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Undead and Unappreciated, Page 2

MaryJanice Davidson

  He was giving me the strangest look. Usually I got that look from Sinclair. “It doesn’t work like that.”

  “Yeah, I know, I found out. Really nice bunch of people. Kind of jumpy, but very friendly. Had to dodge the reporter, though.”

  “Reporter—” He shook his head. “But Betsy…why did you go?”

  “Isn’t it obvious?” I asked, a little irritably. Marc was usually sharper than this. “I drink blood.”

  “And did it work?” he asked with exaggerated concern.

  “No, dimwad, it did not. The reporter and the lights freaked me out, so I left early. But I might go back.” I took another gulp of tea. Needed more sugar. I dumped some in and added, “Yep, I just might. Maybe they don’t teach you the trick until you’ve gone a few times.”

  “It’s not a secret handshake, honey.” He laughed, but not like he thought what I’d said was funny. “But you could try that, see how that works.”

  “What’s your damage? Maybe you should have a drink,” I joked.

  “I’m a recovering alcoholic.”

  “Oh, you are not.”

  “Betsy. I am.”



  I fought down escalating panic. Sure, I hadn’t known Marc as long as I’d known, say, Jessica, but still. You’d think he would have brought something like that up. Or—ugh!—maybe he had, and I’d been so obsessed with the events of the past six months I hadn’t—

  “Don’t worry,” he said, reading my aghast expression and interpreting it correctly. “I never told you before.”

  “Well, I…I guess I should have noticed.” I could put away a case of plum wine a month, and Jessica liked her daiquiris, and Sinclair went through grasshoppers like there was gonna be a crème de menthe embargo (for a studly vampire king, he drank like a girl), but I’d never noticed how Marc always stuck to milk. Or juice. Or water.

  Of course, I’d had other things on my mind. Especially lately. But I was still embarrassed. Some friend! Didn’t even realize my own roommate had a drinking problem. “I guess I should have noticed,” I said again. “I’m sorry.”

  “I guess I should have told you. But there didn’t ever seem to be a good time to bring it up. I mean, first there was the whole thing with Nostro, and then all the vampires getting killed, and then Sinclair moved in…”

  “Ugh, don’t remind me. But…you’re so young. How did you even know you were one, much less decided to stop drinking?”

  “I’m not that young, Betsy. You’re only four years older than me.”

  I ignored that. “Is that why you were going to jump off the hospital roof when I met you?” I asked excitedly. “The booze had driven you to suicide?”

  “No, paperwork and never getting laid had driven me to suicide. The booze just made me sleepy. In fact, that was the whole problem. Sleep.”


  “Yeah. See, being a med student isn’t so bad. The work isn’t intellectually hard or anything—”

  “Spoken like a math genius.”

  “No, it’s really not,” he insisted. “There’s just a lot of stuff to memorize. And they—hospitals—can’t work a student to death. But they can work the interns and residents to death. And the thing is, when you’re an intern, you’re always short on sleep rations.”

  I nodded. I’d faithfully watched every episode of ER until they killed off Mark Green and the show started severely sucking.

  “So it was normal to go forty, fifty hours sometimes without sleep.”

  “Yeah, but don’t patients suffer because of it? I mean, tired people fuck up. Even someone who didn’t go to Harvard Medical School knows that.”

  Marc nodded. “Sure. And it’s not news to administration, either, or the chief residents, or the nurses. But the fuckups are blamed because a babydoc—that’s what the interns are called—did it, not because he did it because he hadn’t slept in two nights.”


  “Tell me. They’re supposed to limit the amount of hours you work, but it’s not enforced. After a while you get used to it. You can’t really remember a time when you weren’t dog-ass tired. It starts getting hard to sleep even on your nights off. You’re so used to being awake, and even if you do fall asleep, you know a nurse is going to wake you up in five minutes to handle a code or an admit, so why bother going down in the first place, and you just…stay awake. All the time.”

  He went back to the fridge, refilled his milk, took a sip, sat back down. “So, after a while I started having a few shots of Dewar’s to help me get to sleep. A while after that, I started thinking on shift how great that shot of Dewar’s would taste when I got home. A while after that, I started drinking whether I needed to get to sleep or not. And after that, I started to bring my old friend Dewar’s to work.”

  “You drank…at work?” And you drink blood, I reminded myself. Let’s not start pointing fingers.

  “Yup. And the funny thing was, I remember the exact day I figured out I had a problem. It wasn’t all the empty bottles I was recycling every week. It wasn’t even the nipping at work or showing up at the EW with a hangover almost every day.

  “It was this day I was working in Boston when I was asked to work a double, and I realized by the time I got off, all the bars and liquor stores would be closed. And I only had half a bottle of Dewar’s at home. So I started calling around—to a bunch of my friends to see if one of them would run out and pick up a couple of bottles for me.

  “And none of them would do it. Understandable. When a pal calls you up practically in the middle of the night because he’s desperate for his fix, you’re not gonna help him, right? But the weird thing was, I was calling these people at eleven thirty at night, and none of them thought it was weird. That’s when I knew.”

  “So what happened?”

  “Nothing dramatic. Nobody died or anything. Nobody who wouldn’t have, even if I’d been Marcus Welby and stone-cold sober. I just…stopped. Went home—”

  “Dumped out the half bottle.”

  “Nope, I saved it. It was…like a charm, I guess. As long as the half bottle was there, I could fool myself into thinking I’d have a drink later. That was my trick. ‘I won’t have anything tonight, and tomorrow I’ll reward myself with a big drink.’ And of course, tomorrow I’d say the same thing. And I’m two years sober next month.”

  “That’s…” What? Weird? Cool? Fascinating? “That’s really an interesting story.”

  “Yeah, I can see the tears in your eyes. Which one did you go to?”


  “Which AA meeting?”

  “Oh. Uh…the one at the Thunderbird Motel. On 494?”

  “You should go to the one at the Bloomington Libe. Better stuff to drink.”

  “Thanks for the tip.”

  He drained his milk, gave me a milk-mustache smile, and slouched off toward his bedroom.

  I drank cup after cup of tea and thought about Dewar’s.

  Chapter 2

  Eric Sinclair, king of the vampires, was back from Europe the next night, I was sorry to see. It had been a relatively uneventful six weeks despite—or because of—the vampire king’s voyage to Europe. I had been careful not to ask questions, because I didn’t want him to misconstrue my interest in his activities as interest in him. On the top of my brain I figured he might be abroad to check on his holdings—they were on the vast side. On the bottom, I just didn’t want to know.

  “Welcome back,” I said to Tina, his sidekick and oldest friend. Really old…like, two hundred years or whatever. “Die,” I told him.

  “I did that already,” he replied, folding the newspaper and setting it aside. “And I have no plans to do it again, not even for you, darling.”

  “I’ll see you later, Majesties.” Tina bowed and walked past us, out the room.

  “Hi and ’bye,” I said. “Why can’t you follow her example?”

  “Miss me?”

  “Not hardly.” This was sort of a l
ie. Eric Sinclair, at six foot huge, was an imposing presence. It wasn’t just that he was big (broad shoulders, long legs) or great-looking (black eyes, dark brown hair, succulent mouth, big hands). He was charismatic…almost mesmerizing. You looked at him, and you wondered what it would be like to feel his mouth on you in the dark. He was sin in a suit.

  “Come and sit down,” Jessica said. “We’re having a late supper. Really late.”

  “Jess.” I sat. “How many times do I have to say this? You don’t have to adjust your mealtimes just because the three of us sleep during the day.”

  “It’s no big deal,” she replied, which was a huge lie, since it was three o’clock in the morning, and she was finally having supper. Or a really early breakfast.

  “You’re so full of it.” I poured myself a cup from the ancient tea service that had come with the house. Like just about everything in the place, it was a zillion years old and worth about that many dollars. I was almost getting used to using antiques every day. At least my heart didn’t stop if I dropped something.

  “I missed you,” Sinclair said, as if I’d been having a conversation with him. “In fact, I was most anxious to return to your side.”

  “Don’t start,” I warned.

  “No, start,” Jessica said, slicing her roast beef. The smell was driving me crazy. Oooh, beef! I barely knew ye. “It’s been creepily quiet around here lately.”

  “And I think it’s time we addressed our current…difficulty.”

  “It is?”

  He meant the fact that we were king and queen together, technically husband and wife, though we’d only had sex twice in the last six months.

  “You can’t turn back the clock, Elizabeth. Even one such as you has to bow to logic.”

  “Don’t be a putz,” I told him. “Pass the cream.”

  “I’m merely pointing out,” he said, ignoring my request—both of them, come to think of it—“that you cannot be a little bit pregnant or go back to being a virgin. As we’ve already been intimate, and are married by vampire law—”

  “Yawn,” I said.

  “—it’s pointless not to share a room, and a bed.”

  “Forget it, pal.” I got up and got the fucking cream myself. “Do I have to recap?”

  “No,” Sinclair said.

  “But you will,” Jessica added, not looking up from buttering her green beans.

  “I slept with you once, and got stuck with the queen gig. Slept with you again, and Jessica invited you to move in.”

  “So, by that logic, I should give up intimate relations with Jessica,” Sinclair pointed out, “not you.”

  “What kind of logic is that?” Jessica asked, almost laughing. “And you can just dream on, white boy.”

  “All of you, shut up and die.”

  “What’d I do?” she cried.

  “You know what you did.” I gave her a good glare, but she knew me too well and wasn’t impressed. I decided to change the subject before we got into a real fight. Everybody knew my views on the subject. They had to be as tired of hearing about it as I was of bitching about it. “Where’s Tina off to?”

  “Visiting friends.”

  “I thought that’s why you guys went to Europe.”

  “It’s one of the reasons.” Sinclair sipped his wine. “Marc is working, I assume?”

  “You assume right. For once,” I added, just in case it went to his head. His pointy head.

  He ignored that, like he ignored 90 percent of what came out of my mouth. “I brought you something.”

  I was instantly distracted. And mad at myself for being distracted. And wildly curious…a present! From Europe! Gucci? Prada? Fendi?

  “Oh, yeah?” I asked casually, but I nearly spilled hot tea all over myself, my hands started shaking so bad. Armani? Versace? “What’d you bring me, soap?” I tried to squash my soaring hopes. “It’s soap, isn’t it?”

  He took a small, soap-sized black box out of his pocket and slid it over to me. I wasn’t sure whether to be dismayed or excited. Small box = not shoes. But it could mean jewelry, which I liked as much as the next dead girl.

  I flipped it open…and almost laughed. Strung on a silver chain—no, wait, it was Sinclair, and he never did anything halfway, so it was probably platinum—was a tiny platinum shoe, decorated with an emerald, a ruby, and a sapphire. The stones were so tiny they looked like a buckle on the shoe. It was just too adorable. And probably cost a fortune.

  “Thanks, Sinclair, but I really couldn’t.” I slapped the box closed. I had drawn a line in the sand a few months ago, and it was tough work, sometimes, staying on my side of the line.

  If I let him give me presents, what next? Sleeping together? Ruling together? Rewarding him for being sneaky? Turning my back on my old life and forging through the next thousand years as the queen of the vampires? Lame. And again: lame.

  “Keep it,” he said mildly enough, but was that a flash of disappointment in his eyes? Or was it wishful thinking on my part? And if it was, what was the matter with me? “You might change your mind.”

  “If you ever come to your senses,” Jessica mumbled to her green beans.

  The thick, awkward silence was broken when Marc walked into the dining room. “Great, I’m starving. Is there any more beef?”

  “Tons,” I replied. “You’re home early.”

  “Deader than hell at work, so I got off early. By the way, you’ve got visitors.”

  “Someone’s here?” I put my hand on the necklace box…then took it away. What was I going to do with it? I didn’t have pockets. Just hold it in my hand? Sinclair wouldn’t take it back. Maybe leave it on the table? No, that’d be kind of bitchy. Right? Shit.

  Why did he have to do this stuff? He must have known I wouldn’t have accepted it. Right? Shit. “I didn’t hear the doorbell.” Stick it down the back of my pants and smuggle it out of the room? Hide it in my bra?

  “I caught them on the porch. It’s Andrea and Daniel. They said they need to ask you something.”

  I stood up, glad for a chance to get away from Awkward Dining 101. “Well, let’s go see what they want.”

  “Don’t forget your necklace,” Jessica said brightly, and I almost groaned.

  Chapter 3

  Andrea Mercer and Daniel Harris were waiting for me in one of the parlors, and I was glad to see them. Not just because of the distraction. I really liked them.

  Andrea was a vampire, like me, and a young one, also like me. She’d been killed on her twenty-first birthday, about six years ago, and was starting to get a handle on the thirst.

  Daniel was her boyfriend, a regular guy and an outrageous flirt, and I got a real kick out of spending time with them. They were total opposites: she was serious and moody, and he was fun and irreverent. But you could tell they really loved each other. I thought that was pretty cool.

  “Your Majesty,” Andrea said, standing the minute she saw me. I waved her back down and sat down myself.

  Daniel yawned and sprawled on the settee. He was a tall, blue-eyed, good-looking blond with the shoulders of a quarterback…put him in a horned helmet, and he’d be the spitting image of a marauding viking. He didn’t stand when I entered, which was refreshing. “Betsy, babe. You guys can’t have meetings at a decent hour?”

  “Bitch, bitch, bitch,” I said good-naturedly. “What’s up, you guys?”

  “Thanks for seeing us,” Andrea said.

  “No, thank you,” I mumbled. If not for them I’d still be smiling awkwardly at Sinclair and trying to figure out where to stuff the necklace.

  “We’ll get right to it, ma’am. Daniel asked me to marry him.”

  “What? Seriously? That’s great! Congratulations!”

  “Thanks.” Andrea smiled and looked at the floor, then back up at me. “And the thing is, we’d like you to do it.”

  “Do what?” Get married? According to some, I already was married.

  But not according to me. As happy as I was for Andrea, I was suddenly so jealous
I was ready to spit on her Payless-clad toes. Why, why, why couldn’t Sinclair have asked me to marry him? Why did he have to trick me? Why did he bring me presents instead of apologizing and trying to make things right? If he loved me, he had a crummy way of showing it. And if he didn’t, why did he fix it so we were stuck together for the next thousand years?

  “To marry us,” Andrea was saying. Oops, better pay attention. “To perform the ceremony.”

  “Oh.” This was a new one. As the queen, I could do all sorts of things other vampires couldn’t do. Handle crosses, drink holy water, accessorize. But perform vampire wedding ceremonies? “Uh…I’m flattered but…can I do that?”

  “Yes,” Sinclair said from two feet behind me. I nearly fell off the couch. The guy couldn’t make noise when he walked like anybody else, oh no. Six foot four and as noisy as a cotton ball. “As the sovereign, you can perform any ceremony you wish, including weddings.”

  “Oh. Jeez, you guys, I don’t know what to say…”

  “Say yes,” Daniel said. “Because we can’t get a priest. And Andy’s got her heart set on you doing it, don’t ask me why.”

  Andy (not that anybody else could get away with calling her that) nodded. “That’s true.”

  “Which part?” I teased.

  “All of it. Will you help us?”

  “But…” But I didn’t know how. But I wouldn’t know what to say. But it would be really depressing for me to marry another couple, knowing I would never have a proper wedding. But it was ridiculous, having a secretary perform the wedding ceremony. “When’s the big day?” I asked, surrendering.

  They looked at each other, then back at me. “We figured we’d leave that up to you,” Daniel said. “You know, with your busy queen schedule and all.” Typical guy.

  “When do you want to get married?” I asked her. She’d have picked out a date the second he proposed.

  She hesitated for a second, glanced at Daniel, then said, “Halloween.”