Chapter one

He smelled them coming before they were off the elevator, calmly logging off the local news website.

"Oh goodie, the lovebirds. To what do I owe this pleasure?" Mick bit. He always did.

"Can I borrow the car, Pops? " Oh no. Look at him. He thinks that's clever. Mick in love was the sappiest man on the planet.

"No. And consider it your very good fortune that I am not your sire. Now, really, it's Saturday night, and theoretically, you should be painting the town red. Pun intended." Beth smiled and Josef focused his attention on her. Wanted to make her squirm a little, just for fun. "She's dressed to kill, Mick, not visit your old friends," never taking his eyes off Beth, who blanched accordingly. Mick never noticed.

"Theoretically, no literally, so should you. What are you doing here?"

"Just finishing up." Mick looked at him and something registered, but made no sense, so…."Is that a bowling shirt, Josef?" Josef rose from his chair, turned slowly around, looked over his shoulder and replied, with a flutter of his eyelashes "It is. And while you're showing so much interest in my garb, do you think these jeans make my ass look big?" Beth thought not, Mick just shook his head, resigned.

"The ladies want to go bowling." They tried, really hard, but burst out laughing. "I know, I know. But I can deny them nothing. It's Alicia's birthday and I promised her whatever party she wanted. And you might be surprised to know that I was Iowa state champ, 1948." The giggles turned to roars. Josef fixed Beth with his gaze, twirled his imaginary moustache. "I am a man of many esoteric talents."

"Iowa! What were you doing in Iowa!" Mick nearly choked through his laughter.

"It's where they held the championships."

"Can we come? Please? I have got to see you in rented shoes. I have to sit down." Chuckling, and wiping a tear form his eye, Mick took a seat. "Bowling" he said under his breath.

"Hey. Vampire here. I heard that. And no, I promised the girls, just us and a very few nice, unattached young men for their pleasure. They'll be here any minute. With my shoes. And ball." Mick slumped on his chair as another round of laughter overtook him. "Own ball……" he gasped.

"Here's Alicia now." The elevator doors opened and sure enough, off stepped one of Josef's beauties . In a black bowling shirt with her name on the pocket. And, Beth noticed as she passed on her way to Josef, "Freshies" and blood tipped-bowling pins on the back. Yes, Josef knew how to throw a party.

Alicia went to Josef. "Snack?" He kissed the offered wrist instead.

"Come, my dear, your minions await you. Catch you two later."

"Can't Mick come? We like Mick", Alicia pouted. Josef rolled his eyes, God help me, "Whatever you wish. It's your party. And you'll get to know Mick's friend, Beth." Alicia's smile sagged for a moment, but one look at Josef and it returned, brighter than ever. Tugging his hand like an anxious child, she pulled Josef toward the elevator, toward the night.

Beth could not believe it. She'd expected to steal a quiet moment with Josef, voice her fears at Mick's curiosity about the sudden death of the paparazzo, get some reassurance and spend the evening trying very hard to get Mick into her bed. Alone. Instead, she sat in a stretch Hummer filled with Josef's stable of Freshies, in matching bowling shirts, no less, drinking champagne and heading for a bowling alley. Where, she suspected, her humiliation would be the thorough and complete.

At least her curiosity might be satisfied. She'd never understood how he kept all these women living happily with him and each other. She'd heard of his legendary loyalty to them, but at first glance, they were just girls and she didn't get it.

"Beth", said Josef from his seat across from her, "They don't all live at my house. Just Alicia, Ashley, Britt, Marena, Trina and Zora. In alphabetical order." She was so obvious, turning her head this way and that, counting.

How did he know? Could he read her mind? And, if so, did he now realize that she was scared and annoyed and horny and just wanted to get home with Mick? Wanted to be close, so close he wouldn't leave if he found out. Mick, who was smiling and chatting with Trina and Britt. While she was forced to listen to an account of Mick's kindness and chivalry from Suze, a part-timer with an Amazon queen body and a doctorate in neurophysiology who clearly thought Beth would help her in her quest to get Mick into her bed. Or at least get him to take a taste.

"Ahhh…Yep, 'fraid so", Josef grinned. Of course, he had absolutely no idea what she was thinking, but figured, rightly, that the odds were she was asking if he could read her mind and he was really beginning to enjoy screwing with her head. One good turn, he thought.

A squeal from Ashley, "We're here!" She was a great girl, with an extremely rare blood type, but Josef would have to remember never to pick an Ashley again. The last one had squealed, too.

Mick helped Beth out of the car, draping an arm around her shoulders. "This should be something. Josef, in public, bowling….Wow." As Beth entered through the door he'd opened, she blinked. Said, "Wow is right." The place was clearly closed to the public. No plastic chairs for Josef's well-mannered bottom. Large, soft couches, slick leather chairs at the score tables. One side of the room set up for some sort of live music, and a DJ spinning what had to be Alicia's favorite tunes, Beth could not imagine Josef enjoying Mariah Carey. Tables of gloriously arranged food, a hot dog stand and tuxedoed waiters carrying trays of delicious looking hors d'oeuvres. And several astoundingly good-looking young men, some of whom were already suckling delicately at the wrists of a very different kind of server.

"This is actually fun", thought Mick as he gestured and screamed "Get back!! Get back!" as he watched Beth's ball head directly for the gutter. Again. He hugged her as she bowed her head in mock humiliation. "Never fear, milady I shall save the team!" He grabbed his ball, knocked over 3 pins and added "Next time."

Josef, of course, was coming very close to throwing a perfect game. Again.

It was great, doing a very mundane human thing, Beth smiling, laughing, dancing when the mood struck her. His heart was so full if her. And Josef, he really loved Josef, too. He was one of the best of them, he loved his girls and his friends and his life and was always protective of everyone he loved. Yea, for the moment, life was really good.

His reverie was broken by Suze, the Amazon "friend" of Josef's who Mick felt had way too much interest in him, who grabbed his hand and said "We're dancing Mick, now", as she dragged him off to that part of the alley and plastered herself to him. Oh boy, another night beating back Suze. He kept looking toward Beth, hoping she'd see his pain and rescue him for a change, but he saw she was engaged in what looked like some pretty serious conversation with Josef. What was that about, come on, party over here. Josef sensed him, smiled, and lifted his glass of blood to him.

"Beth, I will not have this conversation here, not tonight. Mick knows nothing and I will do my utmost to keep it that way." Josef was not a happy vamp. He was having fun, he had an unnatural love of parties and maybe Beth's paranoia was partly his fault, but now was not the time and Mick was not stupid. " Come to my house Tuesday, dinner at seven. And please, go save Mick before Suze suffocates him. It's not even a ballad anymore. Come on." took Beth's hand and rocked her over to Mick. Josef pouted at Suze, tapped Mick's shoulder and asked, "May I?" Mick looked like he might kiss Josef. "Thanks, Suze," Mick smiled. He raised a questioning eyebrow at Beth, who smiled and nodded and went into his arms. Just that quickly, the music changed to something slow, 40's, romantic. Over Mick's shoulder, she saw Josef whisper something against Suze's cheek, then move to her neck. Eyes change color, fangs extend and then all she saw was the excited smile on Suze's face, and her body reacted.

"Hey baby," Mick growled into her ear as she snuggled closer, "Time to go?" She nodded, afraid to speak, afraid her voice would betray the excitement her body felt. Mick glanced at his watch, habit, and was shocked to find it was 5 a.m.

"Josef, I can't remember the last time I had this much fun", Beth smiled and kissed his cheek, "Thank you for letting us come."

"We'll do it again some time. But not at a bowling alley, I hope. Once every sixty years is plenty for me. Just get our boy back to his freezer safe and sound."

"Thanks, Josef. Listen, let me know if you've got a minute later, there's something I'd like to talk to you about", Mick added. Just then, Alicia came up and wrapped her arms around Josef. "Can we go now? You promised…." Josef turned to Mick with a smile.

"That, my friend, depends entirely upon what the lovely Alicia has planned for me now".

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