Scott was in his office—for once reviewing the documents Josie had given him in a timely manner—when she came in, interrupting his rare bout of concentration.
“Okay, I don’t want to hear any excuses out of you,” she said.
He looked up, perking a brow. “What have I done?”
“Nothing yet. But you’re not allowed to get out of doing it.”
She sat down on the edge of his desk. “Going to my brother and sister-in-law’s Halloween party.”
Scott felt his mouth go a little dry. “Meet… your family?”
“Just them and my sister; my parents aren’t the Halloween-party types.”
Scott had to admit he much preferred to meet Josie’s siblings without her parents present. Josie had told him that her siblings would be okay with him—her brother had even been in a mixed relationship for a while—but she promised her parents would hate him. It was they who had ultimately driven her brother, Michael, to break up with his Gentile girlfriend. As he had ultimately ended up marrying a Jewish girl, they could count themselves doubly triumphant. They would surely mount such an attack against Scott, reasonably confident of victory.
“Well… I guess I have to meet them sometime…” he said reluctantly.
“Yep, you do.”
Scott suddenly chuckled. “Nothing like meeting the vampire on Halloween.”
“I had already thought about that,” she said with a grin.
“What should I go as? I mean, it’s too easy to go as a vampire; I think I should go as the opposite, just for the contrast. Something like… the Easter bunny.”
She laughed. “Actually, I had thought about you going as a rabbit—but as the Monty Python one.”
“That’s nae ordinary rabbit.”
“It’s got nasty, big, pointy teeth,” Josie mimed.
“But I think we should save that one for next year. I have an even better idea for both of us.”
“You’re to go as a lawyer.”
“That doesn’t sound the least-bit amusing.”
“It will be with me there.”
Scott waited, but she didn’t explain herself. “And… what are you going as?”
“It’s a surprise,” she said with glee.
“So… I’m just supposed to dress like I do everyday and let you be the comedy relief?”
“That’s it exactly,” she said, looking pleased he had caught on.
He shook his head a little, then looked back at the Final Order she had drafted for him. “It’s your family, so we’ll do whatever you think is best.”
“You make it sound like you’re going to a funeral.”
“I might just be—the death of our relationship.”
She looked at him seriously. “Would… would you dump me if you don’t like them?”
“Not at all,” he hurried to say. “But you said they’ll hate me and try to drive me off.”
“Only my parents.”
“So meeting your siblings will just be the first nail—not the final nail—in the coffin?”
She sighed. “I want you to be prepared for what’s going to happen, but at the same time… I don’t want you to hate my family before you’ve met them. I mean… they’re good people.”
“So long as you date someone they approve of.”
“What are you going to do when Clarice starts bringing boys home to meet you? Are you going to be okay with them, or are you going to look at them with suspicion and tell her that she can do better?”
“I don’t know,” Scott admitted. “Although knowing me, I’ll never think anyone is quite good enough for her. But if they’re not good enough for her, it will be because they’re not smart enough or ambitious enough or don’t treat her like she’s gold; I’m not going to hate them out of hand for their faith or their race. I’m not going to tell Clarice she can only date white boys who are nominally Christian, but not too religious.”
Josie frowned, looking shamed. “It’s not the same when you’re a Jew,” she said quietly. “We wouldn’t have survived all this time if we weren’t picky about marrying within the faith. It’s what’s perpetuated our culture and kept us alive as a people, even when we didn’t have a country of our own.”
Scott leaned back in his chair. “So why are you dating me? Can’t find a nice Jewish vampire?”
She looked utterly perplexed, as if she had never considered the question. “I like you,” she said simply.
“But that’s not enough, is it?” he pressed. “I’m sure plenty of Jews and Gentiles have liked one another in the past—even loved one another. But that’s not enough.”
She looked startled. “You know what, I think I might have been wrong.”
He took a deep breath, steeling himself. “About us?”
“No, about you and my parents. Maybe ya’ll have more in common than I thought; certainly you seem to think alike.”
Scott was thoughtful for a moment. “I guess… I guess I need to know where you really stand. The fact that I’m not a Jew is a problem for your family because they think you should stay inside your faith. But you don’t have a problem with me being a Gentile… why? Are you not religious?”
“No, I am. To a certain degree, anyways. I mean I go to synagogue at least once a month, keep the holidays, keep sort of kosher.”
“I don’t keep separate sets of dishes, and I don’t eat only kosher-slaughtered meat—I couldn’t afford it, even if there was a place around here that sold it—but I don’t eat anything that’s forbidden: no pork, shellfish, or meat with dairy. I think of that as kind of a bare-minimum level of kosher.”
“So you are a religious Jew?”
“Well, to be a religious Jew means to be really observant—Orthodox—and I’m not that.”
“But you’re not secular.”
“No, I’m… a liberally-religious Jew, I suppose you could say.”
“And liberally-religious Jews don’t worry about marrying Gentiles?
“Some do. Maybe even most.”
“But you don’t mind it?”
She perked a brow. “Why, were you planning on asking me to marry you?”
“Not tonight, but I’m not fooling around with you just for the hell of it.”
Josie looked totally floored.
Scott leaned forward. “I’ve told you I became a lawyer because I didn’t want to be a victim anymore. Maggie took everything from me and I never want to be helpless again. If you’re with me, then I’ll take on your family. They won’t drive me off. No one is ever going to take the things I love away from me again.
“But if you’re not serious—if you’re planning on dumping me if things start to get too serious between us—then I’m not going to put forth any effort with your family. I don’t want to put up with whatever it is they do, just to have you turn around and tell me, ‘You know, Scott, I really can’t get around the whole not-a-Jew thing.’
“If you’re with me, I’ll walk through hell for you. If you’re not, we’ll just fuck around until things get uncomfortable, then you can go back to just being my assistant. Or not. Just give me two weeks’ notice if you want to leave so I have time to find someone else and make the switch. I have no idea where you’ve put all my files and stuff.”
Josie sat in stunned silence for a long minute. Scott started to become uncomfortable, as he feared she was using the quiet time to make up her mind about him, once and for all.
Slowly she slid off the desk and walked around to him. She surprised him when she knelt in the floor in front of him and put her arms around his waist. “That… that was the… the….”
“What?” he asked, when she didn’t finish. She looked like she was having trouble finding the right words.
“I think that’s the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life,” she finally said.
Scott was startled. “An ultimatum is romantic?”
“I don’t think it was an ultimatum. But that’s not the part I was talking about anyways.”
“Which part were you talking about?”
“The part where you said you wouldn’t ever let anyone take me from you—that you would walk through hell for me.”
He leaned closer and cupped her face in his hands. “I really would, you know,” he said quietly.
“I know,” she whispered back. “And that’s what makes it the best thing I’ve ever heard.”
“So… will you take me, Gentile that I am? Unkosher as I am?”
“I mean, I’m okay if we don’t work out for other reasons,” he added, “but just promise me you won’t dump me because I’m not a Jew. There’s no excuse for doing that when you’ve known it from the beginning. That’d be like dumping me because I’m a vampire.”
“I promise,” she said solemnly. Then she smiled. “You’re not the only stubborn person, you know. I’m willing to fight for what I want, too.”
Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee