Vampyres don’t exist. At least I didn’t think they did ‘til I tried to quit smoking and ended up Undead. My libido has increased to Vampyric proportions and my attraction to a hotter than Satan’s underpants killer Vampyre is not only dangerous . . . it’s deadly.
Hell, if I’m in charge of saving an entire race of blood suckers, the Undead are in for one hell of a ride.
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EXCERPT -- Prologue
I drew hard on the cigarette and narrowed my eyes at the landscape before me. Graves, tombstones, crypts . . . she didn’t belong here. Hell, I didn’t belong here. My eyes were dry. I’d cried so much there was nothing left. I exhaled and watched as the blue grey smoke wafted out over the plastic flowers decorating the headstones.
Five minutes. I just needed five minutes and then I could go back . . .
“That’s really gross,” Gemma said, as she rounded the corner of the mausoleum I was hiding behind and scared the hell out of me. She fanned the smoke away and eyed me. “She wanted you to quit, maybe now would be a good time.”
“Agreed. It’s totally gross and disgusting and I’m going to quit, regardless of the fact that other than you, Marlboro Lights are my best friend . . . but today is definitely not the day,” I sighed and took another long drag.
“That’s pathetic,” she chuckled.
“Correct. Do you have perfume and gum?”
“Yep.” She dug through her purse and handed me a delicate bottle.
“I can’t use this. It’s the expensive French shit.”
“Go for it,” she grinned. “You’re gonna need it. You smell like an ashtray and your mother is inside scaring people to death.”
“Son of a . . . ” I moaned and quickly spritzed myself. “I thought she left. She didn’t want to come in the first place.”
“Could have fooled me,” Gemma said sarcastically, handing over a piece of gum and shoving me from my hiding place.
“Come on,” I muttered, as my bossy best friend pushed me back to my beloved grandmother’s funeral.
The hall was filled with people. Foldout tables lined the walls and groaned under the weight of casseroles, cakes and cookies. Men and women, most of whom I knew, milled around and ate while they gossiped. Southern funerals were a time to socialize and eat. A lot.
As I made my way through the crowd and accepted condolences, I got an earful of information I could have happily lived without. I learned that Donna Madden was cheating on her husband Greg, Candy Pucker had gained thirty pounds from eating Girl Scout cookies and had shoved her fat ass into a heinous sequined gown, for the funeral no less, and Sam Boomaster, the Mayor, was now a homosexual. Hell, I just wanted to leave, but I had to find my mother before she did something awful.
“I loved her.” Charlie stopped me in my tracks and grabbed my hand in his old gnarled one.
His toupee was angled to the left and his black socks and sandals peeked out from his high-water plaid pants. He was beautiful.
“Me too,” I smiled.
“You know I tried to court her back in the day, but she only had eyes for your Grandpa.” He smoothed his sweater vest and laid a wet one on my cheek . . . and if I’m not mistaken, and I’m not, he grabbed my ass.
“Charlie, if you touch my butt again, I’ll remove your hand.” I grinned and adjusted his toupee. He was a regular in the art class I taught at the senior center and his wandering hands were infamous.
“Can’t blame a guy for trying. You have a nice ass there, Astrid! You look like one of them there supermodels! Gonna make some lucky man very happy one day,” he explained seriously.
“With my ass?”
“Well now, your bosom is nothing to scoff at either and your legs . . . ” he started.
“Charlie, I’m gonna cut you off before you wax poetic about things that will get you arrested for indecency.”
“Good thinking, girlie!” he laughed. “If you ever want to hear stories about your Nana from when we were young, I’d be happy to share.”
“Thanks, Charlie, I’d like that.”
I gave him a squeeze, holding his hands firmly to his sides and made my way back into the fray.
As I scanned the crowd for my mother, my stomach clenched. After everything I had to put up with today, the evil approaching was just too much. Martha and Jane, the ancient matriarchs of the town and the nastiest gossips that ever lived were headed straight for me. Fuck.
“I suppose you’ll get an inheritance,” Jane snapped as she looked me up and down. “You’ll run through it like water.”
“Your Nana, God bless her, was blind as a bat when it came to you,” Martha added caustically. “I mean, my God, what are you? Thirty and unmarried? It’s just downright disrespectable.”
“I’m twenty-nine, happily single and getting it on a regular basis,” I said, enjoying the way their thin lips hung open in an impressive O.
“Well, I’ve never,” Jane gasped.
“Clearly. You should try it sometime. I understand Mr. Smith is so vision impaired, you might have a shot there.”
Their appalled shrieks were music to my ears and I quickly made my escape. Nana would have been a bit disappointed with my behavior, but she was gone.
Time to find the reason I came back in here for . . . I smelled her before I saw her. A waft of Chanel perfume made the lead ball in my stomach grow heavier. I took a deep breath, straightened my very vintage Prada sheath that I paid too much for, plastered a smile on my face, said a quick prayer and went in to the battle.
“Mother, is everything alright?”
She stood there mutely and stared. She was dressed to the nines. She didn’t belong here . . . in this town, in this state, in my life.
“I’m sorry, are you speaking to me?” she asked. Shit, she was perfect . . . on the outside. Gorgeous and put together to a degree I didn’t even aspire to. On the inside she was a snake.
“Um, yes. I asked you if . . . ” I stammered.
“I heard you,” she countered smoothly. “If you can’t bother to comply with my wishes, I can’t be bothered to answer you.”
“Right,” I muttered and wished the floor would open and swallow me. “I’m sorry, I meant Petra. Petra, is everything alright?”
“No, everything is not alright,” she hissed. “I have a plane to catch and I have no more time or patience to make chit chat with backward rednecks. It was wrong of you to ask me to be here.”
“Your mother died,” I said flatly. “This is her funeral and these people are here to pay their respects.”
“Oh for God’s sake, she was old and lived well past her time.”
I was speechless. Rare for me, but if anyone was capable of shocking me to silence, it was my mother.
“So, like I said, I have a plane to catch. I’ll be back next week.” She eyed me critically, grimacing at what she saw. “You need some lipstick. You’re lucky you got blessed with good genes because you certainly don’t do anything to help.”
With that loving little nugget, she turned on her stiletto heel and left. I glanced around to see if we’d been overheard and was mortified to see we had clearly been the center of attention.
“Jesus, she’s mean,” Gemma said, pulling me away from prying eyes and big ears.
“Do I look awful?” I whispered, feeling the heat crawl up my neck as the mourners looked on with pity. Not for my loss, but for my parentage.
“You’re beautiful,” Gemma said. “Inside and out.”
“I need to smoke,” I mumbled. “Can we leave yet?”
Gemma checked her watch. “Yep, we’re out of here.”
“I don’t want to go home yet,” I said, looking around for Bobby Joe Gimble, the funeral director. Where in the hell was he and did I need to tip him? Shit, I had no clue what funeral etiquette was. “Do I have to . . . ?”
“Already took care of everything,” Gemma told me. “Let’s go.”
“Where to?” I asked. Damn, I was grateful she was mine.
“Thank you, Jesus.”
Hattie’s sold one thing and one thing only. Ice cream. Homemade, full of fat, heart attack inducing ice cream. It was probably my favorite place in the world.
“I’ll have a triple black raspberry chip in a cone cup,” I said as I eyed all the flavors. I didn’t know why I even looked at them. I was totally loyal to my black raspberry chip. My ice cream couldn’t talk back to me, break up with me or make me feel bad. Of course, my love could extend the size of my ass, but I wasn’t even remotely concerned about that today. Besides, I planned a very long run for later. I needed to clear my head and be alone.
“Sorry about your loss, Sugar,” Hattie said and I nodded. Her big fleshy arms wobbled as she scooped out my treat. “Do you want sprinkles and whipped cream on that, Baby?”
“Um . . . ” I glanced over at Gemma who grinned and gave me a thumbs up. “Yes, yes I do.”
“Me too,” Gemma added, “but I want mint chip, please.”
“You got it, Sugar Buns,” Hattie said and handed me a monstrous amount of ice cream. “It’s on me today, Astrid. I feel just terrible I couldn’t be at the funeral.”
“That’s okay, Hattie. You and Nana were such good friends. I want your memories to be of that.”
“Thank you for that, Darlin’. Ever since my Earl died from siphoning gasoline, I haven’t been able to set foot near that goddamn funeral parlor.”
I swallowed hard. Her late ex-husband Earl had siphoned gasoline since he was ten. His family owned the local gas station and apparently, as legend had it, he enjoyed the taste. But on the fateful day in question, he’d been smoking a cigar while he did it . . . and blew himself to kingdom come. It was U-G-L-Y. Earl was spread all over town. Literally. He and Hattie had been divorced for years and hated each other. It was no secret he had fornicated with over half the older women in town, but when he died like that, he became a saint in her eyes.
I bit down on the inside of my cheek. Hard. Although it was beyond inappropriate, whenever anyone talked about Earl, I laughed.
“Astrid totally understands.” Gemma gave Hattie a quick hug and pushed me away from the counter before I said or did something unforgivable.
“Thanks,” I whispered. “That would have been bad.”
“Yep,” Gemma grinned and shoveled a huge spoon of ice cream in her mouth.
“Where in the hell do you put that?” I marveled at her appetite. “You’re tiny.”
“You’re a fine one to talk, Miss I Have the World’s Fastest Metabolism.”
“That’s the only good thing I inherited from the witch who spawned me,” I said and dug in to my drug of choice. I winced in pain as my frozen ice cream ass-extender went straight to the middle of my forehead.
“Are you okay?” Gemma asked.
I took a deep breath and pinched the bridge of my nose. God, I hated brain freezes. “No, not right now, but I’ve decided to change some stuff. Nana would want me to.”
My best friend watched me silently over her ice cream.
“I’m going to stop smoking, get a real career, work out every day, date someone who has a job and not a parole officer, get married, have two point five kids and prove that I was adopted.”
“That’s a pretty tall order. How are you gonna make all that happen?” she asked, handing me a napkin. “Wipe your mouth.”
“Thanks,” I muttered. “I have no fucking idea, but I will succeed . . . or die trying.”
“Good luck with that.”
“Um, thanks. Do you mind if we leave here so I can chain smoke ‘til I throw up so it will be easier to quit?”
“Is that the method you’re going to use?” Gemma asked, scooping up our unfinished ice cream and tossing it.
“I know it seems a little unorthodox, but I read it worked for Jennifer Aniston.”
“No, but it sounded good,” I said, dragging her out of Hattie’s.
“God, Astrid,” Gemma groaned. “Whatever you need to do I’m here for you, but you have to quit. I don’t want you to die. Ever.”
“Everybody dies,” I said quietly, reminded that the woman I loved most had died only a week ago. “But I’ve got too fucking much to do to die any time soon.”
About the Author
Robyn Peterman writes because the people inside her head won’t leave her alone until she gives them life on paper. Her addictions include laughing really hard with friends, shoes (the expensive kind), Target, Coke with extra ice in a styrofoam cup, bejeweled reading glasses, her kids, her super-hot hubby and collecting stray animals.