Dead and Loving It

Page 22


“What the hell’s wrong with you? If possible, you just went pale.” The woman did look ghastly… practically unattractive, which was a good trick for a good-looking, green-eyed leggy blonde.
“Nothing. Uh, nothing.”
“I mean, you’re the queen, your name is Betsy, and you’ve got a problem with my name?”
“No, not at all, it’s a great name. Um, can I call you Toni?”
“No,” Antonia said. “You can’t.”
Chapter 3
Okay, so here’s your room while you want to stay with us, and the bathroom’s right here…“ The queen stepped back out through the doorway, pointed to her left, and then stepped back into the room, a largish bedroom with green and gold-flecked wallpaper. Antonia liked it at once; the walls were the color of the forest in mid-afternoon. ”Sorry it’s not attached, but it’s your own private bathroom so you won’t have to share it with anybody. And, uh, I guess that’s it. Agh!“
Antonia spun around. Garrett had followed them up. “That’s going to get real fucking annoying,” she warned him.
He smiled at her in response.
“Bad George! How many times do I have to tell you not to creep around like that? You’ll give everybody heart attacks. Bad, bad Fiend!”
“Why are you talking to him like a dog that pissed on the rug?” she demanded.
“Uh…” Betsy (the queen… har!) looked flustered. “You’re right, I’m sorry. It’s just that we’re so used to him being more like an animal than a person. Up until a couple months ago, he never talked at all. Not a single word, nothing. Heck, he didn’t even walk! Then he said something—”
“ ‘Red, please.” He’s into crafts. Long story. Actually, it’s a short story: He likes to knit and crochet, and he was out of yarn. So anyway, he says this, right, and we all freak out. Right? Then, nothing. Then you show up, and you’re all, hidey ho, how’s it hanging, Garrett? And he freaks out and jumps you! You gotta understand, in addition to not talking, he’s never done that before, either, unless he was bringing down prey or protecting me. He’s like a lion with a gazelle when it comes to rapists. I dunno, it’s weird. Anyway—“
“Not having to take a breath,” Antonia commented, “must come in really handy for you.”
“Like you wouldn’t believe. Anyway, you can understand why we’re all a little freaked out.”
“Sure, I guess.” She was still mystified. At home, when a stranger showed up, you let them stay as long as they liked, no questions asked. She reminded herself that vampires and monkeys were different. Duh. And Garrett, even for a vampire, was the most different of all. Interesting.
“Antonia,” Garrett said. They both waited, but that was apparently all he had on his mind. She took another look at him. Brought down rapists, did he? Not much of a talker?
“You’ve got great hair,” she told him. “A girl could fall in love.”
He smiled at her again.
“Agh, don’t do that,” Betsy said. “I swear, his grin is as creepy as yours.”
“He’s got a nice smile,” Antonia said defensively. “It’s just right: friendly, but not aggressive.”
“Uh-huh, sure. Well, I’ll let you get settled, and—”
“I don’t need to get settled. I need to help you. What are you doing now?”
Betsy looked startled. “Now now?”
“Yeah, now now. Because I’m stuck to you like a squashed bug until—until whenever.”
She shrugged. “You know, a year ago, this would have seemed incredibly bizarre to me, but no longer. Now I take it all in stride, bay-bee! You want to help? Come on. Not you, Geor—Garrett. You’ll just make a mess of things.”
Garrett ignored her, which Antonia thought was just adorable.
Chapter 4
Oh no no no,“ Antonia groaned. ”Isn’t there a bullet I can take for you or a knife in the ribs or something?“
“Hey, you wanted to help, so you’re helping.”
“I don’t think so,” Jessica said, looking her up and down critically. “The blue makes her look washed out. Which, we can all agree, is not a problem I myself have. But it’s not so good on your model.”
“Go back and change into the yellow one,” Betsy said.
“Fuck this shit,” Antonia snapped. “I seriously doubt this is what the gods or whoever had in mind when they sent me a vision of helping you.”
“Sez you. Go change.”
She stomped back into the small sitting room, ripped the ice blue bridesmaid gown off, and struggled into the piss-yellow one. This, this was her punishment for every bad thought, word, and deed she had ever thought, said, and committed. Fucking bridesmaid gowns!
She slouched out into the larger room, and both women immediately said, “No.”
“Why’d they even send that one over, anyway?” Betsy asked. “It’s awful. Nobody can wear that color.”
“Because they want a big fat commission, so better to send too many instead of not enough. Why don’t you try the black one?” Jessica suggested.
“Why don’t I make a rope out of this one and hang myself?”
“Quit bitching,” the queen ordered, “and go change. And hurry it up; we don’t have all night.”
Jessica laughed. “Actually, we do.”
“Well, that’s true, but never mind. Change, please.” At Antonia’s poisonous glare, she added, “I meant dresses. That wasn’t some kind of werewolf put-down.”
“Better not have been,” she muttered and stomped back to the sitting room.
“So, uh.” Jessica was speaking with forced casualness, which smelled like oranges on fire. “When did you figure out that you weren’t, uh, going to turn into a wolf ever? I mean, you’re pretty young.”
She had to laugh at that one. “I’m old for an unmated werewolf.”
“Oh. Because I was thinking, maybe you just haven’t had a, uh, chance to, you know. Change.”
“It happens with puberty.”
“Puberty?” Betsy echoed.
Antonia was wrestling with the zipper. “Yeah, you know. Hair in new places, things get bigger, and suddenly you’re thinking about boys. Don’t worry, it’ll happen for you soon.”
“Okay, okay, you don’t have to be a jerk about it.”
“Yes she does,” Jessica whispered, having no idea that Antonia could hear her perfectly well.
“So you were a teenager and you never Changed?”
“Not once.” At last! The thing was on. Hmm, not to bad. She studied herself in the mirror; she looked like one of those old pictures of a Greek stature. The dress was simple; no ruffles or fluffs. Straight across the boobs, falling to her hips, and then falling to the floor. And the deepest black, so black it made her skin glow.
“This one isn’t horrible,” she said, stepping out.
“No!” Betsy cried. “Black bridesmaid dresses at a vampire wedding? How cliched can you get? I mean, it looks great on you, Toni—”
“Stop trying that, it won’t work. An-TONE-ee-uh.”
“—but I just can’t do it.”
“Why are you even getting married? You’re already the king and queen, right?”
“It’s a long, horrible story,” Betsy said, “and I don’t have any alcohol, so I’m not telling it.”
“Maybe that dress in a different color?” Jessica suggested.
“Maybe.” Betsy got up and started circling Antonia, which she thought (but didn’t say) was extremely rude in her culture. “It does look great on her. And it helps, frankly, that all my bridesmaids are fabulous-looking.”
“Well, that’s true,” Jessica said modestly. “But Tina and I are short.”
“Andrea’s tall, though.”
“Yeah, but still. Tina and I won’t look as, uh, what’s the word? Stately. With this cut of gown, I mean.”
“I don’t know,” Betsy said, prowling around Antonia like a panther. “It’s a great dress. Good cut, good lines. Probably look good on everybody.”
“I thought we agreed that no dress looks good on everybody. You’ve got a short skinny black gal, a short brunette, and a tall blonde walking down the aisle in front of you.”
“You are really thin,” Antonia informed her. “Where I’m from, they’d hunt for you and be sure you ate everything brought to you.”
“Thanks for that,” Jessica snapped. “I can’t help my metabolism any more than Oprah can help hers, so hush up.”
“Hey, I was being nice!”
“That’s nice for you? Jesus.”
“What colors do you think we should try the dress in?” Betsy said, jumping in. Too bad. Antonia was hungry for a fight, but a catfight would have been a fine substitute. “Emerald green? Royal blue? Red? No, that’s another cliche. I have to say, Antonia,” she added, looking her up and down, “you’re one of the most gorgeous women I’ve ever seen. And that’s saying something around here.”
She shrugged. This was nothing new, and it was inevitably followed by “too bad you’re such a grump” or “it’s so unfortunate you’re not a complete woman” or “at least you’ve got your looks.”
“Too bad you’re such a grouch,” Jessica added.
Antonia rolled her eyes. “Can I get dressed now?”
“Yeah, I think we’re done.”
“Don’t tease,” she warned.
“What a baby!” Jessica hooted. “We’ve been at this barely two hours.”
“We’ve? You haven’t done shit, just stood around running your gums. I’ve been doing all the work.”