Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Walk, Run, Stumble (PG13-NC17)

This series picks up  after the “A Wonderful Opportunity” Series.

Remember…..this is after Love Lasts Forever, the Mortal Cure didn’t happen like the show and Fated to Pretend is out there in another world.

Previously in my world (And you are welcome to it) Beth’s health condition has required an internal cardiac defibrillator to be implanted; she lost the early pregnancy she had with Josh.  Josh was shot and he survived thanks to Mick and Beth’s CPR efforts.  While he was recuperating he was visited by the spirits of his child and Dad, he was tipped off he had a good number of years ahead of him. Mick and Beth return to the loft to find a package which Mick does not divulge to Beth is the cure.

= = = = = = = = = =

Walk, Run, Stumble…..#1 / No One Else

Remember, we all stumble, every one of us.  That's why it's a comfort to go hand in hand.  ~Emily Kimbrough

“What was it?” Beth’s eyes followed the movements of his hands as Mick closed up the box exactly as he had received it. His eyebrows were knitted together as he frowned, thin lipped.  He took off for the office and withdrew a roll of packing taped and wound is vigorously around the package.
Was he returning the package? Beth was confused, yet this was just another time when Mick the vampire didn’t let her in. Could she take this when she didn’t expect it?  How well did she know the man in this relationship? She dared not follow him, not out of fear, yet out of respect. Hadn’t this man just saved her ex boyfriend, had saved her life? She owed him privacy in his own home. She heard shuffling, metallic sounds of drawers opening, closing, and his arriving footsteps and then he was here…. With a transformed face, completely transfixed by her adoring eyes, he was her Mick again. How did he do that?

What was the way they got by each other’s hidden selves? Space, they gave each other “Space” and by saying they trusted each other when they weren’t together.

Tonight Mick thought about going for the full release, make it or break it. He’d have to see how far he could take it before he fought the raw sybaritic power of his inner vamp. He was hoping for the best, giving the two of them the most enduring and sensual experience a couple could have and he was prepared for the worse, he’d get that mahogany stake out of the closet and leave it by the bed table.

Then tomorrow, he’d talk with Beth about the cure.  “Let’s grab some sustenance before we head upstairs, OK?” Mick tried to pry her gaze from the office door. Was Beth expecting the box to walk out by itself?

“Sure,” Beth circled around the bar and slid up behind Mick as he reached into the back panel fridge.  She caught his eye in the reflection and demurely grinned as her hand blindly felt the drawer for the stack of take out menus. She rested her cheek on his shoulder and took in his cool calm.  They knew it was a balm on their souls to be home.

Mick reached for the bag and a tumbler all while Beth stayed attached to his back.

“Are you OK?” He thought she was a bit clingy tonight.

“I just want to cuddle, feel you. . . . . .  Hold you.  You know, be naked together” She purred her desire and Mick downed the A+.

Between them it had been truly divine, they had stripped slowly and showered then they fell into the bed and melted between each other’s vigorous limbs.  While their bodies clung to each other, his furiously hard cock drilled slowly, deliberately. She held him tightfisted deep within her, her legs around his hips rising to his stroke, answering his deep rumble with sighs and cries begging for more. Their dance had been playfully attentive, a vertical waltz that ended with both of them covered with Beth’s sweet sweat.

Mick was enveloped in the reality that she was alive and loving him. Beth was awash in the thrill of Mick accepting himself and loving her.  The night birds had ceased their singing when Mick rose silently from their bed and climbed into his freezer. As his consciousness dimmed he finally welcomed the peace his vampire nature brought him and he wondered what Beth was dreaming.

Gravity pulls me into anticipate our first touch
Sweet and so new
Let's figure out how to make this forever, Oh this is making me crazy

“If there was a way, a way for me to be human, how would you feel?” Mick held Beth over his chest, her breasts were warm and she smelled of their sex.  He was giddy with the smell of her juices drying on him and the fact that he had left her quivering and full of his come.

“Like Morgan?” All Beth could recall was Morgan stalking them. 

“She was on a cure” Mick’s finger tips trailed lazy circles on her soft back.

“How long would you be human?” Beth was calm; they’d always had discussions of his angst and unhappiness at his nature.  This was a breakthrough and she was curious.

“A dose masks the effects about 11, 12 months ” Their eyes met and he saw her reticence, was she in love with the vampire or what she thought was the vampire?

“We’ll have to make a spreadsheet, you know like Ann Landers would tell people the list the pros and cons” Beth seemed exceptionally level headed for a woman sleeping with a vampire. 

“A list of pros and cons?” Mick thought about it, took a second look at her and gave her a wry smile.
“I guess no more cool vampire jumpy thing?” her smile came straight from her heart as she walked her fingers up the center of his chest, “No more drinking blood, biting, sleeping in a freezer” she pronounced  each thing as she tapped at a curve of his pecs, “What about drug side effects?” Beth rose up on one elbow, her head on her chin, “You know, like the guy on TV and his mentioning the 4 hour erection?” She had tried to be serious, but that line gave her away and she collapsed on his chest with a giggle.

His nodding continued as he waited for her to list more sins of his undead flesh. That was it, that’s all she saw.  She hadn’t been there for the hellish early years.

“I could be with you, in bed every night, we could grow older together for maybe as long as 3 years” 

His voice rumbled from his chest, while the unspoken reasons moored there deep.  He could love her as a man with no fear; he would know a good meal together with her.

“Is that all the time you see for us, 3 years?” Beth grew serious, what happened to forever?

“No, Beth, that’s not what I meant, I mean that out of our time together , we’d have 3 human years for me, for us” He seemed to smooth that over, not understanding exactly how he did it.

“What would you do for a living? I mean isn’t a lot of your skill at being a PI being a vampire?” Beth was right back to the practical; Mick had a jar of spent bullets he had pulled out himself, could he be as successful being mortal? Was Mick due for a career makeover too?

“I have some money put away, I could try doing something else I guess, if you were worried” There was more to this than just eating, breathing and getting back his beating heart.  In the end, if he survived 3 years he’d be back to pulling lead out of himself and sleeping alone in a freezer.  

There was no way to convince Beth that being a vampire was just about his diet and sleeping habits, she didn’t know what he had done between 1952 and 1985.  In 33 years a vampire wreaks a lot of havoc and Mick remembered the lion’s share of it. 

Beth’s attention span only lasted as long as that, she became fascinated with the trail of hair down the center of his chest, the flat of her hand skimmed it, giving him a quiver, and then she followed the line to his thatch of pubic hair to play with his reawakening cock.  They had been bouncing it back and forth and he didn’t have the overwhelming satisfaction at deciding to re-enter the human coil.  Mick threw himself back into their physicality and pushed the discussion aside, sometimes it's better to be paralyzed with indecision than to be paralyzed by your decision.

Hey love I am at the point of no restraint……..
Let's just make a move and feel the earth quake

It's just you and me and no one else

It's just you and me, you and me

= = = = = = = = = = =

Friday, February 1, 2008 

The day Josh got released from the hospital they were there….. Mick’s Benz was outside the hospital, passenger door open while the orderly rolled Josh to the curb.  Behind them, Beth pushed a cart of dish gardens that had nearly outgrown their ceramic bowls.  His halting steps with the cane from the curb to the car seat brought them all a smile and then three very human riders sped off to get Josh settled in his beachfront studio apartment.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Slowly now, we shouldn't let this go too fast
Bring me out of this shell, take off my mask
This is us intertwined and on fire
I cannot stop, I'm consumed with desire

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Monday, February 10th, 2010

Mick’s “human” body was adjusting; he was eating the food of the 21st century with a 20 century body.  Beth had filled the kitchen counter with a large Kitchenaide stand mixer, cranking out home cooked meals, home baked cookies and anything that looked good on the cover of Bon Appétit.

Along with the Kitchen gadgets another delivery was made…….a Pilates Reformer (exercise machine) that slid under the stair because Mick’s predilection for food ran more toward the Prime Rib at Musso’s than a vegetable stir fry. Beth slid the contraption where Mick would see it from the kitchen, so the constant thought was “a minute on the lips, years of the hips” after all the metabolism slows down after 85!

This evening, Mick stood at the island, knife in making julienne strips of chicken while Beth opened a bottle of Malbec. Their kitchen partnership had become seamless, he was prep and she was assembly. Together they did cleanup. It gave them more time to bump hips and clown around.

“Mick, I go back to work on the 18th” She almost whined at the thought of leaving her comfortable schedule of getting up, walking on the beach, writing her journal and best of all spending nights with Mick at the loft.  He’d boot her out, dropping her home as he left for work at Kostan Industries.

“Then I guess we really have to celebrate on the 14th, besides it’s our first Valentine’s Day” Mick leaned over and kissed the back of her neck, eliciting a shiver of delight from Beth.

“Yes, it is, and I have so much to do before Monday….. A haircut, a manicure, pickup some dry cleaning, get an oil change, pick up groceries. I’m going to be so busy between now and then…….” She was ticking off things from her to do list, when a stray hair fell into her face, she stopped speaking to blow the hair off her face.  Mick had been watching her, it was a perfect moment for him to brush the hair back behind her ear and tenderly kiss the ear that caught the stray hair.

“Don’t be too busy for a kiss, OK?” He had softened so much in these past 2 weeks; his voice was rarely on edge.  His eyes were calm blue green pools of relaxation.  Whenever Beth needed a hug his arms were gentle and warm, yes, he was inordinately warm from the man she had first known.  His beard grew faster, he fussed and fretted over keeping his nails clipped and clean.  Beth joked about the primping in the bathroom; his hair had already grown almost a half inch. 

“You remind me of a teenager” She grinned, head turned to return the kiss.
“What?” he feigned hurt feelings.

“You‘ve awoken and all the things we find tedious you are reveling in them, like a teenage boy just getting to shave……” Beth was right; he was enjoying all his body’s responses to appearing “alive”.  The things that took months to change, his beard, hair and nails were regenerating and earning his rapt attention.

“I just like to look my best for you, babe” he approached from the back, wrapping his arms around her waist and nuzzling her neck.  He no longer saw the active roadmaps of veins; all he saw was creamy skin lightly dotted with pale freckles. He wanted to kiss each freckle only now time was finite and he found himself “scheduling” time to be together, between work and the sleep he seemed to need, how did couples with small children do this??? Mick thought about that a lot.. …. ….. …

“You’ll always have that perpetual cool to me” Beth shifted deeper into his caress and returned gentle sighs.

Hey love I am at the point of no restraint……..
Let's just make a move and feel the earth quake
it’s just you and me and no one else
it’s just you and me, you and me
= = = = = = = = = = =

Tuesday, February 11, 2008

Josh took plenty of time weighing his options. He had his small home packed up as it had been holding far too many “Beth” memories after all.  He’d be happier in the studio with the beach view, it would give him time to take his physical therapy and reevaluate what he’d be doing with his 40 hours each week. 

Tejada and the HEM were going to be someone else’s problem, not his; he had given pints of blood on the ground in Griffith Park. Some guy by the name of Ben Talbot could fight the good fight now, Josh thought as he took measured steps to the studio.  Carl had given him a dapper looking walking stick, carved briar wood with a tipped scale of justice, “you always knew justice wasn’t balanced” Carl said when Josh remarked the uneven level of the two sides, Josh knew justice wasn’t the only uneven thing in life.

He didn’t sleep, at least not more than 2 or 3 hours.  His gait had been maligned by a misshapen piece of bullet that ricocheted off his spine.  He walked, he had feeling in his legs, he just was going to take a few months of dogged determination to see it came all the way back.  The guy who had played pickup basketball games now huffed and puffed with trips to the car, his one lung still healing from the thru and thru gun shot.

He settled in the apartment and began a new life alone just when he had been planning to be a married man.  His dreams of Chris and his Dad would come and go, he still hadn’t figured out if Chris was a girl or a boy, he just knew it was their child because Chris was just too much like Beth – always curious.

Once he deposited the checks from the sale of his home and his settlement he set up his computer to begin to crawl out of the grip of the grey, grey gloves that had held him for weeks.  He’d begin writing, first because he had the time and secondly because he couldn’t NOT write about the experience of being held and shot and coming back into life.  Writing led to research, which led to snooping and uncovering things he never thought to believe.

Beth’s parents had never really divorced. Bob Turner wined and dined Josie Barker then when Josie decided she’d go back to work Bob decided to let her see what it was to work and he left.  Beth was 3 years old when he sent the $500 check with a chicken shit good-bye note.  It had taken Beth a long time to admit to Josh anything about her parents’ lack of commitment.  It had been in the back of his mind that he wanted to find Bob Turner and tell him what kind of resilient daughter he had, he had never had the time to find the bastard, now he did.  Josh was going to do some digging in Bob Turner’s dirty past.

= = = = = = = = =

Mick looked into the mirror. Was it his imagination? Was he fixated on his appearance?  All of his life, all eighty some years he’d get to a stage, perhaps at decades when he’d look at himself and gauge….where had he been? Where was he going? What had he accomplished or what had he botched?  He was trying to remember his 20th birthday, when he was “high and tight”, ready to ship out to Europe. He was JEEP, “just enough education to pass” on a boat, clutching his medic pack as some 90 day wonder pontificated on the strength of the platoon and how they would singlehandedly whoop Hitler, or Mussolini. Hoooah. By the time he had done his time as a ground pounder he returned to the States a different Mick St John. 

30, by the time he had arrived there….. Mick had already cuckolded his best friend and wandered Los Angeles night spots, guitar in one hand and a libertine woman in the other. Then there was Coraline, the woman who pulled him thru the frayed curtain of life.  In those mentally dark hours he figured she had taken his life in retribution for the waste he had laid between 20 and 30.  Then Chronos, the God of Time pressed his finger on the FF button of Mick’s life and he was 40….what had he done by 40? It was more a case of who he hadn’t done…… every one of the red headed Freshies, a few of the brunettes.  They were grudge fucks and forceful feedings, there were sexual gymnastics with a covey of Freshies that left the bed linens awash in blood and spent fluids. 
Before he could remember how much of his wife’s income was wasted on his splitting the wishbone of each of his freshies he was looking at 1982, he was 50. An age when most men buy a Corvette and date 19 year old girls, he was still driving his 62 vintage Benz and suckling his meals at their throats….. Yet these vain and empty interactions were coming around the bend.  

1985, the woman called him, distraught did not begin to describe her mood.  She made short time to get to his office and under cover of the night he followed her to her small home.  Josie Turner didn’t have to lead him to Beth’s tiny bedroom; on entering the ranch home he scented the dragon, Coraline. Beth’s picture in hand, he went about the task of reeling in his wayward wife and took on vanquishing the dragon woman with a stake and fire. Mick carried the towheaded pixie to his car, his heart heavy at the need to break an age old taboo and kill his sire.

Mick passed the wide eyed child to Josie and began to turn away; she had already passed the three fifty dollar bills to him before he left to find Beth.  She owed him nothing more. A gentle hand grabbed at him, “Mr. St John, please, come in for a moment”.

Mick followed Josie while Beth’s cornflower blue eyes stayed locked on his face.  The house still reeked of vampire to Mick, he cringed slightly as he sat on the sofa she gestured to.  “Will you hold Beth for a moment? I’ll be right back” Beth fell back into his arms, melted into his lap. Her slight pale body was weightless as she clung to him. Her tiny finger went to his lips as she traced where a fang could descend, “where did it go?” Beth’s head tilted to see him from another angle.

“What go?” Mick asked innocently, giving her a perfectly normal smile.  Josie returned from her bedroom, clenching something in her fist.

“Mr. St John, I never expected to get Beth back alive.  You brought me my baby, I can’t pay you enough, I want you to have this…..It was my Grandfather’s it came from France” Josie sat beside Mick and dropped the necklace in her lap as she disconnected the clasp, she held out the fleury cross and the glint of the white gold caught the light.

“It’s too much” Mick declined, waving her off with a polite gesture, all the while holding Beth with his other arm, she was warm and smelled like bubblegum shampoo.

“Please, wear it for us.  It’s been in the family for generations, my Dad is dead, Beth’s Dad well, you know he’s gone…..”  Josie nodded, holding the necklace out further, Mick reached for it cautiously – was it silver or white gold? How would he explain that phenomena?  His finger touched it, no burning, he leaned into the open necklace and Josie connected it around his neck.  The cross fell down his shirt, into the hollow of his chest where it warmed him.

He looked at his very human reflection, the single grey hair that has arrived this morning, at every good place in his life Beth had been there……..for him, there is simply no one else.

= = = = = = = = = = 

Walk, Run, Stumble #2 King of Pain

#2 King of Pain

Tonight we have a choice of style for the soundtrack….Mudvayne or Sting……
If you like it rough, here’s your song…..
King of pain….(Mudvayne)

If you like it smooth, here’s your song……….
king of pain the police

 There's a little black spot on the sun today it's the same old thing as yesterday
There's a black hat caught in a high tree top, there's a flag-pole rag and the wind won't stop

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign, but it's my destiny to be the king of pain

Thursday, February 14, 2008

These days of adjustment were full of discoveries, most of the time Mick was at peace, no longer constantly filtering the cacophony of the world. He was able to look at Beth and see the beautiful woman he was in love with; he no longer saw the Rand McNally map of veins and the throb of her pulse.  Out in the world he enjoyed holding an offered handshake, no longer concerned of the chilly impression he gave. 

On the flip side he was confounded by the time it took to be human these days.  He had to sleep no less than 8 hours a night and when Beth wasn’t beside him, Mick churned up the sheets like sea foam on a tormented shoreline.  Then there was getting back and forth to work, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning and doing laundry…… And there was the grooming, the products Beth suggested “anti-aging” eye balms, anti fatigue gel, pre-shave oil, after shave balm and the time to use them in the right order. Was it serum then balm or balm then serum?

By the time they turned in at night he was weary, Beth frequently nudged him awake to come upstairs to bed and he snored her to her sleep.  Beth didn’t complain at his hoarse vibrations, he was in bed with her and there when she woke in the morning.  They danced in their sleep; spooned together his hands would wander around her waist and hold her close now and again venturing down to comb his fingers between her legs.  His cock would tremble and throb at her cheeks and if they weren’t too weary they’d make love half asleep.

“I’ll be damned” he thought, well actually for a long time he thought he really was.  Mick swung his legs over the side of the bed and rested his palms on the side of the bed.  6am was way too early to be up.  Beth was moving in that somnambulant dance she did each morning, the view was exceptional, her lithe body twisted in the sheets, a bared breast, a flash of her bush.  He could have died right here and now and been a happy man for these days he’d been human. 

After decades of using barely any hot water he’d become a slave to the hot streams of water that would pommel him awake, he even bought a loofa to polish his skin pink with life.  Human’s feelings were so wickedly different from what he was used to, now he could let his skin drink in the sunlight. In many ways he felt it took effort to “feel”, devoid of vampire senses he had to work to listen, to sense things.  He had dropped the body covering long duster in favor of a dress shirt and vest; at least he could roll up his sleeves when he needed to feel the air, the sun, or Beth’s touch. By the time he had nearly run thru the hot water he felt a soft hand on his back, “I hope you didn’t wake my girlfriend up, if she finds us I a dead man” his whispered without turning around.

“Vampire humor doesn’t work anymore, Mick, you have to buy a new joke book” Beth shook her head and stepped around him to get under the water, then yelped “Are you poaching seafood in here? Jeez, Mick”, she jumped back around out of the scorching spray, lathering and waiting for him to make a temperature adjustment.

Their usual dance under the shower’s spray commenced, their reciprocal cleansing followed by drawn out kisses and slippery embraces.  He’d smile at her with those knowing eyes of his and she’d return a “come hither” grin, then her grasp would tighten around his morning-hard cock and they’d lean into each other until they had quenched their appetites.  Mornings, he was like bull, hungry and anxious and Beth was keen for their water dance.  This was the morning of Valentine’s Day and he wanted to take special care to make her entire day extraordinary.
 = = = = = = = = = = = =
There's a little black spot on the sun today (That`s my soul up there)
It's the same old thing as yesterday (That`s my soul up there)
There's a black hat caught in a high tree top (That`s my soul up there)
There's a flag-pole rag and the wind won't stop (That`s my soul up there)

Josh’s body betrayed him every morning, stiff, he rise from the therapeutic mattress and creak toward the automatic coffee pot for a cup of fresh coffee. In the mirror he’d catch the sight of his posture and his slow steps and he say a prayer of thanks that he was alive.  His beard was coming in, he was done shaving every day, it was OK to be scruffy when your job was, well, he really didn’t have a job. In a past life Josh had staff that did legwork in investigation; he accepted the proceeds of their labor and made it stick. Case won most of the time. Now he saw why Beth had the tenacity of a bull dog, the hunt was the thrill.

Josh knew when Bob Turner had made it legal with Josie Barker; their public records left a trail of their relationship.  Their marriage, Josie giving birth to Beth 7 months later and finally Josie’s attempts to obtain a divorce or some support when Bob left her high and dry with a toddler.  Josh thought about the face of “shotgun” weddings, the coursing crush of marrying because of a pregnancy and living a lifetime of duty.  He had dodged that bullet, and half of him felt grateful, he and Beth weren’t ready for the weighty responsibility of parenthood.

Josh delved deeper into Robert Allen Turner, he scrolled back into the 70’s and there was more. There was an entire life before Josie Barker.  Bob Turner had married Diane Jackson on December 31, 1978 and they had a son June 21st 1979, he was a regular pollinator, a serial procreator. So, now where was Bob Turner? Had he continued the same pattern, how many more families had he “hit and run”? Mildly drained he rose and made a cup of Silver Needle tea, from the housewarming basket Mick and Beth had sitting in the kitchen when he came home. He sat and enjoyed the steam from the cup nestled on his chest. Where did he go from here?

= = = = = = = = = = =

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign
But it's my destiny to be the king of pain

= = = = = = = = = = = =

The tea went cool while Josh chased his tail in his head back to the first time Beth trembled in bed, she woke with a furious fear and ran from the bed wrapping tightly in the bed quilt she grabbed off him. He watched in the darkness while she huddled in the corner rocking while she repeated an undecipherable mantra.  It was the first month they slept together and he wondered if having a man in her bed caused the reaction.

Directly after the case with the Professor Vampire wannabe the nightmares left her shuddering, yet backing into his spooned form, he’d hold her in a tight cocoon whispering gentle words of affection, anything to dispel her anxiety. She’d cling to him, and some nights she turn into his embrace and beg him to love her, then she’d settle back to sleep for a few hours. The alarm would ring and they’d robotically move thru their morning rituals until they’d part at her front door for their respective days alone.

They never spoke about it yet he should have pressed Beth after the bouts.  When Morgan Vincent began working at BuzzWire the nightmares suddenly became about Morgan and Mick. Morgan was the lady in white, Mick was her avenging angel.  What was that about? Josh didn’t have a clue.  He spun his college ring on his finger as he reflected on Mick, the thorn in his side until Mick saved his life. The guy was a few years older than he, seemed to be set in that top floor loft on Drexel, how does one do that on a P.I’s income?

Michael Andrew St John, born November 12, 1922 to one Ella Russell St John and Andrew Michael St John. US Census records reflected their home in West Adams, and between the 1950 and 1960 census Michael disappeared. How does a human disappear? The mob?  Josh went back to simple statistics…… licensing, phone records, property titles

Josh was thinking Mick was a ghost and then there was another birth, Michael Russell St John born March 17, 1957 to one Michael Andrew and Coraline DuVall St John. Shit, Josh ran a nervous hand thru his lengthening hair, then over the scruff of his beard.  50 years old….. How in hell does a 50 year old man look 30, 32 years old? Even Dick Clark couldn’t pull that off. Josh took a deep breath and closed his eyes….it had to be a different St John. Sure, he had to have traced the wrong St John.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

There's a fossil that's trapped in a high cliff wall (That`s my soul up there)
There's a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall (That`s my soul up there)
There's a blue whale beached by a spring tide's ebb (That`s my soul up there)
There's a butterfly trapped in a spider's web (That`s my soul up there)

 = = = = = = = = = = 

Mick didn’t have mad vamp skills to get breakfast cooked, he did have a truly dependable delivery service, so Mick left Beth upstairs for her morning primp to “get the coffee ready” Beth always enjoyed a fresh mug of coffee, two Equals and a splash of Nonfat milk.
 The roses were outside the front door, the package was in his office, if he could negotiate all the steps in the short amount of time he could look almost as cool as he was as a vampire.  Mick grabbed the vase of 3 dozen red roses, slid the package out of the bag and poured the coffee.  By the time Beth was stepping on to the first floor Mick was standing with a package in his hand, grinning like the happy man he was………… Their “water sports” in the shower, his  gift and card along with the roses,  he hoped it would get the day off on the right foot………
 = = = = = = = = = = = =
I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign
But it's my destiny to be the king of pain
 = = = = = = = == = = =
 Uncontrolled jealousy, angst it all cooked up until Josh just wanted to box the demon inside of him.  Was he really that jealous of Mick?  Even thanking him for his life, Josh had to wonder how Mick swept Beth off her feet………
 = = = = = = = =
 “Isn’t it wonderful to celebrate a holiday without either of us hurt or ill?” Beth asked as she leaned back into the sofa, fanning herself with Mick’s Valentine card.  Beth was overcome by the breakfast celebration, the toasted waffles along with her coffee.
 “Yeah, Christmas was a bit of a bust” Mick said, sliding alongside Beth as she peeled back the tape on the gift.  He watched her take in the modest box with amorous eyes.
 “Oh, Mick, I thought we were celebrating tonight, your gift is at my place” Beth interrupted opening his gift to her, feeling a bit guilty for being unprepared.
 “My gift is anywhere you are, Beth, go ahead.” Mick nodded then drew a long sip of coffee and set back to watch her reaction to the gift. Mick counted his blessings while she opened the long blue box to reveal a graceful bracelet holding a series of charms; it included a tiny Fleury cross near the clasp.
 “O, Mick, it’s beautiful, help me put it on” She turned to seek his help and steal a kiss, “you always know exactly what to give me” she moved right into his arms to embrace him for his present, “I’ll treasure this, each one of the charms is about us”. Beth fingered the small charms, eyeing each one with sweet memories of their short time together. Their love was an open road, with solid feelings behind them and the miles to travel ahead of them
“Well, I guess I need to get dressed and get to work, as much as I’d like to stay and entertain you……duty and Josef call” Mick reluctantly stood from their embrace and walking slowly to the staircase, “I’ll drop you off on my way in to work, OK?”
 It would be the way most of their mornings had been, or so Mick thought.
 Beth settled back to wait for Mick, she held up her arm to watch the sun glint off the charms.  She wanted to be grounded with gratitude, she had so much to be grateful for, and yet wheedling in the back of her brain was a knawing feeling that she was being coddled.  In her dreams she’d replay their first time in bed, the vampire as he took her and thrilled every fiber of her body….my God she thought…..she had been thru so much, they had been thru so much.  She found herself stroking the incision on her left shoulder, struck by the numb feeling knowing all the while it was her backup plan.
 At Dr. Andrew’s approval they had “resumed normal activities” and with Mick being human, well it was different.  His brand of love was tender, generous in his attentions to her needs, patient with the time it took for her to rise and crash in his arms. Mick wanted to be human more than anything, his love embodied the very essence of his ardor. Mick deserved her devotion, her support……yet she was counting the months until she’d feel the raw power and thrill of his absolute steel strength, that stretch past reality into the other worldly realm of vampire/human connections. Beth was bewitched by the memory of his last bite and the entrancing pull of it when her phone warbled Mo’s ringtone, “Helter Skelter”, Beth answered quite unprepared to speak with Mo before next Monday.
 “Girl, I know you’re not due back till Monday, talk to that dreamboat surgeon of yours to get released today…. I have a gift for you. This story is going to put you on the map!” Maureen, the steamroller effused, believing her own sales pitch.
 Beth was overcome, “I thought you said my dying put me on the map” yet Beth knew the drill, you were only as good as your last big story and it had to be within the past 24 hours…..last December didn’t count in February.
 “Beth, you’ve been gone for weeks, sure we still get hits off the story, but you have to get back in the saddle, can you get here this morning?” Maureen pushed.
 Beth closed the call, biting her lip she had to be smooth, stay calm, get home and then drive to Buzzwire, Mick didn’t need to worry.
 Beth’s eyes brightened as Mick steered the car out of the garage. “Who was that on the phone?” Mick’s curiosity got the best of him, no vamp hearing he did know the ringtone.  With Maureen’s call Mick knew something was up.
 “She wants my advice on a story” Beth confessed, her exhilaration drained by his questioning.
“Just advice, or is it more, Beth?” Mick knew it would be a day spent chasing leads, he knew Maureen’s motus operendi.
 “She said this story would put me on the map, come on, Mick, this is my career!” She was aggravated by his needling, his stickling for her being out of work until Monday.  Mick didn’t need vamp sense to know Beth was going to go off on her own, he turned the car left instead of right.
 “Where are you going?” she demanded, pushing her palm on the dashboard and turning to face him.
 “We are going to BuzzWire together to find out what she wants, you aren’t going alone.” His eyes stayed on the road as his face turned serious and he bit at his bottom lip, Mick was resolute, determined.
“Yes, Daddy” She pushed off the dashboard to fly back into the seat and crossed her arms over her chest. She rode with her eyes closed the rest of the way. She repeated the mantra in her head, “he’s doing this for me, for us”.
 They walked to the doors of BuzzWire; it was bizarrely quiet for the day and hour.  Mick pulled the door open and listened to the silence.  Beth and Mick took guarded steps thru the lobby, where was the guard?  The monitors played the current feed to an empty office.  Mick led them past Beth’s desk, stacks of mail and post it notes stuck on the blank monitor then they rounded the corner to Mo’s office. Mick braced the doorway when he saw Maureen’s body, played out on the floor behind her desk.
“Stay back, Beth” he barked over his shoulder as she bumped into him.  His command made her strain to see over his shoulder, jumping to catch what Mick was viewing.
 “Mick, move, let me see, NOOOOOO” she cried as she saw Maureen’s body. She spun into Mick as they clasped at each other – her panic set in immediately, the post traumatic stress from witnessing Josh’s attack, it was all too much.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

There's a king on a throne with his eyes torn out
There's a blind man looking for a shadow of doubt
There's a rich man sleeping on a golden bed
There's a skeleton choking on a crust of bread
King of pain……………………………….
= = = = = = = = = = = = = =
 “Ms Turner, I’m Ben Talbot, from the district attorney’s office” Mick watched the guy, clean white shirt, dark suit, slender, young, and confident. Mick stayed close to Beth.
 Beth shook his hand mutely then she melted back into Mick’s arm.  Mick waited for Talbot’s handshake, it never came.
 “Maureen was your editor?” He stood making mental note, surveying Beth’s proximity to Mick.
 “Yes, I got a call about a special story, I’m not due back until Monday, she wanted to give me the opportunity for my comeback” Beth was rambling; her eyes were filling with unshed tears.
 “Did she say what type of story?” Ben nodded, taking all the police activity in as he stood with Mick and Beth.
 “She’d never do that, not on the phone. Have you found her computer?” Beth’s eyes roamed the office for the laptop.
 “No, no laptop, we’ll take that into consideration, and you are?” Ben still stood hands in his pants pockets as his gaze turned to Mick.
 “Mick St John” Mick kept his arm around Beth and the other in his jean’s pocket.
 Ben’s eyes narrowed and his head tilted, “St John, you work at BuzzWire?” Was he staring at Mick’s hold on Beth?
 “No, I’m a PI, a friend of Beth’s” Mick stood a little taller waiting for his reply.
 “PI? Mick St John?” Ben’s eyes opened wider to watch Mick watch the officers, “Did you touch anything before we got here, St John?” Ben’s voice full of suspicion.
 “Of course not, I know better, we know better” Mick’s dour expression crested and froze on his face.  Ben’s all business appearance met Mick’s aversion to the new DA.
 “Have we met before, St John?” Ben’s shoulders pushed back a bit more, arms now crossed, chin up.
 “Can’t say that we have, Mr. Talbot” Mick now mimicked Ben’s posture, stepped closer, spoke softer as he drew his business card from a leather sleeve he had pulled out of his breast pocket.
 “I have heard of you, yes” Ben nodded while he pocketed the card; a sour expression fell over him, his head still turning to watch the LAPD scouring the scene.
 “So, Ms Turner, the computer, the story….. You think a drunken Lindsey Lohan is worth a life?” Ben’s aversion to tabloid journalism was leaking thru his professionalism.
 “This wasn’t about a drunken star; this was serious enough for someone to stop her. You find the computer, you’ll find the killer” Beth taunted him, stepping ahead of Mick, her chin up, fists at her side. Ben nodded at them, stepping back before thanking them and leaving them.  Mick held Beth, whispering into his ear she plotted, “we need to get to Mo’s, I know she has a hard drive stashed somewhere….”
 So it was with very human reflexes they slid out and drove like madmen to Mo’s apartment. The garden rock held her key, a holdover from when Beth house sat last year.    They walked around, crippled with their humanity, trying to scope the rooms for a flash drive. Mick paused at several apparent clues, then out of habit he’d tilt his head and inhale – nothing, there’d be nothing there…..damned human senses.  He frowned at his reflection in the multiple mirrors decorating the home and anticipation for success gave way to disappointment.  An excited Beth whirled around the corner, flash drive in hand, “Found it!”
 Miles driven, clues hunted, their Valentine’s Day was spent their hearts embroiled in solving Mo’s murder.  Once their final laundry list of clues were before them, the stared at it, lost in the reality of Mo’s death.  By Midnight the clues distilled, it all came down to a model’s search for perfection, a trip to a plastic surgeon, a heart attack and a vampire being present at Maureen’s murder.  How did all this fit together? They had a date tomorrow, Friday morning to meet Talbot at Dr Ander’s office.
 “It could have been you” Mick proffered quietly that the model on the slab could have been Beth, he thought of her rare blood type.
“It would never be me” Beth retorted, her confidence up to the brim, no plastic surgery for her….even in LA.
 “Beth, it’s just a matter of time before the DuValls get a wild hair for your blood type” Mick’s lost the battle to stay off the vampire subject.
 “Well, that thought hadn’t crossed my mind, I was thinking about being never being Dr. Ander’s patient, after this” Beth tapped at her shoulder, “I am staying away from needles and surgeons” Beth sat back, ginger ale in hand her eyes went  across the ceiling as she digested his fear.  Since Mick’s first meal as a human Beth hadn’t given the DuValls a second thought. The realization changed the shape of her world, Vampires were still real.
 = = = = = = = = =
There's a red fox torn by a huntsman's pack, there’s a black-winged gull with a broken back
there’s a little black spot on the sun today, it’s the same old thing as yesterday
= = = = = = = = =

Bob Turner, late fifties sat back in the recliner chair, he had screwed his way thru life, got caught a couple of times, never got strangled with child support.  The first wife remarried and the new guy honored up and adopted the boy.  The second time it bothered him a bit, not enough to pay the support, just enough to get a vasectomy and quit playing for keeps.  The smoke from the counterfeit Cuban cigar curled around his head as he watched the evening news,his phone rang, a local number he didn’t know.

“Yello?” his voice was lyrical, pleasant, still a charmer.

“Mr. Turner, Bob Turner?” Josh’s voice official voice softened to take the tone of a interviewer, not an interrogator.

“Yeah, please tell me you’re from Publisher’s Clearing House” Bob drew on the cigar, hoping it wasn’t a collection agency.

“Well, not really, I’m writing a book, the name’s Josh Lindsey.  Would you have a minute to talk about your daughter’s kidnapping?”

“Now that’s some ancient history, who’s interested in a book about that?” almost a verbal sneer came back in Bob’s voice.

“It’s reality, Bob, people love a good true story, and so did you have a minute?” Josh nailed the guy with the mention of true stories; evidently Bob figured he’d end up with a percentage of a sale.

“Sure, what did you want to know?” Bob would be an open book for a fist full of green.

Josh’s voice was dry, his words measured, “The night Beth was taken, did you take her?”

I have stood here before inside the pouring rain
With the world turning circles running 'round my brain
I guess I'm always hoping that you'll end this reign
But it's my destiny to be the king of pain

King of pain
I'll always be king of pain, I'll always be king of pain.

= = = = = = = =

#3 Dark Road

Annie Lennox provides our soundtrack……

Thursday, February 14, 2008, Late Afternoon

“No, it wasn’t me, Josie didn’t even call me that night, she’d already washed her hands of me” Bob mused, drawing on the stogie. He hadn’t had a conversation of any real sort in decades; it was usually bar talk this time of night.

Josh’s mind reeled that a couple could, would make a child and disconnect. Hadn’t that been cruel to Beth?

“So Beth was kidnapped and returned within hours and you’re saying the subject never came up with your ex?” Josh was incredulous.

“Can’t say that we did, I stopped in a few days later, dropped off a Christmas gift and she was rantin’ that she needed a safer place to live, when I pressed her for why she belched the whole story out” Bob stopped to take a swig of a drink, Josh hung on for more, “What’s your name again?” Bob asked, as if lost in thought.

“Lindsey” Josh quietly repeated.

“Mr. Lindsey, ever had a kid with a woman you didn’t want to be with? Sorry to pry, it’s just you can’t understand what it’s like to be stuck making payments on something you have no desire to have.  Kind of like…”

Josh cut him off before he compared Beth to a car or a house or a boat…….”So when did the subject come up?”

“That day, she mentioned she paid some PI $150.00 to find Beth. He found Beth in 5 or 6 hours, cops couldn’t have done it….I asked her how she paid him, she said it was from her cookie jar. Hell that guy found Beth in such a short time I bet Josie he was in on it, you know, in cahoots for the cash. $150.00 was a lot of money in 1985.”

“Did Mrs. Turner say how she found the PI?” Josh was writing furiously as he sat back, Bluetooth in his ear.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

It's a dark road and a dark way that leads to my house
And the word says you're never gonna find me there, oh no
I've got an open door, It didn't get there by itself, It didn't get there by itself
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Thursday, February 14, 2008 late evening

“I love you, Beth” Mick spoke reverently, he had enough of the day and he wanted the warmth of her fully against him he wanted to thrill her…. He saw a flicker in the light of her eyes, “It’s been a rough day we can celebrate another day”.  He was leaving this night in Beth’s hands.

“Mick, let’s get back to my place, I do want to give you your gift….OK?” human legs travelled rapidly over the ground, tires rolled and they were riding in the dark in their own world.  The sound of the pounding surf after a day of rain was soothing, Mick stood as the French doors remembering his nights leaping up to her while he repulsed the feelings to ravish a woman who wasn’t his.  What a release to be here, knowing she was at least for now safe with his nature.

“Now you get to open your gift” Beth stood at her bedroom’s French doors, hands on the sides of the doorframes as she held the doors partially closed. Her hair was tied up in black satin ribbons, delicate curls falling around her ears. Mick caught the twinkle of his charm bracelet on her wrist.  Black charmeuse hung from her shoulders, in a 40’s glamour  girl gown she was everything he lusted for…… the glow of the room behind her elicited an inviting silhouette.

“You don’t have to ask twice, Beth” Mick moved toward her dashing off his clothing as he approached her, pressed against her his chest felt the slippery satin as if moved between their flesh. As his lips seared to hers his tongue sought the seam of her lips he felt her hands work at his belt buckle, he couldn’t protest, he twitched at the prospect of being out of his clothes and within her.

The only music was the cadence of their breathing, in sync they rolled on the fresh finely woven sheets.  Yes, it was erasing the stain of the day, yes it was soothing their broken hearts yes they were igniting each other’s curiosity……

Poised over his goddess Mick held her hand in his, delicately kissing each finger tip, then taking that finger tip between his lips he gave each one a gentle suckle. Beth pressed a finger upward, turned her finger to run it along the ridge of his teeth, she pressed where his fang would have descended and sighed more deeply than their emotions warranted.

“What?” Mick froze and his hand held fast around her wrist as he drew his mouth off of her finger. A piece of his humanity died as he realized she missed the animal he was. 

“So, no roleplay? Won’t you play my vampire?” even Beth’s gentle plea and  teasing stung him.

Mick knew about roleplay he felt it filled in when a couple lacked something in their relationship…. ….. He saw the games Josef played; being with Beth didn’t want to play games. Yet wanting Beth, he’d do anything; he’d give her whatever she needed to want him.

Mick dipped his head, and closed his eyes, he dragged her finger over the edge of his canine and exerted gentle pressure, even the dull tooth brought a weak smile to her face, and she clutched her own nipple as she arched her back to press toward him. He snarled as she moaned his name and she clutched his hips with her knees.

“It’s time, you know, let me kiss you,” her eyes glanced down between them, at his heavy cock resting on her belly.

“Time? Are we on a clock? I thought we had all night…..” or so he had hoped, this was more than a fixation on his nature, this seemed to have been the fog she had moved thru since coming home from the hospital. This was depression and medical side effects and he hurt for Beth although he felt she hurt enough for both of them.

Beth’s efforts to be drawn in, to be fully physically invested seemed to be strained; he had noticed so many changes since the implant. Between his not being the animal he once was and Beth being affected by the medication and the surgery he felt this becoming a grind, and not in a good way.  Mick rolled over on his back and she mechanically swung herself over him, this time looking like a sad maiden, not the sultry glamour girl who invited him into her boudoir.  She hand grasped him gently; the other combed his chest, her lips travelled down his chest as he watched her eyes blinking back tears….. Would he be crueler to let her continue than to stop her? Where was this going? How long were they going to spend their nights in this exasperating haze? Their passion had been bridled by pharmacology and unrealistic expectations.

“Beth, babe, come here” He held his arms out and she fell into them, her tears running onto his chest. He’d call Dr. Andrews tomorrow, right after they left the meeting with Talbot at Dr Ander’s.

= = = = = = = = = = =

There's a feeling, But you're not feeling' it at all
There's a meaning but you're not listening any more
I look at that open road I'm gonna walk there by myself

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

 Friday, February 15th, 2008, Dawn

Rise and shine, he shook his head at the dawn and scratched in all the usual places. Nothing like complications at work, he thought as he rose, picked out the conservative dress shirt and traditional tie and paired it with the dark grey suit.  Shaving, he spent a long time staring into his reflection, his parents were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary and he had to remember to pick up the flowers tomorrow for their Saturday evening dinner party. 

This job kept him so busy…he missed spending time with his Mom. Dad was still caught up in his medical practice and it fell into his lap to visit with his Mom, she had broken her leg in a skiing accident at Christmas and was aggravated by the inconvenience of the cast and the directions to “Sit, Stay”.  Tonight he’d have some quality time with Mom while Rodger pressed the flesh at the party.  Hell; he didn’t have a girl friend since he moved back west. His new girlfriend was his job…….and she was getting to be a bitch.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Friday, February 15th, 2008 11:00am

“The Dr. will see you”, the super fantastic plastic receptionist stood, Vanna like, gesturing toward Dr Ander’s office door. Ben automatically led Mick and Beth into the tragically fashionable office. Sculptures of impossible bodies posed armless and legless in the corners, glass cubed walls veiled the complete view of next room, was it an exam area Mick thought? The three of the sat before the officious looking surgeon, his hands formed into tented fingers, as if he wanted them to adore his gifted digits.

Their conversation skated over why the model visited, Dr. Anders sounded off about his ease in removing the 500cc of fat and then when Ben wasn’t getting the cooperation he expected as an officer of the court, he stood to leave. Mick and Beth stepped back toward the door, certainly Logan could hack into Dr Ander’s systems, and it didn’t have to be a verbal shove-fest.

“And I know a judge with a bad breast job, trust me Dr Anders, this information needs to be forthcoming” Ben stood, hands on hips, nodding as if to reinforce his authority. Before Mick could process the movement, Anders was around the desk, it was inhuman….. …. It was vamp like….. None of them heard the sound Anders made as he rounded the glass desk and held Ben up by the shirt, it was effortless…… it was inhuman…..and by the time Mick processed what was happening Ben was airborne until he hit the wall across the next room.  “BETH, get out of here” Mick bellowed, leaping to throw himself at Anders, a very human effort in vain.

Anders was out of Mick’s way with Beth in his arms, he saw Anders lips move – didn’t hear a word….. This was worse than he expected, then Anders’ eyes flashed ice blue, chapped grey lips revealed fully realized fangs, Mick’s worse fears confirmed, what a hell of a time to be human.

Mick’s body separated from his “visions” he saw it all in slow motion, flung into the air he fell backwards on the glass desk, landing flat out among the shattered glass on the ground. Mick was stunned, he lay there – could he move? He thought he heard Anders speak, “AO-, tasty,” with that Mick poured all his strength into rolling over and crouching to spring after Anders.  Mick’s head spun as he crawled toward the blurry sight of Anders carrying Beth over to Ben’s unresponsive body.

Crap, Mick thought, was Talbot dead? Anders threw Beth toward Ben then he yanked Ben to sit up, he forced an unresponsive Ben to sit back to back with Beth. Mick covered ground inch by inch, thru the haze he watched Anders tie their hands together and then Anders trussed them together from the waist to their shoulders. Mick felt the glass shard in his thigh; he regarded the trail of blood on the formerly pristine marble floor as he dragged himself progressively slower toward Ben and Beth.  Anders’s hands travelled in a blur as he wrapped yards of gauze around Ben’s head, plunging him into darkness.

Beth was totally aware of her fate, her busted lip was bleeding and she was in the hands of a violent vampire. Of all times, Mick was desperately human and critically wounded from the sight of his weak crawl across the floor.   When Anders drew close to her, she felt the icy draft of his forced breath, she saw him inhale her scent and frozen in his clutches her spirit wilted, she fainted away. God help us, were her last thoughts.

= = = = = = = = = = =

And if you catch me I might try to run away
You know I can't be here too long and if you let me
I might try to make you stay
Seems you never realize a good thing till it's gone..

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Defeated, broken, Mick woke folded into a protective crouch; he woke to silence, amid the carnage of Anders’ office. He surveyed the tangle of broken glass, scattered books and tossed artwork, where did Anders take Ben and Beth? Did he feel a broken rib? Mick saw the shard of glass still embedded in his thigh, he knew better than to pull it out.  The dull tympani in his head echoed his heartbeat as he drew himself to his feet and drove to the morgue, if he didn’t occupy a slab himself, perhaps G could stitch him up.

“Hey, Mick, the object of becoming human wasn’t to die immediately, was it?” G assembled the surgical instruments and cut Mick’s jeans away from the 3” wound, “This is going to hurt like hell, but man, I don’t have anesthetics”

Mick grit his teeth, looking away with a humiliated grunt as G began the task of sewing closed the gash. Minutes stretched as the needle entered and exited his flesh, he inhaled and exhaled trying to pass the rolling sensations of pain. Then he felt G’s hand on his shoulder, “Hey, man, you’re creeping me out, I’ve never seen you in pain”

“Pain isn’t the beginning of it, that butcher has Beth tied to Ben. What am I going to do, G?” Mick’s loss was written over his face, it hung like a heavy cloak on his shoulders, “I’ve got to get home, get my gear, get back and get her out of there” G heard the regret in Mick’s voice. 

Guillermo shrugged, it wasn’t his fight and Mick wasn’t up to the task….. He only had one option.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Maybe I’m still searching but I don’t know what it means
All the fires of destruction are still burning' in my dreams
There's no water that can wash away this longing' to come clean hey yea. . . . . . yea....

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Mick’s mind whirled at the prospects he faced……. He had to find Beth and Ben then he had to beat Anders at his game. Mick had to go “Van Helsing” on Anders and god knows how many other vamps.  Poised at the bookcase he withdrew the case of weapons, the revolver with the silver bullets was cleaned and loaded. The machete he had used to disconnect Shepherd’s head from his shoulders had been put away wiped and sharpened. Silver tipped stakes, check, mini cross bow with silver tipped arrows, check. Then the cool flash of vampire breath washed over Mick’s shoulder…..

“Well, what are you planning, my silly little human?” Josef taunted, arms crossed over his chest, one hand up, finger poised as his temple.  He shook his head, tutting his tongue against his teeth.

“Anders has Beth, has Ben….I …. need ……. to ….. get ….. her …….. back” Mick’s voice was anxious, edgy; he wanted to veil his intentions from Josef. Mick’s eyes closed to shove his guest away, it didn’t work, he felt himself pummeled against the kitchen island – how rapid had Josef thrown him? He was swept back to the melee at the doctor’s office.  What the hell was he going to do??

Bent back over the island, Josef’s face glared, fully vamped inches from his, Mick begged, “Help me get her back”

Josef stepped back, wiping his hands as if to discharge Mick as he asked “What about Talbot?”

Josef’s sneer answered Mick’s query, “He’s collateral, Beth’s as good as dead too, you just don’t get it, Mick” Mick shoved his anger into Josef’s chest; he hit a monolith, unmovable. Josef grabbed Mick’s forearms, “YOU are an idiot” Josef barked, his icy breath frosting Mick’s face. Mick’s eyes went wet; tears held back in optimism were ready to be shed in hope lost. Then Josef grabbed his shirt with both hands, holding him up off his toes.

“If I went in there fangs blazing I’d be fighting alone, you’d be about as useful as a bag of squirrels, we’d both be terminated with extreme prejudice and there’d be no one left to call The Cleaners” Mick had never elicited this much emotion from Josef. Mick’s head hung to his chest…..Josef put him back to the floor, stepped back again to view this victim of his desires.

“Brother, I know I stepped into all this” Mick held out his hands at his mortal body, “without your counsel, and I never anticipated this…..”Josef watched the dawning realization wash over Mick.  Words couldn’t carry Josef’s message, his right hand went out and Mick clasped it with both hands, praying…….”I need to not be human, I need to get my Beth back”

“What exactly are you asking for, Mick? Do you think you can walk back and forth between the realms?” Josef pulled his hand back toward him, drawing Mick within inches of his face.  Nose to nose they stared for an indeterminable time. Josef made him beg. Josef had to hear Mick’s realization fully verbalized

“I need you to turn me back” There, Mick said it…… Josef shook his head, sure he expected it, he knew what ever Beth needed Mick would brook hell to gain it.

“Are you sure this IS what you want?” Josef’s voice lowered to a whisper as he ran a nervous hand to his own throat, and ran a finger inside his dress shirt collar. The twitch of Josef’s nose, his nervous tongue dashed the seam of his lips as he waited for Mick’s answer.

“Brother, do it”, Mick yanked at the neck of his Henley, turning his head he exposed himself, stood ready, legs spread at shoulder’s width waiting for Josef’s lethal strike.  Mick’s throat caught Josef’s sharp impact; his body resonated with Josef’s low rumble. Mick felt the ebb of his body’s warmth as his sex hardened within his jeans and swelled against Josef’s suited thigh….the overall loss of his blood sent him to float in an unfamiliar atmosphere….this wasn’t like Coraline’s honeymoon bite. Mick tasted four centuries of élan, intensity and domination distilled into Josef’s kiss of death and resurrection. Mick immediately recognized what Beth had missed in their coupling…..

Josef’s lips seared his throat, he felt his blood boil under Josef’s embrace……Josef’s body insinuated to Mick’s, a virile grip bolstered Mick’s crumbling human shell.  The sharp bite brought Mick to tremble and surrender to Josef’s dominance. Within Josef’s clutches Mick’s soul released any fear of his undead nature…….

Josef tasted the pain of Mick’s human defeat, the desolation Mick felt while he planned his revenge. Josef consumed Mick’s past lamentations of being a vampire and tasted Mick’s desire to vanquish Anders and bring Beth home alive.

Jose imbued into Mick his pride of his nature, a new self……..Mick left his humanity in a roaring orgasm and when the glimmer of Mick’s heart flickered Josef lay him back over the dinner table then ripped open his sleeve, “Ok, boyo, here’s where you have to want this…..”

Josef viciously bit his wrist, frustrated by having to take his friend’s mortality, wondering if they’d be able to see eye to eye ever again. He held his wrist over Mick as his ancient blood flowed, dark and rich it dripped onto Mick’s gaping lips. The memories of Sarah’s turning flashed thru Josef’s mind, his undead heart sank with Mick’s stillness. One, one hundred, two, one hundred, three, one hundred……….

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

I can’t find the joy within my soul, It's just sadness taking hold
I wanna come in from the cold and make myself renewed again
It takes strength to live this way, the same old madness every day
I wanna kick these blues away…..I wanna learn to live again...

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

As Josef kept his blood flowing, it did seem to sluice down between Mick’s parted lips, bending close to his unresponsive fledgling, Josef whispered, “Rise and shine, brother, your destiny awaits”.  Mick’s lids flickered and then fluttered open. His spent human tears crept down the sides of his face as Mick felt his skin chill and scars from his earlier battle healed.  All his systems slowed to near stillness; his heart shuddered as he rose slowly, tucked his chin and willed his nature to change. Mick St John, PI and Vampire was back.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
It's a dark road and a dark way that leads to my house
and the word says you're never gonna find me there oh no
I've got an open door, it didn't get there by itself, it didn't get there by itself

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

“Where are we?” Ben’s voice rasped as he came back to reality, wherever that was.
“We’re in Ander’s back office” Beth was terse, agitated by being awake all this time. She knew their dire situation, Ben had no clue, he had drifted in and out of lucidity as he slumped against her.  Beth felt moisture on their hands, was it blood, was it hers or was Ben hurt?

“Where’s Mick?” Ben questioned, flailing his foot to reach for Mick

“He’ll come back for us…..seriously” Beth assured Ben, “We need to be very quiet, don’t talk, keep breathing steady, Ben, and stay calm”

Ben’s legs kept moving, reaching for Mick, was he tied alone? “Beth, he could be dead, I don’t hear him”

“No, he can’t be, he isn’t dead”, She admonished Ben as she tilted her head to scanned the empty room from under the blindfold. Then she heard the footfalls, several of them, “Quiet” she whispered.

The two prisoners heard the doors fly open; three sets of men’s shoes walked the perimeter. The visitors moved glass objects and laughed at secrets spoken subtonally, Beth knew vamps could speak under the range of human hearing…. That added to her agitation. It was as if foreigners were speaking about them in another language….

Poised outside Ander’s office Josef took a short sniff of the vicinity, “It is amazing how much you can accomplish when it doesn't matter who gets hurt.” Josef chided as he threw open the door, allowing Mick to enter first. They scented the interior and drew down on their prey, moving catlike down a hall and thru a door they spied Beth and Ben blindfolded and tied together.

The posturing began between Mick and Josef and Ander’s two acolytes.  Riding the adrenaline high, Josef pronounced in human tones, “Oh, this is so on”. Then shrouded by sub tones they began their assault….. Freakishly animalistic shrieks rang back and forth….taunting and threatening.

 Josef’s age ruled as he moved with the grace of a dancer and the speed of a ninja.  400 years of classical fight training came back to him as he engaged this brash neophyte.  He watched as Ben and Beth shuddered at the sound of breaking furniture as they tried to anticipate flying debris. 

Mick’s re-fledgling senses caused him to pace around his target, sensing the fairly new vampire’s high from drinking several tubes of rare blood. Mick charged the boy, perhaps in his 20’s and a fledgling to boot…. They wrestled; tossing each other in a test of Mick’s regaining his vampire instincts.  All of Mick’s fury for rescuing Beth destroyed the young vamp.  When the sub tone shrieks and growls had tuned down, Pierce Anders, MD made his entrance.  He stood, his baby ice blues measuring out a scowl, displaying his curiosity about Mick, wasn’t he human just hours ago?  Pierce anticipated a fledgling’s lack of control, an easy victory.

Mick stood before him, rolled his shoulders and nodded, sub toned he offered, “You know, Anders? Most fights are lost, not won….and I’m here to tell you….this is the last one you are going to lose”

Mick’s jaw was resolute, his head high.  It wasn’t bravado, or bluster….it was Mick’s confidence, fully returned to him along with his vampire nature. He stood, flexing all his fingers, feeling his joints crack as he prepared for their fray.  Anders stepped through the broken furniture and shattered ampoules of blood.  Anders regarded his destroyed office and displayed a confident façade and then he bolted for Mick letting Mick use the momentum to his advantage.

The upper hand changed back and forth as Anders executed a few more Asian style assaults, then with gathered focus Mick got behind Anders and twisted his neck, dropped him to the floor and plunged the silver tipped stake into Anders’ black heart. The sense of stillness was unsettling. No sub toned shrieks, no grunts of physical force.

Mick and Josef untied Ben and Beth, at Mick’s sub toned direction Josef kept Ben blindfolded as he drew him up to his feet. Ben staggered, fearing retribution or torture after the hellish fight he imagined from the sounds.

Talbot barked at the hands on him, “Who are… …  you,”

“Hold it Talbot, we just saved your life, take it easy and hold on, we’re getting you out” Josef shook his head at the insistent human, what a fool Josef mouthed sub toned to Mick as they evacuated the building….. and a crew of Cleaners nodded for approval for entry. Ben felt the rush of several bodies move past him, heard the creak of leather, the click of heeled boots and once he sat in the sedan he went catatonic……….

“Beth” Mick slid the gauze off Beth, her bright blue eyes sparkled at seeing Mick, her answer was, “Mick”

“You’re safe, now, Babe…” Mick’s lips crested her forehead as he held her close.  She squinted in the light and stared at his face.

“Mick, what happened to your face?” Beth sought his calm hazel eyes and found his ice blue eyes morphing back, “Oh, baby, you……you did this for me?” Beth understood the currency for her rescue was his humanity.

“I did this for us, Beth, I did it for us” and he effortlessly whisked her up in his arms to carry her out of the building.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
It takes strength to live this way
The same old madness every day
I wanna kick these blues away
I wanna learn to live again...

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Friday, February 15th, 2008 late afternoon

“Hello, Mr. Lindsey, this is Pam”, Josh shook himself fully awake and he grabbed a pen and pad, hopeful she had the name he was seeking.

“Yes, Pam, how did we do?” Josh held his breath, hoping this would be local info.

“I think we did pretty well, he is local, here’s what I got…..ready, Josh?”

“AS I’LL EVER BE” Josh was anxious to jot it all down.

“He went to law school at Florida International University, graduated in May of 2001, second in his class. He’s single, his Mom and step Dad live in LA, Step Dad is a Psychiatrist, and his full name is Benjamin Garland Talbot” 

= = = = = = = = = =
 #4 Primitive

“You know, word gets out that boy billionaire Josef Kostan is out busting chops, the world is going to think I’m connected or something” Josef taunted Mick as the two of them walked away from a shivering Ben Talbot. Josef’s shoulders rolled and flexed, filling his jacket back out at the right “fit”, he brushed off the bits of broken glass and dust, a slight sneer at the thought of having rolled around with a ruffian.. Then Josef remembered the age old rush of physical victory…he hadn’t had that in over a century.

“What, you’ll have to sell Kostan Industries and go into, what “waste management”? Mick asked sarcastically as he shook out his duster and checked for obvious holes in his clothes, the “dead” giveaway of something “hinky”.

“Yeah, right… need to understand my name and “waste” would never be used in the same sentence,,,,You know me, Mr. Waste Not Want Not” Josef cricked his neck and readjusted his cuffs at his jacket sleeves.  Josef sought his reflection to check his “smile” as he and Mick waited for The Cleaner van to show. 

Ben Talbot sat, inside a white Kostan Industries van, secluded from the view of the undead attendants moving as a single choreographed unit.  He rocked back and forth, almost catatonic, all he could remember was the melee, the furniture and the bumping and landing of bodies. No cries, no screams.  He wondered what he had just lived thru, was it a hallucination?  Ben felt the hand of an angel, the light hand of a statuesque blond haired EMT touched his shoulder, he moved as she directed him, staring into her flashlight, nodding and answering her questions. What was she asking? The line of questioning left him oddly calm, her voice was tender and smooth, almost other worldly.  Ben wondered what she was doing Saturday night; he still needed a date for his parent’s anniversary party. Yeah, Ben mused, I could go for a woman like this…..

In view of Mick and Josef Beth sat sipping from a bottle of water, she was watching them take verbal shots at each other; she thought they looked like two teenagers after the Friday night football game, a pair of athletes doing some post game quarterbacking.  Mick had sacrificed his mortality for her… ….  She swallowed slowly as she realized she had gained her vampire back and she took a deep breath…. …  she was torn between lamenting their “loss” and celebrating their survival. 

As she stared into the night air, watching the bodies moving all around her, the cell phone in her pocket throbbed. She let it go to voicemail, she was exhausted.

Sweetheart, the sun has set all red and primitive above our heads
Blood stained on an ageless sky wipe your tears and let the salt stains dry
Let them all run dry all run dry...

“You ready to go home?” Mick’s arms wrapped around Beth, he had walked up behind her without her noticing. She quivered at the sound of his voice and turned to look into his eyes.

“Home? Sure, which one?” Her blue eyes were dreamy; her smile was lazy and relaxed.  Beth wondered what was in the water, all of a sudden she was just “loosed” all the nerves had been snapped, must be with all the tension gone, she had nothing left to hold her together…….

“Well, there’s a certain reality now that sort of makes it crucial for me to go to the loft…..I am sorry, Beth……I knew it would be back, I just didn’t expect it to be back so soon” Mick spoke about it as if it were a cancer in their relationship, “I need to feed, hit the freezer” his face was glum, Mick was weary.

= = = = = = = = = = =

Josh had called Beth, not to assault her with the news, just to initiate some sort of dialogue. They hadn’t talked in so long.  She was with Mick now, and he was alone.    His life had been consumed with work; his friends had been the guys in the office, the same guys who were in his fantasy football league.  It was one the same guys that sold out Leni, and that series of events opened Josh’s eyes to the strange talents of Mick St John. Josh remembered the way Mick strolled on the crime scene and seemed to divine all of the clues.  Yes, it was odd how rapid he made it down the fire escape. 

So Josh sat there with his crisis of loneliness…. It was driving him to dig into things that were more painful the more he dug. Did he need to know any more or had he uncovered truths that begged to be exposed.  Curiosity killed the cat; satisfaction brought the inquisitive feline back so the adage spoke.  Would the truths allow Josh to rest?  Josh hung up the phone; Beth was probably enjoying her last week before she had to go back to work….. Josh dismissed the tough of talking to her, breaking off the call before he would record a voicemail message.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Sweetheart, take me to bed that's where all our prayers are said
Whispered silent in the night that's how all our dreams take flight
Let them all go by, all go by...

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Mick’s draw to the little hidden fridge was immediate, Beth stood back and dropped her purse as she watched him go thru the motions she had seen so often before.  What expectations had she held when he took the cure? Had she hoped for a full year of normalcy? Had she envisioned Mick changing his career, moving to the beachfront apartment with her?

They hadn’t stepped into his choice with a lot of planning; they had been blinded by the chance to be human together for a distinct period of time. They hadn’t discussed what couples usually plan…would there be a child? Would they move? What would he do for a living?

She knew as a human he’d be guarded, he’d spend every day with the clock ticking inside his head, “364, 363, 362 days to go before I “combust” So now it was with a certain peace that she watched him draw out the syringe and the blood, he needed a rapid infusion.  She gave him privacy and left him to draw a warm tub for herself; she’d leave enough room in the tub in case he’d want to join her.  Although she hoped he’d join her to float their cares away, she knew he’d be down there, beating himself up at the prospect of being a vampire…. In love with a human.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

For time will catch us in both hands to blow away like grains of sand
Ashes to ashes rust to dust this is what becomes of us

Sweetheart, send me to sleep pray to God our hopes to keep
Take our fears and make us strong lead us to where we belong
And let it all go by, all go by...

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Mick quenched his thirst, mindful that Beth was giving him his space….. He could feel the loss in her emotions.  It was back to that, being the primitive animal that scented his prey, knew every emotion in the area.  Mick cleaned his glass and bounded up to the roof.  It have been the sight of their “picnics”, the place where they’d watch each other for clues as how things really were between them.  It was where she let him know he was her “knight in shining armor” after he killed Shepherd. Of course that was she told him with her eyes tonight, as he peeled back the gauze and she saw the fading silver in his eyes, the ragged lips.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Beth floated, the water was warm, the bath oil was relaxing, did she even want to go back to work? It would all be different with Maureen dead; she’d never get the sight of her body on the floor. Was it the right time to change jobs? What would she do for a living? Her hand ran over her incision, she was thrilled that the entire adventure hadn’t sent her into a shocking episode….did she want to spend the rest of her life waiting for the “shock” to throw her back into a normal heart rhythm? Tonight was NOT the night to get into a conversation with Mick about an undead life.

= = == = = = = = = = = = =

Ben was treated at the scene of the crime and driven to his parent’s home. Natalie, the blond EMT walked him to the front door and shook his hand before he disappeared into the large glass and stucco home on the side of a hill.  His Mother fawned and made over him, “How could they NOT take you to a hospital, Ben?” She fussed as she drew a tea kettle and assembled a pair of mugs and tea.

“Mom, I’m ok, the EMT’s checked me out, I just wanted to get home and they wanted me to be with people. You know the whole concussion thing…..” he waved her off and padded off to the bedroom she kept at the back of the house for his visits.  He changed into sweats and a t-shirt and came back to the breakfast bar to lean for a conversation, or maybe not. She was eyeing his suspiciously as she poured the tea kettle’s boiling contents into the mugs.

“How did you do that?” She clamped her fingers on his ear and folded it forward, spying small two puncture marks high on his neck.

Ben flung her hand off his ear, “Mom, what are you talking about?” he walked to the powder room mirror and tried to see what she was talking about.  Ben had to pull a hand mirror out to see it, he barely felt the scabs with his other hand.

“I was thrown across the room; there was a lot of broken glass, probably just glass shrapnel, nothing to worry about” he frowned at his  Mother taking such a bodily inventory of him….how smart was coming over her he thought as he tried to smooth his short hair over the marks.

“Well, dear….it could be vampires” and his Mother giggled girlishly as she left the hallway and returned to her steaming mug of tea.

“There’s no such thing as Vampire, MOM!” Ben admonished as he turned off the bathroom light.

= = = = = = = = = = = = 
 #5 The Camera Never Lies

Sunday, February 17, 2008

“Why is this so weird?” Beth’s smile reflected off Mick’s and he grinned at her question.  Moments earlier He had leapt out of his freezer at dusk and literally flown to crawl into her bed, yet she hadn’t been in bed.

Beth was in a wandering mood, she had spent the afternoon sorting the photos on her photobucket account, and she had reread a few of the short stories in the book on the table next to the chair at Mick’s book shelf. She had cleaned out the food in Mick’s cabinets, looking pensive at the old fashioned food Mick had enjoyed the short time he was human.  [i]Who ate hominy anymore, [/i]Beth thought as she bagged up the 3 cans of white hominy. Then he was right behind her and she saw his smile in the mirrored wall in the kitchen.

“It’s weird because we were like this, then we weren’t and now we are…..” Mick had already compartmentalized the feelings. He caught her to the counter, placing both palms on the counter and pressing his hips into her toosh, he inhaled her scent….god his missed that in those past days, “and anyway I am…I’m so thrilled, to  . . . . . .be… ..… ..  to enjoy you like this” by now his nose was pressed into her wild tangle of curls clipped to the top of her head.

“I never argue with a man before he’d been fed…..Do you get low blood sugar…or just a low blood level?” She was grinning now, pressing back into Mick’s salute. They shared nuzzles and wiggles and wordless expressions of their affections.

“Can I gently persuade you to take more time off?” Mick took her hand and led her back to the sofa.

She cranked a funny smile onto her face, as if she‘d never dream of leaving her job and shrugged, “You could almost talk me into anything, depending on the time of day and the mood I’m in” Beth stretched out, throwing her feet over his lap and stretching her arms up in a yawn and a “fake” as if to catch him.

“Given the situation, I was thinking we might want to take a little trip – get away for a month or so maybe longer” The man sure knew how to play to her heart Beth thought, waiting for him to spill the other wild ideas he might have hatched in the freezer.

“Let me put it this way, in any situation I’d run off with you, so tell me how to pack and whether I need my passport and I’ll be there” Wait….had she just pretty much thrown going back to Buzzwire out the window? Yeah, pretty much. “So, where would you like to go?”

Mick bit at his bottom lip, made an off-handed gesture after he scratched at his jaw and shrugged, “Given my current situation, some place cool, dark……”

“You want to go to a closet for a month?” Beth made a comical expression as she sat up straight to lean into his space, she brushed her nose on his and he got the joke.

= = = = = = = = =

Give them their freedom - unless you do, the tide of suffering's sure to rise
You see it coming - o yes, you do and the camera never lies
No, the camera never lies

= = = = = = = = =

Sunday afternoon
This time, he swallowed his courage and spoke, “Beth, this is. . . . Josh. . . . I wonder if we could have coffee, you know, you and Mick and me..” he drew in a breath, shook his head and wish he was questioning perps, it would be easier, “I hope you all had a good Valentine’s day and call me about coffee or maybe if the two of you would like to come by the beach for dinner” Josh swallowed hard and clicked off the phone. What was it about a coward dying a thousand deaths????

What would he do with the news about Ben being her half brother? Why would they care? It was just one of the peripheral nuggets of news produced by his digging in Beth’s background…. When he wanted to find Beth’s father and get a handle on why a man did what he did, he found out his replacement was kith and kin to ex-girlfriend. 

He had the ring, should he call her his ex fiancé? Naw….he hadn’t popped the question.  The miasma of the past few weeks clouded his judgment.  He knew he was getting “better”, he was waking up with a hard on, even though sometimes he was in a sweat, dreaming of Beth sobbing over him as he felt Mick’s hands inside him. Josh wished there was a Nicorette gum or something to step down the pangs of loss he felt.

= = = = = = = = = = =

Monday, February 18, 2008

“Well, la de dee, here comes the Princess of the airwaves, the Queen of the dead, Miss Beth Turner” Marissa was poised at Beth’s desk, hip cocked at an angle, arms crossed over her breasts, a cynical smile on her face, “Welcome back, Beth, good to have you back” the saccharine flowed freely as Beth teetered on heels, the first time since she had been in the office last year. Beth grinned passively as she pushed past Marissa and logged into her computer, taking careful time to cut thru her hundred of emails while she reran the events of her early morning.

It had been a stretch to dress this morning, “Mick….. if I quit by noon, can we be gone by sundown?” She pulled her hair up into a twist and stuck a clip in it.  She started with her makeup application and realized her entire “experience” had aged her a bit….. There were faint fine lines she hadn’t seen before.  It wouldn’t look good in high def.  Beth sighed as she squeezed a bit more “age defying” serum and smoothed it over the telltale signs of her death experience.

“I thought you were going for a leave, not quit” Mick walked from the shower, a damp towel wrapped low on his waist, he actively ran his fingers thru his hair as he crossed the room.  He spied her scrutinizing her complexion and kept his mouth shut. He learned from his Dad, any comments on a woman’s age need be strongly reconsidered if the man wanted to live happily ever after.

“Whatever it takes….. With Mo gone, who knows who’ll be in charge?” Beth pulled back from the mirror then honed close to add eyeliner.

“Would you want the job?” Mick asked, still finger styling his hair with his hairdryer.

“I wouldn’t run that snake pit with a whip and a chair” Beth “oed” her mouth to apply lipstick, then she stood back for a last look, “All I can say is…..I’ll text message you something as soon as I know what the scoop is, get rested, I am going to need spoiled tonight when I come home, I’ll be……” Beth caught herself before she could say “dead on my feet”

= = = = = = = = = =

The morning advanced on Beth with both barrels. “Beth, hey, call on line 3” Steve shuffled by her desk, dropped off an “everything” bagel with low fat veggie crème cheese, then disappeared into the control room.

“Beth Turner” the news horse was back in the race.

“Ben Talbot here, good morning, Beth” What the hell did he want? She thought, she turned to her laptop and googled “Benjamin Talbot”, and then she prepared to listen to him as she brushed up on her partner in being kidnapped.

“Good morning, Ben” she waited for him to name the reason for the call…. She wasn’t prepared for his call in the least.

“I wondered if you’d be too busy to join me for lunch today, there were a few things I wanted to ask you about” he was awfully confident she thought.

“Well, you know this is my first day back and I don’t know when I am actually getting lunch, can we do this another day?” she was sorry she actually sounded a little annoyed by his call, but this was too soon to start getting social calls at work.

“Right, you know when things slow down, I just wanted to grab some time, get a cup of coffee, lunch if you have the time.”  Ben was slowing down the rush, pacing his words, waiting to read her tone of voice in her response.

“How about, you check in with Mick this weekend, OK?” Beth deferred the call to Mick…..

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll do that. So, see you on the Web, right?” Ben drew on a breath and nodded as he closed the call.

Beth craned her neck to see Steve around the corner, “STEVE, you know I can’t tell you who Lost’s “Smoke Monster” is, so why’d you bring me the bagel?”

“Just a welcome back, can’t a crony welcome another crony back from the dead?” Steve stood in the door way taking a break from packing up his camera equipment, “I’ll be ready to roll in about 50 minutes”

“Where are we rolling?” Beth’s expression spoke more than her words; she wasn’t ready to hit the pavement. Beth was still figuring out whom to pass her leave request to.

“Big news, my partner in excitement, we’re “free-rolling” as the new team calls it” Steve’s eyes rolled at the new term he had been given when he clocked in at 7am, “You meet the new boss at 11, the tech crew already got his words of wisdom” Steve wiggled his eyebrows as he waved and left the area, shaking his head.

= = = = = = = = = = =

They send the pictures by satellite somehow they travel through the skies
To all the homes in America and the camera never lies
No the camera never lies

= = = = = = = = = = = =

“His….words of wisdom?” Beth shook her head and crooked her finger as Steve turned around.  When their eyes connected she waved him back vigorously, “WHO is HE?”

“Dax something or other, where do men get names like that?” Steve stood actively getting a kick out of scooping Beth on the new boss.

“Dax Federer?” Beth grimaced at the name, the King of Crap, the Chancellor of the Cheap Shot, he was the new Editor????

“One and the same my dear, gird your loins for the shock of you professional career.  I’ll be down in photo when you pull yourself back together from the meeting.” And that was all Beth needed to know, she whipped out her phone and texted to Mick:

My prof life is over. Have wine ready. I’ll be home by 7.

Beth’s phone was just back in her purse when the sexually ambiguous portly middle aged man sidled up to the front of her desk, “MISS TURNER….it’s so nice to make your acquaintance, Marissa told me you were here and I am so very sorry I didn’t make it over here earlier…..” His lips drew up as if he smelled his own upper lip; his hands were dug deep into his back pockets, arching his man boobs closer to Beth’s sightline than she cared.

Beth immediately stood, just to get the sight of his nipples out of her direct vision, “Mr. Federer, always a pleasure,” to run screaming from my desk…… Beth thought as she searched for the end of her sentence.

“Before we have the meeting, I’d like a word with you, in my office” Dax tilted his head toward Mo’s office and Beth’s smile wilted. She nodded and followed him back to the place where she found Mo with a bullet between her eyes. What bargain did she have to make with the Gods to get Dax and Mo to trade places???

= == = = = = = = = =

Truth you can't disguise just open up your eyes
'Cause the camera never lies

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

“Considering the strength of your catalog, I’d like to see you step up and really grab the eyes and ears of LA.  You’ve got the moxie to grab the public and with the transition I need a leader” Dax leaned back and focused on the ceiling, was he watching the swinging piece of dust from the air handler Beth wagered?

“I can’t count on Marissa, her numbers a flagging and I’m looking to trade her off to the San Diego branch just as soon as I have the ink dry my contract” the flaccid façade he projected outside the office had toughened the minute he sat his doughy ass in Mo’s chair.  It was great to know she was dealing with Dr Heckle and Mr. Jive. Beth’s eyes widened, figuring this morning was NOT the time to ask for a month off.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

We see the faces so innocent and it should come as no surprise
That the oppression's no accident we know the camera never lies
No the camera never lies

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

“BTW….that Movie, “A Bit Like Now” you know the sci fi thing about the girl that time travels back and forth from the 1920’s to the 2020’s?” He was teetering a new pencil in his fingers, watching it balance as he alternated his eyes between the pencil and Beth’s breasts.

Beth wanted to know where his conversation was going….. “AND” her question hung in her 1 word.

“There’s a post production party at some mansion tonight, I want you there to catch slurred words and elusive breasts that seem to populate these bacchanals” and he spun around in the chair and finished his sentence with his back to her, “Take Steve, look great and don’t come back until you have juicy spill, Turner….”

= = = = = = = = =

“Did you get your daily requirement of double speak and BS?” Steve caught a look at Beth in the shotgun seat of the BuzzWire Van.  Beth’s expression in the visor mirror told Steve all he needed to know. He got a kick out of the curl of her lips, the serious eyes, she was a handful and he had missed her…..

“Are you ready for tonight? Got your batteries charged for a long painful evening?” Beth sipped her tea and pushed back into the seat, adjusted the seatbelt and watched the population on the sidewalk move as they sat in traffic.

“Sure am, this time I’ll keep the camera from hitting me in the head and you’ll be the asking the hard questions, “Mandy…besides your natural regiment of spa days and sweaty nights in deafening clubs how do you prepare for your role of a time traveler?”  Steve’s attitude hadn’t changed since the first night Beth stood at the fountain.

“Just get me thru this day; I’ll worry about the demons in the dark when it’s dark” Beth could tell Steve about demons and the dark, she just didn’t want to do it today.

Then her phone rang and the caller’s ID brought a smile to her entire face, “hey, you!” Steve braced for a lovey dovey conversation like she held months ago.

“You have to work?” Beth pursed her lips and shrugged as the caller spoke,

“When did this come up?” she settled and wiggled in the seat, a smile broadened and Steve could almost sense her softening from her business like demeanor.

“So you have to spend tonight at Josef’s because one of his associates needs a bodyguard? This associate wouldn’t happen to be Mandy Fellows would it?” Then Beth turned to Steve and shook her head in disbelief as she made a “gun” hand signal and put her finger to her temple.

“Yeah, well, I’ll see you there, cause Steve and I are covering the event, we’ll be watching for stars falling from their lofty perches” Steve grinned at their dialogue and kept driving, he needed to eat.

= = = = = = = = = =

They stood at the far end of the portico, it had been decorated in the manner of “the day”, “I’m Beth Turner and I am here at the gracious home of film enthusiast, Josef Kostan who is host tonight to a post production party for the film, “A Bit Like Now”, Mr. Kostan, what possessed you to open your home to this celebration tonight?”

“Miss Turner, when you work hard it’s only fitting to play hard. I watched them wrap this film and I knew we needed to go back in time to the 20’s, the 1920’s and blow off some steam, you know roll out the long nose roadsters, smack on some rouge, rolled down your stockings and tipple some cool gin” Josef stood there in that youthful Kostan effervescence….totally belying his 400+ years stalking the earth.

Beth buried a grin each time she had quizzed him off camera, she knew all of this went much deeper than a movie party.  It would take a long conversation with Mick to get to the bottom of it.

Right now she found herself at a long drive way as rented vintage cars rolled toward a red carpet, the dichotomy of “future” fashions in silver or gold lame flashed against the vintage beaded dresses.  The lanky young men wore short tuxedoes, echoing the Flapper years.  As the young actors congregated the Flapper Slicked back hair rivaled the shaved heads of “future”, they all raucously slapped each other on their backs as they pawed gin rickies off of trays from servers moving thru the crowd.

Steve filmed Beth as she seemed to know her way around the home; he’d never been to a private home this grand, it was like living at the Biltmore he thought as he panned the camera around the carved soffits, the life size portraits that looked like Sargent’s works. As a pair Steve and Beth moved thru the entry hall and back out to the portico then Steve’s camera work caught Beth’s horrified expression as the riders alit from the 1929 Rolls-Royce Phantom II. 

The chauffeur left the open driver’s area of the car and held the door open and Mick stepped out, head down, hand obliqueing the flash of dozens of cameras.  He was breathtaking in the old style tux, hair slicked back. He stood as the cameras calmed down, he shielded the other rider as she scooted across the car seat, and he didn’t want any of those prurient panty shots hitting the airwaves. The buzz of the crowd rose to a fever pitch and held, then when Mick had hoped the photographer’s arms had grown tired of balancing the 600mm lenses, Mick extended his hand to the other passenger and she extended a jeweled shoe out of the car. 

The applause erupted and she played it for all she could, the foot stretched up a long, lithe leg to a jeweled garter and the lower edge of a fringed shimmy style dress.  Her gloved hand rested lightly on Mick’s as she prepared to make long smooth steps toward the mansion. She held her head high, the ends of her black bobbed hair dancing at her jaw line.  Ruby lips puckered on the onyx enamel cigarette holder and she blew a series of smoke rings before the two of them cut thru the crowd.

The chorus sang “Over here, Mandy” from every direction. Mandy would hear a familiar voice and turn, strike a pose and allow the flash to caress her as the camera recorded this second in time.

Steve recorded it all with a sideways comment to Beth “How’d you like to have that guy’s job? Walking her….. nice work if you can get it, huh?” All he got back was an expression akin to the one she gave him the day they did the fashion show, “Isn’t he that P.I. friend of yours?” and that was all Steve had add.  Beth’s hand pulled him to a side entry at the portico.

“Steve, let’s get in, get this done and go home….. It is quite a long day and these shoes are a bitch and I don’t want to be one too”

Beth stood covertly in the corner of the main ballroom; while outside Steve blanched at the tight formal collar he was forced into wearing while he hefted a smaller camera than usual. He caught the outside action, shooting images of purloined kisses, breasts caught by “mistake” and personalities in a bit more than a tete a tete with someone else’s partner.

“How long are YOU working tonight?” Beth leaned an elbow on the bar and sipped a soda and lime, she gave Mick a long look as he kept one eye on the starlet within a foot of him.

“Josef is throwing everyone out at 11, that’s then the real party starts; will you ditch Steve and come off the clock with me?” His brow cocked and danced at the prurient invitation, then he caught Beth’s hand and kissed at the back of it, “You look keen for being on the clock”, he spun her around the see the whole design of the black dress, “Very nice, I’d trade places with Steve in a heartbeat”

"Keen? aren't you taking this 20's stuff a bit to seriously?" Beth ribbed with a grin. 

"This is my era....I remember this music, better than I'd like to admit. Although my mother never had a dress like that" Mick thru a thumb over in the direction of Mandy and her perpetual motioning fringe.

“See you at 10:55, Casanova” Beth withdrew her hand and sauntered off to make up some sort of marketable drivel about Mandy Fellows and the band played on with a rousing set. 

The driving, sliding rhythm nearly covered the bloodcurdling shriek of the victim and those who would run to discover the satin clad demi star.  The costar of the movie was splayed on the marble bathroom floor, a syringe in her arm its black red contents spilled with her hitting the marble.  Dexter Morgan would have been fascinated.

Rennie Phillips was dead, at the hands of someone who pumped a lethal dose of an injectible drug.  While the BuzzWire film rolled, then vampires in attendance went underground.  The field day included the parade of authorities, capped off by an appearance by Lt Davis and DA Ben Talbot.  

When he was told the 3rd pair of eyes on the dead girl was Beth Turner, Ben Talbot was none too thrilled.

= = = = = = = = =
Somewhere between 1/11 and February 15 ....... Mick was human

Every picture tells a story, donut?

Tuesday, After Midnight, February 19th, 2008

“Where’s Kostan?” Carl barked to the white coated House man.

“Mr. Kostan is unavailable, he’ll be available shortly” The houseman didn’t emote much, that’s why he had his job.

“OK, where’s St John? He’s Kostan’s go-to boy whenever there’s a clusterfuck” Carl paced the hall outside the bathroom, hands on hips, biting at his bottom lip, “DON’T let Turner out of your sight” Carl threw an accusing index finger to a patrol cop assembling witnesses. Beth shrugged and stepped out of her heels to let her bare feet chill on the marble.

“Can we hurry this up, Carl? This is my first day back to work after my surgery, I am a little worn out” Beth made a face, her puppy dog face, it didn’t work.

“The wheels of justice move one speed, Beth, hang in there, Hey, Officer; get this lady a chair, OK?” Carl gave her a wink as the patrol cop dragged a Louis XIV chair over the checkerboard black and white marble floor for Beth.  She wagged her eyebrows and sat down to wait for her turn at his inquisition.

Ben rounded the corner and nearly tripped over her, “Ms Turner, first day back to work and you show up here, just my luck we didn’t end up tied to each other” There was nothing more to say at his crack, the patrol cop just rubbed his hand over his jaw, covering the snide smile on his face.

“Right, Talbot, how about you interview me and let me head home, I have new Pj’s I want to break in.” Steve just stared at the two of them, how they eyed each other warily.  Steve had no idea where they would have ever been “tied to each other”.

“You promise me to come by my office tomorrow before2 and I’ll let you leave now” Ben pointed to the door, Beth rose to leave and Steve followed her. Ben held up a cautioning hand, “Ok, Camera Guy, have a seat you get a chance to spill your guts, what’s on your camera there?”

= = = = = = = = = = = 

Spent some time feelin' inferior standing in front of my mirror
Combed my hair in a thousand ways but I came out looking just the same
Daddy said, "Son, you better see the world I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to leave
But remember one thing don't lose your head to a woman that'll spend your bread"
So I got out

= = = = = = = = = =

An awkward chap waited behind the pool house, he’d slithered out there when Rennie had grabbed the syringe out of his hand and threatened to shoot another party girl full of it, you weren’t supposed to use the whole thing, this was vamp blood, the kind of thing you savored, got naked and savored some more later.  He shouldn’t have trusted Rennie, she had been loose cannon from the start and he knew he wasn’t going down because of some Dumb Dora.  He’d stay hidden out at the Pool house until his vamp hearing gave him the all clear. 

Sure, Jack Tempe hadn’t been much of a star in 1925, but all the big guys were dust and he still had his “movie star” good looks and he was working.

 What Jack Tempe lacked in star power he made up for in longevity.

= = = = = = = = = = =

I was accused
I moved on
I wasn't ready for that, no, no

= = = = = = = = = = =
“What the hell happened tonight?” Beth asked Mick as she leaned into the mirror, removing eye makeup.

“What bothers me is the immediate response by the authorities to an event at Josef’s. He’s not up for the inspection this is going to earn him.” Mick paced the bedroom, glass of A+ in hand, “we didn’t even have a chance to get the syringe out of sight, now we’re having to rely on vamps on the inside to keep this under wraps” Mick’s expression was worn and worried. “This had been exactly what Josef has been concerned about, you mix humans and vamps and sooner than later something goes awry”. Mick put down the glass to rub his palms into his eyes, he was nervous for Josef, for the Tribe.

“What about us, we’re mixing – are you saying we’ll go awry?” Beth’s brows knitted together, watching Mick in the mirror she realized she didn’t really want to get into a discussion tonight, she wanted a glazed donut, and preferably a Krispy Kreme and a big glass of ice cold whole Milk. He moved in a heartbeat behind her and caught her shoulders in his palms; his fingers fell over her flesh tenderly as his lips lit on the top of her head. Again he took in a deep lungful of her scent and grew a mad smile across his lips.

“No, we’re different; we’re you and me…..not human and vamp.  I’m not letting anyone label us. I’ve watched you for twenty some years…… Now since we’ve been . . . . . together ….”In the bedroom Mick often spoke in euphemisms, his early 20th century upbringing bled thru his real time on the earth, “you can read my every thought. I love you, Beth”.  He might have spoken simple words, yet this was all she needed to feel at home and completely loved.

“Well if this is any help, I’ll leave you a copy” Beth withdrew the flash drive from her bra as she walked over to the laptop on the edge of the bed table, “Want to take a look?”

“I’d rather conduct an in depth inspection of where it’s been sitting for the last hour….How did you get that out?” Mick caught the flash drive from her hand to feel the warmth she had transmitted to it.  He cradled it and then when it took on his cooler body temp he snapped it into the laptop.  The images blossomed as the two of them pulled it onto the bed and lay on their bellies to scope out the clues. Once they made a run thru the images Mick seemed distracted, he had been silent, watching Beth out of the corner of his eyes.

Beth felt his eyes wash over her, like warm surf he relaxed her, it was so easy to float away in his arms…… Mick’s quixotic advances riveted her senses; every square inch of her skin danced under his hands, rose to his lips, and trembled with his breaching her.

“Sleight of hand, I swapped my empty drive with this one” Beth modestly shrugged with her sly grin rising along with her eyelashes as she peered up at Mick.

She was grateful to have the full nature of Mick in her arms again…..she felt they had come home together after his re-turning, she had her newly manageable heartbeat and he had his readjusted attitude about being a vampire … … . . Together in bed they beat to each other’s rhythm, Mick mesmerized by her heartbeat and the whoosh of her blood, Beth would surf the emotions he drew out of her until she’d swoon at his bite.  Together they were more than a ying and a yang…..She was his moon and he was her stars in concert they were the night.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

She took me up on deck and bit my neck, oh people I was glad I found her
Oh yeah, I was glad I found her

“Charles, grab this zipper, won’t you Daddy?” Mandy backed up to Josef and presented the side zipper of her cocktail dress to him. Josef’s whiskey eyes glowed as he bent close and grabbed the tab with his teeth and drew it down.  The fringe shimmied as his cutie pie lowered the straps off her shoulders and the gold dress hit the deck of the schooner, the rocking of the boat only accentuated the movement.

“Did you get an earful of that Jack Gallagher? Who does he think he is? Just because he was the director, does he think he discovered me???” Mandy stood in front of Josef and held her breasts in her palms as she shook her tooshy at him. Josef enjoyed the view as Mandy pulled off the jet black wig to let her shoulder length titan tresses hit her creamy shoulders.

“He’s a sap; he’s what 45 years old? Between you and me we have what 500 years? I told you it would be worth to hang back, enjoy your investments and plan a cunning comeback” Josef walked up behind Mandy and he slid his fingertips down the sides of her hips.  Her tap panties fell to the deck and she stood demurely in her jeweled shoes and stockings, like Venus on the half shell.

Mandy stepped smoothly across the room, as if gliding, standing right up to his side as he reclined on the chaise in the salon of the 160 foot schooner. She had two cut crystal tumblers in her hands, his was O+, hers was AB+, “Charlie, when you say cunning and come in the same sentence it gets me all bothered, you know?”

Josef extended a hand for his tumbler gave her a grin and replied, “That’s what I was hoping for, Clara*, that’s what I was hoping for…….”

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

I firmly believe that I didn't need anyone but me; I sincerely thought I was so complete
Look how wrong you can be
The women I've known I wouldn't let tie my shoe, they wouldn't give you the time of day

= == = = = = = = = = = = =

Early Tuesday Morning, February 19, 2008
The sturdy low heels on her boots clacked on the linoleum floor as Beth made her way thru the main floor to the DA’s office. It was all familiar, the route she’d cut to Josh’s office… … … she felt awkward, dodging the stares of the office workers who remembered her as Josh’s girlfriend. It really didn’t matter, she was here for professional purposes and beside she brought 4 fresh, warm Krispy Kreme donuts to share with Ben.

“Ms. Turner, thanks for coming in, you know I almost called you back last night. Your camera man had nothing on the memory of that camera….. But you knew that when you left – didn’t you?” Ben sat on the edge of his desk, even though Beth would always see it as Josh’s desk, especially that corner………..

“At the time I hadn’t realized it, when I undressed later I realized it, but I knew I’d see you today and it’s well before the 2pm deadline you had asked for” Beth wasn’t cavalier, just pleasantly confident, “we have photos of all the couples as they came in …. Rennie was with her handler when she walked in, but I do have one of her with a man we didn’t see the rest of the night” Beth pointed to the images on Ben’s monitor, it was a larger monitor than Josh’s had been, “Want a Krispy Kreme?” that caught the focus off the images when she held up the still warm wax bag to Ben.

“My Mother hates when I bring these home, sure I’ll have one!” Ben noticed an odd look on Beth’s face at the mention of his Mom, Ben offered as he walked to the coffee pot on the credenza.  Beth watched as he pulled a mug off the tree, his hand went for the black mug and she spoke up.

“May I use the pink one?” She knew it was inane; she always drank from that pink mug. Ben stopped in mid grab and filled the black mug for himself then passed Beth the pink mug.

“So where was Rennie last time you saw her?” Ben leaned back on the desk corner, blowing the coffee before he sipped it. 

Beth and Ben were tippy-toeing around each other prefacing their questions and responses in “Ms Turner”, “Mr. Talbot”.  There were ghosts in the room, Beth’s reticence was from straddling Josh in his desk chair after hours when she’d come in from a late report.  It was the same chair Ben was heading around to sit in. Beth lowered her eyes into her coffee and chewed.

Then when the first donut slid down Ben’s throat in 4 bites he laid into “Ms Turner”, even though he really enjoyed blonds.

“I know these are still images, so it’s just their body language that you have to interpret and that’s not enough for evidence” Beth pointed to the series of photos, Rennie turning in circles holding a drink aloft, playing to a group of equally drunk observers. Lindsey Lohan would have been so proud.

“Well, in your venue that’s enough to hang her by a jury of her peers” Ben’s deprecating manner was beginning to prickle on the back of Beth’s neck.

“What do you think BuzzWire is, Mr. Talbot?” Beth’s voice nearly shook out of anger.  Her stomach was going sour; the coffee hadn’t been near as good as the coffee Josh had brewed. A bitter taste was developing in her mouth.

“A tabloid, whether it’s on cheap paper or the web, it’s just a generation from movie magazines…….” Talbot’s face drained to a sneer.

“Mr. Talbot, one of those news stories got Maureen killed and us tied together, in fear for our lives” Beth leaned in to stress her point; there was no way to cover her anger with Ben now.

“Let’s just agree to disagree, Ms. Turner. What I want to know is..... ..  The day we were tied up at that doctor’s office. . . We heard all hell break loose.” Ben folded his arms and stood, wishing he had a more imposing façade. “Now I know our saviors were Mick and his boy billionaire buddy, Kostan”. His lips twisted quizzically as Beth sat half lost in the last memory of being in this room.  The other half of her was calculating exactly what Ben was expecting from her.

“I thought you knew who it was” The ball was in his court; Beth’s expression mirrored Ben’s.

“So St. John is Robin to his Batman?” Ben volleyed back, with a toss of his head back, almost an insolent nod.

The commentary pushed Beth back in the chair, almost with a snort at the consideration of Mick and Josef in a black Ferrari fighting crime in the streets of LA, “I doubt we have a “Men in Tights” scenario, they are old friends”. Beth sniffed at an odor in the room, old carpet, perhaps a sandwich in a drawer, the unpleasantness of it grew as she sat there.

“And you, kidnapped at age 4, police really didn’t produce a lead and a P.I., wasn’t the other day a bit much for you, didn’t you have a déjà vu experience?” His voice dropped to a quiet bass.

That was it….. ….. ….. Beth was steaming, “That experience is not up for discussion, it’s what you call a cold case?” He had upset her, made her sick to her stomach; she put the coffee cup on the desk opposite her, the sour taste of the bitter brew travelling back on her tongue.  She bit at her bottom lip as the taste and smell of kerosene permeated the room, she felt an overwhelming waft of heat from flames licking at wooden walls.  Beth drew back palm and dragged it across her mouth, trying to escape the sourness of his words. She recalled the smell of old leather, the leather jacket her guardian angel wore as he carried her out of the room.  Beth was frozen in the past, not frozen with his words yet Ben was none the smarter he thought he had scored one for hi team.

“Look, I had to know more about the person I was tied to, tell me you didn’t Google me?” Ben was up on his fingertips, the posture of a silverback gorilla over his desk, instead Beth saw Josh leaning across the desk for a kiss, either way she stayed in her chair. He wanted to know what wasn’t written, what was recorded in the heart and memory.

“You know” Beth inhaled deeply and bent to retrieve her satchel, “I think we are done, these photos are up already. Did you require anything else?” her chin raised she sniffed and swallowed.

“Ok, I’m not the bad guy here, Ms. Turner, it’s my job to peel back the……

“Scab?” Beth fairly spat as she turned to the doorway.

“Cover, shed light in the darkness” Ben finished his sentence then sighed, with his entire body.

Beth walked to the doorway and turned, drew down from inside herself and smiled softly, “Mr. Talbot, once you know what is, in the dark it’s a lot more comforting to walk amongst it” then nodded good-bye.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

“Beth Turner” she swung the phone to her hear without reading the caller I.D.

“Beth, it’s Josh, did you get my message?” Beth cringed at the thought of hearing the 4 voice mail messages she had from yesterday.

“You know, you know that death at the movie party? I was up late and then I had to go back into Talbot’s office in fact I’m just coming out of his office, I’ll bet you his mother had a loud bark” Beth stopped at the corner to think, she wasn’t capable of walking and talking right now, she was that incensed.

“Why don’t we take an early lunch, I had some things I needed to unload, well that wasn’t how I wanted to say that….” Josh was getting flustered.

“You know, Josh, as much as I don’t have the time, I know I’d feel better for making the time. How about I pick you up, we can get a table at that bistro on the beach”. She was heading for “comfortable”, relaxed; she was heading for a congenial meal with an old friend.

Based on his special request, she rang him from a few blocks away to give him time to limp to the curb; she admired the carved cane he threw into the front seat before he swung into the seat next to her. Once Josh was buckled in he nodded and patted her shoulder, “How are you doing, back at work already?” sure the tone was a little like a father to a daughter yet that was ok with Beth.

“Yeah, no rest for the wicked, right?” Beth nodded and kept her hands on the steering wheel as she pulled the car into traffic for the bistro.

“You, wicked?” Josh shook his head as he sat back, that’s when Beth realized he had a 9 x 12 plastic envelope on his lap.

“That could be first-rate, only the good die young, right?” Beth pushed her sunglasses back up her nose as she tried to see what the envelope might say, she didn’t want to ask.

“Then I’d say the two of us were equally lucky, right?” Josh watched the traffic on the street as the car pushed down the road, the beachside bistro in sight. Beth nodded, her mind lost in the morning’s conversations in a familiar place with an unfamiliar person.

“I’ll pull up; use the valet park, OK?” Beth offered as she pulled to a stop, the valet opened the car door before Josh could oppose her.

They sat under the umbrella, watching the lunch crowd arrive as they reviewed the menu and sipped soda, Beth made a point of turning off her phone before their entrees arrived, Josh had called her for a reason and she wanted to give him his due.

“When we were together, you and I had some conversations about your dad” Josh started his dialogue as the server carried away his salad plate, he sat, hands in his lap while Beth finished spearing the ribs of romaine in her Caesar salad, “You always thought he was dead”. Beth’s eyes flashed confusion, amazement at his statement yet let him roll on, actually she was dumbstruck.

“Your father, is alive”, Josh pulled a photo out of the envelope and slid it across the table for four set for two.  Beth gingerly picked up the photo and searched for similar features, something that branded him as her father.

“Why did you do this?” Beth was incredulous, didn’t her have something else to do?

“I don’t know why it seemed like a priority, when we were together there seemed to be so many things that hinged on you knowing more about him” Josh sat silent for a few seconds, measuring his next words, had he lost his mind? Was Beth ready for more?

“Is this it? Any other bombs you want to drop?”Beth gently place the knife and salad fork in the bowl and pushed it away from her, swallowed gulps of tea and drew a long exhalation, “What else?”

“Bob had a family before he was with your Mom; he left her with a son.”Josh’s voice was deliberate, gently delivering this confounding news.

“Great, he was a serial father” the corners of Beth’s mouth cringed at her own comment. Josh held up a cautioning hand, careful not to reach out to catch her hand. The last thing Josh wanted to do was put the “mash” on Beth or think that he was attempting to.

“Your Mom did a great job with you Beth; you know if you needed a kidney he might do the right thing.”Josh tried to up-paint the scenario.

“So where did all this happen, did I grow up down the street from my own half brother?” Beth seemed comically flustered, preparing herself for the worst while hoping for the best.

“Funny you say that, your half brother is in the LA area, now” Josh pulled out the printed info he had put together and slid it to cover her Father’s photo.

Beth nodded as her finger traced down the data, then her eyes flew open when she read the line, “Benjamin Talbot”  Beth’s head flew up from the page as her flat hands flew to cover her face, she wiped the heat from her face and looked at Josh, “For crying out loud, I spent this morning being cross examined by my own flesh and blood”, Beth’s hands slapped the table top as she shook her head in disbelief. 

The server rounded the corner and saw their body language and backed off for a second, a platter in each hand, Josh saw her and waved her over. “We’re good,” he sat back to accept his plate and then leaned across the table, enunciating quietly to Beth, “Whatever happens, he doesn’t know any of this, you don’t have to act on any of this info.  You can walk out of here after lunch and leave it at that”

“Well that’s a little like collecting all the feathers after you’ve tore open the pillow on the mountaintop” Beth cocked her head and gestured with the fork before she tore into the chicken over the wild rice. Beth was silent as she ate her way thru half the oval plate, then she pointed the tines of the fork in the air, “excuse me, I know better, I am so sorry to be pointed and waving to hell and back” She chewed voraciously on the meal as she shook her head, “You know I have to say something…. “She took another bite and rolled her eyes as she invented her response.

“So, Josh, are you planning on going to work anytime soon? Or are you going to get entrenched into the investigation stuff?” her tongue sought to dislodge some food yet her expression left her looking a bit obstinate, a little wary and a whole of resentful.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Tuesday Evening, February 19, 2008

“Rennie was a casualty of the Hollywood drug wars” Josef paced his office, his shoulders rolling to pull the tension from his joints, “Starlets and wannabees grasping for the higher high” His hand mimicked a butterfly traveling upward,
“BC had spawned a cadre of vamp groupies, those few survivors held out for a replacement drug….and before I knew it someone from up north had realized their fatted calf would be an injectible drug, something called, “the Juice”.

Josef finished his lap in front of his liquor cabinet and poured two glasses two fingers high, he sauntered to Mick, seated on the sofa; his ankle balanced on his knee his head in his hand, nearly tired from watching Josef pace.

Mick accepted the glass, “Nothing surfaced until your party, Josef; this is all going to come down on you”

Josef’s lips curled, not at the scotch, at Mick’s prognostication, “Then we have a dynamic problem calling for a genius solution”

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

And if they had the words I could tell to you to help you on the way down the road
I couldn't quote you no Dickens, Shelley or Keats 'cause it's all been said before
Make the best out of the bad --- just laugh it off, You didn't have to come here anyway
So remember, every picture tells a story don't it, every picture tells a story don't it
every picture tells a story don't it, every picture tells a story don't it

= = == = = == = = = =

(*Clara Bow was the first famous redheaded actress)

= = = = = = = = = 

 #7       On a Quiet Night

Jack Tempe rode the popular wave, when he was ”younger” he played the role of a casual “walker” at the side of wealthy women past the age of45, now that was old hat. Jack took at turn onto “Hollywood & Vine” and discovered vamps could be more than a blur with digital photography…..that meant he was back on “film”, mostly playing the 3rd guy from the left of Johnny Depp or George Clooney.  That was OK; it kept him hip deep in pussy.  Now with the “juice” he was shoulder deep in all the trim he wanted.

The dive studio off Pico was a place to flop until last night, not snatching up the syringe was damn dumb…..although his prints weren’t in any system  he had nothing to fear; he just had to pack up and take off in the old silver Honda Accord that seemed to disappear in traffic. Jack Tempe heard things were nice in Hawaii, if you could stay out of the direct sunshine….he’d go back to walking women that would keep his ego stroked. At least he’d be out of Kostan’s sightline. The better get the hell out of here, my dear……..

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =

“Beth, I never meant to upset you” Josh’s earnest blue eyes stare past her, Josh was always too beautiful to be malicious Beth thought as she stared at the photo of her father.  She saw an expression in him that mirrored one of hers, she looked for it in Ben Talbot and she couldn’t conjure it at all.

Did she care? Why did Josh? You never know when an innocent sentence, uttered in an interminable moment will mark your future…..What had Beth said that urged Josh to come back from death’s doorway and seek out her father? Had he hoped to throw his discovery in her face? Earn her back? No, please Josh, don’t think this is your golden ticket, Beth thought before she asked him,

“What had you meant to do?” she fingered the corner of the photo paper, crisp and rigid is didn’t curl easily. And Beth wasn’t meant to curl easily either.

“You …. You so often talked about knowing your father, it seemed like it was a worthy endeavor.  I guess I was bored, well, hell,” he bit his bottom lip and winced, “ I know I was bored.” Josh slapped his leg and tapped the cane on the floor, “this little inconvenience has changed my perspective,” Josh peered over his meal and grasped the water glass, drinking like a man parched.  He was dancing her to the edge of madness.

On a quiet night, you can hear the rustling of the leaves
On a quiet night, distant voices carry softly in the breeze

Josh adjusted the cloth napkin over his lap and stared off for half a second. His tongue ran the back of his front teeth, was he thinking of his next “announcement”?

Beth ate, as if the food would remove the taste of Josh’s news away.  She broke a sheet of flat bread and toyed with the roasted garlic spread and washed the half chewed food down with hastily swallowed gulps of diet soda. What a trade off, diet soda so you can bank your calories for food.

“Are you feeling, better, you know, fully recovered?” Josh asked as his eyes travelled from her shoulder to either her lap or the table of food, even following his eyes Beth couldn’t figure out Josh’s intent.

“Humnn?” Beth hummed with a full mouth, giving him the opportunity to rephrase the question to something more specific.

Josh’s lip quivered before he spoke, “I was a son of a bitch at the hospital when I found out about your miscarriage. All I was thinking of ….well , I still haven’t dissected what I thought.  It certainly wasn’t about us as a couple, or as potential parents. I’m sorry, Beth”

“Apology accepted”, Beth nodded, straight lipped, “it was a shock to me when I found out I was pregnant, then it was over before I adjusted to the idea of us as parents.” Which was a good thing, Beth thought, because she couldn’t see 18 years next to Josh raising a child while she carried Mick around in her heart and on her mind……….

“We weren’t meant to be . . . . . . . were. . .  we?” Josh sat back in the chair, he seemed to have grown into the use of his cane, it had leaned against his thigh throughout the meal yet when his hand left his utensil he would caress the ornate carving as if it offered him comfort.

“No, we weren’t” Beth shrugged as she wiped the corner of her mouth before she leaned back in her chair, she deserved this, she hadn’t allowed him a voice in their decline, she had fixated on the romantic notion of knowing Mick and loosed the idea of being Mrs. Josh Lindsey.  It was a simple case of mental infidelity.

“There’s a little bit of comfort finally hearing this….” Josh faced Beth in the daylight, his raw emotions drained off his pain of losing her to a guy he couldn’t understand. The untrimmed locks of his black hair fell over his forehead, if not for the 48 hours of scruff he’d look like an insouciant adolescent.

“That’s not why I said it, it’s just the truth” Beth’s voice trailed off as she looked around the lunch crowd feeling as if their table for two were floating away on an ice flow, “You deserve the truth”

Josh nodded slowly as he agreed, he deserved the truth, about Beth, about Mick St John and he wanted it sooner than later.  The proposition of Beth involved with Mick tied knots in his gut……so he asked her, “So are you and Mick a couple now?”

Beth kept chewing the chicken, over and over, her bright eyes wide, caught in Josh’s scrutiny, “We’re dating; he’s been a good friend”, she thought she was going to choke on the emulsified chicken in her mouth from the uneasy feeling she released admitting the situation to Josh.

“Beth, I have to be honest….we had already started to watch St John. You should be aware he’s been on the department’s radar for a few years” Josh leaned into the table, to bring this confidentiality closer to her.  Beth met his posture and gave him a suspect look.

“What do you mean?” Beth’s grim expression soured the otherwise gentle words.

“He’s been around awhile, he’s taken some irregular cases and they’ve ended oddly.  He seems to have a knack for ah, what can I say, a knack for ending cases curiously” The seemingly ambivalent expression belied what Josh was trying stir.

Beth held her soda in her mouth while she evaluated Josh’s “fishing” did he have any clues to Mick’s nature? Did Josh think Beth would spill? “Curiously?”

“They never found Tejada, and all the patrons of that bar just kept ranting about the devil.  The guy Mick spoke with even denied he gave Mick that Bar’s name.  Beth, that whole incident left egg on my face……”

“Josh, did you start the file?” Beth vehemently accused, putting the fork down with some exaggeration.

“There were a few incidents that had been unassociated, until the common thread revealed a private investigator named Mick St John” Josh blinked at her assault.

“Josh, that didn’t answer my question…..who started the file?” Beth leaned closer, grimly glaring at Josh.

“Why is that important, Beth? The prime idea is that he is a dangerous person, a person of interest in many obscure disappearances” Josh pushed back the plate and swallowed the rest of his ice tea, waving for the server for a refill.

“Because if it was YOU, I have reason to believe you started the file to punish him for knowing me, for getting between us…….. Where is that file now?” Beth’s voice was near a whisper, her eyes heavy lidded, and her lips straight.

“I have it right here, I took it with me when I left.  It was a discretionary file” Josh retrieved the file and slid it to Beth, it contained 10 or 15 pages, single spaced, each an incident, too much for her to skim at the lunch table.

“So were you going to scare me with this? Try and turn me off to Mick?” Beth indignation was growing.

“I was leaving it with you.  Destroy it, warn him, do whatever you’d like.  I’m no longer in a capacity to worry about Mick St John, he took what I wanted, then he saved my life…..I can’t justify holding a grudge.  He could have let me die, he didn’t, and the two of you saved my life”

“Well, Josh…..When you start treating people like people, they become people, not suspects” Beth stacked her father’s photo on top of the St John file and tapped the items’ edge on the table. The rapping drew the attention of the people around them and Beth startled at their attention.  She slid them into her tote beneath the table and put her elbows on the table, her chin in her hands, she stared at Josh wondering what the hell he’d say next.

And I'm inside my room captured in a moment's thought
Strumming on a chord from my guitar
Silently, silently (silently), So silently (so silently)
On a quiet night time hangs heavy in the air just like a cloud
I'm lying on my bed scratching my head, wondering what it's about

“I’ve had dreams, while I was recovering, I had some visitors” Josh stopped while the young server refilled their drinks, “My Dad, I saw him and he gave me a little message about getting things done on this earth” Josh tapped his index finger on the table to draw Beth’s attention back from her empty plate.

Their conversation was going into a supernatural area and she knew she should humor him and listen, after all she was the one with the vampire lover….sure, he could have spirit visitors.

“And I had a little visitor” He sat back and folded his arms over his chest, he almost wished he hadn’t spilled this part, how could Beth believe their angel-child visited him? Beth’s face screwed into confusion……,”When I was out of it, I guess on the edge of dying or not, Dad was there with a toddler…..and he or she… maybe he was a little boy, he had curly hair, big eyes, and he was asking me if I was coming with them”

Beth’s expression changed as he drew her into his tale of seeing he deceased father and their son.

“Anyway, Chris asked me if I wanted to see something….and Dad, well, he was watching out for our son, and he explained to Chris that I had a lot of work to do here, on earth” Now Josh let Beth digest that tidbit while he watched her face soften. Josh’s features had warmed and she could see his feelings had done a 180 from the accusatory  assault about “taking precautions”.

“What do you mean? You saw him…… maybe it was the drugs or just the loss of blood?”Beth bordered on incredulous and that was being kind.

“Just as clear as I see you, he’s a beautiful child……he’s bright and inquisitive, he’s you all over and Dad’s watching him……and that was another reason for me to make the best of all this”

Are we all minstrels playing in a three-ring circus
Searching for a purpose that's not there
Silently, silently (silently)
So silently (so silently, so silently, so silently)

 Josh tapped the cane on the floor and motioned around them, “I’ve accepted a position, private counsel for a company up the coast and I wanted to sign off in good stead.”

Beth’s expression morphed from disbelief to surprise, she sat nodding silently, and then her usual nature got the best of her, “Counsel? Wow, that’s a grand opportunity, sounds a lot safer than DA” Beth brushed the mention of their child aside, how could she tear open that wound?

“I had hoped the three of us could have a nice dinner out before I moved, I wanted to thank Mick formally for his help, let him know “no hard feelings” he quoted the air on those words.

“Well, with our schedules we’re hard to catch, so, that’s OK.” Beth’s smile returned “So, when, do…you move?” Beth drew long on the straw in her drink.

“The relo agency is moving the stored boxes now, the movers will be out to estimate tomorrow” Josh had that satisfied, “I’m a viable employee” look on his face.

“Relo, the new company gave you a package?” Beth was impressed.

“Sure did, there I was sitting at home feeling low, hell I was feeling suicidal and I get this call from a friend from the college law review, she’s talking about a corporate job she declined, thought I might like a look. I did a phone interview then we did an online interview and damn, I was in.”

“So will you tell me who is it?” Beth raised a glass for a toast, eyes bright again….Josh was leaving town, she didn’t have to worry about him skimming behind Mick, watching for the loose thread in the fabric of reality.

“Fitzgerald & Charles, up the coast” Josh raised his glass and finally grinning.

The sweaty glass slid out of Beth’s hand and hit the metal table, bounced and shattered on the terracotta patio floor. Beth flinched at the company’s name only to the crowd she had flinched at the sound of the breaking glass.

Everybody's thinking, gotta get ahead, gotta get ahead
Everybody's drinking, hurrying, worrying, playing the game
All acting the same

Beth was stoic; she managed the drive Josh to his beachfront apartment and watched him take measured steps to the front door. He turned and waved then he was gone……….forever, forever, what was forever?

Robotically she ratcheted thru the rest of the day, her responses were meted out politely, yet she was oddly guarded and distracted.  The drive home barely got her thru the door of her apartment without dissolving in tears.

Shoving the door behind her and throwing the lock and chain on she dropped her purse and keys then shrugged her jacket and pulled out her earrings and watch, tossing them onto the desk outside her bedroom door. She slid open the desk drawer and picked up the 4 x 6 silver picture frame holding the image of a happy Beth and Josh on a winter’s day at the beach.  She slid open the back and peeled the photo out and carried it to the bathroom.

Starting the shower as hot as it would run, she dropped the lid on the commode and sat, staring at the photo as the steam danced above her head.  The dreams she was having, the giggling toddler, the older man in the shadow, it all made sense. She could explain away her relationship with Josh, yet she had accrued one more haunting image in her catalog of specters.  Now she wondered how long the child would barge into her sleep and pull her thru altered realities. She felt pushed at both ends, the nightmares of the lady in white as a child and the frightening entreaties of a giggling toddler, beckoning her to follow him, to “come see it”….

She stripped and stood under the shower her palms flat against the wall as she let the water sluice over her head and down her back, she stretched her back out as her tears joined the shower’s fall.  When the water ran cold she bundled in Mick’s terry robe she kept for him, trying to desperately to banish the pain she had caused. The down comforter caught her fall as she continued to drop into a blue starred oblivion in tears.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

“Charlie, that little rat bastard, Jack Tempe, he was the one with Rennie, and he smelled….smelled hinky that night.”Mandy balanced on marabou mules in her usual cameo peach silk dressing gown; she struck a match and lit the end of the Cohiba Cuban then strutted over to sit in Josef’s lap.  She wrapped an indolent arm around his shoulder and delivered the Churchill to his lips.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Josef puffed a ring toward the ceiling as his free arm wrapped around her wasp waist, they weren’t dressing for dinner tonight, and Josef had “his and her” matching freshies waiting in the next room.  The firelight caught the sparkle of Mandy’s auburn curls that bobbed with her exuberance at being with her “Charlie”.

“I was verklempt” She cried sarcastically as she slid off his lap and twisted between his knees, she had his full attention as she grasped his length thru the silk pajamas, his tension grew until his hips slid forward in the chair, nearly pulling him out of the leather wingback. 

Mandy leaned into him as she freed his fierce erection from its silk prison and while Josef lingered, puffing on the stogie she glanced and grazed and suckled him within a hair’s distance of exploding….. She “read” him and pulled back, almost bringing him home once, twice, and at the third advance his throaty purr had escalated to guttural groans Josef nearly bit off the end of the cigar.

Once she delivered him to nirvana, Josef pulled her up to his lap where and buried his face in her hair…she caressed the planes of his jaw and kissed his nose, “There you go, old man….a kiss to build a dream on”

And Josef dropped the cigar into the ashtray and whirled her into his arms, “Now I know why John Barrymore said the good die young - because they see it's no use living if you've got to be good”

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Mick picked over the photographs with Logan; he sat impatiently tapping his boot heel as they sped thru the images.  Once they got to Rennie, Logan they ran the other partiers in the photo for facial recognition then bored, Mick poked a finger at the screen, “too bad you couldn’t hold the picture up in front of a light and tell if they’re human or vamp”.

Logan stopped in mid keystroke, “Whatthefuck do you mean, Mick? You’re not really into this case are you?” Logan shook his head at the older vampire….sometimes with technology Mick had the attention span of a 3 year old.

“Look, Josef opens his home to humans and vamps and he gets burned with some new party drug, it’s my luck he asks, no tells me I have to be clever and get the jackass” Mick shook his head, dry on leads.

Logan shook his head as he focused between the two monitors, the image’s name flashed to a list as the photo was viewed. Mick was distracted by KISS in the background……then he saw the guy’s face. Was it the cheesey expression or the prurient gaze at the doll that Mick remembered, Jack Timmons, a bit player from Mick’s childhood penny movies.  So…….Jack’s a vamp now, huh?

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
As I look out through my windowpane
On a quiet night the wind, it can play tricks on your ear
Like some unsolved mystery
We all guess at the ending, but nobody comes near

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Something wasn’t right, Mick sadly moved around the loft.  It was well after “quitting time” and Beth wasn’t home, well, it wasn’t really her home at the loft they just behaved as if it was.  They had been having so much fun playing house they hadn’t talked about moving to a commitment……now she wasn’t there and he wondered if he had rushed her.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Like some unsolved mystery
We all guess at the ending, but nobody comes near

= = = = = = = = = = =

Tuesday, Evening, February 19, 2008

An idle human mind runs in circles, the idle vamp mind wanders more wildly, bounces with pinball ferocity. Tonight Mick paced the loft trying to raise Beth on the telephone while he gauged the chain of travel of the drug, the “Juice”

The times have changed, and we've often rewound the clock,
Since the Puritans got a shock, When they landed on Plymouth Rock.
If today, any shock they should try to stem,
'Stead of landing on Plymouth Rock, Plymouth Rock would land on them.

Mick ruminated over Pierce Anders’ Plastic Surgery practice and how they sold extraordinary blood types to vamps yet at the Cleaner’s survey there had been no evidence of repackaging for human uses. So this trail was stone cold. Lola was done….gone baby gone….dissolved in silvered water and flames.

Mick distractedly putzed around the loft, it was nearly 8pm. His calls to Beth’s phone rang then rolled to voicemail.  Had he rushed her to a commitment? Had he coddled her, just trying to take care of her? True, she had grown up, she was an adult…..yet the earnest pull of her smile and the gentle womanly allure of his angel drew him back each and every time he knew he should bound off the other direction. 

She wasn’t there……with him, that was it….. He was heading to her place. He drove in “auto pilot”, his worried thoughts pinballing off the insides of his brain, each thought becoming more scattered as it ricocheted without measure of reason.  He nearly slid the Benz into the end parking slot and without thought he leapt over the door side and bound to her building. 

Was this what love was these days? The frantic worries when your love couldn’t be located? Time as a Vampire had dulled his memories of human romance and his old flings; all he knew of love now was the vibrantly vampiric sensory expectations of being with his Beth. Did humans feel this aching pull? In these days of instant gratification and cell phones he should have been able to dial Beth right up……Tonight what was it that threw them off the mark?

Mick could tell she was at her apartment – her car sat carefully parked in her usual space. The hood was now cool from being there a while, so he made tracks to get to her door. The hall resonated with the various sounds of the other apartments, prime time TV, garbage disposals, heated debates and polite dinner conversations - all of it striking Mick’s senses as he dug thru the layers for Beth’s feelings…where were they?

He caught the sad rhythm of her heartbeat right outside her front door, he wrapped his knuckles softly, once, twice, a third time.  He caught her hiccup from a distant room, she was in her bedroom and he heard her laboriously pull herself up from the rumpled sheets, damp with tears.

“Beth, Beth, Baby…….It’s Mick” He stood, head bowed outside the door, when he had the strength to tear the door off the hinges like you would open a birthday card.

Sniffles and shuffles, the whoosh of her bathrobe, the scent of lavender and he knew she was moving toward the door, darkness covered the peephole as she spied him and threw off the chain.  When the door opened he didn’t hesitate to propel himself across the threshold to catch her.  Whoever said a vampire had to be invited in never knew the aching Mick had when he needed to sooth Beth’s state.

“Beth, babe, what’s the matter?” Mick soothed her as she melted into his embrace and her face melted to a silent sob.

“You wouldn’t believe my day….” Beth felt Mick catch her up his arms and carry her to the sofa, neutral territory for a level headed discussion.

“Well, considering you date a vampire, try me….. I’m amazingly …..approachable” and once he said that he felt as if he hadn’t been romantic enough, he caught her head and drew his fingers thru her gossamer hair, dotting gentle kisses along the side of her face, “think, Mick” he admonished himself, “She’s hurting, be a bit more…….empathetic”

He cradled her in his arms and her emotion held him rapt in her silent pain, he couldn’t tell who hurt her, just that Beth’s heart and soul was twisted in confusion ….. Mick twisted a strand of her hair around his finger and blew a cool breath over her fevered brow, “Tell . . . . . me. . . . . . Tell me all about it” And she did.

Mick sat, frozen mesmerized by the unfolding story…….. He had released her from his embrace so she could set the photo in his lap.  He stared at the man who should have been standing next to Beth’s mother that night…… Mick thought Bob Turner was a lizard, less than a man for his unkind departure.

Mick caught her in his arms again, so childlike in her distress. That’s when she launched, “And that’s not the real news…… I have a half brother….”

Was it his cocked brow or the gaping jaw that surprised Beth?  She had half expected Mick to know something about all this; a portion of her anguish was that she expected he would admit he knew something about all of this.  What kind of PI was he? Beth began to wipe her tears and smile at realizing he was as unaware and innocent as she was in all this……..

“My father had another family before Mom and me. I have an older half brother, and brace yourself for who it is” Beth shook her head, her lips drawn to a grimace, “its Ben Talbot”

In olden days a glimpse of stocking, Was looked on as something shocking,
But now, God knows, Anything goes.
Good authors too, Who once knew better words,
Now only use four letter words writing prose. Anything goes.

Mick rocked her and held her when he really wanted to say “fuck me”…….he held her with a soft hand at the end of his strong arm as he tenderly stroked her jaw, her cheeks, her forehead with his other hand  as she wept, her sobs quieting as his voice calmed her.  Beth’s eyelids dropped lightly and her eyelashes fluttered as she fell asleep.  Mick lay her down and covered her ……. Waiting until he heard her breath fall into a peaceful rhythm.

He stood at the end of her bed and watched her breasts rising and falling in her relieved sleep. He stood, hands shoved deep in his pockets, thinking about her news…..that Josh was leaving for a thinly disguised job with a subsidiary of Kostan Industries…..Mick hadn’t orchestrated that….Did Josef know more than he let on?  Then her “family” news…her brother is Ben Talbot? Big Brother was exactly that, “Big Brother”. 

Mick couldn’t leave her, so he got brave and wandered to the small kitchen, so different from his own. Where his faux kitchen was “modern” and sleek, Beth’s was all painted wood and single gal function.  He opened cabinet doors and sought something to ease her spirits when she woke. Mick’s fingers ran over the boxes of convenience foods she kept. Would she relish a cake, brownies? Along with those was something new to Mick “instant” pudding.  He thought of his Mother patiently stirring the pot on the gas stove as he impatiently waited for the Pyrex cups to cool in the refrigerator. He smiled as he saw the open bag of semi sweet chocolate chips tied with a twisty tie. Mick closed his eyes and imagined Beth melting them on her tongue a few at a time, or did she chew the voraciously? He smiled at the thought of catching her……..

Mick chose the box of brownie mix….this couldn’t be too hard. He didn’t have a rectangle pan, so he took a square pan and figured they’d be extra thick.  The decision to make them “cakey” or “chewy” was a roadblock…..did Beth like cakey or chewy brownies??  What kind of a boyfriend was he…after all these years he felt sheepish that he didn’t know!

Mick beat the batter into submission while he thought of facing Ben Talbot, how would she drop that bomb? A certain part of him expanded his chest and smiled at the thought that Ben was never going to get a date with Beth.  He notioned the idea of spray butter was novel then after he prepared the pan and poured in the batter. All of his actions and the fragrances brought back the joy at licking the rubber spatula, 6 year old Mick wide eyed at the prospect of fresh sweets.   Mick set the timer on the pristine oven….. Evidently Beth didn’t cook much, he guessed.

Mick’s mind was split between listening to Beth’s twisting in her sheets and listening to the gas flames baking the pan of brownies. As he paced the small and neat living room, taking in all the elements of Beth’s seashore decorating his emotions bounced wildly. All the months of skulking outside on porch, listening to Beth breath in her sleep he hadn’t memorized every vein of the painted woodwork like he was doing now.  Every knickknack meant something to Beth, he was trying to piece together the places and things he remembered her collecting.

He was a vampire – he was in love. Just when he thought they had an “all clear” to concentrate on their future, the damndest things flew their way.  Mick dug deep down inside and thought about his parents, the times they sat in the kitchen, hands clasped across the small wooden breakfast table, their heads nearly together. 

An hour or so after bedtime sometimes young Mick would sneak down the back steps hoping to steal a cookie.. … He’d hear quiet voices before the wood steps turned the corner and he’d halt.  Sometimes his Mother would sound weepy and he’d listen as his Father’s deep soothing voice reassured her. 

Mick remembered the Depression, his Mother losing a pregnancy, his Father losing his job…..all of these things they’d discuss after he was tucked into bed, yet somehow he’d pick up on the pre-bedtime vibes and slip downstairs to eavesdrop. Mick wished he had insight on his future with Beth.

The timer dinged and broke Mick’s reverie. In the old days he had cookies and insight; tonight he had brownies and bewilderment.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

If driving fast cars you like, If low bars you like, If old hymns you like,
If bare limbs you like, If Mae West you like,
Or me undressed you like, Why nobody will oppose!

Early A.M., Wednesday February 20, 2008

The Ferrari spun thru the coal black night, Josef’s anxious grasp at its command.  He thought about the murder at his home, how close this brought police, more humans into his world; his palm struck the elegant steering wheel with such a force the car’s smooth course swayed. He regained control and goosed the gas pedal to push further along.  The exotic car sidled down the street of modest, clean homes……. Pico was out of Josef’s neighborhood, and from the looks of the little place that Jack Tempe had rented Josef wondered how far Jack had fallen from the cinematic dreams of the early 20th Century.  Josef’s fond memories of art deco styled parties and platinum blond freshies faded as he drew the car onto the concrete pad and killed the engine. 

His eyes silvered as he struck a hard gaze at the apparently empty home, Mandy had disappeared and Josef knew Jack Tempe had done something…….. Josef wished he had called Mick; he wasn’t used to playing detective. In that frustrating moment Josef knew there was more to “detecting” than Mick’s swagger and his discerning “expressions” as he sniffed for clues of the past.

Josef nervously palmed the car keys and strode silently toward the side door of the silent dark house as he reached for the handgun loaded with silver bullets and tucked it into the back of his waistband.  Josef had received a call shortly after Mandy left; her fingers evidently had pressed his cell number as someone approached her car while she sat at a traffic light. Josef had heard a man’s voice…..something about needing directions…then he heard a struggle and he recognized Jack’s voice as the brute wrestled the phone from Mandy’s hand, “Is this Josef?” Jack laughed as he hung up the cell.  Where was Mandy? Where was Jack? Where was all this going?

= = = = = = = = = =

When every night, the set that's smart, is intruding at nudist parties, in studios. Anything goes.
When Mrs. Ned McLean (God bless her!), Can get Russian Reds to 'yes' her, Then I suppose, anything goes.

“Clara, what made you think I’d turn tail and run?” Jack tilted back on two legs of the wooden chair; he cleaned his nails with the business end of the onyx handled stiletto, keeping one eye on the redhead trussed at the other end of the room. Clara/Mandy pursed her lips and frowned at him.  She wanted to spit, yet she knew it was paramount to lay low, keep a cool head, Jack was the one with the stiletto in his hand.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Sunrise, Wednesday February 20, 2008

The brownies had long cooled when Beth began to stir in the bed against Mick’s reclining figure.  Hours ago he had slid into the bed beside her and as she melted against his cool flesh he felt her emotions had gotten the best of her, wringing out all her energy. He had laid there most of the night, limbs as straight and frozen as in his freezer. With the beginnings of the morning, the chirping of the birds Mick replayed the tape from last night in his brain. He felt her warm flesh thru the thin gown as she spooned against him; he wrapped his arms around her and nuzzled in the warren of golden hair at her neck.  Even in her sleep, Beth was always chipping away at his steely resolve.

“Let’s sleep in” Beth mumbled as she twisted to kiss blindly at Mick.

“What about work?” He reacted with his full body, insinuating his limbs against hers, their dance sinuous and silent. He smirked at her not answering him; she ground back into his embrace and then rolled over to face him. 

“Work…… all work and no play makes Beth . . . . . . . . . . .”She began to sing song as she stretched and covered a yawn.

“Unemployed?” Mick chuckled as he finished her sentence and pressed his forehead against hers.

“It would be a blessing at this point….. …… Jeez, Mick, I can barely pull it together to face Dax” the reality of how much Beth hated work landed between the two of them.

“I know we haven’t talked much about us” Mick stumbled on the subject, “You know, we’ve just taken one day at a time” he waited for her to lay back on the shell- pink pillow, it paled at her morning fresh complexion, “You know I love you”, Mick whispered into her ear.

“I do, and you know I love you too” Beth’s bright eyes locked on Mick’s, all her time stood still……where was he going with this?

= = = = = = = = = = =

When Rockefeller still can hoard, enough money to let Max Gordon, Produce his shows, anything goes.
The world has gone mad today, And good's bad today,
And black's white today, And days night today,

“Your boyfriend, what’s his name, how much ready cash does he keep at that shack he lives in?” Jack narrowed his eyes at his captive redhead.  Jack had been thorough, tying her to a indestructible metal frame with weighty chains. Mandy’s hands were bound just slack enough to ad fury to her struggles and her legs movable a sufficient amount to discourage her with each futile kick.

“You know, he’s not my boyfriend, we’re friends” She was tired, hungry, about to lose control.

“Ok, so, does your fuck-buddy keep much ready cash at his place?” Jack was impatient right about now.

“The integral point, Jack, is that you aren’t going to get a dime out of Josef for me, so let’s just kiss and say good-bye. One vamp isn’t going to call the LAPD over another vamp…..ok?” Mandy kept a cool head under the realization Jack would snuff her like a candle.

“Yeah, it’s like a hippy calling the cops when another hippy steals their dope……but one vamp could rat the other vamp out to the Cleaners, so we’ll spend a bit more time together, OK?” Jack sat up and went to the cooler, retrieving insulated travel mugs for each of them. He held the straw to her lips and nodded for her to drink.  Mandy stared insolently at him, not trusting the blood, not trusting him.

“I wouldn’t kill my golden goose! Drink up, Starshine” Jack winked at Mandy as he sipped his meal.  She relented as he held the straw to her dry lips….. She knew she had to feed.

That repast done, he turned from her, rooted thru a duffle bag on a counter behind him.  Mandy sniffed the air, unable to discern where he had secreted her, trying to understand how he caught her as she moved from Josef’s home to her Topanga Canyon home.

Then Jack turned, a syringe in hand, a sardonic smile across his face, “Time to take a short nap”. Mandy grimaced, her strength was low, and whatever was in that blood hadn’t rejuvenated her.  She sought to struggle, she mustered her meager strength and managed a grunt and a few impotent kicks and short swings as Jack closed in on her.

And that gent today, you gave a cent today, Once had several châteaux.

When folks who still can ride in jitneys, Find out Vanderbilts and Whitneys, Lack baby clothes. Anything goes.

When Sam Goldwyn, Can with great conviction, Instruct Anna Sten in diction,
Then Anna shows, Anything goes.

When you hear that, Lady Mendl standing up, now does a handspring landing up, on her toes! Anything goes.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Just think of those shocks you've got, And those knocks you've got,
And those blues you've got, From those news you've got,

“What if….. You didn’t have to go to work today?” Mick’s finger traced the glint of the early morning glow on Beth’s profile.  Her blinds cut slats out of the crisp, cruel sunrise as Mick retreated to the darker edge of the bed, pulling Beth along with him.

“Then I’d have to face it all tomorrow,” Beth sighed as she tried to pull up to her feet, Mick held her fast in the bed as she developed a wry smile at his quiet strength.

“What if you didn’t have to tomorrow?” Mick’s eyebrows danced at the question, at how easy it was to keep her close to him. Was she even trying to get out of bed? Mick returned his crooked grin to her as he awaited her answer. He felt his tongue run over his canines, as if to keep his fangs at bay…..not now St John, not now, be the man, not the monster.

“Well, it could mean I would be living in the dark by the end of the month, or wearing roller skates to search for my next job” Beth was propped up on her elbow now, giving Mick a circumspect yet humorous eye with her reply.

“Beth, marry me, let’s travel, enjoy  . . . . . .  life” Mick let the words slide from his lips effortlessly even though in the past few weeks he had measured his thoughts a thousand times more than he had in 1952.  Now he was older and supposedly wiser.  Once bitten, yet not twice shy at all.

She repeated, “Marry you” Beth’s tone didn’t question, her tone was emphatic, her smile enigmatic as she hesitantly questioned, “…… …… travel?” she bit at her bottom lip and lowered her eyelids, perhaps inspecting the center of Mick’s furry chest.

Somewhere between Mick’s dream and his fate was his waiting…… for an immortal seconds shouldn’t matter – there are too many each day to count. Mick watched her delicate hands splay out over his pecs; the light frission over his nipples stirred his soul, his ardor grew as they drew closer.
What was she thinking? Was he rushing “them”…..had too much happened in the past 24 hours? Damn it, St John….what was your rush?

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

And those pains you've got, (If any brains you've got!), from those little radios.
So Mrs. R, With all her trimmings, Can broadcast a bed from Simmons,
Cause Franklin knows, Anything goes!

Josef felt the gun shift in his waistband as he whipped to the side door; he retrieved it, briefly supposing how Mick would chuckle if Josef shot himself in the ass.  The scent of vamp was faint, even pressed against open window screen it was old, Jack was gone and Mandy was never there. The cool custom gun grip felt familiar, it begged Josef to use it, he chafed at not having Jack to shoot right here and now. In the dark embrace of the lush avocado tree he retired the firearm more securely and reached for his phone, “Ryder, I need to track down Mandy’s cell phone”.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Mick listened to everything Beth didn’t say, her escalating heart rate, the eruption of little beads of sweat on her upper lip, her deeper breathing.  He sensed her delight in the push of her hips against his and the heat emanating from the center of where her tight thighs met. He hungered for her secret essence as they began their dance.

“You mean it” she didn’t question him, only confirmed it.

“More than anything” Mick whispered, their foreheads touching, noses brushing as they jockeyed to kiss more ravenously, more deeply.  Beth swung over his reclining figure and Mick bent his knees to catch her as she swayed to some delicate tune.  His sighs at the full sensation of her seated on his hips grew to gasps as Beth realized the power she held over her vampire.  She was radiant, a slip of her tongue danced on her lips softly as his eyes silvered before he closed his eyes and grit back his erupting fangs.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

Once Josef knew Mandy’s cell phone snapped off at Old Topanga Canyon Rd and Mulholland Highway, he drove there in breakneck fashion. After all, who was out at 3:30am? Josef stopped the car at that intersection at the base of the mountainside, staring up into the hills, the trees….. Then he sensed them, and he took up the pathway, heading for a small shack in the woods.
Josef rounded the corner, the stench of fear and intimidation growing as he neared the end of the long path.  No heartbeats, just vamp on vamp aggravation.  Josef measured silent careful steps while he followed the trail.

Jack withdrew the syringe from Mandy’s neck, nothing like highly “medicated” children’s blood to send a vamp bouncing between the netherworld and Hades.  Her head flopped to one side, her auburn curls over her face, blinking back the effects of the drug, she fought the effects; she wanted to see what Jack was up to, in the hopes to get back at him.

Jack bundled up Mandy’s belongings, tossed her purse for credit cards and cash…..muttering as he pawed thru the contents of her Longchamps purse he cursed at realizing a paltry $1100 and bounded for the door.  Yanking back the metal door, Jack smacked his chest right into the flat of Josef’s left hand; in Josef’s right hand was the loaded handgun.

“Enough” Josef barked as he pushed Jack back into the trashed warehouse space. “Wasn’t it enough that you attracted the spectacle of death to MY home?”

Josef’s left hand held Jack against the wall, the gun barrel to Jack’s temple, Jack’s feet searched to the ground as he was thrust up the wall.

“We are the spectacle of death, Kostan” Jack gurgled, barely able to emit words yet still impudent. Josef’s head swiveled, searching for Mandy. She was silent, still manacled to the metal frame, unconscious. In that nanosecond Jack propelled a leg forward, aiming for Josef’s groin. Ever vigilant, Josef’s reflex was to snap Jack’s neck before the kick landed.  Josef dropped Jack’s mute body to the floor, levying his brand of expedient justice with shots to the head and the heart. The sounds of mayhem stirred Mandy, her mass of crimson curls swaying as she gathered what little control she had, “Josef”.  Weak words followed his name as he turned to her, removing her shackles, drawing her into his lap.

“My dear, dear girl….when will you ever learn not to talk to strangers on the street?” Josef viewed her drug crazed expression and pulled his cuff up; with a swift bite he delivered a hopeful remedy at least to break her out of her haze.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

“More than anything?” Beth pressed herself tightly against Mick’s chest as his legs relaxed and they rolled in the ivory sheets. Delicate gossamer hairs tickled Mick and the thought of this wisp of a woman being his brought his cock to full attention. Beth’s soft weight thrilled him as she lay along Mick and their hands caught each other’s as their fingers interwove.

“Absolutely” Mick attested, his adoration reflecting in his hazel eyes, Mick had fought off his vampire urges and held solid to being a human as possible for these moments. “We, we get one life and no matter what has happened to either of us, it’s what we do with it that determines how good life really is”.  Beth’s eyes widened as she heard Mick talk about life… a human would.

Mick drew her up, sitting, his back against her headboard, “Beth, be with me…..?” His caress drew her into the loving embrace she had know for two decades although now she had the exhilaration of knowing him as her lover…..she could say unequivocally it was pure exhilaration to be under his spell.  Beth savored their time together, she wanted more….she wasn’t sure about forever although a lifetime would be a good start.

“Yes” Beth nodded as she softly offered her answer to the man who raised so many questions in her.


Presented for your entertainment……


This series picks up after the “A Wonderful Opportunity” Series.

Previously in my world (And you are welcome to it) Beth’s health condition has required an internal cardiac defibrillator to be implanted; she lost the early pregnancy she had with Josh. Josh was shot and he survived thanks to Mick and Beth’s CPR efforts. While he was recuperating he was visited by the spirits of his child and Dad, he was tipped off he had a good number of years ahead of him. Mick and Beth return to the loft to find a package which Mick does not divulge to Beth is the cure.

#1 No One Else
Mick has taken the cure, reflected on his past and has resolved that Beth is at the heart of every good thing in his life. You learn Josie, Beth’s Mom gave him the fleury cross necklace he wears because although she paid him $150 to find Beth, she thought she’d never see her daughter again. It was a family heirloom and she wanted him to have it. Josh has been released from the hospital, taken a buyout from the DA’s office and begun to recuperate with researching Beth’s Dad on his mind.

#2 King of Pain
Mick is lost in the minutia of being a human, he misses his detective skills and Beth most certainly misses his sensual bite, she’s feeling coddled. Them Mo turns up murdered and the roads lead to a plastic surgeon they agree to meet with Ben Talbot. Ben isn’t happy about meeting that PI when he met Beth. Josh finds Beth has a half brother and he finally locates Bob Turner to interview him about Beth’s kidnapping.

#3 Dark Road
Josh questions Bob Turner about the night Beth was kidnapped; Bob thinks the PI was hinky because he found Beth in such a short period of time. Josh is about to find out where Josie got the PI’s name……Mick and Beth have a broken time of their loving, she’s enrapt in the vampire “way” and depressed from her surgery, they resolve to cuddle and consult her surgeon. Mick, Beth and Ben meet at Dr Ander’s office with disastrous results, Mick returns with Josef to rescue them.

#4 Primitive
Josh discovers Ben is Beth’s half brother, yet cannot get a hold of Beth to ask her over to “talk”. Mick takes Beth to the loft, consumes his first blood meal in a few weeks and begins again. Mick and Josef take a few moments to enjoy their victory while Ben struggles to recover from the shock of god knows what. His EMT is a striking woman, or is she? When Ben is driven back to his parents home to recuperate his Mom discovers tiny bite marks behind his ear….. At her laughing comment that the bite looks like a vampire’s, Ben answers “There’s no such thing as Vampire, MOM!” Ben admonishes

#5 The Camera Never Lies
Beth goes back to work, reluctantly... She finds the new Editor is a sleaze and that her first job is a post production party for a Starlet at Josef's house. At the crescendo of the evening a co-star is found dead.

#6 Every Picture Tells a Story Don’t It?
Ben lets Beth come into his office the morning after Rennie’s murder; they have a terse discussion about the photos, BuzzWire and their relationship spirals downward. Beth agrees to have lunch with Josh where he gives her his information about her Father and her half brother. Beth takes it with grace, yet she is aghast. Josef and Mick discuss how rapidly the cops made it to his mansion, how this situation needs an immediate resolution.

#7 On a Quiet Night
Jack Tempe makes an escape, thinks about his options and short cash flow. Josh apologizes to Beth for the blast of “news” and announces he is leaving for a job up the coast unknowingly with a Kostan subsidiary.

Josef goes cowboy and rescues his woman. Mick comes to Beth’s aide and proposes.

Remember…..this is after Love Lasts Forever, the Mortal Cure didn’t happen like the show and Fated to Pretend is out there in another world.

Our soundtrack is inspired by “Moulin Rouge”

There was a boy, a very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far, very far
Over land and sea, a little shy and sad of eye but very wise was he.
And then one day a magic day he passed my way
and while we spoke of many things,
 Fools and kings this he said to me
 "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return"
Early Morning, Wednesday February 20, 2008

What did Beth tell him when she was teetering on the edge of sanity, pregnant and facing life changing surgery? “Don’t you leave me” Mick remembered those words as much as he remembered the grip she held on his forearm.

 He’d never have left her that December day, or ever.  Now while he watched Beth fiddle with her hair, wrapped in his bath sheet…. . . . . .He debated, should he take her by surprise and repossess his towel?  Even back then, how could she have thought he’d leave her? 

They had celebrated their decision over and over thru the night, Beth half asleep as Mick kissed and stroked her warm skin, caressing her with his ardent strokes thru her silken hair, their legs and arms wrapped in each other. Decades of being alone, segregated from the warmth of life, Mick sated his need to express his love for her. Through all of his ministrations Beth floated in her half sleep, an angelic smile on her lips.

By the time the crest of the sunrise breached the horizon they were twisted in damp sheets, Mick awash in Beth’s erotically charged perspiration.  His cool taut physique glowed with her warmth; he was exhausted by their heated passions, body and soul drawn tight by their sensitively arousing romp.

After 23 years of wrestling his monstrous, undead nature Mick had distinguished his light from his dark side.  If Coraline was mysterious and sultry and drew him into a dark, sinister world that wrapped him in sorrow, then Beth even as a child brought him into a secret garden of redemption and peace.

Now, she was a fully realized goddess to him, and he wanted to afford Beth every joy.  So couples have met thru stranger circumstances than kidnapping and murder…right? Naw, Mick smirked to himself and let Beth continue getting ready for work.

“You need to get some freezer time” Beth turned her gentle gaze at Mick, laid back on the bed, his hands behind his head, a tired smile on his lips….oh, those sinfully delicious lips of his, Beth thought as she applied lip gloss on hers over and over, thinking of his cool smooth skin she had drawn tightly with both her hands as she lavished him with her lips and tongue. She had spent him with abandon, she had driven him to the edge of reason with just the glint of love in her eyes and he relished it, wanted more of her.

Mick nodded, a crooked grin hard wired on his chiseled face, Beth lightly admonished him “I mean it.. .. … we are going to celebrate when I get home, OK?” Beth was kneeling on the floor beside the bed, gentle fingers skimming his jaw then dancing over his curls drawn tight by the heat they created between them. Mick smiled, after all didn’t he “live” to be with her?

Beth turned from them and watched Mick shake off the reverie with a grin as he rose and wrapped in his robe. “Are you having a private moment there?” she asked as she hung in the doorway, reluctant to leave their sanctuary.

“Who, me, the guy who lived like a monk for twenty some years?” Mick caught her in a loose embrace and pressed a light kiss on her forehead, as Beth pulled away to leave, he grasped her a bit tighter before releasing her to the outside world.

= = = = = =

Morning, on the streets of LA

”What do we have here?” Carl used the tip of a pen to lift the sheet from the body, taking a long look he shook his head and let the blue paper fall to the ground.

“Male, white, 25-30 years old, severe bruising around the throat, from the angle it looks snapped, really snapped. Then for good measure two in the heart and one in the head” the female rookie swallowed hard at the sight of her first dead body.

“Doc been out to give us T.O.D.?” Carl scanned the gathering crowd outside the yellow crime scene tape.  It should have been a deserted hill except for the damn busybodies on police scanners.  Carl squinted in the rising sun and wished he had another cup of coffee as the Coroner stepped from the copse of trees and headed his way.

“Good Morning, Lt Davis, more or less he expired around 4 a.m. give or take a half hour by all the usual signs.  What is confusing is body temp. I’ll get him back to the lab to check the body temp, it looks like he was killed here I just can’t reconcile his body temp. Oh, the bullets were post mortem” the Coroner’s eyes followed Carl’s as they both scanned the growing crowd, their eyes met and they shook their heads and returned to their respective vehicles to move to the next step of the investigation.

Doc sniffed, it was an odd habit Carl surmised, he was old, and maybe he had allergies or sinus problems.  Doc circled the two of them, a thoughtful expression as he stroked his near white goatee.  Carl had known Doc as the aficionado of LA “death” from the time he was a beat cop, was this guy ever going to retire? He seemed frozen in time as he knelt over his kit packing up his instruments. 

With a grace unlike men his “age” Doc rose and waved a good-bye as he dug for his cell phone, flipping it over and hitting speed dial. “It’s Doc….tell me boy, what have you been up to?” Doc stared back at Carl from the Coroner’s van as the attendants loaded the body on to the gurney.

As Carl started the cruiser he registered his gratitude that at least Beth Turner wasn’t in his face, then where was Ben Talbot??

Early Evening, Wednesday February 20, 2008

Mick woke as the orange crescent of the sun dipped below the horizon; it was innate in his past 50+ years. Right now alone, he was left to scratch that tiny niggle left from thinking how Beth’s life might have played out. The men he had watched in her life, the ones who were threats to their being together, they were falling away.  Josh had been “damaged” in the wake of knowing Beth and limped off knowing he had been replaced long before he had chosen to leave. 

Desire. Passion. Suspicion. Jealousy. Anger. Betrayal. Had Josh felt every one of those emotions before he was driven to leave Beth with his “big reveal”?

Mick recognized deep within himself he had carried this reignited love, now a passion for Beth since the September night at the fountain. He had measured out the desire, battling between the man and the fiend he saw when he caught a sideways glace of himself in mirrors.  He had sublimated his passion time after time as he danced between Josh and Beth in real life.

Mick wasn’t fooling himself when he spent that night before Josh’s shooting on the floor at Beth’s. Was he suspicious of Josh? Yes, yes he had been because he was envious of Josh.  He was totally green eyed that Josh’s eyes fell upon Beth’s face, his warm human hands on her hands, his lips caressing her skin even in a casual greeting.

Josh once had everything Mick had coveted, life, the clear vision of his future, the woman of his dreams. Criminal wrath had burnt Josh’s castle to its foundations….and Mick had been relieved that it wasn’t his anger that brought Josh’s life plans down around his feet…. Of course Josh left feeling betrayed and cast aside, what man wouldn’t? Of course now, Mick was struggling with accepting the riches that Beth’s love carried, he still seemed to need to justify her trust and her love.

Now Ben was “revealed” as her brother, Mick half wished Beth would keep it to herself; he wanted to watch the comedy ensue if Ben made the steps Mick expected him to take.  No woman is so desired as when she belongs to another man! Mick saw it in Ben’s expressions; his body language…..Ben was a man on the make, a predatory bystander. This guy had so many questions about Mick in Beth’s presence, now Beth’s news was just cruel irony.

Mick was circling the loft; it was empty and half dark in the twilight.  Mentally thumbing thru his exchanges with Ben then Josef’s ring tone trilled.

“Good evening, brother” Mick was feeling particularly poignant tonight.

“Yes, it is, brother….while you were off in your human world I was taking care of business” Josef was enigmatically emphatic. Mick could “see” Josef’s quirky smirk over the telephone.

“Pardon me?” Mick was baffled by the words more than Josef’s customary tone, “Did I miss something while I was proposing marriage to Beth?” Mick had his own way of interjecting into conversations, he was less blatant.

“Propose? BuzzWire? The game is on to the next level!” Josef’s tone turned to one of curiosity, “Have you crazy kids impatiently run off to an Elvis impersonator in Vegas?”

“Don’t be ridiculous” Mick paced the kitchen, dealing with Josef meant he’d have to quaff A+, because a call usually meant an errand or work, “The one normal thing I can give her is a white wedding, forget the picket fence and the 2.3 kids and a dog”, Mick was still recovering from that shortfall.

“Well, dogs shed, the picket fence is just bad for vamps and whenever you get the urge to spoil a child I’ll loan you a Freshie” Josef dryly threw back.

“You know how sore a point that is with Beth….”Mick shot back, anxious to hear the point of Josef’s call.

“OK, then on to about me….if stars are going to collide in the world….this is my playing field and I control the collision” Josef snarked, “Oh, by the by……I did your job this morning….I got the bad guy, I saved the girl” Never one to be modest, Josef boasted then exacted a pregnant pause.

“Right, the master of capital is now, what a hired gun?” Mick moseyed to the sofa and sat back, sipping between thoughts of the runaround Josef was spouting.

“Jack Tempe is off your list and he’s my first personal physical conquest” Josef boasted.

“Since the crew at Pierce Anders office” Mick corrected, knowing Josef forgot returning him and the two of them taking on the Plastic Surgeon’s goons.  Alzheimer’s, did it strike Vamps? Mick wondered.

“Oh, right, yeah…..anyway, I got my girl back and Mandy is very . . . . . . .ahum, satisfied and rested” Josef balanced forward and back, a thumb in his suspender strap as he smiled at Mick’s memory of kicking vampire ass and “staking” names.

“Did you find the beginnings of the drug?” leave it to Mick to throw that back in Josef’s face….Josef had slain the dragon and didn’t locate the lair, “You didn’t find the drug’s source did you? Josef….” There Mick was, catching all the loose points, his raw tone tossing them back as if they were throwing stars.

“OK, you crazy kids…..don’t do anything I wouldn’t do and I’ll be checking in the end of the week, OK?” Josef swept the conversation to a close and clipped off the call.

“BULLSHIT”, Mick barked into the dead phone line, he shook his head; felt he was juggling Josef’s demands about Jack Tempe and “The Juice” along with his new relationship with Beth. And while Josef thought he was taking care of business, Josef could have exposed himself or worse.  Visions of Josef slinging a fist or aiming a gun sped thru Mick’s mind and he had to shake his head as he circled the loft for the umpteenth time. By all rights Mick should have been a geezer making choices like mashed potatoes or creamed spinach in the nursing home not planning a wedding or contemplating how to close down a vampire’s drug ring.

= == = = = = = = = = = =

After work, Beth’s Apartment

“He asked and I said yes” those words looped over and over in Beth’s mind.  She had gone to work, even though she dreaded it.  Somehow the conversations in bed with Mick along with their “tango” gave her a bounce in her step, got her thru Marissa’s cobalt cold stare.   Beth’s workday had ended and she drove back to her place to gather up a few days of clothes and her “go” bag. 

She ran her hand over the zipper of her cosmetic case; she had picked it out for a weekend she and Josh had spent in Big Bear, now she thought it wasn’t big enough to bring what she wanted to the loft.  She tossed it to the trash can along with the bottle of Coco Mademoiselle Josh enjoyed on her. The sexy, fresh Oriental fragrance was too much for Mick’s hyper senses and Beth wouldn’t let anything get in the way when Mick nuzzled and caressed her.

Now Beth was pleased she didn’t keep even a gold fish as she shut the door and wondered when she’d be back at her shabby chic apartment.  What was she sure of? She loved Mick.

= = = = = = = = =

“Guillermo?” Beth poked her head inside the doorway of the morgue; she was worried she might be “waking” him as her voice echoed off the stainless steel surfaces.  She heard the low buzz of the fluorescent lamps, the movement of the industrial clock’s hands ticking off the seconds. Then the white noise was broken by the ratcheting sound in the next room. Beth froze.

“Beth Turner?” The faceless voice inquired.

“Yes, Guillermo?” She winced as she took a step back into the hallway and waited.

“You got me, what’s up?” his voice got closer then he appeared, scratching his gurney-head hair into submission.

Beth jumped back into the room and smiled shyly and walked to the far side of the slab, keeping a safe distance from the vampire she really didn’t know well.

“I wasn’t expecting you; Mick got you doing the pickup today?” Guillermo stood at the cooler, ready to pack Mick’s weekly purchase.

“I should have called” Beth fidgeted with the belt of her shirt, looking around for perhaps something to discuss, backpedaling from her original subject.

“No, no, what can I do for you?” Guillermo moved to the opposite wall from her, still preening, “Is it a case?” he reached for the keyboard to check a case. His fingers perched to type he watched her shake her head so he dropped his hands to his pockets and nodded, waiting for her to respond. Their movements seemed to be like two reversed magnets, they bobbled apart from each other by some perverse polarity, perhaps across that human vs. unfamiliar vamp schism.

“Not . . . . .a    . . . . . . .    case,” Beth continued shaking her head as she put care into her next words, “I was wondering if you could school me, you know a little Humans & Vamps 102 while you draw a little blood” she shrugged the jacket off her shoulders and pushed up her sleeves above the elbows. She seemed sheepish, not the intrepid reporter G was used to on her webcam reports.

“Oh, you want to give Mick a little gift?” He smiled an icy glint in his eyes he quickly recovered before he made eye contact with her.

“Just a little celebration tonight,” Beth’s shoulders rose as she inhaled with some satisfaction at finally being about to spill her news, “Mick proposed and I accepted”

“So, you want to give him a snack?” Guillermo was nodding, thinking about Mick and his aversion to feeding fresh. G would make book that Beth was blowing the top off of old Mick’s reservations; G shook himself out of his thoughts and gathered tools to draw blood.

She offered up her arms, revealing delicate translucent skin smooth over his choice of veins. He could see her hands quiver as she waited for him to catch the forearm of his choice and begin the draw. Beth Turner seemed like a power to be reckoned with on the Web reports, perhaps it was a bit frightening having blood drawn in a basement morgue by a vampire.

While he worked silently on his live patient, Beth ruminated how to broach her subject, “I have an AICD” she blurted out.

G worked, not meaning to ignore Beth yet he wasn’t used to his patients talking, “Right, I remember the day you were on TV when it all started” he listened to her heart rate run over the nearly silent AICD.

“The Doctor was a sweetie, and of course if I asked him how to disable it he’d think I had gone mad” Beth’s eyes scoured the worn linoleum floor between them, he could sense she was on a fact-finding mission, “Once Mick proposed I thought  about our next discussion, you know the “happily FOREVER after”

Way to go Beth, G thought as he turned for another tube to fill. His arched eyebrow, his confident smile urged Beth to go on.

“It would go against his grain to disable something he installed” Beth licked her lips, not from physical thirst, yet the thirst for verbal ammunition for the inevitable battle of wits with Mick.

G was intrigued, had they spoken about circumventing the medical device that would shock her back into rhythm if her heart failed her.

Beth hooked her two fingers like fangs and made a panicked expression as her fingers lit on her throat. “I don’t want to electrocute Mick, you know”, G turned his head, burying his smile at the thought of Vampire and human clinging to each other in an electrically frozen embrace.   Part of him saw Wylie Coyote vs. Road Runner and some cheap Acme gizmo, part of him saw doomed lovers grasping for an eternity together while electric current coursed thru them.

“So, let me get this right, you want to disable the implant when the time comes, right?” A silence beat between them, then the time lengthened as G removed the needle and methodically swabbed and bandaged the crook of her arm.  Beth heard the silence and he heard her steady heart rate escalate.

“I guess I do” Beth shrugged a slight smile as she accepted the juice cup from G.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

 Passing the Country Club, seeing the golfers, she thought about Mick’s suggestion to quit work, travel, did he mean it? By the time Beth hit Sunset Blvd her mind had danced at a few different weddings, would they run off?  Would they have a small ceremony on the beach after sunset?

She thought her heart would skip a beat and her hand wandered to the scar, feeling the metal lump that regulated her rhythm, a year ago none of this would have made sense. Now she was intending to plead her case, would Mick listen?

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Early evening, D.A.’s office

“Ben Talbot” His clipped pronunciation announced to the caller, “No, look, Mom…. I’m busy thru the end of the month, no time to take off on a junket” his Mother worked all her Mother-guilt tricks while Ben walked his office, taking care of tedious office tasks, his Mother’s voice distant to him, “Mom, I’ve been in court all day, everyone’s gone home and I’m just getting into the office”. Ben opened up the Asian takeout containers ceremoniously; he’d eaten alone a lot in his office. He humored her while he booted up the computer and flipped thru opened mail.

“Give me 6 or 8 weeks when you want to plan something, OK? I’m thinking about a girl I met, maybe she can be my guest by then” His Mother registered  a bit of displeasure at what she thought was “fast work” to bring a girl to Tahoe for the weekend.

“Mom, you’ve heard of separate bedrooms, right? Yeah, I don’t work that fast. Besides, this one’s special, worth the wait” Ben closed the call and flipped on his laptop, selected the icon on the desktop and tuned into Beth’s BuzzWire archive.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =
#10 The Meltdown

Evening, Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Josef the benefactor, Josef the sybarite, Josef the provocateur, Josef, Josef, Josef.  Mick shook his head and happily anticipated Beth’s arrival.  He wouldn’t ruin this evening giving Josef any more thought, “The juice” would be out there tomorrow night because Josef killed the agent, not the source.  Any minute now Beth would arrive and Mick wanted the air to be clear to talk about them, just them.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

The gliding ride up to the loft drew Beth into creating her pitch….somewhere between her impending “happily ever after” and that “after” she wanted to be secure in her feelings that she would walk beside Mick forever. Mick’s friend had been fairly supportive; she could tell Josef would be an ally. Did she actually overhear Josef thought she’d “make it” in the undead world? Was tonight the night she’d bring up the subject?

The elevator doors slid open and she drew a deep breath, small gift bag in one hand, and her “go” bag over her shoulder. Was she surprised when Mick’s door opened before her hand hit the door’s surface? Nope, not in the least.

= = = = = = = = = = = = 

Feeling worn down like a piece of glass
It doesn't take too much to get yourself to feed your monkey
Tell some white lies, they can swallow them
You don't see just how you got into this situation

Josef had dressed for work still glowing from the domination he exerted over that idiot, Jack Tempe.  The primal sense of his “kill” still was coursing thru his system.  He had tucked away Mandy in the guest freezer, poor dear all exhausted from tension and then their merrymaking.  Josef pulled the freshly pressed shirt over his cool flesh, he so enjoyed the feel of the Egyptian cotton crisp with starch as is met his back, his arms, and his washboard abs.  He slid the summer weight worsted wool trousers up his thighs and he shivered at the memory of Mandy pressed against him hours ago.  Shouldering his leather braces he walked to the cheval mirror and winked at his perfectly put together image. 

Why did St John always throw shoe into the gears? Why did St John have to bring up “the juice”? Then Doc called, and Josef’s world began to spin off its axis.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =
Late at night, late at night you weep for something
better than the secrets you keep laying down, just lay down here close to me, and tell me what you want from me.

“I love you” she crushed the words into his ear as he held her to him; she had dropped her bags to floor and surrendered to his embrace. The heat of her excitement bled into his cool, firm form giving both of them fuel for their evening of discovery.

“I love you” Mick caught her left hand and kissed her ring finger, mindful of its naked state and that he had proposed without a ring,

“Want some dinner? A shower? A drink?” Mick bent to pick up her parcels and his senses picked up blood…..contained blood. What was she up to? He watched her graceful hips sway in her steps away from him, what a view and he smiled to himself.  Mick hoisted her duffel over his shoulder as he held up the smaller bag, “Where do you want this?”

Beth pivoted and gasped, thinking he knew exactly what it was and she grasped it quickly to run up the stairs, knowing full well he could have caught her; she was enjoying this little game of cat and mouse.  Luckily, they would tease each other until they caught exactly what they wanted, time alone, together.

Unsure of broaching the subjects of her gift and her date with destiny, Beth ran for the bathroom.  She ducked out of her clothes and sought the comfort of the tile temple, the shower where she and Mick had communed frequently in the past few weeks.

Sure, those scant two weeks of Mick’s humanity had left them debating human versus vamp all over again.  Somewhere he had more of the cure tucked away. Beth wondered how long the gel would be effective; she recalled how she missed his other worldliness. She had missed the bite and made him feel badly for it.  Was it just a few days ago since Josef had ushered him to the other side? Yes it had been, she was surprised Ben hadn’t been hammering for more of an explanation.

Softened water flowed over her body as she pondered her next steps, her next words. Then she felt his embrace, she cuddled back to him and let his hands cover her with silken soap bubbles as his talented fingers explored her waiting flesh. Mick palmed the curls at her thigh’s delta and she sighed an invitation for him to explore deeper, for his nimble fingers to stroke her, to bring her quivering before he’d slide to his hilt within her.  Beth savored the memories of his strong hands on her hips as their flesh met and receded over and over and over until their inevitable climax brought his bite and she’d swoon back against him as they reveled in their afterglow. Tonight was no different.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

“I have something for you….” Beth’s words fell to a whisper as he nuzzled her neck, taking in their fragrance, enjoying her warm flesh against his.

“You do?”  Mick had a clue, but she was so cute he wanted the full “sales pitch” Mick trapped her in his arms and carried her to the chaise in the bedroom. Still wet he reclined with her as she fought him to keep the furniture dry.

“Mick, the furniture” she squealed, nearly jumping off the leather, off of Mick.

“It’s just furniture, cows stand in the rain all the time, come here…….” all Mick had to do was smile and she was all his.

“OK, you have my full attention” her laughter fell like music into his undead heart, he’d tattoo this moment in his memory.

“And what did you have for me, Beth?” his brow cocked as his tongue slipped to the side of his closed lips, that ephemeral pink tongue that drove her to distraction called to her, she collapsed against him in a giggle fit.

In the hollow of his chest she murmured,”I brought you a little snack for… … whenever you wanted it”

“I thought you had, you know the old vamp sniffer, I had a clue” he stroked the ridge of his nose as he admitted his suspicions after smiling widely at her news.  She feigned a pout and kneeled to get a truly good look at his lean body stretched out on the tan leather chaise.

“Can’t pull the wool over your eyes, can I?” she pooched her bottom lip at him, her arms pressing her breasts together, the fine droplets of water still sitting on her peach smooth skin. Mick held his arms out to her; he adored her, hungered for her and not only in that sanguine manner, yet in all manner of his appetites.

“Sorry, hope you know it didn’t spoil the surprise, I mean when you came in with such a wonderful gift it was the last thing I expected.  When did you want me to enjoy your gift?” Their fingers interlaced as their eyes covered each other with adoring gazes, “while you’re with me or when I’m alone?” 
The thought of Mick sipping and thinking of her caused her to grin widely, the thought of not knowing when he’d be doing it would leave her spending a bit of every hour wondering if he was “tasting her”.  Her eyes rolled as she tipped her head to her shoulder, she almost wanted to watch him she wanted to see the look on his face while he drank her up.

“Well, there are two small ones, why not one for when I am here….so I could watch and one for whenever you miss me?”  Her words made good council to him; he nodded and took her to his lips to thank her for her gift.

“Beth, night in, night out, your love constantly amazes me.  As well as I know you,” Mick kissed her forehead, “you always keep me on my toes” then he kissed the end of her nose and finally graced her lips with his.

“Perhaps I should give you a break every now and again?” her blue eyes peered directly into his hazel eyes, their noses touching, he enjoyed the warm breath she expelled as she spoke, to inhale it made him feel alive.

Their lips parted and he shook his head, a wry smile spreading across his lips, “No, no, don’t do that, it would throw me off completely”

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

And I said hey now, give me the meltdown, take it out on me this time around,
oh no it ain't over now I can feel the world spinning round and round and round
Hey now, give me the meltdown, take it out on me don't let me down,
oh no it ain't over now I can feel the world spinning round and round and round.

“You do that voo-doo and this time it turned to doo-doo, Josef” The Doctor shuffled around his autopsy table, peering at the broken body of Jack Tempe. Doc knew there were times when vampire murders were left for the human world to clean up…. The remnants left like a human crime, more or less to put the family at notice, “it could be you”.  Doc performed all the usual steps in a human autopsy, citing a faulty thermometer for the on-scene’s body temp.  

Once Jack’s head was finally separated from his shoulders Doc wrapped it in a trash bag and enclosed all of Jack into a body bag. With a zip it was over for poor dear Jack Tempe, once a “has been” he was now considered a “never was”.  Doc ran a tired hand thru his full head of grey steel wool hair and wheeled the gurney down to the incinerator; this was one he wanted to burn himself.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

Wide awake now and your monkey's dead you're so perfect that you never really need nobody
Put your hands down, you're among your friends, you just take and take and take and take and take and take and

Late at night, late at night You weep but so no better than the secrets you keep
Stay down, just lay down here close to me, pretend you're never leaving me.

The club music pumped a primal thump, in sync with the human heart beats. Dreamy eyed and languid the girl from Iowa hung on the tall, thin dark haired man’s arm.  She didn’t miss his absent heartbeat, earlier in the month Rhonda had missed a few meals and had made up for them in the past 36 hours in the second bedroom of a suite at the Biltmore.  He had given her carte blanche to eat as much as she wanted as long it was from room service.  She was grateful she was on the top floor, so far away from Pershing Square where she had slept in cubby hole off the fountain.

 “Rhonda, dearest” he crooked his finger at her and held out a thimble sized cordial glass, the red liquid looked like cherry soda.  She downed the liquor and was transformed….. ….her toes and fingers tingled; she felt the heartbeats of everyone in the room. She cocked her head at the man, realizing his heart torpid and his body impossibly cold. Her burning eyes met his…..were his turning blue white? She shook her head in disbelief and buried her face in the silk of his half opened shirt, fully feeling his alabaster skin on her sweaty forehead.

That was the last recollection Rhonda had before she woke up at sunrise in the fountain at Pershing Square, the center of attention of the gathering crowd.  The pointing, the whispers caused her to look around the crowd, the shallow water tinted red with blood and her body covered in countless wounds still oozing.

Hey now, give me the meltdown, take it out on me don't let me down,
oh no it ain't over now I can feel the world spinning round and round and round.

= = = = = = = = = = = =

Late Evening, Wednesday, February 20, 2008

“I’m sorry, Mr. Kostan, the good Doctor insists on seeing you now” the harried butler spread his arms at the double doors, trying to block Doc’s entering the study around him. Doc impulsively ducked below the butler’s elbow in vamp speed and stood before Josef’s desk, smug and silent while Josef answered the poor servant.

“Never mind, Jeffrey, let us be” Josef dismissed the manservant with a wave and then raised a glowering expression at the good Doctor.

“The body has been destroyed, Josef.  You disappointed me. Have you left it to Claudia to find the source of “the Juice”? Doc walked to the bar a drew a cigar from the humidor, scenting the Cuban Churchill he cut the end and lit it, taking a long draw and blowing out a series of rings that hung around his head.

“Don’t be flippant with me, Doc. You may look 60, yet I am your better here. So I didn’t take out the source, I took out the infidel who spread the stuff around, the man who brought the police to MY home” Josef bellowed, bent over his desk on his knuckles like a silverback gorilla, brows knitted over fierce eyes, lips drawn tight over emerging fangs. In Doc’s eyes all Josef had to do was beat his chest and bellow and he’d break into laughter. 

Doc raised his hands in surrender as he set down his cigar in the ashtray to pour a brandy and then claim his seat to enjoy their conversation.

“Josef, we have a bit of a problem with Lola’s last foray into drug distribution there was a schism in the family.  This stuff isn’t made from us…… so the people involved just see it as….” Doc took a long draw on the cigar, eyes closed to think, perhaps to enjoy the smoke filling his dead lungs, “an opportunity to control something in the human world”

“This crosses the line, Doc, you know that vamp versus human world line? Have you forgotten they could take out our food source?” Always the pragmatist, Josef didn’t want to miss a meal or take a financial loss making a fast getaway to a new identity, “I realize I just killed the messenger, not the source” Josef backed into his chair and reared back, staring at the ceiling.

“So, is Claudia near the source?” Doc’s goatee moved nervously at posing Josef the question, his eyes froze with Josef’s answer.

“NO and it seems that Mick is otherwise engaged, he hasn’t rooted it out either” Josef lowered his gaze back to the good Doctor.

“You have nothing?” the Doctor pressed while Josef sat back and wondered why the inquisition had been brought to his study.

= = = = = = = = = = =

Friday 1a.m., February 22, 2008

“He came right into my office and lied to me, he knows something” Josef spat at Claudia as she circled the desk, only the sound of her leather clothing resonated in the room.

“You have great instincts, Josef, but how can you be sure he was lying?” Claudia lift one booted foot up to cross her legs at the knee.

“Claudia, I am heartbroken you don’t believe me” Josef feigned disappointment as he withdrew an envelope from his top right drawer, scooting it across his desk blotter toward Claudia. They both stare at it for a beat and then she swept it up in her manicured nails, opening it with surgical precision and then she scanned the words, shaking her head once she hit the center of the page.

“Where did you get this?” her brows knitted at the facts listed, “He told you this before you terminated him?”

“Every bit of it is true, of course I didn’t want to go into it with St John over the phone, and you’re the first one to see all of this.

Claudia’s face registered amazement, surprise and aggravation at the contents of the letter, “We have about 24 hours before this goes any further, can we count St John in with us?”  Josef nodded to Claudia and she countered, “Does he know yet?”

“Again, Claudia, you crush me; of course he’s in with us” Josef didn’t blink at his gross exaggeration.

= = = = = = = =

Morning, Thursday, February 21, 2008

“Mick, MICK, M.I.C.K.” Beth’s calls went out as she padded barefoot thru the seemingly vacant loft.  It was early, Thursday morning and the sky held the promise of a brilliant morning although the sun hadn’t broken the horizon.  She checked his freezer, it was vacant, she checked his office, she looked for notes on the kitchen counter and everything confirmed she was alone.   A slight shiver ran down her spine, Beth couldn’t remember when she had ever been alone and she didn’t understand why Mick would have left their warm bed.

She fished in the cabinet for the coffee beans and let the sound of the grinder in the coffee pot shatter the loft’s silence.  While she sat on the island, staring at the coffee dribbling into the carafe she chewed at her thumbnail.  She hated her job, well “hate” was a strong word yet if Mick could use it she guessed she could too.  She’d miss Steve although a camera man was a weak reason to keep a job you detested, yes, detest was a more refined word she rationalized.

What could she do with her investigative skills? Aha, she could call her “brother” and take her double major in journalism and criminal science to the next level; didn’t they have a liaison office? She shivered again and hopped off the cold counter to turn on the fireplace, and then found the blanket Mick had wrapped her in so many times before.  Once she wrapped herself she laid on the sofa to wait for the coffee to finish, mesmerized by the brewing coffee and the dancing flames. Beth was back to sleep in seconds.

= = = = = = = = = =

Mick entered the loft silently a few moments after the golden glint of the sunrise glared thru the loft’s decorative grids. Living on the edge of the jewelry district had its benefits, one of the older diamond houses was family and Mick had slipped out from under a snoring Beth around 4 in the morning to choose a setting and stone.  It had taken longer than he expected and once the waft of fresh brewed coffee hit him he realized the lump on the sofa was his Beth. He tucked the gift bag into the island drawer and lovingly picked Beth up inside her blanket cocoon.  She melted against him even though his Henley held the clammy morning dew, she sighed and pursed her sleeping lips at him and Mick’s emotions swelled at his sleeping fiancé.  When she woke he’d be sure her bagel and cream cheese would have a special “side”.

While he lay there watching her sleep he drank in the sight of her supple body and her gentle movements in her dreams, moments crawled toward sunrise as he memorized the sound of her breathing. Did he “think” her awake?  Beth began to stir and they shared a silent smile before she spoke.

“Mick, did you leave this morning?” Beth rose on her elbow and blew warm kisses over his profile, his eyelids fluttered to open, and his eyes cast sideways as his lips drew to a smirk.

“Yes, Babe, I did.  I had a little errand to run” Mick rolled over and mimicked her pose, sliding his knee over her legs, drawing her close.

“oohhh, looks like all of you is awake, even little Mick” Beth’s blush at their relaxed sensuality excited him even more that her morning blush.

“LITTLE Mick?” he growled gently as he swept her into both his arms, trapping her under him, “may I refresh your memory this morning?” Beth ducked a hand over her mouth.

“Morning mouth, love, Hold that thought”

Mick let her wiggle away, enjoying her animated escape toward the bathroom.  He had forgotten human mornings, the rush to the bathroom, brushing, flossing, washing, shaving well at least she didn’t have to shave. The ring couldn’t wait until he served her breakfast; he dashed downstairs and was back in bed before he heard the toilet flush, the black leather ring box under her pillow.

“OK, now, where were we?” as she trotted toward him Beth’s hair moved in waves around her shoulders, her lips and cheeks rosy, her smile illuminated the dim bedroom.

“I was just about to reacquaint you with my little friend” Mick chuckled as he patted her pillow for her to lie on.

“You’re up to something, I just have to figure out what it is” Beth sat back on her heels, her palms resting on her knees.

“Am I that transparent? If I want to be with you, make you feel good….I have to be up to something?” Mick feigned a pout, allowing his unkempt hair to fall over his eyes. He waited forever (or so it seemed) for Beth to inch closer.  Then when he saw her drawing closer to him he grabbed her softly and she squealed like a happy child.

“Why do you always do that?” she giggled at his abduction as they rolled back and forth, Mick raining kisses on her collarbones and shoulders.

“Because you are so much fun to grab, you’ve got all those delectable girl parts that I don’t have” Mick was honest with her, he was riding the crest of their physicality, he had never been this free to celebrate love as they had been.  They had no pretensions…..just sincere love and adoration for each other.

“Well I’ll share my parts because you share yourself so freely” Beth enthusiastically grasped his erection, proud and tall it made her blush to be this candid, she had been used to making love in dark rooms under covers.

Mick’s chest rumbled a low growl, rhythmic and nearly musical in it’s following her stroke’s speed and tension.  His head fell back on his pillow, his hips arching to thrust himself within her hands. Silently begging for her to continue he whimpered, biting his own bottom lip until his aged dark blood ran a trickle down his jaw.  Beth’s excitement mirrored Mick’s as she stroked and laved him further and further into his blue-black oblivion.  His fist flew to his mouth and he bit, the vicious rumbling in his diaphragm traveling to his throat where he choked out her name as if it were a prayer.  Mick fell away from her, his undead body infused with her heat seemed to glow.  Beth’s thrill at seeing him collapse in ecstasy nearly brought her to tears.

Knowing his age, knowing what he had been through, understanding how he had fought his resolve to hide himself from her she knew she had drawn him into now, into “living” the most he could live in all his nearly 90 years.  Beth knew once their love had been professed mutually there might be the hurdle of pulling Mick thru any more of his reticent misconceptions of vamp and human couples.  Sure he hadn’t pursued those sorts of relationships instead keeping monk-like vows thinking that enabled him to protect his Beth.  When had it dawned on him, that an existence in deprivation was just that, squarely just an existence.

She breathed life into his lungs surely as she inhaled breath into hers.

“Well if we’re talking about sharing with each other, let me share this…..” Mick’s arms slid under her pillow and he deftly opened the black leather box to reveal the solitaire. Beth’s eyes flashed at the diamond and hiccupped with the gulp of air she swallowed.

“Oh, oh, Mick, Mick….Oh, honey… did you find such a beautiful ring? It’s just exquisite” Her hand shook as she extended it toward Mick. He caught her slender fingers and kissed their tips before he slid the platinum band onto her finger. The elegant 1 carat cushion cut diamond sat nestled in the Edwardian setting holding numerous perfectly cut smaller stones.  The modest engagement ring fit her delicate hand and together their eyes met as they admired the ring Mick hoped she would wear for the beginning of their eternity.

“It’s platinum, it should last . . . . . forever” Mick caught her face in both of his hands as she wove her fingers into his early morning mussed curls and their barrage of kisses began all over again.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

The Buddhists have a famous saying: “This, too, shall pass.” As for me, I’m glad! Sure, I’ll miss things as they pass away. When I myself pass away– if I’m still capable of missing things at all– I’ll miss this world. But in loss the superficial and false decorations of the earth will give way to the deep, awesome beauty of decay.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

#11 Walk, Run, Stumble / Grey Ghost/White Lady (R) New 10/2/10

Remember…..this is after Love Lasts Forever, the Mortal Cure didn’t happen like the show and Fated to Pretend is out there in another world.


Third time’s a charm Beth thought as she trudged toward the loft door. Try as she had they nearly dickered every time they discussed venues for their wedding. The local hotels all had their draw yet the Bride had a yen for something different. Beth had accumulated enough friends to want to offer them an “experience”, she also had a few “frenemies” who she couldn’t easily neglect to invite yet didn’t want to share her special day with Mick.

The Biltmore was beautiful; although it was so close everyone on the list would show and make the lavishly decorated walls close in on her. Beth had surveyed all the bridal books and considered exotic locals called “destination weddings”, yet she didn’t want to exclude the people without budgets to follow them to Hawaii. Then she saw a blurb about the Queen Mary, docked in Long Beach and parked that idea in her brain as she stepped toward the opening loft door. Darn vampire, he always knew when she was approaching. How would she ever surprise him? ….Unless she was a vampire too, she was still giving that request a lot of thought.

Mick was a sight for sore eyes, it was a long day and Beth had especially missed him. She hated Mondays unless she could end it in Mick’s arms. Tonight he was home, waiting for her. She’d spring this idea and perhaps he’d finally “fold”.

“What do you think about having the wedding on the Queen Mary?” Beth asked her back to him as she watched Mick in the reflective surfaces of his kitchen. He didn’t flinch, he was mute.

“Don’t you want something that says more… than an old ship?” Mick laid half splayed out on the sofa waiting for her to return to his arms. The fireplace crackled almost in tune to the soft sounds of Miles Davis. He watched the glow of the kitchen lighting around Beth’s silhouette as she gathered her Asian takeout to carry to the sofa.

“I’d like something elegant, and I love Art Deco, just something about the 30’s that sings to me” Beth had that determined look on her face. Mick recognized he was in for at least a spirited debate with the bride over the wedding location.”I realize it’s not the grandest location in LA, well it’s even a little bit of a drive, but then I can weed out the casual wedding guests if I make them work for the invitation”

Mick smoothed the leather of the sofa, figuratively clearing a place for her to cuddle close. The spice of the Kung Pao chicken assaulted his delicate senses as he grinned at her assessment of the drive to Long Beach.

Beth’s blond locks waved around her shoulders as she laughingly shook her head, “Well, you probably aren’t aware of all the wedding leeches out there, they just want a good meal and an open bar” she proclaimed as she wiggled her hip into his and settled back, chopsticks in hand.

“You know I get a little twinge every time you bring chopsticks into this loft?” There was Mick’s expression of perplexity, the twist of his lips displaying his unease at having a wedding discussion with an “armed” fiance.

“Hey, a girl needs subtle weapons in the wars of love” Beth’s brow arched comically as she drew the food to her lips and consumed her first bite. Mick’s thumb wiped at the sauce on her chin and she ducked to catch his thumb, licking the spicy sauce from him. The sublime pleasure rang thru him as he settled back; totally aware she wouldn’t be staking him tonight.

“I want something classy, sort of the kind of place where you might have gotten married. Actually I went ahead and made an appointment to see the facility, kind of a Bride’s prerogative. You aren’t upset are you?” Beth’s expression told Mick even if he was resistant, she’d spend the night convincing him of the “pluses” of a wedding on water.

“When?” was Mick’s stoic reply, he was steeling for all of the memories to flood back, all of his experiences on board the “Grey Ghost”.

“We’re meeting Felicity tomorrow after work; I’m leaving work early so we can get there by 6, OK?” It was a done deal Mick figured. Unless the venue required a first born child as a deposit he was sure Beth would walk down the center aisle of the Grand Salon to speak their vows.

== = = = = = = = =

Long Beach rested under the blue sky, miles away from the ribbon of brown urban LA smog. The black and warm red smokestacks of the proud ship contrasted against the blue sky. Maritime flags fluttered lightly as a chill ran down Mick’s spine. The prospective groom wondered, was this the right way to begin a marriage, suffering from ghosts of a girlfriend past?

From the moment Mick saw Beth’s expression he was humbled into submission, of course he’d “give in” to her wishes, the wedding would be here. Mick silently paced a step behind Beth and Felicity as the two women wove the event to mark the transformation of their romance to their becoming one.

What was now a historic hotel had been a respite for Mick, his first impressions viewed from reclining on the stretcher deciphering the art deco ceiling with drugged senses. This afternoon he sang along in his head to all the old music playing as hotel “muzak”. While Beth flipped thru catalogs of banquet layouts and color charts Mick slipped to the WWII display and chuckled at the War Bride display before he slid into kneel in prayer at the “Forever” Chaplain’s memorial.

His prayerful memories swept past the rogue wave that swung the ship within 3 degrees of capsizing, past the forgettable rations and the cast of war grizzled characters. Hovering over Mick the music engulfed his heart and his memories reemerged.

Sheryl Crowe serenades us:

When they begin the beguine it brings back the sound of music so tender
it brings back a night of tropical splendor it brings back a memory of green

I'm with you once more under the stars and down by the shore
an orchestras playing and even the palms seem to be swaying when they begin the beguine

to live it again is past all endeavor except when that tune clutches my heart
and there we are swearing to love forever and promising never never to part

a moments divine what rapture serene to clouds came along to disperse the joys we had tasted
and now when I hear people curse the chance that was wasted I know but too well what they mean

so don't let them begin the beguine let the love that was once a fire remain an ember
let it sleep like the dead desire I only remember when they begin the beguine

oh yes let them begin the beguine make them play til the stars that were there before
return above you till you whisper to me once more darling I love you
and we suddenly know what heaven we're in when they begin the beguine

The redhead stood clutching the microphone stand, her voice velvet all over the scales. He wanted to grab his horn and wail next to her, too bad he didn’t have the power to blow cigarette smoke and his horn was packed back in his parents’ home in West Adams.

Slumped there in a wheelchair, strapped in like an amorphous mannequin, he wanted to catch that gal in the halls of the pitching and rolling ship and implore her to bestow some mouth to mouth action. It was wartime and although he felt like he was dying it would be nice to go out with her beside him in the cot in isolation. It was his memorable trip back from Europe on the Queen Mary, stripped of its luxury appointments and slathered with a coat of military grey paint, nicknamed the “Grey Ghost”.

Mick felt like it was a personal invitation to waste every drop of energy showing her a good time, it was WWII and they were the lucky bastards, carried out on stretchers given a plum ride home, occupying every available square inch on the re-fitted luxury liner. Sure, leather had covered the wall’s rich wood veneers and the graceful furniture carried off and packed up yet the dog faces from Europe were fitfully grateful for the ride home.

He figured if he got a little more shut eye he’d be able to at least chase her with some dignity. He just had to get out of the wheelchair….. Could the battered Medic entice her to come by his cot and sing a solo? Of course after the impromptu “show” they dumped him back in Isolation; they didn’t want him to spread the infection from the shrapnel that bit he caught when his platoon took the hits in Italy. The burning puss had nearly dried out, yet it left him drained of all his strength, when he caught the sight of his face while shaving it wasn’t pretty, St John. Dark ashen circles hung in semicircles under his tired hazel eyes; cheeks ruddy from the hovering temperature that told the medical corps he was anything but out of the woods.

Somehow the fever to catch the redhead with the ivory cheeks and ruby lips overcame Mick harder than the need to lie on the cot. When he was satisfied that he had dodged the “watchmen” he gathered up the cotton robe and tied it tightly around all 164 pounds; Mrs. St John was going to go to town cooking when he got home. Mick slid cold feet into warm boots and snuck out the back door of Isolation, to the back of the Promenade Deck.

The sound of the engine sang an ancient mariner’s tune as she cut through the black water. Instinctively he dug for a cigarette and found none so he let his fists ball in the pockets to keep from wanting a smoke, then the perfume wafted toward him…something fresh and romantic in a cloud of diesel and engine fumes. ... re=related

You could have a great career, And you should; Yes you should.
Only one thing stops you dear: You're too good; Way too good!

If you want a future, darlin', Why don't you get a past?
'Cause that fateful moment's comin' at last...

We're all alone, no chaperone Can get our number
The world's in slumber--let's misbehave!!!

There's something wild about you child That's so contagious
Let's be outrageous--let's misbehave!!!

When Adam won Eve's hand he wouldn't stand for teasin'.
He didn't care about those apples out of season.

They say that Spring means just one little thing to little lovebirds
We're not above birds--let's misbehave!!!

It's getting late and while I wait My poor heart aches on
Why keep the breaks on? Let's misbehave!!!

I feel quite sure affaire d'amour Would be attractive
While we're still active, let's misbehave!

You know my heart is true and you say you for me care...
Somebody's sure to tell, But what the heck do we care?

They say that bears have love affairs and even camels
We're men and mammals--let's misbehave!!!

“Hey, solder, aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” It was her. The redhead, at the sound of her speaking voice Mick was past deeply smitten.

“You want to tuck me in?” leaned back against the rail Mick watched her move closer, that fabulous gal aglow in the running lights of the ship, just the two of them in the peace of the night.

“I could do better than that” she was a bold one; inches away when she stood, hands akimbo on those soft round hips. Mick nodded and bit his lip at the thought of spending time with an English speaking woman after months of unknown dialogue with farm girls in hay stacks.

“Then, be my guest, make a solder at ease” Ever the Gentleman, he loosened the robe to wrap it around her, she felt cool in the night air, she seemed under dressed for this latitude and longitude. Encircling her with his weak arms, what a pair they were, he was burning up and she was cucumber cool. The fevers came at night, raging about 1 or 2 am then breaking in the morning.

Mick closed his eyes and prayed she’d find some warm, covert horizontal place to “commune”. Generous lips brushed from neck to chest, delicate hands snuck behind Mick’s back wending their way under an Army issued pajama shirt brushing lightly over drying scabs of shrapnel wounds.

“Oh, honey, they chewed you up” her breath teased his ears as he let her press herself closer. He reveled at the points of her breasts in the stiff brassiere; her taunt curves of her corset, the beads of the nubs on her garter belt.

“Want to kiss it and make it better?” He begged. The night carried our moans and sighs, her hands were magic over his sorry body, a fresh jolt as she eased his fever, sending him into some other kind of fever. Grasping the railing with both hands as his back arched over the railing, giving into her nips and licks, loving the electricity of her lacquered nails combing thru lonely belly hair as she brought him to life down there.

Cool lips encircled, teased, she caused him to widen his feet to stay steady, the ship caught a wave and so did the damaged doughboy, then suddenly Mick felt her draw him into a place he hadn’t been in months- the encompassing white light had the phosphorus of a flair. He felt like a louse, he hadn’t had the strength to even stroke her lustrous titian hair while she worked her magic.

The delirium left his eyes closed, seeing supernatural lights and when he gathered his senses he was alone, she was gone. No name, no words, no kiss to build a dream on. He felt like a cad so he bundled back up and made cautious steps back in to clean up and get to his cot. He sure slept well that night.

The next day they were dumping him into The Eisenhower Suite, a lot classier and still an isolation of sorts. There was a twin bed in a room they could keep watch over him and a couple of equally infected cronies in the other bedroom. They needed Isolation for some poor unfortunates who were worse off than these three guys. So they rolled them down to the two bedroom suite, with a living room for cards and they felt like Generals instead of Lieutenants. Mick said a prayer of thanks for the field commission that bought a bit of respect and the ability to associate with the Nurses on Board since the trio now had a “clubhouse” of sorts.

Mick lay in the quiet bedroom and waited for sleep to overcome his busy mind when he felt a gentle cool hand cover his, “Hey, Officer, what does a girl have to do to get a little attention?”

“Well, tell me your name that would be a swell start since you were so familiar with me last night” Mick felt her lips hovering close as she whispered, “Camellia Barnes”.

“Camellia, why me? I’m looking pretty dogface here” He still had enough pride to not want a mercy lay.

“Why not, couldn’t you enjoy the cheering up?” she seemed coquettishly flippant, but so delicious. “I think you’re kind of cute in a dark way” her finger tip slid down Mick’s nose and ran over his hungry lips. He caught her poplin covered upper arms and drew her close; where they laid still for a while, cuddling innocently. It felt do damn good to feel her ivory cool skin along his feverish frame. She was a welcome option to the iced clothes they had laid along him.. … this was medical treatment he could get behind or under or beside.

“Yeah, Camellia, I could use the cheering up. I just lost a buddy – a guy I grew up with. I’m feeling pretty guilty about coming home when he left a beautiful wife behind and she’s alone now for good.” Losing Ray was a brutal shock, Mick kept hoping he’d open his eyes and see Ray on the next cot.

“So, you wonder why you’re even alive, right.” Camellia hit the nail on the head. Survivor’s guilt wracked his soul as much as the infection wracked his body.

“Yeah, I do” Mick laid back as she did what she did best, covering his battered body with cool lips, feeling the trails of her thick auburn hair glide over him, wondering at the electricity pulsing between them. Was she healing him or draining him? Oh hell, they were misbehaving in the best way and it was the only thing that made Mick feel truly alive.

When he woke up in the middle of the night she was gone and he was exhausted. They were a day closer to the States and he was getting antsy. His poor heart was beat, his soul defeated that day that the Nurse tutted over him as she took his vitals.

“Lt St John, we have to start another round of Penicillin. The infection is roaring back, have you been out of bed?” She eyed my dirty bedroom slippers waiting for my honest answer.

“I get bored, I got a girl, and she enjoys our time together” Mick shrugged, expecting her to understand.

“You want to make it home with that girl?” her eyes penetrated harder than the hypodermic and lay mute. “You need bed rest, not horizontal gymnastics, got it?” her tongue was as sharp as the points on her nurse’s cap. Mick frowned and nodded, thinking if he didn’t speak it wouldn’t be a promise.

That night he lay there lost in an inferno, bones burning, joints ringing with pain. Mick clenched his eyes shut and cried for something to cut the pain. Buddy Jackson threw him a rag, that’s all he had. When he saw the way Mick looked he rang for the corpsman. He couldn’t remember what they did, only felt needles and tape and the sensation of being jerked from cot to gurney. Thrust from the frying pan into the fire and he prayed to black out.

“What’s the deal with you, Lt?” Camellia stood at the end of the Infirmary cot, “How’s a girl going to start a relationship when it looks like you’re taking a powder?” Her head glowed in the night lights, all pink with the radiance of her bright auburn hair.

“I thought I was just your good time Johnny” He shrugged, “Am I going to be taking you home to Mom?” Mick thought he saw her shake her head sadly before his eyes drifted closed. Lost in a fever dream we danced, the bright polished parquet floor was silent as they swayed in each other’s arms to Cole Porter. The white satin of her dress reminded him of the parachute fabric he’d seen in Europe, it felt way better on her slim hips than bunched in the trees or strewn across the battlefield. They sang in each other’s ears and continued that musical foreplay that would have to end with her sweating over him buried deep within her soft thighs. Mick knew he had it hard for her, yet was unsure he could nail the “follow thru”, somehow they tore up the sheets but when he woke, she was gone.

“He’s been better” the Nurse hissed reviewing Lt St John’s medical chart, “He goes two steps forward and three steps back” The Medic shook his head at the incongruous medical records, then bowed his head for prayer, “I think we’re losing him”

(The "Cunard Red" color has an interesting history. In the 1830s, Robert Napier, a British shipping engineer who improved and developed the steamships that would become the first of the Cunard line, was faced with a dilemma. The heat in the smokestacks reached such high temperatures that conventional paints of the day would bubble and peel off. The painters developed a clever solution. A mixture of bright ochre and buttermilk was applied. With the heat of the smokestacks, the paint mixture literally "cooked" onto the stacks and stayed put. The resulting orange/red color, accented with a broad black band at the top of each stack and black lines on the flanges, was to become Napier's trademark and, later, the identifying mark of all Cunard liners. The tradition remained, even though paint manufacturers had discovered a way to delete the buttermilk from the formula long before THE QUEEN MARY was launched!)

= = = = = = = = = = = = = =
#12 Walk, Run, Stumble / Exorcising Ghosts (R) 10/10/10


Tuesday 2/26/2008

Mick wandered the deck, hands shoved into his trouser pockets, following Beth’s excited voice as Felicity explained the dining options for a reception: full buffet, canapés, wine and cheese selections or the very trendy candy buffet. He grinned at the thought of vampires perusing a “candy buffet”, for Josef that meant having a selection of nubile grad students, a bevy of Tiffanys and Heathers. Mick made the silent note to not mention a “Candy Buffet”.

The three of them stood in the vast and virtually empty Grand Salon. The three story room was adorned in the grand art that had been obscured while Medic St John was a passenger some 60 years ago. The plush carpet in the Art Deco design silenced their footsteps until Beth’s feet hit the dance floor. The clack – clack broke Mick’s reverie as he regarded the tall square wooden pillars separating the dance floor from the rest of the room. He stood silently remembering the soldiers watching the ship’s progress across the Atlantic. The painting on the wall showed the winter and summer a route as a small boat was moved to chart their travels. The boat was missing today, although the paths were still crossing the ocean.

“Mick, can you imagine our first dance?” Beth’s extended hand beckoned as she fairly skipped to the center of the dance floor. Mick caught her fingertips and moved to catch her in an embrace befitting their wedding night. Without music Mick led her in a circle around, imagining her train trailing behind her. They stole seconds from Felicity’s sales pitch, Mick’s chin resting alongside Beth’s soft cheek.

“So, does this mean we don’t need dance lessons before the wedding, you can see us thru this little production number?” Beth whispered, fully aware of Felicity’s gaze over them.

“Do we need a production number or a first dance?” Mick spun Beth to the end of his hand and snapped her back within his embrace, easing her into a deep dip, her blond locks inches from the golden wood parquet floor.

“Fred and Ginger, can eat their heart out” Felicity applauded at their finale from carpeted perimeter of the dance floor. Then, gracefully Mick effortlessly pulled Beth back into love’s embrace, nearly embarrassing Felicity with its frank romance.

“So this is what you want, Beth?” Mick was nose to nose with Beth, feeling like she hung the moon for him alone. Just the giddy blush on her cheeks was enough to get whatever was left of his “humanity” strumming. It didn’t matter that she was delicious to his vampire senses; she was his “everything”.

“For us, yes!” Beth punctuated the answer with a kiss and a nod of her head.

“Then my dear “near wife”. . . . . tell Felicity yes, have her draw up the paperwork”, Mick bit his lower lip as he nodded along with her. Could Beth see the veil covering a bit of his past?

= = = = = = =


Lt St John was moved back into “Intensive Care” the quietest, cleanest area they could muster, his fevers spiked while they administered whatever penicillin they could drub from the crevices of kit bags collected from all the corpsmen. At odd hours Camellia sat at his bedside, a lace hankie at her lips as they moved in prayer. Her pale fingers moved from bead to bead of her pearl rosary, the fact that she had brought this from the Vatican itself held no sway with the gods of war.

War was an equal opportunity slayer, taking lives on and off the battlefield. Now it was within Lt Michael St John to barter with the devil for his soul.

“We’ve done what we can for him” the Medic stared over the chart at the prim Nurse; he tapped a pen on the clipboard while the doe eyed veteran stood stoic.

“He’s been worse, I think he’s getting better, the parameters of the wound are narrowing. I’ll irrigate it, hell, If I thought leeches would help I pray to find one” The doe eyed Nurse stood tense, bartering with the powers that be for the delirious Lt’s body, she’d feed him broth and tea, she’d bring him back from the brink.

“We’ve got patients that need the supplies and the attention, if you’re going to follow this case you can count on a lot less sleep” the Medic dropped the chart into her lap and turned on his heel to see a more responsive patient.

Nurse Klein stood at Mick’s feet, fingering the plain cross around her neck, without compunction she slipped it off and hung it around Mick’s neck whispering a prayer for his survival. When she had lost her religion over Carl, she had worn this more as a superstition, now she was invoking charms. Somehow she’d rather see him carried off the ship feet first than wrapped in canvas and buried at sea.

“Hey, Mick, I found some ice chips, I wandered into the lounge and found some rum, too” Camellia whispered in the dark and tried to pull him into her lap. Once she held him in her arms she drizzled the iced rum into his gaping mouth, he murmured incomprehensible words as he settled into her embrace. He felt like he was lying in a field of lavender, amid the peace that he had sought on the battlefield emerging while he lay in Camellia’s embrace. “Are you feeling better?” her cool hand swept his forehead where his GI haircut had lengthened to swirl in sweaty curls.

Camellia couldn’t make out his garbled words, yet she understood his tongue seeking more of the rum’s burn. If he was going to “go”, she wanted him in peace at last. “Sleep, Mick, sleep now. We’ll be together soon enough”

Mick startled at the sound of Nurse Klein’s shoes on the floor, the squeak hurt his ears as she made quick steps toward him. She caught his faraway look and silently cried at his deathly pallor, the vacant gaze and his sluggish pulse. She wrung out the alcohol and ice water from the washcloth and stripped his pajama top off of him. Infection had left him gaunt and gray, how could she haul him back to life?

Dropping to her knees she combed back his damp curls with her fingers. Once Mick felt the washcloth he curled into her touch, “Cammy, baby” he muttered as the nurse repeated her healing ministrations under the prayers she knew from childhood. Nurse Klein chased Mick’s fever throughout the night. The storms had rocked the ship and it lulled them into a sense of healing peace.

Kay Klein had thought about the convent before she enlisted, a brother had shipped out and earned her Mother the right to trade her Blue Star flag for a shining Gold Star Flag for the parlor window. Her brother’s unseemly death cut a schism thru her faith and she had tossed her prayer book and rosary in the Chesapeake Bay. Throughout her high school years she had held herself from boys although they had pursued her – she HAD been holding herself to be a “Bride of Christ”. At Carl’s death, Kay broke off that engagement.

Kay marched right to the Recruiting Office and enlisted that after noon. Her brother had died because his buddy had written, “Carl didn’t stand a chance, there wasn’t enough care. . . . .” As Kay’s Mother lamentations roared she boarded the bus for Nurse’s Basic Training.

Now Kay was entreating meditations across one extremity to the other as Mick laid mute. In their hours together, Mick’s eyes seemed clearer and his peeling lips seemed to be healing. As the clock ticked hours away Mick’s fever broke. Methodically, Kay began the process of undressing the young Lieutenant, she buried any prurient ideas deep within her mission to bath him and redress him.

She knew the ship would make port soon and no Mother should see her son like this. Kay’s heart cried at his lean frame as she removed his pajamas. She drew a cool sheet over his naked body, watching his chest rise and fall slowly.

From Carl’s death she felt prayers held no dominion, now she had to press all the positive forces from her heart into Mick’s soul. She laid out the razor and the nail clippers and began her work. With delicate fingers she worked froth over his bearded face and stropped the razor to bright edge. She shaved his chiseled face carefully maneuvering around the cleft in his chin. Without a nick she rinsed his face and cradled his feet, one at a time to clip his toenails and fingernails.

Her tender touch elicited soft moans from her patient and she found herself singing softly to him – repeating the verses over and over like a healing mantra. ... =1&index=1

Night and day, you are the one only you beneath the moon or under the sun
Whether near to me, or far it’s no matter darling where you are, I think of you

Day and night, night and day, why is it so that this longing for you follows wherever I go
In the roaring traffics boom in the silence of my lonely room I think of you

Day and night, night and day under the hide of me
There's an oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me
And this torment won’t be through until you let me spend my life making love to you

Day and night, night and day

Instead of the coarse terry washcloth she had torn a corner of a flannel blanket and stroked the tepid cloth gently and sweetly over Mick’s chest, here was where it would grow thorny for her- how could she bathe him, touch him softly without wanting to strip herself down and lay with him? His kind eyes had burned with such a devilish twinkle days ago when his stretcher boarded the ship. Kay had watched Mick St John’s banter and had been seduced by his voice, although he had never “met” her in the social sense. She couldn’t comprehend why his physical state had degraded rapidly.

Kay had undertaken the mission to save this lieutenant, perhaps he had a sister or parents waiting for him, so with a deep swallow she resolved to bath him, she had brought her own rosewater soap with her, shaving it into the warm water to make a gentle lather. Mick barely moved as she held his arm up and stroked away the days at sea. Was it her imagination, did he seem to be “coloring” up under her touch? Of course her breath caught at the sight of his thighs and what lay at the juncture of both of them.

“Virgin”, such a clinical word! It certainly felt like it, she hadn’t “seen” a man until she went to nursing school and then it was scientific and cold and factual, simply an intromittent organ of a male organism that was specialized to deliver sperm during copulation or void the bladder. Kay shook herself back to reality when she realized she held him in her hands, bathing the life back into him.

She swirled the flannel across the dark hair on his thighs, watching the pattern change under her hand. She felt the flesh thicken, the thump of the dorsal vein pulsing as he lengthened in her wet hand. Kay drizzled the warm water over him, wiping away the excess, drying him and gently releasing his burgeoning erection to bob on his thigh.

Mick’s sighs deepened as she lifted his knee to sooth the fire in his legs. She gently bathed his legs and recovered them with the sheet yet somehow she could not bear to cover his hips. She held his limp hand in hers and wrung softly around each finger and felt a bit of a connection to him as his breathing grew more “normal”. Before she placed his hand at his side she drew his palm against her cheek.

What would it feel like to have him come to her, draw her into his arms? Kay would fight for him until his heart stopped beating. Once Kay had clipped and shaved and cleaned her charge she measured a handful of lotion and stroked over all his very tempting limbs. She had to consider she could be doing the Mortician’s cleanup work, yet for now her meditations stayed on the curative path.

She caught herself as she turned back to dress Mick. With just this time together she saw how he improved in color and temperature, she knew she should be exhausted yet her heart had soared at the prospect of his survival, then she grinned at the sight of his stirring. He had drawn his hands over his face while he lingered in a near dream state, then he instinctively scratched at his groin, moving the sheet from over him, he wanted to move in this restless dream of his. He rolled to his side, his back to her now revealing the offending wound, the peppered scaring of wanton shrapnel running the length of his lower back and gloriously rounded buttocks.

Nurse Kay marveled at the pattern of swirled hair down his thigh, the downy concentration of fuzz that lurked between his thighs and the twin sacks connected to the fixation that fascinated her most….the proud thumping column of an emerging erection.

Without waking him, she pressed him to his belly and turned his head for an open airway. While she cleaned the wound she heard the beginnings of a shudder and a whimper, “Lt. St John, It’s Nurse Klein, I shaved you and trimmed your nails and bathed you” that thought just invigorated a sleeping part of her and she waited for his response.

“And now you’re scrubbing my back with a burning poker?” his voice was a thread, soft, weak.

“I’m sorry, I wanted to make sure you were healing, just a bit more” Kay’s tone of voice begged forgiveness, “It’s a plaster, to draw out the infection, can you stand it?”

“Depends, totally depends Nurse Klein” Mick fell into silent submission, emitting a whimper only when the Kay stopped to drag the cloth thru the basin for refreshing.

“On what?” Kay mused, her head dipping close to his ear. Now she caught a view of his grin from the side and she knew she was falling under his spell. Well she knew he had woven her into his allure; why else would she be spending her off time doing this?

“Before you dress me, would you . . . . . just lay down here, let me listen to your heartbeat, smell your perfume?” Mick’s quiet voice was strengthening, was he making a pass at her? If only, Kay thought hopefully.

“Can you keep your hands to yourself, Lieutenant?” she whispered close to his ear.

“Is that ever any fun?” Mick realized his nakedness and pulled the sheet to cover his buttocks, if she wasn’t going to play, he wasn’t going to show her the goods.

“Where’s my girlfriend?” Mick inhaled as he stretched his arms over his head, she felt the muscles of his back quiver at the extension.

“You were alone when I arrived, what’s her name?” Kay finished the perfunctory medical steps of dressing his wound and stood across the cabin retrieving clean pajamas for him.

“Cammy, Camellia, a long-stemmed redhead” His words carried just a bit too much pride for Kay’s purposes. Just for that she wasn’t going to lie down and let him “listen to her heartbeat or smell her perfume”.

“Haven’t met her, she’s not in the corp her with the rest of us, I’d have probably bunked with her by now”. Recognizing that the good lieutenant was looking a good deal more chipper, she tossed the PJs to him as he rolled gingerly onto his back, the sheet still gloriously tented at his sustained erection.

Kay made studious eye contact with his hazel eyes and noticed his long lashes. Her work here was done she figured, surely the girlfriend would surface now that all the “heavy lifting” had been accomplished.

“How long have you been here?” his reflexes were slow, the pj’s hit his chest and he seemed flustered at the toss, Nurse Kay’s sudden loss of nurturing.

“I came in around 11:15 last night; do you remember drinking some broth?” now Kay leaned against the cabin wall, arms folded over her apron bib.

“I thought that was Cammy feeding me, I didn’t embarrass myself did I?” Now the young man was almost sheepish.

“Nope, your girl took the night off, I’ve been on watch” Kay washed her hands at the sink and cleaned up the area to skedaddle before she had to face the redhead.

“Well, I am sure she’ll appreciate the spiff job you did” Mick was sitting up looking for a mirror as he slid into the pajamas shirt. Before he could move too much she held up the metal mirror, there she was waiting on his again, “Thanks, Kay, I almost feel human again. When can I get out of this place?” he slid on the pajamas top and buttoned it slowly, then rolled his legs off the cot to slide into the drawstring pants. Mick blushed as Kay turned to allow his privacy, “What now you whipped me into this condition you’re going to turn around all shy just to give me privacy?” He stood slowly and coaxed the waning erection down into the pajamas bottoms and tied the drawstring.

“You keep rebounding, we’ve used just about every bit of penicillin on board, no one can explain why you ricochet between death and recovery” Kay’s mood had just about slid back to 100% professional.

“When do we dock?” Mick reached for his wrist to feel his watch, disappointed he scanned the cabin for an indication of time.

“The day after tomorrow night we dock, New York City” Kay gathered up her stack of dirty linens then moved toward the door, “Try not to get into anymore trouble, Lieutenant, like I said, we’re tapped out in the pharmacy”, and with that comment over her shoulder she was out the doorway, still wondering who the redhead was.

= = = = = = =

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Mick stood, inspecting his reflection in the stateroom mirror. Things had been refurbished, a lot. Mick had dressed at least 55 minutes too early and now he paced in a circle from room to room in the very same suite he had been sequestered in some 60 years ago, the Eisenhower Suite. At the last hour, Felicity had a plumbing problem in the Churchill Suite and had to move Mick into the Eisenhower Suite in order to give them the fancier Queen Mary Suite for their first night together as Mr. & Mrs. St John.

Mick’s impression tonight hadn’t been as critical or as self loathing as his previous mirror viewings. Beth’s love had erased the horrendous monstrous visage he had seen for decades, now he saw the man Beth loved. He stood there after his 10th or 11th trip around the suite and adjusted the boutonniere, first it tilted to the right, then the left. When Josef advanced into the room and overtook his personal space just a gentle push of Josef’s finger and the miniature Calla lily into perfect submission.

“Style over substance, boyo” Josef’s pie face smile brightened the room. “Really, a calla lily? Virginity; purity; majesty; it's heavenly to be with you” Josef sniffed with a jovial wink of his eye then poured the groom and himself a drink.

“It fits the wedding décor; Beth’s carrying a bouquet of Callas. AND what’s so funny about it being heavenly?” Mick accepted the drink and fairly snorted at his friend, then grinned as his chest puffed up with an unnecessary deep breath, “Actually, the calla means majestic beauty, someone regal. She is my queen now” Mick sought the comfort of the wing chair and crossed an ankle over his knee, then nervously ran his finger inside his formal collar.

“You are enjoying that Duvall blood line just a bit aren’t you?” Josef took his turn at wearing out the carpet, feeling his pocket for the ring box, this Best Man stuff was more than he signed on for. Bachelor parties were one thing, actually delivering the groom to the event was more nerve wracking even for a 400 year old vampire, “I am hearing the call of a little bit of refreshment, you know my weakness for an 88 O+” and Josef swiftly patted Mick on the shoulder,”I’ll be back before the Warden, I mean the wedding planner comes for us”.

Mick was left to ruminate in the cabin, listening to the revelry in the adjacent cabins. For all of the ship’s elegance, the walls were thin even without vamp hearing. He closed his eyes to imagine Beth in whatever gown she had chosen, was she feeling the life within this old hull? Should he have had a “heart to heart” talk about women long gone before she was even a gleam in her parent’s eyes?

Mick reached for his suite key and made a bee line to the chapel at the bow of the ship. He knelt in the dark and crossed himself, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned” to no one in particular, “It’s been a few years since my last confession. Father, I am about to get married and although it isn’t in a church, I need to . . . . Make a confession”.

He was shaken when an actual voice answered, “Infidelities, son?” Mick saw no one when he scanned the dark room so he tucked his chin to his folded hands and continued in silent prayer. I had an affair, right here on this ship, and I certainly lusted after a second woman. Of course both of these women are long gone and I just didn’t estimate it was any of my fiancé’s business until right about now. I’ve got about 30 minutes until the ceremony… Mick’s thoughts were speeding to an abrupt end. He wanted, no he needed absolution.

“Son, these two women, will they be present for your apology for the indiscretion?
” There was that voice again, totally pastoral in that Irish Parish Priest way. It had to be an emerging memory from his childhood; Mick knelt alone in the small chapel. Mick sniffed, only detecting the smell of sea water and the musty old ship odor. “Go to your Bride, speak to her, and ask her forgiveness”. That was it; Mick was off his knees, nervously wiping his perpetually cool upper lip. He careened into Josef as he came around the corner on the Suite’s deck.

“Hey, Romeo, Wedding first, Honeymoon second – even though I believe you have sampled her obvious delights” Josef’s hands flattened against Mick’s lapels; Mick pushed forward moving Josef out of his way.

“I have to apologize to Beth” Mick whispered over his shoulder as he beat a hasty departure.

“You’ll have all of eternity to do that AFTER you’re married, I hear” Josef turned on his heel and took off after Mick, “You cannot see her before the wedding, bad luck, you want eternal bad luck?”

Perhaps Mick was over thinking all his experiences on the Grey Ghost. There was the “affair” with Camellia Barnes and his flirting with Nurse Kay Klein. With everything he had “lived” through since the war he was amazed he remembered them as clearly as he did, or was it just the surroundings that conjured them?

Possibly dreadful demons are in their deepest being something helpless that wants aid from us. Fantasy is overflowing with Dragons morphing into Princesses or Frogs into Princes. Circumstances may not be what they seem, yet we believe our adult selves to be immune to fantasizing about what we see, what we can feel. The safe and sane thing is to “trust, but verify”, yet who lives safely or wholly sanely?

= = = = = =


Mick adjusted the tie on his dress uniform; his girl had requested his full dress uniform for tonight’s fete. The ship’s passengers were wild, Armistice had been declared and it was going to be a night of dancing and drinking to celebrate the radio alert. Camellia was waiting for him at the stern, puffing a cigarette with a far off look in her hazel green eyes while stray hairs blew from her chignon. A spray of feathers emerged from a rhinestone clip at her left ear; she was drop dead elegant and radiated pure sex in platform pumps.

The taps on the heels of his dress shoes clicked across the teak decks as he came up behind her and pressed himself into her buttocks, placing a hand on each side of her at the railing, “You’re gorgeous” he whispered and the sound carried on the night wind. All they felt was the glory of his nuzzling her neck, slipping his tongue between his lips to catch her taste, grinding gently into the silky fabric covering her glorious hip.

“What took you so long? We’re going to miss the party” Camellia purred as she leaned her well coiffed head back to his shoulder.

“We make our own party, you know that” Lt. Michael St John was counting down his days as a man in uniform and right now he was ready to shed it in favor of a more private party between the two of them. Camellia would win right now, she’d pull him into the Grand Salon to dance and drink and revel in their being halfway home when the delightful news broke.

The warmth of the crowd brought a glow to their cheeks, they bobbed shoulder to shoulder between the three story columns surrounding the dance floor in the Grand Salon, “Stompin’ at the Savoy” and took long sips from water glasses commandeered to carry more celebratory liquor.

“Couldn’t you do this forever?” Sammy leaned back from Mick, thrusting her hips closer into him; her long lean arms were draped over his broad shoulders as her fingers played with the curls at his neck.

“Well, forever is a long time to do anything” Mick speculated he was dating a society gal, someone who wanted to carry him on her arm from party to party. He was looking at landing on his feet in the States and finding work, would they have a future? “I’m looking at finding gigs at things like this, so you could say it’ll feel kind of like I will be doing this forever”

That comment drew a narrowed eye from Cammy then she pooched her glossy red lips together and pouted. , “Well, then we are going to play as long and hard as we can tonight” Cammy was resolute, she had Mick in her arms, on the dance floor mingling among all the vital and exuberant souls.

“Don’t you ever slow down? I mean when I’m with you . . . . . . ,” Mick’s question was cut off by Cammy’s lips locked on his. He backed away from the passionate encounter when he had to come up for air, “Whoa lady, I need to come up for air sometimes!” Mick saw the twinkle in her eyes and figured they’d be good for another couple of go-arounds at the party before they’d make tracks for a little private reveling.

Then Mick caught the sight of a couple of guys he hadn’t seen since they had carried him on board, “Ronnie, man, I thought you were a goner back in Italy” Mick fairly dragged Cammy toward his long lost friend yet Ronnie had a gal in his arms and he dismissed Mick with a salute and a wink. Cammy stood her ground and Mick’s body snapped back to the dance floor and Cammy’s arms.

“I think Ronnie wants someone else’s company”, Cammy winked and kissed at Mick’s ear and drew him back into a slow dance. As the band broke Mick caught Cammy’s face in both his hands and they froze in a tight gaze, without speaking they moved into a kiss, first innocent and light that tightened within seconds. The kiss transformed them from a crowded dance floor to a place of solitude, that pushed Mick into another realm.

First his lips parted, taking hers with them, and then they dueled lightly flicking at each other’s lips. Then he drew her tightly, his hands leaving her cheeks to wrap around her tiny waist. Without words, Mick plundered her mouth drawing her tongue until he nearly bit – she drew his bottom lip into her lips and then playfully bit- they jockeyed for dominance until he found he needed breathe and he fell back from her, chest heaving from exhilaration. Dear God this woman was brutally sexual.

= = = = = =


“We’ve got an elevated temp and a rapid pulse” The Medic pulled back each eyelid and shined a flashlight into Mick’s eyes, “Start the ice baths again and prop him up for some fluids. Force feed him if you have to”

Nurse Kay muscled in the rolling cart with all her supplies ready for another night with the Lieutenant, this time she brought her hot plate and a percolator because she was too far from the Officer’s Mess and she was going to be up a long, long time. First the alcohol baths, then the mustard plasters changed every 2 hours. Her vigil had taken on a religious zeal although she hadn’t made one request of the God she thought had abandoned her family. Between her ministrations she sat back with a book, carefully purloined from the overlooked library off the Promenade Deck. She recalled how she grinned every time she bounded up the center staircase and saw the word, “PROM” imbedded in the flooring. Her “Prom” had been quite unlike from these experiences on the “Grey Ghost”.

In the quiet cabin Kay settled back, with an afghan wrapped around her shoulders and her cap still secure in the nest of controlled wavy hair. Kay and Mick were contained by time and by the circumstances of his illness and her devotion to his healing. The roll and pitch of the ship as it traveled faster than the U-boats lulled Mick in and out of a fevered sleep. At the quarter hours Kay would rise from her uncomfortable chair and check the damp rags cooling her patient, swapping them out for freshly soaked replacements. When Natalie came by with a meal tray it broke the mindless repetition – Kay’s tiring treadmill of care.

“How’s wonder boy doing?” Natalie asked; Mick’s illness had become a topic of great discussion around the Nurse’s cabins.

“Nothing stable yet, he’s holding on” Kay’s resolve seemed to be shredding, was it the late hour or the unmitigated fever that stymied Kay.

“Well if I was that fever I’d hold on to him too”, Natalie cast a prurient eye at the sleeping Lieutenant.

The morning of the last full day at sea a dozing Kay was awoken by “Is he getting carried out or tossed overboard?” Natalie carried the food tray into the room and set it down, producing the bowl of thin broth for the Lieutenant only after Kay shot her a sharp look, perhaps Kay should have thought about the convent, she could wield that “Mother Superior” glare.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

#13 Walk, Run, Stumble / Ghost in the Machine (NC17) 10/23/10

This is not the legend of the "Lady in White" as reported on the Queen Mary.


June 21, 2008

Tonight, before their friends in the face of a pledge they would travel toward evermore together, Mick recognized their lives would be strewn with jagged cliffs on a sinuous path. Where, in truth, he had found it impossible for him to walk alone, without Beth it had been just a bitter and harsh trail into the endless darkness awaited him at journey’s end.

Was this marriage in haste? How soon should they try to embark into “forever” together? Mick felt if she saw him as he saw himself in his mind, not with her heart, it could tear them apart.

As Mick navigated the corridor of the ship he prayed, “Oh, Beth, can’t you see why you have braved the pain to share your greatest fear with me alone? You must have been aware that together we can conquer the darkness I’ve perceived and see the light of truth in love, so I need to reach through my past and believe.” He took a deep pointless breath and repeated the word, “Believe”.

Mick took the turn in the corridor and nearly tripped into a vision in white. The veil obscured her hair, yet from the back she was a image as luscious as a tall ornate butter crème cake, then Mick gulped his words, “Beth, what are you doing out of the suite?” and the vision of bridal loveliness turned to him.

Camellia Barnes stood in her wartime finest. The dress, fashioned from bias cut ivory silk clung to every sensual curve of her generous body. Her brilliant titian hair bubbled around her shoulders as she dabbed her eyes with a man’s hankie. Mick recognized the hankie, it had been his. He was missing his last clean handkerchief when they carried him off the Queen Mary.

“Cammy?” Mick’s voice broke as they regarded each other. She nodded as Mick surveyed the corridor for others…..this conversation needed to be hush-hush. “You shouldn’t be here, I mean, how are you here, what are you?” Mick knew about vampires, what other unearthly beings walked this ship?

“Wasn’t I your girl?” her shoulder slumped in resignation as she passed the time for his response.

“While we were at war, while I was on this ship” Mick choked out the words, standing rigid as he tried to slide backwards from the heartrending lady in white.

“I thought you had come back for me” her head bowed as if to smell her bouquet of red roses, “I saw you here, dancing with her……” her words dripped with jealousy tinged in sadness. Mick immediately steeled himself for the worst, had Cammy done something to Beth?

= = = = = = = = = =


The music played behind them, the melody moving thru walls to the small cabin they found unlocked. The Queen offered up her smallest cabin bedecked in her deco finery. The woodwork glowed in the glimmer from the half closed bathroom door. Together they fought thru the dressy clothes and the facades of being an officer, a gentleman and a lady. Pawing, pulling preying on each other’s weaknesses they shrunk to their knees, two bodies entwined in coarse sheets and sweaty arms.

Mick kissed Camellia Barnes once, tender and quick, before reaching for her hand and bringing it to his mouth, knowing he could not withstand her enflaming caresses much longer. He had meant to kiss her fingertips in gentle affirmation, but as he began, he felt the moist warmth upon them that he knew was his own musky essence, and he raised startled eyes to meet the hypnotic gleam in hers.

Before he could move, Cammy brought his hand to her parted lips and one after the other drew his fingers inside her mouth, devouring the delectable taste of him. The sensation overwhelmed him and he felt his already pulsating erection grow painfully harder, pushing insistently against the delicate skin of her inner thighs, the sensitive tip brushing the silk and lace barrier that still remained.

Groaning deeply Lt St John leaned his heaviness on one elbow and hip before sliding his other hand down over the smoothness of Cammy’s belly to reach the plain wartime fabric. He tugged at it gently and she immediately spread her legs apart to assist him, offering a throaty whisper as he unhurriedly pulled her panties away.

Then she struggled for breath with astonished enchantment as he brought the tiny, damp scrap upward to his face. Draping it across the palm of his hand, he buried his face against the moist cotton for more than a few moments, inhaling deeply the evocative honeyed scent of her craving for him, before thrusting the unneeded garment aside. His head full of her musky scent he was unable to stop himself, he reached down to stroke his fingers over her wet, kind flesh, needing to feel on his skin this newly discovered declaration of her passion.

As his fingers touched her again and again, he took her mouth in a deep, searching kiss that was filled with an erotic blending of shared tang and scent and texture. It was beyond his imaginings and yet he simply wanted more.

She left him drained, dry and faint. He never heard her collect her clothing, he never heard the crowd gather whistling at his state of undress or his morning wood. He laid there, his forearm over his eyes, evading the harsh light of chasing him thru the portholes.

“St. John, you get your ashes hauled and you don’t have the class to dress and get ready to walk to dry land?” his usual bunk buddies kibitzed and laughed behind Capt. Downey’s back although they had to bob up and down to see their friend laid out on a single cot in feverish oblivion.

“The party’s ish over?” Lt St John’s slurred words buried him deeper with the Captain.

“If there was a party here young man I didn’t get the invitation, report to your quarters NOW, for your information we’re still at war” The boyish yet officious and immovable Captain swelled up to his full 6’ and spun to leave the cramped wartime cabin when he gathered a full head of new steam to march down the corridor. In his haste he ran into the other immovable object, Nurse Kay. Her stiff white peaks of her breasts plunged headlong into the medals on the Captain’s chest.

Their eyes met like gas and fire as she began her defense, “He’s delirious again, Captain, it’s the infection.” Kay was firmly prepared to defend her #1 patient until she rounded the Captain’s muscled physique and she caught the casually posed Lt St John barely swaddled in sheets rank with sweat and sex. Kay wasn’t ready to see the occasion of sin, just argue for Mick’s redemption.

She gathered up his hastily tossed dress uniform and estimated the amount of work it would take to get him dressed, “You dogfaces can either stay or leave, but if you’re going to watch at least bring me a basin of water and rags, NOW” She barked orders at the gawkers as she untangled Mick from the linens. As tortured as he appeared he looked as though he had been pulled from a cross on Calvary along side of Jesus himself. She shook her head and spoke indecipherable oaths under her breath.

The ship was in a state of upheaval, they were hours from port, hours from docking and belching their captive soldiers over the gangplanks to their waiting families. Sure the war was ongoing, yet these civilians had waited too long for their weary and wounded soldiers, in their hearts their war was over.

“No more antibiotics, kid, you are getting bathed, packed and dressed and shipped off to home” Kay held Mick’s face regarding his unresponsive, feverish eyes, his clammy skin, the sluggish pulse. Someone or something sapped his strength, drew him closer to death each time she left him.

His “comebacks” had been building to a monumental crescendo with each decline.

The hubbub up and down the corridor grew as the ship drew closer to port. They were fairly dancing with their gear on their back as the Intercom called for “orderly” lines to begin assembling. All the while, Kay sat with her patient, carefully dressing his tepid body, leaving his socks off until the very last moment.

“So what about this forever we were talking about” Mick slurred, eyes clamped closed in near delirium.

“Forever? I’m hoping you make it off the ship, Lt.” Kay wiped at his forehead, smoothing back the dark curls from his skin.

“Cammy, sweetheart” Mick buzzed sideways into the flattened pillow.

Kay’s eyes narrowed. She had heard Cammy, Camellia, Cam all while ministering to his needs.

Meanwhile she had not met anyone meeting his description of a “long stemmed redhead”, she was sure Lt St. John had been in a fever dream for the entire cruise.

“Nurse Kay, they’ll be bringing down the stretcher bearers shortly, we’re smack out of wheelchairs” the poor kid cycled from cabin to cabin relaying the news. Earlier this session Kay gathered up the few things strewn across the cabin floor, she had taken notice that his dress uniform had been carelessly discarded when she found him naked in the fever dampened sheets. Where had he prowled dressed like that? Dress uniforms had been long forgotten since they had crammed several thousand GIs in the “Grey Ghost”.

The poor saps arrived, ready to assume their burden, Kay laid his backpack between his ankles and laid an innocent kiss on his damp forehead, “Some other place, somewhere, some other time” she whispered as she watched the dozing soldier juggled down the corridor.

The fresh air mixed with the overused oxygen at the gangplank, it seemed to perk Mick up as he realized the movement he felt wasn’t his own power. “Hey, Captain” he waved lazily at his commanding officer.

“St John, you have managed to stay out of trouble simply because you’ve been horizontal for most of the cruise.” The ruddy faced officer stood over his Lt. laughing at the prospect of Mick’s good conduct. The Chaplain sidled up behind Mick, standing over his shoulder to administer a prayer for recovery, a prayer for safety in travel, and a prayer Lt St. John would right his scallywag ways.

“Right now I want to know why my girl isn’t here to see me off” Mick had grown more lucent as he got closer to exiting the ship.

“Your girl?” The Chaplain curiously inquired, leaning over Mick’s stretcher.

“Camellia Barnes, the prettiest redhead on the ocean” his face wore the smile of a satisfied man. The Chaplain’s eyes took on those of a perplexed man.

“Son, where did you meet her?” his Irish brogue purred his curiosity.

“On the deck one night, stunning, all in white, so delicate” Mick’s voice resonated romance and mystery.

“Have you seen her lately, this morning, perhaps?” More pastoral concern Mick thought as he lay there, hoping she’d accompany him off the ship.

“No, sir, that’s why I’m so restless, she talked about being together after this cruise” Mick’s brows knitted in concern, the Chaplain saw Mick’s desire in his pained expression of confusion and loss.

“Son, we’ll get you moved along, no doubt if the lady said she’d be with you, she’ll join you. Live in the hope of love, son, live in that hope” The Chaplain nodded to the stretcher bearers and hurried Mick along down the gangplank. Kissing his cross he tucked it back inside his uniform and strode the near empty corridor where he thought he saw Camellia last, but that was last evening when she seemed to be out and about.

At once the Chaplain understood why the Lieutenant seemed to bound between life and death. Every time Mick tread at death’s door Kay’s ministrations tore him back from that morbid doorstep. He had remembered when Camellia first arrived on the ship, lush and lively, always the spirit of the party. Then he remembered the argument that thrust her into her current “state”.

= = = = = = =

June 21, 2008

“I need your help, Mick” The bride implored, eyes demure. Mick shuddered at the sight, knowing there was no way that Camellia Barnes could “be” as fresh and beautiful as that night she left him.
“What are you?” Mick spat out as he took a hasty sniff of the corridor. Not vamp, definitely not vamp. Mick’s mind reeled at the possibilities.

“I loved you then, Mick. I loved so many of you. I wanted the chance at forever, you just were…. …. … stronger than most” Cammy’s face was never as serious as now.

“Cammy, Camellia, whoever you are…. What are you?” Even as a vampire, as despicable as he had found himself this incarnation before him struck a chord of horror in his undead heart.

“Well, I should ask the same thing. How is it you are beautiful and youthful? What chicanery do you employ?” She drew the bouquet closer to her nose, drawing in the orchid scent, concentrating her attentions to picking out the veil from around her shoulders, totally self-absorbed.

“What I am is of no consequence, right now you are in my way, I need to get to my Bride” Mick attempted to step beside her frothy gown and her rapid movement of her arm stopped him. She was cold, ice cold, colder than any vampire. “Now, before you pass.. .. .. what about your help, can you see it in your heart to help a lady on what should be her wedding day?”

An irresistible force can move any object. An immovable object cannot be moved. Hmm. Makes a person think. What happens in real life, when an irresistible force meets an immovable object? Well, there are no irresistible forces. And, there are no immovable objects. So, the question has no answer. Mick existed in a universe which allowed irresistible forces and immovable objects.

Was Cammy making an angry declaration of love in her requests for help?

“What do you mean, I was stronger than most?” Mick’s usually placid face melted into a sneer as he cautiously shrunk back from her. She shifted smoothly from foot to foot toward him, her bouquet coming toward him as if in an entreaty for him to come closer.

“Yes, stronger, every time we were together I could have sworn I had you in my grip, that you’d be mine before the ship docked” Cammy surveyed the corridor for ambient sounds while she watched Mick’s eye grow angrier.

= = = = = = = =

“Your grip? What are you, the angel of death?” Now Mick fairly spat out the words, his hands seeking the corridor railing as he pressed as far back as possible.

“Death, angel, No, Mick, neither, when we met I had just passed on. I hadn’t found my peace, I was lonely” Now she circled around him as if to herd him toward her cabin, “You were the closest to joining me or so I thought. Somehow every time that Nurse got a hold of you she pulled you back into vigor, you were our tug of war”. Cammy was quiet now, hoping to draw Mick closer with a whisper.

“And now, I can’t help you” Mick’s hands flew in front of him, a metaphorical barrier.

“You are . . . . You cheated death, you cheated me. And now with what you’re doing tonight I just want your help”

“I do not understand at all, Cammy, and I’m running out of time” Mick tapped at his watch impatiently as he considered stepping backward from her to get to Beth’s suite.

“I haven’t been able to enter into the Salon since we were there together….you know, back then. I knew today was coming for you and Beth. Frederick is waiting for me. We wanted to speak vows for our forever.” Her whispers were soft, pleading as she drew back the bouquet to sniff calmly the lavender and roses amid the baby’s breath. “I need you to escort me”

“You need me to lead some poor sap to his death?” Again with the cringing expression now Mick was repulsed.

“No, Mick, he’s like me. I’ll say it, I’m the lady in white, the ghost of the Queen Mary” now her arms hung as her sides, her mystery stripped away to plead her case.

“And even now you and this Frederick want to.. .. ..” Mick’s finger pointed toward the Salon and back again.

“We want to marry, then we’ll move on as well as we can” Cammy tried to blush, as best as a phantom could blush.

“Cammy, every time you come near me I damn near die.” Mick stood shaking his head, hands on his hips, biting at his bottom lip, then a revelation dawned. “I guess since I’m dead it shouldn’t matter” Mick laughed as he shrugged and offered his elbow.

= = = = =

The Queen Mary, August 30, 1039

“Jeffrey, I don’t love you. It’s an antiquated system that binds a woman to man without love” The young woman clutched her Irish linen hankie to her lips, blotting the stubborn tears she had cried when her parents delivered the news of her impending “arranged marriage”.

The starched young man in the Arrow collar stood ramrod straight, “Under the terms, you do not have to love me, Camellia. You just have to marry me.” He slowly removed a cigarette from the silver case and tamped the end on the engraved initials of the case then swallowed a near sneer, “The deal has been struck, the deal stands”

Jeffrey Wollaston Hall sniffed at the Turkish tobacco and fit the holder onto the tightly wrapped cigarette. He paid more attention to the carefully rehearsed process of lighting a smoke than Camellia’s presence. While she buried her head in her hands he turned on his heel and made for the first class lounge.

There was no refuge for the daughter of a failing British Motorcycle company. She summoned her pain, the only thing she owned outright and fled to the bathroom of her parent’s suite. They had gathered their last few pounds sterling to travel to the United States. Her Uncle had a horse farm in northern Maryland, and they’d move to a cottage there while Camellia began her married life with a surgeon at the city’s Johns Hopkins Medical Center.

“It was a good match”, her Mother told her. If it was to be such a good match, Cammy suggested her Mother take the deal.

Cammy closed the bathroom door and sat solemnly on the commode. The handles to the left of the tub mocked her, “Fresh HOT, Fresh Cold, Salt HOT, Salt Cold”. Nothing in her life would ever be fresh again. Her hands turned the knobs without thinking and while the rushing faucet filled the deep tub with great force, Cammy dressed in the modest white gown and jotted , “I am in a better place” on a piece of Ship’s stationery.

In a serenity where just her heart cried Camellia Evelyn Barnes submerged herself in the tub and found peace.

= = = = = = =


The Chaplain chewed at his pipe while they carried the last soldier off the Grey Ghost. He knew then who Lt. St John had been enchanted with. St John hadn’t been the first, wherever the ship sailed the seemingly fae lady enchanted a few passengers. The shipboard wartime legend was once she caught a man, he died.

Mostly the “Lady in White” passed endless hours gliding down corridors, yet as the ship’s passenger list grew swollen with armed forces, these brave men seemed to ignite a passion in the Ship’s wandering spirit. There seemed to be so many men and each cruise just held few precious hours to enchant them, to pull them to share her fate.

The Chaplain had heard near deathbed confessions as the men bargained with the Lord to live. So many mentioned dalliances with a comely redhead the Chaplain spent a few early morning moments looking for her. Although their paths crossed they did not speak, was she wary of the Chaplain?

= = = = = = = =

June 21, 2008

“I only pulled you toward death so I could have you…..I have Frederick now, and you have Beth” Her delicate hand accepted the crook of Mick’s elbow as they moved closer to the Salon.

“The ceremony isn’t for another 30 minutes, there’s an alcove where the Maitre D stands for the Sunday Brunches, stay there until Beth walks down the aisle, When you hear the music, walk behind her” Mick got into the matchmaking mood.

“Frederick is there already, I can feel him” Cammy sighed with a quiet joy at her success at getting Mick to escort her into the Salon.

“Will I see Frederick?” Mick quipped, giving her a sly sideways grin.

“Probably, he’s in uniform, a Captain” She met his grin and nodded.

“I see you traded up from this lowly lieutenant.” Mick snickered, “I ’m going to get you inside the Salon, but I’ve got to get to Beth, I’m in a bit of a hurry” Mick admitted, getting serious again.

“So, Mick, before we part, what are you exactly?” Cammy held on to his arm as they entered the Salon’s side door.

“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe it. Let’s just say today I’m in high spirits to discover my old spirited friend” Mick just didn’t want the day to be tainted by his recounting the tale of his 1952 wedding. Mick caught her chilled hand in his and placed a thoughtful kiss on her fingers. “Good luck, Cammy. If I never see you again I hope you and Frederick are forever in love”.

Cammy nodded and blew him a kiss, "Mick, remember, Love is stronger than Death". He drew those words in as if they were vital breath and with vampire speed, he turned and retreated toward his suite.

He wasn’t going to Beth, he wasn’t going to tell an account of him and a ghost wasn’t it enough to ask Beth to understand his vampire’s tale? Mick retraced his steps to the suite to meet Josef; he’d freshen up from his jaunts up and down the corridors and make his way to the Salon for his ceremony.

All of the fury over confessing a WWII liaison evaporated, it was unnecessary to confess an affair with a phantom, a ghost. Mick’s mind wandered, when he stood to pledge his love to Beth would he see Frederick and Camellia? Would Beth see the poltergeist pair? 

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

#14 Walk, Run, Stumble / It IS What It IS (R) 11/6/10


A Saturday in March, 2008

“Miss Turner, please. It’s DA Ben Talbot” Ben flipped the pages of the file he held in his lap, “she’s not available? Can you tell me when she will be?” he mumbled at the response, “No, this isn’t official business, no I don’t need a warrant” he was flummoxed, Beth Turner had been doing everything possible to blow him off, he felt it. Ben hated telephones; they were just another means by which to be ignored.

“Would you ask Ms Turner to call me, yes, here’s the number” Beth’s assistant could hear the frustration in Mr. Talbot’s voice; he’d been calling a few times a week. Then, how could he forget being tied back to back with her in a Plastic Surgeon’s office? Beyond the smell of betadine and “clean”, there was the womanly scent of Beth’s cachet. His legs cramped up while they sat tied and blindfolded counting the hours they had left in their lives.

“Beth, that Talbot guy called again” Sherry handed Beth a stack of pink slips as Beth slid into her desk in her relatively new office. Beth was happy to be back to work after the Christmas shooting that made her collapse so famous. She had quietly announced her engagement to the few people she was inviting to the wedding, her life was good. No, her life was terrific, exceptional, even supernatural.

Beth regarded the “while you were out” slips; Ben had called each day at different times. Beth was done discussing their rescue from the Plastic Surgeon’s office. The fact Mick and Josef rescued them in what seemed like silence was sufficient for her. Their hearing just furniture upended and glass shattering scared the blindfolded pair more that the silence they spent tied to each other.

When they felt the movement of an undetermined number of bodies around them they expected to be the ones flung next. Knowing that Mick had Josef “return” him to save them was evidence of the severity of the problem. Sure, it had been a couple of weeks ago yet Beth just wanted Ben to move on.

She hadn’t had the nerve to tell him they shared a father. Ben might need an AICD when she was done with her announcement.

“Flowers for a Beth Turner” the announcement bounced from desk to desk as the delivery man moved thru the room toward Beth’s office. Did her expression seem cross when the young man placed the vase of mixed roses on her desk? Beth opened the card are laughed at the sentiment, “Roses are red, yellow and blue. You don’t return my calls, so the roses ask, how are you? Ben Talbot”

“Secret admirer?” the intern quizzed, admiring the 24 assorted color roses in the ruby red glass vase.

“No so much, he signed the card” Beth flipped the card on the desk as she hung up her coat and dropped her laptop case on the desk.

= = = = = = = = = = =

June 13, 2008 Puget Bay

“You know I could get used to this” Josh stretched out stiffly on the deck chair as the yacht made its way out of Elliott Bay Marina at Smith Cove in Seattle. His spinal injury had been a burden, he stilled limped badly on some days, and the carved cane from Carl Davis still brought a fond smile to his face. The carved tipped scales of justice weren’t lost him, Josh was glad to be out of the LA legal system.

Today wasn’t one of those pained days, today he was on a Fitzgerald company yacht with the rest of his legal staff, kind of a reward for bringing in a clean acquisition before deadline. Beside Josh his new gal pal relaxed under a broad brimmed straw hat and dark glasses.

“That’s why they do this, dangling that carrot” Amelia sipped the Long Island Iced tea, smiling over her Jackie-O sunglasses. “I’m looking forward to our. . . .Getting to know each other better these next few days”.

Josh extended his hand towards Amelia and they intertwined their fingers. Their smiles beamed as each of them thought of 4 days at sea ambling up and down the coast of Washington State.

“Amelia, you are . . . . .well, words fail me right now.” Josh settled back with his Irish coffee thinking of their accidental meeting, bumping into each other as he climbed down off the exercise equipment at the company gym.

Amelia was in Real Estate Development, he was heading up the Legal Department with Fitzgerald Properties a smaller part of some LA conglomeration he had never crossed in his days as a DA. He suffered far less damage than when his car hit Beth’s in a parking lot and within a matter of weeks they spent most of their free time together. This thing they shared was cosmic, nothing like the awkward silences and sideways looks he had with Beth. This was the real deal he thought or so he hoped, in fact he hadn’t missed LA at all. He definitely didn’t miss Mick St. John.

= = = = = =

The Same Saturday in March, 2008

“I truly thought this day would never come” Ben whispered to himself, he was going to have Beth Turner in his midst for most of the day. He stood ramrod straight at the “Guns and Hoses” Charity event, his iced soda in one hand as he surveyed the crowd.

The BuzzWire Van parked on the perimeter and out of the passenger door stepped Beth Turner, the object of his past rebuffed attentions. Cautiously he wended his way thru the crowd to anonymously fall behind in her entourage. He had imagined her dulcet voice calling his name, he had thought of the sweet victory of putting his hands on both sides of those curvy hips. He had it bad for the face of BuzzWire.

“We’ll do the 30 second spot right here in front of the sign, Steve, then we’ll head over to the Public Affairs tent for the interviews” Beth seemed distracted to Ben as he circled where she worked, sure she was professional, perhaps it was part of her “cool”. When they picked up to move to the PA tent he fell in step alongside her.

“Beth, we haven’t had a chance to talk in a while” He felt perspiration trickle down the center of his back, his palms were clammy, he wiped his right hand down his trouser thigh before he offered his hand.

She smiled a performer’s smile as she accepted his hand and thought about the last guy who held his position, Josh Lindsey. It was a logical connection to think about the burdensome intelligence Josh had gathered yet she was satisfied that the sole file was in Mick’s safe. Ben Talbot is her half brother, only he probably didn’t know it. Her smile flickered and she recovered before she spoke. That alone gave Ben a pause.

“Yeah, what would we chat about, Talbot?” what a performer, she recovered and didn’t pour out, “By the way we’re half siblings”.

“Would you do me the honor of joining my table at the dinner later today?” Ben seemed a bit too eager for Beth. She nodded and took a step back, dinner, at his table? She wanted to slide off silently after her report, yet by the twinkle in his eyes she figured that wouldn’t happen easily.

“Sure, I’ll want to send Steve back with my report, save a seat” Resistance was futile she sniffed, break bread with the guy and rip off the Band-Aid. Kill his spirit and the evening in one blow.

= = = = = = = =

June 14, 2008 Puget Bay

When the yacht wasn’t clipping along against the tide Josh was at ease along the rails. When he had Amelia tucked between him and the rails he felt downright ecstatic. Her yielding North Face fleece jacket cushioned the grasp he had around her waist, she had seemed a bit chill while they sat out earlier and now she had covered up a bit to watch the sunset over the water.

Josh nuzzled at her neck and felt the silky flesh where her neck snuck up into her hairline. With her platinum hair in an up twist it was almost an invitation to kiss, to nip at her. Each of Josh’s nips elicited a bit more of her sensual response, first she pressed her back into his chest, another girlish giggle and she pressed back the softness of her round buttocks into his hips. When her foot slid back in between his stance it drove the message home…..get us below decks.

“How well did you want to get to know each other this time out?” Josh joked as they moved slowly toward his stateroom.

“I already know you like the right side of the bed” her satisfied smile made Josh exceedingly happy that she enjoyed their horizontal time together.

Amelia’s pleasure at their leaving the crowd behind escalated to a delighted laugh when she saw him flush at her comment. “We’re obviously intimate in so many ways, my dear Mr. Lindsey, tell me your deepest desires” Her ivory silky lingerie matched the platinum of her hair, she sinuously writhed out of her warm top deck clothing and wiggled under the sumptuously soft sheets.

Josh moved a bit slower, eyeing her stretched out on the sheets, nearly pale as the glistening cotton. Her green, green eyes and placid pink lips puckered little kisses in his direction.

"Would I sound like some sort of wimp," he vowed his voice a warm murmuring that vibrated through her. "If I said I want a love as eternal as the mountain ranges, vivid and hot as the sun.. . . . . . Burning so fierce it will live forever. Now here I am, just a bit broken, looking ever so much mortal, in ruins."

Amelia felt Josh’s pain; she knew he hadn’t been the instigator in their physical relationship. She understood the collection of medication he carried with him and she knew about the pill he took daily to “be ready” for their romantic meetings. He hadn’t been ashamed to admit to his surgeon that he wasn’t surrendering to a broken body, he wanted his virility back.

Josh leaned forward and touched his mouth to the silken skin between her breasts, pressing his hungry lips against her skin in a gesture that for all its gentle sensuality sent renewed waves of heat through their hearts and souls. As he straightened, they smiled into each other’s eyes, their gaze speaking promises of adventure and hope that went beyond words.

That any man could combine virility with a wholly captivating vulnerability amazed her. They had danced across the mattress in each other’s arms breathless and hasty in this joining. To know that he had entrusted his gentle heart totally to her keeping filled her with vast elation.

Josh tilted his dark head toward her, his sapphire eyes glinted. "What are you thinking, Amelia?" he asked softly.

Beginning their relationship feeling like damaged goods he hadn’t been the most confident lover. Amelia seemed insatiable, then she drew him out with her gentle attentions and it was all he needed to let go again and again and again.

“You know you’re extraordinary…..” Amelia’s fingernail traced the trail of black hair trailing to her happy place on Josh’s body.

Josh confessed, “It would be nice to think I am……It’s just I’m a tad on the gun shy side. My last relationship ended on a low note”. He caught her delicate fingers in a kiss and held her hand to his heart. His lovemaking was an all-encompassing experience that engulfed her body and soul, and she wanted it to last forever. It was much more than sexual desire; it was Josh giving her the gift of himself, of everything he was, everything she would ever want.

His groaning sound thundered through Josh, its heated yearning sending jagged streaks of lightning surging into his trembling body. With great reluctance Amelia released him, but only time enough to move forward to stand facing him at last. He looked down at her, his eyes darkened to storm-streaked cobalt, and then he reached to take her in his arms. But again she eluded him, gazing up at him, her eyes glowing with emerald fire, as she grasped his wrists and forced his hands down to his sides. For only a moment, he looked at her in disbelief even though he knew what she wanted…what they both wanted. Could he step out on “nothing” to find “something” in their lives?

“Josh, how would you feel if there were no physical obstacles for you?” Amelia’s naked emotion lowered her voice to a near purr as she rolled on her side and slipped her lithe knee between his. Their eyes met as his narrowed suspiciously.

= = = = = =

The Same Saturday in March, 2008

Beth wrapped up the last telecast and headed toward Ben’s table. Suck it up Turner, she thought, tucking her lip gloss into her wristlet.

“Beer, Wine?” Ben asked as he rose from his seat to pull out Beth’s chair. The round banquet table was set for 8, they were the only two there, would she be able to say what she wanted to say? Was this the place to drop the bomb?

“Diet coke with a lime if they have it, I’m driving and we're surrounded by cops” Beth shook her keys on the wristlet at him before settling into the chair. The band was warming up playing hard rock cover tunes from the 80’s. She seemed to second guess what she was doing here, alone after her assignment. Ben seemed just a bit too eager to please. Beth sat tall, palms down on the white table cloth, steeling herself for being alone ties together by just conversation.

“So, how have things been since we had our last adventure?” Ben’s nature softened as the music played. Beth noticed he seemed to drop back yards away from his role of a professionally tense DA. Josh never seemed to let go Beth bore in mind, one of the reasons it hadn’t worked for them. However Beth didn’t feel their being hostages together were a poker chip for Ben to play for friendship.

“Been busy, how about yourself?” Beth was wading into the friendship, you can pick your friends, and in this case she was deciding on her choice of family.

“Work, sleep, weekend then do it all again” Ben’s personality began to soften with his grin as he raised his beer as a salute then he took a swig. “I was curious, are you seeing some one?”

Beth rolled the diamond on her left hand, it was a little large and the back of the ornate band was all that showed sometimes. “Every chance I get,” Beth held the soda so he could see the impressive engagement ring on her finger and she felt Ben’s disappointment in his posture, his facial expression and his lengthy sigh.

That was the first punch, then she aimed for the right hook, “You know we have more in common that you might expect”, this revelation seemed to rekindle Ben’s enthusiasm, he perked right up.

“How so?” Now Ben drew a celery stick thru the blue cheese dressing, waiting for the answer before he bit.

“We share some DNA” Beth’s smile seemed incongruous.

“DNA?” Ben dropped the celery stick and put down his beer bottle.

“Seems our father got around” Beth lost the glimmer in her voice, what she lacked in enthusiasm she made up for secrecy she spoke so softly.

“That’s impossible, my Father’s been married to my Mom forever” Ben sailed down the river of denial.

“He’s your step father, just ask your Mom” Beth seemed to think she held all the cards, Ben thought, sweet little Beth Turner seemed pretty cocksure of herself."Use some of that professional directness"

“I wouldn’t even know what to say to her.” Now Ben was piqued, what brought this revelation on and why hadn’t his Mother ever made the confession. “Who brought all this on?” For the moment he thought, nobody loved him like his mom…but maybe she was jiving too.

“When Josh was recuperating, he began digging into all the issues I had when we were together” Beth’s eyes focused on the half empty plastic cup in her hands.

“You and Josh Lindsey?” Ben winced for a second, “You were the pink coffee cup in his office?” then he nodded knowingly, chewing on his bottom lip. “How come no one in the office said anything when you dropped in the other day?” He felt sold out, totally out of the loop.

“We had a bit of a painful break up” The two of them seemed miles away from the party, their time together frozen.

“I thought Josh fell off the face of the earth” Ben pulled the tray of chicken wings toward them, making a family style meal out of his pickings from the buffet. Beth saw her brother thru kinder eyes, thought about her heart condition, her funky odd blood type and wondered for a second if they shared that. “Oh, brother, he got the bum’s rush out of town and I got his work”

“He got a great job, we had lunch before he left for Washington State, he’s in the private sector now” They shared a companionable silence, the type flesh and blood share. “And I’m getting married June 21st” Again with her megawatt smile she flashed the lovely ring on her left hand. Ben's hunger softened, he couldn’t think of a lovelier woman to call “sister”.

“Well, if your first bit of news didn’t cut me out that second news flash certainly did” Ben’s eyes smiled along with his lips as they drew a deep swig on his beer bottle. They made small talk; their body language seemed to exclude the rest of the revelers. From a distance they looked like long lost friends, closer than family.

= = = = = = = = = = = = =

June 21, 2008

Mick skidded into the door frame of his cabin to find Josef pacing, head down hands shoved deep into his tux pockets Josef simply turned his down cast face and asked “So, have you sufficiently flogged yourself at the feet of your human?”

“Stop it Josef, it’s Beth, not my Human” Mick rinsed and wrung out the washcloth in the bathroom sink, staring at the mirror he no longer saw the demon, he ran the cool rag over his seemingly human face and shook the stress out of his shoulders.

”Ready to hand me over?” Mick asked, staring at the happy groom in the mirror. Correcting his collar and cuffs he returned to Josef in the living room.

“What did she say?” Josef seemed somber, almost fearsome of Beth’s reply to Mick’s confession.

“I didn’t say anything to her…..I changed my mind. Cammy was a ghost” Mick was matter-of-fact, abrupt, anxious to get back to the Salon.

“Well sure, after all these years, she’d be dead, just a ghost” Josef primped himself at the foyer mirror as he spoke, walking toward the door.

“No, Josef, she was a ghost….I had an affair during the war with a ghost. No reason to spill that” Mick grabbed the toothbrush and got minty fresh for his ceremony.

“It sucks to be you, Mick….first a ghost then a vampire….are you going to find out tonight that Miss Turner is a Werewolf. It indeed sucks to be you.” Josef seemed self satisfied at the pun.

“Nice, Josef, I’ll be sure to restrain Beth when she discovers you suppose she’s a howl at the moon kind a gal” Mick made eye contact with Josef as they trotted down the corridor.

“I didn’t call her a bitch, I said she could be a werewolf, big diff there boyo” And with that comment Josef supposed he’d better stuff it until the toast. He reflexively checked his suit coat for the ring and nodded to himself the rest of the way to the Salon.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
#15 / Finale Walk, Run, Stumble /15 Here Comes the Pride (NC17) 11/12 /10


June 13, 2008 Puget Bay

“Josh, how would you feel if there were no physical obstacles for you?” Amelia’s naked emotion lowered her voice to a near purr as she rolled on her side and slipped her lithe knee between his. Their eyes met as his narrowed suspiciously.

= = = = = =

Early morning of June 14, 2008 Puget Bay

He woke, although it was more akin to each nerve ending thundered his waking. His flesh was animated with a crisp coolness, a taunt perceptiveness he hadn’t felt since college. He flashed back to the open road, thundering down a two lane country road commanding his dead Father’s Harley. Why had he ditched the bike? It didn’t fit the image Josh thought a District Attorney should project.

In the future.. .. What personality would he project? Would his strength run before him? Would his senses give him away? The darkened porthole reflected his expression, the echo of a man rising from the ashes of a disheartening personal life. His sapphire blue eyes sought his differences, at this moment he saw none. Then he ached for her, for Amelia and his flesh paled, his eyes iced over from cobalt to silver and those lovely canines he had brushed and flossed for 30 some years gave way to elongate to baby fangs.

1 part bashfulness, 1 part fledgling insecurity kept him from rushing above decks to feel the night air. How many of his kind were out there? Josh popped the porthole open to catch the scent of salt and diesel. He caught a patchwork of colognes and the most secret cachets of the passengers, women in estrus, men enamored with those women all of sudden their pheromones were as singular as their faces. He’d know them right away when next he saw them.

He realized he had been self absorbed at the porthole a while, so he turned to step toward Amelia on the sex-rumpled bed. For just a split of a second he saw Beth in her bed with a bandage at her wrist. Those twin punctures suspiciously like the blood stains on his neck. Only now his flesh was smooth, unmarred simply stained by his blood. Before he could move gracefully toward Amelia he felt the hunger in his gut, or was that his last earthly meal? He wasn’t sure; there was so much to learn. Was there a chance in hell he could pick up a copy of “Being a Fledgling – For Dummies”?

Without even thinking of crossing to the bed, Josh was there, at once stretched out alongside her sinuous otherworldly body. They began with their cool arms wrapped around each other, their legs a tangle over the cool sheets. Lips fought to find nibbles of flesh, hands clasped and unclasped at shoulders and buttocks, he held her above him, and she flipped herself under him, equals demanding their sensual due.

Never before had Josh known such complete and total arousal as he had with Amelia. He was consumed with it -- the welcome weight of her cool hard body moving over his caused him unnecessary breaths, it was just Josh’s old habits not yet gone. Together they moved rhythmically and when she was upon him and he was within her, the low, harshly rasped moans that rumbled from their heaving chests excited them to increase the delicious friction of his rippling muscles and rough silk chest hair surging against her breasts.

With every look and sound and touch, Josh awakened responses in her willing body that she had not expected from one so young in this incarnation, had never come close to finding with other lovers. When their fruition came eventually, eyes glazed to ice, gleaming fangs full out, their mutual climaxes were celebrated with fangs embedded in each other’s undead flesh.

In these early morning hours, Joshua Lindsey was reborn.

= = = = = = = = = = =

June 21, 2008 The Queen Mary, The Grand Salon

“Don’t be surprised if you see a second bride at the ceremony” Mick’s voice was confidently cool, serious as it was de rigueur at every ceremony to have two brides.

“Oh, Mick, I really didn’t need one, thanks anyway” Josef sniffed sarcastically.

“It’ll be Cammy, looking for her Frederick, a Captain in the United States Army. We’re sharing our ceremony tonight with my friend”, Mick whispered sub sonically to keep his secret.

“And that’s the way you got to be so incredibly rich, sharing is caring Mick” Now Josef just wanted to be thru the ceremony and on to the “Candy Buffet” that Mick had described. To Josef, a Candy Buffet meant pre-menstrual women hungrily feasting on chocolates with a drink in the other hand. Josef was expecting nirvana for sure.

The Santa Monica sea air was damp and warm, it caressed the heavy scent of gardenias and orchids and calla lilies. A String Quartet played lilting classical music to cover the sound of shuffling dress shoes and clipped heels on the polished wooden floor as the Wedding photographer snapped candids of the assembling crowd. Beth’s friends from BuzzWire grouped and gabbed about the dearth of guests on the groom’s side of the room.

Three minutes until the ceremony and the ushers were stacking Beth’s late arriving guests to Mick’s side of the luxuriously upholstered chairs. Mick and Josef stepped up to the velvet draped platform in front of the ornately fashioned bronze doors.

Josef twitched at the sound of the two ship staff dressed as 30’s ship crew opening the double doors to reveal Beth and Ben’s silhouette in the door way.

Beth’s cousin, Carla, gracefully stepped in time with “One Hand, One Heart”. Mick could sense Ben’s nerves at waiting for their walk down the aisle with his newly found sister. He knew the last thing Ben wanted to do was hand Beth over to him, it just had to happen now that Ben knew she was his half sister.

Mick slipped his hand inside his tuxedo jacket; his fingers fell over his heart. He was feeling so “alive”, so changed by Beth’s love, by the security of their fidelity and their finding each other. No, he hadn’t felt his heart throb, but he thought it had.

When the vocalists rose to sing “Endless Love”, Beth’s processional, the expectant crowd rose and sighed at the sight of Beth in the gracefully fashioned art deco style gown.

Josef was lost in the spell Beth cast as a radiant Bride, yet he sniffed at the unmistakable arrival of a breeze of Shalimar eau de parfum. Josef’s whiskey eyes darted back and forth to locate the ghostly guest. There along the right aisle, chin demurely tucked to her bouquet, Camellia Barnes made way for the altar. Being top of the food chain, the almighty predator in the room, Josef shifted to see her Groom, and in a gentile cloud of Bay Rum and Lime a specter in an Army dress uniform shifted in pre-nuptial tension.

The guy wouldn’t have made a bad vampire, tall, slender, dark, kind of a Douglas Fairbanks kind of guy. Josef winked at him and nodded at the comely spirit arriving at the altar for him. Freddie adjusted his necktie for the umpteenth time and returned the wink as he drew his thumb and forefinger to smooth over his pencil thin moustache.

Josef envied Mick’s expression, the way Mick’s eyelashes fluttered as he drew in an unnecessary breath at the sight of his bride.

My love, there's only you in my life, the only thing that's bright
My first love, You're every breath that I take, You're every step I make
And I (I-I-I-I-I)I want to share all my love with you, No one else will do...

Together the Bride and her brother gracefully strode down the white runner, one gloved arm caressing a dozen white calla lilies tied with a crystal lariat. The closer to Mick the more the two of them broke into their secret smiles they held for each other alone.

And your eyes your eyes, your eyes they tell me how much you care
Ooh yes, you will always be my endless love
Two hearts, Two hearts that beat as one our lives have just begun
Forever (Ohhhhhh) I'll hold you close in my arms I can't resist your charms
And love Oh, love I'll be a fool for you, I'm sure you know I don't mind, Oh, you know I don't mind
'Cause you, You mean the world to me Oh, I know , I know, I've found in you, my endless love

Ben and Beth stood before Mick, eager for their next step together. Ben’s eyes raked up and down Mick, as if Ben had second thoughts over handing Beth over to Mick. Mick winked at Beth and Beth wiggled out of Ben’s grasp with a cheeky grin and a nod to Ben. Reluctantly Ben stepped back.

Oh, love, I'll be that fool for you, I'm sure.
You know I don't mind oh you know-I don't mind
And, YES, You'll be the only one cause NO one can deny this love I have inside
And I'll give it all to you my love, my love, my love, my endless love. . . . . . . . . .

With a nod from Ben, Mick stepped toward them accepting Beth’s hand before they stepped together to face the vamp Judge Harris in her dressiest black robes.

“Friends, we’re here today to rejoice in the joining of Mick and Beth”. A soft “awh” ran thru the room. “They come together as friends, as lovers, as guardians for each other’s souls”.

Truly the bride and groom were lost in each other’s eyes, half listening to the officient. “This joining has been carefully considered with all of its solemnity; their joining has come after a careful communion of their desires and goals to share a life together. Their choice to make these promises before their friends was made with great joy and with these feelings in mind they have written their own vows which they will now exchange.”

Mick cleared his throat, realizing how dry he’d become anticipating these vows, this moment.

“Beth, you hold my heart in your hands.
You light my nights, you warm my soul”

Mick’s voice rang clearly over the silence of the room.

“You have my pledge that I will share my visions candidly and protect our loving lives together for all time”

Mick’s words fell on mortal ears as sincere and loving, to the few of the “family” members in attendance they understood the couple’s intentions.

“We’ve begun to know that love is here and now, real and true, as the most important thing in our lives. For our love is the foundation of our favorite memories, and the creator of our fondest dreams. I used to be afraid of falling in love, of giving my heart away. How could I trust a woman to love me? You have renewed my life: Today I join myself to this woman”

Mick emphasized the last sentence with an energetic clasp of both her hands in his.

Judge Harris nodded to Beth and she wholeheartedly spoke,

“Mick, I love now, I will love you forever”

Her head bowed momentarily as she appeared to be poignantly overcome, and then she took a deep breath and continued,

“I will nurture you.
Where there has been cold, I will bring warmth;
Where life is dark, I will shed light for all the days to come.
Be my partner, and I will be yours. I will look with joy down the path of our tomorrow's
knowing we will walk it together side by side, hand in hand and heart to heart.
From this day forward let us make of our two lives, one life, and let us always respect and regard each other as we do this day”.

Mick and Beth were lost, sharing that winsome expression of lovers, only to have the moment punctuated by Judge Harris’ thoughts on the institution of marriage.

“Love is a promise that is always kept, a fortune that can never be spent,
a seed that can flourish in even the most unlikely of places.
And this radiance that never fades, this mysterious and magical joy,
is the greatest treasure of all – One known only by those who love.

Your love has opened windows to the worlds you lived in as children,
Now together you will grow in that love.

You cannot possess each other for you have given yourselves to each other freely,
And sustenance will taste sweeter coming from each other’s hands.

By the power invested by the State of California, I now pronounce you Mr. and Mrs. Michael St John.”

Josef watched the ghostly pair, hands clasped, their unearthly forms seeming to float behind Mick and Beth. If Mick hadn’t have warned him he wouldn’t have believed it. Did anyone else see this? Josef blinked and made a fleeting temperance pledge.

Both Bridal pairs stood silent, rocked by the ceremony’s meaning, how these promises meant “forever” in their respective worlds.

With a slight nudge, Josef whispered, “Kiss the girl… .. .. “ His brows jumped as his eyes darted from Beth to Mick and back.

Then with his own graceful speed Mick drew back the fingertip veil over Beth’s glowing face and placed it ever so gently behind her. Dewy eyed, radiant, Beth moved in for their embrace, a rustle of silk and wool sang like romantic music as they caught the joy of the moment between their lips.

The guests watched as their lips locked and their bodies melded. Just when Ben thought they’d release, Beth would sigh and nestle closer. Mick’s lithe hands danced over the silk of her dress, sliding them nearer.

When Ben had thought they had publicly consumed enough of each other his eyes sought the Judge’s and he began applauding enthusiastically. The crowd caught on to raise a thunderous applause and Mick and Beth loosed their lips from each other, this time Beth blushing brighter as their tarrying at the task.

Cammy and Freddie evaporated…….Mick never saw them after that moment.

= = = = =

Mick stood beside their first marriage bed, staring down at the lovely, peaceful, sleeping face of the woman he had fought so hard not to love. As he looked back over the last months to the first time she saw him at the fountain he admitted–at last–to himself that she had touched his heart even then.

Theirs was a fated love. They would have connected with each other regardless of whom or what stood in their way. The force of his love staggered him. Mick had never expected to feel this way about any woman. As if he had called it to him, the enormity of her love met his in a blinding convergence, merged, and became one all-encompassing love and passion. He sighed deeply, joyously and a little wearily.

Drawing back the coverlet Beth stirred, with a sweep of her left hand her wedding band sparkled in the candlelight. “Mick, dear” Beth whispered, extending her arms, inviting him back to bed.

Mick moved his body to lie fully atop her, feeling a flicker of concern that his greater weight and strength might overwhelm her. Then he was overwhelmed by all-consuming desire to give and take pleasure from his new wife.

Mick let himself become entirely lost in the sensation of his hard, muscular strength melding completely into her soft, welcoming curves. It was like nothing he had ever remembered, and he reveled in it, feeling as if they completed one another in body, just as they did in every other way.

Beth’s mind and heart were consumed with the realization of this long-sought, sensuous dream come true, but then, in one of her heartbeats, she was pulled back to a delicious reality as she became acutely aware of Mick’s hands moving urgently upon her. In response Mick felt her nails scraping over his shoulders and back, and her legs wrapping high around his hips so that the moist, feminine heat of her was opened to him entirely.

It was as if she wanted to pull him into herself and hold him there forever. Forever.

"I love you, Beth St. John, I love you." His voice was an intentional, hot, rasping moan and she echoed the precious fiery words into his mouth.

“I love you too, Beth St. John’s husband” her voice was breathy, soft, all warmth echoing her love.

Then he drew back, tensing the powerful muscles of his hips, before surging forward to enter her heated depths in one powerful, unrestrained thrust. The sensation drew rapturous gasps from both of them, and as one they began to move in an instinctive, pulsing rhythm that grew faster and harder with each passing instant.

Over and over he immersed himself deeply within her, savoring the feel of her hot, silken flesh grasping him, pulling him ever deeper. He could feel her breath rushing heatedly against his cool face and neck as she called to him and the frantic touch of her hands grasping and stroking his back and hips and buttocks as she urged him closer and closer.

Beth’s blood rushed hot and urgent through her veins and drove them on to what they desperately needed, a long-sought sense of total completion beyond words, beyond rational thought. A white-hot passion burned impossibly higher within him to get to the punch line, a taste of her freshness, her sweet blood.

They yearned more than anything to yield to passion’s ecstatic promise. Crying out Mick's name, Beth arched her body upward, as he pulled back and tensed his powerful hips before surging, absolute and hot into her throbbing depths one final time. Then as his eyes silvered and his ivory fangs descended he anticipated the sensational turbulence of Beth’s fresh living blood as it burst within his lips.

The sensation rolled over and within them, carrying them on deeply pulsating waves of pleasure that slowly ebbed but could not entirely disappear from their blissfully exhausted hearts and bodies. Did he sleep? Mick thought he had as he came out of a haze so sexually charged he felt it was a dream. Beth had turned him into a romantic, a slave to their emotionally sensual connection. It was hours later when Mick rolled to face Beth and caught her fingers in his, taking the chance for the both of them to stretch like satisfied cats.

Beth rubbed her face against his chest, pressing warm, moist kisses there, as she gently but firmly pulled her hands away from his, delighting in his immediate groan of deprivation. Then the harsh growl turned to a hoarse gasp of pleasure as she moved her hands in firm, slow strokes downward over his flat stomach and then to the throbbing hardness below. She reached forward, running her fingers along the aching length of him over and over again, reveling in the sensation of hot satiny skin over rigid steel.

All too soon the uneven rasping of his breath and the moist straining of his pulsating flesh forced her to slowly draw her hands away, loathe to cease the longed-for satisfaction of touching him like this, but more reluctant still to bring the moment to a too rapid completion. Yet as she pulled back from him, he called to her, his voice so thick with longing that the words were half petition and half command.

Beth caught his wrists; he happily submitted to her tender touch, she held his muscled arms out, placing them to his sides. Then she released him to return her hands to the most desired part of him.

"Don't stop touching me, Beth, please. . . . . . don't ever. . . . . . . stop."

“I’ll always love touching you, feeling your touch….I made that vow…..”

The heat in her voice burned him, but he only welcomed the sensation, hearing in it the sound of forbidden dreams, and he answered her by breathing one word, "Yes..." Half-dazed, he watched her release his wrists, and then with a flood of hot, wet kisses she leaned closer to trail her mouth over his chest, flicking her tongue against the tight buds hidden within the moistly curling hair on his chest, down over the taut planes of his stomach, moving unceasingly to the part of him that craved the completion she craved to give.

Overjoyed that they were alone and free to touch him in this way, Beth sank gracefully to her knees and let her hands trail paths of fire over his narrow hips and firm buttocks, grasping and kneading the clenched muscles. To her own powerful bliss she heard Mick pant hoarsely as she drew one hand forward over his left hip and then pressed it between his thighs, gently urging his legs farther apart.

Beth knew that he wanted everything from her. Again and again she stroked the taut, tender skin of his inner thighs, coming ever closer to the warm, rounded flesh that throbbed and tightened as she grazed him lightly with her fingertips and then cupped her hand beneath to fondle that most sensitive part of him.

Continuing to gaze down at Beth as she caressed him pushed Mick rapidly to the edge. He wanted it to never end, and yet he craved the final sensations he knew would arise from this fulfillment of his deliciously wanton reveries. But when she nuzzled her face into the deep, dark curls that surrounded his erection and began to move her mouth upon him, slowly flicking her torrid, moist tongue over his engorged length, he anticipated the unimagined ecstasy that Beth so enjoyed giving him.

Arching his head back, he opened his mouth wide, drawing in her scent, her excitement hanging in the air as he relished the fruit his unnecessary shuddering breaths and then hoarsely panting the sound of her name.

A searing heat licked higher within him at her every touch, and he knew instinctively that the scorching pleasure could not go on much longer. Mick braced his legs and clenched his hands hard at his sides, desperately striving to prolong the incredible sensations for as long as possible. But when Beth drew him deep into her mouth, a reverberating cry was ripped from his chest and he arched his hips uncontrollably toward her over and over.

The molten echo and action fed the flames in both of them, and then with astonishing tenderness he reached forward, stroking his trembling hands over the warm silk of her hair, tenderly holding her to him.

Beth felt the sensual sweetness of his touch upon her head and the suggestive, musky taste of him in her mouth, meld into a consciousness that left her inflamed throughout. She braced her hands on his hips and sensed the throbbing waves of pleasure that rippled more and more powerfully through his entire body, feeling them pulsate wildly inside her as well. Mick’s low, hoarse moans vibrated through the two of them and she wanted to draw out their passion moment by heated moment until they were consumed together in the fire of orgasm and the ice of the afterglow.

Then as the shimmering heat of his climax met the searing eagerness in Beth's erotic worship of his hungry body, the last of Mick’s control melted splendidly away, and he felt himself pour forward in a rhythmic pounding flash of heat and light. Mick cried out, “BETH, Beth, Beth……..” in a final torrid moan, feeling he might collapse under the sensual ecstasy of all that they had shared.

Together their bodies seemed to shiver in their afterglow, lit by the single candle across the room, their bodies gleaming from Beth’s sweat. Mick caught her up in his arms so that he could hold her tightly in his gaze to eat up the image of the sated beauty of her face.

Mick was humbled, realizing that she had desired this as much as he. His eyes searched her face, seeing the unmistakable pleasure in her heavy-lidded eyes and the rosy flush of her skin, and then he felt a tremor as he saw her love drunk expression and the dew of his own essence lingering on her delicately engorged lips. That final sight sent real waves of renewed desire crashing through him and he found himself past words. Grasping her around her slender waist, he pulled her against his body, gasping at the sensation of her nipples against his highly sensitized flesh.

They held each other fast, twisted in bed sheets, Beth’s hair moist with exertion. “Mick, just hold me, please….” She melted into his embrace and they lay in the dark, relishing their married life so far.

“Glad you’re married?” Mick poked, delicately moving some hair out of Beth’s face, he craved seeing that rosy glowing face.

“Ever so much, how about you?” Beth’s finger traced down his nose and rimmed his lips before she replaced her finger with her lips.

“Much better this time around” Mick’s forefinger found her deep navel and tried to tickle her.

“You know, this thing” Beth tapped at the AICD, “If found out about how to circumvent it” Even in the dark Mick knew what she was getting at.

“And you asked the surgeon about that, you did?” Mick peered at her, knowing fully what she was getting at.

“Well, I consulted a medical professional, and we just use a magnet, Nurses do it all the time.” Beth had moved from seductress to medical aficionado in 55 seconds.

“So a former Army medic should know exactly what to do when?” Mick still had a bit of a reticence about this next step. Wasn’t a wedding a big enough jump in one day?

“When the time comes….for you know” Beth did that reporter face she used to give him when they first met.

She drew her knee over him protectively, almost possessively. As they shifted into a position they’d hold for a nap they heard it. There in the night, where there had been silence behind them they now heard the active movement of bed springs, the noisy, strident pantings of lovers and every now and then a name…..a moaned “Freddie”, and growling “Cammie”.

Beth began to giggle and Mick laid a light hand over her lips, “Shush, if we can hear them. . ..they can hear us”, then with their foreheads together they shared silent smiles at the pair in the next room.

“I thought we were the only ones on this side of the ship” Beth pouted, “I guess they had to move more guests around than they expected”

Mick nodded as his vamp hearing filled in what Beth was missing. He seemed distracted for a split second.

“I forgot about your super hearing, stop that” Beth giggled again and put both index fingers into Mick’s ears. She could barely contain her amusement.

Mick nodded, removing her fingers and kissing her fingertips, “Ah, we could beat them at that game….that pair is dead, compared to us”.

“So, back to us” Beth caught his hand in hers and returned the gesture, loving the feeling of his cool, strong hand in hers. “I know tonight is not the night to set the date, I just want to make sure you know. . . . . . it is still what I want, you know from our vows, to be together forever” Now their hands were clasped again, their bellies touching, her breasts on his chest. Mick drank in her warm breath.

“I understand, love, I’m glad you know tonight isn’t the night to set the date” Mick caught her to glance a kiss on her chin, “The short time we’ve been together, like this, we’ve walked, we’ve run…..I just don’t want to stumble”

Once again, I thank all of you for following this story that started so many months ago.

This series continues with, “Come Monday”.