Dead and Loving It (Page 2)

And-what's this now? He was squinting in the poor light of the alley, and slipping on a pair of sunglasses. Sunglasses-how weird was that, at ten-thirty at night?

“I have business with the young lady,” Weirdo continued, walking toward them. His hands were open, relaxed. She knew he wasn't carrying a weapon. He moved with the grace of a dancer; if she hadn't been so f*****g hungry she might have liked to watch him prance around. “Much kinder business, I think, than you two. So be on your way, all right?” Then, in a lower voice, “Don't be afraid, miss. I won't hurt you. Hardly at all.”

“Stand aside, four eyes,” she snapped, and with barely a glance, she stiff-armed him into the side of the building and hurried past. She had no time for would-be muggers, and less for Mr. Sunglasses-At-Night. Let the three of them fight it out. She had a date with a dead lobster.

Behind her, Sunglasses yelped in surprise. There was a flat smack as he hit the wall, then slid down. She'd tossed him a little harder than she meant-oopsie-and then the other two jumped him, and she was out of the alley.

She could see the restaurant up ahead. Just a few more steps and she could order. Just a few more…

She stopped.

Don't you dare!

.

Turned.

C'mon, enough already! They're human…it's none of your business.

She started back toward the alley. Sunglasses was a weirdo, but he was vulnerable to attack because of what she had done. Yeah, they were human, but it was one thing to mind your own business, and another to turn your back on a mess you helped make.

You moron! Who knows when you'll get to eat now?

“F**k off, inner voice,” she said aloud. People thought the outer Janet was a b***h; God forbid they should ever meet the inner Janet.

She stepped into the alley to help, and was just in time to see the second mugger crumple to the filthy street. The first was half in and half out of the dumpster.

And Sunglasses was hurrying, hurrying toward her, licking the blood off his knuckles.

“As I was saying before you tossed me against the wall, I have business with you, miss. And where on earth do you work out?”

She was so surprised she let him put his hands on her shoulders, let him draw her close. He smiled at her and even in the poorly lit alley she could see the light gleaming on his teeth. His very long canines. His fangs, to be perfectly blunt. He had fangs, and it wasn't even close to the full moon.

..

“What the hell are you?” She put a hand to his chest to keep him from pulling her closer. His heart beat once. Then nothing.

He blinked at her. “What? Usually the lady in question is halfway to fainting by now. To answer your question, I'm the son of a farmer. That's all.”

“My a*s,” she said rudely. “I came back to give you a hand-“

“How sweet.”

“-but you're fine, and I'm hungry.”

“What a coincidence,” he murmured. He tapped a sharp canine with his tongue.

Beneath her palm, his heart beat again. “My, you're exceedingly beautiful. I suppose your beaux tell you that all the time.”

“Beaux? Who the hell talks like that? And you're full of s**t,” she informed him.

Beautiful? Shyeah. She wasn't petite and she wasn't tall-just somewhere in the middle.

Average height, average weight, average hair color-not quite blonde and not quite brown-average nose, mouth, chin. She could see her average eyes reflected in his sunglasses. “And you'd better let go before I hit you so hard, you'll spend the rest of the night throwing up your teeth.”

He blinked again, then smiled. “Forgive the obvious question, but aren't you a little nervous? It's dark…and you're quite alone with me. Why, I might do anything to you.” He licked his lower lip thoughtfully. “Anything at all.”

“This is really, really boring, f**k-o,” she informed him. “Leggo.”

“I decline.”

She brought her foot down on his, felt his toes squish through the dress shoe.

Then she knocked him away from her with a right cross. This time, when he went down, he stayed down.

Twenty minutes later, she was happily slurping the first of a dozen oysters on ice.

Chapter Two

He knew he was lurking like a villain in a bad melodrama, but he couldn't help it. He had to catch her when she came out of the restaurant. So he was reduced to watching her through the restaurant window from across the street.

Richard rubbed his jaw thoughtfully. It didn't hurt anymore, but if he'd been mortal, it likely would have shattered from the force of the woman's punch. She hit like a Teamster. And swore like one, too.

She was stunning, really very stunning with those cider-colored eyes and that unique hair. Her crowning glory was shoulder length and wavy, and made up of several colors: gold, auburn, chestnut…even a few strands of silver. The silky strands gleamed beneath the streetlight and made him itch to touch them, to see if they were as soft as they looked.

She had been fearless in the near dark of the alley, and he'd become utterly besotted. He had to see her again, take her in his arms again, hear her say “f**k” again.

Ah! After a five-course meal, here she came. And look! She had spotted him instantly, and was now stomping across the street toward him. Her small hands were balled into fists and her lush mouth was curled in a snarl.

“F**k-o, you don't learn too quick, do you?”

“You're marvelous,” he said, smiling at her. There were few people on the street at this hour, but the ones who were around caught the tension in the air, and did a quick fade. Most mortals had zero protective coloring, but something about the proximity of a vampire put their wind up, even if they weren't consciously aware of it. “Just charming, really.”

She snorted delicately. “I see you're heavily medicated, on top of everything else.

Get lost, before I belt you in the chops again.”

“You came all the way over here to tell me to go away?”

A frown wrinkle appeared on her perfect, creamy forehead. “Yeah, I did. Don't read anything into it. So blow, okay?”

“Richard Will.”

“What?”

“My name is Richard Will.” He held out his hand, hoping she wouldn't be startled by his long fingers. Most people-women-were.

“Yeah? Well, Dick, I don't trust people with two first names.” She stared at his outstretched hand, then crossed her arms over her chest.

He let his hand drop. “And you are…?”

“Tired of this conversation.”

“Is that your first name or your last?”

Her lips curled into an unwitting smile. “Very funny. You never answered my question.”

“Which one?”

“What are you? Your heart…” She started to reach for him, then let her hand drop.

“Let's just say you should get your a*s to a doctor, pronto.”

“You know what I am.” He bent toward her, and was thrilled when she didn't back off. “In your heart, you know.”

“Dick, as my family will tell you, I don't have a heart.”

He rested his palm against her chest, feeling the rapid beat. “Such a lie, dearest.”

She knocked his hand away, and sounded gratifyingly breathless when she said,

“Don't call me that.”

“I have no choice, dearest, as you never told me your name.”

“It's Janet.”

“Janet…?”

“Smith,” she said rudely, and he chuckled. Then laughed, a full-blown guffaw that sent more stragglers hurrying away. “What the hell's so funny?”

“Don't you see? We simply must get married. Richard and Janet…Dick and Jane!”

She gaped at him for a long moment and then, reluctantly, joined him in laughter.

                                                            * * * * *

“So you don't like the new wife?”

Janet moodily stirred her coffee. It was after midnight, and they were the only couple in the coffee shop. “It's not that I have a personal problem with her, she's just…not our kind, is all.”

“She's Polish?”

She snorted a laugh through her nose. “Nothing like that…I'm not that big a b***h. It's hard to explain. And you wouldn't believe me anyway.”

He grinned, flashing his fangs. “Try me.”

“No way, José. I want to hear about you. I didn't know there were such things as vampires. Assuming you're not some pathetic schmuck who filed his teeth to get the girls.”

He considered lifting her, in her chair, over his head, but decided against it.

Among other things, it was unnecessary. She knew what he was, oh yes. She had felt his heart. And he had felt hers. “I didn't know there were such things either, until I woke up dead.”

She leaned forward, which gave him an excellent view of creamy cleavage in her wine-colored dress. “How old are you?”

“Not so old, for a vampire. Not even a hundred yet. And as it's not polite to ask a lady her age-“

“Thirty-six.”

Perfect. Giggling girlhood was left behind, she was closing in on her sexual peak, and the best was still ahead. He tried very hard not to drool.

“I'm the old maid of the family,” she was saying. “Most of my friends have teenagers already.”

“You have plenty of time.”

She brightened. “See, that's what I always say! Just because we're trapped in this damned youth-obsessed society doesn't mean we have to do everything in our twenties. What's the f*****g rush?”

“Exactly. That's what I-“

“Except my family thinks totally differently,” she said, her shoulders slumping.

“They're very in-the-now, if you know what I mean. Sometimes there's…there's fights and stuff and you never know if today's your last day on earth. There's lots of pressure to make every single day count, to cram everything you can, as often as you can. Nobody really stops and smells the fuckin' roses where I come from, you know?”

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