Nice girls dont bite the.., p.12
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.12

          part  #4 of  Jane Jameson Series  by  Molly Harper / Fantasy / Romance & Love
Page 12
Author: Molly Harper

“Do you know who that is?” I asked quietly as I took off my heels. I’d learned from experience that trying to fight in pumps got you nowhere.

Jamie’s mouth flapped open like a guppy’s. The passenger door popped open, and I saw Jamie’s mother jump out. I saw now why Jamie was so paralyzed by the approach of the truck. Hell, seeing the look on Rosie Lanier’s face, I was a little afraid.

Apparently, Ophelia had informed Jamie’s parents who had sired him.

I remembered Rosie Lanier as one of those impeccably dressed moms who managed to traverse a muddy soccer field without dirtying her Naturalizers. Her once carefully maintained mane of blond was dull and stringy, sticking to her red, blotchy face. It looked as if she hadn’t removed her mascara in days. And as she stormed across my lawn and lunged at me, I could see that not only were her shoes muddy, but they didn’t match.

“How could you?” she demanded, slapping me across the face. “How could you do that to him?”

My cheek stung from the impact, but I accepted it. I was inclined to think that I deserved to be hit, whether I’d saved her son or not. I couldn’t bring myself to lift my hand to stop her, even as she shook me so hard my earrings clattered to the gravel.

This was just not my day. Night. Whatever.

“You killed my son!” she screamed, rearing back for another blow. Mr. Lanier stepped out of the truck. He was staring at Jamie, watching his son with a mixture of horror and uncertainty. I was yanked inside his head before I could stop myself. His thoughts were a dizzying tidal wave of love, horror, relief, regret, and overwhelming fear. He’d never thought he would see his son alive again, and, well, he wasn’t really, but he was moving and talking and staring right at them. And while he wanted to run to him and throw his arms around Jamie, he was struck still by fear. Would Jamie hurt them? Try to bite them? He knew that I was a vampire and that I’d never hurt anyone. But did that mean that his son was safe? Should he be moving closer to protect Rosie from us?

At this point, I wanted someone to protect us from Rosie.

Gabriel came rushing out of the house just as Rosie backhanded me.

“Mom, stop!” Jamie cried, grabbing at Rosie’s wrists.

“Rosie, please,” Mr. Lanier said softly, stepping closer.

Mrs. Lanier shook off Jamie’s hold. He let her shove him away as she seethed. “You killed my boy, you monster!”

“Mrs. Lanier, I’m so sorry. I didn’t have a choice. ”

“Don’t you talk to me about choice, you murdering bitch!”

As she stalked closer to me, Gabriel stepped between us and took hold of the arm that she was swinging at me. “You need to calm down, ma’am. ”

“Hey!” Jeff yelled. “Get your hands off my wife!”

“Gabriel, go inside,” I said in a low, even tone. He hesitated, but I leveled a “don’t argue” gaze at him. “I can handle this myself. ”

“I’ll be right inside,” he said. He looked toward Mrs. Lanier and added, “Watching. ”

“Mom—Mom, I’m standing right here!” Jamie cried. “Can you at least look at me?”

“Mrs. Lanier, you’ve known me since I was a little girl. Do you honestly think I would have hurt Jamie? Would I have bitten him if it wasn’t absolutely necessary?”

“I don’t know who you are since you became this thing!” she shouted at me.

“This thing is just like your son. Jamie’s the same sweet kid he always was, just a little different now. You have an amazing opportunity here. You almost lost your son, but you can still talk to him. You can still hold him. And tell him you love him. Can you honestly say that you don’t want that?”

“I don’t know!” his mother shouted.

“You don’t know?” Jamie and I chorused.

“What do you mean, you don’t know?” Jamie demanded. “I’m your son!”

“You’re a vampire,” she shot back. “You drink blood. You’re dangerous. We weren’t even allowed to know where you were until today, ‘for our own protection. ’ Did you think we were going to bring you home with us? Did you think we’d let you near your sister?”

And by the look on Jamie’s face, I realized that yes, Jamie did expect to be taken home. Even though we’d explained that he was staying with us for the time being, he’d expected to go home with his parents. And he couldn’t comprehend that it wasn’t going to happen that night. It might never happen.

Suddenly, I realized that my mother was not so bad.

“Mom,” Jamie said, his voice dangerously close to a sob as he stepped forward and took her hand. “Please!”

“You stay away from us!” she yelled, stepping back toward the truck.

“You can’t just cut him off like that!” I exclaimed.

She yanked the truck door open. “I can do anything I need to do to protect my family. ”

“He’s your son!” I cried.

Rosie slammed the truck door, but Jeff gave Jamie one last sad look. Quietly, he said, “Our son is dead. ”

The engine roared to life, and the truck thundered back out of the driveway. I watched the taillights dim in the distance, mesmerized by the fading color. Jamie sat down on the porch steps with a thud. Although he was naturally quite pale, his face seemed ashy gray.

“Well, I don’t have to worry about school anymore,” he said. “Or baseball or college. ”

“I’m so sorry. ”

He sighed, running a hand through his hair. It was a manly, though weary, gesture, and he might have pulled it off, if not for the faint bloody smudges of vampire tears around his eyes.

“It’s OK to be upset, Jamie. There’s nothing wrong with being hurt when your family rejects you. And it could have been worse. Gabriel’s family tied him to a tree and left him out for the sun. ”

“Yeah, I guess. ”

“My mom keeps trying to force-feed me pot pie,” I added.

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Have I not mentioned the ‘solid foods make us vomit’ thing?” I asked, cringing. “There’s a whole thing with our enzymes—well, a lack of enzymes. The bottom line is that all human food will now taste like wet dirt and gym socks to you. ”

“I’ve been too thirsty to think about it,” he said, his brow furrowed. “But now it makes a lot more sense that you don’t have any food in the house … Well, this day just keeps getting better and better. ”

I smiled at him sympathetically. “It’s OK. You know, you’ve adjusted to this new life pretty well, considering. You haven’t had a big freak-out moment. I had several when I was first turned. You haven’t tried to run away. You haven’t tried to attack a bus full of nuns. As your sire, I’m very proud of you. ”

He groaned. “What is your deal with the busload of nuns?”

“It’s an interesting visual,” I said, shrugging and pulling him to his feet. “Come on, we’ll go inside, and I’ll warm you up a bottle of blood. ”

“What about your mom? Weren’t you supposed to go over there tonight?”

“I’ll call her and tell her I can’t make it. She’ll be fine. ”

Unfortunately, Rosie Lanier managed to call my mother before I did. Mama took time out of her busy grieving schedule to call me and yell like I haven’t heard since that time she found the belly-button ring I’d sported for a grand total of three weeks in college.

“Oh, Jane, how could you?” Mama cried, so loudly that I had to pull the phone away from my ear. “You were doing so well, not eating people. ”

“I didn’t eat him, Mama, I was saving his life. It was either this, or he was dead. It was the same sort of situation I was in, injured and not likely to get medical attention in time. Jamie asked me to turn him, just like I asked Gabriel to turn me. Would you have rather Gabriel just left me alone to die because he was afraid of upsetting you?”

“No, honey, you know that. It’s just—Oh, how am I going to face Rosie?” she fretted. “This is so much worse than that time Jamie threw that water pistol at your head and left you with that little divot in your eyebrow. ”

The aforementioned dented eyebrow winged up to my hairline. I’d completely forgotten about that. Jamie’s mom had made him pay for my emergency-room deductible with his piggy-bank savings and birthday money. But he never pitched another tantrum while I was babysitting him. I was so bringing that up later.

Mama’s insistent voice jerked me out of my thoughts. “Aren’t you worried about what people will think?”

“When have I ever worried about what people will think?” I asked.

“That was before you owned a business that depended on the goodwill of your neighbors. ”

Dang it, she made a good point. My vampire and werewolf customers wouldn’t care much about my emergency sire status, but a sudden exodus of walk-in human customers would hurt business. I would have to talk to Andrea about increasing our online sales presence, just in case.

“I’ll be fine, I promise. ”

“Well, what does Gabriel think of all this?” she demanded.

“He’s fine with it,” I said, my voice rising to an octave only Fitz could hear. From across the kitchen, Gabriel gave me a sardonic little frown.

“Honey, you have to be careful. You’re in a very delicate stage in your relationship right now. You’re living together. Gabriel’s finding out about all of your annoying little habits. ”

A little huff of outrage escaped my mouth. “What annoying little habits?”

“You’re discovering things about each other every day, not all of them good. Most of them not good,” Mama continued without pause. “And you’re not married, so Gabriel practically has an escape hatch built into the back door. And then you add an attractive younger man to your household—he’s practically an adorable baby bird with a broken wing. This is going to add stress to your already fragile relationship. ”

“Fragile?”

“It’s like you’re trying to chase Gabriel away. ” Mama sighed. “You’re not getting any younger, you know, honey. ”

“I’m not getting any older, either. ” I snorted.

“You know what I mean!” she exclaimed. “It’s like you’re trying to sabotage your relationship. Don’t you want to get married? Don’t you want to make a commitment to Gabriel?”

And suddenly, we were right back to the sort of conversation human Jane would have had with her mother. Obviously, Grandma Ruthie’s death had sent Mama into a regressive tailspin.

“Actually, I’m not worried about making a commitment to Gabriel, because we’re already engaged. Have been for a couple of weeks now. ‘K ‘bye!”

I hung up the phone, despite Mama’s overjoyed shrieks, and banged my head against the countertop.

“I’m going to kill Ophelia for this. I don’t care how many intimidating quips she throws at me. Her adolescent ass is mine. ”

6

A word about romantic relationships between sires and their children. That word is “complicated. ”

—Siring for the Stupid:

A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Newborn Vampires

For the record, exorcisms are not as easy to perform as you would think.

For one thing, when you cast a spirit out of the house, you have to be very careful to name a specific spirit, or you could bar other ghosts, namely Mr. Wainwright and Aunt Jettie, from ever coming near the property again. And second, if you do the rite with enough conviction, you can cast those spirits into the next plane whether they’re ready to move on or not. So, in other words, if I messed with forces I didn’t understand, I could accidentally send my most cherished relative to that big University of Kentucky basketball game in the sky.
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