Nice girls dont bite the.., p.36
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.36

          part  #4 of  Jane Jameson Series  by  Molly Harper / Fantasy / Romance & Love
Page 36
Author: Molly Harper

“Well, that’s just beautiful, girls. You did a great job. Now, why don’t you go downstairs and get that present for Jane? I’d like to help her get into her dress. ”

My friends were leaving me … alone … with my mother … right before a special occasion. I did not see this ending well for me. Maybe now was the moment to distract them all by revealing the real bridesmaids’ dresses. Surely, they’d suffered enough. But then they all filed out of the room like dutiful little traitors, leaving me to the world’s most awkward birds-and-the-bees talk.

No, they deserved the yellow dresses of shame.

Mama got my wedding dress out of the closet and unzipped the garment bag. “Now, Janie, did you have questions for me about tonight?”

“No, I’m pretty clear on the ceremony stuff, Mama,” I said, stepping out of my robe and into the dress she was very carefully holding open for me. “I know I’ve been kind of a pain about this, but I really do appreciate all the effort you put into the planning. ”

“Oh, I know, baby. But I meant questions about later tonight. ”

I paused for a moment. Then my jaw dropped.

Mama continued, “It’s just that after a few years, the two of you will get used to each other. And a married woman sometimes has to figure out special, um, efforts to keep her husband’s interest piqued. Since the two of you will be together forever, you’re going to have to work that much harder. So, if you need any advice, I’m here for you. ”

I stared at her blankly, unable to draw enough breath to respond.

“You know, if you need any tips—”

“What—what—Why on earth would I come to you for sex tips?” I spluttered.

She shrugged as she zipped the back of my dress. “Well, I’ve been married to your father for more than thirty years, and he’s as happy as a clam—”

“Stop, Mama. ”

“Sometimes he likes it when I—”

“Oh, my God, isn’t this a situation where hysterical deafness is called for?”

Jenny came into the room, carrying a little velvet pouch. When she saw the look on my face, she snickered. “Mama tried to give you the ‘wives need to learn special tricks’ lecture, didn’t she?” she asked, desperately trying to repress a smile. (And failing miserably. )

“I am just trying to share some wifely wisdom with you,” Mama said, her hands on her hips. “Smart-asses. ”

“You’ve been branded a smart-ass. Welcome to my world,” I told Jenny. She pulled a face and went to the mirror to put on lip gloss.

“Now that you’re done ridiculing your mother,” Mama said, eyeing me sternly, “I’m going to give you your wedding present. ” She opened the jeweler’s pouch and pulled out a little sapphire pendant that had belonged to our paternal grandmother, Grandma Pat. She carefully draped it around my neck and clasped it. “Your grandmother gave me this to wear on my wedding day. Jenny wore it on hers. And now you’re wearing it on yours. And since you’re the youngest girl in the family and Jenny doesn’t plan on having any more children, we’d like you to keep it. ”

“But what about the boys? When they get married, their wives might want this. ” I watched Jenny’s face carefully. The distribution of family heirlooms had been a major issue of contention between us over the years. As in, she actually sued me over a family Bible. But she seemed perfectly fine with the idea of this little piece of family history remaining with me.

“Let’s just wait and see if I like the girls they marry,” she said. “So, that means your dress is new, and the necklace is old and blue. What can you borrow?”

“A time machine so I could go back before Mama’s sex lecture and never have to hear it?”

“Oh, shush!” Mama said, slapping at my shoulder. “Borrow my bracelet. ” She unsnapped the thin gold bangle from around her wrist and clipped it around mine. “Ingrates, the both of you. ”

“She did the same thing to me on my wedding day, only we were in the church’s changing room, which made it so much worse for some reason,” Jenny said, shuddering.

“You couldn’t have warned me?”

“Where’s the fun in that?”

“I think I liked it better when you two didn’t get along,” Mama muttered.

Jenny and Mama scurried out to check on the groom and company and make sure they were strapped into their tuxes. Jolene and Andrea accompanied them, for the boys’ sake.

I turned to look in the mirror and gasped. I actually looked like a bride. My hair gently framed my face, the chestnut color setting off the pale gray lawn of my veil. My wide, honey-hazel eyes were subtly outlined and winked out from my face like stars. My mouth looked soft and flushed. Andrea and Jenny had outdone themselves.

I stared at the mirror, unable to believe that the elegant, beautiful bride reflected back at me was, in fact, me.

“You look just gorgeous, baby doll. ” Aunt Jettie materialized at my side, peering over my shoulder in the mirror. “I am so very happy for you. ”

“Thanks, Aunt Jettie. I’m so glad you got to be here today,” I said. “Even if you can’t be in the photos. ”

“I love you very much, Jane,” she said, her lip trembling. “I want you to remember that, always. ”

“I love you, too, Aunt Jettie. Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” she said. “I’ve just got a case of the wedding misties. I’m going to go downstairs and see to Gilbert before I blubber ectoplasm all over you. ”

She abruptly popped out of view. Frowning, I turned back to the mirror and fiddled with my veil. I wondered exactly how far I would get into the evening before I caught it on something or inadvertently set it on fire.

I heard the door open behind me. I said, “Mama, if you try to gift me with a wifely copy of the Kama Sutra, I will jump out that window. ”

I sniffed and immediately caught the scent of woods and tobacco and motor oil. I was overwhelmed with panicked thought bubbles. He had to get the female out of the house. He had to get her out without being noticed. It was pure stupid luck that he’d managed to snag one of the rental-company uniforms; now he just had to knock me out and stuff me into the bag and get out before Gabriel realized that his bride had been snatched.

I turned to find a burly man in dark blue overalls standing in my bedroom. He was holding what looked like a green canvas body bag.

This was not going to end well for my wedding dress.

I sighed. “Hello, Ray. ”

18

Your childe will be tempted to approach people from his or her former life, perhaps to seek vengeance for a perceived or actual wrong. Do your best to keep your childe distracted from this. Hunting, special treats, board games, hobbling—whatever it takes.

—Siring for the Stupid:

A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Newborn Vampires

Ray McElray had had some hard days since he’d gotten out of prison. He had the same dark, curling hair, although it had been cut short from his former mullet. The same dark brown eyes, but there were now dark circles under them, and deep lines creased around his mouth. His face was a little heavier, puffed up from starchy jailhouse food.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, ma’am,” he said, his voice polite and even. “But I’d appreciate it if you turned around real slow. ”

Sighing again, I cracked my neck and removed my veil. “You can leave now, unhurt, or you can stay, and you will not walk away happy. ”

He reached into the body bag and pulled out what looked like a potato gun loaded with dozens of pencils. “I think I’ve got a better-than-average shot at it. ”

Dozens of freshly sharpened pencils were aimed straight at my chest. That did even things out a bit.

“Let me ask you something. When you set about to make something like that, what exactly goes through your head?”

He shrugged. “Mostly, ‘boobs, beer, this will be cool, boobs, beer. ’ “

I bit my lip, because laughing didn’t seem appropriate at the moment. “Well, you’re honest. ”

“I don’t want to ruin that pretty dress, ma’am, but I need you for something important that I have planned for your man. So I’d appreciate it if you would hold still. ”

“I’m bait again. Why am I always bait?” I groaned. At the very least, he was the most polite kidnapper I’d had so far.

“Kind of poetic, isn’t it?” Ray asked, smiling almost proudly. “A bride goes missing on her wedding day. The groom runs to her rescue, only to be cut down himself. That’s the sort of thing they used to write country songs about. Before country got all … sparkly. ”

“I don’t know what you’ve been told about vampires, but I’m not going to just—”

He stepped closer, moving slowly and carefully. “Now, now, this has nothing to do with the fact that you’re undead. Hell, I respect you as a predator. But I also know that a good predator can’t be separated from its mate. ”

“I’m a vampire, not a timber wolf. ”

He pulled a capped hypodermic needle from his pocket. “Well, your fella killed my brother, and I got a bone to pick with him about it. If I have you, your Gabriel will come out into the open, without all your friends or those damn vampire ninjas you have hanging outside your house. ”

He stepped within an arm’s reach, pressing the pencil gun right over my heart.

“Please, don’t do this,” I pleaded.

“Tilt your head, if you would, ma’am,” Ray said, sliding that needle toward my jugular. “I’m about to stick you with a shitload of horse tranquilizers. And I don’t want to splatter any arterial spray on that pretty dress. ”

“I really can’t talk you out of this?” I asked, wincing as the needle pierced my skin.

He shook his head and tsked sadly. ” ‘Fraid not. ”

My skin flushed hot as the drugs moved through my system with alarming speed. The edges of my vision blurred. And my eyes rolled up as my knees went out from under me. I felt Ray’s hands catch me before I hit the ground, and the canvas bag moved over my face.

I hated being the damsel in distress.

For one thing, I was really bad at it. I was always antagonizing my captors. I would say something smart-assed and end up making them try to kill me ahead of schedule. Inevitably, I ended up with a head injury, and there are only so many concussions you can get without it affecting you long-term.

With this in mind, I woke up slowly, stretching each of my fingers, then my arms and legs. This was weird in itself, because I normally woke up with my arms tied behind my back. But it seemed that Ray was a consummate captor-host. I opened my eyes to find that I was in a squat, dirty little room, on a camp bed. My wrists and ankles were tied with bungee cords. At first, I thought that the cords were padded so they wouldn’t chafe my arms, but I saw that the pads were wrapped in cheap-looking silver chains. If I squirmed or moved, the chains would tighten, slip around the padding, and burn the ever-loving hell out of my arms.

I cleared my dry throat. I squinted and looked around the bare room. I thought I might be in an old hunting shack. Deer hunters built these little shanties in the middle of the woods so they could sleep outdoors in relative comfort, then just walk outside to hunt without having to drive. Mostly, it was an excuse to get away from their families so they could go out into the wilderness to drink and belch competitively.

This particular bit of paradise looked as if it hadn’t been used in quite a while. The walls were bare planks with corrugated metal protecting the exterior. There was a single darkened window on the opposite wall. The floor was covered in those sample carpet squares that flooring stores used as display, duct-taped together like a weird patchwork rug. And there was a calendar on the wall featuring Hooters’s Hottest Waitresses from 1998. Charming.
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