Nice girls dont bite the.., p.13
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.13

         Part #4 of Jane Jameson series by Molly Harper  
Page 13

  Author: Molly Harper

  Researching the various ways to evict my lifeless freeloader gave me something to think about, besides the gigantic pile of wedding-planning books Mama had left on my front porch that afternoon.

  The Vegas route was looking better and better.

  I already knew a little bit about ghosts, thanks to my experiences with Mr. Wainwright and Aunt Jettie. For instance, spirits are not confined to specific places. They can wander as far as their energy can take them. Aunt Jettie had always had the energy of a hyperactive kindergartner at naptime, so it was no wonder that it took her six days after the passing of her sister to touch down finally at River Oaks. Since Grandma Ruthie’s spectral presence had been popping up all over the house and generally making a nuisance of herself, I wasted no time in breaking the bad news to her.

  Aunt Jettie responded by cackling. “Oh, sweetie, I know!” she crowed. “That’s where I’ve been the last few days. All of Ruthie’s exes got together as soon as they heard, and they’ve been throwing a party like you wouldn’t believe down at the cemetery. ”

  “Nice,” I muttered as Mr. Wainwright shared a commiserating glance with me and shook his head at my dead aunt’s doing the cha-cha around the parlor. Gabriel and Jamie appeared in the doorway. Gabriel chuckled at Jettie’s antics, but Jamie, who didn’t quite understand why there were transparent people in the living room, rolled his eyes and went to the kitchen for a bottled blood.

  Aunt Jettie stopped two-stepping long enough to smirk at me. “There are a quite a few men around this town who have been waiting for this day for a while now, Jane. ”

  “So, if you knew Grandma Ruthie was here, why did you stay away for so long?” I demanded.

  Aunt Jettie’s misty form stopped in its tracks. I would say that her face went pale, but ghosts pretty much corner the market in pale. I guess spirits turn sort of bluish-gray when they’re shocked to the point of vomiting ectoplasm. “That’s not funny, Jane. ”

  “Oh, I’m not laughing. Grandma Ruthie has decided that she’s going to haunt me out of the house. ”

  “Oh, hell, no. Ruthie!” Jettie yelled. “You get your skinny ass down here!”

  I waited, but Ruthie didn’t respond.

  “Ruth Ann Early, I’m calling you! Don’t pretend you don’t hear me!”

  “Can she just ignore her?” I asked Mr. Wainwright, who nodded sagely.

  “Absolutely. We don’t have to answer one another,” Mr. Wainwright said. “Though certain humans with necromantic or medium abilities can call upon the dead and compel them to answer, spirits do not have any authority over one another. ”

  “Though it’s pretty damn rude for someone who claims to be such a paragon of good manners!” Jettie yelled, glaring at the ceiling.

  The windows and the china-cabinet doors began swinging back and forth. A clay handprint I’d made Jettie in third grade tumbled from a shelf and shattered. Gabriel crossed the room, prepared to protect me from flying objets d’art. Jamie came rushing back into the living room.

  “The fridge door came open and smacked me in the face,” he said indignantly. The purpling bruise on his forehead was already receding, but I could tell that Jamie was more afraid than hurt.

  “Does it seem odd that she’s advancing so quickly?” Gabriel asked. “At this point, most spirits haven’t accepted their passing yet. Doesn’t it take weeks to build up this kind of kinetic energy?”

  “Well, she always did succeed by being a pain in the ass while she was alive. Why not now?” Jettie called out.

  There was an increased burst of activity. The curtains flapped like linen flames leaping from the windows. The cabinet door slammed against the wall so hard that the glass shattered. Figurines danced on the trembling shelves. And then, suddenly, nothing. Absolute quiet. Jamie seemed to relax instantly at my side, mirroring my movements like a nervous puppy.

  “That hit a nerve,” Jettie said nastily.

  “What happened?” I asked. “Why did it die out so suddenly?”

  “I would say her tank ran out of gas, so to speak,” Mr. Wainwright said. “You said she appeared to you before, Jane? That she was able to speak to you for several minutes? She managed to seal a door shut? She made you uncomfortable by changing the atmosphere of the room?” When I nodded, he said, “For a new spirit, that would take a lot of energy. I would imagine she will be quiet again for a few days after this display. ”

  “It explains why we hadn’t heard from her again until now,” I mused. “So, she’s just lurking around in the ether, watching us and saving up her energy?”

  “Essentially,” Mr. Wainwright responded while Jamie declared that it was “uber-creepy. ”

  “I have a few books on the subject at the shop. ”

  I had the urge to kiss Mr. Wainwright on top of his balding, insubstantial head. “Of course you do. Any chance she could decapitate a deer and leave the head on my front porch?” I asked. They gave me twin expressions of confusion and concern. “Probably not. Hey, can’t you just kick her out of the house?”

  Jettie grinned at me. “You mean, a ghost fight?”

  “It’s the opportunity you’ve been waiting for all of your life. ”

  “It doesn’t work like that, honeybunch,” she said, her vaporous white hand caressing my cheek like a cool breeze.

  “But you touch objects around the house all the time,” I insisted. “And you and Mr. Wainwright touch each other in ways I don’t even want to think about. ” Beside me, Jamie shuddered.

  “Yes, but I choose to touch those objects. I choose to allow my energy to interact with Gilbert’s. ”

  “Hold on a second,” I said, holding up my hand. “Deleting that mental image from my memory … and done. Please continue. ”

  Jettie sighed at my emotional immaturity and said, “If I took a swing at Ruthie, she’d just let that punch flow through her like water. And the same goes if she tried to hit me. We’d just be swinging back and forth until the end of time. And as much fun as that might be, I don’t want to devote my afterlife to a catfight with your grandma. ”

  “Oh, fine,” I grumbled halfheartedly.

  She crossed her scrawny arms over her chest and gave me her best impression of a stern look. “Now that the excitement is over, would you mind telling me who this handsome fellow is and what the hell you’re doing wearing an engagement ring?”

  “I ask myself that, too,” Jamie muttered. I smacked him on the back of the head while Gabriel glared.

  “Aunt Jettie, you remember Jamie Lanier. Jamie had a little accident a while back, and I had to turn him. He’s staying here with us until he learns the vampiric ropes,” I said, condensing the tale considerably. Jamie shot me a grateful glance, as if he was glad not to have to live the whole tragic mess again. He gave Auntie Jettie a winsome, though fanged, smile. She winked right back at him.

  “And the ring?” Mr. Wainwright demanded.

  “Oh, we’re engaged,” Gabriel said, his tone playfully dismissive.

  Aunt Jettie squealed loudly enough to make those of us with superhearing clutch at our ears. She threw herself at me, attempting a hug without concentrating, and went through me. I shuddered against the clammy “got into the shower too soon” sensation. “I’m so happy! Oh, Gabriel, honey, I told you she’d say yes eventually!”

  “I just had to wear her down,” Gabriel conceded.

  “Well, I’m just as pleased as I can be,” Jettie crowed, sitting down on the couch as Mr. Wainwright’s ghostly form hovered near and bussed a frosty path across my cheek. Jettie demanded all of the details of how Gabriel “wore me down. ” She cooed and “awwed” appropriately over Gabriel’s choice of proposal mediums, while Jamie rolled his eyes and made little “cracking the whip” noises under his breath.

  “You do realize that I’m sitting right here, yes? That I can, in fact, hear you?” Gabriel asked him.

  Jamie nodded. “
Yeah, pretty much. ”

  Gabriel growled. “Look, you—”

  “Guys, not right now, all right?” I sighed. “I can only handle so much family dysfunction in one evening. Grandparent hauntings trump irritable male vampire posturing, hands down. ”

  “I think Jane could use some air. Dealing with Ruthie always did take the wind out of her sails. Why don’t you two go for a nice little walk, while we get to know Jamie? We’ll pop over if there’s any trouble. ”

  Jamie seemed distinctly uncomfortable at being left alone with two dead strangers. “Um …”

  “Sweetheart, I hate to break it to you, but you’re the closest thing I’m going to get to a great-grandchild,” Aunt Jettie said as Jamie awkwardly settled next to her. “You’d better get used to me. Besides, I can give you all of the dirt on your dear sire. Humiliations galore. ”

  Jamie rubbed his hands together in gleeful anticipation.

  “Oh, yeah, well, when we get back, we can talk about my dented eyebrow,” I retorted as Gabriel pulled me from the room. Jamie blanched. “That’s right, Mama reminded me of the water-gun incident. Vengeance will be mine, Lanier!”

  Gabriel dragged me out the front door, toward a path through the woods to the old cow pond. The words “cow pond” may not evoke images of the world’s most romantic spot. But with the night birds chirping and the stars winking softly overhead, it was a pretty pleasant place. Gabriel demanded all of the details of the water-gun incident. He was simultaneously entertained and indignant on my behalf.

  “Your childe should have more respect for you, Jane, even more so if he damaged your head in his human life,” he chided.

  “I think we can agree that my head was bound for damage, with or without Jamie’s help,” I retorted.

  “You know what I mean. Your guilt has kept you from being strict with Jamie. You’re trying too hard to be his friend, not his guide through his perilous first year as a vampire. ”

  “Have you been reading Jolene’s parenting magazines again?”

  “Yes, and that doesn’t mean that what I’m saying is untrue. You need to keep a firmer hand with Jamie. ”

  “Oh, like you kept with me?” I snorted.

  “That was different,” he insisted.


  “Well, my interest in you was romantic. I didn’t want to push you away, though, in the end, I guess I did that anyway. If anything, you should learn from my mistakes as a sire, not repeat them. ”

  “Look, I know it’s been different since Jamie moved in. I know it’s an adjustment. We just have to make the best of it. Sure, Jamie can be an annoying, hormonal, self-centered, stubborn, lazy, sarcastic …”

  “Where are you going with this?”

  I frowned. “I’m not entirely sure. I know that deep down, he’s a nice person, but he does the most ridiculous, thoughtless, boneheaded crap. He pulls this whole ‘Oh, you can’t be mad at me because I’m winsome and adorable’ thing. Sometimes I honestly think I’m going to kill him. It’s just so freaking dysfunctional. He wants me to take care of him, but he resents my treating him like a child. He’s scared of growing up, but he clearly doesn’t want me taking care of him. I’m having a really hard time finding the line to walk here. And the last thing I need is you chiming in, telling me that the little progress I’ve made isn’t healthy. Can we just not talk about this right now? Can we enjoy the fact that we’re together, out of the house? I miss being alone with you, having you all to myself. ”

  Gabriel looked the slightest bit ashamed and pressed a kiss at the corner of my mouth. “You miss being able to have sex in the living room. ”
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