Nice girls dont bite the.., p.22
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.22

         Part #4 of Jane Jameson series by Molly Harper  
Page 22

  Author: Molly Harper

  Gabriel’s hands closed over Jamie’s throat and squeezed. Jamie clawed at his hands, finally breaking the hold by punching him in the chest. Gabriel dropped to the ground, sliding his feet against Jamie’s legs, knocking him forward. He hooked his hands under Jamie’s arms and tossed him as he rolled onto his back. Jamie yelped as he flew through the air and flopped bonelessly against the wall, which buckled under the impact. Jamie’s legs flopped through the drywall. From my vantage point, I could see his feet resting in the parlor and his torso stretching into the hall.

  “Gabriel! Jamie! Stop it, this instant!”

  “Hi, Jane!” Jamie said brightly. Gabriel took advantage of this lapse in attention and socked Jamie in the mouth.

  Aunt Jettie materialized at my elbow. She looked amused but sheepish. “We tried to stop them, sweetheart, but it was too entertaining. ”

  Mr. Wainwright appeared next to her and added, “Did you know that Jamie used to wrestle with his friends in his backyard and upload the footage to YouTube?”

  “Y-YouTube?” I spluttered. “What?”

  “Jamie’s signature move was getting hit in the back with a folding chair,” Jettie said, a gleeful glint in her eyes. “I tried to find one in the garage, but I think your grandma Ruthie came over last year and ‘borrowed’ the card table and chairs for her bridge club. ”

  “Wait, wait—Gabriel, Jamie, what in the name of SpongeBob are you doing?”

  “Gabriel was just showing me some moves,” Jamie said, elbowing Gabriel in the gut. Gabriel grunted and punched Jamie in the kidney. “We were watching Underworld, and Gabriel said Selene’s movements were ‘preposterous and tactically ill advised. ’ ” The accurate yet slightly exaggerated pomposity in Jamie’s imitation of Gabriel sent a little shiver down my spine.

  “Given the latex catsuit she was wearing, I tend to agree,” I mused.

  Jamie grinned at me. “He tried to show me how one of the fight scenes would look in the real world. ”

  “And that ended in the partial destruction of a house that survived the Civil War, how?” I asked.

  “Everything after the first hammerlock gets a little hazy,” Gabriel confessed, shaking his head as if there were something loose inside.

  Jamie grinned and helped Gabriel up off the floor. Gabriel slapped him on the back and chuckled. They seemed to have bonded over beating each other senseless. I moaned and scrubbed a hand over my face. For the first time, I felt truly outnumbered in my own home. I thought perhaps I was better off when they were pointedly ignoring each other. Still, it seemed like a step in the right direction for Gabriel. He hadn’t had this much exercise in weeks. His face was no longer the color of overboiled oatmeal, and he was moving as if he had cartilage in his joints.

  “Call the contractor to get this fixed. And try to stay away from the load-bearing walls, OK?” Jamie struggled up from the floor and tossed Gabriel into the kitchen by his ears. “On second thought, why don’t you take this outside?”

  I turned toward Aunt Jettie and Mr. Wainwright, who were already phasing through the door to check the woods around the house for intruders.

  “I’m going to get a snack. I’ll be right out,” Jamie called, jogging into the kitchen. Gabriel met him at the doorway, elbow-checking him as he walked out, and then turned his attention to me.

  “You worry me,” I told Gabriel as his arms slipped around my waist. “You worry me so much. ” Gabriel slipped his hands under my shirt, tracing my ribs with his fingertips.

  “I take it you’re feeling better?” I asked him.

  He gave me a lopsided grin as he brushed kisses along my jaw.

  “We can’t,” I whispered as he nipped at my earlobe and did that thing with his tongue that made my eyelids flap like window shades.

  “We can’t what?”

  “We can’t …” I made a meaningful eye gesture that in feminine circles meant “sex” or maybe “over there. ” “Jamie’s just down the hall … and he has superhearing. ”

  “He’s a big boy, Jane. I’m pretty sure he knows that we have intimate relations. ”

  “Oh, why did you say it like that?” I groaned. “That’s what my grandma called it. ”

  Gabriel shuddered, dropping his hands away from my breasts and scooting away from me. “Well, bringing up your grandmother effectively prevented all future erections, so thank you. ”

  “I’m just uncomfortable with the idea of him being in the house when we’re having …” Don’t say “intimate relations. ” Don’t say “intimate relations. ”

  “Happy Naked Fun Time?” Gabriel suggested.

  “Exactly. ” I nodded.

  “So, what’s your suggestion?” he asked. “Are we going to resort to outdoor sex for the duration of his stay?”

  “Not with Gabriel-hating archers waiting outside our door. ”

  “Is that supposed to be funny?” he asked.

  “I thought it was pretty funny!” Jamie yelled from the kitchen. “And yes, I can hear you. Every word. And I do not want to be anywhere near Happy Naked Fun Time. ”

  Gabriel’s jaw went slack with horror, and I burst out laughing.

  “Sinners!” Jamie yelled.

  I backed toward the door, giving Gabriel a positively sinful smile. I’d closed my hand around the doorknob just as a knock sounded on the other side. Gabriel was at my side in a flash. He looked through the peephole and pulled the door open. Ophelia was standing on the other side. In place of her usual outfits, she was wearing khaki capri pants and a cute red-checked summer blouse with cap sleeves. Her thick brown hair was smoothed back with a little red headband, for goodness sake. She looked as if she was heading to a church picnic.

  I wondered who, if anyone, stayed with Georgie while Ophelia was out. She was often running around on Council business. Did she pop in a DVD for Georgie and hope for the best? Would a four-hundred-year-old child be offended if you got her a babysitter? Given her reference to plague rats, I would guess yes. But I knew that referring to Ophelia’s baby sister in front of Gabriel would not improve my tenuous rapport with my local Council representative. So, for the first time, I kept my mouth shut in front of Ophelia.

  “You seem to be healing quickly enough,” Ophelia said, her tone dry, as she eyed Gabriel’s arm slung around my shoulders.

  Gabriel cleared his throat and immediately became prim, proper, public Gabriel, which he always seemed to do when Ophelia was around. “Yes, I am. ”

  “You know, it’s customary to invite someone in when they’re standing on your doorstep,” she said, smiling sweetly.

  “Won’t you please come in, Ophelia?” I asked, making an exaggerated sweeping gesture with my arm, like a game-show hostess on crack.

  Rolling her eyes at me and looking very much her physical age, she strolled past me. She caught sight of the mangled interior wall and turned. “Remodeling?”

  “Male bonding,” I responded, at which Gabriel nudged me in the ribs.

  Ophelia chuckled. “Yes, that’s why I stopped by. I wanted to see how you and your young charge are getting along. I was a little concerned after our conversation. Between your siring duties and your usual personal peccadilloes, I would hate for you to be overwhelmed. ”

  “Peccadilloes?” I parroted. “That’s a bit unfair. Troubles? Sure. Drama? Certainly. But peccadilloes makes me sound like something out of a Wilkie Collins novel. ”

  “Jane is doing a fine job with Jamie,” Gabriel told her. “Considering. ”

  “Considering?” I turned toward Gabriel to give him a scathing glare.

  “It’s a figure of speech,” he assured me.

  “An insulting figure,” I grumbled. “I’m doing just fine. Our discussion the other day helped put things in perspective for me. ”

  She gave me a small smile, then turned that frank, disconcerting gaze on Gabriel. “I understand that congratulations are
in order. I was a little insulted that you didn’t tell me earlier. You know that the Council tracks all vampire marriages. ”

  “Well, we have been a little busy, what with the parenting and the poisoning and all,” I said.

  Ophelia’s smile widened. “Yes, I received Dick’s test results, which were quite impressive, by the way. The array of toxins used can leave no doubt about what the archer intended. Waco and Peter were somewhat concerned that yours was a test case, a dry run, so to speak, for attempts on other vampires. So, if nothing else, we can use connections with local businesses to watch for humans buying large quantities of rat poison and aspirin. Forewarned is forearmed and all that. I only ask that you let the Council handle any lab testing in the future. We know you’re very resourceful when you need to be, but if there was a deeper investigation into the matter, we would want to be able to prove that the samples were not tampered with. ”

  “I will definitely take advantage of that in the future. I don’t think I can afford frequent access to Dick’s connections. ”

  “I know what you mean,” she said. “Do you have any idea how expensive children’s footwear from the 1930s can be, even with the ‘Dick Cheney discount’?”

  “I can honestly say, no. ”

  “Why would you need—” Gabriel began to ask.

  “Never mind,” Ophelia and I chorused.

  “Did you know that Bud McElray had a brother?” Ophelia asked, watching me carefully.

  I subtly shifted my gaze toward Gabriel, whose hand closed over my shoulder in a comforting squeeze. “It’s all right, Jane. ”

  “How does she know about Bud?” I asked. It wasn’t exactly a secret among our friends, but I thought we’d been able to keep Gabriel’s tree-pushing tendencies off of the Council’s radar.

  “I had to tell her,” Gabriel assured me. “When she was investigating you for murder, she demanded the complete story of your turning. I named Bud as the hunter responsible for your shooting. When he turned up dead, she connected the dots. ”

  “And you’re not in trouble for it?”

  “He was given a rather large fine,” Ophelia conceded. “The only thing that saved him from the Trial was that Mr. McElray wouldn’t be missed by outspoken family members, and Gabriel had managed his little bit of revenge without stirring up much public interest. ”

  “Is that why you asked about Bud’s brother?”

  “Did you know him?”

  “His name’s Ray McElray,” I said, shrugging. “His grandma went to church with my parents, so the only information I have is from ‘prayer concerns’ about him and his brother. ”

  Ophelia’s confused expression prompted me to imitate my mother’s voice. “Please pray for poor Velma as she had to sell ten acres to pay for Bud’s fourth stint in rehab. And please pray for Ray as he begins his community service for assaulting a meter reader. ”

  Gabriel shuddered. “We’ve talked about that voice, Jane. ”

  Ophelia snickered. Rolling my eyes, I added, “He was a big-deal football player in his day, took the Howlers closer to state than they’d ever been, before or since. He actually went to college for two semesters before he blew out his knee and his scholarship got pulled. ”

  “Do you know where he is now?”

  “Yeah, he’s in jail,” I said, trying to remember the last bit of gossip Mama had shared with me about Ray. “He has been since about two years before I was turned. You know those big reels of scratch-off lottery tickets they have at the front of convenience stores?” Gabriel nodded. “Well, Ray kicked in the front of the Quickie Stop and stole one of them. ”
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