Thank you LaLa! So glad you're back!
Chapter 53 Letting Go
Even though her conversation with Henry wasn’t really deep, for some reason she felt better. Maybe just making contact with someone that understood what had happened to them was a good thing.
She’d tried to vocalize it to Mick over the past two days but words failed her. When you have no frame of reference, how did you share something like this? She wanted to talk to him and now she felt as if she could.
First she stopped and chatted with Max, who was feeling so much better. It was wonderful to see the vivacity in her eyes and even better to know that she remembered very little of what happened. It was all just sort of a blurry dream to her and so much the better for her, Beth thought. They chatted about Buzzwire for a bit as they had both been watching the past day or so, and it was going so smoothly that it was like they weren’t even gone. Hell, Beth decided, it was maybe even better.
Max was going home tomorrow and insisted she would be up for the shower on Sunday. Beth was a bit skeptical about that and thought that Max might actually tire more easily than she thought, but she said nothing about that. Max was pretty determined and if she came it would be wonderful and if not, well that was okay, too.
The two women discussed business for a bit and both of them had the same idea for Buzzwire. They were on the right track with it but they both knew it could be better and now they knew how to make it that way. So they opted for a new path, one that would bring stellar results, they both decided.
The next stop she made was Buzzwire, and when she walked in an immediate round of cheers greeted her, which brought a huge smile to her face. She’d been missed, and for some reason that made her almost giddy with excitement. After making the rounds of everyone, without even having to make too many excuses, she settled in the office that Rodney was using and she couldn’t help but notice a few personal objects sitting around it. One of them, an award he won for a series on organized crime, had a very prominent place on a shelf.
“Looks good, Rodney!”
“Nothing like bringing out a few trophies to make the cubs work harder.”
Beth smiled at the old fashioned newspaper term for young reporters. He really had them in line. Their reports were more concise and informative, even the entertainment news. “You’ve done a fabulous job here, Rodney. You’ve got them in tip top shape. Thank you.”
“You and Max deserve the credit, Beth. I just fine-tuned them a bit.”
“Well, we were trying. Do you feel at home here?”
He shrugged with a grin. “It’s different. At first, when Max told me that she and Mark were buying this place I thought she was nuts. I couldn’t see how any internet focused news agency, without respectable backing like CNN, could be valuable, but I’ve changed my opinion.”
“Well, it’s certainly different from when I was here before. We’re proud of it, certainly. But, there are still things to accomplish, one of which Max and I just talked about at the hospital.”
“My advice is to just stay on the path you're building and you’re going to be very successful.”
“Yes, well, that’s the thing. You’re part of the path now, Rodney. How about staying here with us? Coming out of retirement? We’ve never hired a Content Manager yet and you’d help us a lot if you’d consider it.”
“Oh, you girls are doing fine. You don’t need the old man hanging around, Beth, but thank you!”
Beth frowned for a moment and said, “So, you really aren’t interested? It was a sincere offer, not a token gesture. Max and I both know that you bring a lot to this table and that you have so much you can teach us both.”
“You mean you really want me to stay?” He was clearly surprised by the offer.
“Yes, we really would. The segments we’ve both seen have a polish and hard-hitting skill to them like never before. It’s amazing. Yes, please consider it Rodney! Retirement isn’t all that great is it?” She grinned at him, using the St. John charm that she’d watched Mick use so many times.
“Well, I’ll be damned. Okay, you two have a new Content Editor.” He laughed, clearly happy with the outcome.
Beth nodded, delighted with the outcome. “Call your daughter, I know she’s waiting on pins and needles to hear your answer!”
“Will do.” He rose and followed her to the door as she got ready to leave.
“We’ll make the announcement Monday morning at the meeting. Max and I will both be back but I hope she’ll stick to half days for a week or so. I really think she’s going to get a bit more tired than she believes she will.”
“I believe you're right, Boss!”
“I’m not your boss! That’d be your daughter,” Beth laughed. “See you Monday, Rodney!”
His daughter. Wow, this was going to take a bit of getting used to.
Mick worked on a large pot of pasta sauce, sniffing at the concoction to gauge whether it needed more herbs. He really enjoyed cooking, especially seeing all the fresh vegetables and herbs he grew being put to use.
He was worried about Beth and cooking also helped with that, took his mind off of it all. As yet, she hadn’t said much about what had happened and he was trying to not push her. She’d talk when she was ready her knew but it was hard to wait. So, he’d done something that might not have been a good idea by inviting Dorothy and Clark and Josef and Lani for dinner. He hoped that seeing their family and friends would relax her and help to push the haunting memories back, at least for a little while.
When he’d called Josef he’d gotten the shock of his life. Lani was pregnant and it was Josef’s baby because evidently she was a descendant as well. In fact, she was related to Beth somehow and that made a curious guy like Mick, well, curious.
Dorothy had never said who Beth’s father was nor the circumstances of how she became pregnant. He’d never question her but how much would it upset her to hear that Lani and Beth were related? Might not be the best thing for her to hear at this stage in her pregnancy. That is supposing that she didn’t already know it and was keeping mum on it.
He heard the elevator ding and a few moments later caught the scent of his wife and she actually smelled happy. Well, happier, and he grinned as he wiped his hands on a towel and headed to the door to greet her.
“Oh wow, it smells great in here, handsome! You cooking for me?” she said as she wrapped her arms around him and kissed him before laying her head against his shoulder for a quick snuggle.
“Yes, and for your mom and Clark and Josef and Lani. Well, Lani anyway,” he said as he ran his hands over her back, pulling her tightly to him.
Beth was a little disappointed over the fact that they weren’t going to be alone but she was also happy to see the others. True, she’d wanted to talk to Mick but they most likely had time before the others were due and so she sighed happily.
“How long until dinner?”
“A couple of hours, you know I like to let the sauce simmer. Beth, did you have a good day?” It was the closest he could come to not asking her outright what she’d done.
“Yes, I did and I want to tell you all about it, Mick. I know I’ve not been talking much but I’m feeling much better. Can I get tall, cold glass of something red and we can sit and talk?” she asked with a grin.
Relief swept over him as he headed into the kitchen to turn the sauce down to low and get them both a glass of A-. He carried them into the living room and sat down with her on the couch and listened as she outlined her day.
Talking to Henry had helped her a great deal and while he was more than happy about that, a part of him, if he were really honest with himself, was also bothered by it. Why hadn’t she been able to seek the same comfort from him?
Beth studied his face as he thought over what she’d said and she could scent his confusion about it all. “Mick, I don’t know how to explain this very well, except to say that I didn’t know how to tell you about it when you didn’t experience it with us. I - I still don’t exactly but I’ll try.”
She took a long sip of her drink and then a deep breath and began to talk. “When we got there and I saw Luka and Henry there and the way that he was keeping them locked up I knew that there was no way they would ever be able to take Shatel out on their own. It was such an enormous weight of responsibility I felt and I didn’t know what to do. I’d already tried to fight him and he wasn’t even fazed by it. I mean, he could have likely killed me then and yet he didn’t. Of course, I realized later than he wanted me to kill them, wanted me so hungry that I wouldn’t be able to control myself.”
She tipped up the glass again, finishing it and Mick took it from her and sat it on the coffee table. “I understood, for the first time how you felt in the desert, Mick. I wanted their blood, badly. I could scent it and even in the dark I could sometimes see it pulsing in their veins. I’ve never been in a harder fight than the one it took to hold myself back. Luka and Henry both knew it too, I know they did. And instead of being petrified of me they still trusted me that I’d hang on. Until Luka made me feed on the full moon, I thought I was going to die there.”
“Oh, Beth, I’m so sorry you had to experience that, baby.” Mick swallowed down a lump that hurt so much. She’d been so strong and she’d survived, all on her own.
“We all worked together, Mick. We worked the bars loose, we sharpened the handle of the plunger and if it hadn’t been for Luka and Henry, well, when I staked him it wouldn’t have worked. I plunged it into him but Luka and Henry shoved him onto it from the front.” A small sob escaped her. She felt almost guilty and more than a little stunned for what she’d done, almost like when she’d killed Lee Jay, but she knew it would pass. “We sat in the cell together, in the dark maybe 23 hours a day for those four days and it was just hard to talk about it since you’d not been there. All of us wondered how come we made it and all those others didn’t.”
“And talking to Henry helped?” he asked and watched as she nodded her head in assent. “What did he tell you?”
“Nothing amazing or anything, just that he and Luka were both struggling too and that we all just had to take it a day at a time. So when I left there I decided to just take today and do what I needed to do and I did. I feel better now, especially since I was able to try to explain it to you. I’m not sure it made any sense, but I tried.”
“Beth, it makes more sense than you realize. When I came home from the war I wondered how come I survived when my buddies didn’t? It’s horrible to live with those thoughts, baby. But Henry is right, you just have to take it a day at a time. I’m always here, Beth. You know that.”
“Yes, I do. I’ll be okay, I know that but it might take a bit of time. Can you be patient with me?”
“Of course. Hey, sometime why don’t we invite Henry and Luka over for dinner, too? It might help all of you to experience each other in a normal setting.”
“I’d like that, Mick. You wouldn’t be uncomfortable, about Luka, I mean?”
He pursed his lips for a moment, weighing her question. It had been a shock that day, seeing that Luka was the one she’d fed from. He couldn’t help the twinge of jealously that had flitted through his heart as he remembered how strong the bond between he and Beth grew after the desert but he saw none of that in her since then. More than likely she’d used allure on him as she always did when feeding fresh.
“You know, I am okay with it. Luka and I sort of had a rocky beginning but Carl thinks he’s a great guy so I’d enjoy getting to know him I think.”
“Good!” she said and then stood up. “Do you mind if I take a shower and change before everyone gets here?”
“Go ahead. And then we have to talk about Josef being a daddy!”
She nodded, giggling at the thought. “Deal,” she said as she headed up the stairs.
He watched her go and realized that while she was still having some problems with it all, it wasn’t nearly as bad as he’d imagined. At least it was in the open now. He went to check on his sauce and lifted the lid and inhaled deeply.
Damn it smelled good. Sometimes he really wished he could taste things. He really did.
The discussion of Josef’s impending fatherhood would have to wait since by the time she got back down the stairs her parents were there. Both Dorothy and Clark smiled when they saw her because it was apparent that she was doing better.
“Mom, Dad,” she said, hugging them both, a smile on her face. She was amazed at how comfortable she was calling Clark dad now. She had thought of him as her dad for a long time anyway and yes, there was still that part of her that wished he really was her father. Her mom had told her he wasn’t, but it didn’t stop the wishes.
“Doesn’t it smell wonderful in here?” she said, bragging a little about Mick’s sauce. “Wait until you taste the sauce, it’s wonderful. Mick, can I help with the salad or something?”
“Nope, got it covered. Why don’t you just sit down and chat? Dinner will be ready in about half an hour.” He was dumping pasta into a huge vat of water to cook and Beth smiled as he took a small step back from the steam that rose from the pot.
Clark stayed in the kitchen and Beth heard them discussing football. Of course, both of them lived for sports. She was surprised that Mick didn’t base his calendar on whatever sport was going on.
Dorothy sat in one of the chairs near the couch and Beth took a corner of the couch and curled her legs under her. “How are you feeling, Mom?”
“Good, actually. The doctor tells me several weeks still but it’s getting really hard to sleep now, let me tell you.” She blushed when she said it, remembering that Beth wouldn’t be able to have kids.
Beth thought about it for a moment and realized that they’d never told anyone yet, that they could have babies, because so many things had been happening. “Mom, we didn’t have a chance to tell everyone before…well before, you know, but Mick and I can have babies. As a descendant, I’m able to have them. Mick and I will have babies.”
Dorothy was both thrilled and stunned. This took on a whole new meaning, since she knew that Lani was pregnant. She started to congratulate Beth when Lani and Josef got there. It was just as well as she needed a few minutes to recover.
So Lani was having Josef’s baby, not Eric’s? This was going to get hard, she knew it in her heart, and it certainly answered one question she’d had. For a moment she felt as if she couldn’t breathe and she focused on catching her breath. Thank goodness no one noticed she realized as she looked around the room.
The talk at the dinner table focused first on Lani’s pregnancy. Josef was so happy it touched them all and Lani was practically walking on air.
“I find it hard to believe that I’ve been a vampire for 400 years and never knew of the existence of the thirteen or descendants. It is really amazing to me but I’m not complaining.”
“Yeah, until the diapers need to be changed,” Mick joked and they all laughed.
“Well, the good with the bad I guess,” was all Josef would say.
The next topic of conversation was brought up by Beth. “I was amazed at how run down that old church is where Henry has his shelter. I mean, it was clean and all but the deterioration of the building itself is terrible. Such a shame because that shelter helps a lot of homeless folks.”
“Where is it, Beth?” Clark asked, curious.
“It’s the one off of Main, on Broadhurst. Great old brick building but it is crumbling in places and was terribly cold in there too. Henry said that they had to conserve resources where they could when I noticed that most of the lights were off as well. How do they work and get anything accomplished there, I wonder?”
“Public funds for shelters and such are very limited these days, Beth,” Josef said, knowing how true it was.
“You know, there isn’t anything frivolous about trying to help groups like this. Henry helped me so much and I intend to try to help them. Maybe by volunteering there at times or something. Mick, can’t we make a donation perhaps?”
“Sure. Maybe a monthly type stipend of something. Josef, this is your kind of area, what are the options?”
“There are lots of options for private parties in situations like this. Stipends, grants, trusts set up for dividends, that sort of thing.”
“Josef, care to get involved too?” Beth asked, smiling at him.
Damn her dimples and charm! He knew from the look on her face and the same look on Lani’s that this was going to cost him some money. “I’ll talk to my people and see what will work best for non-profit entities and we’ll set something up. Mick, prepare to get a dent in your checkbook!”
“I’d like to take a look at the building, myself. I don’t own a construction company for nothing you know,” Clark said with a grin. “I’ll bet there’s a lot that can be done to update that building to make it a bit more energy efficient. I’ll go and talk to your friend Henry tomorrow, Beth. Do you think he’ll be there on a Saturday?”
“Oh, Dad, that would be wonderful!”
Beth was feeling very pleased and happy as she and Mick walked their family and friends to the elevator and waved goodbye.
Mick spotted the joy that had brought the first real sparkle to her beautiful blue eyes since she’d been home. He scooped her up in his arms and kissed her, chuckling as she sighed in pleasure.
“Mrs. St. John, I think you and I have a bit of catching up to do.”
“Why, Mr. St. John, I do believe you are correct.” Her mouth sought his as he carried her up the stairs to their room. “Oh, Mick, I love you and I need you!”
“You got me, baby. Forever…”
Downstairs the two couples chatted about pregnancy, both Lani’s and Dorothy’s. They were unaware that their voices carried loudly because of the cement walls of the parking garage, or that a dark car with a darkly dressed man was parked in a dark shadowy corner and that he could hear everything they said.
He watched as they climbed into their cars and took off, anger and rage rippling through him. He didn’t need to follow them, he knew where they lived.
Yes, he knew.
How dare she? How dare she let another man put a baby in her belly? He’d kill the bastard for taking what was his.
She was his and soon enough she’d know it.
To be continued…