Dead and Loving It
He was sitting on her chest, ignoring the pandemonium that had just erupted. His long hair swung down into his face, almost touching hers. His hands were on her shoulders.
And… he didn’t smell! He had no scent at all. Not “he recently showered and took it easy on the Mennen”—no scent. Zero scent. He smelled like a piece of paper. She had never, in her quarter-century of life, ever smelled a person who—
That’s how he got the drop on her! He could get the drop on any werewolf, and what the hell was he, anyway?
“You’re not pack,” she told him, trying to get a breath.
“Garrett Shea?” he asked.
“Right,” she groaned. “Get off.” He was leaning in, his upper lip curling back from his teeth, and she didn’t know whether to be alarmed, afraid, pissed, or aroused. It was so damned confusing she just laid on the tile like a squashed bug.
“Shea?” he said again, almost into her neck.
“Now. Get off now.”
“George!” someone shrieked, a drilling sound like a bad visit to the dentist. “Get the hell off her right this minute!”
“—swear I didn’t know, she just said she was here to help and I thought you guys would get a kick out of—”
“Sir, if you’ll grab a hand, and I’ll grab a hand—”
“We’ll be too slow.”
“Shea?” Garrett asked her again. His befuddled expression had entirely disappeared, leaving a look of sharp concern in its place.
Too bad; she had her legs up now, her feet resting on his belly, and she kicked out, hard, and was extremely satisfied to see him sail over the counter and crash into the tiles behind it.
She flipped to her feet, making the dark-skinned woman flinch, and grinned as Shea slowly pulled himself up behind the counter.
“Are we going to do this now, or should we put it on our schedules for later? Because either way works for me. Actually, right now works for me.”
“Jesus,” the blonde said, making everyone but the dark-skinned woman flinch. “How many teeth do you have?”
Oh. Her smile. Monkey etiquette, monkey etiquette! Her palm shot up, covering her mouth. “Enough to get the job done, I’s‘pose. Who are you?”
“Introductions,” the bass voice said, and it belonged to a terrifying-looking man, tall and dark, a man who did not suffer fools lightly, a man who would just as soon eat you as listen to you whine. Oh, she could like this man. “They are long overdue.”
The tall dark man was the king of the vampires: Sinclair. The tall blond woman was the queen: Betsy (har!). The black woman was their monkey-servant/friend/ watcher-type: Jessica. Garrett was a “Fiend” named “George.” The shorter brunette woman was an ordinary vampire, their servant, like a beta werewolf back home: Tina. They all lived together along with a monkey named Marc, who was currently “on shift.” It made much sense to Antonia; Michael and Jean-nie, her alphas, surrounded themselves with betas. They lived together like a family.
One in which she had no part.
She shoved that thought away and it went, as she was practiced at ridding herself of that particular thought. Instead, she pondered the most fascinating thing about these oddballs: The king, the queen, and Garrett had no scent at all.
She had heard of vampires, of course, but she had never seen one. Nor did she know anyone who had ever met one—or, at least, who admitted to it. According to lore, vampires were territorial to a degree that they had convinced themselves werewolves didn’t exist. Which was perfectly fine with the werewolves.
“Well, here I am, then,” Antonia said, feeling peevish that she’d assumed the servant was the mistress. “Put me to work.”
“If you’ll give us a moment, Antonia,” the king said pleasantly, in the way leaders pretended like they were asking. “We need to ‘catch up,” as it were. You say you’re a werewolf?“
“Mm-hmm. And you left your pack to serve our queen? The queen of the vampires?”
“I didn’t know she was the queen of the vampires,” Antonia explained. “That part wasn’t in the picture.”
“But you believe us? That we’re vampires?” the queen asked.
Antonia shrugged. “Sure.”
Sinclair continued. “And you get these, ah, pictures of the future? Do you have a camera of sorts?”
“Yes, my brain,” she snapped. “Which is overtaxed right now having to go through this again.”
“Do not speak that way to the king,” the tiny brunette, Tina, warned her.
“Why not? He’s not my king.”
“This is how you serve the queen?” Sinclair asked silkily. Antonia, who hardly ever noticed such things, noticed his suit: black, immaculate, and obviously made for him.
“I’m here to help the queen, not kiss your ass. I think ‘serve’ might be an exaggeration. I’m not a walking TGI Friday’s.”
The queen burst into helpless laughter, which almost made Antonia smile. Certainly, everyone else in the room was looking sour.
“That’s great,” the queen said between giggles, “but I already have more help than I can shake a stick at. I mean… well, look.” She gestured to the kitchen. “I’ve been trying to get rid of some of these bums for almost a year.”
“Some of us,” Jessica piped up, “her whole life.”
“Well, too bad. I have to help you to—to get something I want, so here I am.”
Tina leaned over and murmured something in the king’s ear. Idiots. When she said she was a werewolf, did she say she was hard of hearing, too?
“I don’t know who Dr. Spangler is, but don’t call him. There’s too many people for me to deal with as it is.”
Tina looked startled, and Jessica, who had only seen Tina’s lips move, jumped, and then said, “Well, uh, I think—we think—you might be. Uh. Crazy.”
“No no no,” Sinclair said smoothly. “That’s a harsh word, I think.”
“Confused,” Tina suggested.
“Oh, come on,” the queen said. “Give her a break. She came all the way from Maryland—”
“—right. And she knew George’s real name! I mean, hel-looooooo? Am I the only one who thinks that’s a really good trick? So why can’t you give her a break on this?”
“Because werewolves don’t exist,” Sinclair explained.
A short silence followed that and then Jessica said cautiously, “But you’re a vampire.”
“The existence of one does not ensure the existence of the other,” the king almost snapped. “And I can assure you, in all my long life, I’ve never seen one.”
Antonia snickered. “So that’s why we don’t exist? Because you’ve never seen one? Too bad; I thought you were smart.”
He blinked and said nothing.
“Well,” the queen said, and Antonia almost—almost— liked her. The woman was obviously pulling for her. She must be used to strangers popping up out of nowhere and making declarations. “When’s the full moon? She can, you know, get furry and make believers out of us.”
“It’s in six days,” Antonia said with a sinking feeling. “But the thing is, I can’t Change. Into a wolf, I mean.”
“Oh?” Sinclair asked with a truly diabolical smile.
“Yeah, yeah, I know how it sounds. My father was a— anyway, the pack thinks that instead of Changing, I get visions. All the disadvantages of being a werewolf, and none of the advantages,” she joked. “I might as well be a m—be a regular person.”
“Boy oh boy, you’re not making it easy for me to stick up for you,” the queen commented.
“Sorry,” Antonia said, and almost meant it.
“She isn’t,” Garrett said from his corner, and they all jumped.
“Cripes, George! I forgot you were there, you were so quiet.”
“Why are you calling him George?”
“Well, he doesn’t—uh, didn’t—talk, and ‘hey you’ got old.”
“His name’s really Garrett Shea?” Jessica asked, leaning forward. “How did you know that?”
Antonia shrugged. She wasn’t about to go into the whole “sometimes in addition to pictures, a whole fact will appear in my head, indistinguishable from something I read” thing.
As it was, they were probably about ready to toss her on her finely toned ass. She was pretty sure. It was so hard to read them! Except for Jessica, who smelled hopeful and interested, an altogether pleasing scent. But the others… nothing. It was maddening, and cool.
“Garrett,” Garrett said, nodding.
Tina and Sinclair looked at each other and then back at Antonia. “We really aren’t in the habit of letting strangers just, ah, insinuate themselves into our lives…”
The queen buried her face in her hands. She’d painted her claws lavender, a monkey habit Antonia found completely ridiculous. At least she didn’t bite them. “Oh my God, I can’t believe you’ve even got the nerve to say that.”
“That was entirely different, my love. As I was saying, this is not our normal habit, but you seem to possess information we can find useful.”
“Aw,” Antonia said. “Stop it or I’m gonna cry.”
They all looked at Jessica, for some reason, who said, “Hey, there’s plenty of room for her and then some. She’s welcome to hang.”
“Jessica owns the house,” the queen explained.
“Oh,” Antonia replied, mystified.
“And I’m sorry, you probably said your name earlier, but I didn’t catch it.”
“It’s Antonia Wolfton.”
For some reason, this made the queen blanch. “No. That’s not really your name, is it? Antonia?”