Nice girls dont bite the.., p.8
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       Nice Girls Dont Bite Their Neighbors, p.8

         Part #4 of Jane Jameson series by Molly Harper  
Page 8

  Author: Molly Harper

  “Because vampires would get extremely annoyed if humans did that,” I mused.

  “Whatever. If I get to go back to school, I’m going to convince the coach to let me keep playing baseball. We could totally win state with my new skills,” he said, springing back to his feet and executing several backflips. “We’d have to play at night, though. ”

  “Well, they might let you on the cheerleading squad, either way. ” I laughed as he tumbled across the moonlit clearing.

  “Hey!”

  “I’m just kidding. If they let you back in school, I will go to every game and wear one of those big embarrassing pins with your picture on it. ”

  His face split with a huge, toothy grin. “Really?”

  “Really. Someone has to keep you from snacking on the outfield. The Half-Moon Howlers couldn’t stand the loss if you were staked by angry spectators. ”

  “Funny. ” He frowned, finally coming to a stop so he could sit beside me. “So, you said something about rules earlier? You should probably tell me about those now. Nothing that’s this awesome can come without some serious drawbacks. Like steroids or dating a hot chick with a crazy dad. ”

  “How much do you know about us?” I asked. “Like our origin stories, the reason we came out of the coffin, that sort of thing?”

  “Well, I was in elementary school during the Great Coming Out, and my parents wouldn’t let me watch the news because they were afraid it would give me nightmares. ”

  “Thank you for reminding me again of how young you are. ” I sighed. “OK, no one knows where vampires come from. Almost every culture has some sort of vampire creature in its folklore. I could bore you to tears describing how the most popular beliefs originated from the Slavic traditions, probably spread by Gypsies as they traveled through India and Egypt. But it’s your first night, and I’ll spare you. There are plenty of books in the library that you should study, anyway. ”

  Jamie blanched at the mention of assigned reading but maintained a respectful silence.

  I continued, “Vampires had it pretty good for about two thousand years, lurking in the shadows, drinking their fill, looking all pretty and ageless. And then this doofus tax consultant Arnie Frink gets turned and sues his boss for nighttime work hours, citing the Americans with Disabilities Act. After the courts determined that Arnie was not, in fact, crazy—or breathing, for that matter—Arnie got his night hours, a handsome settlement, and an interview with Barbara Walters. Vampires were out, whether they wanted it or not. You probably remember everybody running around panicking, buying Vampire Home Defense Kits at Walmart, and making crosses out of tent stakes. Vampires were panicking, too, forming the World Council for the Equal Treatment of the Undead, making tentative agreements with the governments of the world, trying to keep the angry mobs at bay. But I realize that you’ll find all of this equally boring coming from me, so I’m just going to refer you to the Guide for the Newly Undead. It’s basically the survival guide for newly turned vampires. You need to memorize it, maybe carry portions of it around in your pocket. ”

  Jamie groaned at the thought of homework, so I moved on to more interesting topics. “The rules are pretty simple. The most important thing you have to remember is: Sunlight is bad. It will kill you. No arguments, no bargaining. You will be a little pile of dust. I tried using SPF-500 sunblock once but ended up with severe burns on my hands because I forgot to protect the creases between my fingers. The pain I can’t even describe. I would avoid it altogether to the best of your ability. ”

  “OK, but what about stakes and crosses and silver bullets and all that? ‘Cause I’m thinking a silver-bullet gun would be pretty awesome for self-defense. It would go with the black coat. ”

  I sighed and made a promise to myself to keep Dick and Jamie separated as much as possible. “We’re allergic to silver. Imagine sticking your hand into a hornets’ nest and being forced to listen to the Wiggles while the little bastards repeatedly sting you. ” He shuddered. “Yeah, it hurts. And if you get dosed with too much of it, your healing abilities are overwhelmed, and you can have the vampire version of anaphylactic shock. ”

  “Huh?”

  I sighed, reminding myself that I was dealing with a young person. “Anybody at your school allergic to peanuts?”

  He nodded. “Tiffany Scott’s face swells up and turns purple if she gets near a PB and J. She has to sit at a special table in the cafeteria. ”

  “Same principle. ”

  “That’s kind of cool. ”

  I harrumphed. “Let’s see, wooden stake to the heart, beheading, and setting us on fire—all fatal. We can see our reflections. Crosses aren’t a big deal, unless you and God have some unresolved issues. We can go into homes uninvited, but we could be criminally charged if we do, so let’s not try that. ”

  “Can we turn into bats?”

  “Sadly, no. ”

  “Garlic?” he asked.

  “Stinky but not harmful. ”

  “What about sex?”

  I tried to maintain the most neutral expression possible. “What about it?”

  “Will I be having it?”

  “That’s sort of up to you. ”

  Jamie moved toward me and put his hand on my thigh. I shot to my feet and backed away to a distance that wouldn’t get me put on some sort of watch list.

  “No, no, no. That’s not how this works at all. ”

  “But you said Gabriel was your sire, and you’re … with him. ”

  “I’m with him because he’s my boyfriend, well, my fiance now. ”

  “Seriously?”

  I mulled over whether he was more surprised that I was getting married or that I was marrying Gabriel. I nodded. “He just happened to become my boyfriend after I was turned. It has nothing to do with the sire thing. ”

  “But what if I want to date?”

  I shrugged. “After you’re settled, you can date whoever you want, as long as they’re a consenting adult and you don’t do anything anatomically compromising in my house. ”

  Given the gleam in his eyes, I was suddenly very thankful that Jamie couldn’t get anyone pregnant. There wasn’t enough latex at Goodyear to contain that gleam.

  “You have to be careful around humans, Jamie,” I said, my tone gentle. “Daddies who wouldn’t be happy to find you rolling around the backseat with their daughters aren’t going to be happier about it now that you have fangs. And while getting hit with a shotgun blast won’t kill you, it will sting like the dickens. And you don’t want to hurt the girls, either. You’re a good-looking guy. You could break a lot of hearts. ”

  He grinned at me and put his hand on my knee.

  I groaned.

  “I misread that again, huh?”

  “Yes. And your hand’s still on my knee. ” I sighed. “That settles it. We’re going to have to keep you away from Dick Cheney. ”

  “The vice president?”

  “Oh, we need to talk. ”

  4

  There will be outside events that can distract you from your duties as a sire. Only leave your childe with other vampires whom you trust. Do not under any circumstances leave your childe alone with a human, unless you enjoy settling wrongful-death suits with large amounts of your money.

  —Siring for the Stupid:

  A Beginner’s Guide to Raising Newborn Vampires

  Jamie proved to be as energetic and fretful as any newborn baby on his first day home from the hospital. None of us got any rest until the very last dregs of night sky had been burned away by sun and he collapsed in the guest room.

  After precious few hours of fitful sleep, I was having a very strange dream. First, a burly man with wild, curly dark hair was standing in front of River Oaks, screaming and shaking his fists. I reached out to his mind, but all I got were rolling waves of hate, grief, anger, and regret, in alternating shades of red and orange. I pulled away, recoiling from the angry mass of thoughts. My weird dream brain shifted to inside the house, and my grandmother was standing in the corner of the room, and she was angry, hissing horrible things to me. I was a disappointment to my family. I was a thief. I was a usurper. Her voice was a cold fog that slithered across the floor, over my bed, wrapping itself around my head as the insults struck closer to home. I was unnatural and wrong. It should have been me who died. I was a whore, sullying my family’s home with my vile dead lover.

  Sadly, it was pretty much the same speech I got last Christmas.

  The very moment the sun slid behind the horizon, the phone rang. Gabriel groaned and rolled away from it. Still groggy, I reached for the receiver and clicked the remote for the sunproof curtains to rise. Lovely purplish twilight poured in through the windows as my eyes adjusted. Blinking blearily, I picked up the receiver and heard a ragged sniffle from the other end of the line.

  “Jane, sweetie, I have bad news. ”

  Slightly more awake, I pushed the receiver closer to my ear. “Mom? What’s going on?”

  “Jane, your grandma Ruthie passed. ”

  I sat up, taking the quilt with me and knocking Gabriel out of bed. “What?”

  “Ow,” Gabriel muttered into the floor.

  “Your grandma died this afternoon. I’m so sorry, honey. ”

  “No, no, I’m sorry, Mom. Are you OK? What happened?”

  My mind immediately went to Grandma’s boyfriend, Wilbur, whom I’d never trusted. Grandma Ruthie’s four husbands and her previous fiance had all died under suspicious circumstances, involving a speeding delivery truck, a brown recluse bite on the inside of the throat, a previously unknown allergy to Grandma Ruthie’s famous strawberry-rhubarb pie, a golf-related lightning strike, and a miscalculation of a Viagra dosage. So, when she paired up with a ghoul—a sad version of vampirism so weak that they barely qualified as immortal—with a similar marital history, I’d stated (loudly enough for the entire family to hear me) that it was only matter of time before one of them ended up dead. Although Wilbur was basically the Splenda of vampires—a weak, ineffectual imitation of the real thing—my money was on Grandma Ruthie. I’d placed a small wager with Dick relating to the possibility of her being dosed with botulism.

  Wilbur and Grandma Ruthie seemed very happy together, although I guess that when you never know when your lover might facilitate your release from your mortal coil, it adds a certain amount of adrenalinated spice to the mix.

  Shudder.

  “Your grandmother had a stroke at the Garden Club meeting. She was screaming at Bitty Tate about having the gall to put marigolds in the sponsored planters in front of City Hall without permission. And she just keeled over. ”

  That didn’t sound “natural” to me, but I didn’t think it would help to point that out. It struck me that for once, my mother had a legitimate reason to be overwrought, to make demands and have hysterical hissy fits. But she seemed so calm. Her voice hadn’t cracked once in our conversation. She hadn’t commanded me to construct a salad from bacon, cream cheese, and gelatin and get myself to her house to receive well-wishers. She wasn’t even asking what I planned to wear to the visitation. I was more than a little worried.

  “How are you doing?” I asked.

  “I’m fine, honey. I’ve been preparing for this for a while. ”

  “That’s weird. ”

  “You know me, Jane. I’ve got to handle all the details now, focus on that. I’ll fall apart later. Don’t you worry. ”

  I nodded. When Mama finally wound down, Daddy would be there for her, to pick up the pieces. He was better at that than people gave him credit for. But I would be standing by with industrial-grade sedatives, just in case.

  “Now, your grandma had her service preplanned—”

  “Of course she did,” I said, rolling my eyes and imagining the eulogy Grandma had most likely typed, highlighted, and delivered to Reverend Neel.
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