Nice girls dont bite the.., p.21
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.21

          part  #4 of  Jane Jameson Series  by  Molly Harper / Fantasy / Romance & Love
Page 21
Author: Molly Harper

I turned over the tag and saw that the dress was my size. Obviously, the wedding-dress gods were smiling on me.

“Can I try it on?” I asked Claire.

“I don’t see why not. Just avoid any sausage balls. ”

“Not a problem. ”

“It’s been dry-cleaned, right?” I heard Andrea ask as I went back into the dressing room.

I slipped the dress on, and it seemed to caress me like water sliding down my skin. It was light and comfortable. There was a smattering of beadwork along the empire waist, emphasizing the elegant bell of the skirt. The hem was scalloped with lace and beadwork. The sleeves were short and capped and actually made my arms look long and graceful.

I wanted to be married in this dress. That special feeling that all brides talk about? Finding “the one”? This was it. I ripped the curtain back and stepped out. Andrea and Jolene squealed. Confirmed!

“Oh, my gosh, it’s so beautiful,” Andrea gushed as Jenny clapped her hands over her mouth.

Jolene’s face fell from its usually luminous smile. “But wait, it’s a rental gown. People have worn it before you. It’s used. ”

“It’s vintage,” I corrected her.

“It’s icky,” she mewled.

“I wore vintage at my wedding, and you didn’t say it was icky,” Andrea said, her brow lifted.

“I did, you just didn’t hear me,” Jolene retorted, wincing when Andrea punched her arm. “Ow! This is what I get for hanging out with vampires. My aunts tried to warn me. ”

“Your aunts are vicious bitches,” Andrea shot back.

Jolene shrugged. “You’re not wrong. ”

“Hello, can we refocus on my bridal hotness?” I demanded, gesturing to the long, slender lines the dress somehow “magicked” onto my body.

“Jane, I think we need to go with a ball gown and a long-sleeved jacket,” Mama was saying as she emerged from the back room. She stopped in her tracks when she saw me and tilted her head, her expression confused. “Oh, well, that’s nice. ”

“Nice? Mama, that’s gorgeous,” Jenny said, stepping closer so she could examine the beading. “Really, really beautiful, Jane, and so completely you. ”

“It’s so nice to hear you say that and know you don’t mean it as an insult,” I told her. She nodded as she bent to examine the hem.

“But it’s gray,” Mama said. “And it’s not a wedding dress. ”

“But it’s an Austen period dress,” I objected.

“We could definitely build a theme around the dress,” Iris offered.

“But it’s so plain,” Mama whined. “And I’m just not getting the ‘bridal’ feeling from it. ”

“But I am getting a bridal feeling from it. ”

“But why gray? Why not white?” Mama asked.

I smirked. “Mama, if you really want to have that discussion, I will give you a detailed explanation. For once, I have details to give. ”

“I do not want to hear this,” Andrea said, shaking her head.

“I think I do,” Jenny said. When Andrea and Jolene turned toward her, surprised, she lifted her hands in a defensive gesture. “I don’t think curiosity is out of line. ”

“But Jane, everyone will think—”

“No one’s going to think anything. It’s not like it’s possible for me to be pregnant. I’m a vampire. All of the traditional planning rules have been drop-kicked out the window. Besides, wedding dresses weren’t traditionally white until Victoria made it popular. It’s not an authenticity stamp or anything. So, tell me, forgetting that this is supposed to be virginal white. Do I look pretty?”

Mama took my face between her hands. “Absolutely gorgeous. ”

I made a quick, very persuasive phone call to the owner of the costume shop. I offered her what was easily three times the cost of the dress and made sure to give Claire a healthy commission. It wasn’t her fault that she sold me something that wasn’t part of the stock. Since she wasn’t paying for the dress, Mama insisted on having it repaired and thoroughly dry-cleaned and then bought me a pretty pair of gray ballet flats and a little beaded comb for my hair.

Since I’d managed to stumble into a theme for the wedding, Iris said I’d actually made her job a little easier. She rattled on about period-appropriate flower choices and food, about little touches we could add to the ceremony to make it more Austenian. Andrea made me promise that we would try to wrestle Dick and Gabriel into cutaway coats and beaver hats. It seemed to help our short time frame that my choices were narrowed. My color schemes were limited to what would go with the pewter-gray gown … except for the bridesmaids’ gowns. I’d already decided that they were going to be a distinctly nonmatchy lemon yellow that Jolene’s aunt Vonnie would have to special-order. The kind of yellow one would find on takeout menus or particularly urgent Post-it notes.

In fact, if the outdoor lighting failed, we could use the color of their dresses to illuminate the ceremony.

And yes, I had to use a vendor who hated me, because Vonnie held the only pattern left in the continental United States for the “Ruffles and Dreams,” the very dress I’d had to wear in Jolene’s wedding. Revenge would be mine, for a few months, until I revealed the dove-gray bridesmaids’ dresses I actually planned for them to wear.

As we were loading our purchases into Big Bertha, Mama pulled me aside and stage-whispered, “What’s this I hear about not having Jenny in your wedding party?”

I was caught like the proverbial deer in the headlights. My eyes went wide, and my mouth seemed to lock shut. I cleared my throat. “Oh, well, I know Jenny and I have been getting along better lately, but I’m still not comfortable—”

Mama huffed. “Oh, don’t be silly, Jane. How do you think Jenny is going to feel if she’s not at least a bridesmaid?”

I thought Jenny would be just fine with it. In fact, when I had talked to her about this very subject, her response had been, “I’m fine with that. ” But of course, instead of saying that, I said, “I wasn’t a bridesmaid in Jenny’s wedding. ”

“Well, Jenny had so many friends she had a hard time choosing from them. You said you understood. ”

“Yes, because I didn’t want to wear the foofy pink dress she’d picked out. I think I’m doing her a favor in return,” I said.

“What will people think if you shut your sister out of your wedding?”

“They’re going to think, isn’t it nice that Jenny came to the wedding to support Jane instead of going through with that pesky lawsuit?”

Mama waved my concerns away with a flick of her wrist. “That’s just silly talk. Jenny, sweetheart, Jane needs to talk to you about finding shoes to match your bridesmaid’s dress. ”

Andrea and Jolene turned to me, twin expressions of confusion and shock on their faces. Having expected some maneuver like this from Mama, I tried to calculate the impact of futilely objecting to the bridesmaid shuffle versus future machinations. I decided to let Mama win this battle if it meant that she’d stay off my ass in other more important wars. So I bit my lip and said nothing. Jenny scurried around the car, followed by Jolene and Andrea.

“I thought I wasn’t going to be in your wedding party!” Jenny exclaimed.

“That’s what I thought, too, but Mama’s insisting. ”

“Insisting that I wear that hag rag of a dress you picked out? Gee, thanks, Mama. ”

“Hag rag?” Andrea repeated.

Jolene sighed. “I’m sure I had that comin’, considerin’ the color of peach I made you wear. ”

I did my best to look contrite. “I’m sorry. ”

“No, you’re not,” Jenny muttered.

Andrea raised her hand hesitantly. “Can we go back to ‘hag rag’?”

“Just remember, I will be responsible for planning your bachelorette party,” Jenny told me.

I snorted. “Anything you do won’t be nearly as scary as what Jolene’s cousins did. ”

11

At some point, your childe may challenge you to a fight. Try not to beat the childe too badly. Imagine having your mother knock you into unconsciousness. It would be emotionally scarring on several levels.

—Siring for the Stupid:

A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Newborn Vampires

I knew that Gabriel was feeling better when he threw Jamie through a wall.

Tension in the house had been increasing since I went back to work. I think Grandma Ruthie was making her presence known by moving cell phones and checkbooks and anything else we needed. She would hover over us in our sleep, whispering. She’d pop up behind us in mirrors and corners of rooms. Aunt Jettie was spending most of her time patrolling the grounds with Mr. Wainwright, but every time she sensed Grandma Ruthie materializing, she’d pop into the house. The amount of energy she was expending left her exhausted.

Gabriel and Jamie were increasingly cranky with each other. Gabriel’s recovery from the poisoning was slow. We figured out that several small meals of donor blood throughout the night healed him a lot faster than bottled synthetic, but he was still pale and weak. He was able to get out of bed, but he hobbled like a man who was nearing his bicentennial birthday. Feeling weak, dependent, brought out the worst in him. He was still loving and appreciative of me, but everything about Jamie set his fangs on edge.

Little disputes over dirty laundry on the floor and sorting the recycling became screaming matches. Gabriel would corner me and complain about my “inconsiderate bratling” of a childe. Jamie would pout in his room until I came to investigate his absence, then make forced confessions of how much easier life would be without Gabriel living with us.

Things at the shop weren’t much better. Once word got around that I was back to work, every other person who came through the door asked me to turn them. I heard every sob story possible, from terminal illness to needing a few extra decades to pay off student loans. Oddly enough, my vampire clientele increased. It was as if I’d passed some sort of test. I was a “real” vampire now.

The vandalism had dropped off completely with the installation of the security cameras. The only glimpse we’d caught of the perpetrators was a hunting boot as the person stepped just a tiny bit into the frame, saw the camera, and ran away.

I lived on edge, fearful of what each evening would bring. I was afraid of walking to the door every night. I was afraid to let Gabriel get too close to the windows. I tried to devote my attention to wedding details, to something hopeful, but with Iris on the case, there wasn’t much for me to do. After deciding on the Austen theme, she’d pretty much run the show, sending me daily progress reports and emailing pictures of the invitations, linens, and other items she’d arranged. And then Jamie got a look at the old-fashioned morning coat Gabriel would be wearing and nearly fell over laughing—which started another argument, which sent me running for work early that night.

So when I came home and heard the commotion from the driveway, I gritted my teeth and stomped up the front porch steps. At this point, I was hoping that the happy archer had broken into our home for a rumble, because I didn’t think I could put up with much more step-sire drama. How could Jerry Springer not have featured this on his show yet?

I opened the door to find Gabriel growling as he pinned Jamie to the wall by his throat. Panic rippled up my spine. I knew there had been an edgy tension between the two of them, but I never thought Gabriel would lose control of himself like this. He looked like one of those angry stepdads you saw in domestic-violence PSAs.

“What is going on here?” I yelled.

Gabriel’s eyes darted toward me, and Jamie took advantage of this and punched Gabriel in the jaw. He followed through the swing, clipping Gabriel’s chin with his elbow.
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