This was from VampFan5's request:


Okay, I know what I would like to see. I know that in Love Lasts Forever when Josh was dying he thought it was October and Beth corrected him and said it was January. Obviously somewhere between Sleeping Beauty and that episode Christmas took place in the ML world. I would love to see a fic written from that perspective of when they had just gotten back from New York after Beth turned him down and right before Josh dies. Maybe Josh is out of town working the Tejada case and Beth is all alone at her apartment and Mick stops by to cheer her up at Christmas and they have a discussion about why he asked her on a date and where their relationship is going while at the same time trying to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" on the TV and feeling the sexual tension mounting between them. That's my wish list.

This takes place between "Sleeping Beauty" and "Loves Last Forever".

This story is the Sequel to A Wonderful Conundrum also listed here and at my Moonlight / Beauty and the Beast Website, www dot Vincents Moonlit Carousel dot com.

A Wonderful Opportunity

It was all she could do to run to the closed bathroom door, she hadn't had an experience like this since freshman year when her boyfriend's first attempt to seal the deal ended in half of Mick's time. She wanted to understand the anxiety a man had to perform; she just needed to Mick to help her, help him.

In those emotionally charged moments Mick's face in the mirror hadn't changed, his attitude had. He had a little performance anxiety, he told himself while he stripped out of the stained shirt. The pants had to go too, "This night is one for the ages" Mick thought as he stripped naked and finished the sponge bath out of the sink. Once he felt his legs had stopped shaking he pulled on the bathrobe and secured the belt in a double knot. His hand over his face seemed to tell him, "SHOWTIME" and he ambled out of the powder room with a straight face and a shrug.

Beth waited, wondering what words to use . . . . Then she recalled all the chat about Viagra, Cialis and such. Getting hard hadn't been his issue, his issue was well….. A "quick issue". Had she teased him too much? Had she stroked him too fiercely? She thought about his steely flesh and his size. She had enjoyed the topography of his length, the veins throbbing to life under her hands and there was the velvety flesh covering its head, how her lips relished dancing over him. It seemed as if he was in that powder room a long while, then the door knob turned and Beth jumped at the sound. When she focused he was there in a burgundy silk robe, it fell above his knees and since she had never seen his legs she sat mesmerized by his muscular calves peppered with deep brown hair. While she gaped at him he got closer and closer, then she heard a "snap".

"I'm up here…" Mick held his fingers up near his face as he snapped them, drawing Beth's attention and earning him her smile.

Beth rose to meet him, and he welcomed her with open arms and a question, "Did you think maybe we need to take baby steps?" he whispered as his arms pressed Beth into the slippery silk covering him.

Beth's arms slid around his waist as she leaned into his chest. It was different putting her ear to his chest and not hearing the steady thump, thump she heard when Josh held her. Was it lunacy on her part to believe her vampire could love her as a man loved a woman? The thought of Josh's heartbeat snapped her into the realization that although she and Josh and argued and she had cried about it, she had not actually told Josh it was "over". Josh had called earlier in the evening and she had ignored the call. Had she fabricated a bit about the end of her relation with Josh to Mick? Probably, Beth thought as she pulled away from him…

As she pulled away Mick asked, "So, maybe another night?" after he spoke Beth's teeth rode her bottom lip as she thought about the nerve it took to get to tonight's little escapade. For all the years he had followed Beth tonight it was as if they had opened the book of their lives at an odd chapter, neither of them knew the next sure step.

"I don't have a bed, maybe it's better that we didn't you know, go all the way on the sofa" He was sincere, yet the words "all the way" sounded hilarious to Beth, the last time she heard that phrase she had an 11o'clock curfew.

Beth's eyes sought his; she wanted to completely come clean . . . . . . Although she had headed full tilt boogie into their liaison on the couch, the shock of his untimely end brought her back to reality. Josh was expecting to come back to her, even if it was to shake hands and say "good-bye".

Mick led her back to the scene of his crime and sat her down beside him, as much as she wanted to swing her legs over his before he could pull his robe together and she took care in sitting chastely next to him and kept her eyes directed at his. She fought finding delight in the hair on his thighs and the dark curls peeking out of the "v" at the top of his robe. She concentrated on the melody in his voice, looking for meaning in his words.

"The only light I can shed on this, situation is just the thought of you simply... Mesmerizes me . . . . . . . Beth, it's been a long time and I am out of practice. All I wanted to do was. . . . . . ." Mick's voice was apologetic, deliberate when Beth jumped over his words to finish the sentence.

"Love you, all I wanted to do was love you too, are we OK if we you know, go to neutral ground?" Beth's urgency was earnest considering she had the proverbial "Devil Mick" on one shoulder and "Angel Josh" on the other shoulder.

"Neutral ground?" for some funny reason Mick envisioned Switzerland and he recovered some decorum before he swallowed his laugh, "So, Beth, where is this neutral ground?"

"Well, maybe we need to do what so many other couples do, you know, date? Go to the theatre or walks on the beach . . . . . . . at night. We need to get to know each other when we aren't in the morgue or being chased by the DA" Beth's hesitancy was rising, her "Angel Josh" had been prodding her to get out of purposefully prurient opportunities.

Their talk was going "off the books" from their previous conversations covering subjects like Black Crystal, feeding in the desert and college professors purporting to be vampires. They were heading into jungles of words that described their feelings for each other; Beth was nearing flinching at what he might say. Mick pulled at the robe to cover his knees and as he fumbled for full coverage he recoiled at the thought of the word, "Date". The last dates he had before he married Coraline were torrid nights spent in jazz clubs, culminating in blue balls from petting heavy in the front seat of Coraline's 1951 Cadillac convertible at a secluded beach under a full moon.

"Then how about, I go get a good cleaning up, and we ride over the Pier, we'd still have time to catch the Ferris Wheel, then there's a cozy little Mexican restaurant with great Margaritas over on Pico", Mick's resolve to hold his robe together was losing to the mathematical reality of his thighs cradling his reawakening interest in Beth. What Mick lacked in endurance he made up for with rapid recoil.

These were activities Beth could get comfy with and still fantasize about Mick; she nodded thoughtfully while she tried to keep her eyes at least between his well-cut chest and his long eyelashes. She was slipping fast, he needed to get his silk covered ass up those steps and only come back down wearing with a few layers of clothing. As Mick stood up her cautiously pulled the silk to completely cover his tensing cock with both hands, even at vamp speed his inviting flesh was eye level for a millisecond before he turned and dashed up the stairs.

"Deep breaths, Turner", she thought as she stretched out on the sofa, she popped her arms behind her head and thought about Mick in the shower. It was a giant "smack-o-gram" to her libido thinking about him soaping his six pack abs and how the soap could run down him, dripping off his hardened cock, she needed to reel it in to make it through the night., "Bad Girl, Beth, you are a very bad girl….."

Off in the distance she heard the water shut off, doors and drawers opening and closing. Then his boot falls on the stair treads announced his return and he was stunning. The dark jeans covered him with nary a bit to spare, the fabric flexing and announcing the movement of his thigh muscles as he stepped toward her. The black pinstriped dress shirt was open just far enough to see a thrust of chest hair. When Mick took a broader step Beth saw the deep pink lining of his duster coat, it made her think of Georgia O'Keefe paintings and their symbolism. She envisioned Mick within her and that "Good Angel Josh" gave her a pinch.

"Ready for a date?" Mick asked as he pocketed his keys and money clip.

What could be more "Switzerland" or neutral than "Ice"? There was plenty of time to enjoy the Ice Rink at 5th and Arizona. Mick beamed at the thought and then posed the question, "How about skating? You like Ice skating? We missed the rink in New York; we could hit the ice here". Beth was ready to walk over broken glass, so the ice skating seemed like a great opportunity for Mick to be close, hold her hands and occasionally bump hips. As much as she wanted to play novice, Mick probably had watched her skate as a teenager, the thought of that made her smile…. Maybe he was the awkward skater?

$20 dollars and they were on the ice, Mick's coattails flying behind him as he warmed up. On Ice, he was a natural! While Beth leaned against the wall and tied up her hair Mick exhibited his perpetual coolness with a spin, then keeping his eyes on her, he swizzled backward for a few yards before he turned on an instant and zipped the perimeter of the rink to return to Beth, spraying ice chips with his braking, "You ready to heat this place up?", he queried as he extended his hand. It all seemed so old world, something she thought Josef might have done to impress a woman in the 1600's.

Now here she was with her vampire, Mick and they were wending their way thru the sparse crowd on a Tuesday night. Other than the music, Beth only heard herself breath, she felt her heart right up in her throat. She was aware Mick had a constant appraisal of her moods, her general health, she knew how much she was enjoying the evening and he did too.

"When are the next Winter Olympics?" Mick whispered in her ear with a laugh as they took a slow leg around, her warm body pressed delicately against his as their legs pumped in unison to the recorded Christmas music.

"Too soon for us to come up with any smooth moves" Beth's blue eyes flashed over her shoulder at him with her lips in a perpetual grin. Mick had duly noted she hadn't stopped grinning since they entered the ice. He took pleasure in her grin and he loved Beth, he pondered what it would take to spend more nights together like this. Mick had read her from the minute he had crossed her threshold with the movie in hand. Beth was conflicted although she was putting up a brave front. Had Josh said adieu? Had Beth dispatched Josh?

Mick reconciled to see this right thru, yes he had fed her enough bunk about their worlds not meshing. Mick's hunger for love was growing far faster than his hunger for blood.

A Wonderful Opportunity #2/"Date" is a 4 Letter Word

His life had changed when he rescued a kidnapped 4 year old girl. Her life had changed when a vampire met a reporter at a crime scene. Their life changed when they stepped out on the most tenuous of grounds, the path of social appointments, engagements, or occasions mutually arranged beforehand called "dating".

Sure, the ice rink was a winner; then margaritas were great right up until Beth had to slide around to exit the booth . . . ., "I think I drank too much" Beth giggled as she leaned into Mick's arms. Once they had hit the black vinyl booth Beth had demolished a cup of meatball soup, a combo burrito meal, a cup of guacamole, a basket of chips and 3 Gold margaritas. Mick would nod and smile at the server as Raul kept the jiggers of Patron in front of Mick while Beth would eat a bit off a small plate in front of him to keep up their "normal" couple façade.

Things were a lot more relaxed in this era of dating than in 1952. First off, Mick didn't have to wear a dress shirt and tie when they went out to dinner and Beth would reach for her wallet only for Mick to demur with a quizzical look and a wave of his hand. Girls in the 40's and 50's didn't go "Dutch".

"I'm going to take you home, it's really late now" Mick slid a look at his watch as she settled back into the seat, "Can you swing a night shift tomorrow? You might want to sleep at least until 10" Mick gauged the amount of sleep Beth would need and 10 am was a conservative wake up time.

"Maybe I'll leave a message now about working out of the office" Beth slid her hand into her purse for her phone, Mick caught her hand, "Do you know how happy you sound right now? Could you send her an email – the slurring won't show up so much" Mick's smile slid sideways at the thought of Beth recording a tipsy message for Maureen, her boss.

"Yup, you are the voice of reason, Mr. St John" Beth's smile stayed in place as Mick drove thru the midnight calm to Beth's apartment.

It had been a genteel "goodnight", Mick opened the door for her, and she invited him in. Beyond the fact that she was lit, there was the old haze hanging over the bedroom and two wrongs wouldn't bring them to a satisfying congress tonight.

"Thank-you for everything tonight, Mick" Beth's voice resonated with the effects of the triple sec and the tequila; her lips were tart from the lime, salty from licking the rim. They were a breath away from each other and she held his duster lapels to stay close. He kissed her innocently on the forehead, the nose and then briefly on her eager lips.

"You get a good night's sleep and I'll call you tomorrow, OK?" Mick's adieu seemed more like a Jedi mind trick to get her directly to bed.

"You got it, Mick, and…. You sure you don't want to come in?" she teased, running her index finger down the center of Mick's chest, she stopped at the first closed button and she pressed it like it would set off an alarm.

"We've done this already, you get to sleep, I'm going to get some freezer time" Mick stepped back from their embrace and they fell apart. Mick walked backward to make sure she was closing and locking the door behind her, once he was satisfied he sprinted to the car. He wanted to get on the web, find the furniture store that delivered by 6pm the next day…Was ordering by 1am too late?

The phone trilled at 9:34, Beth was on her stomach, her arm asleep under her head. The noise startled her and the numbness slowed her response to pick up the call. When she grabbed the phone she didn't even look at the caller ID.

"There you are!" everything about Josh's hope was loaded into those three words, "I missed you last night, did you get to sleep early?" At least Josh was hopeful that she had, the full measure of his thoughts was arguing with his suspicions. Everything Josh knew he brought to this phone call; he wanted to hear that Beth missed him, that she looked forward to his late arrival on Friday evening. It would be December 21st and Josh was hopeful they'd have some moments alone before they celebrated the weekend visiting with his parents. Josh was formulating his plan…

"Hey, I am here…" Beth drew out the words as she rolled over on her back. Naked, she lay in bed and straightened out her thoughts to be able to hold a lucid conversation with the man she thought she knew.

"I know it's a couple of days until I get home, I just wanted to make sure you got the email I sent with my arrival time, the flight gets in around 9:39. Would you like to have a late supper?" His voice was as clear as his blue eyes and Beth couldn't hear a bit of jealousy thru the telephone line.

"Dinner, around 11?" Beth blurted back as she ran her hand thru her tangled hair, she could almost feel Mick's hands cupping the back of her head, of course that was a dream… … that hadn't happened - Beth's mind began to cloud.

"Call that little place on Pico, they serve late – a week in DC and I haven't had a decent Pollo Encacahuatado"

"How late?" Beth posed the question as she pulled herself up to sit against the headboard. Josh seemed to be rushing her, how long had he been up? She couldn't coalesce the vapors of her mind right now, how could she make a dinner date?

"If you're worried about the time, we could go out for breakfast, like we used to do" Josh's voice was going soft on her, drawing out his reminisces about their early months.

"That might be easier, just go with the flow, once your cab gets you home…" Beth was on a roll when he stopped her….

"Aren't you coming to the airport to get me?" now the "good ship Josh" was beginning to sink.

The distant memory of their discussing their weekend beginning at the airport melted back into Beth's mind and she quickly recovered, her feet hit the floor as she began to pace her bedroom to recharge her batteries. One handed she pulled a mug from the cupboard and nuked water with a tea bag floating in it, "You know we did talk about that, how about I drop by your place to pick up your car and then come get you…OK?"

Josh patiently caught her recovery and lapsed into conversation, "Sure, Beth, I'll give you a call when the plane lands, OK? How's your week going, everything quiet?"

Was that Josh-speak for "Have you been hanging out in the morgue with Mick St John?" Beth grabbed a frozen waffle and popped it into the toaster oven and prepared an answer, "It is incredibly dull here, the worse news is a batch of tainted toys from China, and imagine trying to whip that into headline material"

"If anyone can make it sing, you can, babe. Look I've got a breakfast meeting I have to get to; I just wanted to hear your voice before I battled big government. Love, you, Beth"

"Love you too, it makes me feel good, you know all warm inside that you called this morning" Beth cradled the phone between her ear and shoulder while she pulled the mug from the microwave and spun sweetener into it.

"I hope to get into some of that warmth, if you know what I mean" Josh's voice got quiet and soft, "I miss you, Babe, see you soon" and he waited for her response.

"I think I do, see you sooner" She grinned at his lascivious remark and puckered a kiss into the speaker, Josh did the same and they closed the call.

She had just emptied her "guile" tank, she felt like a heel, a hypocrite, and it all spun around her indecision over two men. Well, a man and a vampire actually. She figured she'd get dressed and get into work, do some penance for enjoying Mick's company and 3 margaritas on a Tuesday evening.

All she wanted to do was feel her blood settle within Mick's mouth, feel his lips form the seal on her neck that drew her life force into his preternatural body. Today was Wednesday, the quintessential "hump day" could she rope Mick into another "Date"?

He woke up around 9:45; his skin seemed to burn without his understanding why. Mick shook off the feeling and slowly rose to peer at the clock on the wall. It was unnaturally early for him, even when he walked the day for a case he didn't choose to be up before 1pm. His mind was jammed with fractured feelings over Beth and the last 24 hours. In all the madness to clear the air they had made a train wreck out of their physicality, or the blatant lack of it. The bed frame and mattress had been ordered and with any amount of luck the king size bed would be set up by 6pm.

He fed, he paced, he still didn't reconcile why he was pulled out of his rest. He had joked with Beth about sleeping until 10, maybe he was linked into her rest and she was waking up? He had to think that was what woke him, so he grabbed his phone and sank down into the chair, flipped on his fireplace and dialed Beth, after all her had let her sleep until 10! Maybe he'd ask her out for another "date".

"Mick?" Beth's voice carried all her excitement from answering on the 2nd ring.

"None other" his voice smiled back at her as he balanced his laptop and scanned for gift ideas. What do you give the woman who makes our heart twist and spin?

"WOW, what a wonderful wakeup call you are" Beth's voice seemed to be settling down, had she woken with a start Mick thought?

"Well, at least if P.I. work goes south I can get a job at the Biltmore doing wake up calls" he chuckled at the thought, "So, what are you doing tonight?"

"Wednesday night, work until about 8, then if I'm really a lucky lady I'll cruise home and eat cereal for dinner." Beth fished for an invitation, she just wanted to be with him, she'd scavenge at the Famima for a chance to be with Mick.

"Care to check out the Water Grill? They have booths; we'd have some quiet time, a nice little walk around the corner?" He was working "it", that perpetual coolness, after feeling he had lost it earlier last night.

"Can you get something around 8:45?" Beth moved into the bedroom to scour her closet for something to wear to this casually elegant restaurant, plus it had to stretch enough to leave room for Butter Poached Maine Lobster with morel mushrooms and dessert. While they made small talk about what they thought their day would present Beth singled out a black pencil skirt and polished cotton blouse for work.

"Sounds good,' Mick's fingers danced over the laptop as he made the dinner reservation. He vacillated about how to make small talk when they didn't work a case together. This was the damndest thing for him, as a human he hadn't considered himself loquacious - being a vampire for 50 some years his intercourse skills were higher on the sexual side than the verbal side.

How do you form intelligent conversation with a 26 year old woman you've secretly watched for 22 years? Anything he'd ask would end up sounding like a cross examination, he was sure of that, "So are you getting ready for work?" What a lame question Mick thought as he instantly regretted asking.

"How could you tell, was the indifference coming thru the phone?" Beth pulled out a tote bag and threw a strappy pair of platforms in. She took the gold and black sweater with the dangerously low back and hung it where she could remember to carry it with her. Grabbing extra jewelry and her makeup kit she rushed around the room, just excited by the thought of being with him later this evening.

"Naw, I just figured we had talked about you sleeping until 10, so I'll let you get your day started, I'm heading back to the ice now that I know you're up" Mick snickered a bit and hoped he wasn't rubbing it in.

"No, you get your beauty sleep, I know how it must be when you're over 30" Beth cheerfully jeered him as she looked in the bathroom mirror as she started up the shower, "By the way, do you hear this?" she held the phone near the running shower, "I'll be thinking about us while I take a long hot shower and then dress and go to work, think about that…."

"You keep that up and I'll be hitting the cold shower before the ice" Mick's voice had deepened, the volume dropped and the air in the room seemed to heat up for Beth. Beth caught a breath and gleefully whispered back to him.

"You do exactly whatever you have to do to pick me up for dinner at 8:45, and Mick…. …. I missed you the minute the door closed". She closed the call with a sigh and her heart was dancing.

Mick perched at the cheval mirror; after he had put on each of the cuff links he stood back to regard the dark Hugo Boss suit on the valet stand. First he tried it with the necktie, which was too formal; he snapped it off his neck and opened the collar. Calculating "casual elegant" was frustrating; he ran his hands thru his hair and then slid on his shoes. It was 8 o'clock and he needed to get out the door, he grabbed the suit jacket and stole a look at the red piping on the lining. No wonder Josef had suggested the suit, it was just a tad flashier when you opened it up, Mick figured it was like a woman wearing sexy underwear…. You didn't know about the "flash" until you took it off.

Mick parked the Benz and walked to the BuzzWire Lobby, "I'm here for Beth Turner" he flipped his pass case to reveal his license then returned it to his breast pocket. Everything was so quiet, the sound of the guard's indigestion resonated thru the glass walled lobby. Then he caught the gentle fragrance of her perfume and the sound of the swish of her wrap, he turned and she lit up at seeing him.

"How lucky am I? It's Wednesday and most poor folk are about to tune into 190 channels of TV and we're going out for a great dinner" Beth noted as she caught the sight of Mick standing in the lobby, the cut of his suit displayed his physique and she immediately remembered why she had butterflies circling her stomach all day.

"Good Evening" Beth's voice sang to Mick ad he caught her hand to draw her in for a public hug, then Beth nodded to the half sleeping guard and let him know, "I'm leaving my car here while I go to dinner, Gus, I'll be back later for it, OK?"

The half sleeping Gus nodded and tipped his cap at them, then returned his stare to the video monitors in front of him.

"So, is that news "Beth Turner EATS Dinner" going to be flashed across the screen in 10 minutes?" Mick chuckled as they buckled in for the ride to the restaurant.

"If only I could get top ratings with that stuff, I am afraid I'd have to be a whole lot more famous for a dinner date to go viral on the web" Beth chuckled at the thought of them being an "item" in the news.

"I was referring to the fact that BETH Turner EATS, in a town where so few people do" Mick chuckled as he piloted the car thru the streets toward downtown. Beth met him with a sarcastic expression and played at slapping his thigh.

"You don't want to do that," Mick jovially caught her and kissed the back of her hand then released it back to the console, "We might not make it to the restaurant". He added with a bit of danger in his voice.

"Oooohh, do I sense a bit of danger in the air tonight?" Beth enjoyed the view of his profile, watching the oncoming lights strike him with a strobe-like effect, he mesmerized her…. Drawn by the tone of his voice she was delivered into that part of her mind where she realized decisions were the hinges of destiny. She couldn't go "there" tonight, she had to get unencumbered from Josh, close that door before she walked thru Mick's bedroom door.

Just about now as he was caught in her heady cachet and she was measuring the hours she'd have to spend with Mick before she could dissolve her relationship with Josh. While Mick was debating the effectiveness of cogitating baseball stats to dispel sexual daydreams, Beth was praying for self-control.

This dating stuff was unnerving….

A Wonderful Opportunity #3, Eating for Two

The valet beamed at the opportunity to drive the vintage Benz, Mick gently put the valet key in the young man's palm and quietly said, "I know every scratch on this car, don't make me hunt you down, OK?" The college kid nodded and waited until Mick and Beth had entered the restaurant before pulling the car away from the curb with a squeal of the tires.

"Tell me how we do this" Beth whispered as they approached the door, she was fairly flying at his touch as his arm encircled her waist. Beth's intrigue in Mick had been growing since he carried her from the eccentric grad student. Days later when she found he wasn't just a guy she thought she knew she threw herself into reading every resource on Vampires. She had gleaned bits of vampire knowledge from Mick as they were working case to case although she never reaped what she wanted to know about him. She needed to know all the little details about a man that a woman wraps her heart around when she's smitten.

"Your Mom never told you about table manners? You keep the napkin on your lap, don't tuck it into the front of that stunning sweater…,"Mick feigned a grin, he was having some fun with this Beth realized.

"No, I mean, you don't eat and this is a public place…" Beth's near nervous conversation was slowed by a knowing nod and a wicked smirk from her undead date.

"Follow my lead and be ready for anything" he winked and the look astonished her to silence.

"Good evening Mr. St John, your table is ready, please follow Gustav" the Maître d' nodded with deference. Gustav carried the two menus as they filtered thru the busy dining room to a corner booth large enough to seat 4 or 6 people. The round table held a magnificent low arrangement of yellow roses; their edges stained a delicate blood red. The symbolism wasn't lost on Beth; their color meant "falling in love".

Mick slid into the left side of the booth and Beth chose to slide in thru the right side of the table. Their shoulders touched with a snap of electricity and Beth smiled into Mick's eyes before situating herself a few inches apart. The Server removed the heavy linen napkin from her charger plate and draping it over her lap. The Sommelier presented a wine list to Mick and they spoke in hushed tones, Mick gesturing to the table and the list. Within seconds a white coated server placed globe sized wine glasses on the table and opened a bottle of wine. Mick approved its taste and after the young man left, he lifted the glass to Beth's and toasted, "May we kiss whom we please, and please whom we kiss."

The toast's notion wasn't lost on Beth as she touched her glass to his and they sipped in unison. Beth's head began to swirl with the inviting scents of the dining room; she perused the menu and raised her eyebrows at the complex dishes. Mick watched her and then began to play out his plan.

"Good Evening Mr. St John, good to have you with us, what is your pleasure this evening?" Gustav half bowed, his hands behind his back. At first Beth was a bit miffed at the low tones Mick used with Gustav, she watched his hands gesture at the menu's items. Then Mick's hands gestured to the table as if holding and passing plates… .. Gustav nodded his index finger at his lips, pensive while listening.

"Thank-you, Gustav, Josef said you would astound us" Mick returned his attention to his guest, Beth.

"What did you just do?" she asked with a mix of indignation and curiosity, she held her wine glass before her lips, as if hiding.

"The food is complex, and I thought you may enjoy something special….. … you were concerned about me NOT eating, so I thought you'd allow me an opportunity to spoil you" Mick's head bobbed a bit as he beat around the bush, evading her direct question. The delicate music relaxed her as she convinced herself to go with his flow, to follow his lead where she had "run the show" so many times with Josh. Mick was a man to follow, a new notion for Beth.

Beth's head spun as she considered beginning a conversation….. Do we talk about his maniacal ex-wife, or the fact that Mick rescued her from Coraline's grip 22 years ago…? What do we talk about when both of us are walking a sexual razor blade? They had always discussed crimes. Now the crime was she wasn't a free woman to give herself entirely to Mick.

"So, Josef recommended this restaurant?" Clever, a vampire food critic, Beth mused as she sipped her wine. The wine glass was bulbous and large enough that she peered at Mick thru it.

"He uses it a lot for entertaining, this is his usual table" Mick nodded as he held the delicate wine glass and watched the wine's legs trail down the inside of the glass. Beth's eyebrows rose at the thought of what went on here previously, then considered it was a public place, it couldn't have been too bad.

"You know so much about me, Mick; tell me something about you…." Her voice trailed off as she unconsciously lifted a breadstick dredged thru soft butter to her lips. She had Mick's full attention.

"I was an only child" his eyebrow cocked as he made the pronouncement, then his eyes travelled to the pattern on the tablecloth, "an oddity in an Irish Catholic family, actually". Then he took a sip of his drink – to Beth that had to compound his marriage and "death", his poor parents…..Beth thought before she asked the next question.

"What did your family do for vacations?" Beth's Mother eked out an existence; vacations were weekends eating pancakes for dinner and flying kites on the beach. She was hoping Mick's parents took him on driving trips to see the Redwoods and the mountains.

"Dad was fiend about history, we spent summers on trains from Alameda to Yuba county, I spent so much time in the train stations as a kid I wanted to become a Railroad conductor" Mick's eyes twinkled at the joke of it, "By the time I was 8 I decided I wanted to be Cowboy".

"A cowboy, how did that work out for you?" Beth's gleeful expression was covered by the large wine glass.

"Dad was amused; Mother wasn't so happy, something about not wearing spurs in the house" Mick held his napkin in his hand preparing to spread it over his lap. Beth caught his action and realized the first course was arriving; Gustav presented cut glass goblets with chopped lettuce each holding two very large fancy wild Brown Gulf Shrimp in a bed of baby greens. He placed one before each of them and Mick drew the half of lemon into his hand, "Lemon?" at Beth's nod he effortlessly squeezed the juice over the chilled prawns.

"I see, I am eating for two tonight" Beth nodded along with Mick and prepared to lift her fork when his gentle hand caught hers.

"Allow me" Mick's voice ran like silk as their eyes met. He wasn't thralling her; it was just his smooth bass voice in a near whisper that drew Beth to slide closer and turn her open mouth to him. She closed her eyes and felt the firm flesh of the chilled shrimp on her lip first, then she caught a tang of the cocktail sauce with her tongue and bit the shrimp in half, "Tell me how it tastes, describe it to me, please" Now Mick's voice was begging a woman who communicated for a living to describe the very food he was smelling and seeing. Surely he could tell a story of the hands that cooked and cleaned it, yet he had no sense of the flavor of the coarse cut horseradish mixed with the chopped tomatoes in the sauce. When Beth had swallowed the first bite, she began her narrative,

"It's firm, chilled, it has a delicate flavor except for the sauce" She was caught by the words she used, all she could think of was the next bite, how could find the right words? Those exact words described something else she held in her hand the other night.

With the next shrimp delivered he first dragged the plump end thru the cocktail sauce and then drew it over her lip. As she nibbled he moved it closer, right up until she sensed his fingers staying there, she couldn't help it; she puckered slightly and kissed his fingertips and sensing the bit of sauce, she caught his hand in both of hers and licked the red sauce off his fingers.

At Beth's actions, Mick's eyes nearly silvered over in the candlelight of their table. By the time she held his hand to her lips the rest of the room had dissolved from the two of them and no one paid any attention to the couple in the corner behind the roses.

Beth ate slowly, few words eking out between tiny bites. Mick would lick at his lips at the mention of the delicate shrimp or the bite of the lemon, his hand nearly trembled as he guided the shrimp to Beth's lips. Her hands rested on her napkin in her lap as she felt drawn to sit closer to him, to lean into his space.

Then as the shrimp were gone, a white coated man appeared to whisk away the plates while Gustav followed carrying small plates of wild mixed greens with candied walnuts, apples, dried cranberries and blue cheese crumbles in a cranberry vinaigrette.

"So when you didn't have a horse to be a cowboy, what did you do next?" Beth wanted to know Mick before the vampire's bite. Mick was selecting just the right forkful of textures and flavors, his head tilted affectionately at the question. He smiled a secret smile and delivered the fork to her mouth.

"I did boy stuff, my Mom was our Cub Scout leader, I roller skated, you know the old kind with the skate key?" He gestured turning a key and nodded as Beth chewed and he wondered if she had an older family member that had ever explained life in the 20's and the 30's. The simple enjoyment of the porch swings in summer, lightning bugs and starting fires with magnifying glasses, "How is the salad?"

"The apples are crisp, sweet…. The cranberries bite back. The walnuts are rough from being sugared, they're so fresh they crunch into nothing" Beth's calm was being shaken, she had moved too close to Mick and there was no space between them. Mick's arm had found its way across the back of the banquette and Beth found herself insinuated into Mick's side. His right hand handled the fork catching the next bite as she described the crisp greens and the piquant dressing.

Beth stopped to dab at her mouth and froze at the expression on Mick's face. His eye lids half closed, yet at the tilt of his head he saw her fully, he bit slightly as his own bottom lip as she described the tart dressing. Mick sat tall in his half ecstasy, waiting her next words. He put down the fork and ran a finger around the inside of his shirt collar, was it Beth's imagination or was Mick getting turned on by the food's description, by his feeding her?

Moving within inches of his face she released a mouthful of warm breath toward his cheek and his eye darted wide open. The tip of his tongue darted over his bottom lip and froze at her proximity, "Beth, are… …. You… …ready… for …your …next bite?"

Beth swiveled in her seat and drew her hands to Mick's thigh, where they rested still. Their smiling faces shown in the reflected candlelight, tonight she was resolute to be with him in some way. Beth slipped off her shoe and ran a bare foot up Mick's pants leg. The way they were tied in to each other one would think they would have breached each other's walls. Beth's heart beat thru her chest tonight and Mick knew it, even the headstrong vampire wanted to breach their walls.

"Are we going to get thru this dinner?" Beth's expression marked her curiosity and the desire she had been carrying for Mick, he hesitated to answer her while he regained his composure. His gaze fell to her hands on his thighs, her fingers subconsciously gripping tighter than when they first landed. He lifted his head back to catch her dancing blue eyes.

"Of course, we're in public, just two people enjoying a meal" Mick sat back from Beth and smoothed the tenting dinner napkin in his lap. His sly smile fell on Beth and she knew they were headed for sheer torture while they sat in this restaurant.

Mick's finger traced Beth's profile as he whispered "However, my little trouble finder here is also a seductress of the most dangerous type, all innocent and fresh faced. I suggest we continue our meal, the hour is growing…. Late."

Seeking to diffuse the smoldering situation, she threw him the awkward question she had wanted to ask while they traveled to New York. Public airplanes weren't the place to have a heart – to –heart talk with a Vampire.

"Do you think you'll ever find out how Coraline became human?" Beth was determined to uncover the mysteries about Mick that could unlock his angst, something that could bring him around to accept his nature so they could be together.

"Not a clue, as old as her family is it could be that old or as new as something she cooked up to harass us" Mick's pain surfaced momentarily with hearing his ex-wife's name. When he shifted in his seat, Beth realized the faux pas and reached for his stray hairs over his forehead; stroking them back behind his ear then she blew him a kiss and a smile.

"I'm sorry for bringing her up; you always act like you hate what you are. You know, I love you just the way you are" Her wide eyed nodding seemed to convince him for the umpteenth time. Beth had given him the gift of acceptance, a far greater gift than anything under a Christmas tree.

"You are something, really something…." Mick drew in a long unnecessary breath and ran his hand over his face. Had his eyes clouded up? Beth watched him retrieve her fork and gather more succulent goodies for her to consume. She was hoping all this good food would prove to be valuable "fuel" for later. In between bites if there was a bit of salad dressing on her lips he would brush it aside with his thumb or bend close for a chaste kiss.

The salads were reduced to shreds and Beth was inhaling deeply, wishing she had suggested they pickup "take out". The gleaming gold edged plates appeared before them and Beth found herself also breathing deeply at the sight of

New York Steak with an espresso rub and grilled rare It was served with pan roasted fingerling potatoes and brilliant green broccoli. The rare meat was sauced with demi glaze and topped by a rogue blue cheese compound butter. When Mick sliced the delicate cut of beef the juice ran red… …. ….

His undead heart hiccupped its sluggish rhythm and the subtle smile returned to his face as Beth drew a lazy finger in the blood and presented it to Mick. This time he gently caught her hand and suckled her finger long after the beef blood was swallowed. With a bold presumption Mick pierced her fingertip with his fang and drew just a drop of her blood onto his tongue.

"Whatever happened to "not here, not now" Beth shyly asked, retrieving her hand from his, watching the pin sized prick clot and heal.

Mick's head dropped, perhaps in shame at his presuming this to be the right time and place to taste Beth's blood again.

"I meant, what took you so long?" Beth reached out to him and he caught her hand kissing the back of it at her words.

"You know I never intended to do that," Mick shook his head and gently placed her hand on the table.

"I'm glad you had….. You know we've danced around each other so long, and it seems I know so little about you except that I trust you with my life. I'm intrigued by the way you have always been there for me." Beth had picked up her utensils and began cutting the butter soft steak into bites. "I love that you wanted to feed me, yet this meal is taking way too long, we'll be here till midnight if we keep this up and by then I'll be exhausted from the tension and you'll be a wreck" Beth winked at Mick and began to earnestly consume her meal.

Mick joyfully joined into the cutting of his portion and proceeded to scoop the food to her plate, then leaned back to watch Beth consume the food with ladylike gusto.

"So before I get my hopes up, would it be a bad time to ask you about Josh? I feel a certain bit of urgency to know if the two of you are still a couple" Mick returned to the nervous habit of swirling his wine in the glass, then placed the glass on the table and stared at Beth for his answer.

Beth swallowed hard and looked into the blue cheese butter for answers. Inside her mind she practiced: I'm meeting Josh Friday night, I'm breaking it off, I'm done, Beth grimaced then put down her fork and dabbed at her lips.

"Josh is coming back late Friday night. Weeks ago we planned on the weekend with his parents; he said he wanted me to get to know his parents. I'm going to break it off in person, let him go to Monterey alone. There's nothing he can say to keep me, Mick. He isn't the man I love."

Mick's hand rose to get Gustav's attention, "Gustav, may we have the Tiramisú to go?" With a deferential bow Gustav presented the check and scurried to get the dessert. The lackadaisical college boy was leaning against the valet podium listening to his iPod so Mick walked up behind him, flipped an earpiece out and put the tag on the podium. The boy leaped a foot into the air and agreed, "Certainly, sir"

With Beth's few words about her relationship ending with Josh, Mick's world seemed to fall into place. His step was lighter, his shoulders more squared, his head higher. During the short ride to the loft Beth took the initiative to lean over the console and snuggle to Mick, his response was to reach for her and kiss her at each traffic light, right until they kissed too long at the last light and were serenaded with a barrage of car horns.

The car found its way into his parking lot and they froze at the prospect of their next steps… was this 5 steps forward and a miles back? How many times had Mick preached the gospel, of "Dangerous, Difficult, and Complicated" Beth's thoughts flew between the past and the present? She considered her torture when she heard Leni and Mick were killed, how lost and desolate she felt because she knew she had sent Mick out to his eminent death.

Mick understood the Universe had wanted something different from Josh and Beth being a couple. He remembered the pangs within when he thought Josh and Beth were getting a blood test for a marriage certificate. His mind turned over the questions he answered for the teen vamp, Mick realized he could control the coincidences with careful decisions. Josef had taunted him, calling him a "romantic in the abstract"; yet the reality of fang on flesh in the desert had wired a bond between Mick and Beth.

If the wayward vamp had cross examined him tonight Mick's answers would be different, the woman driving his desires was very human. The sex thing troubled him, and all the warning in their conversations hadn't blown Beth back, could he control himself? Lack of control like the other night was a benign fluke of his monk-like existence combined with his heady desire for Beth. His concern was Beth dying in his grasp as he aggressively climaxed, she would never understand that. Since Beth stole the kiss on the BuzzWire parking lot Mick had forgot about himself and his waking hours were taken over by visions of clever conversations, Tracy & Hepburn stuff that were humorous and comforting. He had to stop running and hiding from Beth…..Tonight he was at that particular place where he could be ready for her.

Neither of them remembered the ride up to the loft, their urgency was spent in deep embraces, feeling the contours of each other's bodies, their eyes wide and engaged. No kissing, no words.

They cherished the first gazes silently. They touched each other's faces with reverent hands, wide eyed and panting, Beth arched her back, pressing her breasts into Mick's waiting hands. The human in Mick surfaced, taking unnecessary deep breaths, perhaps to collect the bouquet they were exciting in each other.

Taking each other down to the infamous sofa, they did begin to kiss. Slow, long open mouth kisses meant to give permission for other experiences. They stayed amazingly controlled as they felt their way over new corporal terrain. There was no use in rehashing his fears, in one swoop he scooped Beth up and carried her up the stairs with plenty of intentions to value their first time together. Mick knew tonight's foray needed a light touch, careful caresses. Did she want her clothes ripped off? What did she want in bed?

Beth knew she wanted another flavor than vanilla and another style other than careful. She had surrendered to the man who claimed to be a beast and half wanted that beast to rear his head and claim her. At least, she thought, she'd know his touch as truly as she knew his bite on her arm…..

Flat hands peeled away clothing, each taking reverent time to regard the view of snug boxer briefs or a lacey bra. Growing urgency reduced them to throwing clothes airborne as they rolled on the new bed over the top covers. Wide eyed Beth laid back and watched Mick crawl up the length of the bed to lie beside her, it all felt true.

The site of his paleness in the near darkness awestruck Beth, her smile returned as she realized, yes her lover was a vampire, a very handsome and enticing vampire. She braced herself to feel cold flesh and felt her own heat reflecting off him, so quickly he had absorbed her warmth and wrapped that back around her with his embrace. Once in bed their kissing did begin, Mick seeking the taste of her flesh the salt of her ambient perspiration. Before he could enjoy the taste of her mouth he wanted to memorize each part of her… so he laid out her arms and gently pressed a knee between hers.

Beth's smile lit the room as he cupped her breast and stroked her attentive nipples with his thumbs and their mutual joy spread across their faces. Beth reached between them to catch his hard cock tapping at her belly. She wanted to feel him inside her now and knew it was way, way too soon - - - - All of her curiosity had begun with wondering who he was, did she know him before? It had been weeks since she first fancied his body over hers or wondered about the carnal skill he would bring to bed.

Weren't Vampires decidedly sexual, practically an incubus? Those urgencies had been replaced by her romantic curiosity. How would he "take" her? Would it be like dinner where he fed her? Would he be demanding?

After having a vampire wife, would she be enough for him? She quivered, shaking and wet for him as he played with kissing her lips, seeking her tongue to dance with his. Wordlessly they rolled to their sides and played at kissing each other's hands and fingers. Beth traced the sculpture of his abs – this earned her his winning smile, the likes she had never seen before. There was part of the quick grin he gave her when she stole her first kiss from him and the addition to his beam was the expectation of where she would touch next.

"Beth, you know I can't stop now, we're…" his head dropped back at the sensation of her thumb working his cock, how she danced the sensations over his velvet flesh, "beyond the border" he grit his teeth at the near flash of that darkness that could carry a man to climax.

"Border? We need a passport where we're going?" Beth playfully bumped her hip into his.

"All you need is to lay back, be your beautiful self and let me, ahhhh, let me play with you" Mick was now balanced over her on his elbows, his chest hair creating a delightful frisson on her breasts.

"What if I want to play with you?" Beth caught his face with her hands and kissed his forehead, nose and cleft of his chin.

"I was raised to believe a lady always comes first and after the other night I may tie your hands to the bed posts – you are indescribably delicious." Mick nuzzled Beth from her breasts to her navel. Beth bit her bottom lip as she anticipated his mouth on her and she asked,

"Before you do what you do, .. ... ...I just wanted you to know…"

The following chapter contains lyrics from Elton John's 'Where to Now, St. Peter?'

A Wonderful Opportunity #4 / Where to Now St Peter?

He startled at her words….

"Before you do what you do, I just wanted you to know…"

Right before she uttered those words he felt they were floating – air was too light; they were held and caressed as if in warm thick syrup. Yes, breath was unnecessary to a vampire, how perverse to think she could breathe within his fantasy…. Yet she was moving with him, their bodies in concert. Then she launched those 12 words.

What did she mean, what did she want me to know Mick thought as he froze in place over what he had envisioned would be a warm safe haven to be held and stroked as they floated to oblivion together. She couldn't be a virgin or have an STD, what if it was too early to pick up a second heart beat, could she be pregnant….?. All these options Mick balanced on the scale of his heart . . . . . how would he deal with any of these human complications to their relationship?

I took myself a blue canoe and I floated like a leaf

Dazzling, dancing half enchanted in my Merlin sleep

Crazy was the feeling restless were my eyes

Insane they took the paddles, my arms they paralyzed

So where to now St. Peter if it's true I'm in your hands

I may not be a Christian but I've done all one man can

I understand I'm on the road where all that was is gone

So where to now St. Peter show me which road I'm on, which road I'm on

God had certainly given him a few moments of grace within his vampire existence…. Saving Beth was the first realization that he had a purpose to be above ground. Watching her wend thru her teen years he kept back – never interfering with her as she stretched her boundaries from her tired mother. He closed one eye when young men came to call and wanted to even come close to a physical experience with her. He was half sure of when she gave up her virginity her freshman year in college – they had never talked about that event, would they ever?

What would it have been to earn her heart, what would it have felt like to breach her virginity? Did that young man show her a certain sensitivity? Mick's mind flashed back to the era when he only saw her every few weeks and the changes had been palpable. Walking with this young man her hips swayed, her shoulders rolled casually. Mick had caught the whiff of her new "je ne sais quoi" and knew she was moving one step closer to normalcy, one step further from him.

Now frozen in their time Mick laid back from her heaving breasts and soft belly and saw her body's profile in the half light of his "bedroom" He watched her swallow, her hand as it flew over her face, "I don't, don't want to to think.. .. that… .. I would do this to you, that I would sleep with anyone else once I gave you my heart…. … you and I are so different. I've never felt THIS way before… … I couldn't help myself - I know I haven't cut it off with Josh, and I'm thinking that you might think that one day I might do this with someone else…." A single tear rolled down her cheek, falling into her ear. Her hands clutched at each other as she drew her knees up to her chest and rolled toward Mick.

"Is that it that you think this is deceitful?" Mick dared only move a hair closer, she hadn't made eye contact and he wanted her to have her space. He paced his words and tempered them with empathy. He'd wait forever for Beth – he had that kind of time. , "Beth, I can wait, this can happen next week, this can happen when you feel free. I thought this was what we wanted, if that's not true tell me now" Mick covered himself with the sheet and pulled back, leaning against the headboard, one arm behind his head thinking about fixing this… What would it take? Two false starts on a road toward a physical relationship… …. Was this the difficult and complicated part about vampire/human relationships?

He listened as her heart beat crested, than as her breathing steadied she released the fetal pose she had gripped into and rolled over to him. His arms enveloped her, his thumb catching the moisture on her cheeks. In their nuzzling she mewed his name over and over; enchanted by her soft voice, his only responses were his involuntary yet unnecessary deep breathing and his unrelenting caresses over her body. She rolled in his arms returning his caresses a bit stronger over the moments until her mighty exhalation brought her over his chest, laying over him.

Her cheek rested in the hollow of his collarbone, her hand caught his jaw and she drew his face to kiss him. Her salty lips engaged his kiss, distracting him as she wiggled over him, his mind blurred as she moved to straddle him. Then as wordlessly as the wrestling had begun it stopped with a clear eyed and resplendent Beth astride his hips. Mick's semi-erection lurked under fork of her legs; it stirred there in her wet heat as she pressed into him, her fingers threaded into his as they fixed their gaze on each other.

"I don't see this as cheating, or immoral – the two of you have been at odds for a while, you told me at dinner you were breaking up, Beth, I know you'd never to anything like this, I love you…. We're ok….. now if this" Mick motioned around the bed and back and forth at them, "Isn't Ok, If we need, absolutely need to stop, then I need to let you go."

Mick waited for a response as he read the tilt of her head, the turn of her cheek, how she held her breasts demurely. It would be horrendous to watch her crawl off his lap, he would hate for that to happen. Was this heaven going to end?

It wouldn't, Mick's inner vamp was lying in wait, hungry for the confirmation of their love. Beth didn't slide down from his "saddle". While she sat across him his light fingertips drew lazy paths up and down her thighs and with each trip up her thigh, his thumbs moved closer to finding a warm place to nestle within her warm delta. Her stiff back gave to a fluid sway as his thumbs explored the folds of flesh, her back nearly arching as his strokes slowed.

Beth purred as she felt her confusion lift, she realized leaving Mick right now would be the greatest of her mistakes. He needed her love as much as she needed his. A year from now this would be the right thing to do, 5 years from now it would be as true. In 50 or 100 years would they feel the same? Somehow the answer seemed to be the same… and that prospect did not frighten her.

With that she curled forward, whipping Mick with her full mane of blonde waves, her breasts brushed his chest and he gasped at her near vamp-quick reflexes. His hands flew to catch her and kiss her silly, they locked lips as their tongues danced gently at first then more deeply and slowly, Beth came up for air and turned her cheek to offer her neck. Mick caught her hands in his and kissed the backs of both hands, "Beth, whatever you need, I love you, we'll get it"

"Mick, you already have, I love you" Beth reared back again in bliss as Mick's hands held her safe. She began to crawl back down alongside Mick, sharing more of her warmth with him. Mick rolled to catch her, press his knee between hers to gain his place between her thighs.

"What are you thinking?" Beth puckered another kiss and ran her fingers to brush his hair from his face.

"I'm thinking if I live another 100 years I'll only know this kind of ... love … .. With you, Beth" His earnest hazel eyes dazzled her as she nearly wept at the thought of his proclamation, "Let me love you, Beth" and at his request she did.

The sensations of his lips on hers were transcended when he laid her back and took over their choreography. Mick spread her hands to her side, kissing back up her arm to nuzzle at her neck then trail down between her breasts to the divot of her navel. His cool lips gave her relief from the internal burn that had taken over her mortal flesh; he licked and kissed, taking a chance to draw a budding fang every now and then.

Beth realized her wrist prickled at the amorous sensations they were sharing…. As Mick had drawn so much from feeding her at their earlier dinner; Beth was fully realizing their dessert connection had bound them. For a moment Mick rested his chin on the delta of her thighs. Their eyes met and Mick winked at her, "I'm going to say this one more time, all you need is to lay back, be your beautiful self and let me please you". Their eyes agreed and Mick pressed on to taste her as he had begun to taste her in the desert. First his kissed those twin tattoos on her wrist and Beth quivered with pleasure, he reverently placed her hand on the bed.

Mick craved her taste, since the fateful day the fever overtook him he had imagined her each time he fed. None of the blood had satisfied him as hers did; just that small amount of Beth's blood had such curative powers. Being with Beth gave him vicarious energy, the thought of making love to her set his flesh to feel revived. His tongue fell on the folds of her flesh and her breath hitched. Light strokes danced in circles, whipping her into a euphoria turning a growing tension within her. Mick suckled her swelling flesh as low moans fell from her mouth.

Her mind wandered, she thought perhaps doing this, making love with Mick, it was like swimming with a jellyfish. You see the spectacle, you see its grace, you want to flow right along with it in the warm waters – YET to touch it, and to engage could be painful and even deadly.

Beth's knees widened and drew up as she slid into her rapture, Mick buried his face within her, lapping, licking kissing and nipping as she writhed. He grasped at her hips to hold her fast, to keep her to his gentle pressure, to take her higher and higher. Its origin was a light sigh that ascended to the heavens, collecting the weight of all her fears and all her feelings for Mick when she came, she came hard. She shook in a personal darkness that exploded into a blue white light. And when she took flight, she found Mick, there between her knees, covering himself with her juices as he begged for entry….

Outstretched hands reached for him, invited him within her. He paused and ran his hand thru his hair, wet with her perspiration, their gaze locked at each other's smiles and he pressed forward, inch by inch. She felt his strength as they joined, each enjoying the give and take of flesh within flesh. Her gasp was not fear, it was a gasp of feeling so deliriously at home with him between her thighs. He was a different man when he was with Beth.

"Tell me this is real….." he asked, balancing on his forearms while he found the pace to fill her completely.

"This is real, really… phenomenal" Beth's hair curled in ringlets around her face. Mick found zealous pleasure in all those things that exemplified her orgasm, the pink blotches across her breasts, the sheen of sweat, her halting breaths. This was something good he had done for the woman he loved and she worked to return the favor….. She caught him between her knees and rose to his thrusts, they pressed on slowly, arduously and time stood still as their strength pulled them thru sensual rapids.

Mick's emotions had the best of him as he recognized the gentle tug that grew from the center of his groin, he hadn't felt that warm feeling in decades and he knew he was home, coming home. Coming here with Beth, her succulent breast in his mouth, tiny punctures delivering just a bit of her blood to his lips was heaven.

It was abundantly clear to the both of them, this was the right night, and this was their gift to each other….. Anything boxed or gift-bagged or delivered would pale in comparison to the love they had shared or the kisses they had stolen.

So where to now St. Peter if it's true I'm in your hands

I may not be a Christian but I've done all one man can

I understand I'm on the road where all that was is gone

So where to now St. Peter show me which road I'm on, which road I'm on

This chapter features lyrics from Sheryl Crow's 'A Change Will Do You Good'

A Wonderful Opportunity #5 A Change Would Do You Good

Time: The length of all existence, past, present and future. Measuring it by the periods of being with or without Coraline or the eras of Josef's Freshies it had been a shallow 55 years.

Since 1982 Mick's beacon had been following the mane of blond waves bouncing thru life as she tested her weary mother's resolve while she tested the vampire PI's surveillance skills. His vampire values had been dashed on the altar of love that night. Their joining was inevitable, their future had begun. Flesh to flesh, fang on flesh their completion opened the door on "them".

A change would do you good; a change would do you good
I thought you were singing your heart out to me,

your lips were syncing and now I see
a change would do you good, and a change would do you good

In the half-light the moon cast Mick held Beth to his chest – scenes of their evening flashed thru his head like a 40's news reel, in black and white. As the "film" clicked thru he saw himself going down on her that first time and the illustration renewed her flavor lingering on his lips. His cock stirred at the thought of "them" as she lay over him in her sleep, a casual arm, a bent knee thrown over his thigh.

Mick felt her calm heartbeat sing to him and his mind spun at the thought of letting her leave his arms, much less the loft. Then the reality of her car being at Buzzwire snapped into place on the "newsreel" in his mind.

The BuzzWire tongues would be wagging when the early crew showed up and Beth's car was there without her. Gus could probably be bribed with a mocha chocolate and a bear claw so Mick had to work fast. First he thought of the Cleaners and that didn't feel right, so he reached for the phone, thumbed in on and called Josef.

"Hey, anyone out on the road tonight?" Mick dialed down his excitement to fly under Josef's radar.

"What do you think I am a highwayman?" Josef cut back, a woman giggling beside him.

"Well, I was just checking in with you, what's up tonight?" Mick was shuffling to keep a valid conversation when his resolve to "out" Beth being there flipped. He'd have the car picked up, towed, dragged if necessary to keep their secret.

"Checking in? Really Mick – am I on your observation list tonight? If I was, you'd see the garden of earthly delights the way Bosch meant it to be painted." Josef's movement could be heard, along with the sounds of women "attending" to him. Music played in the background

"Then why did you even answer the phone?" Mick chuckled lightly.

"I saw it was you, thought you might join us since your "girlfriend" seems to have given you the cold shoulder these past weeks" Josef's smug estimation was wrong, yet, who was Mick to refute him while Beth lay in his arms?

"You my friend, are a regular social servant. That's OK, I'm great right now" Actually, Mick reflected that he was better than "great" as he regarded his sleeping lover in his arm.

"Do I hear snoring?" a high whistle?" Josef's attention perked up.

"No, no" Mick answered Josef promptly.

"Mick, are you holding out on me?" Josef used his hurt voice.

Mick sensed Josef "shushing" his guests, then he heard the clip of footfalls and the echo behind Josef's voice told Mick that Josef had to finish this call in private.

"No, nah, I am working a case, that's OK, Josef" Mick knew a hang-up would warrant Josef dialing back or worse, dropping in with the party in tow. This call was turning to be a bad decision, and he searched for honest ways to close the call because vampires make bad liars, "Hey, I see my target, got to run" Mick's lips curled to a smile as he watched Beth's round rump move as she stretched herself further over Mick, "Got to bolt, buddy" and he clicked off the phone. Mick's thumb rolled over listings until he located the tow truck company NOT connected to vamps. One call would have Beth's car towed to the loft before 3am guaranteed.

That task completed, his phone silenced, Mick rolled into Beth's embrace as his interest swelled. In her sleep she magically moved with Mick in a gracefully slow dance. It would have been whimsy to wake her up slowly with his lips or perhaps a gentle span of his hands, and then Mick did realize it was a "school night" as Beth had ribbed him. He'd let her sleep because he couldn't bear to let her leave for work in the morning.

"Pinch me" Mick heard her whisper into his ear, so he fanned his hand over her thigh and slid upwards to grasp/half pinch her rump, then she squeaked, "OK, so you're a literalist in bed…remind. . . .Me to watch what I ask for" Beth's physical response was a slim, sneaky hand sliding up Mick's thigh to catch his morning thunder.

"And the lady doesn't play fair either" Mick shivered at the feeling of a lover's touch on him as he woke. When was the last time he had that delight?

"What time is it" Beth's head rose over them to find a clock.

"6:58 in the morning….." Mick seemed to lament the hour. , "I wish I had some food or at least some coffee for you" he held her a bit closer.

"We have dessert from last night, or at least I have 2 desserts" Beth ran both hands thru her hair and attempted to sit upright, when Mick had realized he had to let her up, he slid away from her, throwing his arm behind his head to gaze at her morning customs. She stretched long, wringing her hands above her, and then rolled on her side to curl toward Mick.

"I have to get to work… …. I'm due for a meeting at 9:45 at the Hotel Roosevelt, something about a political race starting and a supposedly tragic candidate. Film at 11 and it's going to be because of Miss Beth Turner" Beth slid up to lay against the headboard and struck a pose then pulled the sheet over her knees to her breasts, Mick poked a single finger into the top of the sheet and gave her an appraising eye. Their eyes met and as he cocked an eyebrow she kissed her finger and touched it to his nose, and his beautifully etched profile.

"I have towels in the bathroom, why don't you get a shower while I slide out for some breakfast to bring back?" Mick would make any attempt to keep her there longer so he rolled out of the bed and slid into a pair of jeans and a Henley. Mick watched her reluctantly slide out of the bed and saunter to the bathroom. With her click of the bathroom door he was gone to the café around the corner at the Biltmore for lemon scones and a large coffee.

Mick recognized it the moment he walked into the loft, his hands full of food for Beth. Now the loft was saturated with their scent, the proof of their coupling hung in the air. While Mick made a scenic display of the 3 lemon scones on a plate and poured the coffee into a proper mug he heard the shower stop and this was his cue to make a chivalrous presentation.

Although he had spent hours watching her in many situations, seeing her step out of the shower while she vigorously rubbed the thick white towel over her pink skin brought certain deep satisfaction, he almost wanted to weep at their declarations for each other. Under his breath he wanted to whistle, then stopped, wanting to preserve the "spell", he sung to himself, "you do that voodoo that you do so well"…. Then he broke the silence, entering the bedroom he put the tray on the end of the bed and carried the mug to her, "two packets of the blue stuff, and a dash of non-fat half and half"

"Humnmm" Beth sought the steam of the coffee on her face, then leaned to kiss Mick for his delivery, "Thanks for the java" then she saw the tray and nearly leapt toward the food. Mick hopped out of her way and caught the towel as she bolted toward the food without fastening it tightly to her. He was hypnotized by the sight of Beth in his home, naked. It was all so real after decades of hanging in some cruel suspended animation. Mick was alive again.

She had redressed and was finishing her scone when she dropped the small bit to the plate, "Crap, Mick, I have to get my car, aughh….. I have to go back to work and my car is already there, crap, crap, crap…" if the food was gift, Mick moving the car there was a grand prize.

"I figured you'd need your wheels, I had the car brought here, and it's parked next to mine downstairs" I was within arm's distance and they scooted closer for a hug, her payment for the good deed.

"I want to be parked next to you all day," Beth pouted as she slid shoes on and then posed on the end of the bed, her elbows on her knees, her chin on the palms of her hands.

"That would be our reward for getting thru the day, to be together all night" that sounded fair to me, didn't it?

As they saw it, that's what they deserved. Life, on the other hand, had other things in mind.

He relinquished her to the world; watched her trot to the elevator and resigned myself to the freezer. He regretted that vampires don't dream, he wanted relive their night.

The first time Beth ever walked into work after being with a man, was the night Josh had wined her and dined her. She hadn't been sheltered; she simply hadn't opened herself to casual relationships or informal liaisons. Dating Josh had been right at the time, their serendipitous meeting via a parking lot accident got their relationship started early in October of 2006. They had "celebrated" their togetherness in December of 2006 and that fact hadn't been lost on Beth. Was this the last December for "discoveries"? She wanted Mick forever, where would they be next December?

She had dropped by her apartment to swap out clothing, check her mail and fly back out, hair tied up in a bun, sunglasses covering the lack of makeup. Then cruised into her unofficial parking space at the end of the row and joined the beehive of activity at BuzzWire. No big gossip today, no tragedies to report. That story about the toys from China had been lingering for months, what pushed it to the fore was the date on the calendar – Now it was big news and they were there to exploit it.

"Hey, Beth…." The saccharine drone caught Beth as she turned the corner, it was Marissa. Beth envisioned Marissa having the poisonous charm of Snow White's Evil Queen and the treacherous mouth of the Queen of Hearts. Seeing Marissa this early usually meant they'd bump into each other the entire day. Head curled over her purse clutched to her bosom Beth headed for her desk and dropped down to open the bottom drawer, hoping she could hide. While she was switching into her office shoes and securing her purse she could see Marissa's peep toe pumps in front of the other side of the desk. Beth couldn't hide all day, so she popped up with an equally saccharine smile,

"Hey, Marissa!" two could play this game….

"I just wanted to see if you and Josh want to join us Friday evening, we're covering that charity event then going out for drinks" Marissa posed over Beth as she inspected the articles neatly arranged. Marissa stared at th of Beth and Josh taken at a Police Athletic League fundraiser, it was almost "prom" like in their giddy youthfulness and lately the photo bothered Beth.

Without thinking Beth spoke, "Oh, Josh isn't getting in until very late Friday, and then we have other plans, maybe next time for me" those last two words poked at Beth….. It was as if she was admitting to the world there was no more Josh/Beth.

"Oh, I thought I saw you leaving here with Josh last night" Marissa shifted her size 6 hips from one foot to the other and folded her arms across her breasts for drama.

Beth's face blanched at her directness, "Nope" was all she could force out; she busied herself ignoring Marissa, opening her computer, locating a pen, turning off her voice mail all the while staring back at Marissa – willing her to walk away. Beth wished she could use Jedi mind tricks to shoo her away.

What a snoop, Beth thought, how in the world could anyone mistake Mick for Josh, for Pete's sake, Mick has long hair, he's taller than Josh, he dresses differently….Beth got lost in all the dichotomies between the two men in her life.

"If it wasn't Josh, who did you go to dinner with?" Marissa had now walked around the desk to physically pry into her space as well as her business.

"It was an interview for a story" flat, curtly delivered Beth lied her pants off and quickly dispatched Marissa for parts unknown.

It was Thursday, December 20, 2007. Crowds were heightening their holiday stress, tearing thru malls elbowing their way amongst their fellow man, grabbing pre-wrapped discounted pajamas and sweaters and shirt/tie combinations. All was well at the chain department store until two determined women grabbed for the same crystal beaded designer leather dress, size 2. They hadn't fought that much, it was more of a bitch session hurling insults at each other as the grabbed the hanger back and forth. What tilted the world just a tad was the burly boyfriend, kind of a miscreant that didn't like to see his lady "dissed" he pulled a gun and their day went south. Then Buzz Wire's van rolled on the scene and a few more people were affected.

Chasing dragons with plastic swords - Jack off jimmy, everybody wants more
Scully and angel on the kitchen floor and I'm calling buddy on the Ouija board
I've been thinking about catching a train
Leave my phone machine by the radar range
Hello it's me, I'm not at home, If you'd like to reach me, leave me alone

A change would do you good, a change would do you good
Hello, it's me, I'm not at home, if you'd like to reach me, leave me alone
A change would do you good, A change would do you good

On "ice" Mick was restless, his mind didn't shut down. He wanted to send flowers, he wanted to call Beth and he counted the hours until he'd hear the staccato of her heels on the marble floors. He prayed for dreams and in those prayers he justified their love because she smiles at him and means it.

The next chapter features lyrics from "Dance Me To The End of Love" Leonard Cohen and I thank him for the inspiration.

A Wonderful Opportunity #6/Dance Me to the End of Love

Thursday, December 20th, 2007

Beth dismissed Marissa by hopping up to catch a mug of coffee; she figured a busybody was as a necessary part of working with other people. If there was a group of 3 people the odds would be one of them would be a busybody. She guzzled half the mug of coffee before she gathered her notebook and buzzed for Steve, they'd be rolling to the Hotel Roosevelt for that political interview within the half hour…..

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin

Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in

Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove

Dance me to the end of love, Dance me to the end of love

The phone's vibration broke the silence of the meeting room; Josh snuck a hand down to his coat pocket and anticipated a devilish message from Beth. He blinked at the unfamiliar number and dismissed opening the text message, whatever it was it could wait until he got out of the hearing.

Mick surrendered to his anxious state and rose at 10:36am; he'd simply have to feed more frequently while he adjusted to being in love. Yes, there he said it to himself, he had been smitten with Beth for months and now that he admitted it to the subject of his attraction it still consumed him in a different way. He flipped open his laptop and went to order flowers, then thought about how that would give the impression of being. . . . . propriety in the 50's wouldn't have a woman receiving flowers from another man. Mick clicked his way thru the selections and ordered two dozen red and white long stemmed roses to be delivered next Wednesday, the day after Christmas, then as quickly as he almost ordered them he hit the "back" button and erased the order.

Frustrated with his indecision he tore from the chair and fled to under the staircase, and without wearing his gloves began to give the heavy bag a pounding. No music, no sound accompanied him as he thrust and punched in a tightly focused manner, Mick beat the heavy bag creating his own wicked staccato. He felt the backsplash of his own blood from his knuckles as his flesh broke and re-healed. His preternatural nature allowed him to do this for hours, his knuckle's flesh opening and leeching blood onto the sweat stained canvas. When he could no longer stand the feeling of the rough canvas on his raw knuckles he broke away and sought a pint of A+, deferring to shoot it directly into his vein, the old way he used to feed. He needed the burn; he needed to feel as much as when he was in bed with Beth, within her arms, between her precious legs.

Just as Mick sank back into the leather chair, his eyes closed to enjoy the "ride" of the injected blood his phone chattered to life….

The Politician Story was a snooze, his self-serving attitude failed to catch Beth's curiosity yet his daughter was a study in dichotomy, her sunny fashionable clothing belied her depressed teen ennui. So much for the united front Beth thought as she packed up the camera before moving on to the story that would burn up the airwaves….

"Beth, you need to step back behind the tape" Carl nodded behind the tape as he held it up to move Beth back toward her cameraman Steve.

"I'm back, come on Carl, we're out of the firing line" Beth jockeyed for a position that would allow Steve to get a clear shot of the Department Store Doors surrounded by the LAPD.

"You get shot and Josh will draw a bead on me, so back behind the line, Beth" Carl's bark was equal to his bite. Beth always felt Carl let her know he knew who her boyfriend was, and it rubbed her raw. Sometimes she caught "scoop" and went on air to break a story only to arrive home and find a sulking Josh….after protracted debates the crux of their arguments would be Beth skating too close to "his" cases or how the public would think he was feeding his girlfriend her "scoop". For a young reporter vehemently standing on her own two feet Josh's claims were heinous. For half of a couple supposedly "in love" it was a low blow.

"I'm motivated to being on the air, not a gurney, Carl" Beth stepped on the other side of the tape, yet placed herself in the same sightline, and then motioned to Steve for him to roll tape.

"This is Beth Turner with BUZZWIRE; I'm standing near the exit of the Macys at Macys Plaza. LAPD is lying in wait while negotiators work with their suspect now holding a dress department hostage. We have been told the gunman is Anthony Swinton and we believe his common law wife, Georgette Harris is there with him. We have been receiving text messages from inside the store that state an argument began with another woman over a size two INC leather dress. We… …. …. "

Beth's crisp words were cut short by the ratcheting sound of radio static and the shuffle of a posse of booted men, the clatter of their firearms as they maneuvered into shooting position. Steve's arm reached in front of the camera to motion Beth down…. …. When Beth saw Steve go down she followed him, yet not by the same means.

Josh drew a closing breath after he concluded his presentation. The group sitting along the long table had been parked in the suffocating room for too long. By the time Joshua Lindsey, ADA of Los Angeles, rose to impress them with his knowledge and drug gang acumen they were far past their saturation point. His stats about Drugs and South American organized crime were intended to draw their help to his home town, tough luck they had made up their minds before they had entered the room this afternoon. The fact that he was addressing the DEA wasn't lost on the guy in the grey suit across from him; he needed to talk to Joshua Lindsey about an opportunity.

"Mr. Lindsey, would you have 10 minutes?" The cut of the grey suit told Josh this guy wasn't DEA.

"Just ten? Usually when one asks for 2 they need 20, will you need more than an hour, Mr. . . . . . .?" Josh offered his hand, it went unshook.

"I didn't give you my name, Joshua." The mid height, middle aged man ran his hand over his flurry of curly hair and locked with his other hand in front of his belt buckle.

"And you need me for?" Josh locked his brief case and adjusted his suit jacket to button himself up to leave, his free hand instinctively sunk into his pocket to cradle the phone, as if to feel out the message received within the last hour.

"Josh, may I call you, Josh?" now the slick guy was beginning to push Josh's buttons. Josh debated turning and leaving him in the dust, was this some sort of test?

"I've got a meeting, walk with me" Josh decided to make this guy work for his attention. The man's shoulders bumped from time to time with Josh's. This annoyed him to no end and Josh eyed him to step out of his way only to have the guy shadow him closer.

"Since we are so close, who are you and what can we do for each other?" Josh had stopped in a hallway alcove and dropped his briefcase at his feet, his hands parked on his hips, Josh was annoyed.

"Let me give you a ride to your meeting" the man insisted.

"That's Ok, I travelling with a contingent" Josh deferred.

"Mr. Lindsey, you are making it very hard for me to offer you the position of a lifetime." Right now the position of a lifetime would be back at my desk where I seem to have a greater impact" Josh had spent a week butting his head against the Washington political machine.

"Then what I have to offer is exactly what you're looking for", the man's emphatic tone shook Josh's resolve and Josh stepped closer.

"WHO are YOU?" Josh's eyes narrowed as he spoke.

"Brent Allen, Republican Talent Committee" Brent extended a tanned hand with a strong grasp, "Your meeting isn't for a while, may we speak privately?"

Brent was political as they come, slick and polished right out of central casting…. Josh relented and invited him to walk with him.

"I'm staying at the Hyatt, walk with me" Josh took the reins of the conversation as he headed for the street. Brent walked to the curb and raised a hand, a black Mercedes sedan with heavy tinted windows rolled to a stop.

"Why walk when you can ride?" Brent asked while he held the rear passenger door for Josh.

"That's OK, Mr. Allen, let's keep this above board, ok?" Josh stepped off the curb to cross the street and Brent fell into step with him, the black Mercedes following slowly, clogging the sluggish DC Street.

"Joshua, we are seeking talent and your name is at the top of our list, primarily for developing you as local talent then hopefully for a national office." That nearly gagged Josh; he had figured he would one day be politically propositioned in his own hometown, not across the US. This felt hinky, off just a degree or so.

"What part of my soul do you want?" Josh laughed back at him while they waited for the "WALK" light. He was sure this was coming at the expense of some part of his eternal soul.

"We know of a situation upcoming in your community, we want you to accept the case and make short work of it" Brent proposed.

"Short work?" Josh blasted back.

"There is a South American drug lord, we want you take the case to prosecution. Make a success of this and we'll be talking public office within 18 months." Brent laid a condescending hand on Josh's shoulder and Josh instinctively recoiled.

"That's my job, you want me to do my job and then, voila I get a reward? Mr. Allen, what is the catch?" Josh was watching the lobby crowd for the rest of his party; he wanted to dispatch this guy. If this was a come on it was better to duck and cover. If it was a serious offer it would come around again, "What if I don't have political aspirations?" Josh countered.

"Mr. Lindsey, I respect your intelligence… I see your party ahead…. Think about it and we can talk about it tomorrow. Perhaps we can meet before you return to LA. I'm staying upstairs," he handed Josh his business card with a room number scrawled on the back, "Please call me before you leave" then he assimilated into the crowd and disappeared.

Josh's hand flew instinctively to his phone, to catch the text message from hours ago, scrolling thru the missed calls and emails he hit the text to read:

"Weds. Beth left BW 8:30 or so with a tall, dark handsome stranger"

Josh didn't know who to "thank" for this morsel of news, it could have been a jealous coworker, it could have been job related and totally misconstrued or it could have been Mick St John. He had already confronted Beth about Mick and there had been a heated exchange that diffused to sad, sad sex. He'd refrain from a telephone call to confront Beth; he'd do that in person tomorrow at the airport.

Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone

Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon

Show me slowly what I only know the limits of

Dance me to the end of love; Dance me to the end of love

The asphalt grabbed at Beth as she rolled off balance. Gravity was in charge as it caught her unaware. The crack of firearms broke the hubbub of the crowd gathered on 7th and reverberated off the tall buildings. Beth reached for Steve, "Steve, what's going on?" Beth flailed in the air to get back up on her shaky legs, failing to pull herself up she wrestled in a tangle of arms and legs of the tripped and fallen public.

She fell against a heavy man's body, wet with blood and recoiled at the feeling of the thick wetness. She fell back over Steve and pushed the camera off his chest, he was still, yet breathing. His forehead had taken the brunt of the camera hitting him in the fracas; he was down for the moment. Beth struggled to rise with the camera on her shoulder, it was still rolling.

From Reporter to Camerawoman in 2.2 seconds Beth crouched to scan the crowd, recording the moments.

She spoke as she filmed, "This is Beth Turner, Steve, my camera man has been hit by this camera and I am taking up his job. We see, we see the crowd dispersing, and the officers are advancing on the mall entrance. We see people down".

A large hand caught the lens and jerked it aside, "Beth, get back, NOW" Carl's voice bellowed at Beth and she jumped back out of his grip. She ran parallel to the building as the crowd retreated and the officers ripped toward the building. She hung low to the ground sweeping right and left for morsels to report, as her mind raced. She felt her heart in her throat….. Figuring the gunman had 6 to 9 bullets what chance did he have at getting out of that store alive? Could she catch it all on camera?

Beth let the camera roll collecting the sights and sounds she was too nervous to comprehend. Crouching between Postal and Fed Ex boxes she listened to her heavy breathing and felt the nervous sweat trickle down the center of her spine to catch at her waistband. Her drum beat out of time as she listened to the crackle of the officer's radios and their bickering over the crackpot in the store and when they'd move. Beth heard her name and then everything went black.

Josh settled into the barstool at the hotel bar, it was a far cry from the heated seat he had been offered in the Mercedes, "Tanqueray and Tonic" he announced to the barkeep. He nursed the drink at the bar as he thought about the cryptic text message. Beth could "cheat" with him in town, she didn't have to wait for him to leave town to do that. He refused to let it worm into his brain, he'd give it a day and talk to her face to face.

He balanced the pros and cons of a political career….. Beth was a beautiful, smart woman, a worthy life partner. She could navigate the two of them thru the minefields of the media and drive him to heaven after hours. The down side was whether or not she was ready to take the plunge with him down that long highly visible political highway. In light of her fascination with Mick St John, would proposing be the right thing to do?

Mick snapped to attention, damn Josef and his phone calls.

"Your human is very engaging" Josef's tone grated on Mick right now.

"My human?" Mick queried.

"She's on TV right now, over at Macy's Plaza, looks like she's hip deep in gun fire and cops in black vests" Josef baited Mick to run to the TV and flip it on. Mick watched aghast at the spectacle

"This is Beth Turner with BUZZWIRE; I'm standing near the exit of the Macys at Macys Plaza. LAPD is lying in wait while negotiators work with their suspect now holding a dress department hostage. We have been told the gunman is Anthony Swinton and we…."

At seeing Beth in this situation so close to the loft Mick ripped his duster off the coat hook and threw it on over his Henley and jeans. He dropped down the stairwell and hit the ground at a breakneck pace. He was behind the crowd and picked Beth's voice out of the cacophony of the melee.

Mick winced at the noise to decipher then caught the sound of Beth's voice again…..

"This is Beth Turner, Steve, my camera man has been hit by this camera and I am taking up his job. We see, we see the crowd dispersing, and the officers are advancing on the mall entrance. We see people down".

Mick heard Carl's admonition, "Beth, get back, NOW" and then Mick saw Beth's flight to the side away from the crowd, he drew on their attachment the night before when he made her heart racethe racing he heard from her direction was eerily dissimilar. Instead of the rhythm of their joyful crescendo he heard her heart misfire and hiccup.

He deciphered her position in the crowd and elbowed thru until he saw her crouched between the metal boxes, "BETH" he shrieked at her as he mowed between the remaining gawkers only to see her fall before he could kneel beside her silent fallen body.

Mick thru the camera aside and lay her out flat, he cried, "GET HELP, She's dying, Get the EMT's" to the remaining stragglers of the pack. Checking her mouth for obstructions, he Tilted her head back, knowing she was not breathing Mick pinched Beth's nose and covered her mouth with his, blowing and hoping her chest would rise. After giving 2 breaths he saw no response. Mick began chest compressions, cautious to push down on her chest, grappling with the fear of losing Beth or breaking her ribs with his strength he kept pumping faster than once per second. He continued with breaths and pumps waiting a seemingly interminable time until sirens enveloped the two of them and he was pulled off Beth's tired body.

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on

Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long

We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above

Dance me to the end of love, Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born

Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn

Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn, Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin

Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in

Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove

Dance me to the end of love, Dance me to the end of love, Dance me to the end of love

The next chapter contains lyrics from the Beatles' 'In My Life' (You choose whose point of view the song is sung…. Is it Beth's? or Mick's? Or Josh's?)

A Wonderful Opportunity #7 In My Life

There are places I'll remember all my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments with lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living in my life I've loved them all

Mick's vampire senses reeled at the humans tending Beth, without his talents they worked in concert to revive Beth's erratic heartbeat and bring her back from death. He sat back on his heels, stunned at their proclamation that she had in fact been dead. He had felt that, yes…. Yet to hear it roll off their professional lips he was shaken to his soul. Their short time rolled thru his mind then his heart to tug and tear hit from its near still moorings.

"Sir, sir… She's stable enough to transport," the EMT bent over, offering a hand to Mick, "we need to get her to the ER" Mick leapt at the EMT to follow her gurney into the ambulance. During their time spent spanning the roads to the hospital Mick crouched in a prayerful pose, his mind played Beth's life in 8x10 color glossies right up to their night together, then the sensual tape rolled in slow motion and he felt ashamed to concentrate on that in this dark hour.

"Sir, she doesn't have her wallet, did..." the EMT inquired, leaving Mick an open door to walk thru.

"I have her information, she's my wife" and with that presumptive act Mick wheedled the ability to hover as they began Beth's treatment.

But of all these friends and lovers there is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning when I think of love as something new
Though I know I'll never lose affection for people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them in my life I love you more

Josh checked his watch; the guys hadn't joined him or dinner as they had planned. 4 gin and tonics later he was comfortably numb. The chill of Washington had been replaced the warmth of the gin and Josh figured a room service dinner was better than slogging thru a meal alone in the restaurant. He reached into his pocket for his key card and lay in on the bar, motioning to the barkeep. "Let me have one for the room and put them all on this".

The barkeep looked at Josh's tab and held out a cautioning hand, "Your tab is covered, sir." The second trick Josh learned was Big Brother was truly everywhere.

The magnitude of Beth's courage wasn't lost on the local news scene, BuzzWire's coverage did not include the LAPD's recovery of the crackpot gunman yet it did illustrate Beth's pluck and follow thru. All the time Beth spent in scans and blood draws revealed a couple of complications the ER Physicians wanted to double check before they pulled her "husband" in.

Mick hovered in the exterior hallway unable to distinguish which patients the doctors were discussing, his mind flustered to the point he had to leave for the basement to find G's counterpart in the morgue. Between love and stress he had to feed.

Josh slipped out of his suit coat and perused the room service menu, something light would complement the 5 gin and tonics he had swallowed, "This is Josh Lindsey, I'd like a Caesar salad with shrimp, garlic toast, a glass of Pinot Grigio and a chocolate mousse" He thought about Beth and her love for chocolate mousse, he'd eat it with the thought they'd be together tomorrow this time.

He dropped his clothes on the bed, wishing to purge himself of the stink of Brent Allen and his surreptitious offer. He slid into a hotter than normal shower and stood, his hands flat above his head on the wall, taking the beating he wished he could give Mick St John. Sure, it made sense that Beth ate dinner with Mick, their lives were winding around each other and he could do nothing about it than stand back and let her get disillusioned with the PI.

Who was Mick St John? The scion of an odd dog 80's PI, funny how some families stay in careers. Josh soaped up and thought about his dead father and how a political career would have thrilled the old guy. Josh, the baby of the family had left the nest to follow a legal career, the rest of the family tended to stay near Monterey. Once his artist father died with an aneurysm his mother threw herself doing development work with the aquarium. His sister ran an art gallery featuring marine influenced art – Josh didn't have an artistic bone in his body so it was all lost on him. If you asked Beth, he couldn't even cook.

He was lost in the steam when a gentle female hand drew back the shower curtain, Josh jumped so high he nearly fell. He grabbed the curtain around his waist and yelped, "What the fuck? "

The blond grinned demurely, "you ordered room service? You didn't put the chain on the door, so it's in the other room"

"I didn't expect it that fast… please leave it, will you?" Josh's perplexity covered his face and caused him to grip the shower curtain tightly.

"Well, this is the appetizer" She spoke softly as she left the bathroom, shutting the door behind her. Josh rapidly rinsed the soap off and threw on the thick white robe, cautiously entering the bedroom.

Josh's clothes had been draped on the valet and the bed covers were pulled back, the blond and a brunette were posted on the bed waiting for him to unite them in carnal pleasures.

"Ladies, you have the wrong room or the wrong man….. "The opportunity for philandering on Beth and the Law had again presented itself and if this was an examination he was either winning or losing magnificently - there would be no middle ground while he was in DC.

They were resolute, silent as they stroked their thighs or décolleté invitingly. The sound of his heavy breathing filled the small space as he walked to the far wall, drawing the curtains open for the world to see him standing in the room with the women who were beginning to open their leather coats. Their unhurried reveal exposed Victoria's Secret lingerie and taunt flesh and burgeoning breasts.

"Perhaps you have not heard me correctly…. My dinner is arriving shortly; you have the wrong room …. Please leave. I am going to stand here and watch you go now." Emphasis on the NOW, Josh was weathered and tired, he raised his hand to point to the door and that seemed to banish the strumpets.

Once the food did arrive he ate it woodenly, tasting nothing, his stomach full he fell back on the bed. He fought the hovering scents of the heady rose, sandalwood, pepper perfume of the blond; it was so unlike Beth's light vanilla Shalimar. Josh finally fell asleep clutching the third pillow on the bed as if it were Beth.

"Mr. St John?" the nurse called into the ragtag audience in the ER waiting room, "Mr. St John?" her second call went unanswered and she returned to Beth's bed only to find her napping. Let sleeping patients sleep the Nurse thought as she checked the machines monitoring her patient. Her patient would have a decision to make when she woke up and Beth Turner most certainly would need her husband to reach a consensus on their decisions for her treatment.

Mick's hunger slated he made his way up to the ER, the din of death and pain had slowed and he found that Beth had been moved to the Cardiac Care Unit, that heard his sprinted to the stair case, knowing full well he needed to work off the anxiety of hearing any diagnosis that would put Beth under that scrutiny. The quiet hallway echoed his heavy footfalls and he would have been out of breath himself if he was "alive", he pushed his hair back from his face as he leaned over the counter, "Beth Turner, I'm ...her husband" he swallowed on the presumption of his words. Would there be time to even propose Mick worried.

"Yes, Mr. Turner," the clerk pulled out the chart, "Oh, excuse me I didn't realize Ms. Turner used her maiden name on air, Mr. St John, the Cardiologist would like a word with you." She was calm, how could she do this all day, Mick thought… she was literally funneling people down flume rides of panic. Mick stood stock still while she summoned the physician, sought Beth's scent, her heart beat, and he wanted to see her with his own eyes.

Quietly the athletic man, about Mick's age paced the hall then stopped without recognizing Mick and pulled it from the clerk's hands with a silent nod. He drew his knuckle over his lips as an eyebrow arched, then lips pursed and released.

"I'm Dr. Andrews, your wife's cardiologist; let's take a walk, OK?" The dark haired doctor extended a hand and Mick shook it, expecting a soft handshake from a man whose hands were his fortune. Dr. Andrews gripped strong for a human.

"I need to come clean", Mick thought about being honest about their non-marital status, then decided rocky roads might be ahead, he couldn't cut her loose. They paced to a small family room with a coffee machine and juice bar.

"About what?" Dr. Andrews offered Mick a Styrofoam cup that he declined with a shake of his head.

Mick stumbled to replace the thought, "I'm scared" that would suffice. Dr Andrews understood, his role as a Cardiologist introduced him to people in their darkest hour.

"Let's unravel the mystery and explain what happened, OK? We've discovered Beth has long QT syndrome or LQTS. It's a rare congenital heart condition with delayed repolarization following excitation of the heart, associated with fainting due to ventricular arrhythmias and it can deteriorate into ventricular fibrillation and ultimately sudden death. Arrhythmia in individuals with LQTS is often associated with exercise or excitement, which makes perfect sense since your wife is the queen of exciting Web Reporting." The doctor seemed proud of being a reporter's physician.

"You're familiar with her work?" Mick's brows knitted at her dangerous visibility and at meeting a fan.

"Sure, I catch her all the time," Dr Andrews waved him iPhone and returned it to his pocket, "Back to her diagnosis, it can be genetic, it can be incited by drugs. Does your wife have an electrolyte disorder or use antidepressants or anti psychotics? I know these are hard questions to answer,' Dr. Andrew's gentle personality was shining thru his grim delivery.

"No, she doesn't use drugs, " his emphatic answer glazed over Beth's foray into BC, had that 1 dose doomed her? "I'm not familiar with her family history, so I can't help you there. I'm not sure if her father is alive, her parents were divorced before Beth was 4" That's all Mick knew, he never pressed Mrs. Turner for more info. Once Mick had scented Coraline in Beth's bedroom her errant father was off the list of suspects.

"Well, the next condition drives the bus on her treatment," Dr Andrews leaned back and opened the medical file on his lap. In the dim light Mick caught the chaos of the many reports generated by her medical tests. The doctor held a black and whit blur of an image, "The heart at this stage is too small to hear, even with amplification, but it can sometimes be seen as a flickering in the chest if an ultrasound is done as early as four weeks after conception. We were caught by some elevated hormone levels in her urine, so we did this Ultrasound. In a couple of weeks you'll get a heartbeat with a Doppler" The doctor put the image in Mick's trembling hand and sat silent while Mick digested the news.

Beth was pregnant with Josh's child, she deserved to deliver this child and the child deserved two human parents. Did Beth have a clue when she stopped him in bed the other night? Mick's mind raced at vamp speed as he wondered what to say to the unknowing doctor.

"Does Beth know?" Mick's voice was soft, the inner vamp retreating, leaving just a heartbroken man.

"No, we received the results after Beth was resting; we wanted to have you together, because obviously the child causes us to look at the range of treatment for her. Arrhythmia termination involves stopping a life-threatening arrhythmia once it has already occurred. The only effective form of arrhythmia termination in individuals with LQTS is placement of an ICD, in internal defibrillator. ICD are commonly used in patients with syncopes despite beta blocker therapy, and in patients who have experienced a cardiac arrest as Beth did on the street."

Mick was nodding, not realizing his fists were tightly drawn, and nearly drawing his own blood. The doctor looked at Mick's pale demeanor, his white knuckles and paused, "Are you OK, Mr. St John?" Dr. Andrews reached for Mick's hands and Mick stood suddenly, driving his hands into his duster pockets as he turned to the dark window and stared out to the night. The vamp quick action shocked Dr. Andrews to sit back into the sofa, dropping the chart, pieces flying all over the floor. The Doctor chased the pages and drew them back together, giving Mick time to digest the diagnosis and treatment.

"Are there medicines that wouldn't affect the child, which could allow her to keep the pregnancy?" Mick's eyes scanned the skyline.

"We'll discuss that with Beth, let's take a walk and see if she's coming around, OK?"

They walked shoulder to shoulder, two men with Beth's best interest in their hearts, "Why don't you go in and say hello, I'll give you a few moments" Dr. Andrews parted for a trip to the clerk's desk. Mick's steps were light and quick to her side. The unearthly glow of the low hospital room light imparted a deathly pale to Beth's cheeks. Would she have this pallor in another life Mick wondered? Her eyes flickered open as he hovered, his cold breath blown across her cheek with Mick's kiss.

"Beth, it's Mick, you're in the hospital and I lied to them. I said I was your husband so I could be with you" his whisper directly into her ear caused her eyes to fly open as she jolted a bit.

"I thought it was a dream, what happened, Mick?" her hands were burdened by the lines and leads connecting her to various monitors and IV's.

"Your heart stopped and I beat you back to life before the EMTS brought you into the hospital, it's some sort of an Arrhythmia", Mick sat down to see her eye to eye as he kissed her hand and gently repositioned it across her body over her developing fetus.

"I don't feel well, I'm hungry, thirsty, I have to pee" she was agitated at being in bed, Mick smiled at this "real Beth" surfacing and her whole body fidgeting to get up before he cautioned her to rest and stay attached to her lifelines.

"Well, you aren't well, you are on IV's and a catheter and they'll bring you some ice I am sure. They want the little mother to be comfortable" Mick didn't know how to give her the news, he tried to slide it by her gently.

"Little mother, Mick, what do you mean? Am I pregnant? Oh good Christ, no, not pregnant, not now. I'm on the pill, what did I do, when did I screw up…..Oh, Mick how far along am I? No, no, no, no….." she whipped her head back and forth at the prospect of pregnancy. Her fist flew to her mouth as she bit the knuckle of her thumb, she was clearly not happy at the prospect of bearing this child.

"About 4 to 5 weeks, I couldn't even tell, the hormones came thru in a urine test, I saw the Ultrasound. The doctor said your fetus is good shape; we just have to maneuver around the Arrhythmia" He sighed at his own use of the word "we", with a child, Josh's child in the mix, would there be a "we"?

Before they could get into any debate Dr. Andrew's light knock signaled his arrival, "Mr. and Mrs. St John? Are you ready to have a discussion about your course of treatment?"

Though I know I'll never lose affection for people and things that went before
I know I'll often stop and think about them in my life I love you more
In my life I love you more

The next chapter contains lyrics from The Beatles' 'Let It Be'

A Wonderful Opportunity #8 Let it Be

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Nearly every discussion Mick and Beth ever levied against each other about vamps and humans always finished with Mick's absolute declaration that he was in fact a monster, undeserving of her love. Their love had grown larger than the two of them, carrying them out of the shadows and into each other's arms.

The next natural step for Mick to take would be to sit mutely alongside Beth while Dr. Andrews explained pacemakers and internal defibrillators and calcium channel blockers. While Beth discussed gambling her pregnancy to save her life Mick picked at his finger until he had a loose cuticle, he'd watch it reheal and he'd pull at it again while he calculated that a vampire had no fear of an Arrhythmia.

"I'm going to leave the two of you to discuss your options; I'll be back in the morning." Dr. Andrews tapped the medical file with his pen, "I need to get my favorite reporter back on her feet" then he nodded and left them in their dimly lit silence.

"Josh is due back tonight" Beth established flatly as she looked at the wall clock, it was 12:30 am, Friday. Mick stroked the bit of her arm not taped with a line or a monitor lead; he relished the fine blond hairs glinting in the odd dim light.

"I can go to the airport, and bring him around, he should come here directly" Mick sadly mused while he sat, bent forward, his elbows on his knees, his face hidden in his hands.

"I don't want him here….. Not now….not when they all believe we are married," her head nodded to outside the room, "I couldn't embarrass him like that" Beth's voice was nearly a vapor between them.

"I'm sorry, Beth. That was my big mouth, my misstep. I knew you'd be alone – unable to speak for yourself. I couldn't bear leaving you alone" Mick's eyes wore his sadness; Beth could see it through his splayed fingers. She reached for his hand; she wanted to feel his chill, own some of his calm demeanor.

"You did what you thought was best for us, neither of us had any idea about this" Beth admitted as she stroked her lower abdomen, "It had to have been when I took those antibiotics; they weaken the effects of the pill." Beth was sheepish with a vein of anger at herself, "We were at each other's throats, and then we'd make up just to fight again". Beth's confessions were beginning to flow and Mick was afraid of hearing it all. He sat upright and made direct eye contact with her. If covering his ears and chanting could have covered the sound he would have. It was too much to know, just like walking into her bedroom told him too much.

"Beth, you don't have to explain anything" Mick shook his head vigorously, "The two of you are a couple and what we did; it was presumptuous for me to claim you for my own. I need to step back from all this, you know that" Mick fought his dead heart's own feelings.

Beth's hand came at his wrist and grabbed, unexpectedly unyielding for her frail condition, "Don't you dare leave me now….do not fall back into the shadows…..Don't I get a decision in all of this?" Beth asked greatly displeased, she released her grip and then let out a long yawn.

"Right now, Beth, I am going to let you sleep. It's already tomorrow" Mick kissed the back of her hand with unfocused eyes, and then stood and backed away from her until he hit the doorway. Her eyes had closed, beating back tears she wouldn't show him. When the two of them were left alone the severity of the day's news hit each of them in their own painful way.

In Beth's head her words ran, Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death, amen. Wasn't The Holy Virgin the patron saint of pregnant women? What kind of patronizing does a saint do for a woman unsure of being a mother, for a woman who doesn't want to be clad in leg irons to the child's father?

When I find myself in times of trouble, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.
And in my hour of darkness she is standing right in front of me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

In an urban atmosphere a normal man wouldn't have walked the distance from the hospital to his loft apartment, Mick's mind needed the scrubbing a night's walk would provide. If he had been challenged tonight he might have separated heads off shoulders or drained the attacker dry. Not that he was looking for a fight, he just wouldn't back down. He felt their rhapsody had ended before it could even take root to flourish.

What words would he use when he greeted Josh at the airport, "Beth died, we brought her back and oh, you're going to be a father"? The sirens pierced the night air; autos and trucks whooshed by him as he turned up his collar and dipped his head. His head bowed the tears didn't run down his cheeks. Again his tried to dissipate his frustration taking the staircase up to his loft, it didn't work that well. Once he clicked the lock on the loft he winced at the hanging aroma of their ardor combined with the scent announcing his visitor.

"To what do I owe the pleasure of your visit?" Mick slid out of his duster and regarded the blood speckled shirt he was wearing when he had left the loft earlier. The blood splatter from his knuckles had turned brown; he looked as bad as he felt. He lifted the shirt over his head and dropped it on the sofa table.

"I thought you'd at least call me to let me know how she fared, wasn't she something?" Josef sat in the chair, arms wide to the sides, holding a tumbler of scotch, his knee crossed over the other, a foot tapping the air to an unheard song.

"Oh, she's something," Mick concurred as he headed directly for his hidden fridge. Go away Josef, Mick thought reaching first for a short "snort", then his hand moved over to a full pint.

"I was awash in this, ardent ambiance" Josef stretched out the word as his hands circled the air, "Nothing like your quality time together, right?" The eyebrow, the smirk….. This wasn't the time for it.

"Not now, Josef." Mick stalled his back to Josef, "Beth's pregnant. Josh comes back from DC tonight" The tumbler filled, Mick emptied it and refilled it, turning to face Josef in silence. Mick didn't want to see Josef's face at Beth's news.

Let it be, let it be, let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

Friday, December 21, 2007 Late Evening

Mick pulled the Benz into his favorite space in the parking garage, the end spot where he could watch the planes taxi into the airside. At one time Mick had found peace watching the planes, the cobalt blue lights a glow directing planes full of people to be with their loved ones. He thought about hanging back from the humanity of the airport and then figured he needed to be at the arrival gate simply because Josh was expecting Beth, not his perceived rival for her attention.

Mick weighed his options as he handled and rehandled his key fob. Leave town, let Beth and Josh be a family was the immediate first response.

What was his fantasy choice? Stay, wish Josh away, propose to Beth and play the happy family…..raise a child fighting off the temptation to "eat" his young. That sounded sick and twisted even for a vampire.

How about stay, be an "uncle", all the while backing off from Beth's allure. That was backwash, how could he watch her marry Josh, raise a child and stay in the shadows until it was time to send the next greeting card with a $50. bill tucked inside?

The crowd flushed from the arriving flight and scattered toward the escalator for baggage claim. Josh's face initially displayed joy as he ambled, still working out the kinks from his lanky frame being folded up cross country. That joy melted to confusion when he saw Mick, it morphed into near anger when he realized Beth wasn't with Mick. "Where's Beth?" Josh demanded as he took long quick strides to get in Mick's face, "What's happened? Why isn't she here, St John?" Josh dropped his brief case and stood with his hands on his hips. Mick noticed the posturing, was Josh really doing this?

Mick acknowledged Josh with a nod of the head as he led them out of the pack of exhausted travelers, "Josh, she asked me to come get you, did you see her newscast yesterday?"

"What has she done?" Josh knew her predilection for danger, he was about to dismiss this with humor.

"She had quite an adventure on camera yesterday and in the excitement she discovered she has a congenital heart defect" Mick knew those words were strong the second they left his lips; he was losing control of the situation and regretted being there.

"Has she…., she's OK, right?" that white male "all will be OK" sensibility settled over Josh, Mick could smell it.

"She's in the hospital, they're observing her, talking to her about her options" their walk began to the baggage claim hurky jerky, Josh's senses were on high alert as he tried to walk close enough to Mick to hear everything clearly yet not bump into him.

"Options? Is it she needs a transplant or something?" Mick focused on Josh's tired blue eyes, and knew their baby was going to have killer blue eyes. Mick wondered if the baby would have blond or brunette hair. Mick felt like he had lost her already.

"No, look Josh, she's resting, she's stable and, she needs to talk to you about everything" Mick swallowed the meaning of that sentence and their eyes connected on "everything".

Mick wondered if Josh be the guy that immediately proposed with a child on the way? That's the way an upstanding man would handle it. They walked in silence to retrieve his luggage then Josh vacillated at following Mick to his car. Mick wondered if Josh wanted to ditch him in favor of a cab directly to the hospital. Beth wasn't expecting him and Beth didn't want him there tonight, she was emphatic about that point. Mick knew he could get Josh home faster than a cab, plus they needed to talk.

"Can she see me now?" he caught his phone out of his pocket and checked the time. He shifted his briefcase from one hand to the next, his luggage at his feet.

Mick bent over to grab the luggage, "No, Josh, she resting, CCU has specific hours", Josh's hand caught Mick's, jerking it off the luggage.

"What aren't you telling me, St John?" Josh's tone turned on Mick, who had crossed the line to touch his luggage.

"What I want you to know this it is serious, I was with her." Mick sniffed at Josh's territorial response over luggage.

"Well of course you were there, where Beth is concerned you always seem to be lurking in the shadows" That flew out of his mouth as a taunt that Mick let drop. Josh had no idea who he was talking to.

"It happened around the corner from my loft. A friend of mine called me that Beth was on camera with a precarious story when I heard the shots in the Plaza, I was worried about her." Mick seemed to relive the seconds right then, his face a whiter shade of pale and his eyes damp at the thought of having lost his Beth, "She fell over before my eyes, Josh! She died, I did CPR on her until the EMTs got there" Mick had assumed the same posture as Josh, two men in defensive modes walking in circles around each other over 1 woman.

"She DIED? No, it couldn't have happened, I mean I'm not calling you a liar, it's just it all happened so fast, right?"Josh was backpedaling on the accusation.

"I know CPR, Josh, I can take a pulse, she was dead" Mick had no need to explain his time spent patching up war casualties in Italy and France, Mick reflected as he waited for Josh's next verbal assault. Josh's head dropped as he thought about the possibility of his life without Beth.

Mick jumped back in, "She would have been alone if I hadn't lied to them about being related, it wasn't right of me, but she was afraid. I was with her in the ambulance" Mick's frustration showed in his posture, his shoulders rising and falling, his hands spreading back his duster to unhook his thumbs from his pockets, his honest gesture of hands outstretched went unwatched.

"Where was Steve?" Josh bit his bottom lip as he ran a hand over his black stubble.

"Another part of the Plaza, he was injured, and Beth picked up the camera to keep filming. He was taken to a separate hospital" Ok, this is getting better Mick thought, and then Josh dropped the nagging question he always carried about Mick.

"All I want to know, is how do the two of you always end up in the same place?" His attitude was genuine, Mick could tell by his heartbeat, his steady breathing, Josh was trying to control a particular temper "I want to thank you for looking out for her, I'm home now, you can take a break" Josh's hands gestured almost a "go away" that goaded Mick.

Mick could have flung Josh across the airport; instead Mick stepped back and gave Josh a neutral scowl, then retorted over his shoulder, "I'm leaving the discussion of Beth's health between you and Beth". Josh fell into step behind Mick and rode silently to Josh's home; Mick murmured "I'll always be there for her".

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree,
there will be an answer, let it be.
For though they may be parted there is still a chance that they will see,
there will be an answer. Let it be. Let it be, let it be.. .. .. ..

Once they were buckled into Mick's car Josh sat back and took in an apprising deep breath, "Is her Doctor any good?" Josh asked as they approached the parking ticket machine, "Let me get this," he reached into his breast coat pocket and pulled out his wallet, fishing for the bills and pressing them into Mick's hand. Their flesh brushed briefly and Josh didn't even think of Mick's flesh as being chilled.

"Yeah, young, very apt at what he does" Mick nodded, as he passed the card and the bills to the ticket taker, nodded a "good evening" and pulled the car into the night traffic.

"I don't know what to say, Mick, I thought we'd have forever, you know… never figure a young woman would die… … … like that, you know, doing what she loves" Josh had an obvious perception that Beth enjoyed, her job and all the exhilaration it involved. Josh's eyes narrowed in the light of the oncoming traffic, Mick scented the salt water of a grown man's tears and he consciously kept his eyes on the road for Josh to save face.

The drip fed continual medication into Beth's body, calming her heart to beat regularly. She regarded the bruises from Mick doing CPR as a badge of life. Sure her chest hurt like hell and she wanted the elephant off her yet for right now she was grateful she was this side of the earth. He couldn't even have turned me, Beth thought as she dozed in and out. One eye on the clock and one eye closed she estimated that just about now she would have been mentally falling down trying to explain her loss of feelings to Josh. It would have been her at the airport trying to let him down easy…. How do you do that at Christmas?

Before she closed her eyes to rest she felt a wave of nausea, how can that be when she hadn't eaten she wondered, she got settled in the bed and closed both her eyes, hoping to dream at least of Mick and their future together if her heart gave her the chance.

3am she woke with a thirst and a pang in her gut. Must be from an empty stomach she figured as she rolled over on her side to hug the institutional pillow instead of Mick. She felt sweaty, wanted a bath… yeah, a bath would feel good. After collapsing in the Plaza and being worked on she felt grimy, now it bothered her and she lay awake. She heard the sound of crepe soles on linoleum, monitors echoing down the hall, the dull sound of the phones ringing. She was the youngster among the CCU crowd as she listened to the nocturnal ramblings of a woman who thought it was 1977. Poor woman, Beth thought, a bum ticker and senile. She clutched the pillow and promised her goal tomorrow would be a bath, that and a full on hug from Mick. Yes, a bath and a hug. If she was lucky maybe he'd give her the bath.

And when the night is cloudy, there is still a light that shines on me,
shine until tomorrow, let it be.
I wake up to the sound of music, mother Mary comes to me,
speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

What's the likelihood of two men in love with the same woman showing up at the hospital at the same time? Mick and Josh made an unlikely pair, both tall, dark and attractive they drew the eyes and ears of the Saturday morning crowd as they moved in concert thru the lobby. Josh's business "cool" had been dashed by travelling across the continent to the news of Beth's calamity.

Mick knew Josh hadn't slept well, he could see the rattled expression and the nick where he had cut himself shaving. Conversely, Mick's loose hair, the casual clothing and the long duster fluttering behind him, it all spelled grace in any environment.

"I didn't realize you were coming over this morning" Josh greeted Mick and turned to consciously step ahead of Mick.

"Right, I hadn't mentioned it" Mick's cool didn't slip a centimeter, "Have you talked to her this morning?" Mick tossed that question back to Josh.

"No, they said visiting hours start in 5 minutes, I figured I bring her these" Josh had brought in a monstrously huge red rose and fern bouquet in a glass vase.

"Gosh, Josh, CCU doesn't allow flowers," Mick advised. Swell, Mick thought, just swell…we're going to start a pissing contest and 1-800-FLOWERS will be on the winning end.

"Really?" Josh was deflated by Mick's news.

"Yeah, they'll send them to another patient if you want….." Mick was sure Josh was disappointed with that news as he led him over to the pert little grey haired lady with the pink coat.

"Hello, gentlemen" Her bright gray hair and equally bright blue eyes sparkled at the young men.

"I brought flowers and I understand my girl can't receive them, so I wanted to leave them here for someone who could enjoy them" Josh's voice caught at each word. Mick stood behind him silent, waiting for the little woman his actual age to accept them.

"Oh, yes, your friend dropped some off earlier today, they'll look nice together here while we find good homes for them" the birdie old gal gestured to the 3 dozen pink and red roses that dwarfed Josh's arrangement behind her.

Josh sheepishly nodded and followed Mick to the elevator where they rode silently to the CCU. When the early a.m. quiet was broken by their different foot falls the staff looked up from their work to regard the best looking visitors the ward had in months. Mick led him past the overworked staff right into Beth's room. She was curled up facing where Mick had wanted to put his 3 dozen pink and red roses. There she was, her back to the door, someone had brushed her hair and a bare, pink foot had escaped the covers.

"She has to sleep with a foot out" Josh whispered to Mick as if divulging a government secret, before he walked in and broke the silence. "Baby," Josh walked up to her bedside and gracefully bent over and reached for her.

Beth turned over and shook out of her early morning nap, "Hey" her soft voice registered on Mick's ears, had Josh been able to hear it? She inched away from him as she powered up the bed back. Her usually bright sapphire eyes were puffy and crisscrossed with irritated road maps of blood vessels. She touched the back of her hand to eyes before she drew a slight smile on her face.

"What's going on with my girl?" Josh asked as he slid his right cheek and thigh onto the bed, "Is it ok for me to be here", he gestured to his being on the bed. Mick observed the earnest distress in Josh's sad eyes as he receded to the doorframe.

"Sure, yeah, but I can talk with you easier if you have a seat, let me adjust the bed". Beth sought to be upright and in charge of herself when she delivered the news.

Mick leaned in the door way, hands folded in front, praying? Yeah, he was praying for Beth, for them and then he announced, "I'm going to wait for you in the family room, OK, Josh?" For a brief second Mick saw Beth's eyes sparkle when his eyes met hers. That was worth hauling Josh from the airport for Mick. Mick waved and took a solitary, sad walk to read old magazines and pamphlets about PSA scores and Mammograms.

Beth knew that a burden shared was a weight distributed, yet it would be hard to come clean to Josh, especially carrying his child. She closed her eyes a second and knew for this hour she had to gather herself up and be straight about it, this is all life really meant.

"Josh, would you close the door?" her voice was gathering strength as she sat up straighter.

"Sure, sure, is …. …." Josh blindly rose and followed her request, sliding the glass door shut. They had silence yet no privacy. He returned to sit on the bed and she moved her knee to block his lighting there. He pulled the chair closer and sat, his keen blue eyes penetrating hers, yet not backing her to a corner this time.

"I have a heart problem that caused me to drop dead, literally while I was working the story at the Plaza. If Mick hadn't have started CPR I'd be buried right now. He worked on me until the EMT's saw me. I owe Mick my life."

Josh nodded silently, waiting for her next sentence.

"I'm going to need a surgical procedure to implant a pacemaker and an internal defibrillator to keep my heart beating regularly. Once we do that I should be back on track" Beth drew a lengthy breath now that she had dropped the first bomb.

"How soon can they operate?" Josh's eyes began to water. His face froze solemn as his heart clenched at the thought of the doctor cutting her open to put machinery into her. He had no experience with illness, he could defend the written law yet in a health arena he was powerless and mystified

"It could be a while, because they want to make sure exactly what.. .. I .. …need. These IV's are dripping medicine right now" Beth was cautious, not wanting to mention the pregnancy. In her subconscious she felt her heart stopping had to have affected the little one. As early as the little mite was burrowing inside her womb surely the shock of a sudden disconnect would threaten its survival.

Josh felt the temperature drop as if the pale blue walls had been replaced by icebergs. Beth's face drained as her expression transformed to a frown and then a grimace. She grasped for the call button and whimpered like a kitten. Josh bolted for the closed door and threw it open, "Someone, Help".

"Josh, josh, josh, it kind of hit me, I'm sorry I don't want to scare you," Beth's straight lipped explanation didn't give him any comfort.

Mick skidded into the doorframe behind the nurse and immediately recognized Beth's stress.

"Ms. Turner, what's up?" Jean was the kind of "battlefield calm" nurse anyone would want, well-seasoned yet warmhearted.

"I'm cramping pretty badly, it hit me all of a sudden" Beth admitted, drawing her knees up to her chest and breathing deeply. Jean stepped past Josh and silently communicated he should step back. She flung the curtain around her back to give Beth privacy, and then began checking Beth. Josh backed right into Mick's chest, they stood tense, each for different reasons.

Josh had little experience with hospitals or ill family members; his Dad has simply dropped dead. Everyone else had been healthy as proverbial horses. Having an ill girlfriend was uncharted ground.

Mick read the air, his senses catching the nuances of Beth's breathing and Jean's silhouetted movements. Mick knew Beth had been in minor pain all night, that low ebb and flow of sensation that you doubted was an ache until it wound itself up and threw itself against you. Then Jean lifted the bed sheet away releasing the subtle nuances of Josh and Beth's child's blood through the room. It was the tiny vestige of life that Beth had held within her and it had released its tentative grip in her womb.

"Miss Turner, you've got some spotting, we'll get you cleaned up and comfortable…OK?" Jean soothed her patient, full knowing the ultimate outcome.

Mick felt the Nurse's apprehension and her raw sadness. No matter how many times she witnessed this she said a silent prayer each time for the patient.

Josh was lost in his confusion as he felt Mick draw him to the family room, before he could think clearly he was holding a Styrofoam cup with 2 sugars and a splash of nonfat milk in the coffee.

"It's better we give Beth some privacy," Mick's gentle hand fell on Josh's shoulder as Josh mindlessly sipped the bitter brew. If ever there was a time that Mick wished he could use "allure" it was now. Josh was visibly offset by the hospital surroundings and Beth's condition was twisting him in the wind.

"Mr. St John" Jean's voice caught him from his meditations over Josh's near trance. Mick turned to Jean and followed her around the corner, "Beth's spotting, and it's a matter of time before the pregnancy aborts itself. I am very sorry and I want to assure you we're doing everything to make her comfortable."

Mick's full understanding led him to nod as he stood, arms folded over his chest, a pensive thumb crossing back and forth over his bottom lip, "Beth understands it all; she asked if you would take the other gentleman home and come back alone."

Mick's dedication to Beth would have him do anything so he strode back to the family room and Josh was gone. Mick did know where he was, he heard to commotion from Beth's room.

"Josh, please go home" Beth's strident request broke the peace of her end of the wing.

"Beth, what is going on? What was this sudden attack? Please don't shut me out, I know how independent you are, we're a team" Josh's begging nearly broke her, seeing Mick appear behind him bolstered her.

"Right now I'm run down; I need to get my strength back, I need rest. We can talk later, OK?" Beth's sad eyes seemed to droop at the corners just as her lips had wilted. Josh's posture relayed his resignation as he stood stoop shouldered, wringing his hands.

"Please, now, I've had a rough couple of days and you've been on the road" Beth pleased, pulling her covers up to her shoulders.

"I'll wait for your call," Josh nodded and step backward, "You know Beth, all our disagreements – they're behind us. From today, just know that I love you"

Josh had extraordinary determination to be there for Beth and although he felt her push back, they would get thru this together. He left by way of the chapel and in its early Saturday morning sunshine he meditated and it came to him, if you surrender to the wind, you can ride it. They'd ride this out and come out on the other side. He'd propose, they'd marry, he'd take the case of the South American Drug Lord win an astounding victory and before they'd know it they'd be celebrating their first anniversary. Yeah, he'd surrender and ride it out.

Mick had watched Beth send Josh off and it tugged at his heartstrings. He recalled the awkward back and forth his parents danced then there were difficult discussions between them. Mick had relied on his vampire senses within the vampire community where the skills were reciprocal. He was dealing with Beth now, in love there were so many opportunities for miscommunications to hurt each other. Mick waited until he heard her little whistle of a snore and watched her as he prayed to the crucifix above the door. He meditated on the likelihood of God answering a vampire's prayer. Mick reminded God Beth had delivered him from, 50 years of Hell and Mick simply wanted to return the favor. Mick prayed her strength would carry her thru this week and the inevitable surgery.

While his head was dropped in meditation he heard, "Mick" it was a blessing to his ears, "Would you hold me?" His crooked smile bloomed as their eyes met. So far their horizontal times together had been explosive, carrying them on undulating waves to shatter in each other's arms. Now as Mick considered how he would hold her without shattering her fragile body.

She flattened out the bed as Mick walked around the other side so his back would be to the wall. Her eyes adored him as he slid out of his duster and lowered him body to the rough sheets pulled tight over the plastic mattress. He toed off his shoes and slid as close as he could to her, his arms surrounded her shoulders and his chest became her pillow.

They shared chaste kisses and settled for a while. "It wasn't as difficult as you thought it would be, was it?" Mick asked her, smoothing her hair back from her face.

"No, no it wasn't, especially since it's just a matter of a few more hours and there won't be a baby to tell him about." Beth's resolve had held as long as she could keep it together and now she wept openly.

"Beth, just let me hold you. Sometimes it's better to put love into hugs than to put it into words"

Let it be, let it be...

The next chapter features lyrics from Sarah McLachlan's - I Will Remember You

(No copyright infringement is intended. Some dialogue is recognizable from Love Lasts Forever, owned by far more wealthy and powerful folk than me.)

A Wonderful Opportunity #9 / I Will Remember You

I will remember you, will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by, weep not for the memories….

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The morning evaporated while a dozing Beth lay in Mick's arms. Lost in her pained aura, Mick felt powerless, short of spiriting her away and turning her, he was just like any other guy on the street and he felt just about as useless. Then he figured he could do something, he released her to gather a few things to make her comfortable and without waking her, Mick slid to his feet and down to the gift shop.

Mick regarded the assortment of gifts – plaques with smart ass quips that he thought Josef might have written or religious inspirational sayings his Aunt might have spouted caught his eye then around the corner there were baskets of baby gifts. He reached to the gift basket of pink baby towels and washcloths arranged around baby lotions and such. Mick thought the packaging would be heart rendering, yet the components were just right so he snapped it up with a couple of fashion magazines, pink slippers and floral hair clips. The gift shop volunteer watched as Mick separated the baby decorations from the towels and washcloths. She smiled oddly and nodded when he brought them back to her, "You can recycle these, right?", then he rearranged the magazines, slippers and hair clips in the white wicker basket. When he returned to Beth's room she was sitting up aimlessly playing with the TV remote.

"Special Delivery for Beth Turner" Mick asked as his "you caught me" smile lit up her day, she dropped the remote and held out her arms for a hug.

"I was asleep with my lover and he slid out of the room on me" She played at being hurt until Mick came to the bed and gently encircled her with tender arms.

"It seems that they don't have a spa here, so I thought I'd have to bring one in. So here is Mick's Spa on two feet" he placed the basket of goodies on the bed for her review, she unfolded the towels and washcloths and sighed as she ran her thumb over the baby soft pink fabric.

Beth's shoulders rose with her smile, "I would love you forever if you were planning on giving me a bath", that phrase was especially telling for Mick…..would they get their forever? Could he ever bite her again without endangering her?

Mick nodded and went to his happy work; "it's been a few years since I've given a field bath, hope my technique isn't too rough" he winked as he folded up the sleeves on his deep green Henley. Methodically he removed his watch and his ring and set it on the bedside. She watched him, wishing he would remove more, her breath hung, appreciative of his intentions.

"Taking off anything else?" Beth dropped her chin and looked up at him thru golden brown lashes. She was slaying his business like demeanor.

"I'll be taking your socks off, your sheet and blanket, let's get the big towel under you to keep the bed dry" Mick appeared to recover his "all business" senses as he pulled the curtain around his back and gave them a bit of privacy. He peeled off her socks and began to work the warm soapy washcloth between her painted toes. His face softened the minute he cradled her foot in both hands and massaged her instep. His expression melted to care and concern and she relished his touch encircling her ankle, once to wash, once to rinse and then to make sure she was soap free.

They were silent as he worked; his meditation was that he wanted; no, he needed her to be well. In all his wildest conjectures, their being in a hospital, like this would never have been a prediction of his for their future. Beth's expression wavered from warning to inviting him to touch her deeper, and her breath shortened as he worked his way past her knee, to the insides of her thighs where there were faints smears of dried blood from her spotting. When Mick's soft strokes needed to be increased to remove the dried emissions their eyes met and he bit back an unnecessary yet expressive sad breath.

Within her body they had shared new pleasures yet now her tortured womb seemed to be a source of one of her heartaches. Their eyes met and fell away, his hand separated from her body by only the wet baby washcloth. Her eyes ate up this immortal creature, one who preached he should be feared, yet he was docile and sweet in her hours of need.

Beth lay out flat, bringing more of her flesh into his view; she released the shoulder snaps on the coarse hospital gown and simply laid it across her torso. He regarded her scraped knee and her bruised elbow as he swept her and soothed her with his touch. As his hands drew around her soft hips his tongue danced behind his closed teeth and he fought his carnal urges. He stirred and closed his eyes to concentrate on his work, then the washcloth dragged across her mound of curls and her breath hitched and he jerked upright, clasping the balled washcloth in both hands.

"Are you….." he was flummoxed.

"I'm Ok, Mick, I'm down, not dead" she ached for him to stroke her, hold her and take her.

"You were the one worried about an audience" Mick reminded her, his eyes travelling back to the busy staff outside the glass walls. He turned from her and dropped the soiled washcloth into the warm, clean water. He watched the residue float away from the washcloth, infiltrating the dirt and body oils away from the pink cloth, dispersing and sullying the fresh warm water.

Mick returned his attention to Beth and she had flung the gown to the floor, a flush returned to her cheeks as her hands cupped over her tuft of light brown muff, her lips curled to a devilish pout.

"Beth" other words wouldn't come, only her name as a little prayer…..

Remember all the good times that we had
We let them slip away from us when things got bad
Clearly I first saw you, smiling in the sun
I want to feel your warmth upon me; I want to be the one

Sunday, December 23, 2007

"It'll be a couple of days to receive the devise, get the room scheduled", Dr. Andrews's calm hazel eyes communicated his peace at her decision to let her body be invaded by a machine a little bit bigger than a Zippo lighter. He nodded and tapped the pen on the top of her medical chart; he had leaned into their conversation to show her the EKG and the other reports that confirmed his diagnosis. She smelled betadine hand scrub and Irish Spring bath soap, he already had stubble and it was only noon, Beth wondered how long Dr Andrews had been awake today, "I know it has to be rough at Christmas, I'm just not comfortable letting you go home without the AICD"

Beth had settled back into the bed, wrapped in the new robe Josh had brought her Saturday evening. Josh had come by and they had talked, at length, about her heart and its flaws and then the mood of her heart and her choices. With great eagerness Josh opened their conversation with his upcoming opportunity to work the Tejada case, what he thought would be his victory and the future for political office.

"I've got the case of a lifetime, Beth…. This thing is going to put LA on the map for zero tolerance and I'm going to be the front man on it." His enthusiasm was fueled by the anticipation for the fight, the chance to be visible in the courts and feeling of his foot clamped on Tejada's virtual neck.

"Aren't you worried about his response? Doesn't he have an entire army at his command?" Beth's nervous habit of drawing up her knees, and wrapping her arms around them communicated her real feelings.

"We've got DEA behind us; this is going to be the case of my career" his enthusiasm and trust in something as multilayered as the DEA made Beth question whether Josh had been issued rose colored glasses along with the dossier.

She was keeping her mouth shut; she wasn't going to be part of his life and didn't have "a dog in the fight" as her Mom used to say. Beth followed his detailed description of the Drug Lord and his list of grievous attacks on the police and the courts. She was grateful to be taking a step away from his career; Beth always felt he had a Superman complex about what his office could accomplish when he had the legal system behind him.

All of his news seemed to beg her to forge forward on the subject of breaking up. "I think you are going to have your hands full these next few months and I need to be explicit and clear with you, Josh"

He straightened right up at her serious tone. Beth explained the AICD as Dr Andrews had described it to her. She shared the precautions list and info on the discharge orders. His eyebrows crested at several of the cautions.

"This is as serious as I expected it to be, when will they do it?" Josh bit at his bottom lip and ran a tongue over his top lip. He was visibly shaken.

"The day after Christmas Day, and I'm not trying to be dramatic, but this is a prime time for us to look as us as a couple" Beth's voice rang true over the hospital sounds, the beeps, the clatters, and the vocal buzz of staff working the floor, "Right now I want to put "us" on hiatus. I need to do this – all of this – alone."

Josh's mouth went dry with distress, and he questioned his own need for a heart monitor, once he heard her thoroughly he repeated, "Alone? All the surgery and the recuperation, you want to be alone?"

"Right, you and I, we've been arguing too much. I need to have my head clear, you're starting a very serious case, we both need to be focused" Josh was silent at her brutally frank statement. Beth was calmer than she expected to be even in light of Josh's tightening expression. Her calm seemed to torment him.

"Beth, are you trying to do this alone or is this about doing this with someone else? It wasn't that long ago we fought about St John, then he greets me at the airport and he's here when I show up. I'm a pretty bright guy, and that doesn't turn off Friday at 6pm"

Beth's flat expression answered his question, "and so it goes, Josh. You and I are simply two separate people; from now on we aren't a couple", Beth ran her hands thru her hair and scooted further up on the bed away from Josh, "That should make Marissa exceptionally happy"

"Now you want to turn it around to Marissa?" Josh was aghast, exasperated at her suggestion, "I want you to know, I had your ring made, we had this weekend planned at my parents and I was ready to give you the world, our world" He shook his head before raising his hands to cover his face. She slid towards him now and her hands touched his and she felt him quiver enough to know he was stifling tears.

"Josh there was a time that I would have jumped at the chance, in the past 24 hours I've had to digest a few realizations, alone. Alone because that's the way I could face it best" She stared, large blue eyes boring into his own blue eyed gaze.

Josh grimaced and shook his head to make it all go away.

"Josh, I lost our baby, my heart killed our child." Beth's reasons for sharing the news weren't to hurt him. She needed him to know she could and would strike out on her own.

"Baby?" he was incredulous, they hadn't planned a pregnancy, and they had romantically spoken about "someday" one foggy morning in their early months together…..not since, "How were you pregnant? We had taken…" Josh's astonishment registered in his eyes, his posture, and the way his hands gripped together in a prayer for normalcy to return.

"Precautions, yes we had and when I took antibiotics it short circuited those precautions" It almost sounded too clinical to her when she said it.

"How far along?" his voice was hung with confusion.

"It was too early to even know, Josh, I had barely missed my period. It showed up on blood tests and they did a sonogram. Evidently when my heart stopped you could say it pulled the plug. He or she is at peace now, and I waiting for my ICD so they can clean house and make sure I'm put back together again." Beth's head hung; sitting cross legged under the sheet she felt the lump of the medical pad in place along with the undulating cramps.

"Beth," he moved to embrace her thinking it would comfort her too, he knows he needed to hold her even though she was through with him. She let him move to the bed, she unfolded her legs to let him closer and in their sad embrace she confessed.

"I need you to know, we had our time … …. …. It's just over between us. I will always remember us and how great it was when it was great. Now its crunch time and we do not have it to be a couple….I'll remember you as a special friend. I just can't be your. … …wife" Beth stumbled over the word like kryptonite.

There were embraces and there were tears and when they had rocked the current news' pain out of their systems they released each other and he walked out of the room silently.

I will remember you, will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by, weep not for the memories
I'm so tired; I can't sleep - Standin' on the edge of something much too deep

Beth's consciousness came back to Sunday, back to listening to Dr Andrew's earnest description of the procedure, the possible side effects of the automatic internal cardiac defibrillator (AICD) and when she'd be sent home.

"Just be careful, those magnetic name badges can be a hitch." Dr Andrews' easy grin caught her as they nodded and he drew down a list of cautions, passing the page to Beth. She accepted it cautiously, reading the list of do's and don'ts that would govern her life.

They smiled at the prospect of her being healthy again, "After surgery, we'll keep you a day or two in the coronary care unit, where we carefully monitor you. Recovery will continue for another seven to ten days in the hospital, after that time you resume normal activities" Dr. Andrews gave her a shrug and nod, "I may order some other tests and by the end of the week you're released to continue recuperating at home, generally for another six to eight weeks".

Beth nodded sympathetically, "So, work in say 9 weeks?"

"We'll talk in 4 weeks, OK? Ms. Turner, take it easy while you can. You'll have a full recovery from your D&C, in a matter of months you'll be turning the corner on a new time in your life" Dr Andrews patted the bed railing and nodded, "I'll see you tomorrow, in the meantime, Jean is on, OK?" with that he was gone with the light grace of Fred Astaire.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

"Merry Christmas" Mick's fingers trailed her forearm lightly as he woke his sleepy love.

"Merry Christmas to you too" Beth caught his hand and brought it reverently to her lips. He stepped closer and caught her up in his arms, nuzzling her, kissing her, whispering adoring entreaties into her ear.

"I brought you something, just a little gift until you come home" Mick sat back on the end of the bed and presented a cobalt blue box. Beth eagerly untied the bow and opened the box to pluck out a crystal heart. She held it in her hand, letting the morning sun dance off the facets.

"SO, you've given me a heart" she cooed in affection for her vampire, her lover, her man, "Just what I needed"

"You gave me yours; it was only fitting for me to return the favor" His eyes were swirling with that lazy hazel thing they did. He wasn't vamping, just reacting to his surroundings. Beth had watched emotion move him like this before, when they were at the restaurant.

"I love you, Mick" her voice was sleepy and it was as if they had just rolled over and awoken. Wait, he was a vamp and didn't sleep with his lover, in fact it would come to be a rare treat for him to wake up with her in his arms.

"I love you, Beth" Mick had edged forward to align himself with her and she welcomed his cool body. They wanted this to go on…

"Good Morning and a Merry Christmas to the both of you" Jean burst in on them, not finding any offense in their stealing time together. They had lost a tiny life and they were working to regain their balance in this cruel world.

It's funny how we feel so much but we cannot say a word
We are screaming inside, we can't be heard
I will remember you, will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by, weep not for the memories

Friday, JANUARY 11th, 2008

"Cars that fly, diet soda that doesn't suck, women's clothing with honest sizing" Beth volunteered a list of things she'd think to see if she were immortal. She sat at her desk, rubbing her finger over the smooth incision near her left shoulder. The seam was numb; it felt like she was touching someone else's skin. The devise hadn't fully sunken into place and she felt odd, bionic.

"It's not so enjoyable when you experience all your wildest dreams alone" Mick's voice was heavy, he had been worn down with long nights with Beth and short stays in the freezer. He could scent her distraction at feeling her scar. She had spent a lazy day reading and had welcomed Mick at sunset, they rolled in the new bed that Mick had delivered while Beth was in the hospital it was a king this time. When he touched the seam he knew she shivered at all it represented, he had only done it once.

"So take a vampire wife" Beth had been near giddy since she had been discharged from the hospital. Sure, Dr Andrews was easy on the eyes, yet she wanted to be in her own bed and close to Mick.

"I never found that option on E-Harmony, besides it didn't work out so well the first time" Mick hadn't wanted to talk about being a vampire tonight, it's just that Beth got on the subject when she was getting comfortable at home after being discharged and he figured he'd humor her.

"Well, go rogue and hold open interviews…where do I apply?" Beth played coy to his drollery.

"Well, in the meantime, you have an appointment with your cardiologist at 9am tomorrow morning" Mick walked behind her and caressed her shoulders with both hands. He dropped his head to kiss the crown of her blond waves. Beth rose from the chair to embrace her reluctant vampire. She had been looking forward returning to her "normal activities". While they had each other in their arms their kisses began slowly, his tongue teasing the seam of her lips and as she began to crabwalk him to the bedroom there grew a pounding at the front door.

Beth broke from the embrace and halted at who it could be at 8:30 on a Friday night, her urgency fed by a second set of heavy raps.

Mick could track Josh; he was upset to put it mildly.

"Oh, my god, what happened to you?" Beth's voice caught as Josh charged thru her front door.

"Mick, do you mind if I speak with Beth alone?" His jacket was scuffed up from his being thrown to the pavement, he was reeking of nervous sweat, and he had been threatened.

Mick knew what Beth was about to find out, he made a drinking motion to Beth over Josh's shoulder and nodded, "I'll go for a walk" and headed for the door, closing it gently behind him. He could lurk in the hall and hear everything, yet he owed them privacy, he walked the hallway to his car and took a drive to the morgue for a 6 pack.

Josh barked at her "They've marked you" His words seemed odd, who was the vampire here Beth mused without smiling, and then he continued "I was accosted in the parking garage and they forced a gun to my head then threw your photo at me. You've been marked for death or worse…." Josh's eyes were distant and sad. He was a stranger in his "law and order" world.

"That's absurd, we aren't even a couple any longer" Beth's astonishment charged the atmosphere.

"You know it's not the world according to Beth Turner, our breakup wasn't in People Magazine so they are just coasting on old intel" Josh taunted her, tossing the photo on the kitchen bar. In plain sight she saw it, a candid photo of her taken early December on their date to dinner with another couple.

"I'm not arguing, Josh, it's as big a shock to me as it is to you…" her world had only recently stood still, now again it was spinning out of control, she was resigned to hearing his ideas and dealing with the outcome.

Josh charged toward her, grabbing her face between his hands, "Beth, I'd rather die than let you be harmed," Beth squirmed at touch, moved backward toward the wall and lurched to a stop when she hit the wall.

"Josh, back up, NOW" her command brought him back to the present, back to their separateness and he stood stunned, then he began his retreat to the far side of the room, to the sofa.

"If we made any announcement they'd just think it was a ruse, I've called for protection while you recover at home" Josh reached into his coat and withdrew a standard issue firearm, checked the safety and laid it on the coffee table, "The next 48 hours is going to be the worse. The trial is next Wednesday and they believe they'd move to hurt you this weekend".

"Is that necessary?" Beth demanded, wishing Mick hadn't been so agreeable to give them privacy.

"It's just department issue" he was cool, he was a different Josh.

"No, I mean is it necessary that I have protection?" Her eyes still on the gun, she walked slowly to the chair after she dialed down the wood blinds and drew the draperies as if they were protection

"If you'd let me I want to stay overnight, here or let me take you to a safe house". Josh was feeling the sofa, wondering if he'd sleep well.

Beth's mind traveled to their last night together. The silence crackled with tension.

"Have you eaten?" Josh asked, drawing the attention off his possible overnight stay.

"Earlier" she gave him that straight lined grin/grimace.

"How's your recovery going?" he nodded, eying her shoulder, "That thing working?"

"I consider myself fortunate to not have to test it" Beth bit at her bottom lip, and nodded from side to side, "cooped up here Mick's been keeping me honest"

"Mick? So is….Mick your new best friend?" no acrimony in his voice, just plain curiosity.

"We've had a lot of time for talking, it's like I've always known him" her smile was melancholy and he knew Beth's expressions. This was genuine regard for the man who he thought supplanted himself in her heart.

Differences had to be set aside, lives were at stake, Josh realized that, "So, it'll be ladies' choice on the accommodations. Will Mick be joining us?" Josh's eyes had spied the king size bed through the open French doors of the bedroom.

"Sometimes he stays over" Beth's comment stopped Josh's nodding head, "if he knows I'm in danger, he'll be here"

She made tea and Josh ordered Asian food while their force fields kept them from walking close to each other, not in a sexual tension, just an unspoken tension. About 10:30 Mick's knock fell and Beth was simply relieved by his return. Mick was confounded by Josh's being there yet he let the situation's explanation unfold before he rashly reacted.

Josh's veracity was palpable; Mick knew he could have vanquished Tejada, yet it was not his fight yet….. His reformed vampire natures told him protect Beth and let Josh fight his own wars. Mick contemplated Josh's news, accepted tonight's "pajama party" and prepared to get through the night, just one night then he'd take her to the loft, keep the enemy at bay.

"When will the task force cover Beth?" Mick poured himself a scotch and it baffled Josh to see a man drinking in this situation.

"Sunday morning they check in, it was the soonest I could arrange" Josh rose hung is jacket on the coat hook. Adding St John to the room Josh began to feel suffocated, if he only understood it wasn't Mick using the oxygen, "I need to grab by bag from the car, I'll be right back", Josh ducked out of the atmosphere while Mick drew closer to Beth.

Arriving behind her his arms drew her closer as he whispered in her ear, "One night, we'll get thru this." Beth spun around within his grasp and held his face lightly.

"I know and I love you for this, for understanding" Their kisses were quick and light, less they ignite a larger flame. Mick broke from her as he heard Josh's hand on the doorknob. No need to rub their relationship in Josh's face. Josh's familiar gym bag hit the floor as he dropped his car keys in the same place he always had, on the end table next to the chair. Coming back was all so familiar yet so foreign.

"I'll take the floor, Josh you can take the sofa" Mick declared, thinking he'd sleep across the doorway to Beth's bedroom.

"You sure?" Josh wanted to be the gracious guy…..

"Yeah, when I sleep, I literally die, don't feel a thing" Mick's easy smile at that line brought a wry grin to Beth's face, poor Josh she thought, if he only knew. Beth gathered the extra pillows off her bed for Mick and withdrew a pillow and blanket from the hall closet for Josh.

Wordlessly they took turns in the bathroom and the sounds of late night TV replaced Josh's labored breathing at watching Mick move comfortably around Beth. He watched Mick grab her milk and a sheet of graham crackers, without Beth even asking!

"Josh, cookies and Milk before bed?" Josh startled at the question Mick directed to him, he shook his head then watched Beth as she broke it in quarters and dipped them before enjoying the cinnamon. The night evaporated into a Walton's style string of "goodnights" and Mick lay in the dark processing the sounds of two hearts at odds with their situation. He'd be grateful to spirit Beth to her Doctor visit in the morning.

I'm so afraid to love you, but more afraid to lose
Clinging to a past that doesn't let me choose
Once there was a darkness, deep and endless night
You gave me everything you had, oh you gave me life

Perhaps violence, like pornography, is some kind of an evolutionary standby system, a last-resort device for throwing a wild joker into the game? (J. G. Ballard, 1930-, British Author)

"I'll follow you in my car," Josh demanded as he and Beth drank a glass of OJ with their bowl of oatmeal. Mick had given himself the luxury of an icy shower as he tried not to eavesdrop thru the thin apartment walls.

"Is that necessary?" Beth slurped her juice as she broke her banana in pieces.

"Absolutely" Josh finished his breakfast and washed his dish before turning to lean against the sink, "until I hand you off to the guards, I'm keeping you in my eyesight". Beth was beyond arguing, as Mick had said, it would be over soon. Once Mick had dressed and reentered their atmosphere Beth had already readjusted to the three of them orbiting around each other.

Mick pulled the business card from beside Beth's phone, "Here's the address we are headed, and it's a 9:00am appointment at his hospital office" Mick drew on his duster and shook out his towel dried hair before removing his keys from his coat pocket, "ready?"

If man surprised is a man half beaten, what is a vampire taken by the sheer element of violent surprise?

Mick led the trio down the front steps where they split to enter their cars. Josh's car was parked around the corner and up a few lengths so he waved and walked resolutely ahead of them. Mick and Beth's attentions were drawn to their buckling in and getting situated in the car.

The whoosh of a guy in a track suit, the blur of the late model sedan whipped Mick's attentions straight to Josh, about a nanosecond too late. By the time Mick was out of the car and in pursuit they had tied him and thrown him into the back of their car and pulled away. Beth's nerves caught the best of her and she drive the Benz up to meet Mick, she slid over the console as Mick threw the car into gear and took off.

"Call 911, get them ahead of us, if they can get a chopper in the air they can keep them in their sights" Mick barked as Beth as she dug into her purse, frantic her breath caught in her throat. She had the post-traumatic stress of wondering if she would catch a jolt from her devise as she was holding the phone and crying to the dispatcher.

Their dispatcher seemed backward when Beth mentioned words like "task Force", or "ADA Lindsey" and only jolted out of her sluggish litany of responses when Beth shrieked for Lt Davis. Inestimable minutes evaporated while the car ahead of them outran Mick's vintage Mercedes.

Mick drove one handed while he barked order at Logan to track Josh's cell phone. Technology seemed to crawl as the space between them grew. Then a change of traffic lights, children in the road all the serendipity of rotten luck took over. The nondescript getaway vehicle was lost in traffic.

And I will remember you, will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by, weep not for the memories
I will remember you, will you remember me?
Don't let your life pass you by, weep not for the memories, weep not for the memories…

The final chapter features lyrics from the Foo Fighters - Everlong

Finale: A Wonderful Opportunity / Everlong

Hello, I've waited here for you….Everlong
Tonight I throw myself into and out of the red, out of her head, she sang

Given the density of the traffic and the intensity of the search…Mick knew they'd be reunited with the speeding car. He wanted to kick himself that they didn't travel together; he should have known, he kept repeating in his mind. Beth fiddled with her cell, kept calling Josh's cell; it was ringing then rolling into voicemail while Logan pinpointed their direction and they were still moving, Mick piloted his car over the rods blocks behind them, in the faith the phantom car would come to a stop.

Mick hadn't discussed what he'd do when they got there. Would the police be there? Would the thugs come out guns blazing, making it almost impossible for him to take advantage of his "skills"?

Beth's dialing and redialing kept her in prayer, while the old car rumbled over the near corduroy roads she whipped tears from her eyes, invoking Josh's spirit to hang in there, they were on the way. As the car halted on Logan's monitor he yelped the destination, Griffith Park off a service road at the Harding Golf Course. Beth didn't see helicopters or squad cars, she was drawing shorter breaths wondering what one woman and a vampire could do against the two gang members.

The car ground to a stop amid a cloud of dust, Mick's Benz came in around the corner and pulled in parallel to them on the other side of a flank of trees. "STAY in the car, and I mean it" Mick pointed a terse finger at Beth as he reached into the glove box for a weapon.

"Remember how well that went the first time you told me that?" Beth barked before she pouted, crossing her arms over her chest.

Mick handed her the gun, "You do know how to use this, if they make any threats in your direction take care of it. Don't worry about me, they're regular rounds" he bounded through the tree line and headed for the driver, the burlier armed man spun at Mick and emptied his automatic – aghast that Mick kept hurling toward him he threw the gun and turned tail.

Mick effortlessly lifted the thug up off the ground and bounced him once against the car roof and then threw him into the trunk of tree, leaving him crumpled and unconscious. With a leap over the hood of the car he engaged in broad punches and violent shoving, the guy riding shotgun was lighter and less reactive than the first guy. Mick knocked the guy to the ground, groaning. Mick bounded to pop the trunk, the bound Josh throttled at the sight of Mick standing there, and he nearly propelled himself out of the trunk.

"Beth, now, he's OK" Mick bellowed to Beth, who was already out of the Benz and on her way. Mick leaned over, destroying the restraining straps on Josh's hands behind his back. Mick moved to Josh's ankles to unleash him and as he stepped back to help Josh step out of the trunk a volley of gunshots rained thru the vehicle's back seat. Josh's body propelled toward Mick and Beth with the force of the bullet, they rang, one, two, and three as Josh's body convulsed with shock in startling hot pain.

Come down and waste away with me, down with me
Slow how you wanted it to be
I'm over my head, out of my head she sang

"NOooooooooo" Beth wailed as she jumped toward grabbing Josh's feet, Mick was twice as fast, already holding Josh under the arms, lifting him, all the while reassuring him that he'd be alright.

Even with rapid deployment of the police and emergency squad were still moments behind, then Mick knew it was up to him to grab Josh back from the grip of death.

"Beth, call 911 NOW" Mick dropped to his knees and began reading the flow of Josh's life systems….

"Griffith Park, near the golf course" Beth cried deep sobs while the dispatcher asked the details.

"Take your jacket off, apply pressure to his belly", Mick the vampire boyfriend dissolved into the background, Mick the Medic took over.

"He's bleeding, heavy, Keep the pressure on him, Beth, firm, NOW" Medic Mick snapped field orders with a battlefield mentality.

"The ambulance is on its way" Beth muttered back, taking the action in, recognizing the gravity of Josh's injuries and just counting on a miracle.

"The artery in his neck is severed" Mick knew it would be a son of a bitch to stop the bleeding yet he had to try the car lighter to cauterize the wound. Beth's eyes went narrow at the amount of blood around Josh.

"Josh, hang in there, the ambulance is on its way" Beth commanded

"Is it Christmas yet?" Josh's voice was dreamlike; his eyes wide and lost watching the blue sky behind Beth.

"Josh, its January" She tried to understand his confusion.

"There's someone waiting for me, ahead, at the end of the hall" Josh's voice wavered.

"You have to come back; there are people here for you" Beth pleaded, she knew she wouldn't be one of them directly, yet he had to hand in there, "Josh, STAY, you pay attention…"

Josh's circulation has slowed to a glacial velocity. His heartbeat was ragged, Beth was wailing as Josh gurgled with his shallow breaths. The sirens howled its arrival within seconds. Mick's mind moved faster than his hands, his hands itched to hold back the void.

Then Josh's heart stopped.

Mick started chest compressions while he barked the orders for Beth to give Josh breaths. The ambulance rolled up on the scene and the driver saw Mick's efforts, read the situation.

"Grab the monitor and the jump bag" The EMT rounded Mick as he got the progress report on Josh.

"His heart just stopped" Mick grimly announced as he watched the reaction in Beth's eyes.

Mick held Beth back while the EMTS did their best, Mick's vampire senses returned with vengeance, and he saw thru the transparency of Josh's life systems.

"Ready to ventilate, Paddle check, clear, Check for pulse…" all the movements and the words whirled around Beth's back, she clung to Mick and she shook in tears, in anger…

"GOT IT!" the second Tech announced.

Beth buried her face in Mick's chest, she held her hands over her ears, wishing it would block out reality.

The ambulance roared off, the siren's keening evaporated as they covered precious ground.

"Do you think he'll make it?" Beth sobbed into her hands on Mick's chest.

"He was alive when they left, that's all I can say" Mick couldn't see the future although he could read the confusion of the past.

After the blood and stress "that" feeling grabbed a hold of Mick tightly, the proverbial feeling that would harpoon him nightly as he rose from his freezer. He knew the "dangerous, difficult and complicated" would never end. His need to wax this side of himself grew from a desire to love Beth, as a man loved a woman without the monster lurking over his shoulder.

Mick dragged Beth to the car, and began the silent ride to the hospital. They argued with sentences "It's my fault" to be countered with "His job did it", neither side was right and they both knew it. Once they arrived at the ER the receptionist gave Mick an odd look

"You were here a couple of weeks ago, right?" Mick nodded and the woman nodded in agreement. As great looking as he is, his friends' sure get hurt, a lot she thought as they stood before her.

"Mr. Lindsey is being taken to triage, are you next of kin?"

Mick and Beth looked at each other, "He's a dear friend of ours, we were together when it happened" Beth expressed the truth, she was keeping it simple.

Lt Davis cut thru the crowd and grabbed Mick's sleeve as he traveled, Beth bumped along behind them, pushing them down a corridor to a family waiting area.

"You both sit tight, it'll be a while" Lt Carl left them, insulated and silent in the cool hospital air. Beth's nose glowed red as she wiped her eyes dry.

"Do you need to get cleaned up, feed or something?" Beth regarded Josh's dried blood covering his shirt and jeans. She hadn't had much experience with vampires, yet she remembered his need to feed in the desert. She didn't think it was easy for Mick to be around this much sunlight and this much blood. Beth knew he was using every bit of that control he referred to, the efforts that kept what he called "a monster".

"I think I'm going to take a short walk for some refreshments" Mick reached for his wallet, "Need anything?"

Beth smiled at his offer and shook her head, she watched him walk away knowing he was heading for the bowels of the hospital, seeking "fast" food in the morgue. Beth was praying that Mick's next beverage wouldn't be from Josh.

"Any news?" Mick was before her before she knew it.

"Do you always have to do that? I mean you just seem to appear!" It was the best laugh they had shared in 24 hours.

"Sorry, it's….." Mick began to apologize when Beth shook her head and put out a hand, echoing the apology.

"Just what you do, I know. I plan on getting used to it, you know?" Her smile put him at ease, warmed him, "No word yet, no news is good news?"

"Possibly, we need to call Dr. Andrews, let him know where we are, get you up to his office if he can see you" Mick had settled down on the sofa next to her, drawing her back with an affectionate hug. Beth settled back with a deep sigh, she'd owe God everything she promised if Josh got thru this. She had promised she'd be a friend, an honest friend to Josh.

Buried inside of a healing body, Josh's mind whirred, giving him no peace. He was working hard just to keep up with all the hands on him, the voices speaking to him, about him, about what was happening. He lay back, surrendered to the lights and he was seduced by the soft voices.

"Are you coming?" A childish voice asked, was it a boy or girl? "If you want to see it, you have to come….." the voice got further away, "if you come now you can see it now" the voice stood still in Josh's eyes the lights played an aurora borealis behind the child, was it a boy or a girl, who was this child?

"Chris, stop it, let him stay…we'll wait" a husky voice where there was no body, no face to connect to it. Josh replayed the voice in his head, the mask had been put over his mouth and nose, he couldn't see, but that's not where he was "seeing" this action.

Their call to Dr Andrews' office went to voicemail, the message stating he had been called to an emergency. Minutes circled to hours, Mick and Beth traded looks, was he working on Josh?

They paced, they held each other grimly and when the January sun began to paint the sky in shades of pink a harried pair of surgeons entered the room. A slim small woman announced, "Family of Josh Lindsey?" her voice was soft and reassuring, her doe eyes bloodshot from hours of concentration. Beth scoured the room, preparing to walk to the Doctor when an older, heavier version of Josh barreled thru the doorway.

"Lindsey? I'm his uncle, my sister called me, she's on her way, it will be a couple of hours" He stood, head bowed to the diminutive surgeon, hanging on her every word, the same intense look that Beth remembered when Josh intently listened.

There was no graceful way for Beth to say, let me listen, I'm the girl who broke his heart.

Mick and Beth hung back; she wrung her hands as her stomach did a floor exercise to "Flight of the Bubble Bee". Beth eavesdropped on the news, and Mick caught every word. The slant of it, if he made it 24 hours they'd pray for another 24 and so on and so on. Mick pulled Beth out of the room, "Do you know him?"

Beth shook her head, "Josh's family is from Monterey, Josh mentioned some family in Santa Barbara, I wasn't "in" the family, you know?" She hadn't wanted to repeat that the weekend she broke up Josh was taking her to meet the family in that very permanent "Here's Beth" presentation.

They were standing, foreheads touching as they processed the events of the day when a second surgeon approached them, "Mick St John? I'm Dr. Banks" Mick nodded as Beth dropped to his side and held her arm around his waist, pulling close for whatever news they'd be receiving.

"Lt. Davis told me you two were instrumental in saving Mr. Lindsey's life, that you worked on him to keep things moving, I'm sure his family should know the part you both played"

Mick raised a cautioning hand shaking his head softly and Beth's eyes widened, she would rather be checking on Josh than speaking with his uncle.

"Mr. Lindsey is going to be in recovery until later tonight, why don't you check back in the morning?" Dr. Banks, rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck as he stood with them, he had worked up a whole lot of tension in the past few hours.

"May I see him for just a moment?" Beth's eyes were filling with unshed tears, their glistening caused her to blink and then dab at the spillover.

"I shouldn't, he's back there alone right now, follow me, OK?" Dr. Banks slipped them in a side door of a relatively quiet scene. Josh's bed was closest to the station, two road tested nurses fussed over his silent body while the machinery measured his vitals.

Beth hung back until the Doctor waved her forward, she caught Josh's hand and squeezed his fingers lightly, then she bent to his ear and whispered. Josh's lips moved slightly and his eyes moved under closed eyelids. Then Beth reached into the bottom of her purse and withdrew a penny and tucked it into his hand and curled his fingers around the single coin. She stepped back, not wanting to lose the image of the recuperating man she had loved until Mick stole her heart.

"Is he staying, or is he coming with us?" the small voice posed, Josh saw the child leaning over the bed rail, a curious hand under the chubby chin. Plump little forearms hung over the bedrail while the child's feet stood on the bottom rail. The lights weren't dancing now. The man with him.. .. … Was silent, just a silhouette now.

"Why'd she give him a penny, Gramps?"

Then, the shadow pulled the child off the bed, pulled him into a vapor's disappearance. "It was a penny for his thoughts…. She wanted to know what he was thinking."

"Why does it costs a penny…. … ?" the child didn't understand, the guardian didn't elaborate.

"He has to stay, he was work to do, come on, Chris, we have time to play, lots of time….." the voice hit Josh's heart. It was his Dad.

And I wonder when I sing along with you
If everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I'll ever ask of you
You've got to promise not to stop when I say "when" she sang

"Will you take me back to the loft tonight?" Beth's voice echoed a lost quality. Mick knew he needed to be on ice, he understood Beth needed rest yet the two of them had spent enough time in hell, they needed some segment of time together, affirming that their relationship wouldn't be damned by catastrophes.

This was a hell of a month, Mick thought as he drove. Vampire loves woman. Woman loves Vampire, yet Woman is with another Man. Woman dies. Woman comes back to "life". Woman breaks up with Man. Man seeks to protect Woman so Man, Woman and Vampire spend their darkest 24 hours together culminating with Man dying and being revived. Now, how will the rest of this play out for Vampire and Woman?

The night was quiet as the rode home. Mick knew it would be a while before Beth could look calmly at the street where Josh's car had been parked. He knew he would scent the heavy atmosphere in Beth's apartment for a while; he remembered the confusion Josh "wore" as he tried to "will" himself to sleep. Mick had lain on the floor scenting the jumble of Josh's emotions. Mick didn't have to ask Beth about the forced kiss, Mick knew it had been uninvited and that its spontaneity was a mistake on Josh's part. His vampire's jealousy could dismiss it as vain efforts of a lost man. Mick knew Beth's heart and it was totally his. Throughout these past few weeks Mick realized that the truth would set them free, yet first it had to make them all terribly miserable.

The monster reared its needy little head as he thought about their first bedding and the rational gentleman in Mick pulled the car into the garage. They walked more silent steps to the elevator, lead footed and somber. The elevator doors closed and Beth asked, "Would you have turned him?" The question didn't catch him off guard; he had expected it from the moment of the first gunshot.

"What?" Mick strived to barter time until he could assemble the words he wanted to use.

The elevator doors opened and Mick stopped at the sight of the package on his doorstep. Beth hadn't focused on it and continued her mini-tirade.

"You heard me, that super vamp hearing you have seems selective" Beth's brow cocked at that definitely female angle, she was on to his evasion. Her entire body language screamed that she was ready for that discussion, loaded for bear.

Mick's lips pursed and he flinched; Beth moved further back from him to take in his entire body language. Mick thought, why now? Let me retreat into my little world….I have my own little world, but it's okay - they know me here.

Breathe out, so I can breathe you in
Hold you in and now I know you've always been
And out of your head out of my head I sang

"No, you know how I feel about being what I am….. "That's all Mick really wanted to say.

"What if it was me? Beth's voice took a hard turn.

"You know what I did; I saved your life without turning you"

"This time"

For a vampire, there must be quite a few things that an icy shower won't cure, but he didn't know many of them yet this was one of the biggies. Ice water would never wash away Beth's curiosity about the process or the possibility.

Mick's stare left her intent blue eyes, bent over to retrieve the package. No ticking, no electronics or explosives. Smelled like blood. Mick opened the loft's front door and Beth followed behind him. Pulling the door shut behind her.

"Were you expecting a package? Do you shop online?" Beth's attitude and tone took a 180 degree turn at the sight of a package.

"No to both questions" Mick walked to the bar and set the box down. Standard 6" x 6" x 3", could be a book if it didn't smell like blood. His face wore a bit of a frown as he reached for a knife to slice thru the strapping tape. Opening the box flaps he saw marbleized tissue paper, he peeled them back to reveal a small burnished and engraved pewter container the size of a matchbox.

"It looks old" Beth craned her neck over the flaps as she leaned on her palms on the island, "Is it silver? Want me to pick it up" Beth, a million questions in every situation.

"Yes it does, don't think so and no do not touch it" Mick was back in the military mode, he knew it wasn't silver because the marbleized tissue paper reeked of vamp, reeked of his ex-wife. Mick's mind swirled to the thing that made Coraline human, whatever that was… in the hospital she talked about a cure. Was this it?

And I wonder when I sing along with you, if everything could ever feel this real forever
If anything could ever be this good again
The only thing I'll ever ask of you You've got to promise not to stop when I say "when" She sang

Mick pushed the paper back over the pewter box; he saw an engraved note card that he withdrew,

"Dear Mick:

You said I had stolen your life, you were right, I did.

I came back to bring you this, I'm sorry I played with you, played with Beth.

Perhaps this will give you some time.

If you take it as directed it last for about a year, there should be enough for 2 or 3 years.

"Returning" can be painful, ask Josef.

If she's worth it, enjoy the time while you have it.



Mick tucked the note into the box and finished closing the flaps as he wondered; would this be a remedy worse than the disease?

And I wonder if everything could ever feel this real forever
if anything could ever be this good again
the only thing I'll ever ask of you
you've got to promise not to stop when I say "when"

This Series continues with 'Walk, Run, Stumble'