Bite (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8.5)(17)


by Laurell K. Hamilton

The cat, naturally, ignored him.

3

THIRTY DAYS LATER…

“THAT makes four,” Sophie said. “And now I think she’s done.” Smiling, she looked down at the blind, squealing creatures. They were various shades of white, gray, and brown, all pink noses and gaping maws and wee claws, clambering all over each other in search of food. “And your cat…er…?”

“Fred.”

Sophie didn’t miss a beat. Liam gave all his cats odd, thought-up-at-the-last-second names. “Fred seems fine. Call me, of course, if she seems to have any trouble.”

“Yeah.” Liam took a deep breath. “Would you…d’ you want to come into the house? For something to drink?”

Sophie nearly winced. Although the blood and various mess of Fred’s birthing hadn’t tempted her, the way the pulse was beating quickly at Liam’s throat—almost as if he were nervous—did. She had to, had to find a solution to this problem. Driving down to the Cities and preying on various muggers and panhandlers simply would not do. For one thing, her car couldn’t take the extra mileage. She knew she should have bought a Ford.

“I guess you don’t,” Liam said, incorrectly reading her long silence.

“Oh. Oh! No, I would like to have a drink. Very much.” Very, very, very, very, very much. “Please, lead the way.”

She followed him inside the neatly kept farmhouse and stood admiring the large kitchen, done in blue and white, and smelling like bread. It reminded her of some of the country houses back home. Liam wasn’t a farmer, though he lived on a farm. He had inherited the place, along with quite a bit of money, from his father, who had invented pocket calendars.

“Lemmee see,” Liam said, bending into the open refrigerator. “I’ve got milk…two percent, whole, and skim. Diet Coke. Regular Pepsi. Lemonade. Cherry Kool-Aid. Ginger ale. Orange juice. Grape juice. Oh, and I can make chocolate milk,” he added, straightening and showing her the bottle of Hershey’s syrup. “If you want.”

Her eyebrows arched in surprise…she’d expected water, or maybe a beer. He saw her expression and said, “I know you like to drink.”

He had no idea, the silly man. But she had to smile. She supposed if a person only accepted drinks, and never food, over a period of four decades, a reputation was built. “I would love some orange juice,” she said. “Low pulp, yes?”

“Yeah.”

While he busied himself getting glasses, she wandered around the kitchen, finally thumbing the ON button for the small television in the corner. She supposed it was rude, but the heavy silence in the kitchen was beginning to make her nervous. The local news had just started. That would give them something to talk about, thank goodness. “I wonder if we’ll find out when there’ll be an end to this vile cold snap,” she mused aloud.

“So, um, you going to the meeting next week?”

“No,” she replied, scratching his husky, Gladiator, between the ears. Gladiator was a less-than-admirable guard dog, getting up briefly to smell her skirt when she entered, then flopping down on the rug with a groan and going back to sleep. “I must work.” In truth, the meeting was being held at the church. So, naturally, she couldn’t attend. Too bad. She had plenty to say on the issue of tearing down the schoolhouse that had been on the edge of town for over a hundred years. So there were some rats? The thing was a historical monument! Americans. They only wanted what was new.

“Oh. That’s too bad. Because I thought that we…um…I…you know, the meeting…if you needed a ride or whatever…. Here’s your juice.”

She took the glass and sipped, and smiled at him. He didn’t smile back, merely gulped his own juice thirstily.

He was nervous. She couldn’t imagine why. She’d known him almost his entire life. He’d grown into a fine man, too. Tall…strong…responsible…if he was teased about being the quietest man in the state, what did she care? He was a good man. He took excellent care of his pets. As she got older, she realized the simple things really were the most important.

“It was kind of you to invite me inside,” she said. And it was. Although she had been accepted by the townspeople years ago, she rarely received social invitations of any kind. She was sure that, deep down, the population of Embarrass, Minnesota, knew exactly what she was.

Accepting a vampire on her own terms and allowing her to take care of the pets and livestock was one thing. Inviting a creature of the night into your own home where you lived and slept and were vulnerable all the time was something else.

“I’ve, uh, been wanting…I mean, it’s no big deal. You know, since you came out. To take care of Fred and all. It’s, you know, the least I could do.” He stared longingly at the bottle of vodka perched on top of the refrigerator. She wanted to suggest he pour himself a stiff shot, but felt that would be inappropriate.

“…the fourth such suicide in five months,” the announcer said, and she jerked her head around. “Officials maintain that the deaths were self-inflicted, but the parents of the girls, particularly the latest victim, are not so sure.”

Cut to a bereaved father, his eyes rimmed in red, wearing a yellow shirt that was jarringly bright for the circumstances. “Shawna would never have done something like that,” he said hoarsely. “She was so happy. She was staring at the U of M next month. Friends…she had friends. She was popular, really popular. And…and she even had a new boyfriend. She never would have killed herself.”

Cut back to the news announcer, who had been so heavily BOTOXed it was difficult for her to maintain the expression of vague sympathy. “Regardless, tonight in Babbitt, Minnesota, a town mourns.”

Sophie set her empty glass down so hard, it broke on the table. Liam jumped, and Gladiator woke up. “I have to go,” she said abruptly. “Thank you for the juice. I must…” She fumbled in her bag for her cell phone, and quickly punched in Dr. Hayward’s number.

“What’s the matter?” Liam asked, staring at the broken glass. “Are you okay?”

“I’m—yes, Matt? It’s Sophie. I’m sorry to bother you this late, but I must leave…yes, right now. Tonight…yes. It’s a…family matter…don’t laugh, I’m quite serious. Yes…yes, if you please…no, I have no idea. I beg your pardon…yes, I appreciate that, Matt. Good night.”

PagineGialle | Néstor Cantillana | Welche Filehoster wünscht ihr euch?