Nice girls dont bite the.., p.3
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.3

         Part #4 of Jane Jameson series by Molly Harper  
Page 3

  Author: Molly Harper

  “You mean, he had a woman offer to skip all the wedding crap and marry him in Vegas and he turned it down? I need to talk some sense into that boy,” Dick said, shaking his head. When Andrea glared at him, he quickly added, “Not that I didn’t absolutely love all of our wedding crap, baby. Happiest day of my life. Really. ”

  Andrea sniffed and turned on her heel toward the ritual-candle section. I snickered and taunted Dick. “So much trouble!”

  “Shut it, you,” he grumbled before pitching his voice into an apologetic whine. “Andrea, baby! I didn’t mean it like that!”

  Realizing that I’d left my cell phone in Big Bertha, my trusty, weathered station wagon, I made my way out of the shop with a little skip in my step and a tune on my lips. Dick had managed to distract Andrea from her “Our wedding was special” tirade with more good news. After reviewing last quarter’s sales, he’d found that Specialty Books was actually showing a profit for the first time since my former boss, Mr. Wainwright, opened it sixty years before. Even with the stuff destroyed when his nephew, Emery, repeatedly broke into the shop, we were ahead of our projections for the quarter. Most of the increase was rooted in online sales, a result of Zeb’s redesigning the shop’s Web site.

  And yes, I was letting Dick handle the bookkeeping. It turns out that ruthlessly calculating profits from underhanded back-alley deals actually makes one pretty good with math. And now that I knew where he slept on a permanent basis, I trusted him not to steal from me.

  I danced around the front of my decades-old Ford station wagon and saw that Jamie Lanier, our dairy delivery guy, was pulling up to the curb in his Half-Moon Dairy truck. I smiled and waved as I opened my driver’s-side door.

  “Hey, Miss Jane!” he hollered over the blaring of his earbuds as he unloaded his hand truck.

  I cringed at his use of “Miss,” which clearly indicated that Jamie still thought of me as the old lady who used to babysit him every summer. Again I say, this is the drawback of living in your hometown. Local hunks have to start off somewhere, and generally, it’s as the kid who would only eat smiley-face pancakes from ages five to seven.

  And good Lord, Jamie was a hunk. He had the all-American, apple-pie look that they probably used as a template when they made GI Joe dolls. And the color palette wasn’t bad, either—warm, tanned skin and olive-green eyes that twinkled at me from under the fringe of his wavy dark blond hair. He loomed four inches over even my tall frame, and I found myself stammering and blushing like a schoolgirl every time he stood less than an arm’s length from me.

  Did I mention that he was just about to graduate? From high school? Which would make me the dirtiest old lady in the world.

  Andrea enjoyed my discomfort each week when Jamie delivered dairy products for the coffee bar, which, again, made me question the value of having girlfriends.

  I leaned into my car, searching for the charger cord that tethered my phone. Honestly, it was the only way I could find the damn thing most days.

  My head cocked toward the sound of tires screeching. I straightened up to see an old rusted-out black sedan with dark-tinted windows barreling down the street, heading straight for Jamie’s truck. Backing out of the rear gate, his hand truck loaded with crates, Jamie had no clue that he was walking right into the path of the oncoming car.

  “Jamie!” I screamed.

  Jamie froze and whipped around just as the car struck him. The force of the chrome bumper striking his knees slammed him to the pavement. Jamie barely let out a yelp as his head made a sick cracking noise against the pavement. I screamed again at the wet thump of the tires rolling over his torso, the snap of breaking ribs.

  The car swerved toward me. I felt paralyzed, unable to help myself as Jamie lay bleeding on the street. I stared through the darkened windows, trying to make out any shape or feature behind the tinted glass. But the rapid approach of the car’s grille caught my attention. I shoved my palms against the top of Big Bertha’s doorframe and launched myself onto the roof, just before the black car smashed into my driver’s side. The open door snapped off, flying toward the shop’s display window. I landed on my feet as the glass shattered behind me. My heels screeched on the metal roof as I pivoted to watch the strange car speed away.

  It fishtailed as it turned the corner to Hesler Street, and although grease and dirt were caked over the plate in a way far too effective to be coincidental, I could just make out a Y and a 7 at the end of the license-plate number.

  Dick and Andrea bolted outside, with Dick protectively shoving Andrea behind him as they ran. “Stretch?” Dick yelled.

  “Call nine-one-one!” I shouted, leaping off the car and landing near Jamie’s crumpled body. His eyes were wild, unfocused. A scarlet slick flowed from his mouth as he gave weak, gasping coughs. His legs were bent all wrong. A thick pool of blood spread beneath him, soaking through my jeans as I knelt on the pavement.

  “Jane? Hurts,” he whimpered.

  “Jamie,” I whispered. “Just hold on, OK? We’ll get an ambulance here. You’re going to be just fine. ”

  Dick, who was kneeling on Jamie’s left side, shook his head. “He’s lost too much blood. Feel his pulse. Listen to his breath. You hear that wet, sucking sound? There’s a lot of internal damage. Even if the ambulance was here already … he won’t make it. ”

  Dick gave me a meaningful look, and his fangs descended with a soft snick. I snarled and mouthed so only he could hear, “We are not feeding on him!”

  “We’re going to turn him, Stretch,” Dick said, exasperated.

  “But—”

  “Turn me,” Jamie murmured, his voice wet and rough over the crimson bubbles that kept forming under his lips. “Please. Don’t want to die. ”

  Turn him? I’d never even seen it done, except in my hazy memories of my own crossover into the world of the undead. I looked to the older vampire. “Dick?”

  “No, you,” Jamie said, his voice fading with every word. “I trust you. I know you. ”

  “Should I call?” Andrea asked, holding up the shop’s cordless phone.

  His fingers pressed against Jamie’s pulse point, Dick shook his head. He turned to me. “Jane, we need to do something quick. ”

  “I’ve never turned anyone. I don’t know what to do!”

  Dick grabbed my wrist and sank his fangs into my flesh. I yowled as the blood poured from the wound. I glared at him as he pressed the gaping wound to Jamie’s slack mouth. A cascade of red rolled past his chin onto the pavement with little pattering noises. My eyes popped wide when Jamie latched onto my wrist and drew strong swallows of my blood. I brushed his matted, damp hair away from his forehead and slid my legs under his back to let him rest against me.

  I was thankful that Jamie seemed less conflicted than I had been when I was turned. Not the least bit hesitant, he was taking blood from me as if he’d been born a vampire. With every draw of my blood, Jamie relaxed a bit more, his strength ebbing from his limbs. He was reaching the last phase, the death of his human body.

  Hoarse wheezing sounds filled the street as Jamie struggled to draw breath through his nose. He was suffocating, drowning on dry land as his lungs stopped functioning. He broke away from my wrist, gasping, desperately trying to fill them with air. I remembered that feeling. You can’t think. You’re barely even aware of the pain. All you can focus on is the crushing emptiness in your chest.

  “Shh,” I whispered, cupping my free hand to his cheek. His fading green eyes searched mine, for assurance, for answers. I gave him a shaky smile. “This part is never easy, but it will be over soon. And when you wake up, you’ll be like us. ”

  I pushed my healing wrist against his mouth, letting him take one last weak pull before his eyes fluttered closed. His arms went slack at his sides. His head lolled back against my arm.

  Dick squeezed my shoulder gently as we knelt there on the cold pavement and listened to Jamie’s young heart beat its last.

  2

  Welcome to the world of vampire parenting. If you’re frightened, confused, and disoriented … that sounds just about right.

  —Siring for the Stupid:

  A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Newborn Vampires

  I sprawled on the couch in the break room, with Jamie’s head in my lap, unsure of what to do. I was exhausted, emotionally and hematologically. The blood loss involved in creating a childe takes a lot out of the vampire sire. It’s said to be the closest the undead can come to childbirth, which just sounds wrong.

  In more than 150 years, Gabriel had created only three children. Two of those children turned out to be evil and went on killing sprees … maybe that’s why vampires only turn a handful of children in their lifetime.

  Crap.

  I scrubbed my hand over my face and leaned my head against the wall. Outside, I could hear Dick using a hose to clear Jamie’s blood from the street. We hadn’t done anything wrong. Dick assured me that we’d followed the Council’s protocols for the situation, but it still wasn’t a good idea to have a big puddle of blood out in front of the store. It was unseemly.

  I reached for the phone several times to call the police, but Dick held it out of my reach and said that we should wait for the Council. We sent Andrea away just after we carried Jamie inside the store. We asked her to drive the delivery truck back to the dairy, then run home. It wasn’t that we were worried about Andrea’s control. After being a blood surrogate for years, live feeding—particularly on mortally injured minors—didn’t hold much attraction for her. But seeing Jamie go through the process brought up bad memories for Andrea, whose turning by Dick’s psychotic descendant had been nonconsensual and painful. She wouldn’t talk about it. She was so happy to wake up alive with Dick that she didn’t make much of it when she was first turned. But privately, Dick told me that she had nightmares about Emery turning her. She dreamed of pain and blood and dark shadows crushing the breath from her. And I wanted to dig up Emery’s ashes so I could kill his creepy, milquetoast ass all over again.

  Jamie’s face was peaceful in death. He looked so young, untroubled. But when he woke, his life would be unrecognizable. He would be angry, confused. I wasn’t stupid enough to think that this was my fault. I hadn’t made that driver careen down an alleyway and smash into Jamie. And he’d asked me to turn him. But I’d hit a sort of stalemate in life when I’d been turned. I’d been an unmarried, unattached, unsatisfied (recently fired) workaholic.

  Jamie still had potential. His was a life that was worth living. He could have grown up, gone to school, gotten a normal job, made some sweet local girl ridiculously happy when he proposed. He could have had babies and gotten into drunken brawls with the other church-league softball players on Sundays. And now he would be frozen forever at seventeen. He would be carded for the rest of his unnaturally long life.

  I thought of Jamie’s parents, at home, completely unaware that their son’s existence had been permanently altered. My parents had celebrated New Year’s Eve with the Laniers as long as I could remember. They played cards and ate Chex Mix to the point of garlic overdose while the dads drank toddies that were way too strong. I was usually watching Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in the den with Jamie and his sister.

  They were all going to hate me when they found out what I’d done.

  I heard the cowbell tinkle over the front door. Ophelia Lambert, the scary forever-adolescent head of the local panel for the World Council for the Equal Treatment of the Undead, swept into the shop, followed by her panel of ancient flunkies. Ophelia, who had a penchant for themed outfits bordering on jailbait gear, was wearing a lavender poodle skirt with a matching cardigan tied primly around her shoulders.

  Ophelia had overseen my prosecution for several random killings and fires the first year I was turned, and she scared the hell out of me—despite the fact that she had found me innocent and chosen not to put me to death. But Ophelia seemed to find my wacky antics entertaining and took a particular interest anytime I ran afoul of the Council’s policies.
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