Authors: Robyn Peterman
Tags: #Paranormal Romance, #Romantic Comedy
"Is not Sammy's story to tell," he said as he put his thumb back in his mouth and watched me with narrowed eyes.
"But you might save Raquel some time if you let me in on the secret," I said logically. How hard was it to pry something out of a six month old child?
"You try to be tricky, Heathcwiff," Sammy yelled gleefully. "You no get me! Me too smart for you!"
"That you are, my little man. That you are."
“You’ve got a pole up your ass,” Astrid said. “And you need to pull it out.”
“I beg your pardon?” Raquel asked, shocked.
The voices halted me. I stilled in the hallway and backed away before I was discovered. They were in Astrid’s art studio with the door wide open. After having delivered Samuel to his father, I’d planned on sparring in the gym to release some of my pent up aggression. However, eavesdropping was far more fun.
Inappropriate? Again, yes.
Was I going to do it? Absolutely.
Quickly cloaking myself in invisibility and hiding my scent, I joined the hen party and took a front row seat.
“You need to loosen up and have some fun,” Astrid recommended.
“I have fun,” Raquel protested.
“Um… yes,” the bane of my existence huffed.
Astrid was on a mission and Raquel was her objective. I didn’t envy either of them at the moment—insane taskmaster and certifiable, albeit sexy, subject.
“What do you do for fun? Astrid inquired as she poured over a Prada catalogue and dog-eared various pages.
“Well, I…” Raquel stuttered. “You know, I… um”
“Yep, well that’s definitely fun,” Astrid said with an exaggerated eye roll as she tossed the magazine aside.
“Fine,” Raquel relented. “You’re correct. What do you suggest?”
“Shopping,” Astrid stated firmly.
“I’m a fabulous shopper,” Raquel shot back, clearly insulted.
“True, true, true,” Astrid conceded. “What we need here is something more creative.”
“Dude, we’re dead—we don’t eat,” Astrid said sorrowfully.
Invisibility let me react without fear of losing my head, so I grinned and rolled my eyes. We’d all heard ad nauseam about the massive hole that not being able to eat had left in Astrid’s life.
“I’ve got it! Swearing,” Astrid shouted.
Holy God Almighty, this was going to be good. I got comfortable and waited for the show to begin.
“Swearing?” Raquel asked with a giggle.
“Yes,” Astrid insisted as she stood to make her ludicrous point. Her excitement was contagious and it was all I could do not to reveal myself by laughing.
“Umm, I’m not so sure…” Raquel said as she stood and gave Astrid a quick hug. “I have a few things I need to do.”
“Sit,” Astrid commanded.
Raquel did so with great reluctance. Unfortunately, she sat right next to me and her scent almost made me groan aloud. My need to touch her was dangerously close to becoming reality. That would certainly not go over well—at all. Slowly I eased myself up and planted my feet by the door in case the need to make a quick escape was necessary.
“You need to let her rip. It’s invigorating and uses up tons of calories,” Astrid explained with a smirk and a covert wink to me.
God damn it, I’d forgotten Astrid could see through cloaking. I sent her a pleading look and she winked again. I was clearly going to owe my cousin a big one.
“We’re Vampyres—we don’t eat. Remember?” Raquel reminded her.
“Damn it you’re right. But still it’s a good way to start.”
“I already say inappropriate words,” Raquel argued and tossed her red curls.
Astrid groaned and plopped down beside her in the seat I’d just vacated.
Thank God I’d moved. She would have shoved me over and given me away for certain. Her evil little smirk was not lost on me—at all.
“Right there is your first problem. They are not inappropriate words—they’re cuss words, dirty words, good old no-no’s.”
“Profanities!” Raquel added with clasped hands and a blush, trying hard to please the nutbag guiding her.
“A little better,” Astrid replied as she wrinkled her nose.
It was fascinating to watch Raquel wrack her brain to come up with something that would impress her teacher. She was always so damned self-assured. I both liked and hated this carefree side of her, but I didn’t want to see her lighter side. It made everything even harder than it already was—pun intended.
I waited to see what she would say. She’d most definitely sworn before—mainly at me—but she was nowhere near as creative and profane as my dear cousin.
“Ass, damn it, hell,” Raquel recited hesitantly with another lovely blush.
“Nope, nope, nope.” Astrid shook her head and took Raquel’s hands in her own. Repeat after me.
Assmonkey, douche canoe, motherfucking turd knocker
“Those are swear words?” Raquel asked with a wince.
“No. Those are cuss words—the kind that makes your mother wash your mouth out with soap.”
“I don’t have a mother anymore,” Raquel said quietly.
“And thank God, Satan and Mother Nature, neither do I,” Astrid responded with a shudder. “But you get the gist?”
“I do,” Raquel answered slowly. “But I think we need to find something else. I’m quite afraid I’d laugh if I said any of those things.”
“You could practice in front of a mirror,” Astrid suggested in all seriousness.
“That would be a fine idea if I had a reflection.”
“Shit mother fuckballs,” Astrid shouted. “I always forget that one. Certain aspects of being a Vamp suck asscranks.”
“Is that a real thing?”
“Is what a real thing?” my cousin asked perplexed.
“Um… asscranks,” Raquel replied with discomfort.
Astrid thoughtfully considered her answer. “Nope, but it rolls off the tongue like butter, which is something else I
“Astrid, this won’t work.”
“Probably not, but I dare you to let four cuss words fly from your mouth daily. It’s a scientific fact that those who
are more trustworthy,” Astrid informed her.
“It’s not nice to dare me and where did you read that? National Enquirer?”
“Nope, I heard it on Housewives of Whateverthefuck, so that means it’s true,” Astrid said with a laugh. “Seriously, try it—you’ll like it.”
“Four a day?” Raquel asked.
I slipped from the room with a stupid smile on my face, thankful my cousin didn’t reveal my pathetic stalking. What I wouldn’t have given to have been part of that conversation in corporeal form. God damn it, I wanted Raquel to see me—like me—laugh with me.
I was an idiot. A huge fucking idiot.
"If you stopped playing hide the salami with her, daring her to do stupid shit, and actually got to know her, you'd probably save us a lot of money in home furnishings," Astrid groused as she pulled me toward the Grand Ballroom. "I hate these fucking cocktail parties. I have several hundred years to go before I can drink anything but blood, so getting drunk is out. And most of these damn Vamps bore me to tears."
"I have no clue what you mean," I insisted as I picked up my pace and tried to drag her into the ballroom so the conversation would end.
Every so often Ethan threw formal parties for his people. With Raquel’s European assembly visiting, the soirees had been nonstop. However, Raquel rarely attended.
"Give me a break. Anyone with ears, bionic or not, could hear you two boinking this morning. Quit yanking on my arm," she snapped. "You know you like her. I can tell. I noticed it when we offed all those Demons at the Caves a couple of months ago."
Jesus, I didn't need this. "I do not like Raquel. She is rude and violent and… "
"And smokin' hot and you totally like her. Nothing gets by me," she informed me with a huge grin. "I think she's your mate."
"And I think you're smoking crack," I shot back.
My mate? Bullshit. I didn't need a mate who would joyously kill me when my back was turned. I didn't need a mate who threw Ming vases for a hobby. I didn't need a mate at all. Period.
I was single, lonely, and loving it. No. Wait. I was single and loving it.
"I am not smoking crack, my very handsome cousin with the to-die-for dimples." Astrid grinned and punched me in the arm. "Can't breathe—can't smoke. That's how I got into this shit show to start with."
Astrid had been turned into a Vampyre when she’d gone to a hypnotist to stop smoking and ended up undead. One of the strangest turnings I'd ever heard of, but what was done was done. She was clearly meant to be one of us because she was a True Immortal.
"Astrid," I said with a smile through clenched teeth. "While I appreciate your concern, Raquel is not my mate. I don't like the woman and she most definitely doesn't like me. I'd even go as far to say that she hates me. So I can assure there will be no mating any time in the near future."
"You know, my cousin," she purred as we entered the ballroom, effectively ending our appalling talk. "There is a very thin line between love and hate."
I sighed as my gaze travelled a full room. I despised it when Astrid got the last word in.
The ballroom was filled with Vampyres dressed to kill. No pun intended.
Many were leaving the compound in Kentucky tomorrow and going to France to attend a yearly Summit with the Angels. I expected Raquel to leave with them as she was the Princess of the European territory.
The thought of Raquel leaving left an unsettled feeling inside me, which I decided to ignore. A bare bones contingency of fifty would stay behind to protect Prince Ethan, Astrid and Samuel. I was happy to have an excuse to get out of meeting with the Angels. Angelic? Yes. But were they pleasant? No.
"Sweet cousin Jesus in a hula skirt," Astrid muttered as she glanced around the ballroom. "This clusterfuck makes me want to chew glass and swallow it."
I had to agree but stayed mum. Vampyre politics were a bore. Watching the sucking up and posturing had grown tiresome over the years. But Astrid and I were both expected to deal.
"There's a band," I observed. "I suppose there will be dancing."
"Thank God. I should have invited Mother Nature. She would have twerked and scared the shit out of everyone. That would have cleared the room in a minute flat," she said with an evil grin.
Astrid's grandmother on her father's side was Mother Nature—the most delightfully insane woman in existence. Of course, there would have been twerking
pole dancing, but there would have also been a forest exploding out of the marble floor and a zoo of animals in her wake. Ethan had just repaired the compound from her last visit. A new visit would not be welcome.
"I have to go stand next to Ethan and pretend I'm listening to all the Vamps kissing his ass. They're all vying for an invite to the wedding even though they think it’s ridiculous," she said.
Vampyres mated. They didn't marry. Marriage was a vow that could be broken, while mating was not. Most Vampyres ridiculed the human tradition of marriage, but not my cousin. Astrid was a newly turned Vampyre and her human traditions were still important to her. She played it off well, but I knew the derision hurt her.
"Astrid," I said as I took her hand in mine.
"Yes, Heathcliff?" she asked with an eye roll.
"I don't think it's stupid at all. You should have what you want."
She stopped and glanced at the floor for a moment, then up at me gratefully. "I don't think it's stupid either," she whispered. "I want to marry Ethan more than I've ever wanted anything."
"More than Prada?" I teased.
She barely missed a beat. "Yep, more than Prada, Gucci and Stella McCartney. You gonna be okay on your own, my devastatingly handsome cousin?" she inquired with a sly grin.
"Aren't I always?" I replied.
"You know," she winked at me as she walked away and said, "If you'd get your head out of your ass, you wouldn't
to be on your own."
Ignoring her, I made my way into the crowd. Astrid was insane. I was happy alone. Being mated would keep me from… all sorts of things I needed to do.
God damn it, I was going to avoid my cousin for a while.
I was greeted respectfully by many and checked my watch repeatedly. How long did I have to stay? A brief appearance should be sufficient. As Prince Ethan's second in command of the North American Dominion, I was expected to attend all formal functions. I grabbed a blood laced scotch from the bar and leaned against a column. I would stay until I finished my drink and then I was out.