Sorry I've been so long, had some RL issues. Here's the next chapter—hope you like. The bad guys are closing in~~~~~~~~

Chapter 7

A short knock on the hotel door brought the bodyguard to attention. It was past midnight and the Comte had told him to expect a visitor. They were in a vampire hotel in Sacramento, the capital of California, and the visitor was a distinguished vampire State Senator.

The Comte de Valbonne heard the knock and came quickly into the suite's sitting room. "That's fine, Bruno, you may wait in the bar downstairs." The bodyguard gave him a look, and the Comte waved him away. "Don't worry, I can handle our visitor. Come back in an hour."

Without a word, Bruno opened the door allowing a well-dressed vampire, looking about 45 enter the room. The man's strong features were not particularly handsome, but put together they were attractive, with graying hair. Bruno left, closing the door.

The Comte moved forward, "Senator MacKay, thank you for coming. Please sit and may I offer you a drink?"

Unsure but gratified by the older vampire's greeting, he responded. "Yes, that would be fine." The Senator was used to dealing with all kinds, both human and vampire.

Khan had come to California under his alias of Comte de Valbonne to undermine the current Elder, Josef Kostan. The Comte had his plans for the Council in New York, but needed to consolidate power in the second largest vampire population in America.

He provided the Senator with blood and champagne and sat across from him. "I have a proposition for you."

MacKay regarded the foreign vampire warily. "What kind of proposition?"

Valbonne smiled. "One that will be favorable, I assure you." He leaned forward and started to talk in a low voice.

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Beth breezed into the West Side Donation Center to find Guillermo. She noted with approval that the waiting room was full of college students using the free Wi-Fi on their phones or laptops. Business had been good with the word spreading on campus about the center and the high pay for blood donations. Guillermo was proving to be an excellent manager, making sure medical standards were maintained and the rarer blood types were channeled to hospitals. Vampires would have paid a large premium for the rarer types but both Guillermo and Beth were adamant that medical facilities receive them.

Beth found Guillermo in the back office on his computer. She smiled. "Hi, G. How are you?"

"Hey, Beth." He leaned back in his chair, returning her smile. "I'm good, thanks. Been busy."

"I can see. Is everything going all right?"

Guillermo turned the computer screen so she could see. "Yeah, we're doing pretty well. We're not making a huge profit after overhead and all, but it's good for now."

"I don't think this is ever going to be a moneymaker." Beth commented. "We just wanted to get our supplies organized after that mess a few months ago."

"Well, the other shop is doing almost as well." Terrance, the other vampire that worked at the morgue with Guillermo ran a second donation center, also near a large university.

"Great." Beth pulled out some papers from her briefcase. "I have some marketing ideas for the internet." She handed them across the desk. "Take a look and let me know what you and Terrance think."

Guillermo glanced at them and nodded. "I'll get with him in the next night or so and get back to you."

"Good. Guess I'll run—Mick's at home and I haven't seen him much, it's been so crazy."

"Beth, hang on a minute." Guillermo said, frowning. "You know we have a vamp on duty to distribute the blood. Over the last week or so, Charlie's noticed some rough looking characters buying blood."

"What do you mean?"

"He said they were tough, like military or security guys. Most of them with foreign accents. They pay with cash and don't give names."

Beth frowned. "How many have been here?"

"Charlie said there are three different guys, but they buy enough blood for at least eight vamps."

She shook her head. "We can't refuse them if they haven't done anything. But I'm concerned that they're strangers."

"Yeah, but we don't know every vamp in town." He shifted in his chair. "They could be transients or maybe our new shop pulled them away from their regular supplier….."

"Could be." Beth said slowly. "I'll mention it to Mick and see what he thinks."

"Good idea." Guillermo responded. "I'll ask Charlie to press them to see if they want to set up an account. Most of our regulars have one. Better for the bookkeeping."

"All right. See you soon G." Beth left, thinking about the strangers. She did have a partially completed database with a lot of the vampires in the greater LA area. That was one of the areas of her job for Josef, but she was still working on it.

When she got to the loft, she was happy to see Mick's car. Since they returned from New York, they tried to make at least one night a week for date night and that was the plan for tonight. She entered the living quarters and scented he was in the office, alone. She peeked around the door, drinking him in with her eyes.

Mick looked up from his paper-covered desk and smiled cheerfully at her. "Hi, babe."

"Hi, yourself." She came to him, heedless of the papers and leaned over with her arms around his neck kissing him soundly. Mick pulled her closer, inhaling her unique scent which always made him feel like home. Unbidden, his eyes silvered over and his fangs grew when he nibbled her earlobe. He stood up, holding her closer. He had grown used to feeling whole after she came into his life and it was something he never wanted to take for granted.

"Ready for tonight?" He said softly into her ear. He could feel her relaxing with his touch.

"Hmm. Yes, I just need to change. Where are we going?"

"I thought we'd drop in at the Blue Moon. I heard they have a new group that plays good jazz."

"Okay, I'll be ready in a few." Beth moved with vampire speed to their room and found a flirty red dress with spaghetti straps. She matched it with some gold jewelry and kitten heels. An evening bag completed the outfit and she was back downstairs in a short time. Mick, of course, didn't have to do anything to look drop dead sexy in his dark blue shirt and leather jacket. He eyed her approvingly. "You look delicious."

"You're not so shabby yourself." She purred, slipping her arms around him under his jacket. He grinned and kissed her forehead. "Let's go."

They drove with the top down enjoying the coolness of the night. Beth wanted to talk to him about Guillermo's concerns, but it was their date and she was hesitant to talk shop.

They settled into a booth at the vampire club, far enough away from the band for conversation. The group was good, and Mick was enjoying himself. They ordered blood and scotch and enjoyed the music. Mick rarely frequented the clubs except when Josef dragged him out. It reminded him too much of the bad times with Coraline. Beth was glad that he now seemed more comfortable and willing to socialize with the vampire community.

She didn't see much difference between vampire and human clubs except for the choice of beverages. She was aware that most of the wait staff were male or female freshies who provided live refreshments. Unlike Mick, she didn't have any issues feeding fresh, but it was inconvenient to have parades of humans traipsing in and out of their home. As she got to know more vampires in the community, she found it was rare to have live-in donors like Josef. Thinking of Josef prompted her to ask, "Mick, did you hear anything else about John Whitley?"

Beth heard about Whitley's death from Mick, and was sorry that Josef had to deal with the reminder of Sarah only a couple of months before his wedding with Simone.

Mick turned from watching the band to respond. "Josef hasn't said anything, so I guess things have been settled."

She nodded. "I hate that he has to deal with all that right before the wedding. I know Simone understands about Sarah, but it's got to bother her."

"Yeah, Josef would cut off his arm before he'd admit he still feels guilty about Sarah after all these years."

Beth snuggled a little closer to Mick. "I hope there won't be any problems before the wedding. Simone's already up to her neck with work."

Mick nodded, his focus on the music. He scanned the crowd absently. He had become more familiar with the vampire community in the last year, having been to more functions that he usually attended. The club seemed to have quite a few unfamiliar faces than he remembered. He leaned over to Beth. "Sweetheart, are there more transient vamps in town lately?"

Beth looked up at him. "I don't know, I'm still working on the database. It's hard to pin down every vamp and some don't want to be on anyone's list. Why?"

He tilted his head toward the bandstand. "It seems like there are some guys I don't recognize."

Ever inquisitive, Beth peered in the direction Mick indicated. She saw some heavily-muscled vamps, sitting off to the side, a couple of them with glasses of refreshment and a couple with freshies in their laps, enjoying a fresh feed.

"I was going to tell you that Guillermo's had some strangers buying blood lately. He said they were foreign vamps that looked pretty tough."

"How many?"

"Guillermo said only three have been there to buy blood, but they're buying in quantities."

Mick looked thoughtful. He didn't want to panic, but he didn't like the look of the strangers. Of course, they could be perfectly innocent vampires just moving to LA, or passing through. Vamps weren't known for staying in one place for very long. Mick and Josef were some of the exceptions, and they had been lucky. Mick kept under the radar and Josef used his money and influence.

"I didn't know if it's anything to worry about sweetheart but I'll have a talk with Bella and the Cleaners."

"That's good. Now I just want to concentrate on you. Wanna dance, handsome?"

He gave her a lop-sided grin. "Thought you'd never ask." He rose, holding out his hand for her as they moved through the crowd to the dance floor.

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The Senator left the hotel after several hours of cross-questioning and negotiation. He was quite satisfied by what he'd heard from the self-styled Comte. MacKay had put himself forward in society and for the last twenty years had been successful in politics, first an attorney, then judge and now State Senator. He couldn't run for governor or any national office as there would be too much publicity and questions could be asked. He'd also had to age himself with touches of gray to his naturally dark hair. MacKay knew his days on the political scene were numbered. The Comte had offered him something he couldn't refuse—to be Elder and head of all the vampires in the Southwest Region with a healthy stipend from Valbonne. Moving to Los Angeles and into the private sector would be the break he needed to start again. MacKay was sorry Josef Kostan would have to be eliminated, but a vampire had to look after himself.

Up in the hotel suite, Valbonne was having a congratulatory drink. Things had gone very well. The Senator had given Valbonne invaluable information about Josef Kostan, and his associates, as well as his friend and enforcer Mick St. John. He had names and addresses of other prominent vampires in the city. Now they only had to be taken down. Once that was accomplished, the Senator could take over as Elder, with Valbonne pulling the strings. The timing was perfect as the Senator needed to get out of public life soon. He would be a good front for Valbonne's rule.

Valbonne turned his thoughts to New York. He had to find a way to get the Council members out of the heavily guarded building in Manhattan. He had several ideas, but in the meantime he needed to cause some trouble in LA.

He smiled to himself and picked up his telephone.

TBC

Things are going to get ugly for our vamps. Next, unexpected trouble and Josef gets the point.

Thank you for reading!