Like A Rock
Welcome To Miami
Cort and Hunter probably couldn’t have gone to sleep if they wanted to.
By the time I joined them in the taxi, Edward and Richard were giving Cort and Hunter a play by play of the first two games of the Series. The Marlins had ‘gotten lucky’ and won the first game 3 to 2… But then the Yankees taught them a lesson with a 6 to 1 defeat. Hideki Matsui and Andy Pettitte needed statues made in their likeness.
Fuck the statues. That sounds like sixteen minutes to me.
Average of four runs per game… times three games… twelve runs (give or take, of course) meant twenty-four minutes of pushing Sookie without volume restrictions.
While Hunter and Cort explored the small charter, Connelly asked me what was ‘wrong’ with them…
Wrong… While his choice of words left something to be desired, he assumed they had some sort of genetic disorder that stunted their growth. They were too articulate and clever to be five and three years old. Edward and Connelly quietly compared their children to Hunter and Cort, leading me to ask how old Margie and Lill were. Margie was Hunter’s age, three, and Lill had just turned two. The size difference was chalked up to Trey being a ‘giant’. Sure, but while Hunter had been explaining that Waterhouse’s Mermaid was ‘allowed to be neck’d ‘cuz her boobies’ were mostly covered, Margie had been babbling and shoving Monet’s ‘pitty fowlers’ into my face.
I’d dismissed it, realizing it was entirely possible that I’d been jaded by the public disobedience of children I had no interest in… And keeping in mind that the last children I had real interest in were my own…
Hearing Connelly, Edward and Richard suggest their own children and/or siblings paled in comparison to Cort and Hunter would have been enough, but Connelly’s live-in had children twice their age who weren’t as well-spoken, and Edward and Richard’s neighbor had a seven-year old who couldn’t read the difference between Page and Provost well enough to keep their hands out of the wrong mailbox.
It wasn’t just me.
It only pushed the point when Cort and Hunter settled into their seats and fastened their seatbelts without being told… Hunter dug into his bag for their books while Cort removed a container of vegetables and dip for them to snack on. No bickering. No teasing. No din.
Hunter passed a stack of dog-eared paperbacks to me (The Natural, For Love Of The Game and Shoeless Joe), explaining that Sookie had hand-picked them to help me get into the spirit.
For two and a half hours Cort and Hunter were better behaved than the so-called adults. My friends moved on from the topic of Cort and Hunter’s extraordinary mannerisms to tease me about Sookie. I read most of The Natural while they went on and on about how I never keep pets… Apparently they needed to repeat it in several languages while congratulating me for finding a pet that was smart, funny, sexy and didn’t show any ‘Single White Female’ indicators. They were as surprised as I was, but that didn’t mean I wanted to hear about it.
Cort finally saved me… Connelly had given Sookie the nickname ‘Love’ because her name would have stood out, even if he peppered it into conversation… Cort looked up from his book to warn, “Suki means ‘to like or love’ in Japanese. I’m short, not stupid.”
Richard chuckled at Connelly, “Busted,” as though Richard hadn’t been doing the same thing. Specifically, his sleeve still smelled like ‘Love’.
Connelly asked, “And what does Cort mean?”
“It’s a unit a’ measurement. Practically a liter.”
Edward laughed, “Cheeky, you are… Is Cort a nickname for a longer name?”
He nodded. “Corbett Beauregard Stackhouse DuRone. Ironically, Corbett means raven. It was my grandfather’s name. He didn’t have dark hair either.”
“Did he have a long name?”
“No. He was Corbett Hale Stackhouse… Family tradition. Tha kid gets tha mom’s maiden name in tha middle. I got two firs’ names ‘cuz my dad din’t decide between Corbett and Beauregard. Beauregard is my dad’s mom’s maiden name. Tha nurse said Corbett Beauregard sounded better’n Beauregard Corbett. Corbett- Grampa, Beauregard- Granny, Stackhouse- Mommy, DuRone- my dad.”
“And where’s yer dad?”
“Bon Temps Cemetery. He died in Kuwait.”
He said it so matter-of-factly he almost sounded flippant… but I was almost sure he couldn’t have many (if any) memories of his father. Sookie had said they moved to Bossier shortly after he was born. I couldn’t even be sure if Cort ever met his father… Of all the family photos showcased in the hallway, only two were of the man. Sookie’s graduation and their wedding. He was in uniform in both of them.
In an effort to not dwell, Edward asked, “What about you, Hunter? Were there any family names left after your brother?”
Hunter nodded, but continued reading for a moment before looking up. “My mother dumped me. She a’ready named me Hunter b’fore she lef’ me. Mommy and ev’rybody got used ta callin’ me Hunter b’fore a loyer came ‘bout tha ‘doption… Hunter Lyndon Stackhouse D’Rone. Hunter- ‘cuz Hadley pulled it outta her butt, Lyndon- ‘cuza Aunt Lin, Linda, who was really my gran’ma, Stackhouse- the tr’dition, and DuRone- ta mash Mommy an’ Cort.”
Cort added, “An’ b’fore ya ask we never met Hadley. She’s in tha’ wind an’ we’re fine with’at. She took off when her mom was sick. Who wants tha’ kinda person around?”
Hunter argued, “Tha’s not true. I wanna meet ‘er.”
“Jus so ya can tell’er ta ‘F’ off! Tha’s not healthy.”
Hunter shrugged. “Can’t bla’me. You can’t fart wiffout talkin’ bout it. Mommy din’t need’a baby ta take care of when Aunt Lin was dyin’. Hadley din’t care ‘bout anything but herself. If I wanna say ‘F’ off, I’ma say it if I getta shance.”
Good for him.
I offered, “You better hope Adele isn’t within earshot.”
He snickered, “Gran said I getta freebie. She’s gonna hold Hadley down so me an’ Mommy can speak our peace… then she’s gonna whoop Hadley’s butt.”
“Do you think Sookie would say fuck off too?”
Cort shook his head. “Mommy plans ta say ‘thank you’ an’ punch her lights out fer bailin’ out on’er mom.”
“Not for bailing out on Hunter?”
“Nope. Hunter’s hers. Accident or not, givin’em ta Mommy was tha best thing fer’em… God help Hadley if she asks ta take ‘em back. Mommy’ll kill’er… Prob’ly not slow either. Fast’n messy.”
Connelly offered, “She wouldn’t. People say that all the time and don’t mean it…”
When the boys started giggling, I corrected, “Not Sookie. She’d do it. Feel free to place your bet on how she’d get away with it…”
Hunter closed his book and tucked it into his chair. “Eric’s her al’bi… shallow grave… with mealworms.”
My friends covered their mouths to keep how amused they were to themselves.
I explained, “She can’t depend on mealworms.”
“If she gets ‘em from the bait-shack she can. Mealworms eat tha body, fish eat tha beetles. Wha’bout you, Cort?”
“Big Jack’s tha alibi an’ he’d get ridda tha body. It’d make him feel better ta help. He needs closure too.”
I chuckled, “I should probably discourage this topic, but out of curiosity, what would Jack do with the body?”
“He has’a construction company. Concrete shoes? Cast of Amankiado?”
I corrected, “Cask of Amontillado.”
“Yeah. That one… If Mommy could stay calm though, bess bet would be one knock on’er head an’ give’er an overdose. Let drugs do tha work an’ then toss’er in tha tub… Call 9-1-1 once tha water runs cold an’ say she found’er like that.”
Connelly chuckled, “Feed her to hogs. She’s been estranged. No body, no inquiry.”
“Pshhh. Tha’s been done… Belle Gunness an’ Robert Pickton used pigs ta get ridd’a bodies. They woulda got away with it if they din’t kill so many people.”
Hunter agreed, “Cops should jus’ randomly search pig stys fer teeth.”
I had a bone to pick with Sookie. I was in a cage while the children were awake, but they were little criminologists.
Connelly joked, “You aren’t with Scotland Yard, are you?”
Cort shook his head. “Tha Vampire News… Bancouber jus arrested Pickton… Gran said Belle Gunness was placin’ ‘need’a rich husband’ ads way back in tha’ day and killin’ the guys when they showed up…”
Hunter giggled, “Member tha good ole days when folks had ‘riginal ideas… Not like Hitler tryin’ tha same thing Bonapart could’n do.”
I couldn’t help but laugh… Adele had a dark side, and it was hilarious. Serial killer headlines became a lesson in world history and pragmatism.
Edward asked, “The Vampire News?”
I explained, “Adele is a bit of a histrophile. Once she learned of the existence of Vampires, she began weaving new headlines into historical events for the children.”
Cort agreed with a nod. “We been gettin’ a lot of ‘dentity fraud news… Remember tha good ole days when ya couldn’t be a coward an’ hide b’hind a’puter ta be an imposter? Gran told us ‘bout tha rev’lution in Russia cuz’a Anna Anderson claimin’ ta be Anastasia. An’ tha French Rev’lution ‘cuz some old dude said he was ‘tha lost dolphin, Louis tha whatever-teenth’… An’ tha War a’tha Roses ‘cuz…” He paused to look back and forth between the boys and lost his color.
I laughed, if for no better reason than the fact that by exposing my past, Edward and Richard exposed their own… This was going to be worth the trip to Miami. The Yankees could go without scoring a single run and I might not care. The look on Richard’s face was priceless.
I asked, “Cort, what’s wrong?”
He narrowed his eyes, still fixated on the boys. He finally blurted, “Parkin Wahbeck!”
While Edward tossed himself back in his seat, laughing maniacally, Richard growled. “Perkin fucking Warbeck claimed to be me.”
Hunter asked, “Did’ya know him?”
Edward answered, “He was an apprentice under one of our suppliers! And our mother convinced our aunt to vouch for him because she didn’t want anyone to expose our new identities. Eric glamoured Perkin’s confession out of him to end the farce when we were brought over!”
Cort yelled, “I GOTTA CALL GRAN!”
The first order of business once we landed, while we were still taxiing the runway, was calling Sookie. Since Adele was still asleep, Sookie was sworn to secrecy about the details of Perkin Warbeck’s imposture of Richard… They told her about her new nickname, they tattled on Edward and Connelly for ‘acting up’ on the plane, and they complained that staying awake late made them hungry. They’d eaten all of the healthy snacks Sookie had packed for them and they were looking forward to testing my nutritional knowledge with a room service menu.
After they sang their rendition of Will Smith’s song Miami (with Edward and Richard as backup singers), she asked them to call again once they’d settled into our room.
Not that I minded frequent calls (or expected any differently, for that matter), but she’d been woken up by their call. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was starting to second-guess our trip.
Given the late hour, we doubted room service would be an option… Connelly’s answer to the dilemma of feeding the boys was having the limo driver stop along the way.
Connelly’s defense was that Hooters was just a glorified sports bar and the televisions would most likely be tuned to highlights of the Series.
Before I could argue that I was sure Sookie wouldn’t be thrilled by his choice, Cort offered, “Hooters waitresses ‘r’ jus’ good marketing. They have awesome curly fries an’ Mommy loves tha Po Boy San’wich. We go every cup’la weeks.”
“Your mother takes you to Hooters?”
Cort nodded, “Gran too. They got good food.”
“If I burn for this…”
Hunter shrugged, “Ya won’t. Wash. Mommy’ll be shellous an’ she’ll have a Po Boy fer lunsh ‘cuz she’ll star’ thinkin’bout it. Yer safe.”
Ignorance was no defense. I’d never accepted it from a thrall… all I could do was hope they were telling the truth.
As we walked into the restaurant, still packed at midnight with most of its customers watching a rerun of Game 2 of the Series, Hunter took a menu from the hostess’s podium to begin perusing… Meanwhile, Cort was just as focused on the game as Edward and Richard.
Connelly and I had to snap our fingers to get their attention so we could be ushered to a table…
And it was more than slightly amusing that anyone who noticed our entrance did so because of the Yankees caps and shirts being worn by our party.
We were seated in a corner booth, with Connelly and me as the bookends and Bonnie, our waitress, followed me into the booth.
“I’m Bonnie. I’m gonna be y’alls waitress t’night. Can I start y’all off with a pitcher of somethin’ on tap?”
Her accent… I couldn’t tell if it was put on or if Florida schools had redefined all vowels… ‘I’m Bonnie’ sounded like ‘Ahm Bahwnay’.
Hunter stood up on the bench to lay the menu in front of me and shook his head. “Pitcher a’ Coke please, Bonnie… An’ we’re gonna get tha nachos an’ tha Buff’lo chicken san’wich, medium, cut in half an’ ranch on tha side, please. An’ fries.”
She giggled, “Aren’t you well-spoken… Are y’all in town for the Series?”
“And are you the tour guide?”
“Sorta… half’a us are r’tarded when baseball’s on…” He motioned between me and Connelly. “An’ these two are ‘only eat organic’ weirdoes.”
Organic? That was so beautifully hilarious…
I poked his side and chuckled, “I don’t make fun of your diet.”
He giggled and blew a raspberry at me while he sat down again.
Once the waitress left our table, Connelly let himself laugh. “That was fuckin’ beautiful.”
Hunter shrugged, “Mommy s’gested it ‘cuz people in res’raunts always order somethin’. Bet tha waitress is tryin’ ta figure out if one’a ya is my dad instead’a thinkin’ y’all’re Vampires.”
Connelly nodded. “I’ll take that action… $10?”
Hunter stood on the seat again to reach across the table and shake on their bet and offered, “Side bet? ‘Nother $10 says she thinks you an’ Eric are a couple.”
I said, “I’m in too. She doesn’t have any reason to think we’re a couple.”
Hunter shook my hand and dropped to his ass. “Cept y’all’re both organic-diet New Yorkers out with kids an’ y’all’re sittin’ at op’sit ends of tha table with kids inna middle like most couples do.”
At least he made his bet logically… I had a sneaking suspicion I was going to find a use for the smaller bills I’d gotten from Sookie.
As the waitress approached our table with a tray full of sodas and a pitcher, Connelly offered, “Ten says I’m the top,” and blew a kiss at me.
“American. Large bills this time. No coins.”
Hunter complained, “Tha’snot fair. I don’t have tha’ much… $20 on Eric bein’ top.”
“Do you know what a ‘top’ is?”
“Yeah. Tha more butchy one. He’s got a beard an’ all, but Bonnie saw him blow a kiss at ya.”
I shook his hand and nodded, biting my lip to keep from laughing and adding another item to my list of things to ask Sookie. Hunter knew the difference between tops and bottoms, and I was ‘in the cage’.
Bonnie smiled and began delivering sodas to everyone while Edward, Richard and Cort were oblivious. “Here ya go gentlemen. Your nachos and Buffalo chicken should be up in no time. Is there anything else I can do for y’all?”
Hunter answered, “Settle a bet.”
She gave him a surprised look and shrugged. “I can try.”
“K… If ya had ta guess… who would you guess is my dad?”
She nibbled her lip and looked back and forth between me and Connelly for long enough I thought she might get dizzy.
“Well, I’m no pro or anything… I was thinking it was him…”
She pointed to Connelly, but it didn’t matter because she ‘was thinking’. She’d already confirmed that she’d considered the options earlier.
So far, Hunter was $20 ahead.
She continued, “But now that I have an excuse to stare, I don’t think you favor either of them enough for me to be sure… That little guy…” Cort. “He could totally pass as this guy’s though.” She patted my shoulder.
Hunter nodded. “What if I told ya both of’em are my dad?”
Her head bounced, nodding happily. “Ohhhh kayyyyyy. I was wondering… I mean, here in Miami…” She turned to focus on me. “No offense intended, but we have so many of the flamboyant type the rest of y’all kind of blend in. So what are y’all up to, spoilin’ the nephews with a World Series trip?”
I nodded towards Edward and Richard and answered, “The nephews are spoiling us, actually. Their mother doesn’t like for them to travel alone, but she’s never enjoyed baseball. We’re chaperoning.”
“Good on y’all then. Was that all you needed?”
I nodded. “For now. Thank you.”
As Bonnie walked away, Connelly grumbled, “How the fuck do we determine top?”
Hunter rolled his eyes. “Pssssh. She already told ya… She told Eric ‘no offense’ an’ asked him if we needed an’thing else. Eric is top.”
Connelly argued, “You’re jaded.”
Hunter shrugged. “I’m also $40 richer… Wash. She’ll give tha check ta Eric… ‘cuz he’s tha guy. He’s gotta wallet and you lef’ yer purse in tha car.”
Talking shit to a Vampire.
He was so sure of himself… That’s when it occurred to me.
“You spend Saturdays with Jason and Brandon.” I’d watched them grab each other’s asses on Sunday.
His eyebrows pulled up to points when he smiled. “It’s always a tossup, but tha bottom has ta pay.”
That would explain why he knew about tops and bottoms at three years old.
We’d been duped by a three-year old.
Connelly grumbled, “Not fair, playing with inside information.”
“Right. An’ ya bet on horses ‘cuz ya like tha color’a their saddle blanket.”
I chuckled, “He has a point. It’s not his fault he watched this play out before.”
“And you’re defending him because you’ve only lost $20.”
“Care to double the bet? You do have a beard, very butch.”
Hunter reached for his drink and giggled between sips.
Connelly shook his head. “No. I think losing ten thousand is enough.”
Hunter corrected, “Ten thousand forty.”
Cort reached for his drink to take a sip and asked, “Can I get in the bet?”
Richard and Edward seemed to join the conversation at the same time, asking, “What bet?” simultaneously.
Commercial break… we would be a party of six for approximately three minutes…
Then they’d reenter their baseball induced vegetative states.
Hunter explained, “Tha waitress thinks Eric an’ Conn’lly’s our gay uncles. They bet on who’s top. I have $20 on Eric.”
Edward asked, “How much are the grownups betting?”
“I’m in. Eric’s top.”
Cort nodded. “Yeah. I’m in fer twenty. I’d bet more if I had it.”
Richard shook his head. “Connelly could pass for a bear. My ten’s on him.”
Cort argued, “Come on… Teddy bear maybe. Eric looks like he goes to tha gym while Connelly’s at cake decorating class.”
Connelly scoffed, “I’m not fat.”
Somewhere, Connelly’s children were making note of the date and time. He was actually offended.
“I didn’t say yer fat… but yer wearin’ a tucked-in button-up at a table full’a Ts. It’s all ‘bout context, dude.”
Hunter snorted, “It’snot jus tha shirt.”
Connelly grumbled, “What else?”
“I’m jus’ tellin’ ya one ‘cuz my money’s on Eric… Yer watch is blingy.”
“It’s a Rolex!”
“Yer. In. Hooter’s. Look at tha menu prices. This is’a blue collar joint full’a guys an’ yer wearin’ somethin’ flashy. Hey’yyyy.”
I bit the inside of my mouth to keep from laughing, but it didn’t work… I would have been fine if it weren’t for the way he snapped his fingers to punctuate ‘hey’yyyy’.
“Hunter, do you actually know any homosexuals or are you guilty of stereotyping?”
He nodded. “Mr. Laffy. Uncle Jason went ta school with’em an’ they’re still friends. He used ta work with Mommy at tha diner too. He’s like Bonnie said. Flamboy’nt.”
Since he wasn’t stereotyping, I didn’t really have anything else to distract me from how much fun it was to see Connelly so annoyed.
I snarled in his direction, “The watch is a bit much. It’s like you want to cheat on me. Slut.”
“That’s not funny.”
“You started this.”
“How was I supposed to know being well-dressed would…?”
“You aren’t that well-dressed. Those jeans make your ass look huge.”
“You son of a bitch… you’re having fun.”
“Again, you opened this door. It’s not my fault you don’t like what’s on the other side. Don’t be a sore loser, darling. It’s unbecoming.”
“I’m not being a sore loser.”
“You’re upset about losing, not being my bitch. If you’re going to cry, do it in the car. No one wants to see that.”
Bonnie arrived with Cort and Hunter’s food in just enough time to hear me suggest Connelly was going to cry.
While Cort and Hunter dove for their plates as though they’d been starved, Bonnie offered a sympathetic look to Connelly. “Awww, are you sure I can’t get anything for you?”
He shook his head.
“K. If you change your mind about sticking to your diet, we have really yummy chocolate cake. Yell if you need anything.”
The boys (all four of them) nearly choked when she offered to help improve his mood with chocolate.
While Bonnie walked away, I told my seething friend, “I prefer hundreds.”
The boys’ laughter continued to deteriorate and Hunter disappeared, sliding from the bench to the floor. He darted out from under the table near my feet and ran towards the restrooms.
“That was charming, Miss Congeniality. At your age you should know how to lose more gracefully.”
“At your age you should know how to win more gracefully.”
“Say you wouldn’t be laughing if this had gone the other way.”
“Fuck you… and your pretty little pet’s sneaky kid. Did you coach him?”
“Watch yourself. And no, I didn’t coach him. He took advantage of the situation to fool both of us into padding his piggy bank. He’s very tactical.”
I was actually proud of him.
Even though Bonnie placed the tab next to me, I offered to null the bet because she never actually said she thought I was ‘top’… but Connelly fumed while he pulled out his wallet to settle his debts with Cort and Hunter, and made a note in his phone about his losses to me and Edward, starting a running tab for our trip.
Once the jokes stopped, Connelly’s mood improved. By the time we arrived at the hotel, he was being sociable again, asking what kind of vacations the boys had taken to inspire so much patience. We’d all been trapped on planes with anxious, energetic children… We could tell they were excited by the way they watched the scenery pass, but they weren’t punishing us with their mood…
The theme of their trips hadn’t been any surprise. Over the summer they’d flown to Baltimore and spent two weeks traveling between Civil War battlefields and visiting the Smithsonian Museums in DC. The vacation they’d taken before that was to pan for gold in a canyon in California. Of course, the weeks before the trips there was a reading list (both fiction and non-fiction) to help bide the time.
The boys were currently vying for their next vacation to include camping on a deserted island (but a private beach would suffice) vis-à-vis Lord Of The Flies, Robinson Crusoe, and Swiss Family Robinson.
Another excuse for the boys to behave differently from other children their age… While other parents were taking their children to amusement parks and allowing them to fill their minds with cartoons, Sookie was taking them for didactic excursions and filling their minds with classics and facts.
As though Connelly was watching the same clues fall into place, he waited until Edward was checking into the hotel and whispered, “That’s why they’re cleverer than our children, brother. Ours were raised in bubbles by illiterate farmers. These children have luxuries ours never did. What makes them stand apart is that their family hasn’t yet taken it all for granted.”
“You’ll get no argument from me, but I don’t think reading is the only factor. I’ve actually seen a side-by-side comparison…” I couldn’t imagine why Trey, as devoted as he seemed to be to his family, would ignore the stark contrast between Margie and Lill, and Cort and Hunter. No one would allow their child to watch an animated child sing with her backpack if they could be reading something they could learn from.
“How much time have you wasted trying to figure it out instead of just enjoying it?”
I chuckled, “None. I wait until they’re asleep to ponder.”
“Good… Already thinking of your place in Cuba to be shipwrecked?”
“Too far inland, but I might send my property manager to the Caymans to look at a beach house I was planning to liquidate. The owner was ended in a catfight between nest-mates. The nest-mate was her beneficiary.”
“Beautiful. It’s about bloody time you do something fun. You’ve been getting boring in your old age…”
He trailed off from teasing me to listen to Edward call the concierge over to task him with finding ‘proper Yankees attire’ for his ‘wee companions’…
Cort and Hunter were giving their sizes to the man when my phone started ringing.
I answered, “What can I do for you?”
“I thought you might want to know the patients have been moved without incident and mother and baby are doing remarkably well.”
I whistled to get Cort and Hunter’s attention. “The doctor is calling with an update about Virginia and Natalie. She’s usually very sour, but she sounds like she might be smiling.”
The boys pumped their fists, but Ludwig sneered, “Very funny, Northman.”
“Let me know if you need more blood. I’ll order the Vampires to return for another donation…”
“Actually, that’s why I’m calling… I have a surplus. I might have as much as a few milliliters on hand at any given time. Those idiots you sent… they insisted I take a pint from each of them. You put the fear of God into them.”
“I wouldn’t say it’s the fear of God. I’m the one they need to worry about knowing where they rest.”
“Right… I know your primary concern was the Dawson baby, but…”
When she didn’t finish, I asked, “But what?”
“But would you object to some of the blood being used for another patient?”
It was Malcolm and his nest of miscreants… She could pour it into a toilet for all I cared.
“I imagine that would depend on several factors. What do you have in mind?”
“A paralyzed Were… He had a stroke while driving a couple of years ago. I wanted to try healing his spine with Vampire blood, but I didn’t have access to the amount of blood necessary…”
“If you mean Nestor, by all means… Let me know if you need more.”
Something about what I’d said caught Cort and Hunter’s attention.
“You’re serious? Are you sure his legs returning to him wouldn’t cause problems with the pack?”
“Flood was groomed to replace his old friend. He was already planning to step down. I doubt there would be any hard feelings within the pack… According to my sources, Nestor’s been despondent since the accident. He can’t run as a Wolf either. If anything, his improvements could improve morale.”
“If you’re sure, I’m calling Evelyn tonight.”
“Call her now. Keep me posted.”
“If you’re not careful…”
I ended the call and returned my phone to my pocket before she could suggest I’d earn a reputation for being sympathetic. As many Vampires as I’d punished or ended since she’d arrived in my Area, she could have kept more than enough blood in stock to cure most injuries. It wasn’t my fault she didn’t ask.
Cort and Hunter stared at each other for a moment before turning to me. All I had to do to hold them off was lift my finger to my lips…
But they nearly rattled apart in the elevator and they acted as though they were considering shoving the bellboy from our room while he demonstrated the light-blocking shades on the windows, the remote control for the television, the menu for room service (which was available around the clock), gave a tour of our suite, and listed the amenities available at the hotel…
Hunter actually growled at me for asking extra questions just to fuck with them… he growled again when I asked the bellboy to remind me what rooms Connelly, Edward and Richard were in…
Cort slammed the door behind the bellboy and asked, “Ya said Nestor… does tha doc think she can fix’em?”
I nodded. “She wants to try. Do you know that Were too?”
“We heard of’em. He’s Ashley’s dad. Ashley’s complicated.”
“Ashley’s complicated or her relationship to you is complicated.”
“Tha relationship… jus’ call’er a friend’a Mommy’s.”
Hunter urged, “Tha doc, Eric, tha doc. Spill.”
I chuckled, “Malcolm, the Vampire I ordered to give blood, provided more than the doctor needed. She had the idea to use the surplus in an effort to repair Nestor’s spine.”
They shouted, “HOW!?” in unison.
“If I had to guess, I think it would require making an incision and removing any scar tissue… perhaps trying to splice his nerves together before flooding the wound with Vampire blood.”
Cort shook his head. “Why didn’t they do that when he had tha accident?”
I shrugged. “From what I understand, his injuries were serious… And I’m sure Human doctors were tending to him at the time. It was before the Revelation.”
Cort announced, “Tha’s hella-cool. Ya oughta get blood from all tha turd-thralls ya got… I gotta take a dump. Hunt, call Mommy.”
I snorted, “Does your mother need to know you’re ‘taking a dump’.”
He laughed, “Ta tell’er we’re settled!” and closed the bathroom door behind himself.
Hunter walked towards the bag where they’d stored their phone, but he stopped to give me an evil look. “Edward’s payin’ fer tha room… use tha room phone?”
I nodded and sat on the sofa next to the phone. “And charge as much food and Pay Per View as you want to it.”
He snickered, “Cooool,” and dialed the phone quickly, easily finding the speakerphone option, and climbing up to sit on the arm of the sofa.
The phone rang several times, enough for us to assume Sookie was sleeping too deeply to hear the ringing, but she finally answered sleepily, “Heyyyy there. Havin’ fun?”
Hunter blurted, “We stopped at Hooters for dinner.”
“Mmmmmmm, that sounds good. I might just grab a Po Boy for lunch tomorrow.”
Hunter widened his eyes and wiggled his head. “Eric thought he was gonna get in trouble fer takin’ us.”
She giggled, “That’s my fault though. I’m a prude when it comes to how I act around y’all, so sexy waitresses might have been off limits too.”
At least she acknowledged that.
Hunter whispered, “She’s sleep-talkin’. She’ll say anything…”
He nodded. “She’s really bad. Blah-blah-blah-snore.”
He continued, “We’re checked inta tha hotel. We’re sharin’ a room with Eric an’ tha other guys got their own rooms. Edward’s callin tha Sheriff here ta check them inta tha Area… We got some time ta kill though.”
“How much steam do y’all have left?”
“We’re doin’ okay as long as we’re eatin’.”
I offered, “I thought we could explore the hotel for a while and then order dessert and watch a movie. I don’t want to try to invert their schedule completely, not if you’re planning to supervise them by phone tomorrow afternoon.”
“Heyyyy there… Are they behaving?”
“Are you fishing for an excuse to fly to Miami and save me? If so… Help! They’ve overpowered me, tied me to a chair, farted in my pillows…”
She giggled, “I’ll take that as a no then, y’all aren’t behaving.”
“Behaving well enough. The police haven’t been called yet… Connelly and I were involved in a bit of a lovers’ quarrel, but it was subdued.”
“You didn’t tell him the truth about how big his ass looked in those jeans, did you?”
Hunter started cackling too loud for me to answer her right away…
Once he finally calmed down slightly, I chuckled, “He doesn’t stand a chance compared to the way you wear jeans.”
“I’d look like crap with a beard though, so it evens out… Y’all have fun exploring the hotel. Call me the second you wake up. Got it, Hunter?”
“Yes ma’am. As soon as I pee.”
I chuckled, “Does that include me?”
Sookie giggled, “Yeah, you have to call me as soon as you pee too.”
There wasn’t much to the hotel, but it had been booked with six Vampires in mind. It wasn’t as though Edward made reservations with children in mind. The pool was ‘family friendly’ though, but it just seemed like a play area for toddlers because the ocean was just a few steps away.
While the hotel proved to be absolutely useless as a way to kill time, the beach more than made up for it.
We left our shoes and my phone next to the pool and ventured down the beach for more than an hour before Hunter complained that his legs were tired from walking in the sand… They watched cruise ships and private boats… They complained that the marine traffic was why they couldn’t find any good shells… They enjoyed the warm breeze enough to decide for the rest of their family that camping on the beach needed to happen for their next vacation…
By the time Hunter finally took my offer to carry him, he was practically walking in his sleep… and he was snoring against my shoulder when Cort and I stepped onto the hotel patio. He didn’t as much as twitch when I brushed the sand from his feet.
Cort leaned against the wall in the elevator and sighed, “It’s only four-ish… sorry we didn’t last later…”
“Don’t be sorry. I’m amazed you lasted this long. It’s actually 5AM here. We lost an hour to the time zone.”
He yawned, “Tha’s cool… What’re tha rules fer tomorrow?”
“Don’t tamper with the windows. Don’t leave the room. Don’t allow anyone to enter the room. Don’t hurt yourselves or each other.”
He yawned again, “That’s it?”
“Your mother wants you to call her the moment you awaken. She’ll instruct you as needed, but I hope I can trust you both to behave.”
“K. No…” Another yawn interrupted him. “Problem.”
The elevator door opened on our floor, and as we walked towards our room, I explained, “Use the phone in the room and let her supervise you via speakerphone.”
“I don’t think dessert and a movie are in the cards… I’ma be starvin’ when I wake up.”
“I’ll leave a tip for room service on the coffee table. Shove the money into the valet’s hand and thank him for the delivery. He shouldn’t insist on entering the room. Don’t order anything you might need help cutting. I can’t do anything about a severed finger while I’m dead for the day.”
He gave a sleepy laugh, “Guess I better not pick any fights with doorjambs either, huh?”
“Just until sunset.”
As soon as I opened the door to our suite, Cort dropped the shoes he’d been carrying and staggered towards the bedroom, flopping onto the bed without changing into his pajamas or pulling back the blanket… for all intents and purposes, I’d just witnessed a crash landing.
Once Hunter was tucked in on his side of the bed, I lifted Cort enough to cover him…
With more than two hours left until dawn, I did what I could to fill my time…
I changed the authorization code for the light-blocking shades on the windows in the living room.
I called for a donor to be sent up.
I called Kinsey to have him personally inspect the property in the Caymans.
I called Bobby and instructed him to prepare a list of every flight between Shreveport and Miami until Thursday and wait for Sookie at the dealership until it opened in the morning.
I called Pam… and Gawain… and Simza… and Bronya, just to interrupt them. I was told to fuck off in several languages.
I wrote the rules for the children since Cort had been tired when I explained them… I left the rules, the room service menu, and the tip for the valet on the coffee table…
I’d been enjoying myself enough that I hadn’t thought about it until I was alone, but…
I was absolutely terrified something was going to happen to the boys while I was dead for the day. Nothing I did distracted me from that until dawn.