“Listen to me,” Astrid said frantically, pacing my suite like a Vampyre on fire. “I’m seriously worried I might behead them accidentally on purpose. That would be so soooo wrong even though they technically deserve it. I need your help.”
“You want me to behead them?” I choked out, running my hands through my wild curly black hair while trying to figure out where my best friend was going with her line of thought. With Astrid, one could never be certain.
“No! I mean, yes… but no. Absofuckinglutely not. We can’t behead them. Samuel loves the old sequined nut jobs and they saved his life,” she went on, still making very little sense.
“Your son loves everyone. He’s a child,” I reminded her. “Would Sammy really miss Martha and Jane?”
“Fine point. Well made,” Astrid agreed thoughtfully. “But I’m the jackwad that gave the okay to have them turned. It would be like committing patricide if I had them offed. Right?” she asked, clearly looking for someone to give her permission to eliminate the banes of her existence.
“Actually, you’ve already done that,” I told her, trying not to laugh.
Astrid halted her pacing and looked wildly confused. “I’ve done what?”
“Committed patricide,” I replied.
“Wait. What the hell does patricide mean?” Astrid asked, flopping down on the over stuffed Shabby Chic chair in the cozy den of my suite.
“It means kill your father.”
Her groan echoed in my suite. “Oh, well… shit. I guess I have done that. He was a total dick.”
And that was the understatement of the century. Her father was one of the most vicious and deadly Demons known to our world. Even his brother, Satan, appreciated Astrid for ridding the Underworld of such a blight on humanity.
“Then what does matricide mean?” she asked with a wrinkled brow.
“Kill your mother.”
“Well, hell, I’ve done that too,” she shot back, letting her head fall to her hands. “You know when you say it out loud like that, I sound like a bad fucking person.”
“Yes… but your mother was literally ingesting your father-in-law, our King. Not to mention she’d tried to kill you numerous times,” I told her as I slipped into my running shoes and tied them.
“This is true,” she said with a shudder. “I’m not that bad then.”
“No, my friend, you’re not. You’re Compassion. And you’re my hero—not to mention my Princess. I’d go to the ends of the earth for you. However, even though Martha and Jane make me want to grind my fangs down to nubs—committing wrinkly old lady batricide would be, um…”
“Satisfying?” Astrid asked with a wide grin.
I laughed at her toothy smile. “Yep and wrong.”
“Okay then, is it wrong for it to be my secret fantasy? I won’t actually do it, but can I dream about it?” she inquired, looking frazzled.
“If it’s wrong, I don’t want to be right,” I told her, unsuccessfully trying to bite back a grin. “I daydream about it frequently.”
“Crap. You might be the wrong person to train them,” she mumbled through splayed fingers.
“Wait. Whoa. Train them?” Wincing, I shot Astrid an alarmed glance. “They already know how to fight. They’ve killed plenty of Demons, and Dark Fairies, and God only knows what else—and shockingly lived to tell about it—in great and gory detail.”
“I know,” Astrid lamented in her outdoor voice. “But they’re sloppy and short in the brain cell department. I don’t want the old fuckers to get killed. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I totally want to kill them, but I don’t want anyone else to do it. And since there’s no way in hell I would do the deed, it can’t happen. Does that make sense?”
“Alarmingly, it does.” I shook my head, amazed that I could follow her discombobulated train of thought. That possibly made me as crazy as she was, but then again we were all a little crazy. Immortality did that to a person.
“Apropos of nothing, are you still bumping uglies with Edward the German exchange weenie?” Astrid asked with a raised brow, clearly searching for a less life-threatening subject.
“Umm… no.” I cringed and covered my eyes with my hair. “As usual you were correct. He’s a gaping butthole and annoying as hell.”
“In your defense, he is pretty and the German accent is a novelty around here in Kentucky,” she offered up a pathetic excuse to make me feel better.
“Yep.” I nodded and groaned. “But pretty doesn’t make up for vapid, conceited and loser-y.”
“True,” Astrid agreed with a shrug and began picking through my laundry basket of clean clothes. “What about Gareth?”
“What about Gareth?” I shot back with my eyes narrowed to slits.
“Hmm…” Her smile grew wider and I wanted to slap it off her face. “Your reaction is very, umm… passionate.”
“He’s a disgusting, man-whore, pig from hell. You’re mistaking passion for intense dislike.”
“Interesting. Maybe you should try online dating.”
“Maybe you should shut your cakehole. I might have horrible taste in men, but I’m not desperate. I have no problem getting them. I just don’t want to keep the ones I get,” I informed her, as I removed three pairs of brand new Lululemon leggings from her sticky fingers.
“Roger that,” Astrid replied, giggling. “If you change your mind let me know. I would love to set you up with a hot, smexy Vampyre.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Not.” My eye roll made her laugh harder, but I wasn’t joking at all.
“Fine, little missy. Back to business. I’ll make training the fashion-challenged dorkholes worth your while,” Astrid promised, dangling a metaphorical carrot in front of my nose. Metaphorical because the undead couldn’t eat food.
“How worth my while?” I asked and then smacked my own head for even considering doing something that could end in actual death—either mine or theirs.
“Three full shopping days in Milan. My treat.”
“Oh my hell, you’re a mean, heinous undead woman,” I hissed, knowing I was going to cave. Prada was Prada after all.
“I know. Right?” She punctuated her glee with a little dance around the room.
“Materialistic hooker,” I snapped, mentally cataloging all of the shops I wanted to visit.
“Takes one to know one,” she shot back with a laugh.
“True,” I admitted.
Now I was the one pacing. Could I actually train Martha and Jane without tearing their heads off? I enjoyed a good challenge—and Prada—but…
Thankfully my suite in the Cressida House—the massive Vampyre compound we all lived in—calmed me. It was one of the very few places in the world that was totally mine and reflected me. I favored Shabby Chic—big overstuffed furniture in soft cottons and fuzzy chenille mixed with rich crushed velvets. The patterns were faded cabbage roses in peach and pale pink, mixed up with equally faded tulips and daisies in lavender and periwinkle. The walls were a pale celery green dotted with crazy cool folk art and Aboriginal Dream art I’d collected over the years. None of it went together individually, but together it was perfect—eclectic and weird—just like me.
However, at the moment even my sanctuary didn’t help. Decisions sucked. Decisions involving Prada and training trash-talking, politically-incorrect, dumbasses really sucked.
“Can I damage them?” I inquired, running my hands over the velvet pillows on my couch.
“Of course,” Astrid replied. “Dismembering is completely acceptable too. Arms and legs grow back. No biggie.”
“Not sure that a shopping spree is a big enough incentive,” I muttered.
“You know what? You’re right,” Astrid said, making me realize I’d spoken my thought aloud. “How about I throw in pole dancing classes with Mother Nature?”
“Um… how about no freakin’ way in hell?”
Astrid’s grandmother was every kind of insane rolled into one frighteningly beautiful package. Even her sons, Satan and God, feared her. Mother Nature aka Gigi was under the very mistaken belief that she could pole dance. She couldn’t. However, that didn’t stop her.
“Not for you,” Astrid insisted quickly with an evil little smirk hovering on her lips. “For Gareth.”
Now that stopped me in my tracks. An enormous belly laugh escaped me as I pictured Gareth—the Vampyre Prince of the Asian Dominion—pole dancing. The ridiculously gorgeous brother of our Prince Ethan was a thorn in my ass and a wildly regrettable notch in my bedpost.
“No way you can make that douchebag pole dance,” I told her.
“Dude, dude, dude.” Astrid shook her head in mock-insulted horror. “I’m a True Immortal—one of only nine in the Universe. You underestimate me. With the title comes a lot of bullshit and apparently an assload of clout. Normally, I use it wisely and for the good of our people, but Gareth deserves a little payback—he’s been a royal pain in the ass—pun intended. Besides, I’ve got dirt on everyone—or at least the baby Demons do. You teach the foul-mouthed sorry excuses for Vampyres to fight better and Gareth pole dances.”
“The shopping spree still included?” I asked, mentally weighing the pros and cons.
“Absolutely,” she swore.
“You drive a hard bargain,” I said, laughing at the crazy woman who led our people. “I’m in.”
“Excellent. You won’t regret this,” Astrid promised as she stood up and hauled ass out my suite before I could change my mind.
Plopping down on my smooshy couch, I let my head fall back and I grinned at the impending stupidity of what I’d just agreed to do. I would so live to regret this. But life was long for a Vamp—very long. Challenges helped pass the time and pushed the loneliness of living forever to the back of my mind.
As long as removing a few limbs wasn’t off the table I could do this—I hoped.
The thought of Gareth’s utter fury at having to pole dance delighted me. That bastard had been starring in my dreams for months—not to mention we couldn’t be in the same room together without wanting to kill each other. Wait. That wasn’t exactly accurate. I wanted to kill him. He wanted to shag me—his words—definitely not mine.
Hell would freeze over before that would happen again. I’d made that mistake once in a moment of weakness and stupidity. He was a man-whore-jackass. Sadly—for me—he was an ungodly beautiful man-whore-jackass who was outstanding in the Big O department. I’d even thought that maybe… Whatever. Wishful thinking did not real life make.
Letting reality hit me for a moment, I curled into a ball on my couch and buried my face in the soft pillows. Gareth was aging and dying. He’d been cursed by Vlad—the evil bastard who was now on the run from every Vampyre in the world. Prince Ethan and Astrid were certain Vlad and the Angel he’d worked with would be found and the curse could be broken. I wasn’t as positive.
As much as I despised Gareth, the thought of him dying was unacceptable. Why? I didn’t know. The man made me angrier than anyone I’d come across in my over two hundred years on earth.
Tossing the pillows aside, I pushed my panicky thoughts away. I was good at that. Time and experience had taught me to compartmentalize. A brain can only hold so much information without breaking. Sometimes to make it through each day of my eternal life, I had to focus on only the immediate. The future was vast and uncertain. The past was the past.
Screw introspective thought. It would just get me in more trouble when I was in enough trouble as it was.
I had some unpleasant old bags from hell to teach and I was going to train the living shit out of them.
Martha and Jane had no idea what they were in for.
Unfortunately, neither did I.
The training facility was my other comfort zone—second to my suite. Nordstrom ran a close third. However, it was frowned upon to scissor kick shoppers in the head, which was why it was in third place.
Fight training at the Cressida House was ugly and painful—just the way I liked it. The training facilities were top notch, including a huge gym with every machine known to the undead—triple reinforced due to our strength. In the back corner, there was a boxing ring. A three-mile indoor circular running track rimmed the facility.
The training center also encompassed a very large empty area covered in mats for sparring. There was an observation deck on the north wall about forty feet up. It was accessible from an outside set of stairs. The adjoining building contained a shooting range and a cavernous room filled with weapons—swords, daggers, katanas, throwing stars, guns, and then some.
The weapons building also housed a room used for knife throwing. I tended to steer clear of that section since the profane idiots, Martha and Jane, spent hours a day practicing. Anyone brave or stupid enough to venture in when the old gals were hurling weapons usually left with something sharp impaled in their head.
“Home sweet home,” I muttered as I put down my gym bag and scanned the area for my new students.
Maybe they wouldn’t show up. That would be incredibly awesome. I could find a sparring partner, work out some of my pent up aggression, and call it a day.
Or I could run a few miles, and then work on some sword skills, and then…
Shit. No such luck.
“Hey gurrrrl, gimme some skin,” Jane shouted using what I could only assume was her attempt at what some would call an African American dialect.
Not killing them was going to be almost virtually impossible.
Ignoring the greeting and crossing my arms over my chest, I gaped at them in open-mouthed shock. “What in the hell is on your head?”
“You like it?” Martha bellowed, preening and posing.
The outfits were appalling enough—gold lame booty shorts paired with pink feather trimmed workout bras, black socks and green high tops. Clearly the dress code that Astrid had imposed on them had tragically ended. However, it was what I was pretty sure were supposed to be afros on their heads, that made me itch to smack them into tomorrow.
“As you are Afro American, we thought it would be in good mother humpin’ form to show our acceptance and appreciation for your culture,” Martha said while performing a fucked up version of the Black Power salute.
Watching two eighty-nine year old white women try to be black almost rendered me speechless. The freak shows had caused more trouble in the short time they’d been undead than our entire Vampyre race had in centuries. However, they had saved Samuel’s life, and earned Astrid and Ethan’s undying thanks and loyalty. Actually mine too, although I’d never admit it.
“It’s African American,” I snapped, closing my eyes and praying to every deity I could think of to help me not go Rambo on their boney asses. I was proud of myself that I’d come unarmed. God only knew what would have happened if I’d been carrying a sword.
“I told you,” Jane grunted, backhanding an unsuspecting Martha in the head. “You and your stupid ideas. This is worse than the time you pulled your hair back too tight so you could fit in with the Asians.”
“That was your idea, you fucktard,” Martha reminded her, adding a gut punch to make her point.
Maybe if I just let them go at it, they’d kill each other, and I’d get out of my side of the bargain. I watched in horrified amazement as they tackled each other, swearing like sailors and accusing each other of crimes so politically incorrect I had to laugh.
Bizarrely, when they’d been turned their age didn’t reverse. They looked every second of their eighty-nine years even though they behaved like un-medicated rabid squirrels.
“Enough,” I growled, extracting them from each other and tossing them onto separate mats. “While I somewhat appreciate the heinous effort, the reality is insulting and wrong. Remove the wigs, stop attacking each other, and I might train you today.”
“No can do, sis-tah,” Martha said, wiping the blood from her broken nose with the edge of her fro.
“I’m not your sis-tah,” I told Martha through clenched teeth. “And when we train, I’m in charge. You backtalk and I get a free pass at you. Take off the wigs or I’ll do it for you and make you eat them.”
“Holy shitbombs, ease up gurl-friend,” Jane griped, getting to her feet with effort. “What Martha should have said is that the afros kept slipping so we stapled them to our heads. We could probably take ‘em off, but it would be a goddang bloody fucking mess unless you have a stapler remover.”
Letting my chin fall to my chest so they didn’t see my grin, I slowly shook my head back and forth. Stupid didn’t even begin to cover it. They were a menace to society and themselves. I was actually shocked no one had killed them yet. Martha and Jane were walking targets.
“While I usually carry office supplies in my gym back, I’m all out of stapler removers today,” I said with sarcasm dripping off every word. “When we’re done here, you’ll remove the wigs and burn them. You’re white. I’m black. This is a fact. Afros will not make you black. They’ll piss me off and you really don’t want to do that. We clear?”
“We are,” Jane said, covertly flipping Martha the bird while Martha mouthed “I told you so”.
“Stretch for five minutes while I figure out how to torture you,” I instructed, still trying not to laugh or scream at their appalling way of trying to impress me.
And then a bad day took a turn for the worse…
I felt him before I saw him. His power was unmistakable even in his weakened state. It bounced around the vast room and I noticed many bowing down to his royal ass. He could easily take down any Vampyre in the Cressida House except for his brother Ethan. At full health, I’d have to call it a draw between the two men.
Female Vamps fell over themselves to get close to him. And why not? His damn cheekbones would make a sculptor jealous. His full lips were sinful and his eyes were a mesmerizing crystal blue. Full, jet black hair—just a little too long—begged a woman’s fingers to get tangled in it. The six foot four package was gorgeous—savagely gorgeous. Only problem was that it was wrapped up in an outer layer of gaping, macho asswipe.
“That Prince Gareth is a hot piece of man meat,” Jane announced as she sat in the splits with her spindly arms over her head. “I’d do him in a hot second.”
“Better lookin’ than George W,” Martha agreed, getting stuck in what I could only call a human pretzel.
“Since he’s a big man hooker, I say go for it,” I muttered in disgust as I watched all the Vamps in the room with boobs fawn over the asshole. Whatever. I’d stupidly been with him one time—two months ago. A mistake that would never be repeated. Gareth was not my problem. I was quite sure he’d bedded at least half of the female Vamps in the Cressida house since then.
Turning my back on Gareth and entourage, I attempted to untangle Martha so I could get the session over with. However, minding my own business was not in the cards for me this afternoon. Freakin’ great.
“Venus,” Edward—my latest mistake—called out as he strode across the training area with purpose. “Der you are. I’ve been searching for you for days!”
“Now that one is smokin’ too,” Jane commented. “But kinda girly.”
“Zip it,” I hissed as I put on a polite face for the girly man I was trying to avoid.
He walked up, planted himself, and tapped his Prada clad toe impatiently. I wanted to deck him almost as much as I wanted to deck the old gals. Decisions… decisions.
“Edward, I’m busy right now. How about we chat later?” I suggested, dismissing him with a curt nod of my head. It would be all kinds of inappropriate to physically remove him—not difficult, but not my finest moment. I’d try manners first.
“Vat time?” he demanded.
He was clearly unhappy I wasn’t making time for him. “Um… eight?” I suggested.
“How about…” I started.
“Your suite,” he finished, looking quite satisfied with himself. “Very goot. I look forvard to being alone vith you. I vill stay vith you until eight.”
Not going to happen—it was only two in the afternoon right now. His smile made me feel bad, but it also made my skin crawl a little bit. Damn it, why couldn’t I be a lesbian? Women were so much easier than men.
“No Edward, I need to concentrate and you distract me,” I lied prettily.
He wasn’t a bad guy. He just wasn’t the Vampyre for me and he definitely didn’t know how to take a hint. I needed to cut him loose and be very clear.
“You heard, the lady,” Gareth cut in, standing so close to me I could feel the power vibrating off of his body. “You need to leave, my friend.”
“I’ve got this covered. I don’t need your help,” I snapped at Gareth.
He simply laughed—stared at my lips, then my breasts, and then back at my mouth.
This was turning out to be a very shitty day. I now felt naked after his perusal—and horny. His damn eyes may as well have been his hands. Gareth was all kinds of trouble and I wanted no part of him.
“As you wish,” he said with a smile. He added a bow that made Martha and Jane giggle like schoolgirls and fan themselves vigorously. “Good day, Venus.”
“Vhat vas dat about?” Edward pouted and stomped his foot. “You are mine. Not his.”
“I belong to no one but myself,” I said flatly—again thanking the Lord above I wasn’t armed. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have work to do.”
Edward sputtered a bit until he realized he was causing a scene. Turning on his heel he marched out of the gym with his perfectly coiffed head held high.
“That Vamp sounds like the smarmy fuck with the pencil mustache and one testicle from that long ass documentary we watched,” Jane said, pursing her lips and wrinkling her nose.
“Shitler,” Martha confirmed with a disgusted nod of agreement.
“You mean Hitler?” I asked, bemoaning my taste in men for the millionth time.
“No, gurl friend, I meant Shitler. That lowdown turdass was a total piece of shit. If he wasn’t already dead, I’d gut his sorry ass and shove his entrails down his throat,” Martha vowed, meaning every word.
“And I’d laugh like a loon,” Jane added, still stuck in the splits.
Maybe training them wouldn’t be as bad as I thought.
Wait, who was I kidding? Just because we had a few beliefs in common didn’t mean the old gals weren’t batshit crazy.
“You know what?” I said, thinking out loud. I needed to clear my head and I knew just the way to do it. “Today we’re gonna run. Stamina is part of the battle. You old farts ready to put some mileage on those skinny, wrinkly legs?”
“You bet your ass we are,” Jane shouted, falling over sideways still stuck in the splits. “Can someone give me a goddamned hand here?”
“Me too,” Martha said with her legs still in some kind of bizarre knot. “We love running. One time we saw Barry Manilow at the mall and chased that hot piece of love muscle right to his limo. Damn bastard locked the doors. We must have run ten miles after that dang vehicle before we gave up.”
“Son of a bitch will never know what he missed,” Jane said sadly. “We wanted to love him up good.”
Both repulsed and curious about their obvious stalker problem, my mouth moved before my brain could stop it. “Was this when you were human?”
“Hell no,” Martha grunted as she finally untangled her legs. “It was last week.”
Astrid was going to owe me big for this.
“Ground rule number one—no more talking. Ever. In my presence, you’re only allowed to ask questions about techniques and that’s it,” I informed them, pulling Jane to her feet.
“But don’t you want to hear about the play dough genitalia contest we’ve entered?” Martha inquired in complete seriousness. “You know, Titties McBoobyland used to be our art teacher back in our human days.”
“Astrid,” Jane clarified, popping every bone in her body in preparation for our run. “We have a few nick names for her. She loves them.”
“I’ll just bet she does,” I muttered. “Never ever use the words play dough and genitalia in the same sentence again—it makes me want to hurl and I don’t have that ability. We’re doing at least fifty miles today.”
“Hot damn,” Martha squealed. “That’s great!”
And it kind of was in an annoying, horrifying way. The air bags didn’t shut their mouths for the entire fifty miles, but they actually made me laugh a few times. I had to slow my pace in order not to lose them, but when I ran at full speed I was virtually invisible. They were in pretty damn bad shape, but their willingness to do whatever I told them to do was in their favor.
They would never be perfect, but they would be much better fighters by the time I got through with them.
We all just needed to live through it.