Undead sublet, p.3
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       Undead Sublet, p.3

         Part #2. 5 of Half Moon Hollow series by Molly Harper  
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Page 3

 

  I moved my left foot, wincing as the board beneath it squeaked.

  Damn it.

  The microwave stopped, and swift footsteps moved toward the kitchen door. I threw myself against the wall, hoping to make myself invisible.

  The kitchen lights were flicked off, and something was coming my way. My hands shook as I gripped the pan tightly.

  As the dark shape moved toward me, I raised my weapon high over my head. In front of me, white hands came into view, and a clear, low voice said, “Wait a min—”

  Without waiting for the rest of his speech, I did what any reasonable person would do. I brought the steel pan crashing down on his head.

  “Ow,” the shape growled, although he did not drop to his knees.

  I shrieked and whacked him again, a nice uppercut swing that landed across his face. Enough moonlight spilled from the window that I could just make out the slim build, long limbs, dark hair, and darker eyes.

  “Stop that!” he spat, sounding rather annoyed now. And I found the tone of his voice really pissed me off. He was in my house. He was skulking around in my kitchen, cooking what I assumed was my food, and he was annoyed with me for interrupting him? He grunted when I swung the pan down on the crown of his head, but he still didn’t drop.

  “Screw this, I’m going to get my knives,” I hissed, stomping toward the kitchen.

  This was stupid for two reasons. One, I could have just walked out of the house unscathed. Also, I’d just broadcast my plans to my opponent. The moment I moved past him, his arm shot out and caught me by the hand, squeezing with enough force that I cried out. Twirling the wok with my free hand, I smacked his arm away with the edge of the pan.

  “Stop hittin’ me with Asian cookware!” he shouted, shoving me away, sending me skidding into the fridge.

  “Get the hell out of my house!” I shouted back.

  He backed toward the doorway. “Look, I’m going to turn on the lights. And when I do, please don’t swing any other kitchen stuff at my head. ”

  “Did you miss the part where I said ‘Get the hell out of my house’?”

  “Well, that’s the thing. It’s not your house, it’s mine. ”

  I squinted as he flicked on the lights.

  Holy hell.

  My deluded burglar was sex in a pair of Levi’s. He was tall and lean, with the exception of a well-developed chest and arms under a worn True Value Hardware T-shirt. His eyes were a warm teak color with dark chocolate centers around the pupils, which complemented the mussed dark hair nicely. He had high cheekbones, marked with a little triangle of freckles at the corner of his left eye, which shouldn’t have been adorable on a burglar, but it was.

  The most unusual thing about him was his skin, which was paper-pale. No one I’d so far seen in this town was pale, particularly the young men. People here spent so much time outdoors, doing farm work or yard work or hunting or fishing—everyone I’d seen had a healthy windburned glow. But this guy’s skin was like polished marble, smooth and white, with a faintly iridescent shine. He flashed me his best winning smile, a blinding white with prominent canines. I stepped back instinctively.

  “Oh, come on! You’re a vampire?”

  He grinned nastily, dropping his fangs.

  “Damn it. ”

  Contrary to popular legend, vampires didn’t have to wait to be invited into your house. They could walk through any human’s door any time they wanted. They just chose not to out of politeness. This was one of the many, many misconceptions that had been blown out of the water when vampires came out of the coffin in 1999.

  Believe it or not, even living in a big city, I hadn’t come into contact with vampires often. Unable to digest human food, they didn’t exactly flood my restaurant with business. We had a vampire dishwasher for a while. The hours suited him perfectly, but being around that much silver, to which vampires were severely allergic, had him on edge for his entire shift, and he quit after three weeks. We tried to point out that our silverware was actually stainless steel, but Bruno couldn’t be persuaded. It was a shame. He was the one guy we could count on to show up on time.

  I’d always figured that vampires had centuries under the radar to sink their teeth into anyone they wanted before the Coming Out, so why would they pick off random bystanders now that they were under media scrutiny? At least, that’s what I thought before one of them slunk into my kitchen and used my microwave without permission.

  What the hell did a vampire heat up in a microwave, anyway?

  “Whatsa matter?” he asked, the faint bluegrass twang rising and falling like ripples in bourbon. “Cat got your tongue?”

  Despite the panty-dropping lilt of his voice, he touched the nerve that hadn’t sparked since Phillip had uttered the word “sabbatical. ” I grabbed for the canvas carrying case that protected my ungodly expensive ceramic knives.

  “Oh, put the knives down,” he said, moving around me at lightning speed and pushing the case out of my reach. “Gosh darn hysterical female. ”

  “Look, pulse or no pulse, you are breaking and entering. You need to get out, right now, or I’ll call the Council hotline. ”

  “Call V-one-one,” he said, referring to the nickname for the World Council for the Equal Treatment of the Undead’s national hotline for humans with vampire problems. “I have every right to be here. ”

  “I have a rental agreement in my bag that says otherwise,” I shot back.

  “My name is Sam Clemson. I’ve lived here for the last five years. My wife and I are in the middle of a divorce. Until it’s final on October 28, I have the legal right to be here. ”

  “Tess Maitland. Wait—” I clapped my hand over my face. “Lindy’s husband? George said her husband died!”

  “Well, to be fair, he wasn’t wrong,” he admitted. “I was turned about two years ago. ”

  “Show me some ID,” I said, holding out my hand imperiously. I would think about exactly how stupid it was to order vampires around at a later date.

  The corners of his lips quirked. “What?”

  “How do I know you’re not just some crazy who wandered into the house? All vampires are required by Council to register after they’re turned and file for their vampire identification card. ”

  “Congratulations, you’ve read USA Today. ”

  “Show me the card, Mr. Clemson. ”

  “Sam, please. Mr. Clemson was my father. ”

  “Are you sure about that?” I retorted.

  “Haha, I’m a bastard, clever. ” He grumbled as he pulled his wallet out of his back pocket and handed me the little green card. He was indeed Sam Clemson, and this was his address. And contrary to all laws of DMV logic, Sam took a damn fine ID picture.

  “So, you’ve been here this whole time? How? Where have you been sleeping—” I gasped. “Is that why I can’t get into the basement? You’re locked in there during the day?”

  “I don’t think I should tell you where I sleep during the day,” he said, lifting an eyebrow.

  My lips wanted to twitch into a smile, but I clamped them tightly together. I supposed I couldn’t blame him for being cautious. Some paranoid humans spent the first year “postvampire” finding any reason possible to drag vampires out into the daylight or push them onto handy pointy wooden objects. The Council formed to “formally interact with human governments and facilitate open, cordial communication. ” In other words, they busted their way into the homes of presidents, prime ministers, and dictators around the world and told them, “Quit killing us off for your twisted amusement, or we will FedEx you pieces of your beloved Robert Pattinson. ”

  And then a thought occurred to me.

  “Wait, did Lindy know you were still staying here?” I demanded. He nodded, stepping away from me and my kitchen implements. “She rented this house to me knowing there was a vampire sleeping in the basement? That bitch!”

  “Hey,” he objected. “That’s my—well, my ex-wife you’re talkin’ about. Do you always cuss so much?”

  “Aren’t you the least bit upset about this?” I yelled.

  “Of course I’m upset about it,” he shouted back. “Do you think I’m happy that my wi—Lindy thought it was OK to open our home up to some stranger, without tellin’ me? I didn’t even realize you were here until yesterday, when I tripped over your stupid box of kitchen stuff. How early have you been goin’ to sleep, woman?”

  “Beside the point. ”

  “I was still tryin’ to figure out how to get you out of the house without talking to you, when you came in here swingin’ that wok. Who travels with a wok?”

  “You, don’t talk anymore,” I snapped at him. I snatched up my purse from the hallway and grabbed my phone. I didn’t feel bad about calling, despite the fact that it was after 11:00 P. M. Even if Lindy was in bed, I thought she owed me an explanation. She didn’t pick up, and the call went to voice mail. I hissed out very specific instructions to call me as soon as she got my message, no matter what the time.

  I slammed my phone onto the counter and let out a vicious stream of anatomically detailed curses.

  He pulled those full, pale lips into a sneer. “You are just a big ol’ ball of sunshine, aren’t you?”

  “The better to melt your face with, my dear,” I snapped. I took a deep breath and tried to remember that even if this guy was being a bit of a dick, it wasn’t his fault that his ex-wife had taken the last of my cash reserves under false pretenses. I was ashamed that I’d been conned by that little bumpkin bimbo. Clearly, a perky blond ponytail and a great big Jesus fish on one’s car didn’t make a person trustworthy.

  I sighed. “OK, calling the cops is out, because you apparently live here. And I really need to take full advantage of my lease. I’m only here for a month. ”

  “I will not leave my house for some random stranger. ”

  “So, I guess we’re at an impasse,” I said.

  “Yeah, if ‘impasse’ means ‘the foul-mouthed human moves out as soon as possible. ’”

  I crossed my arms under my chest… and realized that sort of pushed my boobs up into this weird cleavage popover. I dropped my arms. “I’m not going anywhere. ”

  “Fine, you don’t have to leave,” he said silkily as moved toward me. His body language suddenly shifted into a predatory lean, his tall frame looming over me, trapping me against the counter. “By all means, please stay. It gets so lonely out here when I’m on my own. I could use some… companionship. ” He dropped his fangs and bared them dramatically.

  And because the bad-decision-making lobes of my brain were in charge, I giggled instead of cowering against the counter. I stepped forward, into the cage of his arms.

  “I’m sorry. Are you trying to intimidate me?” I scoffed. “You’re about as threatening as the cornfield chorus on Hee Haw. Do you have any idea what it takes for a woman to work her way up to head chef at a fine-dining restaurant in a major city? Or what kind of bullshit I’ve had to put up with over the years from chauvinist pigs who didn’t think I should be able to tell them what to do because I lacked the requisite testicles? I’m going to tell you the same thing I told them. I own thirty different types of extremely expensive knives. And I know how to put each of them to creative use. Try to intimidate me again, and you will wake up next to a beautifully plated medley of freshly sautéed vampire bits. ”

  Slightly boggled, Sam stared down at me, horrified, and backed away. “You’re crazy. ”

  “You’ll find that all chefs are a little unstable. ” I offered him my scariest smile, the kind that made waiters cringe away like frightened deer. “Normal people don’t like to play with fire and raw meat all day. ”
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