Dead and Loving It
“You might as well. I’m not going to let you jump.”
She sighed. “Well. I am hungry.” And I can ditch this guy after I cadge a free meal off him. “Okay. Lead on, MacDuff.”
He offered her his arm when they were at street level, and her smell shifted to amusement—ripe oranges. After a moment, she grasped it.
“Cripes, I can’t even get my fingers around your bicep. D’you work out, like, nine times a day?”
“No. But I like to keep in shape.”
“Y’know, we don’t have to go anywhere fancy,” she said. “We could just get a cup of coffee.”
“You’re underweight for your height. We’ll get a proper meal.”
“Bossy,” she coughed into her fist.
He smiled. “Yes.” It was all he could do not to gape at her like a schoolboy. He had no idea why he could see her, but the effect hadn’t worn off with daylight…she was like a flame in a street of shadows. “I’m afraid it runs in my family.”
“Can I ask you something? How come you don’t use a dog? And where’s your cane? Didn’t you have one last night?”
“I get around pretty well,” he said, avoiding her question. “I’ve been blind all my life. It’s all I know.”
“Oh. Well, like I said, you don’t seem blind.”
He shrugged. Humans always told him that.
* * * * *
Over a breakfast of three pancakes, six pieces of toast, and two cups of coffee (hers), and a bowl of oatmeal (his), they talked.
“Don’t you want some ham or bacon? Please, order whatever you like. I can assure you I’m good for it.”
She shuddered. “No, thanks. I’m a vegetarian.”
“Oh.” Hmm. That could be interesting. “You know, that’s really not the best diet for an omnivore.”
“Dude, I’m not chomping on dead flesh, and that’s the end of it.”
“Drake,” he corrected.
She mopped up syrup with the last pancake. “Yeah, whatever. Can I get more coffee?”
“Of course.” He signaled the waitress, then asked, “Why are you so thin?”
“Why do you ask so many questions?”
“I’m interested in you,” he said simply.
“Uh-huh. Dude, you’re, like, twice my age.”
Yes, that was annoying. But it couldn’t be helped . “Stop calling me dude. And it’s probably not twice. I’ll be forty this year.”
“Oh.” She seemed surprised. “You look younger. I’m twenty-four.”
“You look younger, too. If I may ask, where are you staying?”
“There’s a shelter on Beacon Street,” she said without a trace of
embarrassment. “I lost my job—the economy, you know—and couldn’t make rent, so I’ve been bouncing around a bit.”
“Is that how you fell in with the little gang who attacked me?”
“I didn’t know they were going to do that,” she said earnestly. “I thought it was just talk.”
“I believe you. What about your family?”
“Don’t have one.”
“It’s all right. I never really knew them. Like you—I guess—being by myself, it’s all I know.”
“Why don’t you stay with me for a while? I have a big house in Cambridge, and there’s plenty of room for a guest.”
She snorted into her coffee cup. “Right. Go home with the strange guy who showed up out of nowhere, who says he’s blind but doesn’t trip over anything. Not too creepy.”
“What’s the worst that could happen?”
“You could kill me in my sleep.”
He tried not to show offense. “That’s ridiculous. In your sleep? I would never.”
She laughed at him. “Oh, okay, so, we’ve established you won’t kill me in
my sleep. That’s promising.”
“The homeless shelter is preferable to my home?”
“Well…no offense, dude…Drake, I mean…but put yourself in my shoes.”
“I understand. But consider this, you could have pancakes every morning,”
he coaxed, “and all the coffee you could drink. Until you get back on your feet.”
She shook her head, but looked tempted. “Jeez, I can’t believe I’m even considering this. If this was a horror movie, I’d be yelling at the screen. ‘Don’t do it, you dumb bitch!’”
“That’s nice. I would really enjoy your company. I live a…solitary life. It would be nice to have a…a friend over.”
She stared at him for a long moment. “Well. I have to admit it’s the nicest offer I’ve gotten all year. But here’s the thing. I’m getting these ‘take-the-poor-waif-home-and- take-care-of-her’ vibes from you, but I’m not sure you get it. My family died when I was a toddler, and I left the foster home when I was ten. I’ve been on my own a long time. I can take care of myself.”
“And the thing is, there’s nothing I’ll…uh…do for you. You know. In order to stay at your house.”
“No, I wouldn’t expect you to.” And, fortunately, she was a good two weeks from ovulation. He’d be nowhere near his change then. It could be problematic when a roommate’s cycle coincided with a male werewolf’s, but he didn’t have to worry about that, at least. “There aren’t any strings, Crescent.”
“Well.” She finished her coffee. “I can’t believe I’m saying this. But we’ll try it. For a while.”
“All right, then.” He smiled at her, and she smiled back. He’d never seen a smile before. Hers made him dizzy.
They walked in and she was instantly dazzled. Like the big colonial house hadn’t been impressive enough on the outside. “Wow! How many windows do you have?”
“I have no idea.”
“Right. Sorry. It’s so bright in here!” She was staring; she couldn’t help it. Her first, jumbled impression was lots of light, a soaring living room ceiling, a loft, and lots of hardwood flooring. “You don’t even need to turn any lights on during the day. Not that you would.”
He was hanging his greatcoat in the closet. “I like to feel the sun on my face,”
he said simply.
“Did anyone ever tell you, you live in a pink house?”
“A few have mentioned it.” He shrugged. “What do I care?”
She laughed. “I s’pose. It’s just sort of funny. I mean, you’re this big, supermasculine guy, and your house is the color of a faded pink sweatshirt. It’s a little weird.”
He smiled. It was disconcerting—like he was looking right at her. But of course he wasn’t. He probably knew she was standing by the door because of her voice. “Super masculine?”
“Dude, you’re about the biggest, boldest guy I’ve ever met.”
“Thank you. And stop calling me dude.”
He was the sharpest “handicapped” person she’d ever seen. He paid for breakfast with cash…and she noticed the twenty-dollar bills were folded into triangles, and the ten was a rectangle. Of course…it made perfect sense. He couldn’t see the denominations, and the bills would all feel the same. Did he get them that way from the bank? Or did he have a helper to fold his money? Maybe she could fold his dough, earn her keep…
But it was just so weird, because he always seemed to know where she was—he caught her before she started to trip on the curb, for God’s sake.
“Why don’t I show you to your room?”
“Yeah,” she said, kicking off her sneakers and following him. “Why don’t you?”
She expected a simple guest room with a utilitarian twin bed and an empty bureau. Instead, he escorted her to paradise. The bed, a mahogany four-poster, was against the window, and sunlight was splashed all over the Shaker quilt.
Through the open door on the opposite side of the room she could see a gleaming bathroom with tiles the color of the sea, and the bureau beside her was almost as tall as she was.
“Uh…you sure you don’t have a cot in the basement or something?” she asked nervously. The room was so clean, so beautiful, she was afraid to move, lest she destroy it all. “Or maybe a blanket I could spread out on the kitchen floor?”
“Nonsense. This is your room now, for as long as you like. I’ll leave you to get settled.” And, abruptly, he was gone.
“Get settled?” she asked the empty room. “How?” She hadn’t wanted him to see the shelter, so she had no extra clothes. Well, she’d sneak out tonight and go get them. And she’d find Moran and his little gang of retards, and give them a piece of her mind. Imagine, trying to rob a blind guy.
She wandered back out to the living room and eyed the loft.
She noiselessly climbed the stairs, and had time to notice the loft was actually an office—desk, computer with big-ass speakers, bookshelves—before she clambered up onto the railing. This would be even easier—this was only one story. Less, actually. Just a few feet. Piece of cake. If she couldn’t fly here, she couldn’t fly anywhere.
“Something for lunch?” Drake called from the kitchen. Good, he was a couple of rooms away.
“I’m still stuffed from breakfast,” she called back, and dived off the railing.
She flopped over in mid-air, and had time to notice the living room doing a one-eighty around her, and then she fell into Drake’s arms.
“Wow!” she gasped. “How’d you do that? You were, like, fifty feet away!”
“Will you stop that?” he snapped. “Stop climbing things and leaping off of them, before you give me a heart attack.”