Moonlight doesn't belong to me. It's just a place I go to play.

xxxxxxxx

Josef sits across from Castillo watching the man, judging how much resolve he has for this plan of theirs. He smiles to himself; it will be a pleasure to kill him. Coraline had to know when she sent him here that he would never return. She cannot be so stupid to believe that Josef will let him live. He knows that if she gets to Beth, she will kill her and there will be no real trade. She hates Beth too much to let her go. Not for love or money.

Lorenzo watches Josef and again realizes how powerful this old vampire is, but not today. Today, Lorenzo has the power. "We have your woman and your friend. If you do not do as I say Coraline will kill them."

Josef smiles thinly at Lorenzo. "First I will never bargain for Mick. We made that pact a long time ago. We are brothers, but we won't be used against each other. We both make too many enemies for that. As for Beth, you are incorrect. You do not have her and as long as she stays free, your life is forfeit."

Lorenzo watches Josef warily as Josef picks up the saber off its display stand behind his desk. "You know, the last time I held this cutlass, I killed a woman who was close to five hundred years old. I cared about her for almost three hundred of those years. She betrayed me, and I killed her with this very cutlass. I've known you for let's see…. For three months… what do you think your odds are?"

Lorenzo gulps. He realizes he's not likely to make it to five hundred.

Lorenzo eyes him warily. "We have her. She walked into our trap. She is locked up with St. John."

Josef laughs. "No, you don't." Josef stands up and starts to pace the room.

Josef decides the best thing to do is to stall and see how this develops. As long as he's tapped into Beth and knows she's safe he can wait for her to call and tell him where she is.

Castillo looks confused. "Have you spoken to her?" Josef shakes his head. "How could you know that we do not have her?"

Josef laughs again. "You have no idea what she can do, do you? Remember the night at the party when you approached her?" Lorenzo nods. "When you came to the party, was that your intention?"

"No, not at all. I went there to see if I could assess what I was up against so I could challenge you for control of the city. It was a stupid mistake that made you put up your defenses."

Josef nods. "I agree. I would not have seen you coming quite so readily. You should not have approached the one person; I would risk anything to protect." Josef shakes his head. "I know that you don't or can't understand this, but she has a power about her that is compelling. In four hundred years I have loved, slept with, and bitten a fair number of women. I like them, I respect them, and I treat them well. I have never met one like her. The emotional connection with her is so overwhelming that Mick and I both are addicted to her.

Josef is punctuating his sentences with the cutlass in his hand. He doesn't want Castillo to forget that he could kill him in a heartbeat. Josef looks off into the distance feeling for Beth. "Yes, she's quite safe. I assure you of that."

Castillo shakes his head. "I still do not understand why you do not kill each other. Especially if, as you say, she is so intoxicatingly addictive."

Josef snort. "You and me both. All I can tell you is, if it were anyone else in the world, I'd have dropped him into a hole without a second thought. The other thing I've seen little of in four hundred years besides a woman like Beth, is a friend like Mick." Josef smirks, "I don't know who it would be worse to lose." Josef shakes his head. "Mick is closer to me than anyone else except Beth." Josef smirks. "And that's only because I don't sleep with him."

Xxxxxxxxx

Mick hears the click of the lock on the cuffs and Elaina smiles down at him. "You are free." She gently removes the cuffs and watches the burns on his wrists immediately start to heal.

He rubs his wrist and smiles at her. "Thank you. Now let's see about getting out of here."

Mick realizes what their makeshift cell was when Josef owned the house. "This used to be a wine cellar. If we move this cabinet right over here that we will find a passage." Mick quietly moves the cabinet and indeed behind it is an arch leading to a passageway. "Come ladies let's get you to safety. Mick enters the passage and once they are inside with him, he moves the cabinet back into place as best he can. Hopefully they will not notice it has been moved for a while, and he can get the women to safety.

There is nothing but inky blackness. There is a squeal of rodents making their objections known about being disturbed. He can see in the dark, but they cannot so he moves slowly. Even his eyes have limited sight in this darkness. "Don't be afraid. It isn't that far and then when we are out of here, you will be able to see again."

Mick sees the end of the tunnel. He knows how hard it is for the two women to move through the darkness and not make any sounds of fright. "We are almost there."

They reach the end of the tunnel and Mick finds the entrance blocked by bars. Julia starts to weep silently. Mick smiles at her, "Don't worry. We aren't trapped." He walks over to the bars and they bend easily under his strength. "Come ladies. We need to find a safe place to hide you, and then I'll settle with Coraline."

Mick sees his car sitting there waiting for his return. It was nice of them to bring it to him. "Can either of you drive a stick shift?"

Julia nods. "Yes. It has been a long time, but I believe I can still do it."

Mick nods. "Good. See that green Benz sitting by the front gate?"

"Yes."

"I'm going to go over and take care of the guards and then I'm going to see about starting it up. When you hear the engine please come running. Is there a safe place for you? Somewhere Castillo doesn't know about? Someplace safe until this is over, because once it is over, he will be dead, and you won't ever have to worry about him again."

Julia nods. "Yes, I know a place."

"Good. Wait forty-eight hours and then call me."

Elaina kisses his cheek "Thank you Mr. St. John and good luck."

Elaina sees the look in his eyes and the smile on his face. She sees that neither has any pity in them, and it gives her a shiver. "Luck is going to have nothing to do with this. It's time to put an end to this. Now remember as soon as you hear the engine come running."

Without another word Mick moves off to the car. He sees that there is only one guard anywhere in the area. Coraline must have them all out searching for Beth. He makes quick work of the guard and sees that someone has hot-wired the car to get it here. He quickly repairs the damage and puts the key in the ignition, and she roars to life. He looks up and Julia is standing next to the driver side as Elaina gets in on the passenger side. Mick moves out of the way and she slides in behind the wheel. "Now remember, keep going until you get to safety. No stops."

Julia nods. "Thank you, Mr. St. John. If there is ever anything, we can do for you or Ms. Turner..."

Mick smiles. "Be safe." And he watches as the car speeds away.

Mick starts to jog back towards the house. He stops under the window that Beth jumped through and smiles. Something catches his eye and he looks around and he sees a silver phone glinting in the moonlight. He picks it up and flips it open. It's Beth's. That explains why she hasn't contacted Josef and she's still out there on her own. He punches up Josef's number.

Josef looks down as his phone starts to ring. He turns to Lorenzo and smiles. "I'm going to go ahead and answer that. I'm sure you don't mind."

Lorenzo nods mutely at Josef. Their plan has gone terribly wrong. He was supposed to have Josef on his knees by now begging for his woman's life.

Josef knows from the ring tone that it's Beth's phone. Whether or not it is Beth is another matter. He picks up his phone and flips it open. "Hello?"

"Josef, do you have Lorenzo with you?"

"Matter of fact, I do. Do you know where our girl is?

"Not yet, but I do know they don't have her, and she's not hurt. I found her phone."

"Yes. I got the same thing from her. You were the only question. How are you doing?"

"Fine. Castillo's pretty wife donated, and I got her and her mother out. They are on their way to safety. I'm going back in for Coraline. This ends now. I don't want anyone, especially Beth to have anything to fear from her again."

Josef smiles and eyes Lorenzo. "And I'll take care of things at my end."

Mick smiles grimly into the phone, "Works for me. I'll see you when it's done. Oh, and Josef, tell Beth I love her." And he hangs up.

Beth finally reaches the small town. Quickly she walks to the gas station. "Hi, "she gives the man her best smile. She reaches out trying her best to charm him. "Can I use your phone? I've lost mine and really need to make a call." She remembers what Mick said about vamp appeal.

He smiles back at her. "Of course, Miss. Here use this one right here and he moves the phone around to face her."

"Oh, thank you."

Beth picks up the receiver of the old rotary phone and dials Josef's number.

Josef looks at Lorenzo once again. "I seem to be very popular at this moment. One moment and we will finish our discussion."

Josef doesn't recognize the number, but he knows its Beth. "Hey babe."

"Hey, Mick's in trouble and I need a ride."

"He's fine. I just spoke to him. He's going to deal with a problem and then call back. How are you?"

"I'm fine. I'm in a small town east of the house. Can you come get me?"

"Oh, I'll be on my way in a couple minutes. I have a small problem to take care of myself. I'll be there as soon as I can. I love you."

"I love you to Josef." And she hangs up.

Lorenzo sees the look on Josef's face and knows he is the dead man walking that Kostan decreed him to be those months ago. He looks down as his phone begins to ring.

Josef motions with the sword. "Please be my guest."

Lorenzo picks up the phone. "Hello?"

Coraline is surprised he is still alive but pleased. "You need to get out of there. If he finds out, we don't have the girl he will kill you."

Lorenzo snorts. "I'm afraid it is too late for that."

"Let me speak to him."

Lorenzo holds out the phone to Josef. "She would like to speak to you."

Josef leans over and takes the phone with his left hand. At the same time neatly separates Lorenzo's head from his shoulders with the cutlass in his right hand. "Hello Coraline."

"Josef, I have Mick, and I will kill him if you do not let Lorenzo go."

"I don't think so."

"You don't think I will kill Mick?"

"No, I don't think you have Mick, since I just spoke to him. Do you have phone service in his cell?" Josef hears silence from Coraline. "I thought not. Coraline, I think you should worry for yourself and not so much for Lorenzo."

"Josef let him go."

Josef laughs into the phone. "Too late." And he hangs up.

Mick hears a blood-curdling scream. He smiles. Apparently Coraline knows he's not where she left him.

Josef heads for the Escalade and starts dialing as soon as he gets the big SUV in gear. "Al, take a few of your guys and head out to that house I use to own out in the foothills. Mick is out there facing off with Coraline and I once he takes care of her, he's may need a ride out. Assess the situation when you get out there and call Victoria if need be. I'm on my way to pick up Beth."

"On my way Josef." He hangs up.

Josef punches up the house. "Robert, call Victoria. There is a mess in the study."

"Already done. I take it you are going to get Beth?"

"Yes. I'll be back after I drop her at Mick's."

He hears Robert sigh in exasperation as he hangs up.

Josef drives through the early morning thinking about Beth and Mick. These two are going to drive him crazy. He smiles at the thought of his crazy extended family he's compelled to love and protect. He shrugs. It is what it is.

He pulls up in front of the small gas station. Beth comes charging out of the shadows from between the buildings. Josef reaches across the seat and pops the door open. She jumps in and slams the door behind her. She throws her arms around his neck and kisses him. She backs up and smiles at him. "I'm so happy to see you."

"I'm happy to see you too. I could feel that you were ok, but it's better to see you and know you're ok." Josef swings the SUV around and heads for Mick's.

Beth turns in her seat. "Where is Mick?"

"I told you he's taking care of a problem."

"Meaning he and Coraline are finally going to end it once and for all."

Josef looks at her. "Yes. I sent Al and a few of his people out there. We should know something soon." He glances at her. "You know Mick has to do this; he has to be the to put an end to Coraline. It will give him far more peace in the long run if he knows without a shadow of a doubt that she's true dead." She sighs but nods, knowing he's' right. "Mick did say that he got the women out that you went in to rescue in the first place. He also asked me to tell you he loves you."

Beth silently nods.

Mick starts jogging back again towards the house. A man comes out of the dark and Mick remembers him. He was the one that shackled Mick with the silver laced cuffs. Mick senses Coraline's mark on the man. Mick sees the gun in his hand and moves in close before Dugan can even pull the trigger. Mick snaps his wrist and the gun drops to the ground. Dugan screams from the pain and anger. Mick lets his predator out and the man is dead before he hits the ground.

Now to find Coraline. He walks into the house and mentally reaches out to try to find her. He sees her descending the staircase. He watches her make a grand entrance like she is walking into the court of the king. Head held high, smiling like the royalty she was. He shakes his head sadly when he thinks of all her history, all that knowledge. It's a shame she is such an evil bitch.

He watches her and notices that she carries two cutlasses. When she reaches the bottom of the stairs, she doesn't say a word, she tosses one of the weapons to him. He pulls the blade from its scabbard and fingers the blade and lets it cut him. It's plenty sharp and should work fine for what he has in mind. He looks at it and smiles. This is the cutlass she taught him to use long ago, in between the craziness.

Mick gives her a thin smile. The blade feels good in his hands. The muscle memory returns instantly.

Years ago, Mick told Josef that Coraline was teaching him to use a cutlass, Josef offered to teach him much more. Josef and he sparred relentlessly when Mick thought he was going to have to kill Coraline. Josef understood, all too well, his friend's desperation to be rid of her.

One good thing about having a friend like Josef, who was four hundred years old. For him to survive Josef has learned to use every weapon imaginable at one time or another. Josef was a good teacher. He knew that the most important thing for Mick to learn was how to use the sword to kill quickly.

He grimly thinks she must have known that someday it would come to this. It is the only way noxious relationships like theirs ends, with one of them dead on the floor in a pool of their own blood. The question is, now who will it be?

He realizes that they came to this road together and until today he wasn't really prepared to kill her. He tried out of desperation to save Beth when she was a child, but even then, it was desperation not a goal to be achieved.

They nod to each other, and the dance begins. They move back and forth, testing the limits and skill of the other. He knows he must not let on to the extent of his skill. He must be able to lure her into the false hope that she can beat him. He knows she is good with these blades, but he needs to be better. He lets her catch first blood. She nicks his side, which hurts like hell, but heals immediately. He wonders when the last time she fed was. If it's been awhile, it could slow down her ability to heal. He has Elaina's blood coursing through his body, and he feels good.

Mick feints to his left and catches her right shoulder and the blade slides in deep. She screams and drops her cutlass. She grabs the shoulder in pain. The arm hangs uselessly at her side. She leans over in pain but tries to move out of Mick's rang. She looks up and sees nothing in his eyes, no pity, no regret, just her death as he brings the blade down cleanly on her neck. This is one death she won't be coming back from. He stares down at her body for a moment, he glances up as he sees Al walk through the door. Mick uses his foot to roll Coraline over. Her body is face up and he plunges the blade through bone and cartilage straight into her heart. She at once poofs int a cloud of ash.

Mick nods. "It's done. We're going to need a cleanup."

Al snorts. "More like a dustpan."

Mick smiles coldly. "There are a few more dead than Coraline."

Al leans back into the SUV and brings out a rag and hands it to Mick. Mick wipes the blade clean and returns it to its scabbard. "I'll call Victoria and stay here until she and her people show up. Do you need a ride?"

Mick nods. "Sent mine off with the damsels in distress."

"I've got a spare set of wheels if you want to take off." Al tosses the keys to him.

"Thanks. I'll do that. Do you know if Josef found Beth?"

"He was on his way to pick her up when we left the mansion to come here."

Mick visibly relaxes. "Then everyone is safe."

Mick drives through the morning sun. He can't wait to get home to see her. They have nine months left before she leaves again, and he intends to make sure that it's a happy nine months.

Josef pulls into the parking spot at Mick's. "We're here. Do you need me to walk you up?"

"Nope. I'm fine…. thank you for coming to get me."

Josef snorts. "Like I would leave you anywhere by yourself. You know better than that." He leans over and kisses her on the cheek. "You take care and say hi to Mick for me."

Beth caresses his cheek. "I love you and I'll see you in nine months."

Josef nods. "Now get going or it's going to be much sooner."

She kisses him quickly and slides out the door and heads up to the apartment to wait for Mick.

Josef puts the car in gear and starts to back up when Mick pulls up. Josef stops and Mick opens the door and slides in. "How is she?"

Josef shrugs. "Fine. You were as good as your word. You kept her out of Coraline's hands."

Mick nods. "Only because, for once, she did exactly as she was supposed to. She ran like hell."

Josef starts the engine of the Escalade. "Well, I might as well get going. Take care of her."

Mick walks into the apartment and Beth is in his arms before he gets the door closed. Yes, it will be a good nine months.

Xxxxxxxx

Josef walks around his office and smiles. Victoria's people are so good at getting the blood out. He sits behind his desk and taps the desk for a moment deciding the best course of action. The Duval's need to be notified of Coraline's demise, but he needs them to cool off before they find out all the details. They may not of have liked their younger sister, but she was still their sister. He taps his phone and waits for a moment.

"Josef? As I said the last time, what's wrong?"

Josef leans back and stares at the ceiling. He glowers at a speck of blood someone missed. "Coraline Duval is dead."

There is silence for a moment as Vanessa doesn't know quite yet whether it's appropriate to laugh or not. She decides it is, if it's done softly. "Good. It's about time. Did you kill her?"

"No. Mick took care of that problem."

"Huh. So sireacide."

Josef scrunches his nose. "Did you just make that word up?"

"Yes, I did but it fits. Mick killed his sire so it's sireacide. Are you sure he succeeded this time?"

"Yes, my people saw the body or what was left. Even Coraline doesn't come back from a pile of ash. He didn't just cut off her head he drove the blade through her heart."

"After what she did to him and to Beth it's long overdue."

Josef hesitates for a moment. "What do you know about what she did to Mick and Beth?"

"Josef." She admonishes. "You've talked for years about how much help Mick's been. Then you call me about your friendship with a reporter, who you are subsequently going to turn. What do you think I'd do? I'll tell you." She plunges on not letting him interrupt. "Deep dive investigations, that's what."

He can tell by something in her voice that she's not telling him all of it. "There's more, isn't there?"

Vanessa sighs. "There's always more but that's for another day."

Josef pinches the bridge of his nose not sure what any of that means. "Do you think you can use your contacts to surreptitiously get word to the Duval's that Coraline is dead. They need to know but without a lot of information. I want them to cool off before they find out Mick took her head."

"Sure. My intel people will take care of it. Now, when are you three coming to New York?"

"Vanessa." He growls "When it's time. Give us some room to get settled."

"By Christmas then." She says and hangs up.

Josef stares at the phone and scowls. He loves her but that woman can be such a pain in the ass.

xxxxxxxxx

Ok, it's been fun...Love to know what you thought...I'll post the next one as quick as I can.