Matthew Richards sat back in his chair and scowled at
the telephone. Detective Fiorentino hadn’t returned his calls and
wasn’t answering them either and Matt didn’t like being thwarted. Where
was the typical curiosity that humans normally exhibited? An ADA and
now a detective, both who chose to ignore the list? Who might be next;
would anyone care to investigate the people and the relationships
represented on it? Of course, quite a few vamp and human names weren’t
on it, those who belonged to the Equalizers, his group that would
ultimately be the victor in the struggle between humankind and vampires.
vampires and the Legion worked together to keep the peace; an unholy
alliance at best. An alliance that was never meant to be. VALA
(Vampire and Legion Alliance) sought to keep the secret, in order to
maintain a semblance of peace and harmony in the world and that wasn’t
what vampires were about, or at least it didn’t use to be. Vampires
were superior creatures; stronger, faster, more deadly than any ordinary
human could imagine. VALA worked to keep vampires from fulfilling their
destinies and Matt was determined to change that; he just wanted to do
it without bringing attention to the Equalizers. He wanted to ‘out’ the
vampires ensuring panic among the human population but that was going
to be difficult to do if a human wouldn’t bite on it. They were an
unpredictable and detestable species at best and evidently afraid of
their own shadows.
Equalizers had human members in their ranks; desperate humans willing
to betray they own species any way necessary in order to be allowed to
be turned. Over the centuries, he had strung them along until most of
them died off, still praying for the miracle of forever at his hands.
He would often laugh as they lay on their death beds, pleading for him
to turn them and then turning to God for forgiveness when they realized
that their dream wasn’t going to happen. He didn’t know if God - if
there were such a being - answered those prayers of forgiveness but then
again, it mattered not at all to him. They were merely instruments he
used to create his vision of what the future should look like, nothing
His mind skipped back to get a human to sound the alarm.
Sure, they could publicly rip a few people apart for the press but that
wouldn’t be nearly as satisfying as watching the insidious fear of
vampires take over humans who were weak and superstitious; they would
run for the hills in fear and panic and the vampires would be waiting.
Oh yes, they’d be waiting.
morning after her date with Carl Cami walked into work with a smile on
her face. Lani saw her and thought she almost glowed with happiness,
something that wasn’t easily achieved by a vampire. On the opposite end
of the spectrum, Lani had difficulty getting motivated this morning;
her conversation with Josef last night still weighing heavily on her
She hadn’t meant to tell him so much; it felt like peeling
her soul bare and it scared her that he knew so much. Why on earth had
she said so much to him? What had he ever done to earn her trust so
that she felt that it was okay to let him see her fear, her pain?
gave Mick and Beth a magnificent wedding, true enough and immediately
took over when Beth had been turned as well. So he cared about them
both? He felt as if it was his entire fault, what had happened, but
Lani didn’t think that was true. He evidently had a conscience,
something that she thought was probably rare among vampires; it was
pretty scarce among humans come to think of it.
She thought of
Heroku, Cami, Mick and Logan; they were good people, vampires. They
worked like any human would to make something of their lives, of the
lives of their loved ones. It was easy to like them, to feel
comfortable with them and trust them as well. So why was it so hard to
She sat at her desk, staring out the window as she
sipped her second cup of coffee, or maybe she should say coffee creamer
with a little coffee mixed in for color as she considered that question.
She felt tired, worn down which probably had to do with the fact that
she hadn’t gotten more than an hour or so of sleep last night. Josef
just seemed to reverberate around in her head and no amount of scotch or
tossing and turning had helped her. The middle of the night was the
loneliest time of all when you can’t sleep and unbidden thoughts haunted
Why did she keep seeing his smile, his kindness? His
vulnerability when he confessed his guilt about Beth? Those were things
she didn’t want to see; she didn’t want to feel bad about it, wanted to
push it all out of her head. She wanted a Josef – free life!
Her silent reverie was interrupted by a knock on her door and she uttered, “Come in,” wondering who it was.
popped her head in the door and said, “Are you busy?” Her smile
radiated a mile wide, making her beautiful face look positively angelic.
It was hard to be grumpy when Cami was so happy.
“So, the date went well, huh? Did you get a little?” Lani teased.
“A little what?” Cami asked, not sure what that meant.
mentally rolled her eyes, for a hundred year old vampire what she
didn’t know was epic. “It means, see a little action, do the wild
thing?” At Cami’s blank stare she sighed and said, “Have sex?”
eyes got as big as saucers and she blanched, if that were possible for a
vampire. Her quick negative shake of her head said it all. “No, we’ve
only just met Lani.”
Lani had to remember that when Cami was
turned she and Edmund, her new husband were on their honeymoon, heading
to South Africa to be missionaries. Between that and her Victorian
upbringing Cami knew little of men or the modern world, as impossible as
Lani smiled and quickly changed the subject, sort of. “So it went well?”
“Oh yes, it was wonderful. Carl is such a gentleman Lani!”
face had taken on a dreamy quality and it made Lani happy to see it.
Carl was a nice guy but she also had memories of the wild parties and
times that they had at college and she hoped that he had honestly
changed and wasn’t just putting on an act for Cami. She decided that
the talked about lunch date with Carl needed to happen soon.
“He’s asked me out again, for Saturday night. We’re going to go to a baseball game!”
“Oh, I don’t know about that Cami; all that sun can’t be good for you.”
“It’s a night game, he made sure to tell me that, which I thought was sweet.”
“So you told him you were a vampire?” Lani hadn’t expected that.
“No, he was just being considerate I think.”
why would Carl be concerned about Cami being in the sun? It was a
curious thought. Could he know something that no one suspected he knew?
Beth mentioned in the past that Josh had told Carl that Mick was a
vampire but that Carl had thought he was crazy. Maybe not she decided.
“Well, that’s good but Cami, he is a cop so guard what you say around him, okay?”
he know about me, about vampires? Do you think he’s trying to trap me
into a confession, like they do on tv?” Cami asked. She was suddenly
not sure if she wanted to go to the baseball game.
“I don’t think
that would be Carl’s style; I really do think he likes you Cami. I saw
his face when you came into the office the other day. Just go slow and
see what happens, that’s the best advice I can give you.”
nodded, the smile back on her face as she stood up. “I need to get to
work; we’re only 9 days out from the Kostan project and we still have
some issues to take care of. I hear that Kostan is planning a gala
event to celebrate it.”
Lani almost groaned at the reminder. “Yes, he is. Last night he asked me to be his hostess at it.”
“My, that sounds fun, but an awful lot of work I’m sure.”
assistant is doing all the planning; he told me all I have to do is
show up and ‘wear a fabulous dress’, his words, not mine.”
heard her mutter ‘chauvinistic jerk’ under her breath and smiled. Her
friend had it bad for Josef Kostan but hadn’t figured it out yet. One
day she would and Cami definitely wanted to be around when that
happened. With a quick wave she left the office, her mind on the pile of
paperwork on the desk. Well, mostly anyway.
and Beth sat sipping their ‘dinner’ in the kitchen, talking about her
mother. Beth was anxious to see her and not just on skype. She felt
that she was missing an important part of Dorothy’s life and she really
wanted to go home.
“C’mon Mick, how dangerous could I be with my own mother for heaven’s sake?” she said, her voice taking on a pouty tone.
Beth, I have no idea how you’ll react around humans and besides that,
we still have other things to cover. You’re impulsive at best and that
makes you dangerous, to yourself and others as well. No, it’s out of
the question.” He watched huge tears well up on her eyes and sighed.
“Look Beth, I do understand. What I’m trying to make you understand is
that you might not have any control and I don’t want you having to live
with those memories if something were to happen.”
“Like something happened to you Mick? What happened? You can’t expect me to understand if you don’t explain it to me.”
still hated revealing any of those early days with her. She might not
think he was a monster but he certainly felt monstrous at some of the
things he had done. What information could she benefit from and what
would change her feelings for him? Each day it was harder to hide it
all from her because he had long ago accepted that he couldn’t hide it
She sat waiting patiently, understanding the inner
struggle that he was having. He thought he had done terrible things,
things that made him a monster, but she believed that the monster he saw
was only in his estimation. Guilt corrupts a person’s soul, whether it
is justified or not. Frankly, Beth couldn’t imagine what he had went
through with Coraline as a sire, but she was willing to listen and not
judge him. Mick had been the best sire imaginable for her; patient,
loving, understanding, providing her with everything she needed – except
for a ticket home. They’d been in Seattle for two weeks and he’d first
told her a month but she doubted if they’d get back to LA by then
“Mick?” she said softly, stroking his hand to try to
comfort him. He was reliving something from his past and it was visibly
upsetting him. “Tell me. I won’t judge you or hate you.”
hazel eyes grew dark as he stepped back into the past. It was obviously
hard for him to speak, but he did his best. “I woke up, after she
turned me; I was covered in blood and it felt sticky and the smell of it
overwhelmed me. I couldn’t imagine what I had done and then I saw the
puncture marks on my neck and I knew, I knew that my world had changed.”
He swallowed hard, trying to get the words out and Beth moved to sit
on his lap, hoping that holding him would give him courage to tell the
“She said it was a gift, the most precious gift she could
give me. I ran away, hid away from the sunlight, from her, from
Coraline. She tracked me down eventually and I was hurting, badly. I
wasn’t sure what was wrong but as soon as she brought a woman over to
me, the scent of her blood made me crazy. I begged Coraline to kill me
because I knew that if she didn’t that I would hurt the woman. Coraline
said she couldn’t, that I didn’t want that but I did, I really did,” he
told her, the pain of the memory palpable. Silent tears ran down his
cheeks unimpeded and Beth was silent, letting him get it out.
I grabbed her and pulled her to me. She was whimpering, scared to
death and I knew that once I bit her I wouldn’t stop. I felt like a
caged animal, desperate to feed, to drink her blood and then I sank my
fangs into her, listening to Coraline telling me how good I was doing.
She spoke as if I were a child, encouraging me to eat my dinner or
something. I drained her Beth; I took that young woman’s life without a
thought other than satisfying my own hunger. It didn’t matter who she
was because all I could think of was the blood. I can’t let that happen
to you Beth, I just…can’t.”
“Mick, I understand, I do. So let’s
just focus on my training, okay? Whatever it takes we’ll just do it.
But sooner or later I’m going to have to be around a human Mick, there’s
no other way.”
He nodded, knowing what she said was true; he
also knew that he had bought a little more time before they found out.
No matter what, it scared him. He took an unneeded breath and said,
“Hey, let’s walk over to Tim and Mary’s and see if you can hang out with
her tomorrow afternoon while the satellite guy is here setting up the
tv in the workout room. How does that sound?”
knowing that he was trying to move past the sadness and regrets. “Good –
it sounds good.” She leaned down and kissed him, softly at first and
then moaning as the kiss deepened. “You know, tomorrow you could try
and let me stay here, put me in the bedroom or something.” She ran a
finger down his nose and then his lips and followed it with another
“No, I’d have to watch you the whole time, just in case. Not yet Beth.”
could handcuff me to the headboard you know. Take my clothes away,
just to show me who’s boss. I’d just have to lie there, waiting for
you,” she whispered into his ear teasingly.
Her words sent a
shiver up his spine and for a moment he considered carrying her upstairs
right away but finally shook it off. “Baby, I love your teasing, but
we have a mission tonight. Come on,” he said, setting her off of his
lap and standing up.
She’d tried, she thought. Besides, anytime
they went outside she grew excited because the outside world almost
vibrated with life as far as she was concerned. Every sound, from the
wind whispering through the pines to sounds of small and not so small
animals scampering away from danger thrilled her, made her feel so
alive, that was the only way she could describe it. It was funny that
she had to die to feel this way. It still seems strange to consider
that her body had died because this really didn’t feel like dead.
soon as they stepped outside she drew in a deep breath and exhaled as
if to expel all the negative thoughts she had within her. Her skin
tingled with the life that surrounded her and she scented the air
appreciatively. She could smell the apples in the orchard, which would
be ready for picking soon, and several deer that were close by. A bat
flew overhead in the dusk and the flapping of its wings sounded like a
rapid drumbeat. The sound she loved the most though was the sound of
the water rushing to shore. Tonight they were walking in the opposite
direction but it was still loud.
They walked along the path, hand
in hand and Beth tried to reach out around her and see what she could
sense. She stopped for a moment and closed her eyes, listening and
scenting the world around her.
Mick watched her, amazed at how
well she could focus; she gave herself over to the task completely. She
lifted her head and her eyes opened as she looked up high into the
canopy above them. The trees here were really old and close to a
hundred feet tall. Towering giants, they offered shade from a brutal
sun, shelter from storms and a deep fascination for his wife. A second
before she did it he knew what she was going to do; he reached for her
but it was too late, she had jumped high up into the tree.
just as quickly, about 30 feet above him her head hit a branch. He
listened as she screamed in pain and plummeted down to the ground, the
scream continuing until the final thump.
Her head had a long,
deep gash in it; if she were human it would require stitches but he knew
that it would heal quickly. When he looked down her body he saw that
her left leg was bent at a 45 degree angle, outwards. Definitely not
She tried to struggle to her feet as Tim and Mary arrived. “We heard her scream Mick, what happened?”
decided to play superman and jump a tall tree. The tree won.” Beth
tried again to get up and Mick gently pushed her back down. “Beth, your
leg is broken, I have to try and straighten it so it can heal. Lie
Mary was kneeling by Beth’s head, examining the head
would and mumbling words that Mick couldn’t understand. Probably just
as well, she most likely was cursing him for not paying better
attention. Tim was already pulling the leg of her jeans up so they
could get a better look at the break. When he saw it Mick blanched
because part of the bone was sticking through the skin.
“Come on Mick, help me. We have to move quickly here.”
swallowed and nodded, holding her knee steady as Tim suggested. Mary
watched and said, “Beth, this is going to hurt but it will be over soon.
Take a deep breath, okay?”
Beth nodded and felt Tim pull hard
on her leg, snapping it back into place. The pain was blinding for a
few moments, like nothing she had ever experienced before but soon it
ebbed away until her leg had mended. Finally she was able to sit up and
she smiled at Tim and Mary, thanking them for their help.
hadn’t said a word for a few minutes and Beth could see that he was mad,
beyond mad at her impetuousness. This wasn’t going to be pleasant
later, that was for sure. She looked at him and said, “Mick, I’m so
sorry. I should have listened to you.”
“Beth, what they hell did
you think you were doing? How many times have I told you that you have
to be patient and that I’ll teach you these things?” His eyes met hers
as she stared intently at him and he felt bad, really bad for yelling at
her in front of Tim and Mary. “I’m sorry Beth, I shouldn’t have
yelled. Are you okay?”
Tim watched the exchange with interest.
Beth was using allure on him and he didn’t seem to realize it, but Tim
also wasn’t sure if she knew what she was doing. One look at him was
all it took to take him from blazing anger to contrite apology. Pretty
Tim held out a hand to help Beth up and as
she came to her feet she grinned and thanked him. “Wow, that was a
lesson I won’t forget. Hey Mary, we were walking over to your place to
see if you can babysit me tomorrow afternoon while the satellite guy is
“You’re not going to be jumping anything are you?” Mary asked with a laugh.
“Nope, think I’ve learned my lesson tonight.”
come on over then. I’m going to be making apple butter out of the last
of the dried apples before the new crop comes in. I’d appreciate the
Beth smiled and hugged her, looking forward to the girl
time. “Okay, I’ll see you tomorrow then.” She and Mick both waved at
them and headed on back to the house. Not another word was said about
the incident and Beth couldn’t help but wonder why that was. Still, if
he was willing to let it go so was she.
To be continued…