Thank you Lady LaLa and Lynn, as always for all your hard work!
Chapter 23 A Little Cuppa?
they all got to bed, Mick and Beth heard Lani tossing restlessly in
Beth’s old bed. Beth had to fight herself to keep from going to her,
but she let her be, hoping it was the right decision.
her what had happened with Josef and she could tell how conflicted Mick
felt about it all. He was as worried about Josef as she was about Lani.
“Maybe you should go see him Mick? He might not be okay.”
made it clear he didn’t want my company Beth. He’s just so damn
impulsive, you know? About some things anyway,” he amended.
“Yes, he is but he loves her so much, just as much as she loves him. They are meant to be together Mick, I know they are.”
they will be. They both just have to learn to work these kinds of
things out.” He gave a small, if rueful, laugh. “We’ve all had our
“Yeah, but with us I know that nothing will ever
truly tear us apart. Right now I’m not feeling so sure about these two.
God Mick, it’s been a helluva rotten past few days. First Robbi’s
news and now this.”
“But Buzzwire was good, right? We haven’t even had a chance to talk about that.”
it was better than good Mick. I’m supposed to be back there, I just
know it. I have to laugh about one thing though; Steve and Max think I
need to get a spray on tan if I’m going to be on camera much. They said
I was too pale!” She giggled as she remembered their reactions.
Mick chuckled along with her and then thought of the meeting with Josef and Catherine, which they hadn’t discussed yet either.
“I met Catherine today, Beth, I met my daughter.”
rolled over and took his face in her hands and exclaimed, “Oh Mick!”
She didn’t know whether it was good or bad but she was happy that he had
“She slapped me, right off. The girl has a hell of an arm,” he said, smiling as he remembered.
dare she!” Beth exclaimed, suddenly very angry. “You had no control
over what happened in the past, you didn’t choose what happened.” Beth
was outraged over it all.
“Hey, it’s probably the least of what I
deserved, baby. But afterwards, we talked and then when I thought she
had been one of Josef’s freshies I sort of threatened to kill him. I’m
not doing so well with Josef today.”
“Oh my god, was she?”
they both made that clear, but I guess one of her friends from college
was so she knows all about vamps and is actually a friend of Josef’s -
in the past anyway. Beth, we’re going to tell Ben on Wednesday night,
dinner at Josef’s. Or at least we were.”
Beth understood that dilemma, would Josef still want to, she wondered. “So I’m going to meet my daughter in law, huh?”
“I wouldn’t bring it up like that,” he said but saw the humor in the remark.
“Yes, well it’s probably for the best. She might not be happy knowing that I do wicked things to her daddy!”
“Probably best to keep those things quiet. Speaking of quiet, I don’t hear her rustling around anymore. I hope she’s asleep.”
“Me too,” she said, her voice catching in her throat as she remembered Lani’s hurt.
leaned down and placed a gentle kiss on her forehead and then another
on her lips. “It’s going to be okay Beth. I promise and you know I
always keep my promises to you. It’ll be okay even if I have to stake
his ass and talk sense into him.”
Beth smiled at those last words
and sincerely hoped it didn’t have to go like that. It was her last
thought before repose caught her, claiming her in its chilly arms.
drove like a wild man, streaking down the Pacific Coast Highway as fast
as the Ferrari would go before rational thought took over and he slowed
down. Getting thrown in jail wouldn’t help anything because as he had
told Mick, jail wasn’t the vampire’s friend. Eventually he turned
around and drove home only to feel a heavy sense of loneliness sweep
over him when he cleared the gates.
She wasn’t here; maybe she’d
never be here again. Mick had told him that she still loved him, that
she just needed time, but what the hell did Mick know anyway? Hell,
he’d stalked Beth for over twenty years and pretty much had to be kicked
in the ass to finally get together with her. By HIM for god’s sake.
Well, Beth had a strong hand in that, too.
Josef was a man on the
edge right now, desperate, reckless. He needed…he needed blood. Fresh
from the vein. Yes, he needed blood from one of the lovely ladies.
He stormed into the house, yelling for Franklin. “Where the hell are you?”
sir, what might I get you?” Something was obviously wrong. Ms. Lani
wasn’t with him, he noticed. A lover’s quarrel perhaps?
“Bring Crystal to me, NOW!” he demanded when Franklin was slow to act. “I’ll be in my office.”
he headed to his office he yanked his tie loose and pulled his jacket
off, tossing the Armani carelessly onto the arm of a chair and didn’t
even bother to pick it up when it slipped to the floor in a heap. He
headed straight to the bar and poured a generous tumbler of scotch,
swallowing it down rapidly and refilling it. Crystal walked in as the
contents of the second glass followed the first.
“Josef?” she said, staring at him. His wild sherry brown eyes pierced her, taking in her attire and clearly he wasn’t pleased.
was dressed in a tee shirt and flannel pajama bottoms. It was painful
to look at her because it was similar to the outfits that Lani wore
around the house. His girls - his girls were supposed to be dressed to
please, for whenever he wanted them, not looking like a lonely librarian
on a Saturday night.
He took a step towards her and she backed
up a bit, alarmed at his mood. Something had happened, but what? Where
was Lani? A fight perhaps?
Since Lani had come into his life
Josef didn’t feed from the girls directly any longer. Lani had made it
clear that she understood the need and wouldn’t mind but he couldn’t
bring himself to do it. Most of the girls were gone now, only 4 of them
still here. They gave their blood freely but not by his bite. The
women who had left enjoyed the bite and it wasn’t worth it to them
without it. They could donate to Red Cross if it was only about the
Crystal had been here longer than any of the others,
almost four years, in fact, and when she graduated in May her time would
be over here. She liked Josef. He was kind and generous, and since
Lani had come here he seemed so happy. Until now.
He came closer
to her and she could tell that he was in a dangerous mood. She was
wary of what he might do. Drink her blood? Yes that, but what if it
wasn’t enough? He was hurting and she wasn’t sure how he would seek his
His eyes silvered as he reached for her arm, admiring
the beautiful ribbons of blue that hid just under her translucent skin.
He was fascinated by them, enthralled and his fangs ached to pierce her
skin, to taste the essence of her.
Crystal was petrified, her
body shaking as she watched him. She’d never seen him like this - his
silvered orbs wild in their appearance as he stared at her arm. She
closed her eyes to him, not able to watch what happened next.
bit into her arm, fighting to keep the bite gentle so he wouldn’t hurt
her. And when the first soothing rush of blood hit his tongue he knew
he couldn’t do it. It wasn’t Lani, it wasn’t her blood. He carefully
pulled his fangs out and did his best to seal the puncture marks before
he looked at her and saw the terror on her face.
“Oh god, I’m so sorry Crystal. I - I didn’t hurt you did I?”
was staring at her arm, as the tiny marks that were almost invisible.
He’d stopped. He’d stopped and hadn’t hurt her. “I’m okay. Josef,
He could hear the concern in her voice, even after
he’d come close to hurting her. He closed his eyes so that she
couldn’t see the stark pain that was etched in them and quickly turned
away, his shoulders slumping.
“I’m fine Crystal. I’m so sorry.”
laid a hand on his shoulder; it was still trembling a bit but she was
trying so hard to help him. “I know Josef. I can listen if you need to
He shook his head no and stepped away, carrying his pain with him. “You can go back to your quarters now. I’ll be okay.”
Goodnight then,” she said, turning and walking out of the room, only to
find that Franklin was waiting in the hall for her.
“I’ll take care of him,” he said sadly.
“What happened?” she whispered.
“I don’t know. But I’ll take care of him…”
woke up and as soon as she did yesterday’s events rushed into her mind.
Josef…betrayal…pain. She lay in the bed and glanced at the clock on
the bedside table. A few minutes after seven, time to get up.
up? And do what? Go to work and pretend she was fine? She wasn’t
fine. Her stomach hurt from all the tension and she had to make a plan.
First thing to do was call Heroku and take a few days off of work.
never called in sick before, ever, and if Heroku didn’t quite believe
that she was ill he said nothing. He heard the stress in her voice and
knew that something wasn’t right.
“Lani, you’ve been working hard
for months. Why don’t you take the week off? Just relax a bit. We’ll
see you next Monday.” At her faint words of acquiescence she ended the
call and sat on the edge of the bed, her head between her knees praying
her queasy stomach would calm down.
Eventually she felt better
and took a shower before heading downstairs. Beth was in the kitchen,
drinking her breakfast and dressed for work. As she rinsed her glass
she said, “Good morning Lani. How are you?”
Lani’s pale face
told the story even if he words couldn’t. She just shrugged and tried
her best to smile. “Thank you so much for letting me stay here last
“What you doing today? Are you going to work?”
I talked to Heroku and I’m actually taking the rest of the week off.
I’m going to the beach house for a couple of days I think. I need…I
need a bit of peace and solitude, I guess.”
“Do you want to reschedule Thursday night?” The girls had decided to go out Thursday, a long overdue girl’s night.
“No, it’ll do me good I’m sure.” She gathered up her purse and jacket in preparation for leaving. “I’ll be okay Beth.”
“Yeah, I know. Don’t you want some breakfast?”
“No, you know how I get when I’m upset, can’t eat. I’ll get something later.”
nodded, knowing how true that was. When Lani was upset or stressed it
was really hard to get her to eat something, her stomach just tied in
knots and she just had to ride it out. “Okay, call me later, okay?”
will.” She pulled Beth to her for a hug and added, “Tell Mick thank you
for me as well. I didn’t intend to impose on you guys like that.”
can tell me yourself,” he said as he walked down the stairs. “But you
didn’t impose a bit Lani. You’re always welcome here.”
She nodded and tried to not ask the next question but she had to. “Have you talked to him, Mick?”
“Yeah, I have. He’s…hurting Lani, just like you.”
“Don’t’ let him do anything stupid, Mick. I just have to put all this right in my head, you know?”
“I understand Lani. It might help, though, if you let him explain what happened.”
it might and I’m going to do that, soon. I can’t give him up and we
have to find a way to understand one another on this. I just need
Mick nodded. “I heard you’re driving out to the beach. Drive safely. You know your shadow will be following you?”
the ever faithful Rob, probably sitting out in that garage right now
waiting on me. He’s going to be really bored out there is all I can
say.” A hint of a smile shadowed her face for a brief moment and then
was gone. She opened the door and left as Mick watched her head for the
elevators. He could only hope that Josef would give her that time that
When she stepped off the elevator she immediately
spotted Rob, waiting for her. He started the car right away, prepared
to stay with her this time no matter what. She stopped and looked at
him, biting her lower lip in consternation before heading over to him.
“Hey Rob, I’m sorry about yesterday. He - he wasn’t too hard on you was he?”
“No, he wasn’t.” He looked down at the steering wheel, unsure of what else to say.
I won’t do it again, I promise. I’m heading to my apartment and then
to my beach house, just so you know.” It was meant as a reassurance and
a peace offering as well.
Rob smiled at her, grateful that there’d be no more stunt driving today. “Okay Lani. I’ll see you there, I guess.”
nodded and he watched her head to her car to make the drive home. She
looked really pale and a bit green around the gills, as the saying goes.
He guessed she was hurting pretty badly. Things like this made him
wonder if love was really worth it.
Lani’s stop at the apartment
was fairly brief. She needed some warm clothes to take with her because
she mostly had shorts and tank tops at the beach but this November
weather was chilly and she wanted to be prepared. She knew that she
needed to stop at a market to grab some food as well and as she drove
she thought of another stop she’d like to make and headed towards the
hills. Finally she found the house she was looking for and pulled into
the driveway, hoping that she wasn’t imposing.
Noodle was in the
yard, but when her car came to a stop he disappeared under the picket
fence and came out on the other side of it, running for her barking
excitedly. He evidently didn’t get too many visitors. She looked over
her shoulder and saw that Rob had pulled up along the side of the road
and she waved and pointed towards the house to let him know what she was
doing since this wasn’t on her agenda.
Mrs. Carter came to the
door to see what Noodle was barking at. Lani was bent down, scratching
the floppy-haired dog and he was sighing in pleasure. She stood up when
she saw Mrs. Carter watching her, a wide smile on her face.
“Why, Lani my dear. Welcome. Do you have time for a cup of tea?”
do and I was hoping you’d offer,” she replied, following Mrs. Carter
into the house. The elderly woman was wearing lilac colored slacks and a
white shirt adorned with small purple flowers. Lani smiled,
remembering how she loved purple.
Instead of the kitchen Mrs.
Carter led her into the dining room and it had splashes of purple around
the room as well. A wooden table and a window seat made the room feel
“Now Lani, you just sit yourself down and let me get us some tea!”
“Oh please, let me help!”
I was already making the tea my dear.” As if to prove the point the
high pitched whistle of the tea kettle could be heard and Mrs. Carter
pointed to a chair and said, “Sit down please, dear.”
took a few minutes and she returned bearing a tray with cups, the teapot
and a small plate with cookies. Lani relaxed and felt at home,
comforted in some small way. She helped Mrs. Carter settle the tray and
distribute the cups and plates.
After they had their tea poured
and cookies on their plates Lani realized she was actually hungry and
bit into one of the cookies. It was a snickerdoodle, a cookie that
Grace, Beth’s grandmother used to make them.
“Oh, this is delicious. My friend’s grandmother used to make them for us. It brings back some really good memories!”
my mother used to make them too; they’re a very old fashioned cookie I
think but timeless in their ability to satisfy,” she said with a smile.
“I agree Mrs. Carter.”
“So, Lani, what brings you here today? Is your young man vexing you again?”
“Sadly, yes. I don’t understand men, Mrs. Carter. They do such stupid things sometimes for totally ridiculous reasons.”
Carter smiled and her eye took on a very faraway look for a moment.
“They do indeed. I know my husband often couldn’t figure out why on
earth I was upset about things.” She paused and patted Lani’s hand.
“You will work it out, I’m sure. You love him a great deal I think.”
do, but I don’t understand him often, though. He’s really hurt me this
time. I know that he thought he was doing something good but it
wasn’t. It’s so hard to forgive him.”
“Did he harm you Lani?”
looked at her and realized she meant physically hurt her. “Oh no,
nothing like that. Something happened in my past and he was trying to, I
guess the word is avenge me.”
“The forgiving is easy Lani - it’s the forgetting that is hard. You found out and stopped him?”
“Yes. It was so long ago and is best left in the past.”
“He loves you enough to protect you. That says a lot about him.”
“Yes, it does. He is a good man, an honorable man, Mrs. Carter.”
“Then just love him my dear. Give him your forgiveness and the forgetting will come in time.”
miss him. I spent last night with some friends because I knew that he’d
want to talk to me and I was so upset that I didn’t even know how to
say what I need to say. I still don’t really. But I know that I want
to talk to him soon so that we can work this out.”
like a fine plan, my dear. You two should get married and have some
babies. Babies lift your spirits in ways that we don’t even
A sad look passed over her face and bit her lower
lip to stop the tremble that threatened to break loose. “He can’t have
children. But we have friends who do and that will be enough.”
“There are always other ways of having children Lani.”
“Yes and I hope that we’ll consider that. We haven’t even talked about marriage yet.”
“Oh you young folks these days - hop into bed and let the passion carry you away instead of the marriage first.”
Lani gave an embarrassed laugh as a bright red flush swept up her face.
Carter laughed out loud and said, “You know Lani, each generation
thinks it’s the first to invent sex. It’s an incorrect notion, of
course, but we all thought it.”
“I guess that’s true,” Lani said, finishing the tea in her cup. “None of us would be here if that were true.”
“Never be ashamed of the joy you share with your man. Too many women never know that pleasure, I assure you.”
She nodded and wiped her hands and said, “I really must be going. Thank you so much for listening to me.”
Carter wrapped her in a warm hug and said, “No, thank you for visiting
this lonely old woman.” They walked to the living room where Lani
spotted some pictures hanging on the wall that she hadn’t noticed
“Is that you?” Lani asked, looking at a beautiful woman, dressed in purple of course.
that was me. This was James, my husband. All our friends called him
Bug, though. My mom and dad are here, and this was my brother,” Mrs.
Carter went on.
Lani scanned each one of the pictures in turn,
smiling at the memories the pictures must bring to Mrs. Carter. Until
she came to the last one. She stared at it again, her face wore a look
“This one? Your brother?”
“Yes, wasn’t he handsome? He was killed in 1952. A terrible tragedy.”
To be continued…