Copyright © 2012 Katriena Knights
All rights reserved — a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. publication
“Good evening. I’m Nimuë Taylor, from Bernstein & Carter,” I announced. “I regret to inform you—”
“I talked to you assholes last night,” TV Guy interrupted. “Told that little shit not to come back.”
I pressed my lips together and gave him an annoyed head-tilt, eyes narrowed. Not that I managed to be intimidating, since I resemble a shaggy-headed anime character. “In deference to your request, my company has thoughtfully provided a different little shit. Now, I have paperwork here with a breakdown of all funds currently in arrears. You can contact our office tonight to let us know how you’d like to handle the situation. Otherwise, we’ll have to impound your TV.”
Apparently, he and his TV had developed a serious relationship in their brief acquaintance. “You are not taking my TV.” He flashed his fangs, as if the sight of moonlight glittering off sharp, pointy teeth would send me gibbering off to mind my own business.
Fangs didn’t faze me much these days. I blinked at him blandly, ready to squirt-gun his ass if necessary. I had my clipboard in one hand, so I could hand it to him for his signature, but my other hand was inside my jacket pocket, finger on the trigger of the squirt gun.
“You’re correct, Mr. Smith.” What a lame name. Like I couldn’t figure out it was fake. “If you fail to contact our office, someone will drop by tomorrow, and he will take your fucking TV.” I held out the clipboard, a business card clamped under the clip on top of my paperwork. “The phone number’s right here.”
He snarled. My hand tightened on the squirt gun. He was going to get a face full if he didn’t watch it.
I took a loose, cocky stance, refusing to show fear, though I could feel it curling in my stomach, and he could probably smell it. Vamps are gross that way. “If you could just sign here, to verify I made this stop—”
He knocked the clipboard out of my hand. I pulled the pistol and pointed it at him. “Pick up the clipboard and sign it.”
“Or what? You’ll shoot me with your little purple gun?”
“My little purple gun full of holy water,” I said calmly.
His sneer faded, and he eyed the gun. “I can take that out of your hand before you have a chance to pull the trigger.”
Nice piece of vampire posturing. I pulled the trigger. The stream of water hit him right in the eye—I’m a good shot, and, lame as it sounds, my squirt gun is souped up.
“Shit!” He lurched back as his eye began to smoke. While he was still off-balance, I squirted him again, then grabbed my clipboard and ran. Colin would bitch that I hadn’t gotten the signature. Let him. I wasn’t going to hang around to get chewed on.
I still heard Mr. Smith swearing behind me, then issuing threats. “You fucking bitch! I’m gonna tear your throat out!”
Not if I got to my car first. From the sound of it, he was still scrambling behind me, and from the smell, the holy water had done some serious damage. My car was only a few yards away—
And someone was leaning against it. Not just any someone, but a vampire someone. He grinned at me, flashing fangs, and this time, the sight of sharp, pointy teeth in the moonlight did make me want to cut and run.
In no way could this be construed as good, regardless of how much you tried to stretch the definition of the term. In fact, I was willing to go out on a limb and say it was just plain bad. I dropped the clipboard, leaving both hands free. One still held the squirt gun; I shoved the other into my jeans pocket, where I’d stowed my car keys.
The new vamp pushed away from the car, giving me a feral, fangy smile.
“You upset my friend,” he said, his voice oily. The performance was almost too over the top to be scary. Almost. “I don’t like that.”
“It’s just a TV, for God’s sake,” I said. There wasn’t much I could do at this point to get away—he was between me and the car, and I could hear Mr. Smith staggering up behind me. Could smell him too. There’s nothing quite like the reek of burnt vampire.
“He likes his TV.” The vamp took a menacing step toward me. This was my only advantage—it appeared the newcomer liked to play with his food. “I like his TV too.”
“Well, I’m sorry your boyfriend can’t remember to pay his bills.” My fingers found my keys in my pocket and hit the alarm button. My car began to wail, and I groped into my hoodie pocket again, searching out another weapon.
The vampire jumped, then glared at me, obviously embarrassed at his reaction to the sudden, pervasive noise. “You really think that’s going to help?”
But it had helped, because it had distracted him for that split second. I leveled the squirt gun at him. He let out a barking laugh and slapped it out of my hand. At which point I treated him to a face full of pepper spray from the other hand.
He recoiled, grimacing, eyes watering. The stuff hurt like hell, I knew, even if you were a vampire. While he made incomprehensible grunting noises, I ducked around him and jerked the car door open.
Just then, Mr. Smith descended, his right eye weeping goo onto his cheek. He reached into the car after me, and I slammed the door on his arm. He grimaced but still groped for me as I held the door shut as tight as I could. Wriggling in the car seat, I got my feet up against the doorframe for leverage and pulled harder, wondering how much pressure it would take to sever his arm.
He couldn’t quite reach me, his fingers wiggling in the air a few inches from my face. If I leaned forward, I could get one of those stupidly annoying fingers between my teeth and bite it off—
Suddenly, Mr. Smith flew backward across the grass. He landed hard on his ass and sat there, stunned. I stared back at him, at first not sure what had happened. Then the other vamp flew across the lawn as well. I recovered enough to realize I could close my car door now that the vamp’s arm was no longer in the way, so I did. I stuffed the key into the ignition and started the car.
There was a tap on my window. Startled, I met the gaze of still another vampire standing next to the driver’s-side door. They were just crawling up out of the lawns tonight. He laid my clipboard against the glass with a careful smack.
“You’re going to need this.”
I wasn’t sure what to do at first. This new vamp had just saved my ass—well maybe not saved it, per se, but he’d made things easier. Adrenaline still rushed through my system, so my first impulse was to slam him with the door, get him on the ground and spray holy water into his ear until his brain melted. I’d done that once, and it wasn’t pretty. Vamps didn’t come back from that. In fact, their families sued under those circumstances. And then lost a shitload of money if you could prove self-defense.
I didn’t do that, though. I just stared at him, heart galloping, trying to control my breathing before I hyperventilated and passed out.
He smiled. He was nice to look at. A slim face with etched cheekbones, a wide mouth not marred but enhanced by a slight overbite, and the bluest eyes I’d ever seen. The rest of him appeared to be slim as well, though I couldn’t see all of him out the window.
“If you’d like to put the window down just a bit, I can slide the clipboard through for you.” And British. I hadn’t registered the accent at first.
I swallowed, adrenaline still muddling my head. Finally, I hit the button to lower the window just enough for the clipboard to slide through. He displayed my squirt gun and eased it through to me too.
“Thanks,” I said as I took the gun. “You really saved my ass.”
He shrugged, still grinning. “Seemed you were doing all right, actually.”
I smiled in spite of myself. “A little help never hurts.”
“No, it doesn’t.”
There was an awkward moment of silence. I felt like I should say something else, but I didn’t know what.
And that was when the cops showed up.