“Well?” Cass prowled over wearing a toothy grin. “Are we going hunting?”
“The payout isn’t as large since he’s not a criminal, but we can both guess where he’ll go.”
To the scene of the crime. To see his dead undead lover. To make whatever peace available to him.
A quick check of the time left me conflicted. “We only have two hours until dawn.”
“I enjoy living dangerously.”
“Your love muffin is busy working his second crime scene. He won’t be at the train museum to bust us.”
“He’s not my love muffin.”
“Did you notice his hands?” She flexed her delicate fingers. “That man knows how to knead dough.”
“My bakery is not open for business.” I made a slashing gesture when her gaze dipped to my chest. “Do not make mention of my breasts as pillowy mounds of—anything really. Leave my boobs out of this.”
“You’re the least fun person I’ve ever met.”
“And yet you’re still here.”
“Your staidness was a cry for help. Who am I not to answer?”
“Staidness is an old vampire word. I thought you were hip and with it.”
“I’m hip and with it enough to know humans don’t say hip or with it and haven’t since the eighties.”
“Two hours,” I warned, done teasing the vampire. For now. “We’ll have to make it fast.”
Cass smiled, teeth glittering. “My specialty.”
“You’re terrible.” I dragged a hand down my face. “Horrible.”
“No good,” she agreed. “Very bad too.”
Laughing under my breath, which only encouraged her bad behavior, I jogged upstairs to pull on jeans, sneakers, and a tee. I didn’t expect Angelo to put up much of a fight, if we found him in time.
With dawn an oncoming threat, we had to factor in vampire ennui as well.
Angelo might decide he would rather greet the sun than live without his lover.
Usually it was dawn or near it when those calls came in. Thanks to the hour, I got to handle them solo. Fun times.
I discovered most forlorn vampires huddled in shadows, only making their brave stand against UV when they spotted me coming. Or awaiting the rising of the sun on the roof of their home, always with a door or window to their back, and cast in deep shadow. Or, my personal favorite, standing in front of a window clutching blackout curtains to rip open dramatically, except they never did.
Out of the six or seven attempted suicides I had fielded, only one had resulted in the vampire going through with it. I hesitated to count it since he hadn’t meant to do it. He tripped over the fabric artfully arranged on the floor at his feet, caught himself on the curtain, ripped it open, and exploded into dust I was blowing out of my nose for days.
Needless to say, I didn’t get paid for that job.
With Cass behind the wheel, we covered half the distance to the railroad museum in a blur. About to make our turn, a red and blue strobe caught my eye.
“Accident?” I heard the doubt in my voice. “Can you tell if it’s police or emergency services?”
Soon it became apparent we would have to drive past them to reach our paycheck.
“Police.” She slowed as we approached. “This doesn’t look good.”
“Forensics.” I recognized the sleek van from previous encounters. “These aren’t local cops.”
The vehicles bore the right logos, but they were too new, too shiny. Nicer than the budget would have allowed stretched across a fleet this size.
“They’re Society,” she agreed. “Sentinels, cleaners, maybe even an Elite.”
The rise of her voice at the end of the sentence spoke volumes. “You think Boaz is out there.”
“How many crimes against the Society could be committed in a town this size in one night?”
“Depends on how motivated the individuals are to their cause.”
We rolled to a stop when a uniformed officer stepped from the shoulder onto the road. He knocked on the glass, and Cass lowered the window, smile in place. He blinded us with his flashlight, making it impossible to distinguish his features, but he wasn’t shy about looking his fill.
“There’s been an accident.” He focused the beam on Cass, the light reflecting off the pale orbs she somehow plumped between throwing the car in park and lowering the window. “I’m going to have to ask you ladies to turn around.”
Pale orbs? Really? Goddess. I was spending too much time with Cass if her voice was the one narrating my thoughts.
“We’re headed into town for a late dinner.” She kept her fangs tucked in. “Can’t we squeak past?”
“No, ma’am.” He indicated the row of orange cones dotting the oncoming and outgoing traffic lanes. “You’ll have to cancel. I’m sure your dates will understand.”
“Dates?” She fluttered her lashes. “Oh, no. Nothing like that. Just a girls’ night out is all.”
“That’s nice.” The man lowered his flashlight by degrees, probably to admire the even more generous swath of porcelain skin exposed by her sudden zipper malfunction. “Maybe you can reschedule for tomorrow.”
“Maybe we can.” She leaned out the window, just a bit. “What are your plans, Officer…?”
The light clicked off, and I blinked away spots, curious how Cass could see a damn thing with her more sensitive eyes in the direct line of fire.
“Abernathy,” he supplied, eager to please. “I don’t have any, but I’m off after five.”
A purr turned her voice to silk. “You don’t say?”
Just as she swooped in for the metaphorical kill, three men tramped out of the woods at the edge of the road, and my vision cleared enough to recognize the tallest and the blondest of them.
“Cass.” I choked back the urgency in my voice. “We really should let the nice officer get back to work.”
She followed my line of sight straight to the last person who needed to see me, or her, or us. Together. We didn’t need him making any connections. I might not have a record, but Cass’s was a mile long. He would have questions, and any answers I gave him would condemn me and my family.
“Here’s my card.” She passed the officer I could see now was cute and young a black rectangle. “Call me.”
“I’ll do that.” He tucked it into his shirt pocket. “You ladies have a nice rest of your night.”
“Oh,” she promised, “we will.”
Her three-point turn, complete with pause to flip her glossy curtain of blond hair over her shoulder for the sentinel’s benefit, would have done a shampoo ad proud. He was definitely buying what she was selling.
“We have a source now,” she announced after raising her window. “You can thank me later. Or now. Actually, now is good.”
Meaning she planned on wining him and dining on him to get intel on what really brought out the big guns.
“Thank you,” I said dutifully. “You’re the very best vampire ever.”
“Aww.” She patted my thigh. “You know what I like.”
“I do know what you like.” I grabbed her wrist. “That’s why I’m going to have to ask you to keep your hands on your side of the car.”
“And now I know what you like.”
“What are you talking about?”
“I’m a vampire.”
“Your heart almost beat out of your chest when you recognized Boaz.”
“He almost spotted me. Worse, he almost spotted me with you.”
Cass was on record as finding Ron Turner’s body. Boaz would wonder, once he realized that, what my connection was to her. I was a Low Society necromancer. I couldn’t resuscitate humans, turning them into vampires. Beyond that act of creation, most necromancers didn’t mingle with their offspring. Let alone with someone else’s.
Tapping the side of her nose, she turned smug. “That’s not what your pheromones said.”
“You’ve told me a hundred times that fear and arousal smell the same to you.”
As a vampire, she provoked a prey reaction in her lovers, so it was hardly surprising.
“No, I told you they smell equally good. It’s not the same thing.”
“I’m glad we cleared that up.”
“Can I stay at your place tonight?”
Another inglorious fact about middle aged vampires I learned from Cass.
They get lonely.
Really, really lonely.
And once they bond to you, they’re like barnacles on the hull of a ship. You have to chip them off if you decide you want them gone.
“I’ll make up Hadley’s room for you.” I hung blackout curtains with Velcro closures in there months ago for this very reason. Right after The Garlic Incident. “Just remember to lock the door so Dad doesn’t walk in on you.”
“I’m a vampire, not an idiot. I know the drill.” She clicked her nails on the rich leather of the steering wheel. “Do you want to watch a movie?”
“Sure.” She would pass out after the sun rose, and we both knew it. “Keanu or Dracula?”
“Not all vampire movies are about Dracula,” she huffed. “And not all vampires wear black silk capes with red lining.”
“True and true.” I snickered. “I’ve seen your closet, though. You own such a garment.”
“It was for Halloween,” she screeched. “Why must I keep telling you that?”
“Halloween two years ago,” I reminded her. “What’s it still doing in there?”
“Who knows?” She tossed her hair. “I’m a very busy vampire, and I don’t have time to properly organize my closet.”
“It’s not like you’re immortal or anything.”
“What a cruel thing to say. We both know I’m not truly immortal.”
“Sorry enough to let me cop a feel?”
“You understand I had to ask.”
“I do, and you understand I had to hard pass or I would start waking up with you curled around me during the day.”
“What a lovely mental picture that provides.” Her chuckle was positively evil. “I could teach you all kinds of things before you marry.”
“I’ve waited this long. I might as well let Boaz teach me all kinds of things after we’re married.”
A beat of silence lapsed before Cass’s expression turned somber. “I don’t like this.”
“What? The marriage?” I gave her the same pep talk I usually reserved for myself. “Get used to it. It’s happening.”
“The train museum wasn’t far from your house.” Her lips pursed. “The car accident was even closer.”
All of a sudden, her request to stay over was cast into a whole new light, and it blinded.
Cass was worried about me.
And if Cass was worried, I probably should be too.