Scott and Michael’s conversation was interrupted by a slight buzzing sound. Micheal jerked up, looking startled, then he fumbled with something under his shirt. A moment later he came up with a cell phone.
“Oh, damn,” Michael said, “it’s the hospital.”
“Got to go in?”
“Yeah.” He clipped his cell phone back on the elastic waistband of his scrubs. “Sorry to cut out on you.”
“I think you have more important things to do.”
“I have a home theater in there,” Michael said, jerking his thumb towards the hallway that lead off the game room, “and Roger is about to show something vampirish. If you want another drink, get him to make you one. There’s dancing out there,” he said, pointing out the back door, “or you can go upstairs to socialize. Or just sit here and drink. Whatever you like. We lock all the rooms we don’t want people in; everything else is fair game.”
“Thanks. I might try to find Josie.”
“Good luck,” Michael said doubtfully. “I told you, she’s like a cat; you won’t find her unless she wants to be found.”
Scott spent another couple of minutes nursing his drink; once he got used to it, he rather liked it—it was like having a real drink again—but it had to be taken in measured doses. Then he got up and, taking his drink with him, he went upstairs to see if he could manage to find Josie after all.
He couldn’t tell, but it looked like there were even more people in the house than before. Then he realized there was an upper deck outside the dining room and there were people flowing in and out the back door onto it.
He wandered into the living room. Some people turned to look at him—eyes roving up and down, assessing his costume, trying to figure out what he was—and a few gave him a slight nod or smile in greeting, then went back to their conversations.
He was just starting to ease his way around the room—dodging angel and fairy wings, trailing gowns and robes, devil tails, and an assortment of other costume paraphernalia—when Josie called out to him.
“There he is now. Scott!”
He looked up and saw Josie waving to him from one of the arm chairs in the corner. There was another woman perched on the arm of the chair. She was wearing a loose, low-slung Greco-Roman gown with what appeared to be a brown, stuffed parrot perched on her shoulder. Her blonde hair was piled high on her head and curled into ringlets,
After a few more feet of delicate maneuvering, he was able to reach them.
“Hey,” Josie said, “where have you been?”
“Downstairs talking to your brother. And having a drink,” he said, showing her the glass.
“What sort of drink?” she asked, looking at the glass in confusion.
“An extra bloody Bloody Mary.”
“How can you make a Bloody Mary extra bloody?” the blonde-headed woman on the arm of the chair asked.
“Well, for starters, you make it with real blood,” Scott replied.
Josie smiled a little. “My brother made that for you?”
“Yeah. He’s got a friend who’s a vampire, and they perfected it together. Which I’m rather glad for; Michael said he made Roger sick the first time they tried it.”
“Speaking of siblings,” Josie said, “this is my nerdy little sister, Becca.”
He offered his hand. “It’s nice to meet you, Becca.”
She shook his hand absentmindedly; her eyes were busy roving up and down his body. “Turn around,” she commanded.
Scott shot Josie a perplexed look, but she was just smiling. He slowly turned around 360 degrees.
“He does have a nice ass,” Becca told her sister.
Josie grinned, looking rather proud.
“I feel like a piece of meat,” Scott said, feeling a bit put-out. He wasn’t sure he like Josie’s sister knowing so much about him or their private life.
“Oh, like you never look at women and evaluate them in your head,” Becca retorted.
“Yes, but ‘in my head’ is the important part.”
“I’m just being honest,” she said with a shrug.
“I told you my sister has no tact,” Josie said. “No people skills at all. I’m not sure if that comes from staring into a petri dish all day, or if she stares into a petri dish all day because she has no people skills.”
“A little from column A, a little from column B,” Becca said matter-of-factly, as if her lack of social skills didn’t bother her at all.
She looked Scott over again. “So, what are you supposed to be?”
“He’s my bloodsucking lawyer,” Josie replied. “For my slip and fall claim.”
“Ah,” Becca said. Either she didn’t get the joke or she didn’t find it particularly amusing.
“And you are…?” Scott asked.
“Athena, Goddess of wisdom.” She reached up and petted the stuffed bird on her shoulder. Close up, Scott could tell that it was an owl, not a brown parrot. “And this is Bebo,” Becca added.
“I vaguely remember him from Clash of the Titans.”
Becca gave a little sniff, as if that wasn’t completely acceptable, but she would tolerate it nonetheless.
“Is Michael still downstairs?” Josie asked.
“No, he got called into work.”
“Oh, that’s too bad,” she replied. “Have you met Ariel?”
“I haven’t met anyone but Roger, the undead pathologist.”
“The undead pathologist?” she asked, looking at him in confusion. Then realization dawned on her face. “Oh, Michael’s friend.”
She started to get up. “Let me introduce you to Ariel, at least.” She couldn’t seem to get out of the low arm chair, and Scott quickly offered her his hand.
She took it, letting him pull her to her feet. “I hope I’m never really injured,” she said. “I can’t move wearing this stuff; imagine how much worse it would be if I was in pain.”
She snaked through the crowd. “Excuse me, can I get through there?” she asked a pirate, leaned against a closed door.
He jerked away, as if the door was suddenly hot. “Oh, yes, I’m sorry.” He eyed her medical devices with something like pity.
“No problem,” Josie replied, opening the door and slipping inside. Scott nodded his thanks to the pirate, and followed Josie through.
They were in a kitchen which seemed to be made of nothing but granite, cherry cabinets, and stainless steel appliances. Scott had to stop himself from whistling. He had seen such kitchens in home magazines that he flipped through, bored, in doctor’s waiting rooms, but he had never thought a real person owned such a kitchen.
The far wall was solid windows, which, at night, just darkly mirrored the gleaming kitchen, but they promised a lovely view during the daylight.
“There she is,” Josie said, spying a woman who was busy pulling something out of a built-in oven. Another women carefully situated a hot pad on the counter, so the pan could be put down.
“Thank you,” Ariel said to the woman helping her.
“Do you want me to put these out?”
“Please. They should be cool enough in about five.”
Josie walked up to the dark-haired woman as she was pulling off her oven mitt. It was one of those new-fangled ones made out of some sort of heat-resistant rubber.
Ariel looked up, then startled; she looked like she didn’t know whether to smile or be concerned. “Josie… is that your costume, or did you get hurt?”
Ariel finally smiled. “So what are you supposed to be?”
“Plaintiff. And this,” she said, grabbing Scott by the sleeve and pulling him closer, “is my bloodsucking lawyer. Please, direct all further questions to him.”
Ariel burst out laughing. “Oh, I love it!” she gasped between breaths. She had to call in a few other women who were helping put food out on the dining room table.
“Come here and meet my sister-in-law!” She gestured first to Josie, then to Scott. “She’s the victim, and this is her bloodsucking lawyer.”
The other women just smiled politely.
“It’s funnier if you know that he really is a lawyer. And a vampire, too,” Ariel explained.
Slowly, comprehension dawned on the other women’s faces, and they began to laugh.
Ariel turned back to Scott and Josie. “So, how’ve you been?”
“Pretty good. And you?”
“Busy, but I can’t complain.” She smiled up at Scott. He immediately recognized the look of a woman who was attractive and knew it. And she was not ashamed to use that to sell.
“Has Josie told you what I do for a living?” Ariel asked.
“Here it comes,” Josie whispered to Scott.
He chuckled. “Yes, she did.”
“We’re holding a benefit dinner in Nashville this spring,” she hinted.
Scott tried to steer the conversation in a slightly different direction; he wasn’t sure how much the plates cost, but he was almost positive that they were currently out of his budget. “I was asking Josie if you ever took books.”
“Yes, we have a book drive a couple of times a year.”
“I can see if my daughter has any she’s outgrown.”
“I’ll sign you up for our newsletter, then you’ll know when we’re doing things.”
She’s slick, Scott thought to himself.
“So, have you met Mommy and Daddy Fein yet?” Ariel asked.
“No,” Scott replied.
“I thought I’d let him get a toe in the water first,” Josie said. “You know… see that most of my family is fine.”
“Well, I think all of your family is ‘fein’ dear,” Ariel said with a smirk. “Except, of course, those of us who married in. Then we’re Feins in name only.”
Josie grimaced. “You and the puns.” She glanced at Scott. “Ariel never met a pun she didn’t like. She’s sharing them on Facebook all the time.”
Ariel just shrugged, looking unrepentant.
Scott looked at Josie. “I think everyone in your family has now warned me about your parents—within the first five minutes of meeting me. Do they not like anyone?”
“They’re actually good people,” Ariel answered for Josie. “They’re extremely generous and Janelle is very active in the community. And Steve is probably the best cardiologist in town.”
“They just don’t like Gentiles—at least not the ones who try to marry into the family,” Scott added, matter-of-factly.
Ariel grimaced apologetically.
Scott glanced at Josie. “You know, a part of me wishes that your parents were here. I feel like I’m ready to do battle.”
Ariel smiled at him. It was genuine, as if she had decided to like him. “Well, there’s always Hanukkah. Normally, Janelle hosts a night just for the family—since we’re already doing a large holiday party here for all of our friends—but I’ll offer to host the family night, too. That way you’ll at least be on neutral turf. And they won’t have the right to refuse to invite you or throw you out.”
“I don’t think a holiday is the best time for that kind of introduction,” Josie quickly interjected. She sounded worried.
“Better than going it alone,” Ariel argued. “They might behave themselves in front of witnesses.” She smiled at Scott again. “And Michael told me that he likes you. He’ll take your side if they get too nasty.”
Scott felt touched. He wished someone in his immediate family had taken his side. His cousin Darren was with him, but he was too distant from Scott’s mother to have any influence. Besides, with Darren being a vampire, she wasn’t going to like being around him anymore than she would Scott. What mattered most was having humans who would stick by you.
Read the entire series–The Bloodsuckers: Vampire Lawyers of Middle Tennessee