The Bloodsuckers, Episode 22: The Max Factor

 

Scott woke up Monday afternoon in a panic. Somehow, even deep in sleep, his brain triggered an alarm that warned him he was about to be late for something very important.

“Oh, shit! What time is it?” he called out, looking around desperately for a clock.

Josie cracked an eye open. “It’s 2:30,” she muttered, looking at the clock on her bedside table.

Scott threw back the covers. “Shit! It’s Monday. Clarice is going to be here in half an hour.”

That woke Josie up. She sat up in bed, wide-eyed. “What are you going to do?” she gasped in horror.

Scott was already on his feet, pulling on his clothes. “I have to get back home before she gets there.”

“But how?”

He stuffed his shirt into his pants, looking at her. “Can you drive me?”

She looked confused. “Yeah, but… it’s still daylight outside.”

“It won’t kill me.”

“But it’ll burn you.”

“I’ll heal—probably before Clarice even gets there.”

“Why don’t you just call Maggie and switch your days?”

He stopped putting on his socks to look at her in disbelief. “And tell her what? I can’t spend time with my daughter today because I’m shacked up with my secretary and can’t get out?”

“You don’t have to be so blunt.”

He shook his head, then resumed dressing. “Nope, I’ve got to go back. Got to take my punishment like a man.”

He hastily tied his shoes and stood up. Josie was halfway dressed, throwing on the first things she found in her dresser. Scott had to pause a moment as he admired her ass in a pair of jean shorts that were just slightly longer than Daisy Dukes. Then she pulled on a white, eyelet-lace, baby-doll tank top. It was frilly and cute and made Scott want to play teacher and student.

Priorities, he reminded himself.

She noticed him staring. “I’ll come back and change before work,” she assured him.

“Actually, I was just contemplating implementing a casual day at the office,” he said with a smirk. “Not only would I enjoy the hell out of it, but I think you could double my number of clients.”

She made a face. “Yeah, dirty old men. Or guys about to get a divorce.”

“As long as they’re rich old men who can pay my fee, I don’t care.”

She rolled her eyes.

She slipped on a pair of beaded flip-flops, then put her hand on the bedroom door knob and looked at Scott. “Are you ready?”

“Let’s do it,” he said with more confidence than he really had. After Maggie kicked him out, he had spent several days sleeping in his car under a heavy-duty tarp. It had been dark enough, but it had also been claustrophobic. Sometimes he had lifted a corner just to get a breath of fresh air—even though that meant brief sun exposure. It hadn’t been anyone’s idea of fun.

Josie threw open the bedroom door, then walked swiftly through the house, grabbing her purse. Scott followed behind, squinting against the light; it seemed much brighter than he remembered.

When Josie opened the front door, though, he was blinded. He staggered, putting his hand out and catching himself against the doorframe. His felt as if he had just stuck his head into a hot oven.

“Scott, are you okay?” Josie asked anxiously.

“Yeah, fine,” he muttered. His voice sounded far away to himself, and it reminded him of the time he had gotten heat exhaustion one Fourth of July when it had been nearly 100 degrees outside. He had that same feeling—like he was about to pass out.

“I don’t think you should do this,” Josie said.

“I’ll be fine. Just help me get to the car.”

Josie’s hand felt cool in his. “Okay, step over the threshold,” she told him.

Scott had a sudden appreciation for what it was like to be blind. He kept one hand on the doorframe as he stepped out, and then there was nothing to hold onto except Josie—and that felt like a frightening thing. His feet were heavy as lead and felt half-numb, and he was afraid he’d fall and take her with him.

“You’d think I’d move faster when I’m in the sun,” he said, trying to joke, as he slowly inched one foot forward, testing the surface.

“It’s okay,” Josie said. “You have two more steps before the step down.”

She managed to talk him down the single step to her front porch—supporting him all the way. Moving across the driveway was a little faster, and he was able to get into the car by feel. Josie shut the door for him, and was in the driver’s side a moment later.

“Keys?”

Scott fished them out of his pocket and held them up. She took them from his hand.

Luckily Scott had had his windows tinted, so it wasn’t quite as bright in the car. He was able to crack his eyes open just enough to see vague shapes of buildings going past.

His face was really, really starting to burn.

Josie executed a sharp left turn, pulling into the parking space in front of the building.

“Josie, thank you,” he said, as she helped him get out of the car. He really appreciated the fact that she was taking care of him when he was nearly incapacitated. He always thought that was a good sign in a relationship. If you could put up with someone when they were sick and/or farting, then it was a sign you might have something real.

“You’re welcome,” she said, sounding distracted. “Step up onto the curb,” she instructed, gripping him by the elbow.

The inside of the building was just dim enough that Scott was able to see Janet, Jim Rutherford’s secretary, look up at him from her desk and gasp in horror.

“Mr. Cunningham, what happened!?”

“Nothing,” he said, hoping he sounded pleasant while still indicating that he didn’t want to talk. And then he was suddenly conscious of the fact that he was in a walk of shame. Josie was dressed like a very sexy bit of white trash and he had clearly not spent the day in his apartment. People could surely put two and two together.

“Josie?” a man’s voice called from one side of the office.

Scott and Josie both wheeled to look.

“Oh, this young gentleman came in to see Josie,” Janet explained. “I told him you wouldn’t be here for a while, but he said he’d wait.”

The man rose from the sitting area and slowly walked over. He was tall—taller than Scott—and lanky. He looked a bit underfed. He had dark hair—wavy and just long enough that it looked messy—and wore black-framed, square-lensed glasses. His jeans were clean, but faded, as was his brown Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt. He smacked of a hipster to Scott.

The man glanced at Scott in confusion and worry, but then his eyes latched onto Josie and didn’t leave.

His face warmed into a smile. “Hey.”

“Um, hey, Max,” she said, sounding bewildered.

Max. Max. Who was Max?

“You look really good in that,” Max said, his eyes raking down her body. Then—to Scott and Josie’s mutual surprise—Max slid a hand around her waist, stepping up close to her.

“I tried to call you this weekend,” he said, his voice dropping lower—seductive. “I really enjoyed our date Friday night.”

That Max.

“Um, that’s good,” Josie said, sounding as if she could care less. “Look, I really need to help Scott, so can this wait?”

“Sure, kitten, I’ll wait on you,” he said with what was probably supposed to be a disarming smile.

The heat in Scott’s face seemed to double.

“Hey, tom cat,” Scott snapped. “I think Josie’s trying to give you a hint that she’s not interested. So why don’t you strut back up to Nashville?”

Max stared at him in open-mouthed disbelief—possibly from Scott’s words, or possibly from the fact that a man with a face like a boiled lobster and a squint like Mr. Magoo was getting territorial with him.

Scott felt Josie’s hands in his back, trying to push him down the hall.

“Scott, you need to get downstairs, out of the sun,” she warned.

“Is… is he a vampire?” Max asked in astonishment.

“What if I am?” Scott said defensively, resisting Josie’s push.

“You.… Are you with him? Did you pick a vampire over me?” Max sounded incredulous—and maybe a little offended.

“Yeah, what of it?” Josie said, sounding as defensive as Scott.

“Oh, my God, you’ve got bite marks on your neck!” Max gasped.

Involuntarily, Josie’s hand reached up to her neck. She had forgotten to wear anything to cover them up.

And at that moment, Attorney Rutherford chose to make an appearance. “Who has bite marks on their neck?” he asked in his loud, booming voice, as he came out of his office. “Who’s been necking?”

Oh, my God, Scott thought to himself, as he realized his walk of shame was about to become a crawl of shame. He should have put a paper sack over his head before he left Josie’s house.

Jim Rutherford stopped in the lobby and looked around. Janet was looking aghast. Max looked scandalized. Josie—in her short-shorts and tank top—was between Max and Scott, still trying to hide her neck. And Scott looked like the aforementioned lobster-Magoo.

Jim paused for a moment, seemed to hold his breath, then he turned around, shaking his head. “I don’t want to know,” he muttered, as he went back into his office and shut the door.

That seemed to be the opening Josie was waiting for. She began to shove Scott down the hallway, and he—still stunned by the turn of events—let her.

Josie was a bit rough with him—and not in a good way—when she sat him down at his kitchen table in the basement.

“What do you have to say for yourself, Attorney Cunningham?” she demanded, her hands on her hips.

Scott opened his mouth, then closed it, still speechless.

“Next time, when I tell you to call your ex-wife and switch days, you do it!”

“Yes, ma’am,” he said meekly.

“Do you have any aloe vera or anything I can put on your head? You look like a giant cherry.”

“In the bathroom,” he said.

She stomped into the half-finished bathroom and rummaged under the sink. She came back a minute later and squirted some directly on top of his bald head and began to rub it in. She was a bit rough, but Scott was afraid to say anything. The fact that she was still helping seemed like a good sign, though.

“Are you terribly mad at me for Max?” he finally dared to ask.

“I don’t know,” she said gruffly. Then, suddenly, she smiled. “‘Tom cat,’” she said, starting to snicker.

Once she started, Scott couldn’t help himself; he began to laugh, too.

 

Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee

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