Okay, I don't own Moonlight, wouldn't be struggling to pay the bills if I did…blah, blah, blah.
I know I'm a member of the two percent that doesn't like Mick/Beth, so I'm not exactly expecting a rush of reviews here. I would appreciate feedback, but don't believe in begging. I'm also of the one percent that likes Mick/Coraline, so if you do drop me a line, no flames, okay? Oh, this story also includes Josef/Beth, with bits of Josef/Sara, but in the past tense.
This takes place in the somewhat near future on Moonlight, but will go back and forth between then and the past. Will earn its rating later on in the story, trust me!
Coraline surveyed her surrounds apathetically, gliding along the poolside of her expensive Los Angeles residence. The climate kept the older, more dangerous competitors away, and she enjoyed the power that being one of the oldest vampires in the area brought. Her lithe figure was draped in a dazzling little red number, a creation of her own design, the material shining as she moved. One of her shoulders were bared, receiving the delicious caress of the night air, along with gentle strokes of her dark curls as they swayed with her. She was the queen holding court, stunning, aloof, and mysterious.
Beyond providing a hell of an atmosphere, every detail from catering to music personally seen to, she didn't bother playing hostess. She spoke to only a few old acquaintances, all of them male, nearly ignoring everyone else. She could feel the leers of many male guests; could hear the resentful whispers and see the petty envy in their female companions. It barely registered. It was the same old play, the same trite script, holding only different actors.
Charles, her old friend caught her eye, and they shared a look of understanding, the same derisive amusement glittering in their eyes. They were wolves surrounded by sheep, all trying so hard to project images of wit and sophistication, sleepwalking their way through their mundane little lives. Charles had two women with him, one on each arm. Both of them were a pretty piece of goods, and while they lacked Coraline's style or charisma, both of them cut from the same coarse, cheap piece of cloth, they'd serve the purpose of satisfying their escort's appetite. She lit a sparkler, leaving him to his amusement.
She found her first smile tonight, thinking of her old friend. They'd known each other since America was embroiled in its Civil War, two Europeans looking for a little merriment in a fledgling country bathed in its own blood. There hadn't been many of their kind on the Western side of the Atlantic yet, so prey and territory were ripe for the taking. His name had been Colin Flynn in those days, and she Danielle de Gent, but they'd both changed little besides over the decades.
In each other, they found like minds, both invigorated by the challenge of breaking the other. They'd both launched a campaign of seduction, playing an invigorating game of cat and mouse. In the end, their little game had ended in a draw. That conclusion had ended their sexual affair, the appeal mysteriously gone, their reluctant affection and respect transferred to friendship. She valued his companionship, being as he was her only friend. Males had long ago been regulated to the role of toys, and women as rivals and irritants. Colin, pain in her ass as he may have been, was a rarity.
She drifted by the band. They wouldn't have been her first choice, as they were merely passable, but the band she originally hired had canceled at the last second, so she'd been willing to settle. At least, the vocalist had potential. He was probably too stupid and too loyal to realize he'd never make it to the big leagues with his band mates, and besides, his aura didn't suggest he'd do well in the cut-throat world of high-stakes showbiz. He was a little too innocent, a little too ethical. Not that Coraline had much to base her opinion on, but her gut reactions were rarely wrong, especially about men.
Still, he was easy on the eyes, and she guessed from the looks of things, his body would be something to appreciate. Oh, he was a little too gee-whiz for her tastes, too much a babe in the woods. She didn't bother with victims that didn't provide a little bit of a challenge.
"Something else, isn't she?" she heard one of them comment. She repressed a smirk, lingering to hear their conversation, more out of boredom than real interest as she idly paced. They were blissfully unaware of her supernaturally keen ears.
"Yeah, I wouldn't kick her out of bed for eating crackers," the singer agreed, idly plucking at his guitar. His name was Mick St. John, if she remembered correctly, which she usually did. There was nothing crass in his tone, which caught her attention.
"What I would give to home with that," the one who made the original comment said. She bit back a snicker. Not in a million years, Coraline thought to herself. About that time, she felt a quick, hesitant touch on her arm, from one of her many admirers, one that had been trying to work up the nerve to approach her all evening. She gave him a cold, level stare and he took the hint, blushing from embarrassment as he hurried away.
Obviously, someone in the band had a brain and a working sense of practicality, the drummer apparently. "Yeah, right. She drops more at Saks in a day than you make in a year."
Deciding to give Mr. St. John a thrill, since he wasn't acting like a pig, she turned, connecting their gazes, curious. Would he falter and get flustered? Would he leer, undress her with his eyes to fuel fantasies he'd have to confess to a priest later? He did what she thought was near impossible, surprise her. He did neither. He held her gaze, definitely interested, but there was nothing lewd there. A tiny challenge passed between them, and an unwilling smile overtook her lips, the first uncalculated one that held no malice she'd given to a mortal man in…over a mortal lifetime. Cursing herself, she quickly walked away. She knew he won round one, and she hated losing.
An hour later, she was confident of her strategy. She perched in a chair, letting her eyes rove over him. He made a point of not making a big ado about it, but she caught him sneaking little glances. After a few minutes, she caught his eye, discreetly gesturing for him to come over. She noticed him carefully glance around, not wanting to make a jackass out of himself. She kept staring at him, patiently waiting for him to make the connection. Finally, he headed over.
"Can't you guys play something that'll get this snore on its feet?" Like Charles, she found diplomacy dull.
She expected defensiveness or stammered excuses. All she got was a brief laugh and: "Like what?" It was the second time he surprised her in so short a span, and it intrigued her. Irritated her too for some reason.
"I don't know, like Wynonie Harris or little Willie John, or something with a little more rhythm." The stuff he'd been playing over the two hours was the stuff lullabies were made of. For a second, she wondered if he could even pull off her kind of music.
"Well, gee, I don't know if these people would like the devil's music." And a sense of humor too, she thought wryly.
"That's why I want you to play it."
"How about 'Good Rocking Tonight?'" he suggested, playing along with this game better than she would have guessed.
She stood so she could stare into his eyes almost direct. Men loved her eyes, poets had written sonnets about them over the many years, almost as much as they carried on about her lips. It was probably more lyrical than praising her ass or tits. "How about "Ain't that Just Like a Woman?" I think that would be much more shocking, don't you?"
If there was one thing that amused her, besides the hunt in all its forms, it was shocking people. This era, with all its conservative hypocrisy, made it so easy…almost too easy. But she didn't shock this one, this Mick St. John. Amused him, intrigued him, but didn't shock him. She'd just have to try harder. Besides, he had to be properly rewarded for salvaging this snooze of an evening, and punished, of course. Men needed a good dose of punishment every now and then.
"On one condition." His eyes were clear and earnest, and she almost recoiled for some inexplicable reason. For the sake of pride, she held her ground, stare level.
She decided to spare herself the time. "My name's Coraline."
"I didn't say what the condition was."
"That's always the condition." No matter how the story begun, it always ended the same, on her terms, and he'd be just like all the others. She gave him a lingering kiss on the cheek, almost pitying him, almost pitying herself. She walked away, and didn't look back.
All the same, she felt his burst of happiness, found it endearing against her will. She had to rectify this, had to prove him typical before he turned her all sentimental, only to make an idiot out of her. If you gave a man an inch…
Beth opened the door, her eyes going wide and her mouth slackening when she saw Josef standing on the other side of the door.
"You didn't checking to see who it was?" Josef clucked his tongue, shaking his head in mild disapproval. "For a reporter, you've got the Snow White thing going on."
"I was expecting Mick about this time," she defended herself. He was right though, she was getting a little lax. She was beginning to take Mick's protection for granted, assuming he'd always be there to save her ass. "Did he come with you? Is he parking the car?"
"No, but I did run into him a little earlier. He was on his way here, but couldn't make it. Can I come in, or should I pull up a chair and make myself comfortable?"
"Come in, sorry." Beth stepped aside, not worried about her safety. Josef might have talked big, but she was as safe with him as she was with Mick. Well, maybe her ego wasn't, but that was another story.
"Anyway, since I was on my way over, he asked me to relay the message something came up." Josef surveyed his surroundings, raising one eyebrow. "Well, isn't this quaint."
Her temper threatened to snap. "Look, just because a million bucks is play money to you-"
"Not what I meant. I didn't mean it was crap, just meant it was…all homey and feminine. I expected something more cutting edge from a bull-buster reporter." The comment might have felt like an insult, but from Josef, it just seemed like commentary.
"Whatever. So, what's so important to Mick I don't even rate a phone call?" She tried to keep the irritation out of her voice, knew he'd pounce on it, but didn't entirely succeed.
"Hey, grilling is your department, and I'm not my buddy's keeper. Still, it's cute you care so much. It's all…domestic."
Okay, that was an insult, but he was right, so she skirted the issue. "So, what made you decide to grace my homey little abode with your magnificent presence?"
"You've been looking into Sara's condition," he said bluntly. There wasn't any hostility to his voice, but it was obvious he expected answers.
"Yes." Any lies, any evasions would get her nowhere good. Not that Josef would harm her, but she still didn't want to piss him off. "Not that I thought it would do any good, I just thought…I mean, if there was any obvious answer, you would have found it by now. It's just my way of trying to help. I consider you…a well…maybe friend is stretching it, but-"
"An ally if nothing else," he finished for her brusquely. "I never thought your little quest wasn't well intended, I'm just warning you not to waste your time. I've spent thousands of hours on the subject, and even with my wealth, vast connections, and centuries of knowledge, I've come up with nothing, not a clue. You're won't do any better."
She bristled. He was probably right, but still…"I'm a reporter-"
"Well, color me impressed," he shot at her sarcastically.
"How did you even know?"
"I have more contacts than you'd think. They keep me well informed on any inquires on the subject," he assured her. "I don't think you'll have much luck. But…" he trailed off, a reluctant spark of something close to hope lighting his eyes. "If you do find something that'll even explain what I did wrong…needless to say I'll be very, very grateful." Then he was gone, leaving Beth to think about it.