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Undead and Unwelcome

MaryJanice Davidson

Chapter 1-2


  Chapter 1

  "So, if I'm reading this correctly, you're a vampire now. Not a secretary. "

  "Not an administrative assistant," I corrected automatically. I mean, jeez! I knew Cooper was old and creaky, but what century did he think we were living in? (Or in my case, dying in and then reliving?)

  "The important bit," Cooper went on, "is about the vampire. "

  "Well, yeah. "

  "And how you're the queen of them. "

  I sighed and flopped into an airplane seat. I examined the toes of my navy blue Cole Haan Penny Air Loafers . . . not a scratch so far. "I guess some people would consider that an important point. The queen thing. "

  "It's bulleted and boldfaced. Also, the date of your death is in italics, along with how you don't have to urinate anymore. "

  "My pee or the lack thereof is nobody's business!" I gnashed my teeth and added, "Give me that. "

  I snatched the memo away from Cooper so quickly, he didn't see my hand move until his wrinkly fingers were clutching air. This startled him into a gasp, which we then both pretended I hadn't heard. That, I was learning, was vampire etiquette. Or, that is, vampire etiquette when dealing with humans. I'd finally figured it out after three years of being undead.

  There should be a class, you know. Vampire Etiquette When Dealing with Humans 101. In another fifty years, I could teach the stupid thing.

  I scanned the memo, my eyes bulging so much they felt like they were trying to leap from my skull. Cooper hadn't been kidding. Jessica had sent him a memo detailing my bodily functions. Two pages!

  To: Samuel Cooper.

  From: The Boss.

  Re: Betsy, Vampirism, and Cargo.

  Cargo? My gut churned.

  And the part about me being the vampire queen was bulleted.

  "I can't believe she sent you a memo. "

  "She always does. And I send 'em to her. Increasing fuel costs, licensing issues, route changes. You know how expensive fuel's getting now that China's buying all the oil? The E. M. ain't cheap, you know. " The E. M. : Jessica's private joke. It stood for Emancipated Minor.

  "And she sends her memos to me to keep me in the loop, don't you know. Seems this one's a little late, though," he muttered.

  " 'Creepy speed and unnaturally grotesque super-strength'?" Aghast, I kept reading as other blechy phrases leaped out at me. " 'Still obsessed with shoes but married rich and can now actually afford the stupid things'? That scrawny traitor, I'm going to-agh! 'Immortality hasn't given her any interest in any topic she cannot refer to in the first person. ' Why, that-okay, I can't really argue with that last one, but she didn't have to highlight it. Look! It's highlighted. "

  "So is 'extreme narcissistic tendencies. ' In any case, I'm to fly you to Cape Cod, so you can meet with the King of the Werewolves and make sure he doesn't sic his pack on you. "

  "I think it's pronounced Pack. "

  Cooper heard the capital P and nodded. "Right. This Pack, they're pretty ticked? Because of that little gal Antonia?"

  I nibbled on the inside of my lip, distressed, as always, by any mention of Antonia. It had only been a week. It didn't still sting, as much as feel like a lateral slice through the liver.

  See, poor Antonia was making the trip with us-in the cargo hold, as all corpses flew. In a plain wooden coffin, the lethal bullet holes all over her skull still not filled in by an undertaker. My husband, Sinclair, and I had no idea what werewolf funeral customs entailed, so we'd given orders that her body simply be placed in a coffin and loaded onto Jessica's private plane.

  We didn't even wash her beautiful, dear face.

  But that was nothing compared to what we did with Garrett's body.

  "Look, Cooper, the important thing is now you know what you're getting into. So if you can't fly us out there, or if you think you-"

  "Bite your tongue, miss. Or missus, I suppose. I've been flying for Jessica Wilson since she was seven years old, don't you know, and we've had hairy days and we've had hairy days. "

  "Cooper, I never, ever want to hear about your hair. "

  He ignored me. It was just as well. "I've seen and heard things-never mind, that's private family business. "

  "Oh, come on, we're best friends. I mean, Jessica and me. " I didn't know if Cooper had any friends. "There's no way you know stuff that I don't-"

  Cooper ruthlessly interrupted my shameless scrounging for gossip. "This doesn't scare me. " He nodded at the memo, inadvertently crumpled in my fist. "But I surely wish Miss Jessica had told me earlier. "

  He meant, of course, "Like, how about before I flew you and the vampire king to New York City for your honeymoon, dumbass?" But Cooper neither a) freaked out, nor b) quit. And thank God, because finding another private pilot at this hour would have been a bitch.

  "You got a problem with the boss?" I asked. "Take it up with the boss. What I want to know is, are we still leaving at eight o'clock?" Because if we weren't, I (and probably my husband) was going to be in big trouble with seventy-five thousand werewolves. I held my breath, remembered for the thousandth time I didn't have to breathe anyway, and waited for his answer.

  Chapter 2

  "Memos don't slow down my flight check," Cooper semi-scolded in his luscious Irish accent. I managed not to swoon with relief. Also, oooh, European accents, I could listen to them all day. Americans sounded like illiterate bumpkins by comparison. "Gunshots don't slow down my flight check. "

  "Don't worry. Nobody's packing. " On this flight.

  "I could tell you stories about the carnage and body counts . . . " Cooper's pale blue eyes went misty with nostalgia while I watched him nervously, then he seemed to shake himself. "But the government made me promise. "

  "Well, hoo-ray for the government. "

  Cooper had first worked for Jessica's dad and, when her folks died (an ugly yet fitting death and a story for another time) and their assets transferred to her, he kept right on flying for her.

  And as he'd said, Cooper heard things. Chances were he'd already known I was walking around dead. He was just miffed that Jessica hadn't told him three years ago.

  And you know, he wasn't revolting looking. Tall-my height-with eyes the color of new denim and a shock of pure white hair that he wore over his shoulders, he was like an ancient hippy, albeit one who had never touched drugs nor alcohol.

  He was wearing what Jessica teasingly called his uniform: khaki shorts, sandals, and a T-shirt that read, JESUS SAVES. HE PASSES TO NOAH. NOAH SCORES! He had tons of weird Jesus shirts. People picked fights if he wore the wrong T-shirt to the wrong place. Fights Cooper always won, despite his age. It was unreal, yet cool . . . sort of like Cooper himself. Jessica had fired him dozens of times for his own safety, but he always showed up the next day.

  "Okay, then. " I stood, forgetting I had been sitting under a bulkhead, and banged my head. "Ow!"

  "Luckily being dead hasn't dulled your natural grace. "

  "Shut up, Cooper. "

  He smirked and tipped two fingers in a mock salute.

  "All right, so I'll see you in another hour or so. They're, um, they're done loading Antonia and my husband's pulling together some paperwork . . . "

  For what, I had no idea-Sinclair had his fingers in a lot of pies, and I wasn't interested enough to ask. He might answer, and then I'd have to listen. Or look like I was listening, which was harder than it sounded.

  "Anyway," I finished, having almost lost my train of thought (again), "we'll be back a little later. "

  "I'll be ready, mum. "

  Oh, it was mum now? What was I, the queen of-never mind. "And for the zillionth time: Betsy. It's Betsy. "

bsp; "Whatever you say, mum. "

  Polite as always, he didn't turn his back on me while I scuttled out of the plane and down the stairs. My car was parked on the west end of the tarmac of the MinneapolisInternationalAirport; I had no idea what strings Sinclair had pulled so that I could park there. I didn't want to know, frankly.

  Okay, "my car" was a bit of an exaggeration . . . I'd driven one of Sinclair's to the airport for my little hey-guess-what-I'm-dead meeting. It was a Lexus hybrid, the only SUV I could drive without feeling like another planet-polluting asshole. Also, it had seat-warmers.

  There! One unpleasant chore out of the way-Cooper knew the scoop and, even better, hadn't tried to jam a cross down my throat. He'd agreed to fly us to the Cape, and best of all, hadn't tried to offer me a washcloth soaked in holy water. Another sneezing fit I so did not need.

  Have I mentioned there are some actual perks to being the long-prophesied vampire queen? I'm so used to bitching about my unwanted crown I tend to overlook the positives.

  Holy water, crosses, and stakes can't hurt me. Nor garlic. Antonia, my dear dead friend, had no idea if bullets would kill me, and refused to risk my life to find out. Which is why she was riding in the cargo hold instead of the plush seats of a private plane.

  I shoved Antonia out of my head; it still hurt too much to think about her sacrifice.

  And speaking of sacrifices, there was Garrett, Antonia's late lover, to think about. Once he'd realized that Antonia was dead-in part due to his own cowardice-he'd killed himself right in front of us. Messily.

  I didn't quite dare broach the subject with Sinclair; he felt unrivaled contempt for a lover who would jam someone up and then not face the consequences.

  Me, I wasn't so sure it was that black and white. Garrett was never strong. He was never even brave. But he had loved Antonia and couldn't live without her. Literally.

  Tina and Sinclair had taken care of his body, dragging it off the broken staircase (poor Garrett looked like he'd been caught in a giant set of teeth), cutting off the head, and burying it at Nostro's old farm (where the Fiends . . . the ones still alive . . . lived).

  But that was enough of that for now-Garrett was dead, and I couldn't change that. But I was going to have a word with my alleged best friend about her irritating, insulting, and idiotic memorandum (memoranda?).

  I mean, jeez. Narcissistic? Didn't she stop to think how I would feel if Cooper read that about me? Not to mention, I wasn't even cc'd on the thing.

  I swear, I didn't know what had gotten into that girl since I'd cured her cancer and she had to dump her boyfriend because he hated my guts. Frankly, I've been having a terrible time this week.

  And now rogue memos! It was too much for anyone to expect me to handle, which I would be pointing out to her the minute I saw her.

  Self-centered? Me? Sometimes that girl doesn't know me at all.