed and they let their noses guide them. Millie handed the spoon to Beth who sniffed appreciatively. It smelled a bit different from the batch that Mary had given her before but maybe that was because she was a vampire now. Curious, Beth stuck her finger into the mixture and brought it to her mouth to taste. The shocked look on both women’s faces was startling.

Mary cried out, “Beth!” but Beth only shrugged.

“Needs a bit more cinnamon Mary. The jar you gave me before had more cinnamon in it.” Her words were spoken very matter-of-factly but both women were frowning, staring at her as if she did something terrible.

“Beth, don’t! It will make you sick. Do you feel sick?” At Beth’s negative shake of her head another thought occurred to her. “You can taste it?”

“Yes, I can. I don’t think it’s that surprising, I can taste coffee you know.” She scooped another taste into her mouth and swallowed slowly, savoring the flavor. “Yes, definitely a bit more cinnamon Mary.”

They heard the front door open and Tim walked in; he had been out checking the orchards. Since Mick didn’t live here Tim and Mary worked the orchards, with help during harvest and so Mick granted them the rights to the fruits of their labor. All the apple products that Mary made were sold to donate to the tribal reservation they helped to support, the rest of the crop went to market. When Tim walked into the kitchen he stopped short, staring at the looks on Mary and Millie’s faces.

“What’s wrong,” he asked, afraid something had happened.

“Beth can taste the apple butter,” Mary said and watched as her husband’s eyes opened wide. He could only stare at Beth, wondering what on earth was up with her.

To be continued…