Becky managed to make a long sinister laugh last for most of the elevator ride to the lobby, and as soon as we were seated in the cab, she barked, “Keens Steakhouse on West 36th Street…”
Her tone left something to be desired, so Rhiannon swatted Becky’s thigh and instructed, “Be nice. You need to work on dropping character when the show’s over. The ‘Upper East Side Turbo-Brat’ should have stayed upstairs with the audience.”
Very well put… I was wise enough to recognize that Becky’s behavior was a parental problem before it was a professional one I could complain about… I would have said something about it if Rhiannon hadn’t, but given that she insisted that Becky apologize for the outburst directed at Edward, I wasn’t surprised that I was relieved of the task.
Becky immediately told the cabbie, “Sorry mister. The maid messed up my science project. I didn’t mean to take it out on you…” As Becky settled back against the seat between me and her mother, she snickered, “So… Nice hair-yank. Did I miss the day they taught ninja-redneck moves at the dojo?”
Rhiannon deadpanned, “Yeah, I think that was the day you were summiting Everest…”
She continued, “You shouldn’t have hit her. The look on her face was priceless, but it didn’t need to escalate. She was embarrassed and ashamed of herself, but you turned her lesson and our fun into fuel for a grudge. She probably would have shrunk into the woodwork, but she could be a problem now…”
Becky gasped, “I do that to you all the time!”
“She’s not me. She hasn’t been wrestling and slap-boxing with you forever. Playing rough isn’t something a pair of tree-hugging doctors-without-borders did with their only child. She didn’t get spankings, she got talked to death… which is why she cried when I was dressing her down. I didn’t shut you out either, so you should have caught that. You have a lot to learn, little girl.”
“I caught enough to hear she thought you’re a fat cunt, and she wondered what Eric could see in you, and you’re sleeping in her bed with her man… The tipping point was when she thought that you should’ve had an abortion.”
I could see why that would be a trigger for her.
I offered, “Telepathic cheating aside, the slap was uncalled for. As strong as you are, you could have ruptured one of her implants or cracked a rib.”
Becky cringed and grumbled, “But what can she do to a seven-year-old?”
“Sue her parents.” Rhiannon and I had spoken in unison.
Becky closed her eyes and breathed, “Shhiiiiiiiitttt.”
Rhiannon continued, “Yeah, so if she comes after me for pain and suffering you caused, you’re going to be my personal hand-servant until kingdom come… manicures, pedicures, breakfast in bed…” When Becky started growling, Rhiannon winked at me. “You’re lucky Eric can deny paternity…”
I chuckled, “I’m not sure I would though. If indentured servitude is on the table, I could give the doorman an extended vacation, and Becky can man the lobby dressed as one of Santa’s elves.”
Rhiannon giggled, “I can hear the jingle bells on her little gloves already… Every time she reaches for the door or hands someone their mail…”
Becky argued, “Elves have bells on their shoes and their hats, not their gloves.”
“Oh, but by the time I’m finished with your bespoke costume, there will be a jingle bell shortage in the Tri-State area.”
Becky clasped her hands together in front of her and prayed, “Dear baby Jesus in the manger, please don’t let that bridal-wannabe sue… And thanks for homeschooling ‘cuz I’d need lots of therapy if Mommy had to make costumes for Christmas plays. Amen.”
If Jesus had been listening, the cab would have been struck by lightning for her sarcasm.
Rhiannon wasn’t nearly as amused as I was.
In an effort to move on to small talk, I asked, “Did you learn to sew when you learned to tie an Eldredge knot?”
Rhiannon nodded. “Sort of… The hospital my mother used to put me in was big on craft time, so I learned to sew making pillows shaped like hamburgers and cats… The special tie knots were an infatuation of mine. One of the doctors there always had a special knot, never a simple Windsor. He caught me staring and started teaching me how to tie different styles around his lamp. I worked as a seamstress at a haberdashery for a while, so it came in handy.”
There went light conversation.
I almost suggested that she made institutionalization sound like summer camp until I stopped myself… Of course it would have been preferable to the attentions of her mother’s abusive boyfriends.
“Just before you returned with Dotty, your father mentioned that he covers his scent with orange body wash… I was planning to call Chantalle when the elevator delivered you…”
Rhiannon offered, “Better that you didn’t have the chance. Becky’s horribly allergic. She can’t have any natural citrus. She was covered in a horrible rash in just a few seconds after her only sip of orange juice. We have to be careful with what she eats.”
“I’m sure… Citrus is a weakness of the Fae. Citrus and iron… I assume Becky’s Human heritage is responsible for her intolerance to citrus. A full-blooded Faerie wouldn’t have lived through a sip of orange juice…”
Both of them stared back at me with horrified expressions.
“At the risk of annoying you by mentioning your family, I’d guess that your father isn’t quite as Fae as Becky… They seemed stunned by the limited clues they were given about her ability, and Corbett and your brothers didn’t offer any warnings about other members of the family with the sensitivity… I’m only brainstorming, but if Becky is half with extreme sensitivity, perhaps Corbett and his sister are quarter or less.”
Becky tipped her head from side to side and agreed, “Makes sense… That would make Mommy and her brothers an eighth or less…”
Becky would be 63% Fae… Even if they were only staying with me for a night or two, I wanted to pad everything in my apartment to prevent cuts and scrapes.
“Which would explain why full-blooded Faeries are intoxicating, but Jason and Brandon’s blood was just slightly different. Knowing you’re all hybrids explains the sweetness though.”
Becky looked at her mother. “You know you need to talk to your dad, Mommy. He might know something…”
Even though she’d shared with Pam and me that Rhiannon was conflicted over the new situation… she was pushing?
“We’re meeting for breakfast in the morning.”
“You say that like you’re going to discuss Supernatural stuff in Norma’s…”
“Should I make a family dinner and have a Hallmark supper?”
Becky scoffed, “Do you want to kill your whole family!? You can’t cook! I get scared when you walk past microwaves… No, I just want you to get the stick out of your ass. It’s not a bad thing that they’re excited to meet you. It’s not a bad thing that they would have kept all that bad shit from happening to you… It sucks that it happened, but they didn’t have anything to with it… Michelle’s to blame for all of it. Not them.”
“Are you done?”
“No. You’re still being a turd. You said last night ‘no trade’. Make up your fucking mind. My mother was molested, raped, committed, beaten, drained, neglected and mind-fucked, but she came out of it in one goddamn piece with more sanity than the coddled and over-educated bitches you con… In spite of what a useless cunt Michelle was, you nearly scalped a ho for calling me a bitch even though she was totally stating the obvious, and you homeschooled me through high school classes that you never attended. You fucking won, Mommy… Telepathy- you know, that thing that makes you a ‘monster’- paid for our beach house and a life the cunt who tried to keep you down would drool over… and now you get a family as a bonus. Don’t turn your damn nose up at it. Enjoy it.”
If Rhiannon could get a sense of my mind, she would have known I agreed with Becky’s advice given the limited scope of information at my disposal.
Rhiannon sighed, “I didn’t pull her hair for calling you a bitch. I pulled her hair because she was using a threatening posture… Are you done now?”
Becky stared at her mother for a moment before shouting, “You’ve. Got. To. Be. Kidding! Really?”
Rhiannon tilted her head back and closed her eyes as she groaned, “I’m prepared to walk forty blocks to avoid this discussion.”
“Good. Do that. By the time you get to the restaurant, I’ll have filled Eric in and brought him over to the dark side… You taught yourself to speak Spanish, to raise a kid, to make a living, to keep a house, to balance a checkbook, to invest… You taught yourself how to do EVERYTHING! And you’re fucking awesome… I’m pretty goddamn sure you’ll figure out how to be part of a family, jackass!” Before Rhiannon could say anything Becky turned to asked me, “Do you have an opinion on this?”
“I do, but I’m not sure you want to hear it.”
She snorted, “Great. Consider me braced.”
“Fine… I think it might be easier for me to assimilate into a family than it would be for your mother because I actually had one of my own before I was brought over, and I had several mentors with impeccable values and morality. I think that you’re forgetting that your mother only just finished chiding you for not calculating the various facets of a situation, and it’s wholly oblivious of you to expect her to jump headlong into an unfamiliar setting. I think you’re confusing your excitement to meet others like you for a keenness for a family, because until the connections were made for you, ‘just us’ didn’t seem to cause the least bit of upset for you…”
As Rhiannon let out a relieved sigh, Becky groaned, “He’s not done.”
“Brat… I also think that your mother might be dwelling on the negative aspects of this sudden development to counterbalance how eager you seem to be for a Hallmark moment… and if you just shut the fuck up and stop being an armchair quarterback, she might be able to make a decision as to how to progress… because, and I’m just guessing, I’m sure your mother could have easily rescheduled her meeting with Chief Tatum, but waiting until breakfast would give her some time to consider options and contingencies.”
She breathed, “Fuck… your… points… all of them. Really…” She finished by blowing a raspberry at me.
I chuckled at her and offered, “If it makes you feel better, I have arguments for your side of the debate as well.”
She snickered, “A spoon full of sugar helps the medicine go down…”
“Don’t get ahead of yourself. It’s just a few observations… First, it says a lot that Corbett immediately referred to you as his. He said ‘I have a daughter and a grandbaby’. He didn’t begin a tirade about Michelle keeping anyone apart. He packed a bag. Intimidating as that might be for someone who’s suffered a history of neglect, he seems very interested in being a father and grandfather. What’s more, he didn’t ask anything about either of you and the only information he had concerning you was a synopsized version of your abilities and a vague description of what happened last night…”
Becky cooed, “Oooooh, that’s a good one. Keep going.”
“It also speaks volumes that Linda wanted revenge on your behalf. I don’t know what she gleaned with her ability, and that’s strictly between you and her, but I get the feeling what she did to Michelle was long overdue… and it was a variation of the same protective instincts that put Chantalle on the floor. The Stackhouses obviously make no apologies for defending each other…”
“The roses, while superfluous, were well-intended. I think the parade of roses was a vehicle for the sentiments included in the cards. I’d venture to guess that all of the cards were carefully considered and worded, and meant to introduce you to your family… The first one I read was for a fifth birthday and suggested that would have been when Corbett taught Rhiannon how to ride a bicycle.”
Rhiannon offered, “I learned to ride a bike when I was eleven. Luke taught me.”
Luke, the Vampire who fed from a child. How sweet.
Becky snorted, “Can we get back to that? I want to hear the rest of his observations.”
“Do you want to hear about how impertinent you can be?”
“Nahhhh, that’s old news.”
Rhiannon snickered, “Welcome to my world, Eric.”
I continued, “And there are little things, such as Corbett’s questions about Becky’s demeanor and your plans for the evening, that hint that he’s willing to take any information you’re willing to share… And since I had children I can say that I’d feel the same way if I suddenly discovered an adult child who hadn’t ever met me. He arrived willing to share your family tree. He divulged information about his family, who all have abilities that could be exploited, without requesting privacy. He didn’t talk about himself either. He didn’t charge into my apartment staking his claim as your father or blathering about Civil War heroes and stamp collectors. He allowed Jason, your peer, to emcee the introductions. It seemed like a very diplomatic move.”
Rhiannon exhaled a deep breath and asked, “Did you notice anything else?”
Becky actually scowled at her mother because she was willing to listen to my input.
“I could think of something else later, but for now… I want to point out that the biggest point in your father’s favor is that he arrived in person rather than called.”
“I thought that was… He just showed up unannounced with a damn entourage…”
“I could understand how that would be alarming to someone else, but if you think about it… He discovered suddenly that he had a daughter who’d been attacked that night, and abused as a child. It would be very safe to assume that said daughter would be leery of an instant family… until you consider that he raised two telepaths. The flowers weren’t the grand gesture, Rhiannon… Presenting himself to a telepath in person was, and he brought other family members along so you could have that much more evidence that the only thing you have to fear is the uncharted territory.”
Rhiannon’s chin puckered when she nodded and sniffled, “Noted. Thanks.”
Becky giggled, “You got her.”
“I didn’t intend to get her. I’m an unbiased party who can look at the players from a neutral perspective.”
“You still got her. Thanks… Do you want to go back to Luke?”
“Francesca mentioned wanting to know who he is so she could put the word out about his interest in children.”
Rhiannon’s eyes widened and she gasped. “It wasn’t like that. He was… Luke was a nice guy.”
I was suddenly more sickened by the situation that I thought was possible.
“A nice guy who was feeding from a child.”
“He wasn’t… he didn’t feed-feed. He started seeing Michelle while I was in foster care and she was trying to get me back. That meant she was sober… He told me that’s where he shopped for standing dates, AA meetings. Women at rock bottom are great marks when all you want is a weekly date, right? I was only ‘home’ for a few nights before he came over for the usual date. He’d had his fill, and Michelle didn’t have to behave anymore, so she left the house for a beer run… Well, I was making myself something to eat and sliced my hand open on a knife when I reached into the sink. He was Mr. Quiet until I walked through the living room to go to the bathroom for a bandage… I knew he was different as soon as he touched my hand… So… there I was, in a tiny bathroom with my mother’s boyfriend, having the ‘what are you’ conversation while he cleaned and healed the wound for me. He talked to me. He told me about Vampires and Weres. He was nice to me and took me out when my mother would leave me at home alone to go to bars… Saying Luke was feeding from me is like saying I eat Tic Tacs because he only took the occasional taste by pricking my finger after he fed from my drunk mother… I didn’t mind. After what some of Michelle’s boyfriends had done to me? No. I felt like it was the only thing I could do to thank him for being nice to me.”
“Then how did you find yourself with a marking on your neck?”
“He came to say goodbye and give me a present… He was moving because he was having problems with the new Sheriff. I didn’t want him to go. I knew blood was the only reason he put up with my mother, so I… I was hoping he’d want to take me with him… He’d told me about bonds, so he gave me his blood and told me he’d know if I was in trouble. He told me he’d bring me over if I was older. His present was a piggy bank full of mad money. It’s how I got to Miami in the first place, and he’s the reason I went there because he mentioned having friends there. He was my friend for more than two years. I know what abuse looks like from all angles. He was a good guy, and I haven’t seen him since he said goodbye.”
If her marking from that one feeding hadn’t healed yet, then Becky’s father had attacked her within days… and it would have needed to be during the day for Luke to be oblivious to the emotions and pain Rhiannon would have experienced during her rape.
“If a Vampire established a similar relationship with Becky how would you feel?”
“I’d be concerned that I was a complete failure as a mother if my daughter trusted a stranger more than me… If anyone needs to be punished or ostracized for my relationship with Luke, she’s enjoying IV pain killers somewhere in Louisiana. Case in point, she thought Luke was probably molesting me, but didn’t care because he paid our rent and gave her a couple nights a week when she could go to the bar by taking me out.”
“I’ll pass that along to Francesca then. She was adamant about spreading the word about him.”
“He’s gone by Luke Owens or Owen Lukas. He had brothers named Matthew, Mark and John. His middle name was Independence, so he doesn’t use it because it dates him. He was born in December of 1776 near Philadelphia and brought over when he was 27. He was an engineer, like city planning, in Savannah and had two daughters my age, ten and eight… If he ever crosses your path, tell him I’m dying to catch up with him.”
“Would you like me to search for him? It might be easier for me because of my connections.”
She didn’t hesitate before shaking her head. “I’ll leave it up to chance… Honestly, he seemed scared when he left Louisiana. I don’t want to be how someone else tracked him down.”
“Scared? Did he mention something?”
“His Maker was the Sheriff and moved on when his contract was up, but the replacement acted like a night-school math teacher was evil incarnate… And before you ask, I’m quite aware that I only heard his side and he could have actually been Beelzebub. He was the only Vampire I knew, so I didn’t have anyone to compare his mind to, but what I’ve learned about Vampires since I knew him validates the trust I had in him. He was one of the good ones.”
“What’s the gauge?”
“Leattner was like a blackout in a beehive. Francesca, Edward and Pam are on par with each other in temperament, their major difference being their ages. The verdict is still out on Richard, because he was working-thinking-concentrating on me. You and Francesca were the same while you were getting me ready to move.”
Becky grinned at me and asked, “Want to hear my gauge?”
“I don’t know. Do I?”
She snickered, “You look like your mom. She was pretty. Your dad, not so much. He wasn’t as tall as you, but he was built like a draft horse. His sleep-walking was so bad that your mom and grandmother took shifts sleeping in the winter because he’d walk right through the fire pit where y’all slept and kick embers everywhere. And once in a while he’d wake up on the wrong bed. You didn’t sleepwalk, but one of your kids did, so you slept with her on your chest so you’d know if she got up ‘cuz it scared the crap out of you. She got really close to the river once.”
She giggled, “Not done… That ‘old wounds vibe’ Jason got from Francesca was dead-on-balls accurate. She got attacked like Mommy did when she was Human and her little girl was killed in the process… Her Maker found her like that and his brother kept the guy captive so he could be Francesca’s first meal… Her Maker is Nicholas… And when she brought over Edward and Richard, she only wanted Richard because he looks just old enough to be considered an adult back then but young enough to be her kid, but Edward nearly took her arm off with a sword because he didn’t want to lose his brother. Nicholas wasn’t happy that she brought over famous people because that meant he had to send her away. He still misses her even though she’s been here for centuries, and it’s worse for him now that his Maker is gone… They wrote TONS of letters… then she bought a phonograph for him and they traded cylinders… then they both invested crazy cash in telephones. Communications is where most of their money is.”
Hearing about my own life from a stranger was bizarre enough, but hearing new details about someone I’d spent years with was mind-blowing.
“I can only confirm a little bit of that.”
She shrugged indifferently. “It’s not like it matters. I mean, it helps me and Mommy know who’s okay and who needs to be avoided like the plague… But it’s not always super helpful. All I got from the Stackhouses earlier was the meeting Jason recorded. The looks on everyone’s faces didn’t really add much to it… except for what Mata and Corbett talked about after…”
Rhiannon rolled her eyes and scoffed, “When were you going to tell me about that?”
“When you stop being a schmuck…”
“But Eric got me, remember?”
Becky snickered, “Yeah, he did… Mata’utia asked who was tending to you. When Jason told him, he coached Corbett… Francesca’s got a reputation for being really hard on Vampires who fuck up in her territory, but she’s fair… At any given time she’s got a bunch of Knights staying in New York because she doesn’t fuck around and they like that about her. Eric’s a badass. He doesn’t play around either. Everything Mata’s heard about Eric is that he’s got wicked powerful friends in the Old World, and he’s pretty relaxed until he’s crossed… Mata’utia was a sheriff for a friend of Eric’s, so…”
I asked, “Which friend?”
“Spanish pirate guy… Martín… Mata was in Seattle for a long time.”
And Martín had been reissuing invitations for me to join him in Pacifico since he heard I was in the States.
“What do you know about him? I only know that he’s young and he overthrew a monarch to let half of the kingdom go to waste.”
She focused on the back of the driver’s seat for a few minutes before offering, “He didn’t want it. He didn’t really like being a Sheriff, but the King killed a couple of his friends when he took over another state… Ohhhhhhhh… Louisiana. Mata had friends in Louisiana when Nevada took it over… He’s letting Nevada rot on principle, but he runs Louisiana because after he got revenge, he wouldn’t really be welcome anywhere.”
It finally made sense.
“And his involvement in the Stackhouse family?”
“It’s cool… When Corbett said he’s why everyone was unlisted, I was all, ‘do you wear collars at home too?’ but he’s really protecting his friends… not coveting his arsenal.”
That was incredibly settling… Becky’s gauge was absolutely priceless… Sadly, I couldn’t think of a way for her to use her gift without living in fear of someone discovering her… Even if she was in reserve for summits and situations of that nature, her home location would need to be protected with ward and sword.
Speaking of abilities, Becky instructed (politely, this time) the cabby to detour to Sixth Avenue to avoid a clusterfuck in front of the Library that the cabby didn’t hear about on the radio until after we were past the accident.
She claimed a friend had texted her.
Even though she saved us from spending an hour in gridlock, her stomach still sounded haunted as we arrived at the restaurant at exactly 7:30.
Rhiannon knew before we were all on the curb that Chief Tatum hadn’t arrived yet, but there were several Shifters in the dining room. It stood to reason that Weres would enjoy one of the most popular steakhouses in the city, but… she spoke as though I was being warned.
Even though we were shown directly to a table, Becky’s leg was bouncing before I was settled on the bench next to her.
Rhiannon and I watched the child scan the restaurant for the server for a few minutes before Rhiannon offered, “This is another part of what happened at your place. She’s more docile with a full stomach.”
Like a young Vampire.
In the interest of not laughing, I asked, “Where is the beach house you mentioned?”
When Becky didn’t answer, Rhiannon offered, “It’s a little place on Key Largo. Two bedrooms, hurricane resistant, hammocks between palm trees, and peace and quiet. I bought it at the beginning of the season.”
“Are you planning to do the same here in New York?”
“We already have a place… I bought a triplex in Gramercy Park a few years ago. Our unit isn’t even furnished. It’s a glorified storage unit for our winter clothes.”
“Why bother then?”
“It was an investment. I’d just had a major windfall. A mark started negotiations much higher than I expected. The house is overhead free and the rent on the other two units more than covers living expenses, so if something happens and I can’t work for a while, we have a plan B… Our place in Florida is because I’ve been getting lazy. The money isn’t nearly as good down there as it is here, so I’m not as motivated. Most of the time we’re in Florida, we’re fucking off.”
Becky mumbled, “It’s about fucking time. I was about to start chewing on Eric’s arm.”
After the waiter introduced himself, Rhiannon ordered a Coke and a medium-rare ‘King’s cut’… and Becky ordered a Sprite, a seafood platter, a salad, a rare King’s cut of her own, and a large lobster.
Amused as Rhiannon was by how eager Becky was to eat, she didn’t seem surprised by how much was ordered.
Once the waiter was gone, believing that Becky and I were sharing what she’d ordered, Rhiannon continued, “It’s more of a chore to keep up with her education down there than it is here. Everything is just a cab away in Manhattan, and at least one day every week, we go to a museum to find a second or third grade class on a field trip so Becky can watch how kids her own age really act.”
I’d been right.
“You mean behaviors such as slower syntax and less confident speech?”
Rhiannon nodded. “Notice already, did you? I wasn’t really surprised… I was terrified that she was like me at first because she started talking around the same time she started sitting up. I always came across as being older than my age too… but then she would imagine these long scenes about people we came into contact with…”
Before she could finish, a Wolf in a suit approached the table and asked, “Scuse me, but is ‘dis guy a problem?”
He had to be joking.
It seemed like Rhiannon was prepared to offer a polite response, but Becky asked, “Daddy, why is that Wolf bothering us?”
The knight in shining armor looked like he’d been hit with a plank of wood. “Daddy?”
Becky hugged my arm and hid behind my shoulder, making it really difficult to keep a straight face while Rhiannon offered, “We’re fine. Thanks for asking.”
“Ya sure ‘bout ‘dat? Your kid seems confused.”
Rhiannon snickered quietly, “We haven’t been glamoured. We’re fine. Thanks.”
Before he could leave, another Were approached the table and asked the Wolf, “Everything okay here?”
There it was… the reason Rhiannon sounded like she was warning me when she mentioned Weres… They probably would have approached a beautiful woman anyway, but Weres’ protective nature in combination with Faeries’ allure made the Vampire seem like a threat, or at the very least, my company was a reason to introduce themselves.
Rhiannon whispered, “We know what he is and he isn’t bothering us. Thanks for checking, but we couldn’t be happier.”
The first Were told the second Were, “The kid called the Vampire ‘Daddy’.”
Rhiannon shook her head and groaned, “But she also knows what you are… I told you we aren’t glamoured…”
Another Were approached the table and growled, “What’s going on here?” This one was much older and had recently showered while the first two still smelled like coffee and office supplies.
Becky started chuckling against the back of my arm, and I joined her because the situation was completely ridiculous. Even three of them weren’t a match for me.
Rhiannon winked at me as the first Were explained, “I see the angel here with Dracula and ask if they’re good, right? So the kid calls him ‘Daddy’ and shit, and pegs me… the angel says they’re good, but…”
The third Were scoffed, “If the angel had a problem, he’d be the one who needs the help…” He slid onto the bench next to Rhiannon and kissed her cheek. “You can’t go anywhere without causing trouble, can you?”
She rolled her eyes and answered, “It doesn’t seem like it… Allen, this is my friend, Eric. Eric Northman, Allen Tatum…”
I almost couldn’t hear the end of the introduction because the rescue team covered their mouths and started moaning about how embarrassed they were…
And then they began asking about the Yankees and my predictions for the post-season.
Yankees fans were the worst of them… Rangers, Knicks, Giants… It was the Yankees fans that almost made me want to hide from April to October.
With the big announcement on the immediate horizon, I was starting to fantasize about my teams losing fans once they discovered the owner was a Vampire.
One could dream.
The only reason the first two Weres left us (me) alone was because Becky’s appetizers arrived.
While Becky started her meal, Rhiannon looked over case files (the reason she was meeting Allen) and he seemed to be annoyed that he wasn’t meeting Rhiannon alone.
He had beady eyes, a low monotone voice, and the aging physique of someone who formerly spent several days in the gym per week… He sat close enough to Rhiannon that she subtly inched away from him until her shoulder was against the window… And he was very obviously thinking to Rhiannon rather than speaking to her.
If nothing else, his presence was annoying because he’d killed the conversation that might have otherwise continued… It wasn’t every night I found myself at a restaurant picking a Faerie’s brain.
Granted, I’d probably have them to myself again later, but I’d been enjoying myself.
Rhiannon and Becky had finished their meals and ordered dessert, and Allen was nearly finished with his mutton (and a bottle of wine Rhiannon refused to partake in) before he asked, “Why do you reek of Vampire?”
Finally. I was beginning to think the waiter was the only one he’d communicate with aloud.
Rhiannon sighed, “I’m just lucky, I guess.”
Lucky to be alive, lucky to be mobile instead of recovering from surgery to mend her thighs, lucky to have already found a dentist to repair the last of the evidence that last night ever happened, even if she was only chewing on the right side.
He growled quietly while he chewed, and finally pressed, “What’s the deal with you two? Is he controlling the kid?”
If I could control the kid, there wouldn’t be Tabasco splashes on my sleeve.
As a police chief, one would think he’d know how to ask better questions…
Becky snorted, “He thinks you glamoured me because I’m behaving.”
I chuckled, “If only I thought of that.”
Rhiannon snickered, “The deal in question is between me and Eric. Don’t waste a lot of time thinking about it.”
He argued, “But your relationship with him could interfere with the arrangement we have.”
Rhiannon snorted, “So you want me to put my priorities out there, so everyone knows where they stand, right?”
“Well… without being an asshole about it… The Vampire’s a new development.”
Without hesitating, Rhiannon explained, “You come first when it comes to anything that isn’t Vampire related, but I owe the Queen. Her opinion is scripture when it comes to anything in her field.”
He grimaced, but nodded. “Fair enough… You noticed there’s two files that-”
She interrupted, “I noticed. I’ll talk to her about it later.”
“She’s never been really cooperative before.”
“Did you make an appointment or did you charge into her lecture hall while she was with her class and act like the blue parade would scare someone like her?”
He avoided eye contact and mumbled, “It wasn’t me personally.”
“Right, but maybe you should talk to some of your fuzzy department friends about trying to establish some kind of relationship with the ten fucking sheriffs she has in Manhattan alone…”
“How do you know this shit?”
Becky snorted, “She isn’t distracted by fresh donuts.”
He argued, “I don’t even like donuts.”
“Pastries then… but since we’re being literal, we can add cheesecake, ice cream, pie, milkshakes, pudding, your glovebox full of candy bars…”
“So those rough edges come back as soon as you stop chewing, huh? Have you seen a therapist at some point?”
“As a matter of fact, I had one for lunch.”
Even he chuckled at her. “What did you have for dessert? A basket of kittens?”
“No, but I let a guy walk into a signpost because he was checking out Mommy’s boobs instead of watching where he was going.”
“You trying to say something?”
Yes… He’d paid more attention to Rhiannon’s cleavage than he had his meal. Their height difference should have given him a remarkable view.
Becky scoffed, “I’m saying that your wife would be jealous. She’s gone the extra mile to get chin cleavage and everything… and ankle cleavage… and elbow cleavage…”
“She’s scheduled for gastric bypass…”
She scoffed, “Just have the lard ass glamoured to stop eating at 2000 calories and waddle around the block after meals.”
“Are you kidding? She could get harpooned.”
“Nah. You live in Queens. Buy her some bright workout clothes and rent the back of her shirts as advertising.”
“Uhmmmm… ‘Don’t let this happen to you. Sign up at Bally’s and get your first month free’. As fat as she is, there’s probably gonna be room for terms and conditions too.”
Rhiannon covered her mouth to hide how amused she was, but I chuckled and hoped Rhiannon knew better than to let Becky spend much time with Pam.
“How much would you charge to come sit in my kitchen and heckle her until she stops eating?”
Becky snorted, “You could just stop drooling over my Mommy’s rack and heckle the missus yourself.”
Very good point.
“Isn’t it past your bedtime?”
“Nope. Even if it was, Mommy’s sleeping in Eric’s bed.”
Rhiannon turned bright red and covered her mouth when she laughed, “Do something with her.”
If her mother couldn’t do anything, I doubted I could, but given the disgusted look on Allen Tatum’s face, I asked, “Like what? She knows you didn’t actually do much sleeping. At least she made an attempt at sugarcoating.”
While Rhiannon’s laughing fit became more of a problem, Becky argued, “Oh, she slept… She crashed like a ton of bricks after you turned in, but she slept.”
Rhiannon wheezed, “Y’all are killing me. Sssssssssstop.”
I offered, “I still can’t believe no one caught us on the terrace this morning.”
Allen pushed his plate away from himself, but Rhiannon began pushing his shoulder so she could leave the booth…
While Rhiannon walked away from the table, Allen watched, and when he finally took his seat again, he grumbled, “What a waste.”
Becky snorted, “Poor Tatum, to have no clue that the puppy I’m walking later is too good for him too…” She seemed to scan our booth for moment before probing, “Dylan?”
The geocentric Becky had managed to locate in my apartment… Given how much busier the restaurant was, Becky’s specialty was even more impressive.
After a few seconds, Becky focused on the lamp over our booth. “Call your dad…” She practically ignored Allen’s presence to continue, “I need a couple of hours to line things up on my end, but I should be able to manage a meet so he can talk to her alone… Stay in contact so I can give details when I can.”
Allen looked like he was going to choke on his tongue.
Becky was taking advantage of her uncle’s unique ability to try to bridge the gap between Corbett and Rhiannon.
I chuckled, “You’re going to get it.”
She shook her head. “You really did get her… Like I said before, she just doesn’t know how to act when there aren’t obvious ulterior motives. She’ll be-”
She stopped long enough to thank the waiter for the dessert delivery and ask for an order of lamb chops to go.
“She started regretting her reaction to the gang as soon as you pointed out that it was a good thing, but this way she gets one-on-one time with her dad. She’ll be better because she can focus without having to filter and worry about Brandon too.”
I repeated, “You’re going to get it.”
She scooped a piece of cake into her mouth and giggled, “How? It’s not my fault Dylan overheard us planning to take Dotty for a walk while Mommy’s in the bath.”