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     Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.7

       part  #4 of  Jane Jameson Series  by  Molly Harper / Fantasy / Romance & Love
Page 7
Author: Molly Harper

“What do you mean, ‘the night I died’? How long have I been out?”

“It takes three days for a vampire to rise. ”

“I’ve missed three days of school?” he yelped. “Unexcused? I’m going to be kicked off the baseball team. Aw, man, my dad’s going to kill me!”

“I’m pretty sure calling in dead counts as an excused absence. ”

“Were they pissed?” he asked. “Am I grounded?”

“Noo. They were upset that you were hurt. But they weren’t angry … at you. ”

“Can I see them?”

“Not for a few days. We need to make sure that you’re, uh, safe, to be around humans. It’s sort of dangerous for you to be around people right now. And I know you would hate to hurt someone. You’re going to need to get used to feeding and the whole bloodlust thing, before we can let you around innocent bystanders. ”

“Aw, man, why’d you have to bring up food? I’m starving. ” He groaned, rubbing his washboard abs. “Well, not starving, really, but, thirsty, really thirsty. Like I’ve been stuck out in the desert for days. Is that normal?” he asked, voice garbled as his fangs stretched out and bumped his lip. “What’s that?” He slapped his hand over his mouth. “What the hell is that?”

“Those are your fangs,” I told him. “It’s a perfectly normal response to your hunger. ”

“Oh, my God, this is so embarrassing! I feel like I should walk around with a big notebook over my face. ”

I laughed, but Gabriel asked, “Why is that funny?”

“How do I make them go away, Miss Jane?”

“Well, right now, you need them. But we’ll work on the whole retracting issue. We’re just going to stay nice and calm, and I’m going to walk you through your first feeding, OK?”

“Is it going to be gross?”

“It takes some getting used to,” I told him. “But it’s no big deal. Were you embarrassed when I used to serve you smiley-face pancakes?”

“I’m embarrassed that you’re talking about it now,” Jamie said, shooting a pointed look at Dick and Gabriel.

“Well, this is just like that. It’s just breakfast. Now, I’m going to put my wrist up to your lips, and you just do what feels natural, OK?”

“Is it going to hurt you?” he asked, eyeing my arm fearfully.

“Not if you don’t want to hurt me,” I assured him. “Now, just put your fangs into the skin and bite down. ”

“I can’t, it feels … I don’t want to. ”

“Maybe we should just try the bottled blood,” Gabriel offered.

I shot a glare at him. “Are you going to helicopter-grandsire him, or do we want a fully functional vampire who won’t be living in our basement thirty years from now?”

“What?”

“Here, Jamie, I’m going to help you this once, but the next time, you have to do it on your own. ” I bit through the thin skin over my veins, shuddering at the weird wet crunching sound it made, and offered it to Jamie. He tentatively ran his tongue along the wound and lapped at the cool rise of blood welling up from my skin. I could hear Gabriel growling behind me. Jamie latched onto the bite and pulled blood from the wound in earnest. His hands wrapped around my arm, and he leaned into me, nestling his back into my side. He relaxed, nuzzling the skin of my arm in a way that was distinctly not “platonic. ”

Chewing my lip, I looked up to Gabriel and Dick. My fiance seemed to be debating whether to let me handle the situation or throw Jamie out a window, while Dick was struggling against hysterical giggles at my plight.

“Jamie, that’s enough, now,” I said, using what I hoped was a good impersonation of my mother’s “Jane, be reasonable” tone.

Jamie grumbled and tugged my arm possessively. He shifted his hips toward me, and my eyes widened. Jamie had a little problem. Well, not a little problem. It was a perfectly average “notebook-worthy” problem.

He opened his eyes and followed my eye line to the tent in his sweatpants. He immediately pulled away and grabbed a pillow to cover himself.

I was woefully unprepared for living with a teenage boy.

“Sorry,” he said, grimacing.

“It, uh, happens,” Gabriel acknowledged, moving ever so subtly closer to the bed to help me rise from it. “Just don’t let it happen around Jane. It’s not appropriate. ”

“Who are you, again?” Jamie demanded of Gabriel.

“Did you want to try some of the bottled now?” I asked, pretending the embarrassment away by sheer force of will. “You need to get used to feeding both ways. If you want to feed on humans, that’s your choice. But as long as you’re living with me, I’m going to ask you to stick to a nonviolent diet. ”

Jamie accepted the offered Faux Type O, took a sip, and blanched. “I’m good—Wait, I’m living with you?”

“Yes, I turned you, so I’m responsible for you. Like a foster parent. If you screw up and eat a busload of nuns, I am in some serious trouble. So, if I ever come down on you or seem like I’m being unreasonable, it’s just because you don’t quite get the rules yet. And I’m trying to keep us both from getting the Trial—the vampire version of ironic/painful capital punishment. ”

Jamie’s eyes scanned the room, checking out his new digs. Considering that it was my room when I stayed with Jettie as a kid and still sported peppermint-striped wallpaper and a lacy canopy bed, I didn’t think he was terribly impressed. “How long will I be here?”

“Until you’re ready to live on your own. ”

“But what about school?” he demanded, his voice cracking Peter Brady-style. “And work? Baseball? College?”

“I honestly don’t know. Maybe, when you’re ready, we could have Ophelia arrange some home-school lessons so you could still graduate with your class … assuming that they’re willing to have a nighttime ceremony. And as for college, maybe in a few years, you could try it. Since the Coming Out, more schools have been adding night classes to their schedules. I know you were probably counting on baseball scholarships, but I can help out with tuition. I feel sort of responsible for this. I’m so sorry, Jamie. I know this is a lot to take in. Trust me, I’ve been there. The thing you have to focus on is that you’re alive, technically speaking. And that once you stop thinking about everything you’ve given up, being a vampire is pretty awesome. ”

“Like what?” he demanded.

“Well, you’re superstrong, for one, like athletes on illegal substances times a thousand. And that thing you did to keep yourself from falling on your face? Doesn’t compare to what you’ll be able to do, balance-and agility-wise. You can run faster than you ever imagined. And some vampires get extra bonus talents. ”

“Like singing?”

Dick snickered and muttered something about “karaoke,” which was clearly a reference to the last time we’d gone to the Cellar as a group and I’d performed a particularly sad rendition of “Love Is a Battlefield. ” Gabriel tried to cover his laugh by clearing his throat but failed. I scowled at them both.

“No, like Gabriel can alter human memories. It’s a handy skill when you’re feeding off your neighbors and need them to remember falling neck-first on a barbecue fork. ”

“Wow,” he marveled. “What can you do?”

“I can read minds. ”

Jamie looked stricken, which made me wonder what he’d been thinking in the last few minutes.

“Only human minds,” I told him. “But I try not to go sifting around in other people’s brains. It’s just rude. I still can’t get the hang of reading vampires, unless I’m feeding from them. And that’s generally when Gabriel and I are … never mind. ”

“I want to see,” Jamie said.

I frowned. “Gabriel and I are not doing that in front of you. ”

“No, I want to see how fast and strong I am. Can you take me outside? I just, I want to run or something. Please? I feel like I’ve been sleeping for days. ”

I looked up and saw Gabriel shaking his head.

“I’m not sure that’s a great idea, Stretch,” Dick added, casting nervous glances at our young ward.

Jamie gave me the big green puppy-dog eyes, and I felt a strange melty sensation in my chest. I groaned. This was not a healthy precedent to set, him persuading me by being adorably pathetic.

“Please,” he begged. “I have some questions for you, and they’re kind of, um, private. ”

“What kind of questions?” Gabriel asked.

“The private kind,” Jamie shot back.

Unsure, I gave Gabriel the classic eyebrow lift, meaning, For the love of God, please tell me what to do.

Gabriel shrugged. “It’s up to you. You’re the sire now. ”

“That is decidedly unhelpful,” I told him.

“Douche!” Jamie fake-coughed into his hand.

I turned on my young charge and gave him a withering glare. “Seriously, did you just douche-cough my fiance? What’s next? The dreaded slut-sneeze?”

Dick laughed under his breath. I whirled on Dick. “I so should have let you turn him. ” I turned toward Jamie and poked a finger into his chest. “OK, but the first sign of you bolting for that busload of nuns, I break your ankles like Kathy Bates in Misery. ” He gave me a blank look. I sighed and tried to think of a more modern cinematic torture reference. “I’ll go Jigsaw on your ass. ” He laughed. “I am completely serious. You will do what I say, when I say it, or you won’t be able to walk for a week. ”

He looked frightened for a moment, then nodded. “Believe it or not, my mom used to say that right before she’d take me and Daisy into Walmart. ”

“Nice. ” I snickered as I tossed him a T-shirt extolling the virtues of the Southern Festival of Books. “Take it easy. It’s your first time out. ”

We trotted down the stairs with Gabriel and Dick close at our heels. I stopped on the front porch, sniffing the air, trying to sense any humans who might stumble into our path. Jamie was staring up at the sky, shielding his sensitive eyes from the light of the moon. He flexed his hands, marveling at the way the sinew and bone moved under his skin. He smiled, looking to me like a baby taking his first steps.

“You ready?” I asked.

Jamie was stretching his arms behind his shoulders in that jocky way that clearly communicated that he did not consider me athletic competition. “What happened your first time out?”

“I tried to eat my best friend. ”

His arms froze over his head, and he frowned. “Oh, well, I’ll try not to do that, then. ”

I laughed and took a few quick steps toward the pasture. Jamie quickly caught up to me. My new childe running was a thing to behold. How someone so bulky could be so lithe and light on his feet was a mystery. We ran across the width of my land, leaping high over the grassy hills for no other reason than that we could. Jamie whooped as he landed, a little unsteady on his feet, and then bounded over an old shed my great-grandfather used to use as a deer blind.

“This is great!” he crowed, flipping back into a handspring and walking on his hands on the tall silvered grass. I sat down on a fallen log and watched, a bemused smirk tilting the corners of my mouth. “I can see everything, every crater on the moon, every branch on every tree. I can smell everything, the grass crushing under my feet, the smell of your skin. Did anyone ever tell you that you smell just like peaches and cinnamon?”

“Easy,” I told him sternly.

“No, it’s just that the smell sort of sticks out in my mind, probably because it was the last thing I smelled as I was dying. That smell means safe, it means home, which is probably some weird vampire instinct thing, huh?” he continued as if I hadn’t just admonished him for inappropriate sire harassment. “How come we never hear about this stuff when they talk about vampires on the news? It’s all ‘Be respectful and cautious when you’re approaching the cranky undead. ’ No one ever says, ‘Vampires are like superheroes. Ask one of them to leap over a tall building in a single bound!’ “
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