Nice girls dont bite the.., p.6
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.6

         Part #4 of Jane Jameson series by Molly Harper  
Page 6

  Author: Molly Harper

  “What about the ladies in the Chamber of Commerce?” Zeb asked.

  “Well, yeah, they’re plotting against me, but Nice Courtney says their plans are of the ‘make Jane a social pariah who dies pitiful, penniless, and alone’ variety. I think it involves getting all of my advertising changed to say ‘Specialty Hookers. ’ “

  “Local vampire haters?”

  “Nah. I can’t see one of them having a beef with me specifically. If anyone, they’d go after …” I pressed my lips together and gave Dick a speculative look.

  “What?” he demanded.

  “Oh, nothing. ”

  “Former employers?”

  “Mrs. Stubblefield is drying out in a rehab center in Bowling Green. ”

  “Gabriel’s other errant vampire children?”

  “He promises me there are no others,” I muttered, narrowing my eyes at him.

  Gabriel elbowed Dick in the gut. “Jackass. ”

  Dick chortled and ducked a second blow from his childhood best friend.

  “Have you noticed how many people don’t like you?” Jolene asked. “Your grandma Ruthie, my aunties, Mrs. Stubblefield, old lady psychics. ”

  “Ooh!” Zeb exclaimed. “What about all those girls you insulted-slash-made-cry in high school? We just saw them at the reunion. That probably stirred up some feelings. ”

  “I don’t think you’re helping there, Zeb,” Dick said, patting Zeb’s shoulder.

  “And I didn’t ‘make’ those girls cry. In general, I was responding to bitchery in kind. I was provoked!”

  “Every time?” Andrea asked.

  “There weren’t that many times,” I insisted.

  Andrea looked to Zeb, who was nodding. “Yes, there were,” he said.

  “What about assassins paid by your grandma Ruthie?” Jolene suggested.

  “That is … surprisingly plausible,” I grumbled. “Look, over the years, my unique sense of humor and perverse grasp of honesty may have led to some hurt feelings and long-held grudges. But overall, I’m a pretty likable person. ”

  They all seemed to bite their lips simultaneously to keep from snickering.

  “I hate you all!” I exclaimed.

  “I’m glad y’all are takin’ this so seriously,” Jolene said in her best motherly tone.

  No one had the decency to look sheepish.

  “OK, so the suspect list is long and somewhat vague,” Andrea said. “The question is, how do we keep Jane—and by extension, her loved ones and colleagues—from getting shot, stabbed, poisoned, beaten, Tasered, burned, maced, or otherwise slapped about by anonymous yet incredibly determined forces?”

  “We don’t let her work alone at the shop,” Gabriel suggested.

  “We put her in a hermetically sealed plastic vampire habitat,” Dick said.

  “We hire one of my nicer cousins to come over durin’ the day and keep an eye on the place,” Jolene added.

  “We keep her from handling guns, knives, poison, Taser guns, fire, or mace so she doesn’t injure herself,” Zeb said.

  “These are all good suggestions,” I said. “Except for putting me in a vampire hamster cage. But Gabriel’s right. I’m tired of waiting around for trouble to come to me. I’m tired of dreading a ringing phone because it could mean that one of you has been hurt. I’m tired of keeping my head in the sand. So I’m going to take a more proactive approach. ”

  “We,” they chorused.

  “Instead of sitting around, waiting for the next incident, I—”

  “We,” they corrected me again in chorale, which was a little creepy.

  “We are going to try to find the person driving that car. The plate was obscured, but I got a partial number. Jolene, do you have any cousins who work in the DMV?”

  “I’m insulted that you even have to ask. ” She snorted, bobbing the baby on her hip. “I have three. ”

  I scribbled out a description of the car’s make and model and the partial license plate and handed it to Jolene.

  “Can we get a whiteboard, like on Law and Order?” Andrea asked.

  Dick nodded. “I was thinking official ‘Keep Jane from Being Murdered Task Force’ T-shirts. ”

  The team seemed ready to “break” to take on their individual tasks, when Gabriel raised his hands. I gritted my teeth and waited for the inevitable speech that could be summed up as “I think we should keep Jane locked away and ignorant for her own protection. ” Instead, Gabriel said, “I would like to lodge a formal objection to the ‘go looking for trouble’ plan. I think it’s ill advised and very likely to get at least one of us hurt. But I’m also smart enough to recognize that it’s an empty gesture, and since you’re going to do it anyway, I might as well get onboard. ”

  I cooed. “Aw, you know me so well. ” I pressed a kiss against his tensed, frowning lips. “You know, you’d think I would be used to someone trying to kill me by now, but it still hurts my feelings every time. ”

  3

  Newly risen vampires are unpredictable. Handy items to have nearby: Bottled blood, silver chains, and a Snuggie.

  —Siring for the Stupid:

  A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Newborn Vampires

  On the third day, I insisted that Jolene, Zeb, and the kids stay away. In fact, I asked them to leave their home at the edge of my property and visit Jolene’s pack for the night. Not all vampires wake up, well, sane, and I didn’t want Zeb’s family to become collateral damage to Jamie’s newborn thirst.

  Dick, Gabriel, and I sat in the kitchen, staring up at the ceiling, as if we could peer up into the room where Jamie was resting. Sometime around midnight, there was a buzz along my spine. It was as if I could hear Jamie’s body picking up its pace, the ripple of energy that would animate him, since blood and electrical impulses had waved bye-bye about three days ago.

  “You feel that, too?” I asked Gabriel, who was staring up at the ceiling with trepidation.

  He shook his head. I frowned.

  “Is this a sire thing?” I asked. “Could you feel me when I rose?”

  “It’s a one-time privilege,” Gabriel told me. “It ensures that you’re present when your childe rises. In some cases of particularly troublesome charges, such a tracking device would be handy in the long term. ”

  “I’m going to pretend that you’re not talking about me,” I retorted.

  Dick put a hand on my shoulder. “Stretch, go slow, OK? Be careful. Newborns are tricky. And he’s a newborn teenager. It’s like a hormone double whammy. Imagine what Ophelia must have been like when she first rose. ” Gabriel cleared his throat in that “Shut the hell up” manner he’d mastered so many years ago. The look on my face had Dick scrambling to reassure me. “I’m sure it will be fine. Nothing to worry about. Go on up. ”

  Rolling my eyes, I quietly took the stairs two at a time with my boys close behind. Jamie’s body was still and cold on the bed, but you could feel the undercurrent rippling along his skin. I sat on the bed carefully and began unbuttoning my blouse so he could pull the collar aside.

  “What are you doing?” Gabriel demanded, while Dick seemed torn between laughing and desperately searching for meaning in the crown molding.

  “He’s going to want to feed,” I said. “I don’t want him making a buffet out of the townsfolk. ”

  “And why does that involve taking off your shirt?”

  “I’m not taking off my shirt.

  I’m making it easier to access my neck,” I said. Gabriel frowned. “What? The first feeding I had was with you. I thought this is how it works. ”

  “But he can have bottled blood,” Gabriel protested.

  “I thought you said the first feeding was a sacrament. ”

  “That was before it was coming from you. ”

  “Seriously?” I exclaimed. “Is this like the vampire version of the breastfeeding debate?”

  “What if he fed from your arm instead?” Gabriel said. “It’s a little less … personal. ”

  “Gabriel, I’m trying really hard to understand your point of view here, but you’re a few syllables from pissing me off. ”

  Gabriel raised his hands in a defeated gesture. “Fine, I’m just going to stay back here. Watching. Intently. ”

  I shushed him and felt Jamie stir next to me. His eyelids snapped open, and he jerked as if coming out of a bad dream. He blinked a few times, his eyes adjusting to the sharp, startling clarity of vampire vision. He slowly sat up, stretching his re-formed muscles.

  The undead are, generally, more attractive than before we’ve turned. Even vampires who weren’t conventionally attractive in life have a certain sensual sparkle after death. As long as they keep up with basic hygiene, they will stay that way. Jamie, who was already blessed in the looks department, now had a distinctly unfair advantage. The eyes were more jade than olive now, standing out starkly from his creamy skin. His full lips parted over unnaturally white teeth. The boyish charm was still there but layered over something more dangerous, more compelling.

  Suddenly, I felt Gabriel’s eyes on me, and if I could have blushed, my cheeks would have been beet-red. I cleared my throat and kept my voice low, smooth. “Jamie, how do you feel?”

  “Like I got hit by a car,” he muttered. He jerked again, realizing that the feminine voice from his bedside was not, in fact, his mother.

  Jamie grabbed the sheet and pulled it to his chest. “Miss Jane?”

  “Jamie. ”

  He scanned the room quickly, saw Gabriel, and scrambled across the bed. He almost toppled off onto the floor, but his reflexes helped him stop just before his weight shifted over the edge. He did a sort of tuck-and-roll thing that landed him on his feet. His eyes took on a sort of panicked glaze, and he started gasping for breath. I could see the comprehension cross his features.

  He didn’t need to breathe.

  “Jamie, I’m going to need you to stay calm. ”

  “Calm? What’s happening to me?”

  “What’s the last thing you remember?”

  He chewed on his plump bottom lip. “Uh, I was working. I drove the truck up to your shop. You waved hello and smiled at me. I remember thinking how much I liked that sweater on you, cause it made your, uh”—Gabriel cleared his throat, Dick threw Jamie a warning look, and Jamie immediately recognized his subbasement position on the room’s totem pole—”eyes stand out. You screamed my name, and I turned around, saw the car headed for me … And that’s it. ”

  “That car ran you down. It was a hit-and-run. You were bleeding, and there was a lot of internal damage. You were dying, and you asked me to change you. ”

  Jamie rubbed at his Adam’s apple and swallowed, a sign of the thirst building in his throat. “I don’t remember. I remember a feeling of not wanting to die, but that’s pretty much it. So, I’m a vampire now?”

  “Yes. ”

  “Cool. ”

  My brow furrowed. “Really, that’s it? That’s the sum total of your response?”

  “Yeah. ” He shrugged.

  “We’re talking a total change in lifestyle here, new hours, new diet, new rules, new lifestyle. And your response is ‘cool’?”

  “Do I get a long black coat like that Angel guy? Ooh, or Spike. My sister loves that show. ”

  “All that MTV and Twitterfacing has seriously dulled you kids to emotional response, you know?”

  A note of genuine fear, of concern, crept into his voice. “Wait, do my parents know I’m a vampire?”

  I nodded. “Someone from the Council, the governing body for vampires, went to your house the night you died. ”
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