Many thanks to Moonlightlover60 for the visual enhancements for my stories. She helps to bring them to life. Lynn, you are awesome!
I am adding a song for this chapter, one that I feel goes very well with it. If you choose not to listen to it, you won’t miss out on anything. Either way, please enjoy this long awaited chapter.
So close, yet so far away…
The drive up the beach was wonderful; the sun was beginning to sink over the Pacific strewing the sky with brilliant golden hues interspersed with streaks of orange and red. Lani sighed and leaned back in the seat, content and comfortable for the first time in a while.
Josef was still thinking about when she had answered her door earlier. If it were possible for a vampire to have his breath taken away he had surely suffered that fate. She was stunning he decided, no doubt about it. She was dressed in some sort of gauzy trousers, wide legged and billowing in the breeze. The tunic top was halter style and left her back bare. A chunky silver chain belt hung low on her waist and silver jewelry was also present on her wrists, delicate little bangles that tinkled when her hands moved. An exquisite choker circled her neck with a lustrous amethyst hanging from it. White strappy sandals completed her ensemble and while she was breathtakingly beautiful he also clearly got the message that she was off limits.
He couldn’t help staring at her and as she closed her door and dropped the keys into her small bag she leaned up and whispered in his ear, “White gold Josef. Close your mouth now.” With a cheeky grin tossed carelessly over her shoulder Josef could only follow her to the elevator, in complete bewilderment. Hearing her voice brought him back to the present and he cast her a brief look as she spoke.
“Where are we going for dinner – well, my dinner anyway?”
“To a little seafood place up the coast, another half an hour or so. Fresh seafood Italian style and absolutely divine I’m told. They are also ‘family’ friendly, so we’ll both be eating tonight.”
“’Family friendly’,” she asked, confused.
“Meaning ‘vampire friendly’. Actually, one of my security people’s sister and her husband own it. Claudio has been with me for 20 years, ever since he was turned. Stella and Angelo have been very accepting of his new life.”
“You know, with all the talk about the ‘secret’ a lot of people, human’s I mean know it,” she said, thinking of Dorothy and Clark, even Carl because Josef had told her that he had come to him with information.
“More than I would like, but sometimes it’s hard to keep things quiet. In this day and age, where DNA and fingerprints are a part of everyday life and humans are in constant communication it’s hard to keep the ‘secret’ from family especially. In the past when you were turned you moved on to protect family but it’s really easy to trace people now days and for such a large world it’s also a very small community. When I was first turned 100 miles would have likely ensured that I would not run into family or friends; that sure wouldn’t be the case nowadays.”
“It all comes back to the accessibility brought on by computers essentially doesn’t it?”
“Yes, it does. They make it easier to do business and stay in contact with loved ones but they also track your every movement. Big Brother really is watching, in ways that people can’t even begin to imagine yet.”
“So vampires ‘hide’ in plain site? But you can’t live among any human groups for long can you? I mean, you don’t age and that has to be a dead giveaway.”
“Relocation is the vampire’s friend. Except that now it is harder than ever; hard to disappear and harder still to surface again with a new identity. I can see a day when DNA is taken at birth and used to track you your whole life. What will happen then I’m not sure, but it won’t be good.”
Lani was quiet for a while, digesting his grim prediction and watching as the sun slipped into the arms of darkness and the stars began to come out. Before she knew it they were at the restaurant and she was sniffing the air appreciatively.
“Certainly smells good,” she said as Josef opened the car door for her and held his hand out to help her out of the car.
He grinned and had to keep himself from whistling at the site of her as she came lightly to her feet. Her long and lustrous hair was pulled back into a sleek chignon with wispy strands blowing a bit around her face. He held out his arm and she placed hers through it as they walked into the restaurant.
“Oh, Josef!” a beautiful older woman said, coming to greet him with a kiss on each cheek. “We were so excited to see your name on the reservation list tonight. Angelo ordered something special for you,” she laughed.
Josef introduced Lani to Stella who was just as welcoming and gracious to her as she had been to Josef. “Welcome Lani! We’re very happy to meet you. Josef, I have your table set up in the garden, as you requested. Please, follow me,” she said and led them though the back of the restaurant and out a door into a private garden area.
After they were seated and waiting for their wine Lani couldn’t decide what smelled better, the food or the multitudes of flowers that grew everywhere in the area. She smelled gardenia and hyacinth, roses and jasmine, all sharing their essence in a miasmic swirl of fragrance in the candle-lit evening air.
Lani looked at the menu and decided on the house special which tonight was a lobster pasta dish with a creamy and fiery sauce that Stella assured her was delicious. In the Italian tradition, the meal was started with anti pasti, melon balls in an orange liqueur that were sweet and potent. Next came tiger prawns, large and succulently grilled with a honey glaze. Following that was her pasta and she inhaled the delicious aroma deeply and sighed with anticipation. Her first bite melted in her mouth, the seafood and paste drenched in a creamy sauce that had a definite bite to it. Following that was her ‘insalata mista’, a mixed green salad and to finish the meal she indulged in tiramisu and wasn’t a bit sorry that she had.
“Oh goodness, you’re going to have to carry me out to the car Josef; I’ve eaten way too much!” she laughed. “Let’s hope I’ll even still fit into the car!”
She looked so happy in the candlelit evening scape; her face relaxed and satisfied as her eyes twinkled in the light of the nearly full moon and candles. They sat and chatted a few minutes more before heading out to the car. It was a comfortable evening; the talk was light and non-personal for the most part and they both felt the tension between them ease.
As they drove along the PCH heading south and back to LA both of them were loath to end the happiness of the evening. When Josef proposed they stop and walk along the deserted beach a bit she readily agreed, eager to stretch the evening out just a bit more.
She kicked off her sandals by the car and walked along the sandy beach, the sand squishing warmly through her toes until they moved closer to the water where it became cool and damp. They walked perhaps a half a mile down the beach and then turned to retrace their steps back to the car, both with sadness because there was nothing left to keep them from heading back to the city.
There was a large rock formation near the car and Josef said, “Care to sit for a bit?”
“Sure,” she said, looking at the rock. It was smooth looking but about 4 feet high and she wondered how she was going to get up there. Josef effortlessly lifted her up onto it before jumping up to take a seat beside her with a cock-eyed grin, which she returned feeling inordinately pleased at this turn of events.
Lani took a deep breath and stared out at the Pacific, anything but calm tonight due to the freshening breeze. Josef watched as she licked her lips as if to taste the tang of salt on them and for a moment it took him back to his boyhood in Ireland. Good memories and bad, like everyone’s childhood he supposed, which brought his thoughts to a place he feared to go, and yet he couldn’t stop himself.
Some people think, if you really believe,
That's what you need to solve all the mysteries.
Yea I know someone, who just heads for the sun
That's what you need to solve all the mysteries.
Yea I know someone, who just heads for the sun
“Lani, when you were a child, or uh, younger – were you abused?” There, he’d finally asked her the question that had been burning in his head ever since the night at the party. There was a powerful reason that she didn’t want to see her parents and he couldn’t think of anything else.
She turned to look at him and for a moment he thought she might slap him again because blazing anger glittered in her eyes. She pursed her lips as if contemplating her answer and finally she said, “No. Not me, never me.”
“Your mother then?” he probed. “It wasn’t her fault Lani. I’m sure she was scared.”
“Yes, scared of losing her social status if she told or even worse in her estimation, left.”
“You can’t believe that? I’m sure he had her intimidated so much that she could never break free.”
“He never intimidated her; she took it as a sort of caveat for living the lifestyle that she loved.” She saw Josef shaking his head in denial and continued. “He was one cagey son of a bitch, I’ll give him that. He never hit her where the marks could be seen; after all, he had an image as the great and loving philanthropist to protect. But at any given time her back or legs would be black, blue and purple, with a little yellow thrown in for artistic effect or maybe even a few broken ribs. She’d just take it, and when I was really young I would beg her to not let him hit me and she didn’t and she didn’t, I’ll give her that. Whether or not he would have I couldn’t tell you.” She blew out a long stream of air and he noticed that she shivered. It was a warm night and not likely that the shivers were from the temperature.
He took his jacket off and wrapped it around her small shoulders and she pulled it tightly around her; he couldn’t help but notice that she inhaled deeply, taking in his scent. “There could be more to it than you realize Lani,” he told her, his voice a soft whisper in the night.
Lani scoffed at those words, knowing how wrong they were. “Once, when I was 14 it was really bad Josef; she was on the floor and he was viciously kicking her. When the maid tried to protect her he fired her on the spot and I just stood there, watching it happen. It was almost surreal, you know? Like a movie or something, a horrible movie. When he finally walked away I ran to her and tried to pick her up, half carrying her to a chair to sit in. I said, ‘Mom, we can leave, we don’t have to stay here. C’mon Mom, let’s go right now!’ She just looked at me with these huge, weary eyes and said, “Lani, I can’t leave. Where would I go? What would I do?’ And the first thing that struck me about that was that she didn’t say ‘we’ just ‘me’. Lani watched what had happened like it was an old movie, a long ago past that couldn’t be denied or forgotten.
“I need this life Lani; I’ve worked hard for it. I won’t leave!” her mother said as she tried to sit up straighter.
All Lani could think of was getting the hell out of there. “Mom, we can make it,”’ she said, but she could also see that her mother had already dismissed the idea. Lani realized that was it – this was life. She ran out of the house and went to Beth’s house and ended up staying the night. She knew that Dorothy recognized something was wrong, but after asking her a couple of times she finally left it alone. Dorothy could see that Lani wasn’t hurt so what else could she have done. There was no evidence of any kind that it was anything other than that Lani was unhappy.” Lani’s eyes had a faraway and pained look as she recounted the tale to Josef and it actually made his heart ache for her.
“Beth and Dorothy were you sanctuary I guess. No wonder there is such a strong bond between you all.”
“Yes, and Clark too you know. He was always there Josef, not only for Dorothy and Beth, but me too. One time he asked me if anyone was hurting me, touching me. I told him the truth, no, and he believed me because he could tell I wasn’t lying.” She shuddered at the memories and Josef was distraught, wanting to help and not knowing how to do it.
“When I went home the next morning Dad was waiting for me. He cornered me in my bedroom and asked me if I’d told anyone what happened. He didn’t ask if I was okay, only if I’d told. I learned that day how insignificant I was to him. I got brave and stupid and told him I’d told everyone. I was so angry Josef, shaking angry. He told me that if I was half as smart as he gave me credit for that was a lie. ‘Did you lie to me Lani?’ he asked, and I could see the hatred rolling off of him. Now I realize it was partly fear too, but I didn’t realize it then. I remember lifting my chin and staring him square in the eyes and saying, ‘So what if I did? I’m sure you’d charm your way out of it.’ And then he hit me, backhanded me across the face and for a moment I saw stars. It was the only time he had ever hit me.
Rage just washed over me, I’d never been so angry in my life, so out of control and I lost control, I – I lost control of myself, right then in front of him and he laughed as the floor under me got wet as the urine ran down my legs and said, ‘Not so tough are you little girl’ and then he poked a finger in my face and he said ‘If you tell anybody about this they’ll never believe you anyway. They might even think you’re one of those troubled teens and put you away. Think about that!’ He left the room then and mom called my uncle and I went away for a few weeks to visit his family. It probably saved me.”
“Why didn’t you tell your uncle Lani? Let him know what was happening to his sister?” Josef was tormented by her words; they were eating away at him like acid in his gut. He knew that before too long Marcus Parker was going to be making a one way trip to the tar pits, after Josef put him through what he’d put his wife through.
“I knew my mom wouldn’t tell the truth and I believed my dad, they might think I was troubled or crazy so I kept my mouth shut.” A huge tear rolled slowly down her cheek, shining brightly in the nearly full moon and was quickly followed by others.
“Lani,” Josef said, his voice velvety and almost hoarse with the tension he was feeling. It felt like a tennis ball was residing in his throat making it hard to speak. He watched her turn to him, her beautiful brown eyes looking like turbulent pools to him as tears brimmed them. He reached his hands out and cupped her face, brushing the tears away with gentle fingers. His thumb gently traced over her lush lips as his eyes met hers. She rested her forehead against his briefly, and then pulled back seeking the comfort she needed and stared into his eyes, trying to read what was in them.
His gaze journeyed down her face and his eyes stopped at her lips, which she licked quickly. He saw her struggle to swallow as well and her eyes closed for a moment as if seeming to hide from what she really desired. He wanted to kiss her; he knew she was waiting for it and he leaned in closer still. She had never looked more beautiful to him and as his head descended, they both heard a car pull up by the Ferrari and car doors open and then close.
He pulled back and groaned, this wasn’t going to be good. He turned around and saw three guys getting out of an old muscle car. Three punks looking for trouble he knew. “Lani, see that crevice there, between the rocks? I want you to get down in it and stay there, until I tell you its okay to come out.”
She looked down to see the spot he was talking about, straining her eyes in the darkly shadowed night. She had peeked over the rocks too and saw how many guys were out there. “Josef, there are three of them and only one of you. Stay here, they’ll go away.”
“Yes, with my Ferrari! They aren’t going to hurt me, vampire remember?” he said, flashing his fangs at her before snapping his jaws closed as he flashed her a saucy grin. He jumped down onto the sand and pointed to the spot he wanted her to wait in then lifted her down. “Stay!”
Men always think they are invincible she muttered to herself, but she did as he asked. He stood watching the three by the Ferrari for a moment, seamlessly blending in with the outcropping rocks. Three punks, part of some gang likely judging by their attire. He supposed it was classic gang grunge, but it just looked cheap and dirty to him. With a single leap he stood before them and almost laughed at the scared look on their faces.
“May I help you?” he asked, his voice low and controlled.
“Yeah, you can give us the keys to the car. We wanna borrow it,” was the snarky reply. Josef observed the bandana wrapped around his head and he also sported a gold hoop earring; Josef mentally dubbed him ‘Pirate Boy’.
“See Pirate Boy, I’m not going to do that. Go out and buy your own Ferrari.”
“See Mr. Hot Shot, we ain’t gonna do that. Now give me the fucking keys!” As he spoke he pulled a gun out of the waistband of his baggy, saggy jeans and waved it at Josef, holding the gun sideways like it was cooler that way.
Josef couldn’t hold his smirk back as before Pirate Boy could blink he’d taken the gun from him, emptied the bullets and lobbed the gun far out into the Pacific.
“What the fuck you think ya doin’ asshole? Don’t matter now because you’re a dead asshole.” He stalked to Josef holding a knife in his hand that one of his companions had tossed to him. Josef waited calmly and when the knife was stuck in his face he took it and snapped it in two with a growl. He was done playing and the idiots obviously weren’t going to leave. He should have known; guns and testosterone were a lethal combination. He grabbed Pirate boy and then threw him over his shoulder. He landed about twenty feet away with a crunch and laid there for a moment, trying to shake it off before he realized his arm was broken.
“Now, I’m telling you to get back into that piece of shit you arrived in and get the fuck out of here because I’m done playing nice with you.”
One of the others stepped forward; this one looked a bit like Johnny Depp. What, is this a pirate gang he wondered. He stood face to face with Josef and grinned, showing that two of his teeth were gold. Josef figured that he was probably proud of them and had a fleeting thought that it would be a shame to waste good gold but whatever, these punks weren’t going away.
Just then Johnny spoke up and said, “Let’s go get the girl that Mr. Two hundred dollar suit was romancing when we drove up, she’s probably hiding in the rocks over there,” he said, nodding to the rocks where Lani was indeed hiding.
Josef laughed out right at the suit crack. He wanted to tell them it was Armani, but he figured they didn’t know what that was anyway. When Johnny took off at a trot to the rocks Josef leapt in the air and landed in front of him, blocking his way.
“If you have any brains at all you are going to turn around, crawl back into that car and get out of here,” Josef said, he eyes glowing. He added a growl and let a hint of fang show just for good measure but it apparently didn’t faze Johnny who took another step towards him, this time with a gun in his hand. Meanwhile, the one idiot by the car was shaking his head, having seen the glowing eyes and hearing the growl.
“Come on Zip, let’s get the fuck out of here.” Josef could hear the tremor in his voice and flashed him a broad fangy smile of appreciation.
“Now see, your friend is the genius of the group; you should listen to his advice.”
Johnny wasn’t so easily convinced and fired the gun twice, hitting Josef in the stomach with both shots.
Josef roared with fury and reached out and grabbed Johnny by the neck and snapped it cleanly and then dropped him onto the sand in an untidy heap. Before they knew what happened Pirate Boy and the one by the car had met the same fate.
Lani had been petrified when she heard the gunshots and rushed out of her hiding place, watching as Josef killed the other two guys. When he turned to her she saw that his eyes were still glowing silver but what really caught her eye was the blood stain on his stomach. Bile rushed to her throat as fear over took her and she rushed to him and then stopped short, afraid to touch him. “Oh my god, they shot you!”
His eyes returned to their rich sherry color and he smiled grimly. “Idiots, so tough they thought; they wouldn’t back down.” He noticed how white she looked in the moonlight as she stared at the blood. “Lani, I’m okay. Vampire remember?” he reminded her again. “Look, I’m going to move these guys over there by the rocks and then I need to call the cleaners. Why don’t you just sit in the car and wait for me, okay?”
Her eyes were huge but she crawled into the car seat, almost in a trance. It was real, what had just happened was real and she leaned her head back against the seat and closed her eyes, wanting it all to go away.
Josef pushed a button on the phone and waited impatiently for it to be answered. When Tango picked up the phone he said, “I need a cleanup – and then for you to remove a couple of bullets from my abdomen.”
“Whoa, partying kind of hard tonight aren’t we?” Tango asked but already sitting up straight in his chair. He reached for a pen and asked, “Where are we going to find you?”
“There are three bodies, lying by some rocks; get the coordinates from my call. There’s a car you’ll need to take care of as well, a red piece of shit with yellow flames decorating it. The hits were clean, broken necks, no blood to worry about. In a few minutes I’ll be heading to my beach house. After the cleanup meet me there and bring something sharp!”
Tango got the coordinates and said, “You won the fight I guess but they must have one a battle or two. How many bullets Josef?”
“Two, in the gut.” He pressed his stomach and added, “I can feel one of them, but the other is buried pretty deep.”
“Alright. Are you still a big baby when someone has to go digging for bullets?”
“No, of course not. That was a long time ago,” he declared as they both remembered a time after being ran out of a town by a torch-bearing mob. Josef had taken a bullet in his ass and Tango had had to dig it out with Josef complaining the whole time.
“Um hm, we’ll see.” He looked at his watch and said, “I’ll see you in an hour or so. Don’t wipe any of the blood off because it might give me a clue as to where to look for that missing slug!” Tango hung up the phone and grabbed his jacket, heading out the door to go and rescue his friend, again.
In the car Josef found Lani, her head leaning back against the head rest and she was very pale, a repercussion of the shock he guessed. “Lani, I have a beach house near here and we’re going there okay?”
“Okay,” she murmured without opening her eyes.
Josef started the car and backed out, hoping the cleaners got her quickly because that car of theirs was an eyesore to him but would definitely draw attention. He pulled out onto the access road that would take them to the PCH. Lani finally opened her eyes a couple of minutes later, looking around her but not really paying any attention he noticed.
As they left the highway and took a side road that led to the beach house she looked around her, noticing the secluded area they were in. “Is this where Beth stayed this past summer?”
“Yes, it is. I don’t use it much but it’s comfortable. We’ll wait there for Tango to come; he’ll take the bullets out. Man, I need a drink first though!”
“Will that help? With the pain I mean?”
“No, not really but just the act alone will be soothing.” He pulled the car into a drive and reached into a console and found the remote he was looking for and pressed a button. When the door sprung open he drove the Ferrari into the garage and closed the door. He quickly got out and was opening Lani’s door for her. She was still pale and shaky he noticed, but it was to be expected. He hated that she was upset though.
Inside he led her to the kitchen area and pointed to a bar off to the side. “Scotch please, a large one,” he stated. He started clearing a counter off so that Tango would have some place to work on him. Lani brought back too glasses of scotch, both of them holding a good 3 fingers and they both drank deeply.
Lani coughed a bit at the sting but Josef relished it and only wished it would help what he knew was coming. Yes, he couldn’t handle being cut into and probed, it hurt like hell. It was over with fast, but it still was miserable.
“Drink up Josef,” she said, refilling his glass and hers.
“Lani, I’ll drink more but it won’t help at all.”
They didn’t have long to wait until the doorbell rand and Lani finished the last drink of scotch and then headed to the living room to open the door.
“Lani? Nice to see you fair lady. And such a sight for my eyes to behold.” He tried teasing her a bit but could see that she was too concerned to appreciate it. “How is he?”
“Stubbornly refusing to drink enough to get him drunk so this won’t be so bad. He says it won’t help.”
“Well, he’s right. They only way a vamp can get drunk, so to speak is if the blood we are drinking is full of alcohol. Kinda sucks actually,” he said, uncharacteristically using American terminology.
He watched her heading back to the kitchen and noticed that she stumbled a bit. “Lani, are you quite alright? You seem a bit unsteady on your feet my dear.”
“I’m fine. I was trying to encourage his drinking by having more myself.” She gave a small hiccup and laughed. “I don’t think it did him much good but I’m feeling no pain.”
As she almost ran into a doorway and hardly even noticed, Tango had to agree with her.
So close, yet so far away.
So close, yet so far away.
Who would of thought girl that we’d end up this way.
Getting so close, so close,
So far away.
So close, yet so far away.
Who would of thought girl that we’d end up this way.
Getting so close, so close,
So far away.
To be continued…