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, February 27, 2012

Chapter 27 Endings and Beginnings

Heroku walked into Kostan Industries late on Monday morning to see how things were going. He knew that Lani was going to Seattle with Josef to bring Mick and Beth back to LA and he had serious misgivings about it when he got the message this morning. He had tried to call Lani and Josef both but their phone both went to voice mail immediately and all he could do was leave messages for them to call him as soon as possible.

Heroku wasn’t sure if he was right about Beth, but if he was, this night, of all nights would be dangerous for her. And it was not a night for Lani to be with her either even if Josef and Mick were there as well. There were questions to be answered and it’s possible that Beth’s world would change dramatically.

He found Cami in the new computer security monitoring center, working on the last of the security protocols needed before they could begin the software installs. Josef had hired a very bright young woman by the name of Audrey to be the Ops manager and Heroku thought Kostan was one lucky son of a bitch to have found her; he’d steal her away in a moment if he thought he had a chance.

“Cami, how are things going?” he asked as he watched her fingers fly over the keyboard, watching the screens flash by in only seconds. Her visual ability to keep up was amazing; she was even quicker at it then most vampires could be.

She looked up and flashed him a smile before focusing on the monitor again. “Hi Heroku. Looking good actually. This new system is amazing. I think Josef will be very pleased.”

“Um hm. Speaking of Josef, I hear that he and Lani have gone to Seattle; have you talked with either of them today?”

“No, I haven’t. I spoke with Lani last night; she said she had tried to call you.”

“Yes, yes she did; unfortunately I was unavailable.” He had hoped to be going to Seattle himself today, just in case but that didn’t work out. Hopefully he was wrong about everything.

So rare, all so very rare…

“Did she say when they will be back Cami?”

“She seemed to think tonight sometime; she wasn’t taking a bag with her so she’s not expecting to stay the night.”

Heroku closed his eyes for a moment and took a calming breath. Other measures would have to be taken. Just in case.

“I see.”

They talked for a few more minutes until the computer finished it’s install and then Cami turned to Heroku with a small bow and said, “Heroku - San, may I speak with you?”

She used the Japanese honorary which made Heroku scrutinize her carefully. “Of course Camille.” He closed the door to the room and sat down in a chair, waiting for Cami to speak.

Cami knelt down in front of Heroku and bowed her head before beginning. “Heroku – San, I have questions. Hon’in ni-do annai.”

“Of course Camille. You seek my guidance; please speak freely Goreijou (my daughter).”

Domo arigato Otokooya (father). I am seeing a man, in a – a romantic way and I’m scared.”

“You are scared of him?”

“Oh no! No Otokooya. I am afraid of myself, of being…close, close to him.”

The picture became very clear to Heroku; Cami had never been with a man as a vampire. And only her husband had touched her before that. She had very limited experience as a woman and none at all as a vampire. This was one area that they had never covered in her secluded life.

When his men found her on the isolated beach almost 100 years before she was out of her mind with the blood fever, literally starving with no clue what she needed. She was basically feral, but because she was so young and small his men had brought her to him and Heroku saw immediately that she was a fresh turn that had no idea what was happening to her. Fresh blood was brought and she immediately drank it down and asked for more, smearing the blood across her face as she swiped her hand across her mouth. She couldn’t get enough and before he knew it she had consumed at least 3 pints.

Cami learned slowly about her new world but chose to stay in the background of his life. Heroku had never had children; he had been a Samurai of the fiercest kind, fighting for his war lord with honor before he had been turned. A wife and children had no place in such a brutal existence. Cami’s fear of the world touched his heart and he grew to love the young woman a great deal. It took years to get her to venture into the world and many more years to coax her to go to college and live among humans. It had been difficult at times but you did what you must for your children.

“This young man is Carl, yes? I met him at the party?”

“Yes. He is such a good man Otokooya. He knows about vampires and he doesn’t care; he wants to be with me. When I am ready.”

Heroku had already had Carl Davis checked out after he presented the list to Josef, he did know that he was a good man. But knowing that she was a vampire and being able to deal with it in a romantic situation were two different things.

He nodded at Cami’s words, knowing that he must have a talk with the young man. But in the meantime Cami’s fears must be addressed and he wasn’t sure he was the right person to reassure her because she was asking about the physical aspects of her love for him. For her sake, he would try.

Goreijou, you are afraid of the vampires needs in sexual intimacy?”

“Yes,” she said hesitantly. “I know that we must, um, we must bite but I don’t know how to do that.”

Cami had never been willing to learn to feed fresh, no matter how hard he had tried to coax her. Feeding fresh when she was first turned was much easier than capturing human blood, especially without the human dying. He knew that in many ways he had been a lax parent but it was so easy to indulge her. Now she paid the price for his forestalling of the necessary education.

Goreijou, it is not a thing to be afraid of, but you must learn the bite. It is part of the expression of love and satisfaction for a vampire. My daughter, you will learn to feed fresh now, learn the bite so that you can move forward in your relationship with the good detective. This coming weekend, you will learn.” He stood up and offered his hand to her so that she might rise. She took it and bowed to him again, understanding that his mind was made up and the conversation was over.

“Thank you Otokooya.” She smiled at him but he saw the fear that registered on her face.

He tilted her head up and smiled at her, as effort to reassure her. His eyes met hers and saw that she would be okay, even if she were scared. Now, he had to figure out what to do with the other child of his heart who might very well be in direct danger this night.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Ben startled by the knock on his office door. He looked up and motioned for the runner to come in. “From the lab sir. You wanted the results ASAP.”

“Yes, thank you very much.” He watched as the runner left the office, closing the door behind him before tearing open the envelope. He pulled the documents out and read them and suddenly his world was turned upside down or inside out or something.

He fell back into the seat of his chair heavily and leaned back, the chair squeaking loudly. He glanced as the information again and closed his eyes, definitely feeling sick to his stomach. His heart pounded wildly and he pulled in one deep breath and then another trying to calm down a bit.

This can’t possibly be right.

He opened his eyes and read the results again, more carefully this time. Two sets of prints were found in the room but one couldn’t be matched to anyone. The second set belonged to Mick St. John, no surprise there except they belonged to the Mick St. John he knew. The Mick St. John who was about 30 years old.

Not possible.

Except that it was; they were a perfect match. Statistically speaking, it is impossible for two people, regardless of how closely they are related to have the same, exact fingerprints. Even twins didn’t share that characteristic.

So how did the Mick St. John of today have the same fingerprints as the Mick St. John of 1952?

The Mick St. John that was his grandfather?



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Beth showed Lani around the house in Seattle and Lani was amazed at how large it was as they made their way through all the bedrooms, the gym, family room and kitchen.

“It is huge Beth!”

“Yes, it was a hunting lodge when Mick bought it. I love it but it’s a good thing that Mick is a clean freak because I wouldn’t want to clean it all by myself!” she laughed.

“Yeah, no kidding. It is beautiful though; I can understand why you love it here.”

“Yes, but I’m more than ready to go home Lani.”

Lani noticed that Beth was picking at her fingernails, a habit she had when she was nervous. “Hey Beth, it’s all going to be okay, going home I mean.”

“Yes, maybe. Lani, Robbi hates me; the last two times I’ve talked to her she barely says anything and rushes off the phone.”

“Well, don’t take that too seriously Beth, she has a two week old infant to deal with. She’s not exactly waxing eloquently with anyone right now.” Lani hoped that her words were reassuring but she too had noticed that Robbi was distancing herself and she could only hope that it was because of Brian.

The girls had stepped back into the kitchen where Mick was pouring drinks for Josef and him. Mick looked caught and guilty as Lani noticed that what he was pouring was suspiciously red.

“Oh, we can do this later,” he said, stopping what he was doing.

“No Mick, it’s okay, really. I just think of it as tomato juice. Please, go ahead.”

Mick cast a quick look at Josef who gave a slight shrug that did not go unnoticed by Beth. Not sure what it was about she filed it away to ask about later. “Lani, would you like something? Coffee or maybe some tea?” She couldn’t help but wonder when Lani had seen someone drinking blood.

“Something warm would be really nice; I’m kind of chilly.”

Beth nodded and put a kettle on for tea, knowing that Lani didn’t drink coffee very often. Lani was wearing a hoodie over a tee shirt and Beth knew that the temp here must seem cool to a human. When she and Mick were here for their honeymoon she had dressed warmly in order for the temperature to be comfortable for Mick. “Tea coming up then,” she said as she pulled a cup and saucer out of the cabinet and said, “Let’s sit in the dining room; the view there is fantastic in there.” She set the cup and saucer on the table in front of Lani, adding a container of sugar and a spoon.

Mick sat glasses of blood on the table for Josef, Beth and himself before taking a seat. “So were you two talking about Robbi?” It was obvious that they had been since you can’t fool vamp hearing.

“Yes, I’m so afraid she hates me. I don’t know what to do.” The kettle started whistling loudly and Beth ran back into the kitchen and grabbed it off the stove and poured the steaming water into a small tea pot and added the tea bags before sitting it in front of Lani to steep.

“Beth, I’m sure that isn’t true,” Mick tried to say, hoping to reassure her.

“He’s right Beth, I don’t think she hates you or me, but she’s hurt, really hurt and some kind of explanation is going to have to be made. Something other than what you’ve already told her that is because she knows it’s not true.”

Beth took a sip of her blood and shuddered, making a face which both Josef and Mick noticed. “Something wrong baby?”

“No, it’s just my stomach is really queasy, nerves I guess.” She shrugged and took another sip, definitely feeling nauseous now. She pushed the glass away and looked longingly at the tea. “Maybe some tea will settle my stomach.”

After she got a cup for herself she poured a cup and took a tentative sip and as soon as she did it she knew it was going to come back up. She made a mad dash to the bathroom off the kitchen just in time. When she was done she splashed cold water on her face and looked up to see Mick watching her with a worried expression marring his face.

“Beth, you’re not okay. This, this shouldn’t be happening. What’s wrong?”

“I don’t know Mick. I feel terrible, jittery and like something is definitely wrong.” She wrapped her arms around him and he held her tightly for a moment. She buried her face into his neck and inhaled his comforting scent and thought of the warm blood from Leah and Rich, how good that had tasted.

“I’m just nervous; seeing Mom and Clark, facing Robbi, it’s all really scary for me. I miss them all so much Mick but I’m afraid they are going to see me as different now, that is if Robbi will see me at all.”

At the table, even Lani could hear what Mick and Beth were saying. She looked at Josef, pain showing clearly on her face. He reached across the table and gently squeezed her hand. “We’re going to make it alright Lani, Mick and I will make it right I promise.”

Lani was as worried about Robbi as Beth was. She knew their friend was deeply hurt and angry because she knew instinctively that something had been kept from her. “We have to tell them or we’ll have to write them out of our lives Josef. But even if we do tell them, how do we know that she and Kevin can handle it? They are very conventional people; I doubt if they have ever even considered vampires.” Her words were spoken but Mick and Beth both heard them and came back to the kitchen. Lani caught a deep breath when she saw how pale Beth was.

“Beth, you really have to drink some of that O+,” Josef told her, alarmed at how bad she looked. Normally by now a vampire would be on a rampage for blood and that is exactly what he was afraid of now. And as Lani was the only human in the vicinity he didn’t want any problems. Maybe Beth wasn’t ready to come home after all.

“He’s right Bethy,” Lani said. She knew little of vampires but she knew that Beth looked ready to collapse. “Please, for me? Just drink a little,” she coaxed.

Beth nodded and took a sip, then another. It tasted terrible and didn’t sit well on her stomach but she wasn’t throwing it up and that was something. After a few minutes and half a glass she felt better as they discussed Robbi and Kevin.

“As much as I hate the thought of more humans knowing, I think they have to be told if either of you want to preserve your relationships with them. If you want to walk away, then we keep quiet,” Josef said.

When both girls looked distressed he knew they would be talking to Robbi and Kevin. Josef only hoped that they could be trusted, for all of their sakes.

A knock on the front door surprised them all, even the vamps who had been so engrossed in the conversation they hadn’t heard Tim and Mary arrive. “I’ll get it,” Mick said and headed into the foyer to answer the door.

When Mick opened the door he saw Tim and Mary, wearing broad smiles and each carrying a large box. “Hey, glad you came over. Come on in,” Mick said, welcoming them into the house.

“We brought some apple and pear butter from you to take home to family and friends. And some apple sauce for Beth’s friends little ones.” Mary said as they headed into the dining room.

Beth was on her feet as they entered, so happy to see them. When they set the boxes down she hugged them both. “Thank you so much, I know everyone will love your gift. Tim, Mary I want you to meet my friend Lani; Lani, this is Tim and Mary!”

Lani stood up and shook their hands with a smile. Beth had talked a great deal about this couple who had come to mean so much to her. “I am so happy to meet you finally,” she told them. “Beth talks of you constantly! And she raves about all this,” she said, motioning to the boxes of goodies.

“We’ve heard much about you as well Lani. What do you think of the area?”

“It’s lovely. As we flew in I could see how lush and green it all is – and the trees are huge!”

Beth looked disconcerted for a moment and then looked quickly down, as if she was embarrassed.

Wonder what that is about?

Mick wrapped his arm around her and pulled her against him in a hug. “They are beautiful. Tim, Mary, would you care for a drink?” he asked, trying to steer the conversation in another direction so that Beth would forget about her accident in the forest the week before.

“No, we’re fine Mick. We just wanted to come and say goodbye.”

“Well, please sit down for a bit anyway,” he told them and pulled out a chair for Mary who took it with a smile.

After they were seated Mary said, “When will you be leaving?”

“The helicopter will be back around 7:30 to pick us up and so we should be in the air no later than eight. If all goes well anyway,” Josef said.

“Josef, you are looking remarkably well. Been a long time since we saw you. How’s business?”

“Good Tim! Do you read the quarterly reports we send on your investments? They are growing substantially.”

“You bet we do! You are a miracle man when it comes to money Josef and we thank you kindly for it!” Tim said, with Mary nodding in agreement. Josef had made them very wealthy and they appreciated it because it allowed them to help the community here a good deal.

Josef cast a slightly surly look at Mick and said, “Well, that’s more than some people do I have to say.”

Mick grinned at his friend and said, “That’s what I have you for Josef, to keep an eye on all that!”

Mary watched Beth with curious eyes; she was very nervous and fidgety. She often got up and walked around the room, pausing here and there to pick something up and then just as quickly set it down. She sipped occasionally from her glass of blood but then grimaced when she did so. When she started washing the cups and glasses Mary went to help her, taking them from Beth’s hands as she noticed a tremor that made her hands shake.

“Here Beth, let me.” She picked up the cloth and washed and rinsed the cups and sat them in the drainer to dry. “What is wrong Beth? You are very jumpy today,” she said with a smile.

“I don’t know Mary, I’m just really uneasy about going home. I mean, I want to, but I keep wondering if they’ll still love me I guess. I’m not exactly the same person who left there, you know?”

“In all the ways that matter you are. It will be fine Beth, I promise you. They will be so happy to see you again the rest of it won’t matter a bit.”

“Do you really believe that Mary?”

“I do.” She gave Beth a hug and they went back to the dining room to sit and chat with the others.

When it was time for the helicopter to come back the men carried the luggage down to the beach and returned for the boxes of gifts from Mary and Tim. “I can’t believe how much stuff you’re taking back for heaven’s sake! I didn’t send this much up here to begin with!” Josef groused as he lifted a box that was heavily laden with apple butter.

Beth rolled her eyes and looked around the foyer wistfully as they heard the chopper coming in to land. “Well, it’s time to go,” she said and took a step outside the door, with everyone following her. Mick pulled it closed and ensured that it was locked and the alarm set before he followed the group to the beach, catching up easily.

The helicopter had just come to a landing as they got there. The bags and boxes were carefully loaded in the cargo area and then it was time for goodbyes. After Tim and Mary received hugs Tim noticed that Beth was tearing up.

“There is no Cheyenne word for goodbye. Ip’tele’hap’o,” he said with a raised hand that he moved along his chest, palm outward. “That means ‘see you when you travel this way again.’ We’ve promised to come to LA soon, so we’ll see you then.”

Beth nodded and climbed aboard the helicopter and sat down and buckled in as Mick shut the door and the automatic locks clicked into place. They lifted off swiftly and soon they were over the sound and Tim and Mary couldn’t be seen any longer, only the grayish waters of the sound.

Before long they spotted the small airport and saw the jet sitting on the tarmac waiting for them. The sun was just beginning to dip into the placid waters of the Pacific as they took off and banked south. Beth sat back in her seat and stared out the window as Seattle fell away into the dusk.

Mick sat beside her and squeezed her hand and grew concerned as he felt how it trembled. He watched her swallow hard and breathe deeply, as if she felt ill again.

“Beth, are you alright? You are very pale again.”

“No – yes. I don’t know. Why am I so scared Mick?”

“I don’t know baby, but it will be okay, really. Why don’t you feed a bit more? Beth you are so pale that I’m really worried about you.”

She nodded, the movement jerky as she swallowed hard again. She felt as if she had a tennis ball bobbing in her throat. Mick went to the small fridge on board and poured some blood into a tumbler for Beth to drink. He caught Josef’s glance as he did so and realized that Josef was worried as well.

Beth waited even though she really didn’t want that cold, refrigerated blood but for Mick’s sake she would drink it. Really, she wasn’t much hungry, but the blood might help her nerves. She looked out the window to the east and saw the moon rising, full and bright. The harvest moon her mom used to call it, when it was full and orange-tinted. It was beautiful and looked huge sitting in the dark diamond speckled sky.

Lani sat quietly, thinking about the day in Seattle. Beth was still Beth but there was something wrong with her; Lani didn’t know what it was but something wasn’t right. Maybe she was just worried about going home, but Lani doubted it. If Beth were still human Lani would swear that she was coming down with a bug, but vampires couldn’t catch viruses could they? She didn’t think so, but then, what did she really know.

She caught Beth gazing out the window at the full moon and sighed, it was so beautiful. It reminded her of the moon at Josef’s, the night they jumped off the cliff. It wasn’t full that night of course, but it was still lovely. She absently stroked the twin marks on her arm, marks that were nearly gone and she felt a tingle in the pit of her stomach which for some strange reason caused a blush to spread upwards. She caught Josef looking at her and quickly lowered her eyes, avoiding his gaze.

When Lani rubbed his mark it had sent a bit of electricity shooting straight to Josef; their connection was strong, stronger than any he had ever experienced. It scared him, he loved her and he had never managed to make love work in his life – or last for that matter. He hoped with all his heart that he wouldn’t hurt her, or that she wouldn’t hurt him. It was a sobering thought for the young man’s heart that lived in an ancient vampire’s body.

It was a quiet trip home for them; all four were each lost in their own thoughts. Beth had drunk a glass of blood for Mick and fought the urge to vomit. She didn’t tell him that because he would have worried even more than he already was. She wanted fresh blood, she needed it but she was afraid to tell Mick that either. He was against the idea of freshies but she was afraid that she couldn’t live without them. Maybe it was just a matter of adapting, she wasn’t sure but she was going to try; she promised herself that she could do it.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Heroku had discovered from Thor, (a very strange name for a modern man Heroku thought) that Josef’s jet was due back to LA a little before 10:00 pm. He planned to meet them at Mick and Beth’s home, but first he had a stop to make. He hoped to be there when they returned home but as luck would have it, it didn’t quite work out that way.

By the time the limousine dropped the travelers off at Mick and Beth’s she was really shaky and gripped the walls of the lift to stay upright. She and Lani entered the loft and she immediately pulled her jacket off and headed for the kitchen, knowing that Josef would have stocked in blood for them. Lani followed her, keeping watch as Mick and Josef went back downstairs to bring the rest of the bags up.

Lani pulled off the hoodie because it was much warmer here. As she did so Beth saw her arm and dropped the carafe of blood that she had been holding. It dropped to the tiled floor and blood and glass sprayed everywhere in the pristine kitchen. She flew over the kitchen counter and grabbed Lani’s arm, looking at the two tiny puncture marks.

Lani tried to pull back because she’d never seen Beth like this – her eyes were a deep, brilliant blue with other colors swirling in them, almost like opals. Yes, opals, that what they looked like she decided. “Beth?” she said as she heard her growl, low and deep.

Beth scented Josef on Lani now, the scent was all over her and Beth couldn’t believe that she hadn’t picked up on it earlier. Another growl issued forth from her and she said, “Josef! He bit you!” For a moment Beth was momentarily mesmerized by the river of deep blue veins that seemed to pulse on Lani’s neck and arm.

She needed blood, fresh blood but not Lani’s – never Lani’s she knew. She dropped Lani’s arm as she heard Josef and Mick come in the door and Beth sprang at Josef, going for his throat. “You bit her!” she growled. She was totally vamped out and she needed blood, real blood. The elevator dinged and suddenly she caught the scent, the scent of what she needed.

Heroku panicked for a moment as he heard the tone in Beth’s voice. Was he too late he wondered, heading quickly to the door? He motioned to Kenji to wait outside for a moment while he stepped into the loft, quickly assessing the situation.

Mick was shielding Lani, figuring that Josef could hold his own with Beth when he heard the elevator and footsteps in the hallway outside the door, which they had left open when he and Josef realized that Beth was vamped out.

“Lani, run!” a voice from the doorway said and they all looked up to see Heroku standing there. “RUN NOW!” Lani scooted around Beth and Josef and ran out the door, stabbing the elevator button over and over until the door opened. She ran to her car downstairs, glad that she had the keys in her pocket.

Beth was growling again, fangs fully extended and Heroku spoke calmly to her. “Beth, you need blood, you need to feed.” He stepped out the door and brought a young man in, but stood protectively in front of him. “He is going to feed you, but you need to control yourself first. Can you do that?” He talked in a hushed, urgent tone of voice and Mick and Josef both realized that he was using allure to help calm Beth.

She eyed the young man and spotted the veins on his neck and lifted her head to scent his blood. Fresh blood. She took a step towards him, knowing instinctively that this was her only chance.

For survival…



With arms wide open
Now everything has changed
I'll show you love
I'll show you everything
With arms wide open
With arms wide open




The end that is just a beginning…



I want to thank each and every one of you that have read and enjoyed the story as well as those who have taken time to comment. Your kind words and gracious appreciation always make the difference to a writer, they inspire us and encourage us to keep going, to continue with the story. Your feedback is a precious gift to me, thank you with all my heart.

I also want to say thank you to Moonlightlover60 and VampFan5, both of whom have played such important parts in this story. Lynn, you exquisite pictures inspire me and help to bring this story to life. Julia, you are my partner in crime, my sounding board and I wouldn’t know what to do without those Wednesday night calls that help keep me on course.

The next story is called Barely Breathing and takes up right where this one left off, no worries. I’ll have information and pictures posted for it very soon and I anticipate that we will start the story on Thursday, March 8.

Again, thank you all, my Moonlight family and thank you Mick and Beth for bringing us together and being the wonderful inspiration that lights the way!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chapter 26

Lani met Josef at Mick and Beth’s loft early Monday morning.  When she got there she found a very industrious cleaning crew, strangely dressed all in black who were thoroughly cleaning the penthouse with Josef standing ever-watchful guard to make sure that it was done correctly, his way.  Lani saw several of the crew cast baleful looks at him behind his back and she also say him smiling with amusement when they weren’t looking.  Some sort of twisted game she realized. 

“Lani!” he said, welcoming her into the controlled chaos.  “Come and see what I just had delivered as a welcome home gift.”

Lani laughed and said, “We’re getting them gifts?  I would have brought some wine.”  She laughed and followed Josef up the stairs into a room behind a gray door.  She knew that the room had been Mick’s room although she’d never been inside. 

Inside was something that looked very strange to Lani; a large rectangular box that was very high tech looking.  She had no real idea what it could be except that since vampires slept in freezers she knew that was what it must be, even if it didn’t resemble any freezer she had ever seen before.  “A freezer?”

“Not just a freezer Lani, a Millennium X3000, the Cadillac of freezers, or maybe I should say the Ferrari,” he told her with a grin.  He pushed a button and the lid lifted with a ‘whoosh’ sound that reminded her of the lift doors on Star Trek. 

“Wow, I’m impressed, I think.  Does it fly or travel back to the future?” she teased since the door had lifted like a DeLorean. 

“Funny,” he quipped and then proceeded to show her all the accoutrements that the freezer had; padded sleeping surface that didn’t freeze, dual temp controls, on and on the list of features amazed her.

“Hm, maybe I need one of these puppies; certainly has more features than my plain old bed,” she laughed.

“If you were a vampire, you most certainly should!” he told her and caught her eye.  For a breathless moment they stared at one another, each scared to speak again.  Such simple little words, teasing words, which left them both wordless, neither knowing how to respond.

They heard a knock on the door below and Lani smiled and said, “Oh, my gift has arrived!” 

Josef followed her down the stairs, enjoying the way she lightly almost skipped down the stairs in her excitement to get to the door.  One of the cleaners stood with a delivery person who had a cart that held several dozen roses.  The cleaner signed for them and turned to look at Josef with a questioning look.

“Hey, I had nothing to do with it,” he told her.

“I had them delivered. Beth loves these deep pink roses,” she told them, inhaling the sweet scent.  To the cleaners the scent was almost over-powering and they wondered how a newly turned vamp would be able to handle the aroma.

Another knock sounded and the cleaner who answered the delivery opened the door once more, muttering “What is this, Grand Central Station?”

“Not quite my dear, but a trip there could be arranged for you,” Tango said as he walked in, not at all pleased by the tone the cleaner had used.  

Chrissie looked contrite and quickly headed back to dusting the living room.  Tango watched and then took a quick glance around the room to find all of his crew diligently bent to their tasks.  He smiled and walked to the kitchen where Lani and Josef watched and Lani fussed over the roses.  “Lani and Josef, how good to see you both!  You’ve both recovered well I see,” he told them and was rewarded by a beautiful pink blush that spread over Lani’s neck and face along with a heartbeat that fluttered rapidly for a moment.

Humans couldn’t appreciate how lovely and enticing a blush was to a vampire or how jealous they felt over the human’s ability to produce the look.  Tango had zero interest in being human again, but that didn’t mean he didn’t enjoy being around humans and their beguiling attributes.

“Tango, what brought you here so early this morning?” Josef asked, not sure he liked how Lani had responded to his friend.

“Just making sure all was going as planned.  Did the freezer get here okay?   
Didn’t you tell me that it was the same one you had delivered when she was turned?”  At Josef’s nod of assent he continued, “Lani, what did you think of it?  Quite comfortable looking isn’t it?”

“I – uh, y-e-s,” she finally got out as she cast a quick look at Josef from under lowered lashes and managed a delightful blush again. 

Tango couldn’t help but wonder what that one was about and for a moment he mulled over following the devil side of his soul but then decided that Josef was involved enough that he likely wouldn’t take kindly to too much teasing of ‘his lady’ as Tango thought of Lani.  Question was, did Josef think of her that way?  As he watched their demeanor a bit he realized that Josef did.

Tango had seen Josef go through life, so many lives in fact, alone and lonely.  When he found Sarah, Tango had been so happy for him but that happiness had quickly turned to heartbreaking grief as it became apparent that Sarah wasn’t going to awaken from her turning. 

Tango knew that he personally was appealing to the ladies, even without the vamp allure.  He lived life on the edge and that was a big draw.  There had been a time in the past when Josef had shared that lifestyle but Tango 
always knew that Josef wanted more, however much of a player he pretended to be.  Not that Tango exactly considered himself a player but he had no intention of ever settling down, if he hadn’t felt that desire in 200 odd years he doubted he ever would.  If the ladies enjoyed his charm and wit, who was he to not enjoy himself too.

Was Lani the right woman for Josef?  One thing that Tango had learned over the years was how to be a good judge of people, a skill that had come in handy in his long life, both within the military and in his other endeavors.  Tango thought that Lani was perfect for his friend; intelligent, sassy and well able to hold her own with Josef.  Tango admired the hell out of that little hellion and he knew just by looking at her that she had been a hellion.   As the blush slowly faded away from Lani Tango said, “Well, I have other things to check on; I like to spot check on my crews to see how they are doing.  Josef, did you realize that profits are up 23% since I took over?  Life is good,” he said with a twinkle in his eyes.

“Saw that Tango, makes it better for everyone when they share the spoils I think.  Miguel is extremely pleased as well.”  They headed back down the stairs as the cleaning crew was packing up their tools and cleaning solutions.

Lani sniffed the air but couldn’t really detect any smell of whatever they had used.  It made sense she supposed, vampire noses would be more sensitive so they probably used products without scents added to them.  As she looked around the loft she smiled at how lovely it looked, clean and sparkling and she knew that Mick at least would approve since he was such a clean freak.
She listened as Tango told his crew what a thorough and flawless job they had did.  She waved at him as he left with them and turned her attention to the two large vases of roses as she tried to decide where to put them.  They didn’t exactly go with the d├ęcor but Beth had been adding a few of her own personal touches here and there and the room wasn’t quite as sterile looking as when she first saw it.  Not that Lani didn’t appreciate it that way because her own world was much like that too, only with lighter colors.

She sat one vase on the table in front of the door so that Beth would see it as soon as she walked in and the other on the dining table.  Two bright spots of color in the darker background of the room.  She nodded with approval at her choices.

“Looks lovely Lani.  Are you ready to head to the airport?  My jet is waiting whenever we get there.”  She nodded and they left the loft and headed to catch the jet.  She was very excited to be on their way.

OOOOOOOOOOOO

Luca looked at his ringing cell phone, another ‘unavailable’ number and Luca knew exactly who it was.  He’d ignored the calls for the past week, but whoever the mystery caller was he evidently didn’t give up.  He punched the call button and said, “Yes?”

“Well you finally decided to answer detective.  What have you found out?”

“Nothing, I’ve found out nothing because I’m not looking.  I don’t know what kind of game you’re playing but you need to know that you don’t play with cops.  I’ve had enough and if you ever, ever, contact me again I’ll hunt you down and you’ll be sitting your ass in jail for a long time.  Got that?”

“Trust me detective, you want in on this; don’t piss me off or you’ll be the one sitting in jail wondering how you go there because you neglected to pursue justice.”

“Look slimeball, there is nothing to investigate, only some sort of vendetta or hoax, take your choice but I mean what I said, don’t call me again.”  Luca pushed the end button and sat back in his chair, his body rippling with tension.

“Hey, you ready to go out on the Murdock case?” Carl said as he sat down at his desk which faced Luca’s.  Luca had been like a bloodhound, trying to prove himself when he first came to the force but he had relaxed a bit and Carl kind of liked him now.  But right now he was curious because something was obviously wrong with his partner.  “Hey man, what’s up?”

Luca gave Carl and level look as he debated whether or not to tell him about the list, the calls.  Finally the decision made he said, “Let’s go out to the car and I’ll tell you.”  He looked around the squad room with suspicion, not feeling like he could speak freely in front of everyone.

As they settled into the low-key sedan and Luca explained what was wrong and Carl listened in fascination.  Someone really wanted that list to be investigated; unfortunately, Carl knew why they wanted it investigated, just not who wanted it done.  Luca apparently didn’t know why or who, which could only work in favor of the vamps. 

“So what do you think Carl?  Should I be tracking down the names on that list?”

“Ben saw that list months ago and determined it is just a hoax, a nut case looking for attention Luca.  Maybe we should be looking for who is doing it instead of why.”  Carl didn’t know that the vamps had already figured out who it was, but he figured that if Luca was looking at any of it better the who then the why.

“Okay Carl, let’s see if we can find this crazy son of a bitch.”


OOOOOOOOOOOO


Lani looked down at the Pacific 25,000 feet below them.  It looked so blue from up here and very calm.  The jet streaked along the coastline heading for a small airport north of Seattle where they would take a helicopter across Puget Sound to get to Mick and Beth’s.  Josef had explained that they didn’t have to do that but that it was much quicker than landing at SeaTac and then making the car journey that involved the ferry.  That actually took almost as long as the flight up to Seattle in the first place.

“So this is the place that Mick moved to when he left LA when Beth was 17?”   
At Josef’s nod she continued, “Did you know that she knew when he left?”

“She knew?  How?” he asked, puzzled.

“I don’t exactly know, she felt it sort of.  She always knew that he was out there, watching her.  We always, she, Robbi and I talked about Beth’s ‘shadow man’ because we all thought we caught glimpses of him from time to time.  Then one night, she woke up in a cold sweat and knew that he was gone – she couldn’t feel him any longer.  She cried for days Josef, it nearly broke her heart.  We didn’t know what had happened; maybe he had died tragically or he had decided to watch some other little girl.  We didn’t realize how strange that would have been,” she told him with a smile, child predators being what that was called.

Josef was astounded by what she told him; they knew?  They knew that Mick had been there in Beth’s life.  He didn’t know what to say.

“I sort of liked to think he was watching over me too, you know?  Even though I knew that he was Beth’s shadow man.  Still, it made me feel better, safer.”
Josef felt a cold stab of hatred spear his heart at the thoughts of what this little one must have gone through in her young life and made his doubly determined to avenge her.  He swallowed to ease the ache in his throat and said, “You know that you are safe now Lani?  He can’t hurt you anymore and neither can your mother.”

“Yes, I know.” She gave a careless shrug and pursed her lips while she considered those words for a moment.  They were true, they hadn’t been able to hurt her for a long while and much of the credit for that went to her grandparents.  “I miss Beth so much but I’m also nervous to see her.”

“Why?”  Surely she couldn’t think that Beth would hurt her?

“I don’t know exactly.  She’ll be different now in some ways.  The basic layers of our friendship have changed.”

“No, they haven’t.  Beth will still be the Beth you know and love Lani.  You’ve talked to her on the phone, you know that.  That being said, some of the activities you have shared in the past will be different, but nothing that you can’t handle.  I personally think that Beth will make a wonderful vampire; I always told Mick that.  Mick on the other hand, well in many ways he would have been better off never having been turned.  I told Coraline that before she did it.”

“You knew her?”  Lani had heard things from Beth about Coraline/Morgan and she knew how much pain the woman had caused in Beth’s life.

“Yes, unfortunately I did.  Met her a long, long time ago, way before she met Mick.  Coraline is a selfish, scheming and depraved individual and that’s a tough thing to acknowledge since many vampires can be described the same way, myself included in the past.”

“But you’ve changed?” Lani asked because that didn’t sound like the Josef she knew at all.

“Lani, the very nature of vampires means that survival is our number one priority and when you are surrounded by a humanity that is paranoid and set against beings that are not like them, well sometimes you find yourself doing things you wished that you hadn’t done.  It’s inevitable.  Make no mistake; we all have that dark side, humans and vampires alike; the important thing is how we control it.  Those two that attacked you in Japan were despicable and a horrible introduction to our kind but make no mistake, there are others out there just like them.”

Lani digested his words carefully and knew them to be the truth; Heroku has told her the same thing.  The truth was that she couldn’t go backwards, not ‘know’ any longer about vampires.  She had to find a way to go forward and not let the fear of them rule her life.  There are good and bad, of human and vampires both and all she could do was to try to accept that and stay out of their way. 

“So you don’t think that Coraline should have turned Mick?  Beth says he hates being a vampire.”

“Well, the truth is that I don’t believe that he hates being a vampire so much.  He saw when Beth was kidnapped as a child and by Pearce Anders that being a vampire saved Beth and he’s saved others as well like Audrey.  The power, the abilities are incredible.  What Mick actually hates, in my opinion, is what he perceives that he lost by being turned.  I’ve often thought that if Coraline would have told him before hand as I suggested that he might well have accepted it.”

Life would certainly have been different for Beth had that happened.  Lani herself would probably stayed on the same path but how would it have felt to be the one that carried that secret, unable to tell Beth or Robbi?  Not good, not good at all.

“What does he think he lost?”

Josef smiled and said, “I don’t know exactly; mom, apple pie and the white picket fence?  Not for me to say but in reality I wonder if he would have had that anyway.  Mick apparently came home from the war a changed man, which I can understand.  War does things to a man, human or vampire.  He drifted a bit then, not as in moving around but from what a ‘good’ man was expected to be, at that time.  His unhappy love affair with his best friend’s wife probably caused some of that too.”

Lani caught the war reference and wondered about that because the comment seemed to come from personal experience for Josef but she didn’t ask.  Maybe someday.  Lani knew about Mick’s affair after the war with his childhood friend and how he had disappeared when Ray came home.  Beth thought that it had devastated Mick and what was even worse was the thought that for a very brief time he thought he might have had a family.  And family she reminded herself was something a vampire couldn’t have, not in the traditional sense.
Josef stared sightlessly out the window, still thinking about Mick.  “He was playing in a band when Coraline found him although I often wondered if she hadn’t spotted him in Europe during the war and followed him here eventually.  She was certainly obsessed with him.  Anyway, living a rather deviant lifestyle at that time, when society was focused on rebuilding, the country and relationships, playing in a band in bars most nights and getting a little wild and crazy to boot, well, he was rebelling and his parents were pretty unhappy with him he said.  He met a wonderful woman at that time and planned to marry her, but Coraline came along and I believe used allure on him, although she denies it and within a month he married her.  So, that picket fence, family, all that was ripped from him and it’s so easy to mourn what we never had; you build it up to proportions that couldn’t possibly be lived up to.”

Lani nodded, realizing how true Josef’s words were.  She’d done that her whole life, wanting, expecting to find a family to love her, someone to share her life with.  After she was an adult she realized she was the one that was lacking, the one that couldn’t make it work.  Would this time be any different?


OOOOOOOOOOOO


Beth and Mick were all packed and ready to go.  Josef had called from the airport and they were getting ready to board the helicopter that would bring them over the sound.  Beth was very nervous, fidgeting all morning.  She drank her blood but said that it just didn’t ‘taste’ right and Mick knew that she was thinking about feeding fresh.

Josef had been delighted to hear that Beth had liked feeding fresh and of course agreed with her that it would be good for them but he hadn’t pressed the point, which had surprised Mick. 

The reasons he had stopped feeding fresh were all still valid; he did not consider himself a predator any longer but now there were other reasons to consider as to why he didn’t want to do it. 

Rich had handled it very well, but Mick was realistic, most humans couldn’t and Mick knew that he couldn’t sit by and watch some guy getting off because his wife was feeding from him.  And he seriously doubted if Beth would like it if she watched him with a female.  It might not be intimate to the vampire but it sure as hell was to the human – the exception to that was when the vampire was your mate.  How could either one of them control themselves in that situation? 

Fresh was better for you?  He couldn’t deny that; he might be a stubborn guy but he wasn’t stupid and he knew that bagged blood was a poor substitute.  For a fledgling, well it might be very important for them to feed fresh he told himself.  He had, but the circumstances were different then.  Coraline had carried it to the extreme, killing off their victims and he gradually got to where it didn’t matter any longer.  Those lives, so many lives he’d taken in the past and he couldn’t trust himself not to fall into that again. 

Sure, he’d fed fresh with Josef lots of times, but it was different with Josef, more sport than anything.  Could he stay in control and not let what was the nature of the vampire exalt in the fresh blood? 

He glanced up at his wife as she paced nervously around the room.  She was a pale, paler than normal that is and it worried him a bit.  Watching her was like watching a jungle cat pace a cage; she was graceful and lithe as she walked but he could see that she was about ready to pounce on something.

“Beth, baby are you sure you don’t need to feed a bit more?”

“No Mick, I’m fine.  I’m just anxious; what if she hates me now?”

“She won’t hate you Beth.  You’ve talked to her most days since you’ve been here, she doesn’t hate you.”

“She killed someone because of me Mick – how could she not hate me for having to live with that?”

“Beth, if it had been her that was attacked, what would you have done?”

Beth sighed and said, “The same.  Oh Mick, I wish they’d get here!”

Suddenly they both heard the rotors in the distance and he said, “Come on, let’s go down to the beach.”

It only took a few seconds for them to make it to the beach at vamp speed and they were there waiting as it set down about 50 feet from them, kicking up dry sand and causing frothy ripples on the water that lapped at the shore.  Beth stood still, waiting for the door to open, her hands clasped nervously in front of her.

Finally the door opened and Josef stepped out and then lifted Lani down.  They both ducked to avoid as much rotor wash as possible and then ran to where Mick and Beth waited.  The copter took off, heading back to Seattle.
Beth and Lani stood a few feet apart, staring at one another and then they fell together, hugging tightly while tears streaked both of their faces.  Neither could speak as they were both caught up in the moment of seeing one another again.

Mick and Josef shook hands and then did a guy hug, one hand patting the other on the back and Josef looked over at the girls with an approving smile.

“They both needed this it seems.  Lani has been a mess today, waiting to see Beth.”

“So has Beth; she’s a bundle of nerves.”

Finally the girls pulled apart and Beth ran to Josef and pulled him into a warm hug while Mick hugged Lani.  That was when he caught the scent and cast a 
look at Josef, who looked away guiltily.

What the hell??

“Josef, why don’t we let the girls walk ahead of us and we can catch up,” Mick said.  The girls were already striding to the house, hands linked and chattering away.  When they were out of even vamp earshot Mick squared off in front of Josef and said, “What the fuck have you done Josef?”

“Hey, it’s not like you think, okay?  I didn’t take advantage of her Mick.”

“The hell you didn’t.  Your fangs in her equal taking advantage.”

“No!  It’s all Beth’s fault actually.  She evidently told Lani about the desert and Lani got it into her head that she needed to get drunk and make me feed from her when I got shot.”

“She was drunk?  You fed from her when she was drunk?” A vicious growl emanated from deep within his throat Mick stepped back, out of arms reach because right now he wanted to beat the crap out of his best friend.  “Wait, you got shot?” The rest of Josef’s statement finally sunk in.

“Yes, at the beach, protecting her I might add.  Well, and the Ferrari, from some punks intent on stealing it.  I got shot twice and Tango came to pull the bullets out and he mentioned to her that the only way a vamp could feel the 
effects of alcohol was if the blood they drank was full of it.”

“And so she saw you, probably carrying on like a whining baby and decided to shut you up with her blood?”

“Sort of.  Look, I’m not proud of it Mick.  And as it turns out, it meant something – to both of us.”

Mick saw the truth starkly written on Josef’s face; he loved Lani.  I’ll be damned, he really loves her.

Mick didn’t know what to say; Josef was in pain and still caught up in guilt and Mick could relate to that.  “Come on into the house Josef.  We can talk about this later.  But I wouldn’t want to be you when Beth finds out.”

“Yes, well let’s just make sure to keep any sharp, pointy objects away from her until after that, okay?”

“You got it buddy.  Man, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes for anything!”

To be continued…  

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chapter 25

Chapter 25

Carl stood in front of Cami’s door, hesitating for a moment before he knocked. If what he had heard in Seattle was true she probably already knew that he was there but he just wasn’t sure what to say to her. Frankly confronting Josef and then Beth and Mick had been easier.

What if she was mad because he knew and hadn’t said anything? What if she felt that he had been using him for information or that he was playing out some fantasy? None of that was true but he could see how she might be upset with him, if not full out angry.

He was crazy about her; hell he was half way to loving her. She was beautiful for sure, but she was so much more than that – she was intelligent and funny and shy and she just ‘got’ him, the same way he ‘got’ her.

He wiped his hands down his jeans because his palms were sweaty as hell and then he made sure his royal blue polo shirt was tucked in neatly. It was now or never and he raised his hand to knock on the door.

Inside, Cami was well aware that Carl was outside her door. She scented him, the clean masculine and woodsy smell of his soap and she heard his heartbeat which was beating strangely fast. Oh god, was he going to break up with her?

No, no, no please she thought. She hadn’t ever felt like this before, certainly not with Edmund. She didn’t want to lose Carl, couldn’t bear the thought of losing him. She knew that she had to be honest with him but she’d never told a human that she was a vampire before and she feared that if she waited any longer she would lose him for sure but what a shock for him.

Tonight they planned to just stay in and watch a movie and she thought that this was the right time but what if he wanted to break up with her before she could even be honest with him? This is why secrets are so bad, but as a vampire she had no choice.

Finally she heard the knock and she immediately brushed her hair back from her face and looked down at her sun dress, hoping that she looked okay. She opened the door to face him and he immediately pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly.

“Hi,” she said, returning the hug.

“Hi yourself,” he whispered into her ear and pulled back a bit so he could see her face. He detected worry on her beautiful face and he leaned down and kissed her softly, savoring the sweet taste of her lips against his own. She opened her mouth and he accepted the invitation, seeking her tongue with his and stroking lovingly over it until he felt her relax in his arms.

“God I’ve missed you Cami. You look beautiful tonight; I should be taking you out instead of keeping you all to myself here. But I’m not going to – tonight you are all mine!”

She looked down, embarrassed to meet his eyes and he knew that if she were able she would be blushing. Instead she cleared her throat and said, “Come on in. I bought some beer, would you like one?”

“Sure,” he said following her into the kitchen. He tried to look away when she opened the refrigerator because he knew it would be empty of food but still he couldn’t resist a quick peek inside. Other than the beer and some wine the only other thing in there seemed to be some cheese. Must be for human guests like Lani he thought.

She pulled two beers out and opened a drawer to find the bottle opener and popped them both open. “Here you go,” she told him as she handed one to him. They clinked their bottles together and each took a sip of the icy cold brew. “Shall we go and sit down?”

They got comfortable on her couch and she rested her bare feet on the glass topped coffee table in front of them. Her apartment was an anomaly, or maybe the word was eclectic, a curious mixture of styles and era’s and somehow it all fit together perfectly.

Carl took another sip and then a deep breath, he had to just spit it out and hope for the best. “Cami, I’m crazy about you, I hope you know that.”

“But, there’s a ‘but’ in there Carl.”

“No, not a ‘but’, more like an ‘I have a confession to make’.”

Her eyes opened wide, wondering what on earth this could be. “Well, okay, what is it?”

He took another deep breath and let it out slowly. “Cami, I know that you are a vampire; I know that they exist. Josef, Mick, Beth now, others; I know about them.”

She jumped up off the sofa and hugged herself. She had not been prepared for the fact that he might know her terrible secret. Tears started running down her face and she was totally unaware of them until she felt them drop onto her chest. She hastily wiped them away, turning away from him in shame.

Carl stood up and set his beer down on the table and went to her, wrapping his arms around her and holding her in his arms. She was facing away from him and he could feel her body trying to hold back her anguished sobs. “Shh Cami, it’s alright. I don’t care baby, I don’t care. It doesn’t matter to me.”

She turned in his arms and pushed against his chest and stumbled backwards. “How can you say that Carl? You don’t know, you really just don’t know what it’s like. You’ll hate me when you know.”

“No I won’t. I know Cami, I understand. I just got back from Seattle this morning; I talked to Beth and Mick and let me tell you, she was pretty open about things.”

“You saw Beth? Oh my god, you could have been killed Carl!”

“Yeah, they told me that; I mean it, I do understand Cami.”

“How can you care about me, knowing?”

“How did Beth care about Mick?” He smiled at her and pulled her over to the couch, sitting down with her on his lap. “I do care Cami, very, very much.” He watched her relax and when her arms crept around his neck he knew that it was going to be okay.

“I’m so sorry for not telling you on my own Carl. I – I just didn’t know how.”

“Yeah, I get that baby. It’s okay, I mean it Cami.” He took a chance and kissed her and felt her melt into him. He deepened the kiss searching her mouth and drinking in the sweetness that was Cami. He kissed her until they were both breathless and trembling. A low moan escaped from him and he heard her answering moan that sounded suspiciously more like a purr. “Um, Cami we need to stop baby, I’m losing control.”

“Are you afraid of making love with me Carl?”

“No, I know what will happen Cami. I told you, Beth was very explicit.” He grinned at her. “She also said I’d like it.” He gave her a cocky grin and traced a finger down her nose and over her lips, caressing them lightly as he saw how swollen they were from the kisses.

“I’ve never, um, I’ve never done that Carl. I’m afraid I’ll hurt you.”

He ran his fingers through her silken blonde tresses watching them cascade through his fingers like liquid honey. “We’ll wait until you’re ready, until you’re comfortable. I promise you, despite all the myths out there, we’ll both be okay.”

Somehow they both managed to pull themselves together and watch a movie. Each had a new awareness of the other; each touch, regardless of how brief was like electricity flowing between them. By the time Carl left he sincerely hoped that they got it figured out quickly. He might not die, but he was in for some uncomfortable nights he knew.

But damn it was good to feel this way again!



OOOOOOOOOOOOO



Mick arranged for a couple, Rich and Leah to come at 3 pm that afternoon for Beth’s lesson in feeding fresh. He hadn’t told Beth about it ahead of time because he wasn’t sure how she would react, whether she would be excited or nervous or both. He was sweating over it though and not because he was afraid she’d hurt them.

Rich and Leah specialized in working with fledgling vampires and both knew how to make it easier and more comfortable for themselves and the vamp, if the vamp were nervous.

No, Mick’s discomfort revolved around his own reaction to what was going to happen. Beth embraced each new thing that she learned and he knew she would do the same with this and most likely excel at it. She was good at the vein, as he well knew.

How would he handle the reactions that her bite would surely cause? It would kill him, or at least it would feel like that. He had to keep control of himself and that might not be easy. He knew that Josef was right, that she had to learn, but suddenly the shoe was on the other foot. He’d told Beth that it wasn’t a personal thing for vampires, explained about the difference between ‘food’ and ‘love’ and she got the concept. That being said, he was going to watch his wife, his mate feed off of someone else’s blood and even though it was only for nourishment whoever was feeding her would likely react to the bite.

If that bastard got a hard on he’d…what? What was he going to do? Nothing, not a damn thing. Suffer as he watched, that was what he was going to do.

He looked up as Beth came into the office to see what he was doing. She was fresh out of the shower and smelled wonderful; clean and with the tiniest bit of arousal as she eyed him sitting behind the desk. She looked at him, began to focus and he felt himself being pulled in and hastily looked away.

“Beth, remember about the allure? Stay focused on not using it, okay? Don’t concentrate quite so much.” He watched her face fall in disappointment, partially because she’d forgotten what she was trying to control and because she really was ready for a tumble in their bed.

“Okay, I forgot. It’s so hard Mick, it just seems to come naturally to do it. I – I just get a thought in my head and I ‘see’ it and want it to happen. I’ll try harder, I promise,” she told him with a shrug and a smile.

“It’s okay Beth. It’s just going to take time; honestly, I’ve never seen anyone have such a strong ability to use their allure as you do.” He leaned back in his chair and smiled at her. “Hey, I have a surprise for you this afternoon.”

She perked up, hoping that the surprise involved getting out of the house. He’d told her that there were some seriously big caves on the reservation and she wanted to go and explore them. “Yes?” she said, smiling at him hopefully.

Mick took a deep breath and let it out slowly, hesitating a bit longer, but a glance at the clock told him that Rich and Leah would be here in a few minutes. “Beth, I think you’re ready to learn how to feed fresh and in a few minutes a couple will be here to, well for you to learn with. They work with fledgling vamps and will help you.”

Her first instinct was to let out a whoop of happiness; she’d been waiting for this because she knew once she learned this she could go home and she really wanted to go back to LA. She missed her Mom and Lani and Robbi and the city. It was beautiful here, breathtakingly beautiful but she longed for sunshine and smog, god help her.

Mick could tell that she was trying to control her excitement and he had to smile; she embraced all this so easily, always willing to learn something new. How would it have been if he’d felt the same way? His world would have been completely different he knew and that probably meant that he wouldn’t have Beth in his life now; most likely he and Coraline would still be fighting their way around the world.

“It’s alright to be excited Beth,” he told her and watched as her smile turned into a laugh.

“I am excited Mick! How will it be different from when I feed from you?”

“Well, the pull of the blood will be much stronger Beth; the heartbeat can be almost hypnotic, the sound of the flow of the blood rushing through the veins is enthralling. You have to be very aware of that so that you don’t lose control. Don’t bite too deep or you’ll make the vein roll and don’t draw too hard or you’ll collapse the vein. It’s something that you learn with practice, okay? Both Rich and Leah have experience so listen to them.”

“Are you going to be there too?” For a moment she felt panic overwhelm her.

“Yes, I’ll be there, I won’t let you hurt them okay? I know you are ready for this Beth.”

They both heard a car drive up and then two doors open and close. She looked up and watched him as he rose to his feet and she suddenly realized he was nervous. She quickly went to him and pulled him tightly to her. “I love you Mick St. John. It’s only food, okay?”

He nodded, bending to kiss her quickly as they heard the knock on the door. “Okay, let’s go.”

Rich and Leah Landwehr were waiting with smiles as the door was open. Both immediately held out their hands in greeting and thanked Mick as he led them into the house. They appeared to be in their early thirties, both were tall and healthy looking.

“You must be Beth,” Leah said with a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, everything is going to be just fine Beth; Rich and I have done this before,” she said as she took in Beth’s look of nervousness. “Where can we sit and chat a bit?”

Beth led them into the living room and they all took seats and settled in. Leah had a small bag with her and when she noticed Mick staring at it explained, “I’m a nurse, inside are just bandages and such, just in case we might need them.”

She had a very positive and cheerful attitude and Beth relaxed and listened as Leah explained a few other things. Rich was mostly silent, agreeing occasionally with Leah or nodding.

“We’ve done this before and I can assure you Mick that we are very professional at what we do. We understand that it can be a bit scary at first, but we hope to make it an easy and pleasant experience for Beth and yourself. We ate earlier and are both well-hydrated so there are no worries there. We don’t take any supplements so there won’t be anything to cause a bad taste. You will feed a bit from both of us, to make sure you are comfortable with the bite. Beth, I am A- and Rich is AB-, do you have a preference as to which one to try first?”

“I – I don’t have a preference actually.” She looked at both of them and said, “I guess I’ll try Rich first.” She knew that Mick was dreading seeing her with a male freshie, although she wasn’t sure that what Rich and Leah did was considered ‘freshie’ work. Better to get that out of the way and pray that there were no unwanted reactions from Rich because it would be really hard for Mick to see; it would be very hard for her to see as well, or taste.

She was so anxious to do this and yet she suddenly felt very shy and a bit scared. She looked up at Rich and then Leah with a nervous smile, hoping that she didn’t seem like a total idiot.

“Okay Beth, we’re going to talk you through it, guide you okay? Rich is right handed so he’s going to sit to your left. Just sit back and get comfortable now. When you’re ready, hold his left arm firmly but try not to squeeze it too hard or you can restrict the blood flow. Just focus on the veins and decided which one you like.”

Mick watched and said in sub-human tones, “Remember what I’ve told you baby, use the scent to find a strong vein and stroke your tongue along it to find the place to bite. You can do this Beth,” he said as she looked up at him, suddenly unsure. He sat back in the chair, his legs crossed but Beth saw the tension in his posture and knew how hard this was for him.

Human veins were so different than vampire veins. The scent of the warm blood filled her senses as did the sound of his heart beat. He was actually relaxed and she was amazed at that. She let the change come over her, focusing on what she needed to do.

Beth bent her head low over his arm and found the vein she wanted. When she went to bite Leah said, “Beth, turn his arm a bit so that your bite is a bit more vertical. If you go in like you are the angle is too horizontal and you will likely roll the vein.”

Beth licked her lip and refocused and then bit him, breaking the skin and when the blood started flowing into her mouth she knew that she had managed to find the vein.

Rich’s breathing stayed even and she couldn’t detect any arousal in him at all and she was thankful for that. She wanted to sneak a look up at Mick but she stayed focused on what she was doing. She drank for a few minutes and finally she became aware that Leah was speaking to her.

“Okay Beth, gently pull your fangs out so that you don’t tear the skin.”

Beth did and then licked over them to seal them and looked down at his arm. The marks were a bit bigger than she would have wanted but not too bad. Leah immediately pulled gauze pads out and dabbed at the puncture marks, examining them.

“Looks good Beth, little tearing but they’ll heal well.” She pulled a small ice pack out and laid it over the marks while Rich moved to sit across from them.

“Okay, I’m left handed so I’ll sit on the right side of you. Same protocol as before and just relax! You did really well Beth,” she told the young vampire in a reassuring tone.

Beth held the arm that was offered and repeated a successful bite. Afterwards she and Leah looked at the bite marks and Beth saw that they were smaller than with Rich. She smiled, pleased that she did better this time.

Leah applied a bit of pressure to the bites and smiled at Beth before placing band aids over the marks with a grin. “Way to go Beth; you really did well.”

Mick stood up, pleased that Beth had done well but more pleased that it was over with. “Rich, I believe we have a bit of business? Come with me please,” he said leading Rich into the office.

Beth and Leah chatted while the men were settling the fee. “Leah, if you don’t mind me asking, how did you and Rich get into this line of work?”

Leah looked off in the distance for a moment and a sad smile flashed briefly over her face. “Seven years ago Rich’s little brother was attacked and left for dead actually. Except that he wasn’t. If Tim hadn’t found him it would have been very bad, but Tim and Mary took him in and fostered him until he was ready to be on his own. The medical aspects of it were astounding to say the least and we got involved with the community. So we help out where we can, like this.” She smiled at Beth and added, “You did very well you know; many aren’t as capable of such a clean bite so quickly.”

“It, it um, must not go so smoothly sometimes huh?”

“Not always, but we manage. We only do this once or twice a year really. It helps,” she said with a shrug.

“Mick is worried about me so I appreciate how helpful and professional you both are.”

“Why is he worried about you? You did fine.”

“Oh, not that. I um, have some strange abilities that concern him. I can taste food and at the town bazaar the other night I ate an Indian taco and didn’t throw it up,” she told Leah, watching as astonishment flashed across her face.

“You ate it? The whole thing and didn’t vomit?”

“Nope. The next morning, well, it was all fine. It tasted really good.”

“I’ve never heard of such a thing Beth. But you are obviously a vamp.” Leah didn’t know what to think about this information but she supposed that there could be different kinds of vamps out there; she’d just never met one before.

In the office Mick handed the check to Rich with a reserved smile. When Rich read it he said, “No, this is wrong. You don’t owe us this much.”

The check was a thousand dollars more than the negotiated fee. Mick was very impressed and more than a little grateful for how well it had went. He frankly didn’t know how Rich or Leah had resisted the power of the bite but they both had and it made it all so much better.

“Take it please. I can’t thank you both enough for making this easy for her, for both of us actually.”

Understanding dawned on Rich’s face and he nodded and said, “We’re professionals at this Mick and have learned how to control some of the associated issues with feeding.” He looked at the check again and said, “You’re sure about this?”

“I am.” Mick stood up and offered his hand and Rich accepted it enthusiastically. The two men walked out only to find Beth and Leah in the kitchen sipping coffee.

“I don’t have any caffeine for twenty four hours before we feed and boy, I needed this. Thank you Beth!”

Rich looked as Beth sipped her coffee and then glanced at Mick who just looked back and shrugged with a smile.

All in all, it had been a good day for all of them.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Ben carried a small box of investigative files from the evidence room back to his desk. He pulled the top off the box and watched as dust rose off of the lid, briefly sparkling in the afternoon sunlight.

Inside there wasn’t much to see; a bloody sheet wrapped in a bag, case notes and pictures. Ben read through the roughly 40 pages of notes and found nothing at all helpful in them. Investigators had interviewed family members of Mick St. John, his mother and father and his sister, a few friends. None of them knew anything about what happened that fateful night at the Beverly Hills Hotel bungalow. They really didn’t know anything about Coraline DuVall either for that matter. None of her family had come to the wedding and only one friend who disappeared about the same time as Coraline and Mick. Suddenly her name stood out – Cynthia Davis. She had owned Coraline’s house in the hills for a while he remembered. She was never interviewed after Mick and Coraline’s death because the police couldn’t find her. Did she kill them?

No way to tell really.

He started looking at the pictures of the room. It was a bloody, gory mess; the bed was saturated with blood and there were blood smears all over the room and the bathroom too. A lamp was broken and so was the bathroom mirror so there had obviously been a struggle. He stared at two really clear photos of bloody prints and an idea occurred to him – they were good enough to scan and run through the system.

In 1952 there was no such thing as DNA evidence but they did have fingerprint procedures. But – fingerprints were all looked at and compared by hand at that time, now they could be scanned by the computer.

The prints were old and it was a long shot, but worth a try. Ben took two of the photos down to the lab for processing. They should know in a day or so, maybe quicker. Maybe they’d find out who those prints belonged to after all these years.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Mick and Beth sat outside later that evening and talked about the afternoon. “Mick, it felt so good! I felt warm afterwards and the blood tasted so much better than the cold stuff we’ve been drinking. Why don’t you drink fresh?”

Mick’s eyebrows raised a fraction on an inch and thought about how he could have possibly explained to pre-vamp Beth that he fed from freshies. Yeah, that would have caused a war for sure.

“Beth, it’s just my choice to not feed fresh. I- after I rescued you I wanted, needed to change my life, stop using humans and so I didn’t drink fresh any longer.”

“But Mick, it was so much better! And it has to be healthier too, I felt incredible after I’d done it.”

“Are you telling me you want to feed from freshies?” he asked, blown away by her suggestion.’

“Well, maybe not all the time but Mick, that fresh blood had, I don’t know, a feeling of vitality to it. It’s like you growing fresh vegetables for me, not wanting me eating canned stuff. More vitamins you said, more nutritious. It has to be the same with this.”

“I can’t believe what you are suggesting Beth.”

“I, well, I’m not suggesting that we do it all the time for heaven’s sake but why can’t we a feed fresh couple of times a week? Mick, I felt so energized, so alive when I fed from Leah and Rich.”

Mick couldn’t deny the benefits of feeding fresh but he didn’t want to discuss it anymore right now. Instead he changed the subject. “I have another surprise for you, baby.”

“What?” she asked, eager to hear what it was.

“Well, in the morning we need to get packed because Josef and Lani are coming up here to take us home,” he said and watched as happiness spread across her face.

“Oh my gosh, you’re just telling me NOW?”

“Well, I wasn’t for sure until we saw how well you did with the feeding. You’re ready Beth, it’s time to go home.”

Home…yes, it was time to go home.



To be continued…

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Chapter 24

Lani came up the stairs wearing a pair of white shorts and a turquoise tank top. She was wearing a slightly unsure smile on her face as she looked around and spotted Josef sitting at the bar counter.

“Well, it seems you’re feeling better,” Josef stated. She was a bit pale but otherwise she looked okay.

Lani walked into the kitchen and sat down on a bar stool across from Josef. “Yes, much better thank you. That’s so unlike me but, um, well at least I’m feeling better now.”

Josef watched a slow flush spread over her face as she spoke, driven no doubt by thoughts of what had transpired last night. Was it the scotch or afterwards? Josef was curious but said nothing of course, a gentleman wouldn’t and he could be a gentleman at times. “If you’re hungry the fridge has food in it so help yourself.”

“Ooh, I am actually.” She slid off the stool and headed over to the large stainless steel appliance and opened it up, staring at the contents. She laughed as she pulled juice out of it and sat it on the counter and then spotted some bagels. Inside the fridge she saw a jar of peanut butter and grabbed it with a grin. “For me?” she asked, surprised that he had remembered. He nodded and she continued, “I’m sort of surprised actually – after earlier this morning I never thought I’d be hungry again!”

She carried her breakfast items to the counter and then went in search of a plate and a glass for the juice. Josef watched her move easily around the kitchen and admired her graceful movements as she stood on tip toes hunting for what she needed. He could have told her that the glasses were in the cabinet next to the sink but he was enjoying the view of long and limber legs and a firm if curvaceous bottom as they stretched to full length as she searched. He sat back with a grin and had to quickly wipe it off of his face as she turned around and walked back to the counter with her glass.

She opened the bottle of pineapple and orange juice, peeling the seal away and pouring a glass full and taking a long drink. She sliced the bagel in half and spread peanut butter over it liberally, licking a bit of peanut butter off of her finger when she smeared her finger instead of the bagel.

“There are a couple of banana’s over on that counter for you too,” he told her.

She looked over at the counter where he indicated and spotted a bowl of fruit – banana’s, an apple, some grapes too. She grabbed a banana and with a cheeky grin peeled it and sliced half of it onto the peanut butter bagel. “Mm, this hits the spot,” she told him as she licked a small dab of the gooey brown treat away from the corner of her mouth with her tongue. “Thanks for remembering.”

He shrugged with a smile as she continued to eat her breakfast. It smelled interesting and there were rare times when he wished he knew what something tasted like and this was definitely one of them. Peanut butter was not visually appealing but did smell good he had to admit. “Oh, I went to the car and got your purse; you left it in there last night and I thought you might like to have it.”

“Yes, thank you. My phone is in there, although it probably won’t matter because the battery will most likely need to be charged soon and my charger isn’t with me. I wonder if Beth tried to call, I haven’t heard from her for a couple of days actually. Have you?”

“No, not since I talked to Mick a few days ago. He is worried about Beth though, I know that much. She thinks she can taste food and it seems she is able to use her allure very well; had him jumping through hoops for her and neither one of them realized it. Still, I think it’s about time for her to be coming home soon. Mick may need a nudge to let her train to drink fresh though.”

Lani’s heart soared at the thought of Beth coming home soon, there was so much that she wanted to talk to her friend about and so much she needed to learn about her new life. Beth really was a vampire now; would she do to people what Josef had done to her last night. The memory almost choked her for a moment as a deep blush swept up her neck and face. She had never for a moment imagined it would feel like that; she wondered if it always did. The thought of her friend biting someone and making them feel like that was confusing for Lani. It was so personal, private; how could Mick let her do that to someone? She wanted to ask Josef that, but she couldn’t bring herself to voice the question.

Josef watched as Lani lightly chewed her lower lip and scented her embarrassment and confusion. No doubt it was about last night but he didn’t know what to say about it; he wanted it to be something special between them and she probably thought he had just taken advantage of her inebriated state. In her mind vampires were predators and how could he tell her that last night had meant something special to him when the fact was that vampires were predators? He was a predator because if it came to being the hunter or the hunted he was going to win the game. He decided to change the subject, sort of anyway.

“Carl came to see me the other day. He knows about vampires Lani.”

“What? How? I’ve never told anyone Josef, I swear it,” she told him in a panic, concerned that he thought she had told Carl.

“No, no, I know that you didn’t. He figured it out, well with a bit of help from Josh Lindsay anyway.”

“Josh? I’m confused.”

“Beth had written in her diary that Mick was a vampire and Josh read it and told Carl. Carl apparently didn’t believe it at the time but as he watched Mick over the next few months he began to figure it out.”

Lani was livid over Josh’s betrayal of Beth’s privacy. How could the bastard do that? Reading someone’s diary was so personal and that really said a lot about the kind of person he was. A sudden thought occurred to her, “Oh god, does Carl know about Cami?”

“Yes, he does although he hasn’t shared that with her. He seems to care about her a great deal.”

Lani nodded and said, “I think he does. Carl is a pretty faithful and loyal kind of guy Josef. It might not hurt to have a cop on your side.”

“You are absolutely right. I hope that it will all work out okay.” She was quiet for a moment and then said, “I just can’t believe Josh would read her diary. It’s so private. She loved him, trusted him.” It was so hard to trust people but when your trust is betrayed by the people you love it makes it harder to trust again. She didn’t give many people her trust, not on a personal level; she’d learned long ago that it usually caused pain. Very few people had shown her that they deserved her trust and she knew that she would do anything to protect them.

“So,” she said, looking around, “You said you have a pool? Mind if I use it today? Your friend was kind enough to include some sunscreen with the bathing suits.”

“Yes, I do, it’s just around the corner there and it’s fine. I hope you’ll enjoy it. There is a whole patio room attached to it so I can sit in the shade and read or something while you swim.”

“You don’t have to babysit me Josef, I won’t drown I promise. Actually I might not even swim. I’m going to lie in the sun for a while and just relax.” She carried her dishes to the sink and rinsed them off and looked in the dishwasher. There were two glasses in it already and she said, “Do you have someone who comes in and runs this?” She was positive that he didn’t do it.

“Yes, I have a housekeeper who comes in 3 times a week and she’ll take care of it so just put your dishes in there.”

After she put the peanut butter, bagels and juice away she said, “I think I’ll go and change now.”

“Wait, I want to show you something.” He walked to the basement door and stepped through with her and turned the light on and then held the door open as they stood on the landing. “This is a safety door Lani; it is made of titanium with heavy dead bolt locks on it.” He pointed to the thickness of the door and the thick dead bolts that sprung out on the side when he pushed the button. “This part of the house is a safe room, totally self-contained with its own water system, phone, ventilation and electrical system, all hidden. When the door is closed, nothing, except maybe a direct cannon blast is going to get through it.” He closed the door and pushed a button on the key pad next to the door and she heard the heavy locks click into place.

“Oh my gosh, that’s incredible. And there is a camera too, just like Mick’s.”

“Yes and you can change it to look at different camera’s around the property, or by pressing this button you can see all six views at once. If anything were to ever happen to me Lani, get down here and close this door, do you understand?”

“I – well, I don’t understand why that would happen but okay.”

He punched in a series of numbers and said, “Can you remember those? It’s the way to unlock the door.” She nodded and he continued, “Good. Don’t forget them. I’ll show you were to access the other things you might need.”

He took her into a room off of the den that was like a command center you would see in a movie complete with a huge computer set up, video screens, and phone. In the den itself there were cabinets with water and other supplies but she noted that there was little food and what there was was the freeze dried variety like the military used. She laughed at that but hopefully she wouldn’t ever have to see what it tasted like. She picked up a package that said, ‘Freeze Dried Ice Cream, chocolate flavor’ and laughed. “Dried ice cream, really?” She couldn’t stop the wry laugh that escaped.

Josef took the package and tore it open and dropped some of the small pieces into her hand. She popped them into her mouth and chewed them slowly. They weren’t anything like ice cream of course, but they actually weren’t half bad. “Wow, color me surprised!”

He only grinned at her surprise and handed her the packet so she could finish it. She looked around the room at the comfortable seating and a very large home theater system that covered almost one whole wall. Along with that were at least a thousand movies and she walked along them, reading the titles as she munched the freeze dried ice cream. She came to a whole section of Colin Firth movies and quirked an eye brow upwards inquiringly.

“He’s a good actor, I like his movies,” Josef defended.

“So you’re a Pride and Prejudice kind of guy, huh?” she teased.

“Hey, I lived during those times; it’s refreshing to see them portrayed so historically accurately. And Colin is a nice guy!”

“You KNOW Colin Firth?” Her eyes were round with surprise and envy. “Oh god, he’s not a…a…”

“Vampire? Can’t tell can you?”

“Don’t you dare tease me about this Josef!” she told him.

“Okay, he’s not. But I don’t hold it against him.”

Lani rolled her eyes and scoffed at his remark. “I’m going to change now if we are done with Survival Training 101 that is?”

“Sure, go ahead.” He watched her head into her bedroom with a chuckle. He loved teasing her.”



OOOOOOOOOOOO



As they had driven home from town the night before Mick had watched Beth carefully but she showed no signs at all of being sick to her stomach. She had enjoyed the ride home, windows down and again constantly scenting the air.

Mick had been prepared to deal with disastrous effects of that taco but there were none. This morning the remains had passed in the usual human way and Mick didn’t know what to think about that or what on earth was going on.

Beth apparently had some super abilities as a vampire; the allure, precognition, her perceptive abilities alone were twice as strong as his were but all of that he could understand. Being able to taste food, to ingest it was definitely beyond his ability to understand.

He needed to talk to Josef and reached for his phone. Beth was on the tread climber machine with headphones on watching Dr. Phil again and so he decided that now was the time. He waited impatiently for Josef to answer.

“Josef, I have to talk to you about Beth!”

“What has your fledgling done now Mick?” he said in his best long-suffering tone. He was sitting in a chaise lounge watching Lani lay in the sun; she was face down on the chair, her top untied. Josef suffered a good deal of angst watching, wanting to see what was hidden from his eyes. He forced himself to look away so that he could concentrate on what Mick was saying.

“Last night she ate a taco and didn’t throw it up, that’s what she’s done!”

Everything else that Beth had managed to do as a fledgling had mildly surprised him but this one floored him. It wasn’t possible, it just wasn’t possible – not if she were a vampire and he knew that she was. So where did that leave all this?

“Mick, I think you need to get her back here as soon as possible. Have you taught her to feed fresh yet? She needs to do that so that we can make sure she really is ready. And by the way, exactly where did she get that taco?”

Mick ran his fingers through the disheveled locks on his head, only managing to make them more tangled. “We went to a street fair last night, a town bazaar. She did great around all the humans Josef, no problem at all but she kept smelling the tacos and wanted one and I thought, well, when she eats it she’ll get sick and she won’t do that again.”

“But it didn’t work out that way did it,” Josef asked, opening one eye to peek at Lani as she turned over, clutching the bikini top to her chest with one hand. A soft bit of untanned skin could be seen before the top settled back into place and Josef sat up a bit straighter as he watched. God, he could even see beads of sweat on her skin, circling her navel and leaving a small trail as his eyes swept lower, to the lush expanse of tanned skin above the bottom of her bikini. He wasn’t sure what he appreciated more, the gentle swell of her bottom as she lay on her stomach or the taut skin of her stomach.

“Josef...” Mick repeated.

“What? I’m sorry. What did you say?”

“I said do you really think it’s necessary for her to learn to feed fresh?”

“Yes Mick, she needs that skill. I know she feeds from you just fine but if she ever had to feed fresh you don’t want her ripping someone apart because she doesn’t know how.”

Mick nodded, agreeing even though he hated the thought of his Beth feeding from someone else. He and Tim had talked about it and Tim had given him the names of a couple of people who were good when working with new vampires. “I have the names of a couple who specialize in new turns, I’ll give them a call,” he finally told Josef.

“Yes, you do that. Why don’t I plan on coming up in two days? Will that give you enough time?” He knew it was better to give Mick a definite deadline so that he’d move forward. “I’ll bring Lani with me if she wants to come and I suspect she will. We were just talking about you two at breakfast this morning.”

“At breakfast? What the hell is going on down there Josef?” Beth wasn’t going to be happy about this. “Lani is petrified of vampires; you know that Josef. Do not hurt her!” Mick said letting a bit of a growl creep into his voice.

Josef’s eyebrows raised a notch as he heard the growl and he smiled; still, he had to take a disapproving approach with Mick as the elder vampire. “She is fine; it is our business so keep the growls to yourself!” He couldn’t resist teasing Mick a bit, knowing where his imagination would take him.

Mick didn’t back down; he felt honor bound to stand up for Lani. “I meant what I said Josef,” he told him, dead serious.

Josef watched as Lani came gracefully to her feet, reaching behind her to tie the skimpy top and then she waded into the pool. Her lithe limbs propelled her through the still water causing small ripples on the surface. Maybe a swim wouldn’t be bad he decided. This end of the pool was in shadow now. He finally remembered that Mick was on the other end of the phone. “Yes, I know. I gotta go boyo.”

Mick heard the line go silent and realized Josef had hung up. What the hell was going on there anyway? It was definitely time to go home. He decided to keep this last bit of information to himself because if Beth found out she would certainly stake Josef. Of course, he’d help his friend by being sure to get that stake out, eventually anyway. Maybe…



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Josef did join Lani in the pool and they swam and chatted for awhile, both of them enjoying the quiet evening. At seven they went in to find something to eat; well, it wasn’t a hard decision for Josef but Lani struggled between chicken salad and some lasagna. The chicken salad won out and she sat it and a croissant on the glassed-topped patio table along with the bowl of fruit and a diet coke.

“Um, a feast,” she declared as she sliced the croissant in half and piled on the chicken salad which had walnuts, cranberries and celery in it. “This is wonderful,” she told him after her first bite. She wiped her lips with a napkin and Josef watched, wistfully wishing that it was her tongue.

He had to change the subject quickly or he was going to be in trouble. “How would you like to go with me to Seattle on Monday to pick up Mick and Beth?”

She laid her sandwich down and let out a squeal of happiness! “Yes! Oh, but we have to work on the set up Monday,” she said as she remembered that they were just beginning the training phase. She needed to get security set up for people in the system.

“Hey, I’m the boss and I’m declaring that we’re not working Monday, okay?”

“Well, if you put it that way,” she said with a grin. She sighed as she looked out at the Pacific; it was so calm today it definitely lived up to its name. Hardly any foam on the waves could be seen which was unusual; it wasn’t exactly mirror smooth but close to it.

Josef’s eyes were drawn to the two barely visible marks on her arm; they were healing quickly which was good. He had been surprised last night when he tasted her blood; she was AO-, just like Beth. It was such a rare blood type, they fact that she and Beth had grown up together and shared the same rare blood type was surprising – very surprising in fact.

She and Josef talked about the plans for the training process a bit and about Audrey, who would be leading the security team. Lani was excited to work with her because that girl definitely knew her way around the operating set up and system administration. Things were going to go well.

An hour later Lani stood up, watching as the sun was beginning to make its final descent in to the ocean and said, “I guess I’m going to go and shower. Shall we watch a movie? I’ll even let you pick it, as long as it’s a Colin Firth flick,” she laughed.

“Sure, a movie sounds good. But I want to show you something first. He stood up and held his hand out to her. He watched indecision flicker briefly over her face before she reached for his hand and stood up to follow him.

He led her on a short path to the edge of the cliff that the house was perched on. She looked down and saw the waves crashing against the rocks about 20 feet below. There was sort of a natural little cove below them with the arms of the rocks almost keeping it hidden.

“Sometimes when I come here I like to jump down into the water; it’s very exhilarating actually,” he told her as he watched her eyebrows rise in uncertainty.

“My goodness, that’s quite a leap – maybe not for a vampire though.”

“It’s actually only about 19 feet and the water is plenty deep. The idea is to time it right and its fine.”

“Hm, I guess when the water is rolling in?”

“No, actually you want to catch it just after it hits the rocks. Then count one, two and jump. If you jump when it’s on the way in the force of the water will carry you into the rocks. That’s not so good,” he said with a grin.

“So after it hits it pulls you away from them?” When he nodded she said, “That makes sense. Still it seems like a pretty far jump to me.”

“It’s not. Jump with me Lani?”

“What? Oh no, I couldn’t!”

“Sure you can. Count with me to learn the timing.” She listened and watched the waves. “One, two, now; one, two, now. See, it’s easy.” He held his hand out to her and she could only stare at it.

The thought of taking that leap was petrifying to her. She looked at him, his sherry brown eyes just catching the remaining glow of sunlight. “Trust me,” he whispered.

A breath caught in her throat and she glanced down again at the rushing water far below. Trust him? Let him in? Her heart sped up rapidly for a moment as she considered what he asked. Could he be one of the ones that she trusted?

Josef heard her heart beating frantically and waited patiently. This was a leap of faith for her, for both of them. He wanted to do this more than he had ever wanted anything. Again he said, “Trust me. I won’t let you get hurt.”

She nodded and held her hand out, wiping a tear away from her cheek with the other.

“Okay, count it with me. One, two, NOW!” and they were over the edge, falling through the air until they hit the water. Down they went until their feet touched the bottom, then they pushed towards the surface. When they broke through Lani laughed out loud and Josef joined her.

“Oh wow, I did it! I actually did it!” She threw her arms around him and hugged him tight. He tread water as he held her close and she wrapped her legs around his waist and smiled into his eyes. “Thank you.” She leaned forward and kissed him, her lush lips pressed against his for the briefest moment before she pulled back as a wave almost pushed them into the rocks.

Josef was amazed, it had happened so easily, so simply and it gave him hope that maybe they had a future. She was still scared and so was he, but he felt happier than he had felt in years. Hopeful, he actually felt hopeful.

“Come on, we have to swim around those rocks. Just hang onto me okay?”

She nodded as they headed around the rocks and walked up onto the small sandy beach. She saw steps leading back up the cliff and laughed as he picked her up and jumped to the top in a single leap. Now she knew what Beth had meant by the sexy vampire jumping thing. It was impressive.

Together they walked back to the house and each showered and met back in the den for the movie. Josef picked out a Colin Firth movie she’d never seen before called The Secret Laughter of Women. It was a wonderfully romantic movie and Lani enjoyed it as she sat munching popcorn and sipping a diet coke. They sat next to each other on the plush leather sofa, close but not really touching as Lani sat curled up under an afghan because the room was chilly. Both of them remembered the kiss as they said goodnight at their individual doors. Lani wanted to repeat it but she was scared that he didn’t want that.

Josef’s thoughts mirrored Lani’s. Maybe the kiss had been momentary excitement and didn’t mean anything. Maybe it did mean something; he’d never know if he didn’t kiss her now. He knew that they needed to go slow, which was almost a foreign concept to him; he who usually just grabbed what he wanted with little thought. But this would mean something to him and hopefully Lani too.

He took the ten steps to stand in front of her and leaned down, cupping her face in his hands and lightly brushing his lips against hers. Her lips yielded to his and he heard a faint sigh low in her throat. Soft, gently caressing and both satisfying and not nearly satisfying enough, the kiss spoke volumes for both of them.

He stepped away and then brushed a stray lock of hair away from her face. “Good night Lani.”

“’Night Josef,” she said as she stepped into her room and closed the door. She wanted to laugh out loud at how ridiculously good that kiss was; it was exactly what a first kiss should be, even if it technically wasn’t the first one but she didn’t really count the kiss in the water since it had been more of a reactionary kiss.

THAT was a kiss though, what they’d just shared. She hugged herself, grinning like an idiot. She felt like she was a teenager and she resisted the urge to run and jump onto the bed.

Oh, what the hell! She landed smack in the middle of the bed with a smile.

To be continued...