“After the note I got this morning, I wouldn’t put anything past her.” I chewed on the inside of my cheek.
The “she” in question was Amy Rothbart, partner-in-crime to my husband’s deceased first wife, Catherine. Amy was wreaking havoc in London, assembling a posse of new, young vampires. In fact, Amy being in London was the reason we would be honeymooning in Italy, rather than England.
“Lauren, you have nothing to worry about.” John tucked an errant curl behind my ear. “She’s dangerous in London where she can orchestrate her thugs, but she can’t touch us here in Orlando. Her vampire boy-toys are too young and inexperienced to function outside their home turf.”
“And you’ve got your own newbie to take care of.” My hand slid from around his waist to squeeze his tight butt, and I displayed a flash of fang.
His eyebrows shot up. “Be careful, there are humans present.”
“Ah, but these humans are enlightened.” I was referring to my dental hygienist and good friend, Rosetta Gonzalez, and John’s personal assistant, Doreen Adkins. Rosetta and Doreen had played Cupid on more than one occasion for John and me. Today, they were here in full force with spouses, children, and grandchildren in tow. I smiled at my extended family, all gathered in the backyard of John’s, and now my, Victorian home. I felt loved and supported, and as a new vampire, I needed all the reinforcement I could get.
On this most perfect day, however, the note from Amy was threatening my happiness. Arriving via certified mail, it read: This is a warning. Watch your back. When you least expect it, I’ll be at your throat, and even John won’t be able to save you. Have a nice day! Amy
Nice day, my ass. My lips curled in a pout.
“That is not allowed.” My new husband seemed to intuit my mood. “When we get back from our honeymoon, I’ll take care of Amy, once and for all.” He wrapped his strong arms around me from behind and rested his chin on my head.
I leaned into him. “I can’t help it. I’ve never been threatened before.”
“Surely you’ve had a patient who was less than happy with your handiwork at some time in your illustrious career,” John teased.
“Dentistry isn’t on the list of high-risk professions.” As I thought about it, I had to admit, “I did have a woman once who was disappointed her root canal didn’t come with a face lift.”
John laughed. “I believe it’s been five minutes since I told you I loved you.”
“Why don’t you show me?”
John turned me to face him. He twisted a tendril of my hair between his fingers and gently tugged to bring my face up to his. Kissing my forehead, he then traced his lips from my ear to my jaw. He blew his intoxicating breath across my eyelids, and I closed my eyes as his arm circled my waist. He splayed his hand on my lower back, tipping my pelvis to the most erotic location on his anatomy. I parted my lips in response, and he drew my bottom lip into his mouth to suckle briefly before closing his sensuous lips on mine. He explored my mouth with his tongue while his hand caressed the back of my neck. I lost all sense of place and time in his kiss, and then everything went black.
I opened my eyes to find my head in John’s lap. “I fainted again, didn’t I?”
“I’ll always be here to catch you. Just breathe, Lauren.”
I took several deep breaths and pressed my hand to my racing heart. “Jeez, I think I swoon more now as a vampire than I did when I was human. I’m hopeless.”
“No, you’re extraordinary, and I adore you.” John took my hand from my heart and kissed each fingertip.
Doreen shook her head and tapped her watch. “Too much of that, and you’ll miss your plane.” She crossed her arms and peered down at me.
John’s wacky assistant had outdone herself with preparations for the wedding. She’d lined the stone walk from the house to the gazebo with poinsettias in pink, red, and white. A harpist played Debussy in the gazebo for the ceremony, and the cuisine included iced jumbo shrimp and stone crab claws flown in from Joe’s Stone Crab in Miami.
And then she moved on to her personal decor. She replaced the bar stud in her eyebrow with a diamond, dyed her spiked hair purple to match her lavender “best man” dress, and sported tiny wedding cakes painted on each of her ten fake fingernails. “Seriously,” she reiterated, “you guys need to get moving.”
John eased me to standing. “Knees still wobbly?” he asked.
“No, I’m fine. I’m getting hungry, though.” As a new vampire, my taste for blood was insatiable.
John chuckled. “There’s a carafe on the bedside table.” He pulled me close. “You’ll need your strength for the honeymoon.” Since my transformation to vampire, John had been double feeding on his crime-stopping rounds, and then returning home to feed me. He’d become aroused when I bit into his neck, but he’d hold himself in check until I’d fed. I was concerned that I was taking too much blood, but John said not to worry. “I won’t let you kill me,” he teased. Until I was fully trained, which he promised would be his first priority following our honeymoon, he wasn’t comfortable having me on the streets tracking down criminals with him.
I kissed him quickly on the cheek and headed for the bedroom to change out of my wedding gown. Rosetta, my perfect maid-of-honor, accompanied me. Not only did I love her like a sister, but she’d been through so many weddings with her huge family that she had the details down pat, including owning a tool for unbuttoning the fifty buttons down the back of my gown.
I shivered as I stepped out of my beautiful gown and stood in only my lace chemise.
“You cold, Honey?” Rosetta asked.
“No.” I bit my lip. “I can’t stop thinking about Amy’s note.”
Rosetta patted my arm. “You think that big hunk of a husband would ever let anything happen to you? He’s like having an Uzi and an armored tank at your fingertips. And what about you? Don’t you have some of those special vampire abilities?”
“There’s a learning curve. I feel stronger, but I don’t know how to use my powers yet. Amy’s been a vampire for half a millennia. She’s lethal.” I walked to the large Palladian window that overlooked the backyard. John, resplendent in his form-fitting tuxedo, had organized Rosetta’s children in a relay race. My little Chihuahua, Smokey, was trying to keep up. The sunset over Lake Osceola provided just enough light for the spirited children, who’d been amazingly well-behaved throughout the ceremony. Even Rosetta’s son Fernando, the ring bearer, hadn’t fidgeted. Rosetta joined me at the window and put her arm around my waist.
“Amy couldn’t possibly be as strong as John,” Rosetta said.
“Not one-on-one, but she’s assembling an army. She’s afraid of John. He killed Catherine because she was preying on children, and Amy was Catherine’s apprentice. She wants to avenge Catherine by eliminating me.”
“I can’t picture John killing his wife,” Rosetta said.
I closed my eyes, recalling his deep pain when he told me the story. “It was horrible for him, but she was so evil. She’d steal a baby from his mother’s arms. She devastated whole families throughout London, and now Amy’s on the same rampage.”
Rosetta shuddered–she had six children of her own–and then she nodded out the window at John. “Honey, I still don’t think you have anything to worry about. You’ve got the ‘Vampire Vigilante’ on your side.”
My husband had earned his moniker from The Orlando Sentinel for his campaign to rid Orlando of violent crime. We’d made a pact that when we married, we’d meet halfway. He’d live a more traditional human existence, and I’d learn how to disarm criminals and go straight for the jugular. I figured it was a fair compromise. He was acclimating to daylight hours and studying for the Florida Bar Exam, refreshing the legal skills he’d honed five hundred years earlier as a barrister for King Henry VIII, and I was trying to control my energy field so the washing machine wouldn’t lurch into spin cycle every time I entered the laundry room. I was also gearing up to leap from tall buildings without crashing onto the pavement. My education was a bit more treacherous than his, but my vampire body was much sturdier than the soft human one I’d lived in the first thirty years of my life. My recently-acquired durability gave new meaning to the physicality of sex. John was tender and loving, but he could also ravage me in ways my human body could never have withstood. Yum.
Again, I shivered, but this time it was in anticipation of our honeymoon.
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