Thank you Lady LaLa, beta divine!
Chapter 22 Cuts Like a Knife
Lani made her way to the parking
garage and sat down in the Maserati and tried to gather herself. She
saw Rob, her faithful shadow, sitting in the darkness in his understated
black sedan and thought how boring this job must be.
Beth but this was her first day back at Buzzwire. Lani glanced at her
watch and saw that it was a little after three. She didn’t dare sit
here much longer because she didn’t know how long Josef’s meeting would
go. And as soon as he saw what she’d seen, he’d be after her, which
presented another problem: Rob. She had to get away from him.
things first - call Beth. The phone ran three times and Lani thought
she’d get her voice mail but was surprised when Beth answered.
“Hey Lani, what’s going on?”
“I- uh, are you home?”
about 10 minutes actually. What’s going on Lani?” Beth heard the
distress in Lani’s voice and knew that something had happened.
“I need to talk to you Beth; I can’t go into in now. I’m coming over, if that’s alright?”
“Of course. I’ll see you at the loft. Lani? Drive carefully, please?”
will Beth.” She couldn’t stop the small sob that escaped but she
quickly hung up the phone and tried to pull herself together. She
wouldn’t allow it out now, she had to keep in control until she got to
Beth. That’s all, just 20 minutes and she’d be with Beth. But first
she had to get out of this parking garage without her shadow.
cars were heading down the ramp and Lani started the car and pulled in
after them. When they were almost to the gate she hit the accelerator
and cut in front of the first car and then pulled out into traffic,
almost getting hit by a truck, who slammed on his brakes and honked
loudly. She stopped at the stoplight and immediately made a right,
which wasn’t the way to Beth’s, but she needed to get out of the area
quickly. Two blocks ahead she made another right and then a left,
heading towards Santa Monica. At the next light she turned her phone
off so that the GPS wouldn’t work and when she thought she was safe she
made her way back to Mick and Beth’s loft, staying on side streets and
keeping her fingers crossed all the way. Ten minutes later she pulled
into the garage at the loft and turned the car off and waited to see if
Rob showed up. When it was clear she got out and headed for the
elevator, punching the button repeatedly.
When the elevator
stopped she stepped out and Beth opened the door for her; Lani walked
into her arms and let herself go, the hot tears streaking her face. She
had Beth, she had Robbi. She would be okay.
looked startled after she had slapped Mick; it hadn’t been planned but
she felt so angry with him. Her mother had lived through so much pain
and humiliation because of him. She couldn’t possibly have held it all
She glanced down at her hand that was reddened and
stinging, and then quickly stole a glance at his face, the imprint
standing out starkly against his pale skin. She turned abruptly and
walked around the table, taking a seat, not speaking a word. Josef
stood and went to the bar and poured three glasses of scotch and sat
them on the table and Cat reached for hers and drank it straight down.
Mick was still standing by the door, unsure what to do or say.
down Mick, have a drink,” Josef prompted and he watched as Mick
woodenly moved across the room and sat down, eyes still downcast.
didn’t blame her, not at all. How could he after what he’d done? He
had devastated her mother’s life, her plans and dreams - all because of
Coraline. God, sometimes when he thought of her he was so repulsed he
couldn’t even imagine what had drawn him to her to begin with, except he
knew what it was.
He finally picked up the tumbler of scotch
and knocked it back in one swallow and sat the glass down with a
resounding thump. The sound the glass made on the mahogany table
sounded as loud as a gunshot in the quiet of the room. The only other
sound was Catherine’s heartbeat and her breathing, both of which were
gradually slowing down. He finally looked up, meeting her eyes and was
afraid that he’d find nothing but recrimination in them and instead he
thought he saw regret, maybe a bit of sympathy. He wasn’t sure how to
handle that, her hatred would be easier to accept.
“Okay, so we have a problem to deal with here. Cat, we haven’t had a chance to get to that yet.”
called her ‘Cat’, a relaxed and informal nickname. Just how the hell
did he know her? A low growl emanated from deep within Mick’s chest and
he rose to his feet in the blink of an eye and grabbed Josef by the
collar, his face a mere breath away from his friend.
“Did you drink from her you bastard? If you’ve ever laid a fang on her you’re dead Josef, I mean it.”
move wasn’t totally unexpected on Mick’s part; Josef had figured that
Mick would react like this. You couldn’t fault his protective traits,
that’s for sure, Josef thought. He cleared his throat and said, “No,
she has never been a freshie, for me or anyone else so just calm down
Mick let him go, still skewering him with a penetrating
look, trying to determine if that was the truth. He glanced at
Catherine out of the corner of his eye and saw that she watched the
whole thing with a bit of shock. Immediately he tucked the vampire away
and sat down, looking at Josef for more explanation.
Catherine’s part, she had at first been alarmed and then amazed by what
had just happened. He might not have been around in her life but he was
willing to tear into Josef when he thought that his best friend had
bitten her? Something to consider, she realized.
Josef looked at
his brother from another mother and smiled. “Catherine was a friend of
one of my girls back in the early ‘70’s. She was never dinner, I
assure you. I did meet them at the old Dark Corners vamp bar, though.
Seems her friend Molly had found a way to make tuition money and Cat
came along to make sure it was okay.”
Mick looked at Catherine and scowled. “You went to a vampire bar for god’s sake? What were you thinking?”
was thinking that it was dirty old men who were puncturing holes in my
friend to get her blood, with needles as opposed to teeth. I was wrong,
obviously,” she said dryly.
He couldn’t believe what he was
hearing; his daughter had hung out at a vampire bar. His eyes scanned
over her again, trying to imagine her in college, what kind of a person
she had been. Loyal, apparently, if she had saw fit to follow her
friend into that place. His respect for her grew a bit more, he admired
loyalty a good deal.
“So, that’s settled then. What do we do about Ben?”
“Ben? What has he got to do with all this?” Catherine asked, confused.
well we never really got around to talking about the problem, what with
all the violence and threats!” Josef said, wearing that infuriating
“Josef, I hated that smirk back when I went to the
house and I still hate it. Cut to the chase; what does Benjamin have to
do with all this?”
Josef told her of Ben’s discovery and how it
had filtered back to Mick and finally him. “So, do we need a trip to
the tar pits for Benny boy?” he joked. Mick’s growl and Cat’s scowl
made him immediately realize the joke was in poor taste. He cleared his
throat again and held up his hands in surrender. “Sorry, just trying
to lighten the mood.”
“We tell him,” Catherine said. “Nothing else to do because I know my son and Carl Davis is right, he won’t back off.”
“Tell him? The whole thing?” Mick asked, suddenly afraid. How would he react?
the whole thing Mick. He’s a pretty smart guy and he’ll figure it out
if we’re not honest. From what Josef said he knows your fingerprints
match the bloody ones. Yes, the truth.”
They agreed on dinner on
Wednesday evening at Josef’s house. It seemed so simple, so surreal.
Mick had spoken to his daughter. Yes, she’d slapped him and he had to
admit she had a packed a hell of a wallop. He unconsciously touched his
cheek as he remembered the stinging blow.
Still, she’d talked
civilly to him; it was a start. Mick bid Josef good bye and headed
home. Josef returned to his office and found that his world had
crumbled around him.
took a full half hour to get the whole story out of Lani, or at least
for Beth to make sense of it. She had just got Lani some water to sip
when Mick came home, immediately scenting Lani’s tears and pain. It was
raw and aching and he looked at Beth in question.
With her back
to Lani, Beth explained in vamp tones and Mick’s heart sank. Josef
could never just let things go. He knew that sooner or later Josef
would show up here and he went into the office, waiting for the
Josef left his
office in a hurry. “Thor, cancel my other appointments for today,
tomorrow’s too. I’m going to be out of the office.”
Kostan. I’ll get that done immediately.” He watched as Josef left the
office in a flying run, frantically stabbing the elevator ‘down’ button
over and over in his irritation.
As soon as the door opened
Josef stepped inside and called Rob. It rang a few times and Josef
growled with impatience when Rob finally answered the call, dreading
what was going to happen. He’d probably be out of a job and maybe his
life, but damn, she’d just vanished.
“Yes Mr. Kostan?” he asked hesitantly.
“Where is she?”
- I don’t know sir. She just vanished. Cut two cars off in the garage
and then pulled straight into traffic; she almost got ran over by a
truck. Seriously, she could have been killed. Since then I’ve been
hunting for her with no luck. She’s not at her apartment and her phone
is off so we can’t trace GPS.”
Josef’s first thought was that Rob
was going to be visiting the tar pits but then he realized that Lani
was a very determined woman and if she’d decided to get away she would
have. He couldn’t possibly have caught her. “It’s okay Rob. I’ll take
over. Just go on back to the house.” He heard Rob swallow quickly as
he realized that Josef wasn’t coming after him - for now anyway.
head to her beach house, he knew that. She loved the solitude there
and he’d find her sitting out on the beach, he knew it. Except that
when he got there he couldn’t see any lights on. He hit the switch to
pull into the garage and saw that her car wasn’t there either.
wasn’t here. That only left one place: she was with Beth. Mick knew
by now, Josef was sure, and he’d likely be mad, thinking that Josef was a
He was a fool - he admitted it to himself. He’d had Ryder
start tracking that stuff over a month ago, after she told him about
growing up. Vengeance had screamed through him, the need to take care
of her a very strong impulse. Then he’d forgotten all about it as
they’d began their relationship. Stupid Kostan, very, very stupid!
parents were scum, criminal in their actions towards one another and
the hurtful neglect and trauma they had put their daughter through. And
yet she had turned out so wonderful, so loving and caring. How did
He knew how. Beth, and Robbi, Dorothy and Clark.
They were the ones that made her into the amazing woman she was today.
Now he had to win her back, he had to.
and Beth sat on the couch talking quietly. Lani had the afghan wrapped
around her and her feet tucked up underneath her, but she was still
chilled. Beth turned the fireplace on and remembered how chilly she had
often felt here in the loft, before she was turned that is.
Lani, why don’t you stay here tonight? I’ll get some nice warm sweats
out for you and we’ll order some sushi for dinner, okay?”
nodded mutely, momentarily at a loss for words. Josef’s betrayal hurt
so much that she didn’t think she’d ever feel okay again.
“I just don’t understand what he was thinking Beth, it makes no sense. No sense at all.”
thought for a moment, her teeth worrying her lower lip. There was a
lot she obviously didn’t know about Lani’s childhood and Josef did. It
was a touchy subject and hard to broach because it evidently cut deeply
with Lani, she’d never revealed it to anyone but Josef, obviously. Beth
couldn’t figure out what Josef did or why if she didn’t understand the
“Lani, why did Josef do that? What does he know
about your parents that would make him feel justified in doing something
Lani stared at the fireplace for a minute with
unblinking eyes, she’d never revealed these things before. Maybe now
was the time, though. She took a deep breath and told Beth about her
childhood, about the beatings her mother took, all so that she could
live the privileged lifestyle she evidently loved, enough to suffer for
apparently. It was horrifying - to think that Lani had to endure that
as a child was beyond her imagination.
Mick listened from the
other room and it all became crystal clear to him why Josef had done it.
It was wrong, horribly wrong but he understood it. He was surprised
that Josef hadn’t taken Marcus out, sent him to the tar pits as soon as
he heard the story. Mick had to fight his own protective instincts to
keep from finding the bastard himself.
All those years of
watching over Beth and there was Lani, suffering in ways he’d never
imagined. If only he’d looked around him a bit more.
“Lani, he loves you so much. I think - well, it’s Josef and he was just trying to take care of you.”
care of me? How, by ruining my parents, leaving them destitute so that
I end up having to take care of them? I don’t understand at all.”
didn’t think about that Lani, he was just thinking of the woman he
loved, of his mate. Boys are stupid sometimes, you know? And Josef?
Well, he’s so in love with you that he thinks he was protecting you. I
know that, so do you Lani.”
Lani nodded. She did know that but
it still hurt her a lot. They might not be much, but they were the only
parents she had. And as strong as Josef’s feelings were to avenge her,
so were hers as strong to protect them.
“Lani, do you still love him? Is it over, sweetie?”
God no. Beth, I love him so much, he’s my mate. I - I just can’t see
him yet. I have to sort this all out in my head. Does that make any
“Yes, it does. I understand. It doesn’t seem like it
right now, but it will get better Lani. I’m here, I’m here for you
Mick heard the elevator moving upwards and knew without a
doubt that it was Josef. He opened his desk drawer, staring at the
item he’d pulled out earlier. He hoped he wouldn’t need it, but he
stuck it in his pocket anyway and opened the office door, waiting for
Josef in the hallway.
Beth heard the elevator too and then the
office door open and knew that Mick was in the hallway. Lani was too
upset to deal with him right now, maybe for a day or two in fact. Beth
knew that Mick would handle Josef so she relaxed, asking Lani if she was
ready to change so they could order dinner.
“Would you mind if I had a shower first Beth? I’m so cold.”
sweetie, come on. Let’s go upstairs and we’ll sort everything out.”
Beth listened at the door and heard Mick call out to Josef to stop. She
hoped he’d listen because he still had a key. This was a great time to
get Lani upstairs.
The elevator doors opened and Josef almost
tumbled out in his haste to get to the door. He spotted Mick and said,
“I know she’s here Mick. Don’t try to stop me.”
“This is not the time Josef. Give her some time brother. She isn’t up to seeing you tonight.”
have to explain,” Josef said, running his hand through his hair,
leaving it sticking up in spots. “I have to tell her I love her and
that I’m sorry.”
“She knows you love her and I can tell you that
she loves you too. But this is not the time. Come on, I’ll walk you
“NO! I came to see her and I’m going to. He leaned
against Mick’s door, inhaling deeply. “Lani,” he called out, tears
streaking his face.
“She’s in the shower Josef; she’s staying here tonight, with Beth. Let’s go.”
“NO. I’m not leaving until I talk to her Mick.” A hint of fang showed and Mick returned the gesture.
make me stake you Josef,” he said, pulling the stake out of his pocket.
He was fully turned now and he said again, “Give her time brother, she
Josef knew that Mick meant business and his shoulders slumped dejectedly. “Mick, I love her. I can’t leave it like this.”
going to talk to you again, I heard her tell Beth. It’s not over
Josef, just give her some space.” He could only hope that was true. He
knew that Lani loved him and he felt sure she wasn’t leaving him for
Josef turned and walked to the elevator, punching the
button quickly, feeling totally disheartened. Mick stepped in after him
when the door slid open and silently they rode downwards.
how about I hang out at your place tonight? We’ll drink scotch and play
some cards, maybe we can get some of the guys to come over.”
really think I want to make nice tonight Mick? My goddamn heart is
being shredded right now and you fucking what to play cards?” he
screamed. “Is that what you think?”
“Josef, calm down man, you’re not doing yourself any good. I’m only trying to help.”
you were trying to help you’d let me see her instead of playing the
fucking cupid police.” He pushed Mick who went flying across the garage
and hit the wall with a loud thump. “You’re not her protector!”
was on his feet in a flash and in Josef’s face. He’d played nice and
now he’d had enough. “Tonight I am Josef. Tonight I’M her protector!
Go home Josef, just go home.” He turned and walked to the elevator, his
steps slow and measured as he waited to see what Josef would do.
A loud sob echoed through the garage and Josef called out, “I’ll never forgive you for this Mick. NEVER!”
turned and looked at his friend, his best friend for over fifty years.
“You will Josef, someday you’ll see that I’m right. This is how it’s
going to be tonight. I’ll take good care of her brother, I promise.”
can’t lose her Mick, she’s everything to me. She lifts me when life is
at its worst and makes it all worthwhile. I can’t lose her.” He
grabbed Mick and the sobs shook Mick to the core.
“Time, Josef. Time heals, I promise.”
turned and walked into the elevator, and as the door whisked shut they
muffled the sounds of Josef’s sobs but they couldn’t hide his own.
To be continued…
The banner for What My Heart Desires is done and we will officially kick off the new site on Monday, June 4th. We'll have the new site up and a chapter of the pregnancy diary which will lead us to the birth of our newest little Richland! Hope you all can stop in and say 'hi'!