Dead and Loving It (Page 24)

“Oh, shut up,” Betsy told her. “And Sinclair, what are you talking about?”

“I guess he’s right,” Marc said reluctantly. “Me being dead might have bummed you out, but you would have gone on.”

“And on, and on, and on,” Betsy said glumly.

“So saving Marc was a bonus? You’re really here to do something else?” Jessica asked.

Antonia shrugged.

“Fascinating,” Sinclair commented.

“Honey, as soon as the bars open tonight, I’m buying.”

.

“I don’t drink,” Antonia told him. “And you’re nuts if you do. You do know alcohol is a poison, right? Aren’t you supposed to be a physician?”

“Oh, good,” Jessica said. “A sanctimonious soothsayer. Those are the best kind.”

“See if I ever warn you of mortal danger.”

“You do know I’m the only thing between you and another gown fitting, right, Fuzzy?”

She smiled; she couldn’t help it. It was the first time she could recall joking about not warning someone about impending doom, and the someone in question taking it the way she meant it: as a joke.

The pack honestly worried she would see someone’s death and not warn them out of spite. This both puzzled and upset her—she might not be Little Miss Sunshine, but she would never, ever keep such an awful secret. How could her own pack so misunderstand her motives and actions? She’d grown up with them. And what could she do about it? She was too old to

Change.

“Fine,” Marc was saying. “Virgin daiquiris all around.” “Strawberry?” Sinclair asked hopefully, and Betsy laughed

and got up and brought out multiple blenders.

..

Chapter 8

You make him sleep in the basement?“ Antonia practically roared.

“We don’t make him do anything,” Betsy explained patiently. “He’s definitely his own Fiend. Guy. Whatever.”

“Oh.” Slightly mollified, Antonia calmed down.

“Besides, if he’s out and about when the sun comes up… poof. At least in the basement, I don’t have to worry that he’s lost track of time. I mean, does he even tell time?”

“Try giving him a watch.”

“I guess. In the past, he’d nibble on whatever we gave him… books, magazines, clothes. He’s way ahead of the other Fiends now, though.”

“What is a Fiend?”

They were strolling along Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis, as far away from the police station as they could get and still be in the neighborhood. Bait. The queen of the vampires, interestingly, had a thing about drinking blood: she only did it in response to attempted assault.

“Well, the guy in charge before Sinclair and I took over was a real psycho.” Betsy was tripping along daintily in ludicrous shoes for city-walking: buttercup yellow pumps with black stripes along the sides. “And he was into experimenting on his subjects, like any psycho. And apparently how you make a Fiend is—it’s so awful that I know this—you take a newly risen vampire, and you don’t let them feed for a few years. And—and they go crazy, I guess. They turn feral. Forget how to walk, forget how to talk—”

Antonia wrinkled her nose; the three punks following them had too much garlic on their pizza. And their guns hadn’t been cleaned in forever; they stank of old oil and powder. “But George can talk and walk. Well, he talks a little.”

“Yeah, now. See, for whatever reason, George wouldn’t stay with the other Fiends. We had them sort of penned up on Nostro’s grounds.”

“He agreed to this when you took over?” she asked, startled. Vampires were weird!

“He didn’t agree to s**t; he’s dead.”

“Oh.” Appeased, Antonia hurried her gait, pretending to be nervous. The jerks quickened their pace, whispering to each other. “So Garrett wouldn’t stay with the other Fiends… ?”

“Right, he kept getting off the grounds. And one night he followed me home. And I let him feed off me—yuck!”

“Yuck,” she mused.

“And he started to get better. And then my sister Laura let him feed off her, and he got really better—that’s when he talked.”

“Oh, your sister’s a vampire?”

“No,” Betsy said shortly, and Antonia knew that was all to be said on that subject. “Anyway, he was always different from the others. And now he’s really really different. And then you came.”

“And then I came.” She whirled, picked up one of the thugs, and tossed him. He skidded to an abrupt halt, courtesy of the unlit streetlight.

“Antonia!” Betsy shrilled. “You’re supposed to wait until he attacks us!”

“He was just about to,” she said defensively. She smacked the gun out of the other’s hand, almost smiling when she heard the metacarpals break.

The third, predictably, took to his heels.

“Well, there you go,” she said, gesturing to the two moaning, crying attackers. “Take your pick.”

“I don’t think this is how you’re supposed to help me, either,” Betsy snapped, mincing over to the one by the streetlight.

“You’re right, this was a freebie. Bon appetit.”

“Go over there,” she grumbled.

“You mean in the corner that smells like piss?”

“I can’t do it in front of you,” the queen of the vampires whined.

“Are you kidding me? You’re kidding me, right?” Antonia paused. “You’re not kidding.”

Betsy pointed. “The quicker you go over there and don’t look, the quicker we can get out of here.”

“I think it’s fair to say nobody’s ever sent me to the corner before.”

Betsy snickered. “Nobody puts Baby in a corner.”

“What?”

“Nothing. Monkey culture.”

The guy by the streetlight groaned and flopped over like a landed trout. The one with the broken hand had passed out from the pain. “I guess I’ll be in the corner, then.”

“This is quite a life I’ve made for myself,” Betsy muttered and stomped over to the streetlight.

Antonia yawned and ignored the groans and slurping. When the queen was finished, Antonia walked back to her. “Ready to go?”

Interestingly, Betsy looked… what was it? Mortified. “I’m sorry you had to see that.”

“You sent me to the corner,” she reminded her. “I only heard.”

“Yeah, but… it’s gross. It’s so, so gross.” She covered her eyes for a moment and then looked up. “Except…”

“When it’s with Sinclair,” she guessed.

“Yeah. Yeah! How’d you know?”

Antonia tapped the side of her nose.

“Yuck. I mean, great! Wait a minute. I thought you couldn’t smell us.”

“I can just barely smell your blood. Which was on him, last night. Don’t worry. What do I care? You’re vampires, for crying out loud, why wouldn’t you share blood?”

“We’re not going to talk about this,” Betsy declared and went clicking off down the street in her silly shoes.

Antonia hurried to catch up. “You don’t have to be embarrassed. It’s your nature now. I mean, I like my steaks raw, and you don’t see me apologizing.”

“Different thing.”

“Totally the same thing.”

“And already, you’ve been hanging around me too long. You said totally!”

“I totally did not.” She reached out and touched Betsy’s chin. “You missed a spot.”

Betsy flinched back, newly self-conscious, and then forced a smile. “Thanks.”

They walked in silence for a minute and then Betsy asked, “You really weren’t grossed out?”

“Are you kidding? My high school graduation was gorier than that.”

Antonia was amused to see Betsy could skip in high heels.

Chapter 9

They returned a couple hours before dawn, about the time Jessica brought out a large bag full of yarn skeins.

“I’ll take them down,” Antonia offered.

“That’s all right, I’ll do it.”

She yanked the bag out of Jessica’s hands, nearly sending the smaller woman sprawling. “I insist. Besides, it’s another way to earn my keep.”

“Yeah, whatever,” Jessica grumped, rubbing her elbow. “I hope you trip on the stairs and die.”

“Thanks for that.”

The funny thing was, she was in such a hurry to get to the basement and see Garrett, she almost did trip.

For nothing: He wasn’t there.

She looked everywhere, listening as hard as she could, frustrated because her sense of smell was useless. It was a big basement—it ran the length of the house and had lots of little rooms and nooks and crannies—and searching it took a long time.

Finally, she gave up, left the yarn bag on one of the tables, and trudged up to her room.

To find Garrett crouched on her desk, his toes on the very edge, perfectly balanced like a vulture, his arms clasped across his knees, his gaze nailed to the doorway.

“There,” he said comfortably, as she shut the door and tried not to wet her pants in surprise.

“I’ve been looking everywhere for you, dope! If they knew you were out of your little basement cell, they would f*****g freak out, get me?”

“Get you,” he said and soared off the desk at her. She ducked, and he slammed into the door and slid to the carpet.

“Ha!” she crowed, slipping out of her coat and dancing around his prone form. “I’m not that kind of girl. Serves you right.”

He bounded to his feet in one smooth motion and pounced on her again. Shrieking with laughter, she let herself be borne back on the bed. “Oh, what the hell,” she said, putting her arms around him. “I am that kind of girl.”

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