Josef came aware early the next morning. He looked down at Lani who was resting her cheek on his chest, a leg thrown over his as well. She was snoring, just the slightest bit and it made him smile. It sort of tickled his chest actually, teasing the fine hairs that covered it.
had made love until the early hours of morning; for him his usual hours
but not for her and he knew she needed to get some rest. She didn’t
look tired; actually she looked beautiful, wearing a rosy and satisfied
glow and nothing else this morning.
How in the hell did I get so lucky, twice in this life?
First Sarah and now Lani. Two amazing and strong women who loved him
unconditionally. He would always miss Sarah but Lani filled a void that
he hadn’t even been aware of.
He thought about the three girls,
Lani, Beth and Robbi and at first they seemed so dissimilar and yet
those differences are what made them like sisters. Beth, so impetuous
and always teetering on the edge of danger. She really had needed
Mick’s protection all those years. Beth made him often feel like an
indulgent big brother who watched her with amusement. He really didn’t
want to get on her bad side though, especially now because he had seen a
steely strength in her today that he’d admired. He knew she would also
protect Lani at all costs.
Robbi, from what he had seen or heard
was the pragmatic one; the mother hen. She was traditional and focused
on her goals. And most likely the one that had kept the other two out
of trouble, sometimes anyway. Josef had liked her when they worked
together on the surprise wedding because she was someone who could be
Lani…Lani just made him smile. So strong and earthy,
very grounded. She knew what she wanted and just did it. He knew that
she always spoke her mind and truthfully at that. You might not always
like what she said but you could be sure that it was the truth. She
was loyal to a fault and would fight for what she believed in.
he first met her in Tokyo he had never imagined any type of
relationship with her, even though he saw that she wasn’t just one of
the party girls, that she had substance.
Last night he had told
her the truth about his life, no holds barred. She never flinched or
pulled away, even knowing the dark, ruthless side of him. He killed so
many people in the past, some deserved and some not. Excuses? They
were only rationalizations and meaningless in the end. He had always
done what he had to; protect himself, his life and the lives of those he
cared about. He would protect Lani to the ends of time, no doubt about
it. Would she want to be turned some day? Would he be able to do it,
now that he knew that what had happened to Sarah wasn’t his fault,
something that he hadn’t done right? It was much scarier than he had
ever imagined now.
He felt her stirring next to him and glanced
down at her with a smile, just in time to see her beautiful gray eyes
open and look at him, love shining brightly in them.
“Good morning,” she murmured sleepily.
“Good morning to you Sweetness. Did you rest well? What little we did rest?” he teased.
stretched and he watched, fascinated. She was like a cat, the
seemingly lazy gesture somehow sensuous and nimble and made his mouth
water for her. As if she knew he was watching she smiled up at him, an
enigmatic smile through half-closed lids that furthered the mystique of
her aura that surrounded her.
“I got enough,” she told him, sitting up in the bed. “What about you? How are you resting without being in the freezer?”
vampires have existed for centuries without freezers; I assure I can
rest without one, as much as I do enjoy my sub-zero. I’ll get some rest
in it tonight because I’m going to be in a meeting tonight that I
expect will be very late. So you’re on your own this evening. Is that
Lani laughed and said, “Sure. My gosh Josef, we’re not
joined at the hip. I’ll bet its vampire business, huh?” She raised her
eyebrows and grinned, sure she was right.
“Yes, it is.” He
leaned over and kissed her on the tip of her nose and then tweaked it
lightly. He watched the emotions play across her face and knew that she
was dying to ask what was going on and he admired the restraint she
showed. At his silence she looked down and started brushing imaginary
lint off of the sheets to try to focus on something other than her
curiosity. “We’re working on trying to track down someone who has given
Ben Talbot a list of names of vampires.” He smiled at her and said,
“It’s okay to ask Lani. I might not always be able to tell you, but you
She nodded and for a moment looked almost sad. He
brushed gentle fingers along her cheek and smiled at her. “How about
“Nope, I can’t do that one. Beth, Cami, and
Audrey and I are having a girl’s night, shopping actually. Audrey wants
help picking out some new work clothes.”
“She couldn’t have
asked for any better help. Well, then how about we spend the weekend at
my beach house? We can go out Friday and come back Monday morning for
“Um, I love that idea. Who knows, I might even convince
you to take a leap of faith and jump off a cliff with me,” she told him,
trying really hard to keep her face serious and failing miserably.
“We’ll see. Would you like to invite Mick and Beth?”
“What if I want to chase you around naked or something?”
“We can always lock them out of the house while you have your way with me,” he laughed.
“Okay then, this weekend.” She sighed deeply and added, “At least we’ll see each other occasionally at work.”
“Anytime you want Lani, anytime.”
She nodded before melting into him as he arms pulled her close. At least they had this time right now.
was very anxious about the meeting with Robbi. Mick watched quietly as
she walked around the living room, fluffing pillows and repositioning
decorative items, straightening pictures, you name it, if she could move
it she did.
“Beth, how about a glass of wine while we wait?” he asked as he watched her move the bowl of wax apples yet again.
I don’t want her to think I had to drink to be able to see her Mick.”
She glanced at the clock and saw that it was 6:55; Robbi and Kevin were
due at 7:00, so anytime now there would be a knock on the door.
day long she had been like this, anxious and fidgety. They had
discussed the fact that they needed blood and she flat out refused to
drink morgue blood. “I will not drink that stuff Mick; we don’t know
where it came from. Sorry, but I’m not going to do it,” she told him
adamantly. He had finally retreated to his office and called Josef,
trying to clear his head before he gave in and ordered fresh blood from a
service. Josef was amused by it all, Mick could tell and rolled his
eyes as he listened to the mini lecture on the benefits of drinking
fresh blood and how good it was that Beth had enough sense to know the
“Oh boyo, one more thing. How would you and the
wifey like to come out to the beach house for the weekend? Lounge
around, take in the view, yada yada yada…”
Mick pinched the
bridge of his nose as he thought about escaping from what was proving to
be too small of an apartment, at this moment that is. He heard Beth
vacuuming the floor that didn’t even need it. They both needed
something to do.
“Okay, sounds good. I’m sure Beth will like it.
If not, you’ll hear back from me tonight at the meeting. We still on
“Yes, my office. See you then Mick,” Josef said with a smile. Beth was going to whip him into shape yet.
day wore on; Mick called and had fresh blood delivered and Beth said
nothing, only raised her eyebrow in surprise and sipped cautiously
before nodding her approval. Mick escaped to the greenhouse upstairs
and was both shocked and surprised to see that it wasn’t a total waste.
The automatic watering system had kept the plants watered and growing.
It needed a lot of careful pruning and attention but they had some
beautiful fresh tomatoes and zucchini and hot peppers too. What Beth
didn’t eat they’d take to Dorothy or Audrey or Lani he decided. As he
worked, pulling, thinning and pruning he felt good, better than he had
in a while. And it managed to keep his mind off of what was going on
with Beth. He’d see Heroku tonight and had a few questions for the
How could Beth be so different? Those hauntingly
beautiful blue vamp eyes, the ability to taste food and digest it? What
else could she do that they hadn’t discovered yet? Her ability with
allure knocked his socks (not to mention his pants) right off and she
seemed to be able to find him, no matter where he was. That could be
very helpful, or could really put her in danger, depending on what was
He hoped that she would decide what she wanted to do
soon. She was ready, he felt sure. She was going out with the girls
the following evening and it would be the first time that they had been
apart for any length of time, well, after tonight that is. Still,
tonight would be an hour, tomorrow would be for the whole evening. He
had to admit that he was a bit concerned and was tempted to shadow them
except that he knew she would know it and wouldn’t stand for it. No,
there was no keeping that from her any longer, not with her vamp
He looked up when they both heard the faint ‘ding’ of
the elevator letting them know that someone was on the floor. Both of
them inhaled the scent of humans and before she even looked out Beth had
thrown open the door, something that she should know better than to do
by now. He had tried to make her realize that she always needed to know
who was on the other side of a door before it was opened.
Didn’t look like she had paid much attention to that one.
stood looking at Robbi, Kevin and baby Brian who was tucked away in a
carrier, sleeping peacefully. She swallowed hard, so happy to see her
friends but Robbi was standing stiffly in front of her and Beth knew
that the last thing she wanted was for Beth to hug her.
Beth smiled graciously and stepped aside, inviting them in. Robbi
moved woodenly into the room and headed into the living room before
taking a seat on the couch. She hadn’t said a word and Kevin smiled at
Beth, a sad smile that said it all. Mick came forward and offered his
hand to Kevin who shook it readily enough and smiled at Mick as well.
Beth closed the door and went to sit down across from the couch.
I get you something to drink?” Mick offered. “Kevin, I believe you’re a
scotch guy and I’ve got an excellent single malt here.”
like that Mick; on the rocks please,” Kevin said, settling next to
Robbi. The baby carrier sat on the floor facing them so that they could
keep an eye on their son, but it made it really hard for Beth to see
him. She stood up and walked to the side where she could watch the baby
sleep and sighed at how peaceful he looked.
“He is so beautiful, he really is. Robbi, would you like something to drink? Coke, or juice or water?”
looked at Beth for the first time, really looked at her. She had
almost been afraid to make eye contact with her in fear that she would
melt into Beth’s arms. She had missed her so damn much but she also
felt so hurt and betrayed. Truthfully, as mad as she was at Beth she
knew that part of their problems stemmed from her own mistakes in the
past as well as what was currently wrong.
Once Kevin had come
into her life she sort of dropped out of the threesome and she owned
that. Even when there were opportunities to spend time with Beth and
Lani Robbi had passed them by. She was married and felt she owed her
allegiance to her husband and she knew that she did, but she also knew
that she had blown off both of her friends a lot, too much. It was
understandable that they grew more dependent on one another and less on
her. It didn’t make it all hurt any less, but she did admit that it was
the truth. And now, well, things were even more complicated.
whatever had been going on the past few months she had been excluded
from and a lot of that was her fault. After the wedding Robbi had
seriously withdrawn from both girls and hadn’t made any effort to see or
talk to them, even before she got to the point where she couldn’t. She
had no right to feel like she was left out here but she did. She took a
deep breath and smiled at Beth.
“Some juice would be nice, thank
you.” Robbi watched as Beth went into the kitchen to pour two glasses
of orange juice as Mick was handing Kevin the glass of scotch.
When Beth handed Robbi her juice and sat down Mick lifted his glass and said, “To understanding, for all of us.”
blanched at the words and Kevin raised his glass and agreed. Beth
licked her lips nervously and wiped her hand down her jeans leg, scared
to start talking. Finally she took a deep breath and said, “Robbi,
Kevin, that you so much for coming over tonight. I’ve – we’ve got some
things to tell you and we couldn’t do it over the phone, as…as I said.
We don’t know how you’ll react but please give us a chance to explain
Kevin nodded and Robbi sat staring straight ahead.
Suddenly she was scared to death. Was Beth sick, dying? What on earth
“Robbi, do you remember when we were young and we always talked about my shadow man? About whom we thought he was?”
looked up startled, obviously missing the connection between then and
now. “Of course I do Beth; we still talked about him in college, even
when you were positive he was gone. But I’m not connecting the dots
Beth gave a small laugh, an embarrassed gesture that Robbi
recognized. When Beth had to admit to something she didn’t want to that
laugh always made an appearance.
“Well, it does actually, in a very surprising way Robbi. I know who that man was…is.”
“It’s, um, it’s Mick.”
laughed, a sound of disbelief and sat her glass down on the coffee
table which caused Brian to stir for a moment. “Look, if you don’t want
to tell us what is going on fine, we’ll leave because I’m really not in
the mood for jokes Beth. It couldn’t have been Mick because he’s like
what, 4 or 5 years older than you maybe? So he certainly didn’t save
you when you were 4.”
“Please Robbi, just listen. He could and
he did. And I’ll explain how in a minute. Remember the night that Lani
and I and Elka, Cami and Audrey went to the beach? You were too sick
to come with us. Something – something happened that night Robbi.”
leaned over and took her hand in his, trying to give her support as she
struggled with the story. “For awhile before that happened Mick had an
old acquaintance who had wanted to date him and he turned her down.
She stalked him and me as well. That night, on the beach she attacked
me and slit my throat open. It – it all happened really fast and I
don’t remember a lot of it. Lani pushed her into the fire where she
died and I bled out. Mick was there and he saved me.”
“If you bled out Beth, how did he save you?” Robbi was sitting stiffly again and all but rolling her eyes.
“He was able to do it because he is a vampire. He saved me that night by turning me.”
watched Mick and Beth and saw sincerity in her words but his wife was
gathering up her purse in preparation to leave. “Look, I’ve heard
enough of this crap Beth. You know, if you wanted to make up a story,
couldn’t you have come up with something a little better than this?”
Robbi went to stand and Kevin grabbed her arm, almost forcing her back down on the couch. “Robbi, let them finish.”
cast grateful eyes at him and said, “It’s true Robbi. There really are
things such as vampires and Mick and I both are, vampires I mean.
That’s how he could be my shadow man because once you are turned, you
never age physically.”
Robbi sat in stony silence for a moment. “Okay, show me,” she said simply.
looked at Mick who nodded almost imperceptibly. Both of them closed
their eyes for a moment and let the change come over them. When they
opened their eyes both of them saw Robbi blanch and then sit back
hurriedly, a hand on her chest as if she were trying to catch her
“I wasn’t lying Robbi,” Beth said and Robbi and Kevin both caught the gleam of her fangs in the light of the room.’
my god,” Robbi managed to get out, her voice a mere whisper. Kevin was
clearly stunned but he sat forward, his elbows resting on his knees as
he stared at them.
“Wow, vampires. I’ll be damned,” was all he managed to say.
was trying to decide if they were safe, if their baby was safe and Mick
spoke up, “Robbi, we would never hurt you or the children. We uh, buy
the blood that we consume; we don’t hurt humans to get it.”
“So you don’t kill people to get their blood?”
“No, we do not.”
“If that is true why did you leave LA?”
when someone is turned into a vampire they need an adjustment period,
for their mental and physical changes. We have very powerful senses of
hearing, sight, smell. We have magnified physical abilities as well.
It takes some time to get used to it all.”
“How come no one knows about you? Vampires I mean?”
humans do Kevin. But they keep quiet about it for various reasons. But
because we have told you this I have to have your promise that you are
not going to tell anyone. If people found out there would be panic, for
humans and vampires alike. Keeping the secret is the most important
thing. Beth loves you both so much that she wanted to risk telling you
in hopes that you would keep that secret.”
Kevin nodded, “Certainly we will. I’m still just kind of stunned I guess.”
nodded and Beth kept watch on Robbi who hadn’t said anything for a
while. “Robbi? Robbi, please, say something?” she pleaded.
Robbi’s eyes were clouded with pain, and hurt but the doubt was gone. “Lani knew didn’t she? You told her?”
actually I – we didn’t. She found out about vampires in Tokyo and
never said anything until she came back here and realized that Mick was
one. She admitted to me then that she knew.” Beth didn’t tell them
that Lani had been attacked; that was Lani’s story to tell if she chose
to do so.
“How did she know?” Robbi asked skeptically. She
couldn’t see anything different about him, or Beth for that matter, when
they weren’t vampires that is.
Mick smiled and said, “Actually,
Brianna figured it out. Remember the ‘Mick is coo’ comment? Our body
temperatures are considerably cooler than a humans.” He held his hand
out and Kevin touched it and for the first time realized that Mick was
right, their body temperature was lower, much lower he guessed. “Also,
when she laid her head on my chest and patted it? You said she kept
time to heartbeats and thought she was just off on mine; actually she
was right again.”
“So Lani heard your heartbeat?” Robbi scoffed.
“No, but when she shook my hand she realized it. She was very scared for Beth for awhile, thinking that Beth didn’t realize.”
“But you did, didn’t you Beth? When did you know?”
“Pretty quickly after I met him, met him again that is. He had been shot and I followed him here and saw for myself.”
drew in a deep breath, imagining how that must have happened, how it
must have scared Beth. Still, she was hurt, both Lani and Beth knew for
a long time and didn’t tell her. They had excluded her and she
conveniently forgot all the times that she had excluded them. Suddenly,
it all came back to her and she blushed, ashamed of herself.
I understand that there are extenuating circumstances Beth, but I don’t
understand why I wasn’t told. I knew that you and Lani knew something
that I didn’t and it hurt me deeply. I felt so left out and I’d never
felt like that before.”
“Robbi, would you really have wanted to
know about vampires? Right now do you feel good because you know or are
you just happy to be in on the secret?”
“I – I don’t know Beth. It’s a helluva secret, you know?”
Beth smiled. “I do know that.”
“So, your Mom and Clark both know too?”
they know. I saw her last night for the first time. But she knew
about vampires before. She knew that Mick was a vampire when she hired
him to find me.”
“Holy shit!” Robbi exclaimed. “How? How could she know that?”
“Well, long story but Logan, Clarks brother is a vampire. He is actually the same age as Mom.”
“And all those years she never told you? Didn’t that hurt?”
“Yes, it did, but it’s a dark secret Robbi. It’s not something that is talked about much, for a reason.”
nodded. “I do understand that Beth. I just – I just have some things
to work out here, okay? Please, just give me some time?”
Beth said slowly. “Hey, if you’re interested Lani and I are taking
Audrey shopping for some new work clothes tomorrow night. We’d love it
if you came with us.”
Robbi shook her head no and said, “No, I
can’t Beth. I mean it; I need some time and besides, chasing after both
the kids takes a lot out of me. Maybe some other time.”
stood up and this time Kevin stood up with her. “We really do have to
go Beth. I’ll talk to you soon, I promise. I can’t forget 20 years,
Beth nodded, tears brimming her eyes. She walked to
the door and stood looking at Robbi, wanting so badly to pull her into a
hug but she knew that it wouldn’t be wise. Outside the door Robbi
headed straight for the elevator and pushed the button to call the car.
looked at her and then at Beth and Mick. He hugged Beth and said, “Be
patient with her Beth. Give her time.” To Mick he said, “Your secret
is safe, I swear it.”
The elevator door swept open and Kevin
hurried to step inside. As the door closed and the car started moving
he said, “You should have told her Robbi. She loves you.”
The look of pain in her eyes was his only answer.
To be continued…