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, July 30, 2012

Chapter 38 Moving Day

Thank you LaLa!!

A/N - I have a dear friend coming into town soon and I may not get a chance to post on Thursday. If not, we'll continue the story next Monday as always! Thank you all so much for your faithful readership and comments.


Chapter 38 Moving Day



Mick held Beth close, still cradled between her legs that were wrapped tightly about him. Both of them worked to catch their breath while sharing kisses that spoke of all their love. He slowly moved down her body until his head was over her stomach and he placed a kiss there, resting his cheek against it in the cool of their freezer.

Gentle fingertips traced over it, making her squirm a bit but she knew that he wasn’t trying to tickle her. Both of them were amazed at the news that Rose had given them. They would have babies! Mick and Beth St. John would have babies.

He moved up and pulled her to him, snuggling closely, their love providing them with all the warmth and joy they needed.

“I can’t believe it,” she said. “I mean, I do believe it, but Mick, it is the best thing I’ve ever heard.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean. Beth, if we had adopted a child, that would have been wonderful too. But this is a gift beyond anything I ever imagined.”

She nodded, her mind full of thoughts of she and Mick with a child cradled in their arms. It was amazing, this information Rose had shared. All of it really, but it only made her realize how much she still needed to know.

“So much of what she said is just incredible, you know? Fire, silver? Mick, it’s like what she is and what we think vampires are supposed to be are so different, you know?”

He nodded, he’d been thinking the exact same thing as her. “She said before that it was supposed to be a blessing in the beginning. Now, it is a curse.”

“It doesn’t have to be, Mick. There are things that are different for me, true, but it brought us together. If not for your turning we wouldn’t have one another.”

“I know, baby. I think about that a lot. It was worth all the pain that I went through to get to this place, it was. But that doesn’t make it easy to live with all of it. Forgiving myself is the hardest thing Beth.”

She knew that now was the time to tell him about Maeve. She hoped that she made him happy with the news but she feared it might depress him. Still, she knew she was going to do it.

“Mick, do you remember Lani talking about the elderly lady that she met? The one who likes purple and she has tea with?”

“Yes. Wasn’t her name Carter?”

“Um hm. Well, she visited her again the other day and found out some interesting information. Her first name is Maeve. She is your sister Mick.”

His body immediately went rigid and he caught a deep breath and held it. “I’m sure she’s wrong, Beth.”

“No, she’s not. She first suspected it a couple of weeks ago when she saw a picture of her brother, in an army uniform. Mrs. Carter told her that her brother had died tragically. It looked just like you so she went back and Mrs. Carter showed her pictures and talked about her family. You used to call her Squeaks, didn’t you?”

Mick felt in turn astonishment and fear. He was thrilled she was still alive but she could never find out his secret. A terrible thought came to him then and he had to ask. “She didn’t tell her did she?”

“No, of course not. That’s for you to do, Mick.”

“No, uh uh. Never, she can’t know, Beth.”

“Mick, this isn’t 1952, when it all happened. She loved you so much. She’d want to know what happened to you. Your family tried so hard to find out what happened, they even hired an investigator.”

“No, Beth. It’s better if she just thinks I died then. How would I explain everything to her?”

“The same way you explained it to me. They didn’t like Coraline at all. She wouldn’t be surprised much I’ll bet.”

All the arguments with his family came into focus and to say they didn’t like her was a gross understatement. But Coraline hadn’t liked them either. She found them too pedestrian for her tastes. He should have been highly insulted over that but she had him convinced he didn’t belong with those type of people. Later he would learn that the only thing she thought about them was that they’d be good meals.

“So, she’s happy? Has a family?”

Beth thought about it for a moment, how much to tell him. “She’s happy, but anything else you’re going to have to ask her for yourself. We’ll do it together, Mick. I’ll be right there by your side. I have your back, remember?”

“I don’t know, Beth. She’s 78 now, it might cause her problems.”

“I suggested that to Lani but she seems to think the lady is more likely to dance and bake cookies over it all. She’s pretty energetic.”

At his continued silence she suggested, “Why don’t you think on it overnight? We’ll talk about it again tomorrow. Don’t forget tomorrow evening we’re helping Logan and Audrey at the new house, either!”

He nodded and then kissed her again, long and slow, needing to feel their deep connection. She’d be with him. Maybe he could do it. Squeaks…she was alive. Maybe he was blessed after all.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Logan and Audrey listened to the plaintive wails of the boys, who were locked up in their carriers. Their carpeted cat tree house was being carried out by the movers and they weren’t happy about it, not one bit. Not about being locked away either when they were used to being allowed to roam free.

It was the last thing to be loaded on the truck so that it could come off first at the new house. It was going in the patio room which had a door that closed and the boys could roam in there without getting in the way of the movers as things were brought into the house.

Logan held Audrey’s hand and squeezed it lightly. This was the first home she’d ever made for herself and he knew that while she was excited to move to the new house, there was a certain bittersweet quality to the move. He looked down at her and she tilted her head up to him and he bestowed a kiss upon her nose, accompanied by a lop-sided grin.

“You okay with all this?”

“Yeah, I am, Logan. I’m excited. Actually, I was thinking that this is going to make such a nice home for the family that is moving in. After the cleaning crew comes tomorrow and de-cats the house,” she finished with a laugh. As hard as they tried to keep the cats brushed, cat hair still got into everything.

“No kidding,” he laughed, watching a few stray hairs float by on the breeze that came in through the open front door. “Well, are you ready?”

“Yes, I am.” She picked up Travis’ carrier as Logan picked up Plato’s, who was a bit heavier. After they locked the door he stowed the carriers in the back seat of his car since Audrey’s was already at the new house. The moving van pulled out and Audrey waved to Mrs. Murphy across the street who had been watching it all with great interest. She hated to lose her young neighbors because they were both nice folks and quiet too.

The ride to the new house took a half an hour, not too bad in the late morning traffic. As they passed Dorothy and Clark’s, house they saw Clark looking out the window at the rumble of the moving van and they both knew that they’d have company soon.

They pulled into the garage and walked inside, both of them grinning proudly at their new energy-efficient home. It was expensive, to be sure, but the money from the sale of both their houses would pay a large chunk of the mortgage off. It wouldn’t be too bad, they’d decided. They’d dipped into their savings to buy a few furniture necessities since the house was so much larger than the old one. Mick wanted to buy Logan a new freezer but Logan told him to hold off on it, hoping that within a few years there would be a need for a larger one.

They took the boys in and put them into the patio room along with food water and their litter box, which they hardly ever used since outside was a huge sand box. Personally, Logan was very thankful that it worked that way. What a human nose couldn’t smell his vampire one could.

Dorothy and Clark pulled up as the moving van was backing into the driveway and came in with hugs and a ton of food since Mick, Beth, Lani, Josef, Cami and Carl were coming over in a while to help put things away. Personally Dorothy wanted to see exactly what Josef would do, but she was pleased that he evidently considered himself one of the family now. She still couldn’t believe that he had paid off the mortgage for the kids. They didn’t know it yet and wouldn’t until later this weekend at the housewarming party. It was such a kind and thoughtful gesture on his part. Dorothy laughed at the thought of calling Logan ‘kid’ but even though he was her age he seemed younger somehow.

It was a blessing that it was all out in the open now, about Logan. All those years he’d stayed hidden away, afraid that Beth would find out about him. Now, he and Clark were close again, sometimes arguing, sometimes playing, but it was exactly the way brothers should be. Audrey was just icing on the cake and Dorothy was so pleased that she and Logan would marry one day.

Dorothy and Audrey settled onto stools at the kitchen bar and got comfortable as the men directed the traffic flow. As far as Dorothy was concerned, trying to get comfortable was a feat because she rarely managed anything remotely close to “comfort” anymore.

“So what did the doctor say this morning?”

“She said I’m not ready, I haven’t even dilated yet. I’m not anywhere near zero station and I’m not effaced. So, at least a few more weeks.”

Audrey gave a small laugh and said, “I’m not sure what all that is but I take it the twins aren’t ready to meet the world yet?”

“Exactly. I want them to come when they are ready but I have to admit I’m anxious, you know?”

Audrey didn’t exactly but she nodded in agreement anyway. For an almost 8 month along pregnant lady, Dorothy looked so beautiful, glowing as they say. Clark was beside himself with anxiety over it all, constantly worried about Dorothy and the twins. Audrey watched as Dorothy let out a long breath and held her hand over her stomach for a moment.

“Braxton-Hicks again. UGH!!”

“Hey, let’s have a cup of that tea you brought with you. How about it?”

“Yes, that sounds really good.”

They both looked up and jumped when they heard Logan cursing as he brought the cat tree house in, banging it on the doorway into the kitchen. “I hope those little varmints appreciate this thing. It’s freakin’ heavy!”

Audrey laughed and looked around before saying softly, “What? My big, strong vampire can’t handle it?”

“I didn’t say that. I said the damn thing is heavy!”

“Actually you said…”

“Never mind what I said. Open the patio doors please and try to hold back the tide of pissed off pussy cats, okay?”

“No, no, let Uncle Josef do that. I have something for the little guys!” Josef said, walking into the room and grinning at Logan with the tall cat tree house cocked over one shoulder. Lani was behind him, at least trying to hold back a laugh.

“Hey! I’m so happy to see you both!” Audrey said as she watched Josef open the sliding doors into the patio room and start talking to the cats. Travis, she noticed, really seemed pleased to see him. He rubbed up against his legs, which were actually clad in jeans today, something Audrey had never seen before.

“There’s my puddy cat! And hello to you too Playdough!” he laughed, scratching them behind their ears and smiling as they both purred loudly. “Uncle Josef has a gift for you boys!” He pulled two batty balls out of his pocket and tossed then across the room with the boys running after them. He stepped out of the room and watched as Logan set up the cat tree house, making sure it was braced well.

“Josef, you are always so kind, remembering them. Thank you,” Audrey said, smiling at him. “But you always seem to forget it’s Plato, like the philosopher, not Playdough like the, er, dough stuff.”

“Who says I forget?” he asked, his eyes twinkling. “Now, I think I’ll go find the men so that I might occupy myself with more difficult pursuits. I want to impress my mate with my manliness!”

“Get out of here,” Lani laughed, watching as he headed into the other area of the house.

Logan slipped out of the patio room, sliding the doors closed behind him and leaning against them as if he’d escaped with his life. “Those two are tough, let me tell you.”

The girls giggled and looked up as Mick and Beth came in, zig-zagging around burly strapping guys carrying furniture. “Hi!” they both said.

“Hi back at you!” Audrey said.

Mick looked at the girls, sitting down drinking tea out of pretty little china cups. “Seems kind of unfair, you girls sipping tea and the boys doing all the heavy lifting!”

“That’s so we can remind ourselves of how much we admire your strength and virility,” Beth said, laughing as the words tumbled out.

“Yeah, like I’m going to buy that one. Dorothy,” he said, kissing her on the cheek, “How are you feeling?”

“Not too bad, really. Just anxious!”

Beth touched her mother’s stomach as an elbow or knee moved across it and thought of what she and Mick knew. They had decided to tell everyone a bit later and not spoil the excitement for Logan and Audrey. Still, she now knew that one day she’d have the opportunity to experience carrying a baby herself and it was hard to contain her excitement over it.

Beth saw the boys in the patio room and went in to pet them both. Travis was gradually warming up to her again and would at least let her scratch him behind the ears. Plato had no problems at all and as Beth sat down on the floor he immediately sat in between her legs and held his head up for more scratching. Travis suddenly let out a few long meows and Plato looked at him and finally moved aside so that Travis could get what he suddenly decided was his fair share of the affection.

“Just can’t stand it can you, Travis? I still love you, you know?” As Plato’s paw gently nudged her she added, “You too, Plato.”

Mick watched for a moment before going to help move things around. They had most of the furniture out of the van and were starting to unload boxes now. He was so glad that Travis was finally letting Beth pet him again. It had hurt her when he wouldn’t. She knew that the little cat had a lot to get used to but she still believed it was the best thing for him, to stay with Plato and Audrey and Logan.

When Carl and Cami arrived a little while later the truck was gone and inside it was chaos as a mad orchestration of shuttling boxes to their proper room continued. Finally it appeared that all the kitchen gear was in the right room so the ladies started unpacking, washing and drying and getting it all put away. An hour later it was done and they looked around them with satisfaction and then wandered out to see how the rest of the house was going.

The bedroom was set up and ready for the bed to be made which the girls did as the men moved to the second bedroom. Josef and Clark worked in the office, getting the computers and other assorted office things into place and hooked up. It was going quickly and Audrey knew that other than hanging pictures and things like that her new house was pretty much in order.

In the kitchen Beth and Lani were getting all the food out and ready for the hungry crowd. Josef had brought several carafes of blood for the vamp contingent and no one even blinked when they saw it. It was as normal as the potato salad was in their eyes.

When everyone left they were all tired but it had been a great day. Audrey looked around and thought how wonderful her new home was and how much she had to do before the housewarming party this weekend. Still, Audrey knew just how lucky she was, nestled in Logan’s arms that night. There wasn’t another thing in the world she could want.

Family and friends, something that she had often wondered about when she was growing up. Her grandma was family but that was all. This was a whole new world and it was perfect.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Tango’s phone rang and he winced as he saw the number of one of his crews. Another body for sure. They’d been finding one everyday so at least the rogue vamp was keeping to his precise schedule.

“Yes, Cleo. What do you have?”

“Do you even have to ask, Tango? Male, maybe late ‘40’s. Looks like another street person.”

“Alright, bring him in. Any evidence or trace there you can see?”

“No, clean dump apparently. Body was cold so it happened a while ago.”

“Okay. See you in a bit.”

What the hell was Shatel up to? The last time they’d seen him he was pissed at them but mad enough for this? It was insane. Did that mean that Shatel was insane? Could or would a sane person do this?

Like everyone else, Tango was puzzled over the almost acrid smell the vamp carried now. He hadn’t before, it was a memorable smell to be sure. What had caused it?

And where the hell was he? They had contacts out all over the LA area looking for the guy with a hefty reward to boot. Lots of vamps would sell their sires for far less than he and Josef were offering.

None of it made sense. What the hell had happened?



To be continued…

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Chapter 37 Progress

Thank you Lynn for the great pictures and LaLa for your amazing pen! Also, to Julia who solved a mystery!
Chapter 37 Progress

Lani got home a bit earlier than usual and found that Josef wasn’t home yet and the house was peacefully quiet. She told Franklin that she was going to take a shower and he voiced his concern over her tired appearance.

“Miss Lani, would you care for a snack before your shower? Forgive me, but you look quite tired. It might make you feel better.” He smiled kindly at her and she smiled back at the older man. He was so caring, always even though he was quiet and never interfered in things.

“I’ll be fine, Franklin, but thank you so much for asking. I’m sure I’ll feel a bit better after the shower.” She headed up the stairs, eager to feel the warm water because it was uncommonly cold for LA in November. The temperature today was in the low ‘40’s and she felt chilled as well as tired.

She smiled at the tired part and knew exactly why she felt so wiped out. She and Josef had been up until 3:00 am and even as tired as she was she acknowledged that it had been worth it.

As soon as the bedroom door closed behind her she cast her clothes off, uncharacteristically leaving them where they dropped. She knew she’d pick them up later as she headed into the bathroom and turned the taps in the shower on. Soon a steamy mist filled the room and she pinned her hair up and slipped a shower cap over it since she’d washed it that morning.

The water felt heavenly and she leaned against the wall for a moment, letting it wash over her in a soothing cascade. By the time she finished and had dried off she realized that Josef was home, in the bedroom. She hurriedly unfastened her hair, letting it fall freely and slipped her robe on. When she walked into the bedroom Josef was just pulling his shirt off. She glanced at the floor and realized he’d picked up her clothes, something that was unusual for him.

As soon as she stepped out of the bathroom he caught the clean, sweet scent of the woman he loved but he also caught a scent of fatigue. Since he was most likely the cause of that weariness he felt a short-lived momentary pang of guilt and walked to her and took her in his arms.

“Sweetness, I’m afraid I kept you up too late last night.” He took her face in both his hands and kissed her tenderly and felt her arms go around him, pulling him tightly to her.

“Never, Josef, my love. How was your day?” she asked when he broke the kiss.

He smiled at her, the loving smile reserved only for her but she could sense the tension he was hiding, or trying to hide.

“You still haven’t found out anything about the killer, have you?”

“No and it’s getting harder to conceal. Two bodies have shown up in the morgue now, same type of death and we can’t keep it out of the news much longer. Carl and Ben are keeping it as quiet as they can but there are limits to their abilities. We can’t figure out why he’s doing it or where either.”

His whole body was rigid as she ran her hands up and down his back. “Why don’t you take a shower and when you get back I’ll rub your shoulders and neck for you?” She kissed each of those places lightly as she spoke.

“Deal, if you’ll rest while I’m in there. Lani, you really do look tired.”

“Okay, you got it. Now go!” she said, sitting down on their bed. She watched him finish undressing, appreciating the firm and sculpted muscles on his abdomen and his tight ass. God, the man drove her crazy with need. As he headed to the bathroom he tossed her an engaging smile and a wink. He knew she wanted him!

“Go!” she said again, laughing.

When the door closed she moved up in the bed and closed her eyes. It felt wonderful and within a few minutes she was sound asleep.

That’s how Josef found her, curled up with the soft sighs of her slumber sounding like the sweetest music to his ears. He had to stop keeping her up so late at night, but then again, holding her back when she wanted him wasn’t always easy. He dropped the towel and slipped his robe on and lay down beside her. She immediately shifted into his arms, seeking the embrace of her mate, even in sleep.

For an hour they rested, Lani sleeping soundly and even Josef managed to doze a bit until he heard Franklin walking down the hallway. Josef glanced at the clock and saw that it was almost seven, dinner time. He gently disengaged her arm from around his waist and went to the door and opened it as Franklin was walking away.

“I am sorry to disturb you. I was just going to let you know that dinner will be ready in a few minutes.”

“Thank you, Franklin. She’s sleeping still but she’ll need to eat too.”

“Yes sir. She did seem a bit tired when she came home. Why don’t I bring dinner up to you? Miss Lani can have her dinner in bed.”

“That sounds like an excellent idea, Franklin. I’ll make sure she eats something.”

Franklin nodded and headed back down the hall, his physical appearance belying the liveliness of his step. He’d been with Josef, one way or another for over 300 years, give or take a few.

When he first met Josef he had been 17 and a cabin boy on Lola’s ship, Nocte Vita. Josef had just been turned and still shied away from most of the hands on the ship. Franklin, already a strapping young man, had taken a liking to Lola’s newest playmate and brought him pilfered contraband items from time to time. Things like books and a chess board he’d managed to liberate from someone. They became fast friends.

Fifty years later he saw Josef again in a port in the Bahamas. He’d been turned by then and was making his way in the vampire world. They immediately renewed their friendship and whenever Josef and Lola made port there they visited. Franklin owned a sugar cane plantation by then and lived a fine planters life. When Josef left Lola he ran into Franklin in North Carolina again and they’d been together ever since.

Josef had made him more money than he’d ever be able to spend, even as a vamp, but Franklin was content to make his home with Josef. He’d been married once but she couldn’t handle the fact that he was a vampire when it came down to it. Before the marriage she was fine and swore she wanted to be turned but in the end it was too much for her.

He worked for Josef through the years, unnecessarily, but he was a great companion and knew most of Josef’s secrets. Josef’s urgings to just sit back and relax were spoken to deaf ears and so life went on. He had worried about Josef for many a century and was very happy when Miss Lani came into his life.

Franklin prayed that this time the turning would go well. The thought of Josef losing another love was almost more than Franklin could stand.

This time it had to work. It had to…

Image



OOOOOOOOOO



Across town as Beth walked into the loft her phone rang and she smiled at it, excited to see who the caller was.

“Hi, Rose. How are you this evening?”

Rose smiled at the excitement in Beth’s voice. It had been almost a week since she’d gotten the results from the tests but a couple of particularly trying medical cases had kept her from having enough time to go and speak with her.

“Beth, I was wondering if I might come and speak with you this evening?”

“Yes, of course! Please do. Rose, I have so many questions!”

“And hopefully I’ll have answers for you. Shall we say 7 o’clock?”

“Yes, that would be fine. See you then!”

Beth knew that Mick wasn’t home, her nose told her that. She looked on the counter and found several offerings from the garden and she inhaled the spicy aroma of the peppers and other veggies. Farmer Mick had been at it again and she saw that he’d even washed them for her. She wandered into his office to see if he’d left her a note and found what she was looking for. He’d ran to the grocery store and would be home soon and she wasn’t to touch the veggies because he was making her spaghetti for dinner.

Yum! He made great sauce so she headed up to shower and get ready for her visitor. By the time she was done she could smell the wonderful concoction he had going in the dutch oven.

“Ooh, St. John, I swear that smells like heaven! What made you decide to do this?”

He kissed her and grinned, “Just because I love you. Oh, and I needed to use these up soon or they were going to rot!”

“Ah, I see. A matter of necessity! Can’t have your garden going to waste!”

“Hey, I love that garden! Some day, Mrs. St. John, we are going to have a house with a real backyard and a big garden in it where I will feed our dozen kids!”

A sad look crossed her face and for a moment he felt bad. They both had accepted that those kids would be adopted and they were both okay with that. But sometimes, it still hurt.

“Hey, I’m sorry, baby.”

“No, it’s okay. And I like your idea.” She smiled at him and he offered her a taste of the sauce. She nodded her approval and said, “Hey, Rose is coming over at seven. I think she has the test results!”

He nodded, happy and a bit scared as well. At least they would know for sure but really, he didn’t have any doubts about it.

“Good, it’s time to know what is going on Beth.”

She nodded and watched as he got a pot out and ran water in it to boil the spaghetti. “What did you find out today? Anything helpful?”

“No, not really. Carl and Ben are trying to keep the information quiet but if another body turns up in the morgue it’s going to be impossible to keep it off the radar. We don’t have any idea where the hell this guy is or why he’s doing this.” He leaned back against the counter and said, “One nice thing happened today.”

“What?” she asked, excited by his tone.

“Catherine came to see me and we talked, really talked. Got to know one another a bit. It felt so good, Beth. She doesn’t hate me. I’m not so sure about Ben though. He keeps his distance from me, but maybe in time.” He shrugged and added the pasta to the boiling water and then set the timer. “Catherine told me about something that happened in Ben’s past and he apparently is pretty much a loner now.” He explained about Michelle and watched as Beth’s face showed her sorrow for him. She was so happy that she just wanted everyone else to be, too.

After she’d eaten her dinner and the dishes were loaded into the dishwasher they settled down to wait for Rose. Nestled together on the couch, his arm around her shoulders she realized that her life was amazing and no matter what Rose might tell her, it could never change this.

She was anxious to tell him about his sister and yet a glance at the clock showed that Rose was due at any time. It would have to wait until after the visit and that’s all there was to it. She hoped that he’d take it okay. She kind of thought he would, that there would be a part of him that would be happy his sister was still alive.

A few minutes later they heard the elevator ding and knew that Rose was here. Beth all but ran to the door and her anticipation made Mick smile. She opened the door before Rose even had the chance to knock.

“Rose! Come in, please. Would you like something to drink?”

Rose smiled at the young one, so exuberant and engaging. She was going to be a force to be reckoned with one day. “Hi Beth, Mick. Nothing for me, I’m fine thank you. Shall we sit and chat?”

“Oh, of course. Please, have a seat,” Beth said as she sat back down next to Mick who had risen when Rose walked into the room.

“Well, the test results are back and as we thought, you are a descendant. No real surprise there.”

“No, not really.” Beth drew in a long breath. Knowing it and hearing it seemed to be two very different things. “Um, do we know who I’m descended from?”

“Well yes, actually we do. You’re one of my descendants, in fact.”

A small laugh of joy bubbled forth from Beth. Somewhere along the way Rose was her great something or other grandmother. “Wow, I’m so excited. Do you keep records so we know how it came to be?”

“We have a historian, Christophe, and he tracks what we know of but, Beth, there are thousands of descendants and we only discover a very small number of them. You are the first one we’ve found in over a century. Unless they're turned we never know. Still, one of your parents has the gene that is specific to us. Can they be tested?”

“Well, my mom would probably do it but I’ve never met my father.”

“I see. Well, in the long run it’s not terribly important. I have something for you.” Rose reached into her bag and pulled out a jewelry box. “All of us wear these, especially when we’re gathered for the quarters and on the full moon.”

Beth took the velvet covered box and opened it, staring in fascination at what was nestled inside. Her hand covered her mouth as she let out a soft “Oh!”

Mick stared in horror and fixed Rose with a silver-eyed stare. “Is this supposed to be funny?”

“No, Mick it isn’t. She can touch it, it won’t hurt her.” She gave Beth a reassuring smile and then picked the pendant up out of the box and held it out to her. “It’s okay, really.”

Beth slowly reached out her hand as Mick stared in anger. “Beth, don’t!”

Image

Her hand slowly reached for it and then clasped the pendant. “It’s beautiful.” The silver moon was simple by design and very lovely, polished and smooth, it felt cool to her touch. And it didn’t burn her, not a bit.

“It’s okay, Mick. It doesn’t burn me.” Mick could only stare in confusion as his wife admired the pendant.

“You’ll probably feel better if you wear it on the full moons, Beth. We are literally Children of the Moon and it comforts us.”

“So silver isn’t poison to her? What else?” Mick asked, curious now that he saw it wasn’t hurting her.

“Fire won’t destroy her. Actually many vamps are immune to fire, to varying degrees.”

Mick thought back to Lance, that day in the lab and how he’d watched his hand heal almost instantly. And Coraline, he’d left her staked and burning and yet she’d survived. Was this how?

“My sire is one of the Duvall’s. They seemed to be resistant to fire. Is this how?”

Rose mentally rolled her eyes, those Duvalls! “I hate to tell you this but they are descendants, although they don’t know it. We do though because they are in a familial line that we’ve managed to keep track of. Mick, you most likely have that same characteristic.” She let him digest the news for a moment and smiled at his next question.

“But the only way to find that out is to try it isn’t it?”

“’Fraid so! But it’s something to keep in mind. There are thirteen of us and each of our familial lines has different gifts. Part of my linage is mental abilities. Beth, you are going to be amazed at some of the things you can do and Mick, as her partner you’ll likely be involved in some of that. Beth, with training you’ll be able to communicate with Mick mentally and maybe, just maybe he’ll be able to do the same with you. You both have a very strong bond and that will help.”

Beth glanced at Mick and saw the amazed look on his face. “Together we can do this?”

“Most likely, especially once you start training. Something else, Beth. You cannot die. Ever.”

“You mean that I can’t lose my head?”

“No. It can’t happen. It won’t happen.”

“How can that be?”

“It just is. It’s part of the gift. You have so much to learn. I’d like you to begin on the Winter Solstice. You’ll need to come to our sanctuary for it. You as well, Mick because you have a great deal to learn too.”

“I can’t come then. My mom is pregnant, due at the end of December and I need to be here. I’m sorry.”

“I understand that. March at the Equinox will be fine then. And try not to get pregnant before then.”

“Pregnant?” Mick and Beth said together. “That’s possible?”

“Of course. You’re here aren’t you?”

“But how? I mean, Mick is a vampire too.”

“Beth, part of what makes you special is a gene that only we carry. I won’t go into the technical aspects of it now, but you’ll learn more in March. Your body knows exactly what to do with his sperm and it will do it, trust me. But you can only get pregnant on the full moons though. No other time.”

Beth was holding tightly to Mick’s hand and both of them had tears in their eyes. He leaned down and kissed her, smiling into her beautiful eyes. “A baby!”

“I love this part of my life!” Rose exclaimed. “Yes, a baby, a dozen of them if you want.”

“I just can’t believe it. I mean, we wanted a child so badly before I was turned. Rose, this is the best news ever.”

“I’m so happy you think so. Now, some of the things you’ll do in March will involve intense physical training, for both of you. Do you work out now?”

“Yes, we do and I’m glad you brought that up. I want to begin to learn how to defend myself right away.”

“Oh, that’s great, Beth. I’ll contact Brody, he’s our peacekeeper and physical trainer. I’ll get him to come here and begin if that’s okay?”

“Yes, but how can someone be a peacekeeper and a physical trainer at once?”

“If he does the training right the peacekeeping is a piece of cake!”

“I have a friend who’s going to be turned in January. Can she learn with me?”

“Sure, I don’t see why not.” Rose stood up, happy with the meeting. “I’ll talk to Brody and see how quickly he can get here. I’ll need to find somewhere for him to stay and where you can work out.”

An idea came to Mick and he spoke up. “I own the building, actually we own it. The apartment next door is vacant. We’ve been trying to decide whether to expand into it but he can stay there and we can create a good size work out area.”

“Hey, that sounds good.” She smiled at both of them and added, “Well, young ones, I’m leaving now. Remember, NO babies until you get through all your training. You can practice all you like but not on the full moons!”

They both laughed and walked her to the door and neither one was hesitant to hug her goodbye. As the door closed they both laughed again like teenagers.

“Race you upstairs?” Beth teased.

“You bet!”



OOOOOOOOOOOO



There were other people here, but he didn’t know how many. A few he guessed. He heard them talking occasionally in the inky blackness. He hadn’t said anything, even when someone had touched him and asked him his name.

He wasn’t sure where they were but there wasn’t even a tiny bit of light anywhere to be seen here. He heard someone shuffle by and he pulled his legs to him tightly so they wouldn’t trip. He heard that person relieving themselves into some type of receptacle but there was no flush which accounted for the smell.

The smell…god, the smell was horrific. He felt like all his senses were amped up and he didn’t understand why. Unwashed bodies, vomit, waste, it was overwhelming.

The body shuffled past and he stretched his legs out once more. At some point he slept again and awoke with a start when someone said, “Cover your eyes!”

A half a second later blinding lights came on and even with his eyes closed they burned him.

God, what was this place?



To be continued…

Monday, July 23, 2012

Chapter 36 Limbo

Thank you LaLa!


Chapter 36 Limbo

Mick stared at the second unidentified body in the morgue. It was the same MO as the first one and the same as the eleven bodies the Cleaners had found. It was a serious situation, dire in fact.

Guillermo watched Mick’s face as he pondered what the hell was going on. They were waiting for Carl to show up, as the ‘official’ representative from LAPD, and the unofficial friend of the family who could help (hopefully) hold the other curious minds of LAPD at bay.

“You think this one was meant to be found by the Cleaners too, or is this vamp trying to bring it to the attention of the humans?”

“I don’t know G, hard to say. Every single one of them has been the same, gash in the neck, most likely done with a talon as opposed to a knife. See how ragged it is?” Mick leaned over the body and inhaled deeply, catching the strange vamp scent again. “What I can’t figure out is what the hell makes this vamp scent so foul.”

“Don’t know man, but I ain’t never scented one like it before. It’s not natural.”

Mick’s eyebrow rose, almost in amusement. “Like any of us are natural?”

“Come on, Mick, you know what I mean.”

Mick cleared his throat and nodded. He knew exactly what Guillermo meant. “Thirteen bodies. So far,” Mick said with a grimace.

“Thirteen, the magical number,” Guillermo stated. “Bad luck some consider and I think these guys would agree.”

“And it all has been guys too, that puzzles me. Can’t be random.”

“Probably not, but if this bad, freaky ass vamp is sending a message it sure isn’t clear.”

They both looked up when Carl came through the door and headed directly to them. “Hey, Mick, Guillermo. Same as the other one?”

Mick nodded, “Yes and the same as the ones the Cleaners have found. Any luck identifying any of them?”

“All homeless, that I can tell anyway. Three of them were listed as missing though. Of course, I can’t let it be known that they’ve been found.”

Mick nodded and ran his hand over his face, more worried than he cared to admit. “I’m betting we’re going to find more, although I don’t know why I’m thinking that other than we don’t have a clue who’s behind this. Any word on Luka?”

“None. It’s been 4 days now. Every time I get a call about a body I keep thinking it’s going to be him. We weren’t great friends but he was a good cop, great instincts,” Carl said, watching Mick’s face at that statement.

“Yeah, he did have good instincts.” In other circumstances Mick might have laughed since Luka had been so sure that Mick had killed Tejada. It just wasn’t as amusing now. “Do you think somehow he stumbled onto something that night and that’s why he’s missing? I mean, he doesn’t fit the pattern.”

“I don’t know. I wish to hell I did.”

All three men nodded at that thought. How much longer until they did know?



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Lani sat in she and Beth’s favorite Thai restaurant fiddling with the wrapped bundle of utensils as she waited for her friend. She was going to tell her about Mrs. Carter today and she felt ridiculously nervous, as if she’d done something wrong. Which of course she hadn’t. Had she?

She was going to cause more issues for the already stressed vampire. Even Josef, who normally kept his cool, was on edge because of the bodies that were turning up all over LA. Another one in the morgue this morning she’d heard. Thirteen; thirteen bodies, dead bodies. Thirteen, the witchy number. She shuddered as a chill crept up her back.

Lani jumped as Beth pulled out the chair across from her. She hadn’t noticed when Beth walked up but then since she’d been a vamp she had the same stealthy movements as Josef did. It was creepy sometimes, and almost always startling.

“Hey, Lani!” Beth said and then took in her friends pale face and nervous scent. “What’s wrong?”

“Well, nothing, I hope,” Lani said and then was interrupted when their server greeted Beth and handed her a menu to peruse.

“Thanks, “ Beth said and added, “I don’t need that though, I know what I want.”

The server nodded and quickly wrote down their orders. She took their menus and walked away, leaving the girls alone.

“Beth, what do you know about Mick’s family?”

Beth frowned for a moment, wondering what had prompted this question. “What do you mean? He had a mother and father and a sister too. Why?”

“Well, what would you…um. God, I don’t know how to say this.”

“What?” Beth asked, suddenly fearful.

“It’s Mick’s sister. She’s still alive and I know her.”

“This is a joke, right?”

“No, Beth. No joke. You remember me telling you about Mrs. Carter, the elderly lady I met and have had tea with?”

“Yes. What does she have to do with this?” She stared at the animated look on Lani’s face and it suddenly hit her. “Mrs. Carter is Maeve St. John? How do you know?”

“The time before last when I was there I saw pictures on a wall. One of them looked like Mick, when he was in the army. She said it was her brother and that he’d died tragically. So, I went to visit her again last week and asked questions and she showed me pictures from an album. It is his sister, Beth.”

“You told her?”

“No, of course not. I just asked her to tell me about her family. He used to call her Squeaks because when she was little she squeaked when she laughed. Oh, Beth, you’d like her, you really would. She still has such a spark to her, I love her, I really do.”

Beth was quiet for a moment and jumped when their food arrived. She looked at her panang and suddenly the sweet coconut curry didn’t sound nearly as good as it had when she’d ordered it.

“You're sure, Lani? Positive?”

“Yes I am. She, well the family, believed that he was killed when he married Coraline. Oh, and they didn’t like her a bit!” She grinned, hoping that last bit of news would at least spark a smile on Beth’s face.

As it all washed over her Beth thought of telling Mick this news. He’d had so much to deal with lately and now the latest body that had turned up was consuming him and the other vamps. There was a serious rogue vamp problem out there and they didn’t have a clue where to look. First Catherine and Ben and now his sister. It was more family than he’d ever dreamed of and she knew he wasn’t sure how to deal with it all. She licked her lips before speaking, digesting it all.

“Boy, when it rains it pours, huh? I have to tell him but the timing is really bad. Still, maybe it would make him happy to know that she’s alive still.”

“Yes, alive and pretty active too. I can’t help but think that she’d love to know that he is still alive, Beth.”

“Lani, how on earth can you say that? She’s elderly; she might have a heart attack or something, discovering the truth.”

“I have to say that I don’t believe that at all. She’ll probably make cookies to celebrate. The old girl is awesome, Beth. She’s not the type to faint away at the news.”

Beth groaned, remembering Paula. She hadn’t told Lani yet about that and quickly filled her in on it.

“Wow, his past is really barking at his heels, huh? How’s he handling that?”

“Better in the past day or so. He is finally beginning to believe that while he scared her to death practically, he also saved her life and the fact that she was pregnant with Max helps a lot too.”

“Well, you’re right about the timing. Still, what are you going to do?”

“Tell him of course. He’ll want to know.”

“Will he want to see her?”

“I don’t know, Lani. I’d think so, but it will be up to him.”

Lani nodded and took a sip of her Tom Yum soup and savored the rich flavor. “Well, let me know.”

“So, how are things going in Josef land?” Beth asked, giggling at the bright blush that swept over her friends neck and face. “That good huh?”

“And then some. I’ve never known a man like him!” She laughed when Beth’s eyebrows rose as the obvious answer to that. “No, that the fact that he’s family and also just how amazing he is. He’s like a curious and horny 18 year old and then at the same time he’s cautious and methodical in his thinking. It blows my mind.”

“He’s good for you Lani. I’ve never seen you so happy, so content with life.”

“Yes, he is good for me. I can’t wait to join the family in the new year.”

“So you’ve decided that already?”

“Yes, nothing to stop me. We can’t have kids so might as well do it.”

“You feel ready?”

“Don’t tell me you’re being cautionary here? You, who couldn’t wait to join?”

“No, not really. I do want you to be sure you're prepared though. But just think, Lani - we’ll be family together! It’s going to be good! And in the meantime, I’m going to start doing some training, physically. Want to join me?”

“Oh yeah! This will be fun!”

They each picked up their iced teas and took sips to clinch the pact. The future looked amazing to them both.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



After reporting the info about the newest body to Josef and Tango, Mick headed back to his office to try to focus on getting some paperwork done. He’d managed to complete two cases in the past few weeks but he needed to get the reports done and the files made for them. He’d also had a message on the machine about a new case but he was going to pass on it. There was just too much going on. He’d forwarded the call to one of his PI friends so they could look into it.

It was quiet in the office and he sat back in his chair, trying to push all the dead bodies out of his mind and focus on Paula and what had happened this past weekend. It had been a total shock but there was a small part in him that rejoiced over what had happened in 1982. Yes, he’d exposed himself but he’d saved at least two lives that night and it made him see Coraline through different eyes. Suddenly it was pathetic, this whole life he’d shared with her. He’d walked away that night knowing that he’d finally reached the end of it all.

He heard the elevator ding and rapid footsteps approach his door. He caught a scent of perfumed female, a scent that he knew. Surprised, he rose and went to the door, waiting for the knock. When it came he opened the door and smiled hesitantly.

“Hi. I hope I’m not disturbing you, Mick?”

“No, not at all. Please, come in. Can I get you some coffee or something?”

“No, but thanks. Mick, I, I honestly don’t know why I’m here.” She looked around the office and walked to the red couch and sat down, crossing her legs and sitting back in comfort.

Mick smiled at his daughter who for once didn’t look at all in control of herself. Vulnerable, she looked intensely vulnerable to him. He nodded to the seat next to her, silently asking for permission to sit and she nodded at him and waited for him to sit down.

“How are you Catherine?” Begin simply, he decided.

“I’m okay. Benjamin is struggling. He says he’s seen you a couple of times over some unidentified bodies.”

“Yeah, we have. We haven’t talked about anything, uh, personal though.”

She nodded. “It’s on his mind I know.”

“He’ll talk about it when or if he wants to.”

“How do you feel about that? What do you want, Mick?”

His eyes opened wide in surprise. She was direct, he liked that, but it was still a bit surprising to hear her come right out with it. No one, not even Beth had asked him that. Hinted at it curiously, but she hadn’t asked outright. He thought about it for a moment, trying to frame his answer.

“I guess I would like to get to know you, both of you better. Ben and I didn’t exactly start out on the best of terms. I - I was actually a bit jealous of him because I thought he was interested in Beth,” he admitted, feeling a bit foolish over it now.

He watched her as she digested that information and a question popped into his head and he put it out there because he had to know. “She was happy? Really happy, Catherine?”

Tears sprang to her eyes and they shimmered a bit in the afternoon light. “She was - is, Mick. He was so in love with her and they were very happy together. We were a happy family. Neither mom or I ever lacked for anything.”

Mick swallowed hard, trying to keep his own tears at bay. He couldn’t have asked for anything more, not for Margie or his daughter.

“Do you believe in fate, Mick?”

“I guess in some ways I do. I think sometimes things just happen and they’re supposed to.”

She pursed her lips a bit at his answer. Was it all fate that had brought them to this place? Was he supposed to be in her life? Fate had removed him from it once but here he was back into it. Maybe there really was no escaping destiny.

Mick’s thoughts were pretty much the same as Catherine’s except for different reasons. Fate had taken him from Margie and led to Coraline. While that seemed a horrifying trick of fate it had led him to Beth and he knew with all his heart that this is where he was supposed to be. How could he say that to her though? This woman who was his daughter?

“Maybe even fate has a way of righting itself, Mick, of restoring balance. I don’t know where all this will lead but I’m glad to know that you’re alive. I hope that we can get to know one another.”

He nodded, choked up again. “I’d really like that. How does Ben feel about that?”

“I think he respects and admires what you do, Mick and that given time he may come around. He’s had a hard time in his life.” She told him about Michelle and all he had went through because of it.

“I guess there is sort of a parallel to his life and his grandmother’s, isn’t there?”

“Yes. They are incredibly close. When the day comes that he loses her he will be inconsolable.”

Mick wanted to tell her that he’d seen Margie but thought it better to let it go. She was happy and he felt at peace with it all now. “Let’s hope that won’t be for a long while then,” he murmured.

She nodded, smiling for the first time that day. The conversation went easier from then on and before she knew it two hours had passed. She decided that she actually liked him.

It was a good start.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



It was pitch black and the dank and fetid air reeked of death. Yes, death and human waste as well. He thought he must have a blind fold on but a quick check with shaky fingers assured him that he wasn’t wearing one.

The floor where he was sitting was cement, he thought and fairly cool too. He listened to the sounds around him, slight movements that indicated he wasn’t alone. Human companions or other types? He couldn’t tell.

He forced himself to sit up and fought a wild wave of vertigo as he did so. He leaned his head back against a wall and pulled in a couple of deep breaths and then was immediately sorry that he had. He retched, miserably aware or maybe thankful that there was nothing in his stomach to cast out. He was suddenly aware of breathing, close to him and all his body movements stilled and he sat silently unmoving, waiting.

Waiting for the unknown. It seemed he was going to find out what was here with him sooner rather than later as he felt something touch his cheek.

He fought the urge to yell because he knew that it wouldn’t do any good.

He was in hell.



To be continued…

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chapter 35 Tension

Thank you Lynn for the picture, as always, and La La for keeping me straight and on task!!

Chapter 35 Tension



The group watched as Paula slid to the floor, Rodney sinking down with her in order to catch her before her head hit the floor. Mark immediately knelt down as well and said, “Max, get my bag!” When she hesitated for a moment, torn between getting the bag and fear of leaving her mom, he barked at her, “MAX! My bag - NOW!” Suddenly she ran from the room and Mark started to focus on Paula.

Rodney was smoothing Paula’s hair out of her face and quietly repeating her name. Mark checked her pulse and lifted her eye lids and said, “I think she just fainted. Rodney, I think she’ll be fine.”

Max returned with the bag and popped it open, displaying its contents. Mark reached for his stethoscope and listened to her heart. “Strong and steady. She’s fainted.”

“Are you sure? She’s never fainted before. Darling, come on, Paula, wake up,” Rodney said, visibly shaking.

Mark dug into the medical bag again and found a vial of something which he uncorked and held under her nose. Mick and Beth winced at the strong smell of ammonia that filled the air and Beth coughed a bit, overwhelmed with the scent.

Paula’s eyes opened and she too began to cough. Mark capped the bottle and dropped it back into the bag, it’s purpose having been fulfilled. “Hey, Paula, just lay still for a few minutes, okay?” Mark said, speaking softly.

Beth looked over at Max who was trembling, worry and fear clearly written on her face, which had grown extremely pale. Beth reached for her and grabbed her hand, holding it tightly as they watched as Mark asked Paula to repeat some words and move different parts of her body.

“She’s fine,” he declared, smiling at her.

“The hell she is!” Rodney declared. “She doesn’t faint like that!”

Mark was pulling a blood pressure cuff out of the bag and wrapped it around Paula’s arm, above her protestations. “I’m fine, really.” She looked at Mick again and a small, wry smile appeared on her face. “You don’t remember me, do you?”

Rodney looked at Mick and studied his face, trying to spark a memory. Suddenly it occurred to him what Paula was referring to. Mick obviously didn’t have a clue about it though.

Panic swept over Mick and Beth by default as he stared at her. Had she been one of Josef’s freshies? He didn’t remember her at all, or did he? Something in his memory told him he should remember her. He glanced at her arms and couldn’t see any scars from fang marks but he had a strong feeling that this had to do with vampires.

Paula sat up and asked Max to get her purse from the bedroom. Max was back quickly and handed it to her mother, as puzzled as Mick, Beth and Mark were. Paula opened her wallet and pulled a piece of paper out of it that was folded. It was slightly yellowed and the creases in it well-worn.

**“You probably don’t know this Mick but I’m an artist; drawing has always come easily to me, portraits especially. I drew this sketch in 1982, after going to a party with a group of other teenagers. The house was quite spectacular, it was a glass house, in fact. The odd thing was, there were vampires there and then suddenly this one guy came and started yelling at the woman who was hosting the party. Apparently, she was his wife and then he screamed at us and told us to run if we wanted to live. I was one of those people Mick. You saved my life.” ** She handed him the piece of paper and he looked at it, staring at his own face.

Beth let out a small gasp, her hand covering her mouth in surprise. “Oh my god, Mick.”

He looked up at her and then his eyes swept the others faces. Not one of them seemed in the slightest bit surprised by Paula’s story. He was stunned and didn’t know what the hell to say.

“They know, Mick. I’ve told them the story, although I’ve never told anyone else,” she said, trying to reassure him. “I drew the picture because I never wanted to forget the face of the man who saved my life.” She smiled at Mick, hoping he would accept it all.

Image

Beth took the sketch and studied it, taking in the amazing likeness. She knew that Paula was a gifted artist and she had captured Mick so well. She looked at her husband, still standing awkwardly at her side and then carefully folded the picture up and handed it back to Paula. “Mick, you did a good thing. It’s okay.”

He glanced at her, his mind still furiously thinking about it all. It was getting to be too much. Too many people knew the secret and a good portion of them found out from him, in some way or other. This is so not good, he thought.

They all jumped a bit when the door bell rang, heralding the arrival of the first guests. “Mick, I won’t tell anyone. I swear it. I just want to say thank you,” Paula said, giving him a small hug while Max and Mark went to answer the door.

Mick hugged her back but really, all he wanted to do was get the hell out of there. He needed to think, to figure all this out.

“Mick, hey dude it’s good to see you!” Steve called out, heading directly for him and grabbing his hand to shake it.

“Steve, glad to see you,” he replied and if his words lacked any enthusiasm Steve never noticed. He introduced his fiancĂ© to the group and Beth couldn’t hold back a smile at Tasha, a model! Steve was coming up in the world evidently. She was really beautiful and seemed to adore him.

The rest of the group slowly trickled in and the party seemed to center around the margarita machine and the grill in the backyard which Max and Rodney were manning, along with the help of Steve. Later in the afternoon Beth was in the staging area of the kitchen, refilling platters and Mick, Paula and Mark were in the seating area off the kitchen chatting amicably, although they hadn’t discussed the past again.

“Mick, you look like a scotch guy to me and I have to tell you, I can’t stomach another margarita. Would you care for a glass of scotch?”

Mick grinned and happily accepted the offer. He sipped the aromatic drink with appreciation and settled back into the comfortable sofa.

“Mick, I know that you're uncomfortable about the past, what happened, but I wanted you to know something.” Paula took a sip of her wine and licked her lips nervously. “When you ran us out of there that night, I was 19. Rodney and I had had a terrible fight and I was looking for trouble. I almost found it, until you came along. What I didn’t know that night was that I was almost 3 months pregnant with Max. She wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t done that. I am just so grateful.” She stared at him, her large blue eyes sparkling with unshed tears. “I’m just so very grateful. Other than Rodney, Max and Mark I’ve never told anyone what I saw that night. I - I was too frightened.”

Mick smiled at that, hell, who wouldn’t be. He was sure he had been like a demon that night because he was so enraged. In hindsight, he should have killed Leo that night but he wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.

“I do believe you Paula, but thank you for affirming that.” He gave a small shrug of his shoulders, not sure what else to say.

“Mick, I can’t help but be curious, in a medical way that is. Would you answer a couple of questions for me? Only for me, no one else.”

In a way it wasn’t surprising to hear Mark ask that. Doctors obviously didn’t have a chance to see vamps professionally, he thought wryly. At all, actually. If it could be helped that is. Questions? What the hell…

“I’ll try to answer them, but you have to understand that some things are just the way they are and I don’t know why.”

“Fair enough,” Mark said, leaning forward in the computer chair, resting his elbows on his knees. “Obviously you need blood to survive? Can you eat food too?” He gave a quick sideways glance over to Beth who had just popped a stuffed mushroom cap into her mouth.

Mick saw his eyes stray to Beth and shook his head with a smile. She was dancing around the kitchen, humming to a Beach Boys song that was playing on the patio, happy as could be. “No, I cannot eat food, I can’t taste it or digest it. Beth can.”

“Do you know why?”

Boy, that was a loaded question and Mick decided to go with the easiest, simplest answer. “She’s of a different familial bloodline than I am. Apparently they can eat.”

“I see.” Mark still looked puzzled but didn’t probe any further on that question. “Are there things you can do as a vampire that you couldn’t as a human?”

“Yes. We have enhanced hearing, sight, smell, and some physical attributes as well, such as strength.”

“Wow, this is fascinating. Seriously.”

“Don’t romanticize it Mark. To be a vamp you have to die and there is no going back. I’d give up all the enhanced attributes to be human again in a minute.” He stared Mark in the eyes, trying to make him realize how emphatically he felt about it.

They were interrupted when some of the others came into the kitchen to grab more food to take outside and somehow they never got around to speaking of it all again.

They all left in the late afternoon and luckily no one was too inebriated to drive home. Mick and Beth left a little later after helping to clean up the remnants of the afternoon. Their drive home was quiet and Beth was aware that something was bothering Mick. They needed to have a talk when they got home and hopefully there would be news about Luka too.



OOOOOOOOOOO



Ben’s phone rang on his way home from his mom’s house. He saw it was Carl and frowned for a moment, knowing it couldn’t be good if Carl was calling on a weekend.

“Hi, Carl, what’s up?”

“I wanted to let you know that Luka Fiorentino disappeared last night. It looks like tribe involvement.”

Ben pursed his lips for a moment in a silent whistle. What the hell did vamps want with Fiorentino?

“Why would they target him?”

“Remember that list you had, with all the names on it?” At Ben’s affirmative Carl told him about Luka being contacted and what had gone on from there.

“So he went out to meet this guy on his own? Was he crazy?”

“Well, he didn’t know that they were, well, you know.”

“Damn. Have you told our friends?”

“Yes. We all went searching last night, after LAPD got done checking out the area. Nothing really to go on though.”

“So what do we do?”

“Hurry up and wait I guess while the tribe digs deeper into places that we can’t.”

Ben sincerely wished that he knew nothing about the tribe or anything or anyone related to it but it was too late for that. Like it or not, he not only had to uphold the law but he had to protect the tribe. Talk about walking a tightrope.

“Okay. Let me know what happens, will you?”

“Always, buddy. Be talking to you.”

“Yep,” was the only reply Carl got before the line went dead. What a way to ruin a great weekend.



OOOOOOOOOOOOO



Both Beth and Mick were lost in thought on the drive home, mulling over what had happened, among other things.

Beth still wanted to talk about being left home Friday night and she had cooled down a bit and had some perspective on it. Lani had made a valid point, even if Beth hated to admit it. She’d never been in any type of physical altercation, human or vamp. Yes, she’d fought back a few times but would she be able to attack and would she have any clue at all as to how to fight a vampire or as a vampire?

No. She didn’t and that was something that they needed to take care of and soon. She needed defensive and offensive training. Someone had to be able to help her with it if Mick wouldn’t.

She was also thinking about what happened with Paula. It had turned out fine, sort of anyway, but that meant more people who knew the secret. Although, they had known it anyway, whether Mick was a catalyst for discussion or not. How in the world did so many people know and yet it remained a secret in this world?

Mick has similar thoughts and it all felt like the weight of the world was falling down on him. Family he hadn’t known about with vampiric connections and now Paula. He thought back to the night at Coraline’s that he’d found Paula and other teens there. It was the night that he’d decided that he’d had it with Coraline, for good. He’d saw her with totally different eyes that night and nothing she could do would ever change it.

It was a momentous night for both of them and their future was predicated on it as well. Mick walked away for good and Coraline made the plans to kidnap a child, which led him to Beth. Of all the horrible things that Coraline had done, ever, in their lives together and separate, that was the one thing that made him change his life and he would be forever grateful for that.

He’d changed Paula’s life as well and for the better too he would admit. Still, all these years she’d known the secret, carried around that drawing of him in case she ever saw him again. She’d told her husband, her daughter and son in law. More and more people knew the secret. Suddenly, he felt as if he was boxed into a more and more dangerous place and now Beth was residing there with him.

He’d been here too long - it was just that simple. Too many people knew, how many more that he didn’t know about. Maybe it was time to move on?

When they got home Beth held his hand in the elevator, silently aware that something was troubling Mick a great deal. He glanced down at her, knowing that she could see him in her mind but could she also see what was in his mind, his heart? For some reason that scared him.

After they got settled at home each with a glass of O+ to sip she asked him point blank what was going on.

“I think maybe it’s time to leave LA Beth,” he said simply. He heard her sharp intake of breath and looked away, unable to handle the fire that burned brightly in her eyes.

“You’re kidding me, right?”

“No, I’m not. Too many people know, about me, about us, vamps, because of me.”

“For heaven’s sake Mick, half the women in LA know about Josef! The few that you know are nothing compared to that.”

He fought a smile at her words because he knew that she was right. Finally it crept out and she laughed. He joined her, he had to or he might very well go crazy.

“Okay, so it’s a bad idea, huh?”

“You’ve had better ones. Mick, you’ve just been getting hit with a lot lately. It will get better, together we can accomplish amazing things and we can certainly withstand a few hundred of your long lost relatives and past acquaintances.” She gave him a cocky grin and saw him respond with one of his own.

“Only a few hundred?”

“Okay, so I exaggerated a bit. But it will be fine. What isn’t so fine is that fact that I stayed at home the other night and I’m still not okay with it.”

“Beth, I didn’t have any idea what we were walking into.”

“I know that and I even, reluctantly, accept that. I didn’t have enough experience to deal with it if there had been problems. But that needs to change Mick. If I’m going to have your back I need to know how to do that. I need training Mick. Can we work on that?”

He was taken aback for a moment. She wanted to be able to help him, protect him? The knowledge of that melted his heart. Was there anything she wouldn’t do for him?

Was there anything he wouldn’t do for her? He knew the answer to both of those questions.



OOOOOOOOOOO



Malcolm was livid! An uncontrollable rage welled up in him and there was no outlet for it right now. He’d been double-crossed by the cop. The bastard had let another vamp in on it all and now Malcolm’s plan was about as useful as ice in the arctic. He didn’t know what the hell was going on but that when he went to the rendezvous site the cop wasn’t there but another vamp had been. Both of them probably laughing it up over it all. When he’d saw another car pull up he’d been tempted to wait and see what happened but caution made him get out of there immediately. Calls to Fiorentino’s phone had gone unanswered too so he wasn’t even going to be able to talk to him.

Vamps were the rightful rulers of this world - top of the food chain. No doubt about it and the Equalizers were going to be the ones to make sure it happened. It could only happen if the humans turned on one another and so it was time to call in a few other people to make it happen. The humans had to suspect and fear one another, just like in the French Revolution. Globally it hadn’t been possible to make it happen then but now? It could be done with the right catalyst and that was information.

Yes, that’s what he needed to do, gather the others and get the information out there. First he’d have to find out exactly what the hell was going on with the cop though. One thing was for sure, he was a dead man, one way or another.



To be continued…



**Beth’s Diary, Part 28 - 2

Monday, July 16, 2012

Chapter 34 Echo's of the Past

Thank you LaLa!  You are amazing!  


Beth and Cami looked up as the men came into the loft, all of them grim-faced and apparently frustrated.

“Did you find him?” Beth and Cami asked in unison which caused Lani to wake up and take in the scene before her.

Mick pursed his lips until they were nothing but a flat line across his handsome face. “No, we didn’t. No trace at all.”

“No scent, Mick?”

“A couple of vamp scents, but I think they were there at different times. Hard to tell because it’s a little humid out there and the city scents are overwhelming.”

Lani looked at Josef for confirmation and he said, “Don’t look at me, not my thing. All I scented was a vamp smell, could have been one or a hundred.”

“Something was rather hinky about one of them though,” Tango said, his British accent even more clipped than usual.

“You mean like not really a vamp?” Beth asked, confused.

“No, it was vampire, certainly. But, muddied I’d say.”

“Well, sit down and let me get you guys something to drink,” Beth said, and Lani stood up to help. The vamps settled on scotch with a blood chaser and Carl just settled for the scotch, neat. They sat at the table and tried to talk the situation through, looking to see if one of them picked up on something the others didn’t.

“Mick you need to take me to the scene and see if I can pick up on anything else. I know you want to keep me out of it, but you also know that I have a very keen nose when it comes to the past,” she said, touching her nose as she spoke.

Mick looked at her in consternation. He was tired, they all were. They had walked and dug into every place they could looking for clues but there was nothing to be found. “Beth, we covered it all very carefully, there’s no other clues there, trust me.”

“I do trust you, Mick, and I’m sure there aren’t any physical clues there, but I might be able to ‘see’ who did it, if it’s Tango and Josef’s guy.”

“Beth, it’s been 8 hours since the meeting. The scent was almost totally gone by the time we left there. I really don’t believe that there is anything left to scent. Honestly.”

She looked at his face, the tiredness etched into it, and realized he was being honest with her. She should have gone with them earlier, followed them if necessary. Why hadn’t she? Beth had fought the instinct to tune in to Mick’s movements while he was gone. It wasn’t easy at all, when her mate was in danger she wanted - no, needed to make sure he was okay. It was a mistake she wouldn’t make again. The boys only club has had their last meeting she decided.

The group broke up soon after that, heading home to try and rest before they went any farther. Carl would let them know what, if anything, the police found. They were going to process Luka’s car for prints. His phone had been there but his gun was missing, which seemed odd to them all.

As goodbyes were said, it was a solemn group that walked away from the loft and caught the lift down. Mick closed the door and leaned against it and Beth pulled him to her and held him for a moment. His body was tense, his muscles tightly bunched and she let him breath in her scent and her love for him. Gradually he relaxed and they headed upstairs to take a shower before crawling into the freezer.

Beth hated waiting games and this was certainly what this was. As she drifted off to rest her mind was still churning about it all. That rest didn’t come easily to either of them.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Cat sat in her office at home on Saturday morning, trying to focus on composing questions for the Caldwell deposition scheduled for Monday and failing at it. It really irritated her because she usually had no problem at all focusing on business.

But that was before Mick St. John, a ghost from the past, had made an appearance in her life. She was still struggling with how she felt about it and she could only imagine how Benjamin must be feeling about it all.

She’d had a long talk with Josef about Mick, the struggles he’d faced when he was turned, the horror his life was for decades. Not that Coraline Duvall had been the only guilty party in it. Yes, she’d used allure on Mick and turned him without him knowing about vampires, a horrendous enough thing on its own to cope with. But Josef had also said that Mick had been his own worst enemy for a lot of that time too. Up until he’d saved Beth Turner, when she was four years old. Amazing how a single event changed his life so much, but it did. He stopped partying, drinking fresh blood, Josef had said, and switched to buying bagged blood from the morgue. The thought of which frankly sickened Catherine. Her mind echoed a derisive laugh at that - drinking any blood should be enough to sicken her but the thought of what could be in that bagged blood was just too gross. The disease, the chemicals, you never knew what was going on with someone’s body. Vampires couldn’t get sick, or so Josef said, but what if you ingested tainted or poison? Could a vamp handle that? Did they have any type of filtering system if their liver didn’t work any longer?

While Josef loved being a vampire, Mick had a much different feeling about it. Josef said that it wasn’t bad enough to have to deal with Coraline and the deviant lifestyle she led but walking away from his family had almost been his undoing.

He’d been okay for a few years apparently. But, as he began to make his way in his new world and the fights with Coraline grew worse he began to long for his human family more and more. He grew extremely depressed which in turn brought out the worst in him - living on the edge of things.

His behavior became reckless, out of control, even for a vampire. He would swing back and forth between life with Coraline, which was at best violent and wild, to fits of uncontrollable partying to try to shove it all away. The pain of missing everyone, of not having something or someone solid in his life had worried Josef a lot. He was afraid at times that Mick might take his own life.

Cat remembered Josef, back in the day and the wild parties at his house. She knew that she’d never met Mick there, but she couldn’t help but wonder if Molly ever had. In truth, Cat hadn’t spent that much time there because school was pretty rough. Molls would talk about evenings playing topless Twister and other equally silly pursuits. Josef had been different in those days, Cat realized, much more carefree and up for a party anytime. But he had also been eminently more dangerous in his corporeal needs and desire. Partying was great but when it was dinner time he got right down to it. Nowadays he seemed a bit more polished, circumspect even. The thought made her smile at his gentlemanly ways. Deep down inside, she knew that he really was a lord of the manor.

The door bell ringing startled her for a moment and she frowned as she looked at the clock. 10:30 - she’d been working for 2 hours and hadn’t really gotten anything done.

When she opened the door she found her son standing there, a haggard, troubled look on his face. “Ben! Come on in son. What brings you by on a Saturday morning?”

“Hi Mom,” he replied, stepping into the foyer. The house was quiet and he added, “Is dad here?”

“You need to talk to your dad? Is it about a case?”

“No, I um, I actually wanted to talk to you about…things.”

“I see. Well, your father is at Pebble Beach, playing golf with the governor and then attending a campaign fund raising banquet this evening. He won’t be home until tomorrow evening actually. So come and tell me what is on your mind.”

She led him into the living room and offered him some coffee which he refused. She suspected that he’d been drinking a lot of it this morning because he seemed jittery. Almost as soon as he sat down he was back up again, pacing the room. Cat watched him for a moment, trying to give him time to gather his thoughts but it was really hard to see him so out of sorts like this.

Benjamin had had more than his share of bombshells in his life and she hoped that he’d find a way to cope with this newest one.

“Mom, how do you - how are you so complacent about all this? About Mick St. John, I mean?”

“Well, I’m not sure I’m complacent about it Ben, but I have accepted the reality that he is alive and that he is a vampire. Think for a moment, which part upsets you the most? That he is alive, that he is a vampire or the fact that you know him already?”

“I just don’t know. All of it is a shock. I mean, when I first met him I hated him on sight because just his name reminded me of the fact that Mick St. John had run out on grandma. I thought he was probably my cousin and even that didn’t help my antipathy at all. As I got to know him though I began to admire him, his instincts, maybe the fact that he saved my ass when Beth and I got captured. I don’t know…”

He sat down again and leaned back against the sofa cushions and ran his hand through his hair. “Vampires? Well hell, Mom, I never even imagined such a thing. You certainly never let on, and I guess I understand that. Alive? If we’d found an old, doddering husk of a man, that would be one thing but he’s technically younger than I am, in a way that is.”

“His birthday is Monday, by the way. He’ll be 86.”

“Why in the hell would you even remember that?”

“I don’t know, I just do. I know that mamma used to get sad on November 16th and I didn’t realize why for many years. I think she couldn’t help but remember the day, even though she loved my dad with all her heart.”

“See, that’s just it - you had a dad, I had a grandfather!”

“Yes, we were so fortunate in that. Benjamin, blood may make him my father but he’ll never be my dad. There is a difference. Frankly, I can’t see Mick ever trying to take the place of Herb in our lives.”

“Are you going to tell grandma about this?”

“I don’t see that it would help anything Ben. Her love for Mick is a part of her past and I think she laid it to rest many years ago. I feel sure that Mick wouldn’t want to stir up any pain for her. He seems to be a pretty conscientious kind of guy. Do you think you should tell him?”

Ben knew enough about him to agree with that assessment of Mick’s character. If things were different, he could really like Mick, be great friends with him because he admired how hard Mick fought for what was good and just.

“I can’t, he’ll never be grandpa, as you said, but maybe someday he’ll be a friend again. I feel almost protective of him, like he’s vulnerable and that seems pretty far from the truth actually.”

“I don’t think it’s far from the truth at all. Physically, he might not be vulnerable but his very life, what he is makes him vulnerable in this world Ben. For all of them. It’s why I always kept the secret. Yes, there are very bad vampires out there that would kill just for the pleasure of it, that DO that very thing, but we humans are no different. What we have to make sure happens is that the world is safe for all of us Benjamin. That’s your task.”

“How do we do that Mom? I don’t understand.”

“We watch, we help when we can. Get to know him Benjamin, learn to understand who he is, as a man, as a vampire. Then decide how or even if you want him in your life.”

Ben heard her words and nodded quietly. He stretched his hands out, realizing that he’d clenched his fists so tightly that his fingers ached. He let out a long slow breath and said, “That makes sense. Thank you Mom.”

“You're welcome. Hey, how about some lunch? We can order in some Thai if you like?”

“Sounds good,” he said and realized that he was hungry. Maybe it would all be okay. Get to know and understand Mick St. John - it seemed an awkward task at best but he would try to do it, for everyone’s sake.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Beth punched the end key on her phone and laughed. “Max said the margarita machine got there a little while ago and they got it all mixed and running so there will be margaritas a plenty at the party. And, she stated once again for the record, that if someone is too hung over to make it to work tomorrow that you are dead meat St. John!”

“Hey, just trying to make a good impression with the gang. After all, you have to be stern with them as their boss, but I can be the poor, long-suffering husband who tries to buy their good will with the margarita machine!”

She grinned wickedly as they sipped a glass of O- before leaving for the party. “Hey, I am going to be one of those great editors, lots of guidance and I’ll kick their asses when I need to.” She rinsed out their glasses and set them into the dishwasher. “I love you Mick St. John!”

He grinned, the crooked one that melted her heart so easily. The St. John charm still got her and he knew it. “You really love me huh? Even when I make you stay in the car, as you say it?”

“If you're a smart guy you’ll get off of that subject really quickly.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled his head down for a long and lingering kiss. The feel of his lips moving over hers sent shivers up her spine. She sighed when the kiss ended and rested her check against his chest for a moment.

“How much time do we have before we have to be there?” Mick asked, a teasing twinkle in his eyes.

“Not long enough. But don’t forget that thought later on!”

He laughed, knowing that neither of them would forget it. “So, are you all ready for the big day tomorrow?”

“Yep, as ready as we can be for now. Mick, it’s going so well! Mark has taped his Ten-Minute Doc pieces for the next few weeks, we have a month of the cooking segment ready to go and it’s the same for the yoga morning segments and the afternoon Pilates. We have so much to offer this time, not just tabloid news. Although, we still have that bit of sleaze segments at times, just to keep you happy!”

“Have you talked to Ben yet, about the legal segment?”

“No.” She frowned for a moment and added, “Somehow it seems like a little much to do right now. We’re okay for now and when things calm down a bit I’ll talk to him.”

When they arrived at Max and Marks house Mick pulled the Benz into the driveway and he looked out at the house in surprise. It was huge, perched on the side of a mountain and built with lots of natural stone and wood. The lawn was well-manicured, which wasn’t really an easy thing to do up in the hills where you ran into more cactus than grass.

“I guess being a doctor here in LA pays really well, huh?”

“You know, people think that about our loft too. All a matter of perspective! Now, help me get all these cruditĂ©s into the house, something they’ll never eat because they’ll all be too busy drinking margaritas.”

Again he tossed her that cocky grin and she just shook her head in mock frustration. “C’mon! You are a very bad influence, know that?”

“I try,” he said wickedly, quirking an eyebrow upwards.

As they waited for the door to be answered she couldn’t help but laugh. This was one of the best things about Mick, he could always make her laugh and the thought occurred to her that it hadn’t always been that way. But it was now and she loved it.

“Mick, Beth, come on in,” Mark said, holding the door open for them. “We’ll just put this food into the kitchen. Max is in there, finishing up the other finger foods.” He headed down a hall and Mick glanced around him as they went.

The house was rustic, the stone and wood from the outside being an integral part of the interior design. Comfortable furniture that was sturdy and stylish seemed to be the choice and although it was completely different from the loft Mick liked it a lot. He remembered they had a couple of boys and judging by how quiet things were here he guessed they must be at someone else’s house.

“Paula and Rodney are here too. Beth, do you remember meeting Max’s parents?”

“Yes, I do. It was at that Achievement in Journalism affair back when we were at the LA Free Press. How nice that they are here too.”

“Paula has been talking about it non-stop for days now. I swear, I think she’s more invested in Buzzwire than Max is!”

They walked into a huge kitchen that had a central island with lots of copper and wood trim. To the left was a small den type of area that had a desk with a computer on it as well as a couch and chair. It looked like a comfortable gathering place for the family and Mick had to admit it was very inviting. The far wall of the kitchen had sliding glass doors and lots of windows that looked out on a very large backyard. He saw a pool with a wrought iron fence around it that had a lock on it and in the back of the yard was a large play area for the kids, who were nowhere to be seen.

Max was putting something into the oven and the whole kitchen smelled wonderful. Beth and Mick sat the bags down on the counter and Max grinned, hugging first Beth and then Mick in welcome!

“We are on our way Elizabeth Turner St. John! We are taking Buzzwire to places where no one ever thought it could go!” The two girls hugged one another and both of them jumped up and down in their excitement.

Mick watched it with interest. He hadn’t actually known Beth during the LA Free Press days. He’d known she was working there but he’d stayed away from her. Other than meeting Max and Mark at the wedding he didn’t really know them. Max was vivacious and enthusiastic, a good combination to pair with Beth.

“Ladies, if anyone can do it I would bet my next paycheck it would be you!” Mark said, smiling as he looked at his wife. They’d been married young, she being 22 and he 28, but neither of them had regretted it. The first baby boy had come along a year later with the second less than a year later. Beth used to tease them constantly about what causes that, but they were thrilled to be parents. Now the boys were 4 and 5 and they were talking about having another one or two now that they were more settled. Mark had finished his residency two years before and was well-established in his own practice and life was good for them.

Mick saw the way Mark looked at his wife and understood the deep love and passion the man felt for his wife. After all, it was how he felt for Beth. He hoped they’d always be this happy.

Out on the deck Rodney said, “Looks like Beth and her husband are here. Shall we go inside, darling?” He held out his hand to his wife who was sitting on a chaise and smiled.

Lord, but he was still handsome Paula thought, admiring the deep brown eyes that were made all the more attractive by the laugh lines that crinkled at the corners when he smiled or laughed, which was often.

“Okay, if we must! I must say though that the weather is beautiful today and the sunshine feels heavenly.” She stood up and she and Rod headed into the house through the sliding patio doors. As they stepped inside she said, “Beth, how wonderful to see you again. Marriage agrees with you! And this must be Mick,” she said, turning her eyes upwards to look at him.

Her face paled and suddenly the world tipped around her before she crumpled to the floor.

Beth looked at Mick with a questioning eye but he was as shocked as she was.

Well, this party was starting to be really interesting.



To be continued…

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Chapter 33 Floodgates

A big thank you to Lady La La, who keeps me on task and sharp! You are awesome chickie!!



Carl and Ben walked into the Breakwood and spotted Cami waiting for them at the bar. Her smile lit up her whole face when she spotted them and she slipped down off of the bar stool with a fluidity that was enough to make Carl’s breath catch in his throat. She walked straight into his arms and he held her tightly for a moment, knowing that whatever was going on in the world right now, his was okay because she was here with him.

Ben stood by, wishing for a moment that he hadn’t came. Their embrace was so achingly intimate and yet somehow totally innocent. The love these two shared was almost painful to watch and yet he couldn’t look away, mesmerized by the sheer energy it seemed to generate.

He’d felt that way once, when Michelle was in his life. She fit into his arms perfectly, her warmth and love wrapping around him tightly like a blanket. Nothing was wrong in the world when she was in his world. Until she wasn’t.

Columbia Law School, 1998

The last semester of school was going to start in a few days and both Ben and Michelle felt the energy and rush of making sure they were ready hit them in an enervating wash, the calm before the storm. Both felt that they weren’t up to this last, final semester.

Well, that wasn’t true, they were ready, but it really was crunch time. Both of them had been interning at different law offices the past year and kicking ass this last semester would ensure that they both graduated with highly promising careers ahead of them.

Michelle was interning at Blanek and Myer’s, a well known and expensive firm that specialized in criminal defense. Right now they were involved in a very public trial involving a well-known mob boss and things were going exceptionally well. It looked like he was going to get off and Ben and Michelle had talked endlessly about the case, among themselves that is.

An attorney’s objective was to represent their client and set them free, if you were a defense attorney that is. Marco ‘Slippery’ DeFazio was as guilty as they came, but because of errors in the arrest process and the few credible witness’ the prosecution had who had somehow ‘forgot’ what they saw, he was going to walk. Good for him, bad for the rival crime family who had already started to take over his turf.

Bad for Michelle who couldn’t handle the thought of that scumbag walking away scot free. What she had learned was that nothing is written in stone, legally that is. A case that should have been a sure win for the state was sinking fast and the two crime families were both gearing up for a major coo.

Ben watched it all in a very detached manner. He saw the flaws in the states case and the mistakes they had made and was determined to learn from them. Prosecution was going to be his game, he already knew that, much to his parents dismay who wanted him to join them in their lucrative criminal defense practice in LA. Instead, Ben, providing he graduated as expected and passed the bar had already accepted a junior prosecutor position in Sacramento. It was a good start, but Michelle hadn’t decided yet what she wanted. The bloom had already worn off the criminal defense aspect of the job and she was considering estate law perhaps. Like Ben, she was being courted by several prestigious firms as well but she would settle in Sacramento with him.

They’d set the date for the wedding already, June 17th and again, much to his parents consternation instead of being the social and media event of the decade it was going to be a very small affair. They would have their own way about it, regardless of how much pressure Ben’s family exerted.

Michelle had no family left, a few cousins scattered to the four winds but she’d never been close to them anyway. She was a bit uncomfortable with the lavish lifestyle of Ben’s parents but Ben himself was about as far away from all that as was possible. She really did love Ben’s mom, Catherine who at least respected how hard Michelle worked in school.

Michelle had done it all on scholarship, a truly amazing feat. Anyone who could manage a full ride to Columbia for 4 years and then handle working her way through grad school deserved Cat’s respect and she gave if freely, proudly even because Michelle would be a wonderful daughter in law.

The night that DeFazio was freed the police decided to try and sneak him out through a side door after dark, in hopes of making the reporters and everyone else think they’d missed him earlier.

The night was dark with an almost fetid stench to the air from the sewers far below the street. It was unaccountably warm and humid for a New York January, the temps in the high ‘60’s and people were out everywhere enjoying the weather, even at 10 pm. It was Celia LaFortune’s job, as the leading defense attorney to accompany DeFazio to the car that would be waiting for him and Michelle was with her.

The side door opened and other than a few pedestrians strolling along the sidewalks it looked clear. They started down the steps to the sidewalk and spotted the car that was waiting. Ten feet from it, from the freedom he sought DeFazio was gunned down, as were Celia and two undercover cops. Michelle saw it all happen, saw the Respirito family sweep out of two vans and grab DeFazio’s body. Michelle stared in horrified silence when one of the Respirito boys shot her, two times, eye witnesses would say. She crumpled and went down hard onto the pavement, her head cracking hard against it, hard enough that it left a large spot of blood and hair on it. The shooter, evidently wanting to make sure she was dead, grabbed her and tossed her into the van along with the cops and Celia’s bodies. Nothing was left except for the blood spattered sidewalk.

Ben was contacted soon afterwards and literally ran to the courthouse. Nothing left, not anything except for a few strands of her hair. He collapsed, sobbing desperately at the loss of her, his soul mate, his love. Her blood covered his hands, his clothes and he didn’t care because it was all that was left of her.

Someone got him home and friends descended upon his apartment, calling his folks. When Christian, Catherine and Margie got there 8 hours later he hadn’t moved from the couch where they laid him.

Freda Moore, Michelle’s best friend had tried to wash the blood off of Ben’s hands and get him to change his shirt which was also covered in her blood but he only ignored her, tear-rimmed eyes staring sightlessly ahead of him. The friends all kept silent vigil with him until his family got there, appalled at his state. Eventually his dad and Robert, another friend, simply unbuttoned his shirt and pulled it off of him, slipping a tee shirt over his head. He let his grandmother wash away the blood on his hands and they cried together as they watched as the water was turned red with her blood. Finally they got him into bed and he lay wide awake until a doctor came and gave him a shot to help him sleep.

It had been 14 hours and he’d not uttered a single word. As he slowly drifted off to sleep one word caught in his parched throat.

Michelle…


“Ben? Ben?” Cami repeated softly, casting a concerned look at Carl who shook his head almost imperceptibly. “Ben? Are you okay?”

He came back to the present, embarrassed by his lapse of manners. “I’m sorry Cami, just wool gathering I guess.” He smiled at her confused smile and added, “An old expression my grandmother often uses. Means basically that I wasn’t paying attention. I apologize for my bad manners.” He smiled warmly at her and kissed her cool cheek.

She laughed, a soft sound that sounded as dainty as she looked. “I’m so happy that you finally decided to come to dinner with us.”

“It was very kind of Carl to ask.”

The hostess let them know that their table was ready and they followed her to a booth in the back of the restaurant, near a waterfall that lent a hush over the atmosphere. The booths at Breakwood had high backs on them, giving privacy to the conversations of their often famous and privileged guests. The three of them slid into the plush leather seats and relaxed in comfort.

“Would you like to order drinks now?”

“Yes, please,” Cami said. “I’ll have a Grey Goose martini, dirty.”

The hostess jotted it down and looked at Carl and Ben expectantly. “I’ll have a Guinness please,” Ben said and Carl held up two fingers, signally he’d take the same.

They made small talk as they perused the menus, Carl and Ben both deciding on the prime rib for dinner. When their order was taken Cami said, “Nothing for me. I ate earlier but who could resist a dinner invitation with these two gorgeous men?” The waitress nodded in agreement and Ben felt a slow flush creep up his face as she stared at him.

Finally she said, “I’ll have your soup out in just a few minutes. In the meantime, if you need anything my name is Amanda.”

“Oh, Ben, she likes you! Too bad you can’t scent her, uh, interest,” Cami said and watched Carl laugh at her comment.

“Scent her interest?”

“Um, well yes. Sexual interest that is.”

It finally occurred to him exactly what Cami meant and another flush swept over his features, barely visible in the darkened room - to a human that is.

“You really do have some extraordinary abilities, don’t you? Uh, people like you I mean,” he said, looking around him and hoping that no one could discern what he meant.

“Yes, the ‘tribe’, as we sometimes call ourselves, do indeed.

Ben had to smile at the ‘tribe’ connotation. It worked and certainly seemed easier on the tongue than ‘vampire’ did. Was he really part of a family that had a vampire in it? Friends as well?

He watched Cami and Carl together and couldn’t see anything sinister about her. She was demure, soft spoken, quite poised actually and she and Carl seemed perfect together. Simpatico, Michelle would have said. They finished one another’s sentences sometimes and when they looked at each other, well it was almost embarrassing to watch because those looks sizzled with desire.

The evening proved to be a good one, a happy one. Cami talked freely of her life and it only got a bit sad when she talked of the night that Beth was turned. Her best friend Lani had killed the vamp that did it. As an ADA he should find that wrong but yet, how could he because look what that woman had done to Beth?

Beth, who was curious beyond reason and also loyal to a fault, especially where Mick was concerned, had essentially been murdered. He and Carl spoke briefly about the ‘tribe’ and their justice system.

“You have to understand, Ben, our system can’t work for them.”

Ben nodded, hating to admit that it was true but after seeing Emma Monahan tear apart that office he knew that it was true. “She was, taken care of, that night?”

“Yes, according to Mick. Their justice moves quickly, Ben. As ours should.”

Ben certainly couldn’t disagree with that but what about the people who were sent to jail who were actually innocent? He hated to admit that it happened, but it did. What they needed was a more fool-proof system. Impossible in these times though.

He thought about the conversation long into the night and knew that a visit to his mom was in order. It was no longer just a matter of Mick, estranged grandfather who was a vampire, but it was a global issue. If word ever got out, and it would eventually he knew, then there had better be some sort of thought given to how it should be handled.

Deep thoughts indeed. And for the first time in years Michelle wasn’t the last thing on his mind before sleep. No, the thought that maybe it wouldn’t, shouldn’t matter - vampire or human, we all just wanted to exist.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Carl walked Cami to her car, stopping to place a lingering kiss on her cool lips. “I’ll follow you to your place?”

“Yes,” she responded breathlessly. “Yes…”

“Okay,” he said, and then he stepped away, reluctant as always to leave her even for a few minutes. In his car he pulled out his phone and saw that he had missed a call from Luka. There was also a message from him and Carl called his voice mail and listened, quickly becoming alarmed at what he heard.

“Hey Carl, we got a call from our phantom. He insisted that I meet him at Kimbridge and Valley View in an hour. If you get this before then I’ll see you there but I’m heading out on my own. I’ll give you a call when the meeting is done and catch you up if you don’t make it.”

Sonofabitch!
Was he crazy? Carl realized that the message was from 3 hours ago and he certainly should have heard from Luka before now. He thought for a moment and then dialed Luka’s number, but it went to voice mail eventually. At least it wasn’t off, that was a good thing. He decided to head to the rendezvous point and see if Luka was still there.

A quick call to Cami let her know that he’d be delayed a bit and she was fine with that. She’d been with Carl long enough by now to know that things happened and she could tell that he was really worried about Luka.

It took Carl almost a half an hour to reach the place for the meeting. He’d tried repeatedly to call Luka but still didn’t get an answer. As he approached the intersection he immediately noticed how dark it was, with no street lights on at all. He spotted Luka’s car up ahead, parked on Valley View and pulled up behind it. He grabbed his gun and a flashlight out of the console and stepped out of the car, moving quickly to Luka’s vehicle. It was empty, although the driver’s window was down. He tried to call Luka again and heard the phone ringing and when he opened the door he found it lying on the floor of the car.

He looked around him, peering into the deep shadows but couldn’t see anything. He went back to his vehicle and placed a call to dispatch, to see if he’d checked in there. As he hadn’t, Carl brought them up to speed on what was happening and a black and white unit was dispatched and headed his way, quickly followed by two more.

They searched the area for 2 hours but couldn’t find a trace of Luka. Carl’s stomach was twisted in knots. He needed to call Mick and Josef in on this but the cops had to get out of here first. He called Cami again and let her know what was going on.

“I’m so sorry, Cami.”

“It’s okay, Carl. I’m worried now too. Are you going to call Mick?”

“Yeah, but I can’t until the others are gone from here. Hopefully Mick can pick up on a scent or something.”

“Yeah. Hey, I’ll go ahead and call him, okay? Let him know you’ll be calling him in a little bit.”

“Yes, that sounds good. Cami, I love you.”

“I know. Love you too. Don’t worry about me, okay? I’m fine. Just find Luka.”

The unspoken word, ‘alive’ was added by both of them. Alive, yes, please alive.



OOOOOOOOOOOO



Mick hung up the phone with a sharp punch of the button. Beth, sitting next to him had heard the whole conversation.

“Oh, Mick. This isn’t good.”

“No, it’s not. We didn’t think that Shatel had anything to do with Malcolm.”

“Maybe they aren’t connected and this is something else entirely. He might show up safe and sound you know.”

“Maybe, but my gut says that’s not what happened.”

Beth nodded, she felt the same way. She watched as Mick called Josef and let him know what was going on. Josef in turn called Tango and they came to the loft to wait for Carl’s call. Lani came with Josef, to keep Beth company.

When they got the call from Carl Beth fumed as they walked out the door, her eyes burning brightly blue.

“What’s a matter, Beth?”

“No offense, Lani, but I had been planning to go with them. For heaven’s sake, I can scent a scene just as good, if not better than Mick. He knows I won’t go if you’re here.”

“Beth, he didn’t ask me to come along, I just thought I would. Sorry…” she trailed off, pissed at Beth’s attitude.

Beth rolled her eyes, knowing that she’d offended Lani. “Look, Lani, I’m sorry. I just hate being left out, especially when they try to protect me because I’m a girl, you know?”

“So you want to go gallivanting off into danger just to prove you're one of the boys?”

“Well, not exactly. It’s just, Mick is always protecting me and I can take care of myself, you know. I have fangs too!”

“Have you ever had to defend yourself with those fangs Beth? Seriously, you’re still a baby in vamp years.”

“You just wait, you’ll understand soon enough, when Josef turns you. The guys think that just because they were the first ones in history who were big enough, mean and strong enough to go out and club something to death for dinner that we are the weaker sex.”

Lani listened to Beth’s tirade and had to suppress a smile. Beth had never been one to hold back when something needed to be explored or done. This was no different. Still, they boys definitely had themselves a nice little club going and it irritated her, too.

“Look, let’s just make the best of it, okay? I know you’re worried about Carl here too. Why don’t we call Cami and ask her to come over here and we’ll watch a movie while the boys are out doing whatever it is they do?”

“Okay. You wanna call her?”

“Already dialing!”

Cami agreed and came over quickly. After one movie the girls all tried to seem interested in another but none of them were. Clock watching seemed to be the order of the evening and time trickled by slowly. Lani finally fell asleep at 2 am and Beth and Cami settled in to wait it out.

At 3:40 am the front door opened and all the men came in, grim expressions on their faces.

It apparently hadn’t ended well.



To be continued…