Nice girls dont bite the.., p.16
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.16

         Part #4 of Jane Jameson series by Molly Harper  
Page 16

  Author: Molly Harper

  I smiled fondly at him, because I knew he was painfully correct, and nodded to the trunk at the end of the bed. He sat down and folded his long legs under his butt, like a child waiting for story time. “Did I ever tell you about my first night out as a vampire?”

  He shook his head, and I felt very remiss in my duties as a sire. Mine was a cautionary tale that should be printed and handed out as a “how-not-to” pamphlet for young vampires as they entered the undead social scene. He said, “You’ve mentioned something about freaking out and trying to bite Zeb. ”

  “Well, there was that. But I’m talking about my first night out as a vampire, out on the town. Back when Andrea was human. She took me out to this vampire sports bar, the Cellar. It was a completely respectable, nondangerous place. So, really, we should have been fine. Andrea had a little too much to drink. I ended up pouring her into my car and running back for my purse, only to find that the bartender was getting roughed up. ”

  “By Dick?”

  “By some lowlife who thought that being a vampire was a good excuse to shake money out of food-service workers, as opposed to getting a job. ”

  “So, it was Dick,” he said as if I was missing his point.

  I glared at him. “Would you let me tell the story?”

  “Said lowlife, whose name was Walter, by the way, turned his less-than-honorable intentions toward me. We ended up brawling in the parking lot. I held my own until Walter tried to crack my skull like a walnut with his bare hands. I kicked him in the nuts. And Dick stepped in to chastise me for unsportsmanlike conduct. That’s how we met. ”

  “So, the point of this story is … don’t go out drinking with Andrea?”

  “No. Well, actually, yes. That’s a pretty important life lesson. But the point of the story is, after the fight, I ended up being accused of Walter’s murder. After meeting me just once, Dick was willing to speak up for me to the Council, to help me clear my name. Even though it was clearly in his interest to stay far away from any sort of law enforcement. That’s just the kind of guy Dick is. Once you’re his friend, there’s nothing he won’t do for you. And yeah, I do trust him. Because I know exactly how sneaky and underhanded he’s capable of being, but he’s never lied to me—even when it would have been better for him if he had. That matters. ”

  “You’re happier now, aren’t you?” he asked, sort of squinting at me as if he was seeing me for the first time in a long time. “You weren’t ever this … settled before, content, I guess would be the word. You were always sort of sad and stressed out whenever your mama would drag you to church or family stuff. I always figured it was because, well, you were with your mama. ”

  I snorted. “You weren’t wrong. ”

  “But you were sad, as a human. ”

  “I don’t know about sad. But I was lonely. There were things in life I was missing, and I didn’t even know it. My life is more now. I have more. And yeah, I had to give up some things, but in the long run, it’s not so bad. ”

  He took a sip of bottled blood. “I feel like I should be different, somehow. I never really liked baseball all that much. I mean, I was good at it, and my dad wanted me on the team, but it wasn’t like I woke up in the morning excited because I got to play. And now it’s not really an option, and I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do with myself. But I’m scared to try anything new, in case, you know, I go all crazy and evil. ”

  “I was afraid of that, too. But that’s not really the way it works,” I assured him.

  “Are you the same sort of person you were when you were human?”

  “That’s a good question. I don’t think my essential makeup has changed. I still believe in heaven and hell. I still believe that a person should do whatever they can to prevent hurting someone else. Then again, I’ve killed someone. I’ve nearly been killed myself. I’ve got blood … or dust on my hands. And that changes you. But you’re so young, you were bound to change, whether you were human or vampire. ”

  He frowned. “So, it’s OK if I don’t want to be Mr. All-American Jock anymore?”

  I put a hand on his shoulder. “OK, but you should be warned, if you start wearing guy-liner and go all Prince of the Undead on me, I’m going to pull embarrassing mom stunts, in public. Calling you ‘sweetie’ in front of your peers. Discussing your showering habits and questionable stains in public. I’ll put my heart and soul into your humiliation. ”

  “Why would you do that?”

  “To amuse myself. Seriously, do you pay attention when I speak?”

  He rolled his eyes and ignored the potential “moming” of it all. “You think I’ll be happy?”

  I shrugged. “What do you want me to say? ‘Be a good boy, say your prayers, eat your vegetables, and everything will turn out fine’?”

  “Obviously, the vegetables are a no-go, but I wouldn’t mind a little smoke blown up my shorts,” he deadpanned.

  I ran a hand over Gabriel’s forehead. I sighed. “Say your prayers. Drink your blood. Be nice to your sire. And everything will turn out fine. Was that enough smoke?”

  “Yes, thank you. ”

  “What are sires for?”

  8

  Take the time to get to know your childe. What were his interests before he died? What were his hobbies? Knowing how to reward your childe goes a long way in raising him to be a responsible, nonhomicidal member of society.

  —Siring for the Stupid:

  A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Newborn Vampires

  I considered it a sign of how much I loved and trusted Dick that nearly twenty-four hours had passed, and I hadn’t automatically assumed that he had absconded with my cash. Gabriel was resting comfortably, only waking every few hours to feed, smile weakly at me, and then fade back into sleep. Dick returned the next night. He strolled casually through the door with a cooler full of blood and made it look as if he wasn’t scrambling up the stairs to check on his old friend.

  I was sitting on the window seat, watching Gabriel sleep, and reading Jane Eyre while I wound the gray “heartstring” around my finger. Andrea was running the shop. Jamie was downstairs, considerately playing a quiet game of Madden on our unaccounted-for Wii with Zeb. Jamie was chugging bottled blood as if it was getting ready to expire, but so far, he was handling his first prolonged vampire-human interaction like a champ. My ghostly surrogate grandparents were roaming the property, thoroughly upset with themselves for not being able to find any sign of the arrow-slinging hunter in the woods. It was bizarre. There wasn’t a footprint or a broken twig to be found.

  “My buddy at EKU says thanks for the fiver,” he said, waving a manila envelope as he came through the bedroom door.

  I snorted. Eastern Kentucky University was the site of the only forensic science program in the state. The idea of Dick waiting around in a college lab while a graduate student in an ironic T-shirt did our dirty work made me giggle. “Your buddy did this for five bucks?”

  He smiled indulgently, kissing my head as he handed me the envelope. “Five thousand. ”

  I closed my eyes and reminded myself that Dick had just done me a huge favor. And that I would have to replenish my “the end is nigh, run like hell” cash stash in the library.

  “Was there change?” I asked. Dick smirked at me. “Never mind. ”

  Zeb walked into the room, nursing a sore gamer’s thumb. “Oh, good, I was afraid you’d already explained it to her. ” I shot Zeb a confused look when he gingerly sat on the foot of our bed. “What? If I miss stuff, it takes me forever to catch up. ”

  “I’ll spare you a night spent poring over that expensive, not-user-friendly report. My buddy Denny said the arrow’s shaft was soaked in concentrated amounts of liquid caffeine, aspirin, and warfarin, none of which was listed on the arrow’s manufacturing label. ”

  Dick and Zeb looked at me expectantly.

  “What?”

  Zeb gave me a “hurry up” hand gesture that looked alarmingly mimelike. “This is normally the part where you tell us what that means. It keeps us from having to look stuff up. ”

  “We hate looking stuff up,” Dick added.

  “I don’t know everything. I’m not omniscient. ”

  “Well, she knows what ‘omniscient’ means, which still puts her ahead of us. ” Dick snorted. “Fortunately, Denny attached a note to the report. Warfarin is an anticoagulant, once commonly used as rat poison. Large doses can cause damage to capillaries, increasing their permeability, causing diffuse internal bleeding. Combined with aspirin, which would increase the effects of the anticoagulant, plus caffeine to dilate the vessels and speed up the process. Soak a porous wooden arrow in that stuff for a few hours, fire it at an unsuspecting member of the undead community, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a scary stigmata vampire. Gabe’s body couldn’t metabolize the blood because it was too thin. His own blood vessels were practically dissolving; it had no place to go but out. Eyes, nose, and mouth were the most convenient exit. ”

  “Is there anything we can do for him?” I asked.

  Dick shook his head. “Replacing his blood is a good first step. The next step is fresh-frozen plasma, which I happen to have stashed in my car, and massive doses of vitamin K are another. I brought enough for all of us to take so he’ll absorb it when he feeds from us. The fact that he’s not rejecting the blood anymore is a good sign. Give him a day or two; he should be up and around. Have you called Ophelia?” he asked.

  “Not yet. I wanted to know what exactly we were dealing with before I called,” I said. “I have no doubt she will come by with her trademark sarcasm, and we’ll all feel less than placated. ”

  “You know she’ll ask you who you think did this. Any clue?”

  “I’m not even sure whether the happy archer was aiming for me or Gabriel. He covered me at the last minute, so the arrow could have just as easily hit me. ” I shook my head. “And the DMV lead was a bust. Have you heard anything about a rusted-out black sedan getting repairs at any of the local shops?”

  “I put an ear out at all of the junkyards and body shops that specialize in junkers. None of them saw any car with the kind of damage that would have come from ramming Big Bertha. ”

  “I know I said I was going to be proactive about finding who hit Jamie, but I just haven’t had time. Clearly, leaving it alone for even a few days was a mistake. ”

  “Well, it’s not like you haven’t had other things going on. ”

  “No excuse,” I said. “I’m not going to let this escalate like I have with all of the thundering loonies I’ve encountered in the past. This bullshit stops now. ”

  I picked up my phone and dialed Ophelia’s number. She didn’t pick up, sending the call to a pretentious voicemail message about subjecting her consciousness to stuttering, incoherent messages that amount to nothing. I rolled my eyes and shut my phone.

  “You know where Ophelia lives, right?”

  He groaned. “Jane. ”

  “Dick,” I shot back in the same exasperated tone.

  Dick squeezed my shoulder. “You know, I’ve noticed that you’re OK when someone comes after you. But someone threatens your boyfriend and your dog, you go a little nuts. It’s scary as hell. ”

  “I am fiercely protective of the people … and canines I love,” I said. “You know, that circle includes you. ”

  “I know it, Stretch. ”

  I gave him a pointed look, to which he responded with a cross-eyed grimace. He sighed. “I’ll take you there, but if she asks, you’re holding me hostage. ” When I laughed at him, he exclaimed, “She’s scarier than you!”
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