When I reached Dean’s Coffee House, I was relieved to see my usual table in the back was the only one not taken in the otherwise crowded café. I rushed in before anyone nabbed my spot, sat down, and was busy rifling around in my bag, trying to get my hands on my book, when I felt someone standing beside my table.
I saw a pair of long legs clad in worn jeans. I looked up farther to see a muscular chest, broad, broad shoulders and bulging biceps that strained against a fitted grey T-shirt. This guy was a big, big bastard. I started to feel a little shaky and was almost too nervous to look at his face. Swallowing hard, forcing myself to do it, I looked up, way up, until I met his gaze. And was confronted by the most amazing deep green eyes I had ever seen in my entire life.
Or rather, that I’d seen once before in my entire life.
Holy. Freaking. Mother. Of. God!
Seemed like suddenly my physiological systems went all out of whack. I couldn’t breathe right and my heart took off with a rhythm like a white boy dancing.
Did Tall Dark and About To Give Me a Heart Attack remember me? Probably not. Perhaps he made a habit of grabbing girls in corridors all the time. Oh, plus I’m not six feet tall. Or blonde. Or a model. My nips went hard, though, at the sight of him. And since he must be attracted to hard N.I.Ps… But then, he didn’t even know I’d named his lover Nordic Ice Princess, a.k.a. N.I.P., so he wouldn’t get the connection—
‘Um, since you’re sitting in my chair,’ he began in that deep voice I remembered so well—the one that haunted my dreams. ‘I mean, my favourite chair,’ he amended, ‘the one I sit in every Saturday morning. And since all the other tables are taken, I was wondering if you’d be prepared to share?’
I blinked at him in utter disbelief. And had the urge to start screaming obscenities. His ass—his perfect, gorgeous ass—had been warming my chair on Saturdays, while my stupid ass had been sitting at home?
Well, fuck a goddamn duck!
I sat there gaping at him, unable to formulate a response. Attempting to calm myself, I tried some deep breathing, soon realizing it would take way more than a few ins and outs of my breath to regain my equanimity.
I heard chairs scraping the floor and my gaze flicked to the adjacent table, where the couple was leaving. The attention of the man who was waiting to share my table, however, didn’t waver. He stared into my eyes with such intensity it was as though he were willing me to comply by the sheer magnetic pull of his eyeballs. Lucky for him, he ignored the fact that there was now a free table. Because after all this time, if he went and sat somewhere else, I think I’d pick up a chair and brain him with it.
Apart from this strange potential for violence, I felt all teenage-crush fluttery. Be cool. Just be cool. It’s entirely likely he doesn’t even remember you.
I inhaled one last big breath—an attempt to suck up some nonchalance along with my oxygen. ‘So what—you think I’m like, Goldilocks perhaps, sitting in your chair?’ Ah, my level of nonchalance was awesome.
He bit the inside of his cheek and looked at me for a handful of seconds. ‘Yes, I think so.’
‘And if I’m Goldilocks, then I guess you must be…Papa bear?’
‘I might just be.’
‘Well, you’re certainly big enough…to be a bear.’ My voice did not waver. No sir, it did not.
‘I am indeed.’ He gave me a closed-lipped grin. And oh my hell, just kill me now, dimples appeared in his cheeks when he did it.
‘Problem with this scenario,’ I paused to tug at one of my own very un-goldy locks, ‘wrong hair colour.’
He eyeballed my long dark locks appraisingly, which caused a slight shiver to run through me. ‘No, not at all. Actually, your hair is…just…right.’ He said the last two words slowly, for emphasis.
I clamped my hand over my mouth so I wouldn’t laugh outright. After a few moments of us both pretending I wasn’t smiling behind my hand, I said, ‘Well, I’ll have you know, this happens to be my chair Monday to Friday.’ I watched his eyebrows as they took a trip towards his hairline. ‘But since it’s Saturday, and it’s usually your chair on Saturdays, I guess we can share. The table, I mean. You can sit over there,’ I said, pointing to the chair across from me. ‘I don’t think you’ll fit on this chair with me. Besides, I’ve already broken one of the chairs in your little cottage in the woods.’
‘There are a couple of ways we could both fit on that chair,’ he answered, now sporting the most beautiful, devious grin. ‘But maybe I’ll sit here for now and…we’ll see.’
‘Die, you bloodsucking mofo!’ I screeched.
I slapped said mofo so hard against the wall, I jarred my wrist.
My boyfriend came racing out of the study. Skidding to a halt next to me, he frantically scanned the room. ‘What are you screaming about? Bloodsuckers?’
I carefully peeled my hand off the wall to see the obliterated creature and a smear of blood (my blood) on both the plaster and my palm. ‘I’ve been trying to concentrate on writing my paper, and this son-of-a-bitch mosquito has been buzzing about, biting me relentlessly for the past fifteen minutes.’
Greg narrowed his eyes at the blood-smeared wall while I projected nah-man-don’t-do-it thoughts at him. There was an uncomfortable silence, then, ‘Lucky bastard,’ Greg muttered under his breath before turning on his heel and leaving the room.
I should mention, at this point, that my boyfriend is a vampire. A real-live, honest-to-God vampire.
No one was more surprised than me when, after a long disappearance on Greg’s part and a messy emotional breakdown on mine, Greg reappeared with extra-pointy canines, a raging haemoglobin fetish and a permanent case of immortality.
The fact that my blood is exceptionally delicious to him, combined with my reluctance to let him bite me, is apparently making the man testy. And jealous of mosquitoes.
He’s only fairly new at being a vampire, and I’m not fully convinced he’s in total control of his urges. The ones that, once he gets a taste of me, make him want to keep sucking away until he drains me dry.
Then we have testiness-inducing issue number two: Greg wanting to turn me. He brings it up occasionally, and as time passes, with increasing regularity. Since he’s viewing the world through immortal goggles, he’s convinced I’m terribly fragile and in danger of expiring any minute now. Because I’m not sure I actually want to be a vampire, I haven’t given him a definite answer yet.
‘Hello, my name is Kayana Castello Branco. I’m a blood bank scientist (which I must say, has turned out to be quite fortuitous, my boyf being so into the red stuff), and I’m rather good at ignoring all the difficult things.’
I wiped up my blood with a tissue. Yes, I had entertained the notion that Greg might lick it off the wall—my bad! I was washing my hands in the kitchen when a knock on the front door interrupted my washing…and ignoring. Thank goodness. Ignoring is more taxing than one would expect.
‘Mellie!’ I yelled at my best friend, who was standing at the threshold when I swung the door open.
‘Ana!’ she yelled back.
Why the yelling? Melanie and I are simply so happy to see each other every time we meet, we always do it.
Melanie came in for a hug. She’s five feet neat, but strong for such a short-ass. Grabbing my five-eight frame around the middle, she squeezed.
I returned her hug, then stepped back and inspected her.
Melanie is always doing something different with her hair. Last time I’d beheld her—three days prior—her waist-length curls had been dark red. Since then, she’d had her hair trimmed to shoulder length, straightened, coloured dark blonde and highlighted with ash blonde, platinum blonde, and a strange silvery grey. And hot damn, she looked fabulous. She was rocking a goth vibe today: an almost-black plum velvet sheath dress with a mandarin collar, deep-wine lipstick, a truckload of smudged eyeliner and her black Doc Martens.
‘Man, you look stunning,’ I declared, my tone slightly reverent.
‘I know, right?’ she said, flicking her hair like a shampoo-ad girl on crack. She twinkled at me with her blue, blue eyes and then breezed into my apartment.
I chuckled as I closed the door. Which I happen to do a lot when Melanie’s around. The chuckling, I mean, not the door closing. And when I’m not doing that, I’m generally busting a gut, laughing.
‘Because we were so busy talkin’ about me,’ said Melanie as she flounced onto my sofa, ‘I didn’t have a chance to say how bloody spectacular you’re lookin’. I love you in all white. If I wore that, I’d look like someone killed me five days ago. But it looks amazin’ against your skin with your dark hair and eyes.’
‘Why, thank you.’ I wore a tailored white, sleeveless dress with an above-the-knee hemline. There was a silver chain belt slung low on my hips. When I walked, the extra length of chain swung beside my thigh. Greg had liked the effect so much, he’d removed the entire outfit, reattached the chain around my hips and done things that had made it swing. Wildly.
I should also point out that vampires have large libidos. Well, to be honest, I don’t know about other vamps. But my vampire, Dr Greg Morgan? His libido is a ravening beast these days. Actually, ravening beast doesn’t even cover it. It is the T. rex of the world of lust. Eating up all the other puny libidos and picking its teeth with their bones.
Not that I’m complaining or anything.
Melanie and I were all dolled up because we were going to my father’s birthday party. It wasn’t a big event, just a dinner with my dad, my stepmother, Lydia, my stepsiblings, the twins Michael and Geneva, and Melanie, Greg, and I.
I was dreading the dinner as one would if the menu consisted of an entrée of Ebola, a main of hurricane and haloumi with tsunami tapenade, plus, bushfire banana fritters for dessert. And if I survived all that, the apocalypse would be served with coffee and After Eight mints.
I love After Eight mints. I’d rather take a pass on the rest. Be that as it may, it would be a set menu, and I’d have to choke it down even if it killed me.
It would probably kill me.
Three years after the death of my mother in a freak skiing accident, my father married Lydia. Dad works on the oil rigs out at sea, so he left me with Lydia and her spawn. The three of them made my life between the ages of eight and seventeen an absolute misery. These days, I avoid them like the plague. However, my dad, on leave for only a few days, had begged me to come to their house to celebrate his sixtieth birthday. ‘As a family,’ he’d said.
Family, my ass.
I hadn’t set foot in their home for over a year. Today, I would be setting my feet back there once again. My feet were as wild about the idea as the rest of me.
‘So how are you feeling, luv?’ asked Melanie, being privy to some of my past with my stepmother.
She wasn’t aware of all the details. Nevertheless, based on what I had told her, as well as her own impressions when she’d met Lydia, she’d dubbed the woman Stepfucker.
Because Lydia is my dad’s second wife, we sometimes call her Number Two. Not meaning it in the numerical sense but rather the bodily function one.
‘I think I’ll be okay,’ I finally answered. ‘Having said that, if any of them attempt to give me grief, I will totally lose my shit.’
‘Woo-hoo!’ Melanie hopped off the sofa and did some air boxing. Luckily for her, she was only punching air. Because if she was punching someone for real, she’d have broken her fingers. The silly bugger had her thumbs trapped inside her fists.
‘I’ll lose my shit, too,’ she sang out. ‘I will totally bring the SMACKDOWN.’
I bit my lips, doing my best not to laugh at the tiny person with the large attitude and bad boxing form. Then she asked, ‘Oooh, can I set Stepfucker’s hair on fire?’ She shook her head in disgust. ‘That bitch has the stoopidest do in the history of hair.’
The best way I can describe the travesty that is Lydia’s hair: a straw-headed scarecrow had a perm, then stuck its finger in an electrical socket, before someone tried to kill it with an H-bomb. Hair spray bomb, that is.
I had a vivid image of Lydia running about with her hair-sprayed bird’s nest all aflame. ‘Shit, yeah,’ I managed to get out somewhere in the midst of a bout of laughter.
Greg was walking over, presumably to say hello to Melanie. He frowned when he saw her fighting stance. It must have offended his martial-artist sensibilities. He opened her fists and then reclosed them, pushing her thumbs down where they should be. ‘Thumbs on the outside, Melanie,’ he said.
‘No worries, Grasshopper.’ He gave her a closed-mouthed half-smile. I got a wink-with-residual-half-smile combo before he sauntered off towards the kitchen.
I got tingles in places in response to that. His wink does things to me. His half-smile—just curved up on the left side—does things to me. His stare does things to me. Ah hell, all of his things do…things to me.
I should also mention that my boyfriend—apart from being of the fanged persuasion—is six feet and five inches of finely honed muscle and panty-melting gorgeousness. Which comes with golden-tanned skin, brilliant green eyes, dark messy hair, a jawline that could cut diamonds, a smile that knocks me on my backside, a huge, big, throbbing IQ. Plus, dimples. He also exudes a particular combination of pheromones that’s a catalyst for reactions of my own girl chemicals, producing heart palpitations, heat, electricity, and some excess H2O down below. All of these goings-on generally make me feel the need to lie down.
With him on top of me.