The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires

       part  #1 of  Half Moon Hollow Series  by  Molly Harper / Fantasy / Romance & Love
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He waggled his eyebrows. “Considering what Buffy did with Angel and Spike over the course of seven seasons, I think I’d be OK with that. ”

“How do I know that you’re not going to walk out on me again the next time things get rough?”

“I don’t do that. Not anymore. ”

“Considering that you just did it, I have a hard time believing that,” I shot back with a little more vitriol than I’d intended. I blew out a long breath, ruffling the bangs curling into my line of vision. “You hurt me. ”

“I’m sorry. But you can trust me never to do it again. Open my wallet. ”

I sighed. “If you offer me an obscene amount of money right now, I think you should know that I am capable of hurting you. You’re bigger than creepy John, so it may take me a while, but I will take a chunk out of you. ”

I flipped open the expensive-looking leather contraption, and an engagement ring slid out into my open palm. He slid the ring onto my finger. I took a moment to admire the respectable square-cut diamond, offset by little flowers engraved in the platinum band. He kissed my hand and tucked it against his chest. “I’m thinking a Halloween wedding. Gigi would appreciate it. And think of the many ways you could use trick-or-treat candies as part of the theme. Candy corn and chocolate kisses as far as the eye could see. ”

I laughed, pleased at how well he knew me. “I’ve already got two weddings booked for that night. Newly made vampires just love getting married on Halloween,” I replied. “How about next spring? It would give me more time to plan. ”

“Winter solstice. The longest night of the year,” he countered.

“I’m still saying spring. ”

“Which means you never quite learned how negotiating works. ”

Why did everybody tell me that?

I barely resisted the urge to smirk at him. “How badly do you want to marry me, Mr. Calix?”

He grumbled. “Done. ”

“I love you,” I told him.

“I love you more than anything I have known or seen in my long, long life. Marry me, stay with me. ”

“Done. ” I laughed and kissed him. “So, did you have a plan B if I said no? Because it would be hard to bounce back from lying prostrate on the floor in the dark with any dignity. ”

“I have several extra-large bags of M&M’s stashed in your china cabinet,” he admitted.

“You think I can be bought with bulk candy?” I asked, lifting a brow. He smiled winsomely. “OK, you were close to the mark. ”

I wrapped his arms around my shoulder and tucked my face into this throat. “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings when you asked if I wanted to be turned. I just wasn’t ready yet. I’m still not. There are some loose ends I need to wrap up, with the business, with the human world, with Gigi. I want to have some time with her yet, to say good-bye to things like cheeseburger night and talk to her about wills and health insurance. I want to take her on a real vacation before she starts college, somewhere sunny. I can’t exactly do that if I’m a vampire. ”

Cal nodded, pressing a kiss to my temple. “I understand. Beachcombing is considerably less fun when you’re worried about bursting into flames. ”

“How about we wait until Gigi’s sophomore or junior year of college?” I asked. “She’ll have time to adjust to the idea of me being turned. She won’t be around for the scary new-vampire phase. By the time she comes back for a visit, I shouldn’t be a danger to her. ”

“Done. But what about your business?”

“Right now, it’s going great. I’ll have time to build it up a bit, hire some daytime people, and move into a more managerial role. ”

“What will you tell Gigi?”

“I will tell her that we love her. And we’re her family, whether we’re living or not. And with a three-thousand-year-old future brother-in-law, she will have the coolest family sitting at graduation. ”

“Graduation?”

“Graduation, birthdays, Christmases, and any number of events that require you to wear a silly sweater or staple twisted crepe paper to the porch. This is the price of being part of a family,” I told him, toying with his shirt buttons. Cal grimaced. “Too late to back out now. ”

“In terms of the sweater, how silly are we talking?”

“Cal. ”

“On a scale of one to ten?”

“Cal!”

“Am I allowed to negotiate terms?”

I cupped his chin in my palm. “It will make Gigi happy. ”

“Damn it, you know my weakness. ”

“I love you. ”

He groaned. “That’s my other weakness. ”

“And by that, you mean …”

“I love you, too. ”

“Wonderful. Now, let’s get you off the floor,” I said, slipping my hands into his. At my hip, my BlackBerry jangled to life with “Flight of the Bumblebee. ” Cal’s eyes flicked toward the offending device, apparently resigned to the idea that he would be sharing me for eternity with a ridiculous novelty ringtone. Nuzzling my nose against his throat, I unclipped the phone from my belt and slid it onto the countertop. He grinned down at me, kissing me soundly. I wound my arms around his neck and sighed.

“Let it ring. ”
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