Nice girls dont bite the.., p.34
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.34

         Part #4 of Jane Jameson series by Molly Harper  
Page 34

  Author: Molly Harper “What?” Gabriel and Jamie chorused.

  “Yep, that’s part of the summoning rite,” I said. “We’re going to anchor the fellas’ spirits to River Oaks, just like Ruthie has managed to do all on her own. I just have to repeat this handy chant three times, and it’s a done deal. It’s going to be a grand old time, Grandma. Me, you, and my four grandpas. We’ll be one big, happy family. Just imagine, you’ll have all day and all night for the rest of eternity to devote to one another. And you’ll have time for long, long conversations about how your relationships went wrong. I can see it now. The whole clan gathered around the fire. The lingering smell of Bengay permeating the air. Playing pinochle and singing campfire songs. Nothing but family time and lots and lots of togetherness. ”

  Somehow, Ruthie’s translucent face went even paler. “No. Jane, you can’t do that! I won’t allow it! This is my house, mine! You don’t have the right!”

  I raised the book, turning the page, and read aloud, “Spirits of hearth and home, hear me now! Gather those spirits present and bind them to this place!” I chanted as Grandma Ruthie begged me to stop. “By Hestia, by Hecate, I ask that you grant us an eternal home, an eternal family! As I will, so mote it be!”

  “Jane, stop it!” Grandma Ruthie screeched. “Please, I’ll do anything!”

  “Spirits of hearth and home, hear me now! Gather those spirits present and bind them to this place!” I chanted again. “By Hestia, by Hecate, I ask that you grant us an eternal home, an eternal family! As I will, so mote it be!”

  “Jane!” Ruthie wailed piteously as I started the third round. I could see her form fading, her outline becoming more and more shadowed. “Jane! No!”

  By the time I’d reached the third “By Hestia, by Hecate,” Grandma Ruthie had shrunk down to a tiny, pearl-sized blip in the atmosphere over the symbol. It disappeared with a faint pop, and the atmosphere in the room warmed by a few degrees.

  “Did it work?” I asked Mr. Wainwright. “She’s really gone this time?”

  “Well, the energy coming off the symbol has sizzled away to nothing, so I’m going to say yes. Your grandmother voluntarily severed her connection to the house in order to escape to the next plane,” he said. “You did very well, Jane. ”

  “Thank you. ” I beamed as Gabriel squeezed my shoulders. Jettie was bent over, laughing so hard that she couldn’t congratulate me. I took that as a good sign.

  “So, I guess things are going to be a little more crowded around here, huh?” Jamie said as the grandpas milled around the room, talking among themselves. Grandpa Fred was giving Aunt Jettie and Mr. Wainwright a wide berth, but I was glad that he’d been mature enough to put his feelings aside and help me out. “They’re not going to hang out in my room, are they? Because I sort of have a non-nursing-home vibe going up there. ”

  “What are you talking about?” I asked.

  “The grandpas, they’re all moving in, right?”

  “Oh, the binding thing?” I asked, laughing. “I was bluffing. ”

  Gabriel burst out laughing.

  Jamie’s jaw dropped. “But the whole incantation thing and the chanting?”

  “I made it up, pulled it out of thin air,” I said, shrugging. “I told you, I’ve spent two years in an occult shop. It was bound to rub off on me. And you say I’m a lousy actress. ” I poked Gabriel in the chest.

  “I’ve never said you’re a lousy actress. I said you have no poker face. But I proudly admit that I am wrong. That was masterful,” Gabriel said.

  “But what were you going to do if she called your bluff?” Jamie demanded.

  “Figure something else out,” I said. “I would have kept bluffing until Ruthie admitted that the only thing that horrified her more than me owning the house is the idea of sharing it with the men she’s jettisoned into the grave. ”

  “I think the word ‘jettisoned’ hurts my feelings,” a kind voice behind me said. I turned to find Grandpa John smiling fondly at me. “You have turned out to be a real firecracker, you know that?”

  I nodded sheepishly. Over John’s shoulder, I could see the other grandpas waving at me and phasing through the exterior walls, going back to their individual haunts. I waved back, unsure of what to say besides mouthing “Thank you. ”

  “I’m sorry I’ve never stopped by before, Jane. But I wasn’t sure how you’d react,” Grandpa John said. “I stayed around to watch your mama grow up, you know. And when she had you and Jenny, I couldn’t bear to leave. I’ve had so much fun watching all my girls live their lives. Now that you’re aware of me, I might stop in every once in a while—if that’s all right with you. ”

  “Sure. ”

  Grandpa John eyed Gabriel and Jamie as they argued about the best way to clean up the chalk outline on the floor. “You’ve made this place quite the home, haven’t you?”

  “Despite all odds. ”

  “I think that’s why your grandmother never really got this place. She saw it as something to show off, to lord over other people, even when it was falling apart at the seams. She never saw it as a place where a family lived. You get that. ”

  I smiled and ducked my head, only to feel the cool pressure of his hand on my shoulder.

  “I’m very proud of the person you’ve become. I think we would have gotten along just fine, if I’d lived. No matter what your grandmother might have told you, I always liked a girl with spunk. ”

  Grandpa John winked at me and pinched my cheek as he faded out of sight.

  “Thanks, Grandpa. ”

  17

  It is vital to foster loyalty in your childe. You will need your childe someday, whether it’s a year or a century from now. A loyal childe will heed the sire’s call no matter where the childe is. A resentful childe will take time to make himself or herself comfortable while he or she enjoys your misfortune.

  —Siring for the Stupid:

  A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Newborn Vampires

  Time is a funny thing. The weeks leading up to the wedding seemed to be moving at fast-forward, what with blowing up a school bus, evicting a dead grandparent, and building relationships with dead grandpas. But somehow, walking down the makeshift aisle we’d constructed on the back lawn of River Oaks seemed to take forever.

  For the rehearsal, Daddy was at my elbow, half leading, half dragging me. I’m sure that in his head, he was already compensating for the support I would need, negotiating the grass in my dress. Gabriel was waiting for me, and I just couldn’t seem to get to him fast enough.

  Iris was standing near the arbor that would be wrapped in flowers and ribbon while we were sleeping the next day. She was carefully reviewing the ceremony notes with Jolene’s uncle Creed, who performed all marriage rites in the pack as the eldest of the clan and a justice of the peace. Reverend Neel was a good man, but his liberalities only stretched so far. And I found the idea of being married by a notary public sort of depressing. It was a special honor for a werewolf to extend such a gesture of friendship to a vampire, and without Jolene’s intervention, it wouldn’t have happened.

  Jolene’s parents were there, along with the aunties who could stomach my presence. I had to find some way to thank them for replicating my dress. And for a werewolf, that means feeding them. All of the nonvampires would be enjoying a big batch of Mama’s homemade lasagna at her house while Gabriel was led to his bachelor-party doom. I think I was supposed to go to my room and pretend to be a virgin for one more night.

  Mama couldn’t have been more pleased with Iris’s work, including the arrangement of a slightly more traditional wedding party than Jolene and Zeb had. Andrea was my maid of honor, and Zeb was my best man. Dick was the best man for Gabriel’s side, with Jolene and Jenny in the supporting roles. I tried to get Jamie to serve as ring bearer, but he refused to carry the little pillow. Instead, he was the groomsman in charge of leading Fitz to the bride’s family row and keeping him from chasing squirrels during the ceremony.

  After sitting through countless prolonged weddings that left my butt numb and my nerves frayed, I wanted to keep the ceremony itself short and sweet, and Gabriel agreed. I walk up the aisle, we say the vows, we walk down the aisle together. No staring into each other’s eyes while soloists warble that what the world needs now is love, sweet love. No special readings from Corinthians or Shakespeare. And no unity candle. Open flames and veils tend to make vampire brides very nervous.

  The good news was that this simplified the rehearsal considerably. And since everybody in the wedding party had been through the process before, they knew where to stand, where to face, and how to hold their flowers. And they knew the special “step-together-step-together” rhythm required to time their aisle walk appropriately to the processional.

  If I could just get Uncle Creed to call me Jane instead of Jean, we’d be in business.

  Iris considered us sufficiently rehearsed and gave us all our wedding-day itineraries. Mine said, “Show up at sunset, get dressed, relax. ”

  “I think I love you,” I told her.

  She shrugged. “I get that a lot. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go pry your mama off of Uncle Creed before she talks him into an altar call or something. ”

  She scurried away, clipboard in hand, and Gabriel pressed a kiss to my mouth. “This is your last night as a single woman. What do you plan on doing?”

  “Sleeping. Reading. Worrying about you and my childe and how you will be emotionally scarred by the cut-rate strip club Dick drags you to. ”

  “For your information, we’re not going to a strip club. ” Dick sniffed. “We’re going to a casino. ”

  “How are you going to get Jamie into a casino? He’s underage!”

  Dick shook his head. “You don’t want to know. ”

  “You’re right, I don’t. Just don’t let anything happen to him, OK? Dick, I think it goes without saying that if anything happens to Gabriel to prevent him from making it to the altar tomorrow night, I will hold you responsible. And afterward, grown men will weep when they see what I’ve done to you. ”

  Dick snorted and kissed my forehead. “And yet you feel the need to say it anyway. ”

  “It’s a formality. ”

  Most of the guests had already departed for Mama’s dinner. As the boys loaded themselves into Zeb’s car, I bade Andrea and Jolene good night and kissed the twins. Jenny hugged me tight and promised to slip Mama a Xanax before I could rise the next night. I whistled for Fitz and went upstairs to take off my makeup and change into some sweats. The house was blissfully quiet, especially with Jettie and Mr. Wainwright off to complete some secret wedding-related task. I lay on my bed and closed my eyes, wondering if I was going to be able to sleep a wink that day.

  Downstairs, I heard a soft knock on the door. Remembering the still-unidentified remains of Ray McElray, I grabbed a baseball bat from Jamie’s room and crept quietly down the stairs.

  “Who is it?”

  “Honey, it’s Daddy. Open up. ”

  I whipped the door open to find him grinning at me.

  “Grab your purse, honey. ”

  “But I’m wearing sweatpants. Where are we going?”

  “It’s a surprise, and you’re dressed just fine,” he said, his eyes twinkling as he led me to the car. “Your mama’s letting me off the hook tonight so I can have some special time with my girl before she becomes an old married woman. ”

  “Watch it,” I warned him as we pulled out of the driveway and into town.

  I kept up a constant stream of chatter about my father’s classes, his students, Mama’s compulsive cleaning of the house as she worked through her anxieties over the wedding. Daddy pulled his car toward downtown, onto Main Street, and finally, into the parking lot of the Coffee Spot.
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