Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors

       part  #4 of  Jane Jameson Series  by  Molly Harper / Fantasy / Romance & Love
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Author: Molly Harper

“Jamie, no!”

“Please!” he begged.

“Jamie, as long as you’re living under my roof, you’re going to follow my rules. And that means not feeding on my family members,” I told him.

“I hate you!” he yelled, stomping toward the stairs. Gabriel appeared at the kitchen door and grabbed Jamie’s arm, leading him from the room as gently as he could. Gabriel was murmuring soothing, mildly threatening words to my grumbling childe as he marched him upstairs.

“I have turned into my mother. ” I sighed. “Stake me now. ”

I turned to find my sister staring at me with a horrified expression on her face. “Oh, Jane, you didn’t!”

“What?”

“You and Jamie? What about Gabriel?”

“You just saw him. And it’s been great. Frankly, I need him around to control Jamie. ”

“Ew! You mean, he was with you when it happened?”

“No, Dick was with me when it happened,” I said, my brow scrunched in confusion. Jenny’s jaw dropped, and she let out a little squeak. “What? Oh! Ew! No! I didn’t sleep with Jamie, I just turned him!”

“You turned him?”

“I had to. ”

“I’m—I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I think I have to tell Mama!”

“You’re telling on me, seriously? Are you five? I didn’t have a choice, Jen. ”

“No, I don’t mean I have to tell her because you did something wrong, but you know what happens when I’m around her. She senses something’s up with weird mothering ESP, corners me, and the next thing you know, I’m spilling my guts. How do you think she found out about that time you and Zeb stole the garden gnome from Mrs. Turnbow?”

“That was you?”

Jenny ignored my indignation. “You know I’m going to end up spending a lot time with her with all this funeral stuff, and she’s going to want to latch onto anything non-funeral-related to focus on. Damn it, Jane, how could you put me in this position?”

“You’re right. How could I be so thoughtless?” I deadpanned.

“OK, fine, that was bitchy of me. But still. ”

“Can we go back to the sad state of mourning for our grandmother?”

“No way, sister. I’ve gone years without a legitimate reason to grill you—”

“And yet you did it anyway. ” I snorted.

“Right, so now’s my chance to put those skills to good use. ”

“Argh. ”

“So, you turned Jamie. How does this work? Did you have to drink all of his blood? Why is he staying with you? How does Gabriel feel about all this?”

“OK, first, no, I didn’t drink all of his blood, because he was hit by a car and was basically bleeding out before I could even get to him. He did drink a little of mine, though. ”

She sighed. “Poor thing. ”

“Yeah, he was pretty banged up. ”

“No, I meant you,” she said, grimacing sadly at me. “That had to have been scary. ”

I arched an eyebrow and waited for the punch line in which I was a horrible, immoral monster. But Jenny just reached out and squeezed my hands. “Thanks, Jen. It was. And now, because I’m the one who turned him, Jamie has to stay with me while he trains to be a grownup vampire. ”

“So it’s a mommy sort of relationship?”

“No! He’s my young ward. Like Batman and Robin. ”

“Wasn’t Batman’s relationship with his young ward—”

“Don’t start,” I grumbled. “There was never conclusive proof. ”

“And does young Jamie always wander around the house shirtless?” she asked, trying to sound nonchalant and failing miserably.

“Jennifer. ”

“What?” she asked, the picture of innocence. “I’m just curious. ”

“Can we go back to rarely speaking?”

Jenny snorted. “Hell, no. If I’d known your life was this entertaining, I would have wrestled you into submission years ago. ”

5

Feeding schedules are important. While your newborn childe shouldn’t wake up during the day, he will wake up far less whiny if he feeds just before sunrise.

—Siring for the Stupid:

A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Newborn Vampires

On the night of my grandmother’s funeral, two strange things happened. First, someone threw a recently detached deer head onto my front porch. Second, well, I’ll get into that in a bit.

Fortunately for me, Zeb came by the house during the day to retrieve a blankie left behind by the twins, and he found the deer head flung against my front door like a taxidermist’s Valentine. He disposed of it and hosed off the porch before Fitz could start rolling on it. He also called me to try to explain the situation and his theory that the venison delivery was the handiwork of the driver who had hit Jamie, but because daytime leaves vampires less than, well, conscious, I told him, “Take your muffins to Boston and shut it, Terrance. ” And then I hung up on him.

As the sun set, I snuggled into Gabriel’s back and tried to hang on to those last dregs of sleep. Anything to keep me from the evening looming over me. I was supposed to drop by my mother’s house in about an hour to visit with the last of the well-wishers. There was a little part of me that felt guilty for not being there for my mom while she buried her own mother. But Mama had assured me that she would be fine as long as I did my time at the visitation.

She may have phrased it in a different way.

Gabriel had been my rock for the last few days, which made up for the fact that he and Jamie had been driving me to empathize with those crazy housewives who flip out and poison their whole church congregations. With three women in the family, it had been like a war zone in my parents’ house for one week a month. And we still weren’t as whiny as those two little wenches.

Gabriel complained that Jamie got Fitz too riled up when they played. One of their more memorable escapades resulted in Fitz dragging Jamie out through his doggie door and knocking off a chunk of the doorframe. Jamie complained that Gabriel watched too much History Channel. Jamie drank all of the Faux Type O in the house and left his empties in a pyramid formation on the porch. I will not describe Gabriel’s reaction when he walked in on Jamie watching Jersey Shore. I couldn’t tell whether it was because of the age difference or the generational difference or the fact that Jamie figured out that appearing to flirt with me in any way made Gabriel’s fangs grind. Either way, it was annoying as hell.

I’d promised them both that one more fight over whose turn it was to take out the garbage would result in my drinking a dozen of Andrea’s espresso concoctions, enabling me to stay up after sunrise and rip their fangs out as they slept. That had managed to keep them quiet for about twenty-four hours.

Drawing on experience with her werewolf relatives, Jolene told me that this was very normal pack behavior, particularly in a pack where the males perceived limited resources. In this pack, the resource was my time and attention. It helped to try to see both points of view. Gabriel had finally gotten me to agree to marriage, to long-term commitment, and our lives had settled down a little, only to have the rug yanked out from under him and a new disruptive family member added to our household. And poor Jamie, he just recently had normal body parts arrive, and then suddenly he’s dead, drinking blood, cut off from his family, and having to entrust his well-being to his former babysitter. Plus, because the school board considered him dead, he was being home-schooled through the end of his senior year. No baseball. No prom. And the board wouldn’t budge on a nighttime graduation ceremony.

Overall, we were lucky that he only blew up at us and screamed, “You’re not my parents!” once every few hours or so. I’d asked Jolene for advice on how to bring down the tension in the house, but most of her suggestions involved rolled-up newspapers. Rolled-up newspapers are not a universally applicable solution.

Jolene’s information from her cousin at the DMV was equally unhelpful. There were no plates in that sequence registered to a rusted-out early-model black sedan. There was a very similar plate registered to a pickup truck that had been sent to a car cuber in Monkey’s Eyebrow three years ago. So, my proactive bent to find the driver who ran Jamie down was at a temporary standstill. At least until I could get my own crime lab and analyze the paint samples scraped down Big Bertha’s body.

Why now? Why would someone want to hurt me now? It had been months since I’d had trouble with anyone. And the deer head on my porch was a troubling development, especially when combined with the dream about the angry guy on my lawn. I couldn’t help but feel that I was missing something. Something important. If I could just connect all of the pieces, I could fix it. Car accident … deer head … Gabriel … angry redneck.

And that was the moment when my brain pushed through that final layer of sleepy awareness and came fully awake.

Damn it.

Rubbing at my eyes, I reached toward the nightstand and grabbed my cell phone. Jenny had been texting me updates throughout the day. Most of it was stuff like “Aunt Maisie threw herself on top of the casket. Again. ” Or “Mama saw what Cous. J. is wearing and said the f-word. Wish I had video cam. ”

Scrolling through her texts, I smiled, although I was sorely disappointed to have missed Mama dropping the f-bomb. Jenny had, however, had the presence of mind to use her phone to snap a photo of Cousin Junie’s ensemble—what looked like a low-cut backless black top and a leopard-print wrap skirt better suited to the poolside than the graveside. I burst out laughing, which made Gabriel stir beside me.

Shaking my head, I texted back that I was sorry I had missed it and would see her soon. So far, the mourning process seemed to have brought the three of us closer together. Heck, Jenny and I had actually shared a couple of bemused smiles at the visitation, when Junie showed up with her signature “Hot Dog Bake” and insisted that Mama have some to keep up her strength. And Mama was deeply appreciative when Jenny distracted her long enough that I could dispose of the offending mix of hot dogs, crushed Ritz crackers, and cream of mushroom soup.

Yack-worthy casseroles aside, the visitation had been surprisingly pleasant. In Half-Moon Hollow, visitations were held on the evening before the burial, giving the community the chance to offer condolences to the bereaved and help them consume the overflowing buffet of condolence foods. It is believed that the deceased soul will not be able to pass over to the Great Hereafter unless all humans in attendance are stuffed to the gills with grits casserole, deviled eggs, and funeral potatoes. These foods are to be present at every stage of the mourning process, from comforting family members immediately after the death to the luncheon after the burial. If at any time an empty plate or serving platter is spotted, the shabby, halfhearted treatment of the deceased will be the talk of the town for months.

So, when the sun had set the night before, I had showed up with the requisite buffet offerings, although the very smell of homemade pimento cheese had made Gabriel roll the car windows down just so the ride would be bearable. I’d taken my place at Mama’s side in the receiving line, which, as Southern Funeral Law dictated, included anyone who had ever met Grandma Ruthie or anyone she was related to by blood or marriage. And a few people had actually shaken my hand, despite the fact that it obviously made them uncomfortable.

As a human, I’d done everything possible to avoid these situations. And other than being seriously wearing on my mental shields, it had been downright tolerable. Maybe it was better simply because Gabriel had been there. For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to attend one of these things alone. It had been almost disorienting how sweet it was to feel his hand at the small of my back as I walked across the room. I didn’t get the pitying “you poor spinster librarian” looks. There were no pointed questions from Mama’s friends about when I would settle down. Bessie Paxton didn’t even make a snarky remark about the “stress” I’d put my poor grandmother under, something she did regularly when Grandma Ruthie was still alive.
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