Fanged & Fabulous
(Immortality Bites — Book #2)
Grand Central Publishing – Forever – July ’07
Just stake me now.
My name is Sarah Dearly, and I’ve got major problems. Last month, I was turned into a vampire by the world’s worst blind date. Then I may have, totally by accident, started a war between the mostly peaceful bloodsuckers and a bunch of sociopathic vamp hunters who have nicknamed me the Slayer of Slayers.
Now I’m being used as bait to draw out the hunters’ bad-ass leader, while my gorgeous 600-year-old boyfriend Thierry seems to be blowing me off, and my sizzle-hot, fanged friend Quinn is trying to turn my self-defense lessons into make-out sessions. So you know what? I’m done. I’ve had it. There comes a time when a vamp has to just suck it up and go after what she wants. And as soon as I figure out what that is, that’s exactly what I’ll do…
R e v i e w s
What’s a new vampire to do? Win a lot of readers with her upbeat persistence, that’s for sure. You can’t put “Fanged & Fabulous” down. —Charlaine Harris
Rowen has done it again. She has written another wonderfully amusing, suspenseful story…It’s terrific!! —Romance Reviews
“4 Stars!…an exciting, action-packed and often humorous tale…a great addition to Rowen’s vampire series. —Romantic Times BOOKreviews
Order Fanged & Fabulous!
C h a p t e r 1
Jogging is great exercise. Running for your life—even better.
At least that’s what I tried to tell myself.
It was the new jogging suit that did it. I felt all J Lo in my fuchsia velour (admittedly a little outdated, but happily on for half price) out for a quick, late-afternoon jog. Feeling good in the cold but fresh February air with my newest pair of very dark sunglasses firmly in place.
I guess I shouldn’t have smiled at the cute young guy by the hot dog cart outside of my apartment building. Firstly, because, hello? I’mtaken, thank you very much.
Secondly, because of the whole “fang” situation.
Fangs never seem to go over very well with vampire hunters.
Next thing I know, instead of getting a modest workout—surprisingly enough, a diet of diluted blood is not calorie-free—I was high-tailing it through a nearly deserted nearby park with a hunter on my Reebok-clad heels.
I shot a look over my shoulder. “Leave me alone!”
“Stop running, vampire!” he hollered.
I eyed the wooden stake he had in his right hand, and then picked up my pace, darting past a couple of speed walkers who didn’t give us a second glance.
Almost an entire month had gone by without seeing a single hunter. A very good month. Enough for me to let down my guard way too much.
“I’ll catch you!” the hunter shouted from a few steps behind me. “So why don’t you stop running and save me some time?”
I jumped up as we passed an overhang of evergreens and grabbed the nearest icicle. Then I stopped abruptly and spun around to face him with the sharp piece of ice clenched in my hand.
He skidded to a halt, almost slamming right into me, and looked at me with confusion. “You stopped.”
“I’m trying to be more proactive these days. Come near me and this—” I indicated my drippy weapon while my heart pounded loud and fast in my ears “—is going through your eyeball.”
Hunter-boy was actually kind of cute. Probably in his early twenties, with fashionably shaggy dark hair, a thin but attractive face, and brown puppy-dog eyes. He wore a black leather jacket over… beige Dockers?
I could totally take him.
“Proactive?” He raised an eyebrow, and shifted the stake to his other hand. The frozen air puffed out of his mouth with every breath he took.
I shivered, and it wasn’t just from the temperature. “Yeah, that’s acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty. I looked it up. It means that instead of running like a chicken with my head cut off—pardon the cliché—I will confront my attacker and deal with the situation in a calm yet forceful manner.”
“You’re smart for a vampire,” he said.
I raised my eyebrows at that. “Really?”
“A vampire who’s about to die.”
I tensed and curled my other hand into a fist. I’d been going to self-defense fitness classes with my best friend Amy for a couple weeks. It was true that only a few hour-long lessons probably weren’t going to earn me any major ass-kicking awards, but I felt a little more confident about my current woman-in-jeopardy situation. A little.
Proactive with a capital P. That’s me.
Okay, now I was shivering and sweating. I take it back. I wasn’t confident. Not in the slightest.
Hunter-boy was going to stake me. Easily.
“What’s your name?” I blurted out.
“Is that short for anything?”
“Yeah, it’s short for ‘I’m going to kill you now’.” He frowned. “Why are you still talking?”
He kicked the icicle out of my hand. It hit the ground next to me and shattered. I blinked down at it.
I looked at him and held up my shaking hands up that wound up looking like nervous ‘jazz hands.’ “Look…Chad, just walk away now. You do not want to mess with me.” I thought of the first move I’d make to try like hell to get out of this alive. I’d go for the groin. Always a good place to start. And end.
“Let me tell you a little something…” he paused expectantly and raised his eyebrows.
“Sarah,” I offered, without thinking. Stupid.
“The only reason you’re still talking, Sarah, is because I’m allowing it. I might not look it, but I’ve dusted over a dozen vamps, this year alone.”
I swallowed hard and, despite the cold temperature, felt a line of perspiration trickle down my spine.
“Well, if you’ve killed that many,” I said, even less confident now if that was possible. “You should know it’s not really dust. It’s more like goo.”
“Whatever.” He looked down at the stake, ran his thumb along the sharp tip, and then glanced over at me. “Now let’s get this party started.”
Hell, he looked fairly harmless what with the Dockers and all. Guess you can’t judge a man by his casual, stain resistant pants anymore.
I turned and tried to run further into the park along the snow-covered, cobble stone path, but before I got more than a few steps, I felt his hand clamp down on my shoulder, stopping me in mid-flee. He spun me around, then shoved me so hard that I stumbled back and fell to the ground in a heap. I scrambled back a few feet on my butt and looked around frantically. We were all alone. Why were we all alone? Where were innocent bystanders when I needed them?
“I’ll make it quick.” Chad winked at me. “If you stay nice and quiet for me.”
Yeah, like that was going to happen. “Are you aware that you’re the bad guy?”
That stopped him, but his stony expression didn’t change. “What?”
I shuffled back a little more, feeling the cold snow press against my bare hands and tried to look as calm as possible. “Vampire hunters are evil, homicidal bastards who kill for the fun of it. They’re the bad guys. Vampires are completely harmless. Like adorable, pointy-toothed bunnies.”
He laughed a little at that and stepped closer. “Yeah, right.”
I held a hand up in front of me to stop him from getting any nearer and slowly and shakily rose to my feet.
Keep him talking, I told myself.
I tried to smile and felt my cheeks twitch nervously. “Let’s talk big picture here. Do you know what you’d be doing if you murder me?”
“Slay, you mean.”
I shook my head. “Don’t try to make it sound all Hollywood. You’d bemurdering me. Just because you think I’m a monster. But I’m not a monster. I’m just a little dentally different than you.”
He studied me for a moment, his expression growing uncertain. “You drink blood, don’t you?”
I made a face. It sounded so gross. “This is true. But it’s provided by willing donors. There’s kegs of the stuff, hopefully sanitized and homogenized or whatever they do to make it clean and disease-free.”
“You’re an undead creature of the night.” He frowned and jabbed the stake in my general direction.
I looked up and pointed at the sky. “Sun’s still up, isn’t it? And I’m breathing. Heart’s going all pitty-pat. Seriously, you need to read up a little on the topic. Take some notes.”
Chad sighed heavily. “You’re saying that everything I’ve been told all my life—everything I’ve ever believed—has all been a lie. That I haven’t been doing my job as a protector of mankind by ridding it of bloodsucking monsters, I’ve actually been killing innocent people.”
I nodded enthusiastically. “Bingo!”
He stared at me for a moment and then snorted. “You’re funny. That’s almost enough for me to let you live, but you know what? Not going to happen.”
I tried to scramble away from him, but he grabbed my fuchsia covered leg and pulled me back until he was completely on top of me, pinning my arms under his knees so all I could do was thrash from side to side like a wounded seal. He grabbed my face and squeezed, making my mouth open up so he could inspect my fangs. He ran a thumb over one of them.
“I usually take these from the young ones I slay. Got myself a nice necklace now.”
I sank my teeth (fangs included) into his hand as deep as I could, and he pulled away with surprise and a sudden yelp of pain.
He smacked me across the side of my face. “Shouldn’t have done that, vampire.”
“You touch me again and my boyfriend is going to rip your lungs out,” I hissed.
“Yeah?” He smirked and looked around from his position on top of me. “I don’t think I see your boyfriend anywhere. Or anyone else for that matter. It’s just you and me.”
“He’s a master vampire and he’s not a big fan of hunters. Lungs? Ripped out? Do I need to repeat myself?”
That got his attention. “A master vampire? In Toronto? There’s only one that I’ve heard of.”
“That’s him. Do I need to mention the ripping out of lungs again?”
His raised stake lowered slightly, and his brow furrowed. “Did you say your name was Sarah?”
“So what if I did?”
I struggled to get out from under him but he had me pinned too firmly. “Get off me, you bastard.”
Surprisingly, he did. As if there were wires attached to his body like a marionette, he sprang back from me to his feet and stared at me with a deep frown while I slowly got up and brushed myself off.
“Sarah Dearly,” he repeated. “The master vampire’s girlfriend.”
I glanced at him warily. “How do you know my name?”
His eyes widened. He breathed in a deep breath of cold air and let it out slowly before he spoke again.. “Everyone knows about you.”
“The Slayer of Slayers.” He said it under his breath and took a step backward.
“The what of the what?”
“Last month…the massacre at the vampire lair. You killed so many hunters… so many…” His voice trailed off and he brought a hand to his mouth.
What in the hell was he talking about?
He took another step backward and hit the thick trunk of a tall oak tree next to a park bench. “I…I…should never have…” His eyes shifted back and forth and I noticed the hand that held the stake was now shaking. “Please, spare me. That whole thing earlier, me acting all tough…that was just an act. The other hunters…they’re so mean, and they all think I’m weak. I was just out for a hot dog and a Coke, that’s all. Please, don’t hurt me. I was kidding about the fang necklace! Really!”
The hunter/vampire showdown at the Midnight Eclipse was last month. That was my boyfriend (sounds like a silly thing to call a six-hundred-year-plus old vampire, but that’s what he was) Thierry’s secret vampire bar that had been located through a door at the back of a tanning salon.
It was true that the night in question was a major deal, that a lot of people got hurt, both hunter and vampire, and that I may have…possibly…sort of…had to kill a hunter named Peter, jerk that he was. But that had been pure self defense—and something I was still feeling great gobs of greasy guilt from, even though he’d majorly deserved it. And it had been with a gun, not with my bare teeth as Chad seemed to indicate with the fearing-for-his-life expression on his now sweaty face.
Now everyone knows my name?
The theme song from Cheers suddenly began to play in my head.
I took a step toward him and he fell to his knees, the stake falling to the ground. He put his hands together and began to pray in barely coherent whispers. With a shaky hand he reached inside of his shirt to pull out a heavy silver cross and held it up to ward himself against me.
I sighed. Let’s just nip this in the bud, shall we?
I closed the remaining distance between us, reached forward and grabbed the cross to show him that it didn’t hurt me at all. His eyes widened in fear. It was quite pretty, actually. And shiny.
Then I grabbed his shirt and pulled him up to his feet—easy to do since he was like a rag doll now—then brought him close enough that our eyeballs were only inches from each other.
“I will let you live…today,” I said, calmly and dangerously. I used to aspire to become a world-famous, well paid actress, so I just called on that questionable ability to give my words a little extra weight. “But if you or your friends come near me again, I shall bathe in your blood.”
Ew. Did I just say that? How disgusting.
But it seemed to get my point across. Chad was now the one scrambling backward, nodding like a lunatic, saying “Yes, yes, I promise,” over and over again. Then he got shakily to his feet, and with a last look of fear—the intense kind one might have just before losing total bladder control—he turned and ran from the park like the proverbial bat out of hell.
I leaned over and picked the stake up from where Chad the Vampire Slayer had dropped it and studied it for a moment. I had to go find Thierry, tell him what just happened here and what I should do about it. If anybody would know, he would. He just wasn’t going to be too happy about it.
Slayer of Slayers, huh?
I threw the stake into a nearby garbage can.
That new little nickname was so going to come back to bite me in the ass.
* * *
I first tried calling Thierry’s cell phone, but it immediately took me into voicemail which was frustrating at the best of times. He wasn’t at his townhome, either. So I’d gone back to my apartment to change, then paced back and forth impatiently until eight o’clock when I knew somebody would be at the new vampire club. It didn’t open for another hour but I knew some of the staff would already be there setting things up.
It had only been one week since “Haven” opened. I didn’t like the place as much as Midnight Eclipse. Instead of being hidden behind the faÃ§ade of a tanning salon, the entrance to Haven was a plain-looking door located along an abandoned alleyway. No bells, no whistles. Just an ugly, 300 pound vampire bouncer named Angel (unfortunately, no relation or even a passing resemblance to David Boreanaz) who sized up vamps who came a-knocking.
The club was small, intimate, with dark walls, ornately carved cherrywood tables and chairs. A splash of color came from the blue and teal ceramic tiled floor that had a swirling pattern like a whirlpool. Actually more like a flushing toilet, if you ask me. Modern chandeliers dripped from the ceiling, filling the club with a soft, flickering light that filled me with anything but ease. I was way too stressed out by the time I got there.
“Where’s Thierry?” I blurted out as I entered the club.
George was lighting a candle on a nearby table and he looked up at me. “Do you realize how often you enter a room saying that?”
I blinked at him.
“You could come in here with a ‘hi George, how are you doing George’,” he continued. “But, no. It’s all about Thierry.”
I felt a wave of anxiety. “I need to find him. I have a major problem.”
He rolled his eyes. George was a waiter at the club. He’d worked at the previous club too, and I considered him one of my best fanged friends. Totally gorgeous, too. He had shoulder length sandy blond hair, a square jaw, high cheekbones, full lips and bedroom eyes. A body like a Chippendales dancer, or one of those hottie male models on the covers of romance novels. Yeah, George was damn hot.
Too bad he played for the other team.
“Marco dumped me,” he announced.
“My boyfriend.” He frowned. “You knew that already.”
I shrugged, feeling too distracted to fully concentrate on what he was saying.
“He was one of the construction workers who worked on the club.”
“Oh. Well, I’m sorry. I’m sure you’ll…I don’t know…meet somebody else.” I glanced around the dark club. “So where’s Thierry?”
He sighed and leaned against the table. “Your lack of compassion for my acute depression is duly noted. What’s your trauma du jour, anyhow?”
I quickly explained what had happened, starting with the jog and ending with my new nickname. George whistled.
“Well, that explains all these crazy rumors I’ve been hearing,” he said. “About some bad ass vampire in town. I never realized it was you. No offense.”
My anxiety increased another notch. “There are rumors? Already? What am I going to do?”
He appeared to think about it. “You should probably talk to Thierry.”
I felt a rough tap on my shoulder and I turned around. A husky man wearing a dark blue ski jacket presented me with a fang-filled grin. “You Veronique?”
I stared at him blankly. “Not even remotely. Who are you?”
“I’m her ride to the airport.”
There was a sudden change in the air and I knew without a doubt the woman in question had just entered the room. The scent of expensive perfume wafted under my nostrils. I’d been turned into a vampire exactly seven weeks ago and my sense of smell had been growing daily. This was sometimes a blessing and sometimes—depending on where in the city I was walking—not so much.
I turned to watch her glide through the club.
Veronique eyed the driver and her red lips curved up to the right. “If you could give me one moment to say good-bye to my friend I would greatly appreciate it.”
He nodded, immediately intoxicated by the gorgeous woman with long raven hair, flawless skin and the body of America’s Next Vampire Swimsuit Model.
She glanced at the leaning tower of George and her eyes narrowed. “Shouldn’t you be working?”
“I was…I was just going to…” he stammered, then gave me a stricken look. “Um…I’ll go find Thierry.” He scurried away.
Well, her charms didn’t work on everyone.
But I liked Veronique. Actually I liked her a lot, but there was one big thing about her I was terribly fond of.
She was Thierry’s wife.
Oh, and drop-dead gorgeous and European with a tendency to wear ridiculously beautiful clothes on her ridiculously beautiful body.
I had been assured that their marriage was in name only after more than six hundred years. Frankly, I couldn’t imagine knowing somebody for thirty years, let alone six hundred. But I still wasn’t thrilled with the situation. Dating a married man, even though the wife was fine and dandy with it just seemed…extremely wrong.
I’d recently summoned my courage enough to ask if she’d even considered getting a divorce. Veronique had waved my comment off with a laugh and said, “After so many years, why would I want something like that?”
Yeah. I managed to refrain from digging my fingernails into her perfect eyeballs. Barely.
So, as I said, I liked Veronique. But her recent decision to go back to her fabulous life in France wasn’t the most heartbreaking news I’d heard all year.
She gave me a tight hug, followed by a brief kiss on each of my cheeks. “Au revoir.” She leaned back. “Are you alright, my dear?”
I forced a smile. “I’m fine. Have a nice flight. Bye now.”
“Are you quite certain? You look a little…malheureux.”
“I failed French in high school. But I feel fine.” I shrugged. Well, other than narrowly escaping death only hours ago, I thought. Again.
I looked over my shoulder. Where the hell was Thierry?
“I think I know what it is.” A smile played at her perfectly outlined lips. “You are afraid to admit how much you will miss me. I understand. But the time that I was needed here has passed and yours has just begun.”
My eyebrow perked up at that. Was she talking about Thierry? Maybe she’d given the divorce thing more thought. I shifted my feet that now, instead of the Reeboks from my near-death jog, sported low-heeled, rubber-soled Tender Tootsies that looked okay with my black jeans. My trendier footwear was currently piled up at the back of my closet to make way for that which was consistently comfortable and easy to run in.
Proactive = Me.
Veronique reached into her tiny Fendi bag and pulled out a business card that she handed to me.
“That is the number to my home in Paris. If you ever need to talk to someone, please don’t hesitate to call me. I know things will soon be difficult for you.”
I glanced at the card and then tucked it into the pocket of my jeans. “So you’ve heard about the hunters’ special new interest in me, too? Wow, rumors sure spread quickly, don’t they?”
Her forehead creased prettily. “No…though that is certainly cause for concern. I was referring to how distraught you will be when my Thierry leaves you.”
“Huh?” My forehead creased less prettily, and I scanned the nearly empty club again. “What? He’s leaving me? When did this happen?”
She shook her head. “No, not yet, my dear. I’m simply saying that when it does happen, please feel free to call me. I can dispense invaluable advice to help mend your broken heart.”
My eyes widened with every word.
The driver approached her. “We should be leaving now to catch your flight, ma’am.”
I just stared at Veronique. “Did Thierry say something to you? Is that why I can’t find him tonight? Is he avoiding me?”
She smiled patiently at me. “It is so sweet how taken you are with him. I am not saying this to upset you, only that it is quite obvious to everyone that this would only be a short term relationship.”
“You have known him for what…less than two months, yes? I know he feels a great sense of responsibility for your safety. From the attention he has paid you, it is understandable that you would become greatly smitten with him.”
“Smitten?” I sputtered. “You think I’m smitten?”
She frowned slightly at my words. “Thierry is almost seven hundred years old. You are…what? In your mid-thirties?”
“I AM TWENTY-EIGHT!”
“There is no reason to shout, my dear. I am trying to be a friend to you and tell you how things truly are, so you are not shocked by how things will inevitably turn out. I have known Thierry for so, so many years. I know him better than anyone else. I am simply warning you to prepare yourself for his interest to wane.” She touched my arm. “I am sorry.”
The driver cleared his throat loudly. “If we don’t leave soon, ma’am, I’ve afraid you’ll miss your flight and then I’ll—”
I spun around. “And then you’ll what?” I snapped.
His eyes took a step backward and cleared his throat. “Never mind. Take all the time you need.”
Veronique shook her head. “Mon dieu. I should not have said anything. It is simply my desire to see those I care about happy. Being in love with a man such as Thierry will not bring you happiness. He is too old for you. There are too many secrets. Simply too much against you. I apologize for being blunt, but I have only done so as a friend.”
It was difficult to be friends with somebody who had been effortlessly perfect for seven centuries. She’d seen everything and done everything at least once. Plus, she had really great hair.
She also had a nasty habit of being right.
I ran a quick hand under my nose, sniffed, and tried to compose myself. “You’d better go. Don’t want to miss your plane.”
Veronique nodded. “Of course. Take care, my dear.”
She looked at me with concern for a moment longer. Then, with a single glance at the driver, she left the club without another word.
I took in a deep breath and let it out slowly and shakily as I tried to compose myself.
“When my Thierry leaves you.” Her words kept repeating in my mind like a bad burrito. “It is quite obvious to everyone that this would only be a short term relationship.”
I shook my head. No. Thierry wasn’t going to break my heart. Our relationship was on solid ground. Rock steady.
Sure, he’d been a little distracted with trying to open the new club in record time. I’d barely seen him at all for the last couple of weeks, but that didn’t mean a thing.
Not a damn thing.
It was only a little over two weeks ago that we’d gotten back from a fantastic trip to Mexico. Romance. Margaritas. Sun screen.
It could have been better, I suppose. Even while staying mostly out of the blaringly bright sun I’d still managed to get a serious burn on my back that made it difficult to move without screaming for a couple of days. Vampires are not killed by sunlight as is the popular myth. However, it still makes us a bit weaker physically and annoyed by the brightness of the ‘big ball of fire death’ in the sky, which is what I call it now ever since the sunburn from hell. Especially after going through vats of Noxzema during the healing process. Talk about putting a major crimp in your love life.
After getting back, Thierry focused all his attention on the club. But now that it was open…
I glanced around. Where in the hell was he, anyhow?
No. I couldn’t think about this right now. I had rumors to worry about. Hunters to hide from. Etcetera.
Veronique was crazy. Thierry and me were just fine. Sure he was a little distant, but that was just the way he was. We had a deep, romantic connection.
Except for the fact that we hadn’t had sex since Mexico. Oh, didn’t I mention that? Yeah. Might be a problem.
I swallowed hard.
Oh God. Was Veronique right?
“Sarah—” A deep, familiar voice said from behind me. “George says you’re looking for me?”