Authors: MaryJanice Davidson
Jessica peeked into the bathroom, then hurried back to report. "They got that boy stripped mother naked and they're scrubbing him with your brand-new loofah."
I winced. Thirty-seven ninety-nine at The Body Shop, kaput. "Fair enough. It's my fault he's in this mess. What happens after he's clean, Sinclair?"
"Errrrrrric..." Jessica and Marc repeated in dreamy chorus.
"Don't you two have
else to do?" I practically screamed.
"This is the most interesting week of my entire life," Marc pointed out. "Vampires! Queenmaking! Alliances! Gorgeous good guys. Sneaky bad guys. Fighting the good fight! Why in the world would we go find something else to do? What am
going to do? Fight red tape at the hospital, beg HMOs to do the right thing while a kid dies? What's Jess going to do—count her money?"
"Besides, we're your sidekicks. Part of the team. Anything that involves Liz here involves all of us," Jessica added.
"I shall endeavor to keep that in mind. To answer your question, Liz—"
"Don't you dare."
"Then no more Sink Lair, yes?"
"Very good. As I was saying, once Detective Berry has been purified, Tina or Donald will relieve his immediate need by feeding on him. Then we will make him forget he ever knew you as a vampire. He'll wake up in his own bed, with a week's worth of stubble, feeling like he's been quite ill. So he would have been—only he'll think it was the flu."
"But I don't want this to happen to anyone again," I said. "I mean, your plan sounds like a good one, and God knows you've had a lot of years to perfect it, but I'm looking to treat the disease, not the symptoms."
Sinclair had winced at 'God', but answered smoothly enough. "Then pick one—or two—or three lovers who don't mind sharing blood along with their bodies, and use them as often as you must. Or they wish."
"Do not even think of glancing in my direction," Jessica ordered.
"Seriously," Marc added. "Unless you've managed to grow a penis in the last couple days."
Sinclair ignored them. "You will find it's quite a satisfactory arrangement."
"Well, that's one of the big differences between thee and me, Sinclair, because I disagree!"
"She's a poet," Marc informed us, "and she didn't know it."
I glared at them, but they smiled back and didn't budge. I turned back to Sinclair. "It's like—it's like making a human being your—your pet or something." I'd never forget the coolly amused look on his face while he took one of his ladyfriends, then the other, then the other. They could have been anyone—he absolutely didn't care who was in his bed. I'd never do that to a person, make them feel like they're interchangeable parts of someone's machine.
"Did you not eat meat before your accident?" he asked. "You were strong and to keep yourself strong, you used the weak. That's what predators do. That's what vampires do. Otherwise you're like those fools in P.E.T.A. who think we should all nibble grass and drink nectar."
"Oh, Lord, here we go," Jessica muttered. "Save yourself, Eric."
a member of P.E.T.A.," I said. "I ate meat, sure, but I don't think we should pour shaving cream down a rabbit's throat, or rub eye makeup onto a dog's eyeball so American women can have lush lush lashes. It's one thing if you need the protein, but it's another if you want to hang a big dead stuffed head on your wall, or design a deodorant that makes your armpit smell like a flower patch."
"A vampiric P.E.T.A. member." Sinclair couldn't quite keep the smile off his face. "That's something new."
"You're one of
?" Marc said, horrified. "Oh, cripes! I had no idea. Jesus, I feel dirty! Why didn't you tell me?"
I blinked. "My being a vampire doesn't bother you, but giving money to P.E.T.A. does?"
"Hey, it was one thing when you were a soulless underling of Satan, I could work with that, but belonging to P.E.T.A...ugh! I've got my pride, dude."
Jessica got the giggles, then started to laugh. Before long she was having one of her gut-busters and hanging onto the wall to keep from falling over.
Sinclair grinned, watching me.
"I'd better go check on the others," I said at last. I passed them on my way to the bathroom and ignored the evil eye sign Marc forked at me.
Marc was still freaking out. "P.E.T.A.! Man, I'm gonna have to sit down and think this one over. Didn't mind being the sidekick of a bride of Satan, but a tree-hugger..."
sit down," Sinclair suggested solicitously.
I passed Donald on my way in. "We'll need some clothes for your Nick," he said over his shoulder. "Something he can wear home, that he can't trace back to you."
"I've got some old sweatsuits I never wear anymore—bottom drawer on the left. They don't have my name on them or anything. They'll be a little small, but they'll get the job done." Then I was stepping into the bathroom. Nick was looking a little livelier, and well he should, since his head was pillowed on Tina's breasts and she was slowly, luxuriously working soapy lather over the muscles in his back. He was, as a matter of fact, extremely happy to see her. This was a great relief to me. When I saw the wreck that was the former Detective Nick Berry on my bedroom floor, I was afraid he'd never be happy to see anyone again.
"How's it going in here?" I asked. Squeaked, actually—I was a little nervous to be talking to Tina. I could still feel that kiss.
"He'll be all right. Do you think you could assist me? I would ask Sinclair or Donald, but—"
"It's my mess. Yeah, I'll help." I slipped out of my clothes, then slid the shower door aside and stepped in. "What—uh—what do we do now?"
"Now I fall upon you with ravenous hunger and hump your brains out."
I burst out laughing. I
scooched as far away from her as I could get, and that was a fact. I also felt a little weird about being naked in front of a lesbian. I probably had been before, at one time or another—public showers, that sort of thing—but you don't know for sure, right? You just assume everyone else is straight, and if someone's staring at your tits you figure she's working up the nerve to ask who did your boob job. "Very funny. Sorry."
"I'm the one who's sorry. I abused your trust and put everything in jeopardy." Her voice was so bitter it shocked me. "All because I couldn't keep myself to myself."
"Hey, whoa, calm down, sunshine. It was just a kiss, it's not like you knifed my puppy. Besides, I owed you a favor, right? From the pit?"
She shifted Nick as easily as a grown man shifted a kitten. "So," she said, straight-faced, "I risked my life and faced the prospect of a horrible death to save you, and in return you allowed me to kiss you, and now we're even."
"Right." I smirked.
She rolled her eyes. "The devil helps us if you really are the queen." But she said it with a smile, and I knew she was teasing to make me feel better. She'd probably prefer to kiss my feet some more, but was well aware of my anti-tootsie smacking policy. "Very well, then. To business. If you'll drink from his throat, I'll take him inside me. He'll have relief and then we'll be able to plant the suggestions we need to."
"Take him—oh. Oh! But you don't—you don't like—I mean—oh, fuck."
She laughed. "All those things are true, but exceptions must be made."
"Yeah, but...like I said, it's my mess."
"Yes, but you don't want to do it. You never meant to in the first place, and don't want to now, particularly with several people waiting right outside the door, and that's fine." Seeing the look on my face, she softened her tone. "It's all right, Betsy. I truly don't mind. It's nothing to me, and everything to him. Besides...aren't you thirsty?"
I was. I hadn't fed yet tonight. Or last night, for that matter. But... "Why does it have to be both? Why do we have to drink
"We don't," she said, "but they do. If we take from them, they need us in the way that they've never needed anyone before. I guess it's like—like masturbating but not letting yourself reach orgasm. What's the point? It's frustrating and leaves everyone unhappy. We could take and not give ourselves to them in return, but it's a rotten thing to do."
"This is very weird and disturbing, and time's a’wasting and my water heater is only so big, so we'd better get cracking, and I
thirsty, but if you do this for me I owe you another favor. All right?"
She looked at me, and her little pink tongue came out and tapped one of her canines thoughtfully. "A kissing favor," she said finally.
"Awww, Tina, I told you," I whined, "I don't play that way."
So why does the idea thrill you right down to your undead toes, you liar?
"Not in life, certainly. But vampires have to adjust to many things...and quite a few of us find that after death we are—ah—flexible."
explained a lot. If a strange woman had laid a lip lock on my two weeks ago, I'd have clobbered her with my purse. But here I was, extremely naked, with a gorgeous woman and a guy who wasn't exactly ugly, both of whom would have been thrilled to fuck me, and I was more than a little tempted to be the meat in their sandwich.
It was all very strange.
"Okay," I said with a convincing display of reluctance. "A kissing favor. But later."
"Oh, I wouldn't want to do it today," she assured me. "I'd want to wait until we had...leisure."
"You know, those pauses you and Sinclair do before you finish a sentence are really terrifying."
"Why do you think we do it? And who do you think taught
?" she asked merrily. She rinsed the last of the soap from Nick's body, then beckoned me closer. I came out of my corner, ran my hands up his back, then put my hands on his shoulders, leaned in, and bit him. Hot salty life trickled into my mouth and Nick straightened up in a hurry, completely losing the apathy that had cloaked him all night. He tried to turn to face me, but I wouldn't let him.
"Here, to me," Tina said in her sweet, almost musical voice. Nick lunged forward, picked her up, and drove into her. Her back slammed against the tile and her legs were forced up and around his waist. Tina let out a squeak of pain, and Nick started thrusting against her so hard I lost my grip.
"Oh my God, is he hurting you?" I was horrified. I was ready to pull him off her and put him through the shower door, and never mind that he was the victim.
"...nothing. It's nothing."
It occurred to me that a woman who didn't choose to couple with men was taking a pounding on my behalf, and didn’t even have the pleasure of the drink to ease things. Because she wanted
to drink. Which I had, like the selfish cow I was.
It's just...I hadn't thought he'd be so rough! So—so brutal and mindless. Of course, he'd been like that with me, but I'd given it right back to him and besides, I liked men. But Tina—
Nick seized her by the thighs and wrenched her further apart; she cried out before she could lock it back.
"Screw this," I said.
I started to pull him off her, but stopped at her sharp, "Do not! Else it's for nothing!"
So I held her hand instead. She squeezed back, tightening painfully as Nick speeded up toward his climax. Then he was done and collapsing to his knees, already half unconscious, and I caught Tina as she fell forward. "That's it, sweetheart," I told her, brushing damp tendrils of hair out of her eyes. "That's the last bang you take on my behalf."
"Done, and done," she said, and we staggered out of the shower together. I remembered to turn off the water before Nick drowned. But I still felt like putting him through the wall—how's that for irrational?
When I woke up next to Sinclair, I was the most shocked person on earth. Plus, to increase the creep factor, he was lying on his side, head propped up, watching me. His chest was covered with a mat of crisp black hair, and his—
"Jesus!" I sat bolt upright and grabbed myself. I was, thank all the gods that ever were, fully clothed. "Don't
that! What am I doing here on Hell's satin acre?" I started groping my way toward the edge. We were in the middle of his gigantic bed and, I was happy to see, the sheets had been changed. They were the color of the sky on a cloudless day.
"And good evening to you, too." He watched as I clambered off his bed with all the grace of a laboring hippo, and never moved. "How is it that you weren't burned to a crisp last night?"