Authors: Katie MacAlister
A GIRL'S GUIDE TO VAMPIRES
Joy Randall's Top 5 Tips for Vampire Hunters
1. Location, location, location. Remember, if you wouldn't be there, neither would a bloodsucker. They won't be found dead (ha!) in places like discos, ten-minute lube shops, or Switzerland. Check the Czech Republic.
2. Trust your eyes. You know the handsome, annoyingly arrogant, self-assured man in the shadows with long hair and a cleft in his chin? He's your vampire.
3. No matter how tempting it might be, DO NOT "ACCIDENTALLY" ACQUIRE A PAPER CUT AND SUGGEST YOUR VAMPIRE KISS YOUR FINGER TO MAKE IT BETTER. What you offer as a snack, he might take for a four-course meal.
4. From here on out, play it cool. Don't offer to accompany your prince of the night on the talk show circuit and WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T OFFER HIM YOUR HEART.
5. And most of all, remember—being a vampire is nothing to laugh about.
A VAMPIRE'S CHARM?
Raphael's eyes glittered wickedly at me as he dropped his head so he could glower into my eyes. "Very well, we'll forget last night, but that doesn't explain the fact that you're attracted to me now."
"I am not!" I said, outraged at such an idea, refusing to admit that my body was thrumming like a plucked string.
"You are. You're practically begging me to kiss you. If that's not being attracted to me, I don't know what is."
His breath feathered across my face, distracting me for a moment. I bathed in the light of his heated eyes, feeling warm and feminine and very, very aroused.
"If I wanted you to kiss me, 606, I'd be checking your tonsils right now."
"Is that so?"
He was so
I could feel the heat of his chest as it brushed against me. His eyes burned into mine, our mouths just a fraction of an inch apart as I acknowledged that he was right: I did want him to kiss me, more than anything else I could think of.
"Gin makes me brilliant."
"No, Joy, you just
gin makes you brilliant. Gin makes you sotted. Chocolate makes you brilliant."
I looked at the reflection in the French door of the dark-haired woman sitting next to me in a circle of lit candles, and shook my head with a solemnity that I hoped belied the aforementioned sottedness. My reflection shook her head as if to warn me. I decided to heed the warning, and carefully set down my glass. "Chocolate has many powers, most notably in the area of adding heft to my hips, but gin, in fact, makes me brilliant."
Our companion drifted around the room lighting more scented candles, pausing to raise her eyebrows at the sight of our mutual friend snorting with laughter into her vodka martini.
"No more libations of a vodka nature for you, Roxanne," Miranda warned before lighting one last candle and dropping down onto a taupe and green leaf print rug across from us. "The Goddess doesn't grant her blessings upon those who are soused. Joy, what is it you are being brilliant about?"
I plucked the lime wedge from my gin and tonic and sucked the gin-soaked meaty pulp from it, mentally bemoaning my Amazonian stature, as Miranda, with the grace of a gazelle who had been taking ballet lessons since birth, pulled her long, slender legs into a lotus position. I gave a moment over to damning the Viking genes that left me towering over most women, and many men. "This plan of Roxy's to find us a pair of dishy guys. I've decided, after much due consideration and many, many brilliant gin-inspired thoughts, to allow you to make my case before your Goddess. If she'd like to point me in the direction of a guy who is the perfect embodiment of everything manly and good, well then, it behooves me to listen. There, in a nutshell, is my brilliance."
Roxanne snorted into her drink again. "In other words, you've broken up with Bradley again."
I shrugged. My on-again, off-again boyfriend had lots of good points, qualities like faithfulness, devotion, patience, and a sunny, optimistic nature. "The problem with Bradley is that he's just not the one—the man who makes my heart race just by being near him, the man who makes me
in wonderful things like falling in love at first sight. He's just… Bradley."
"That's just my point, Joy! You're so stuck in your ways that you can't even be bothered to look for a man you deserve, not old stick-in-the-mud Bradley Barlow, who wouldn't know excitement if it bit him dead center on the ass."
I couldn't help but bristle at the judgmental tone in her voice. I've known Roxy since we were in kindergarten, but that didn't mean she could get away with every snide comment she felt like launching in my direction. "You should speak, Miss Still a Virgin at Twenty-four. What you know about relationships with men could be written on the head of a vibrator."
She spewed martini out her nose.
"Can't take you anywhere, can I?" I said, mopping up the spewed vodka. It had sprayed out all over her jeans and the lovely hardwood floor we were sitting on.
"Geez Louise," she gasped, hacking and wheezing and blowing her nose. She took the cloth Miranda silently offered, mopping up her T-shirt before glaring at me with red-rimmed eyes. "Don't do that to me again!"
"Sorry. It was the gin talking.
Told you it makes me brilliant."
what you call it?"
I stuck my tongue out at her.
She turned her glare up a notch. "As for what I was saying when you so rudely brought up the subject of sexual aids—which, just for the record, I don't have, need, or ever expect to use, unlike some people I could mention. Anyway, I'd like to point out that with regards to
I have the good taste to save myself for someone really meaningful." She paused to blow her nose again. "I hope you notice the contrast between my actions—responsible yet hopeful realism regarding the man destined to be my future husband—and yourself, who has settled for a guy who can't give you anything more than a good fu—"
Miranda shrieked, cutting Roxy off cold. We both looked at her. She glared back at us. "I refuse to help you if you argue with each other. Honestly, how you two can call each other best friend is beyond me, but regardless of that, I won't have dissension in my house. The Goddess is not in charity with feelings of pettiness and ill will, Roxanne, and since you asked for the Goddess's help, you should be prepared to approach her in a penitential manner with a pure heart and unblemished soul."
I directed a smug smile at Roxy. She ignored me and fought to wipe the stubborn-as-a-mule look from her face. "Sorry," she mumbled, clasping her hands and staring down at them in a close approximation of demureness and penitence.
"The same goes for you, as well," Miranda frowned at me. I widened my eyes and tried to look innocent of all wrongdoing, but it was hard to even think of muddying the truth when Miranda's eerie light gray eyes settled on me.
"I didn't come here desperate for you to find me a man," I pointed out with as much dignity as possible. "Roxy begged me to come."
"I did not!" she snapped, her expression no longer demure. "I simply said that if Bradley was the best you could do for yourself, it wouldn't hurt to have the Goddess look around and see if she couldn't find someone a little better. That's hardly begging. Lord above, I'd think you'd be grateful for this chance to find what most people don't ever have a chance to find—their true soul mate."
I opened my mouth to dispute her statement, but caught sight of an extremely fat black cat with white whiskers and one white paw
was uncurling himself from an adjacent cushioned wicker chair. I held out a lime-scented hand, but the cat, with disdain that would do a king proud, gave me the equivalent to a cat sneer and waddled over to plop himself down before Miranda.
"Whatever," I shrugged off my friend's comments, figuring the evening would go faster if I kept my skepticism to myself. I didn't really believe in all of the hocus-pocus that Miranda claimed to tap into with her spells and invocations to the Goddess, but then, there were a few things that had happened in her presence that I couldn't easily explain. Roxy swallowed it all, though, and despite what she said, she
asked me to sit with her for support. I figured it was the least I could do for someone who'd been with me through good times and bad. "Miranda, don't you think it's time to put Davide on a diet? He's almost as big as the Rottweiler that lives down the street from me."
"We are ready to begin." Miranda glared me into silence, sent Roxy a warning look to keep her quiet as well, then closed her eyes and began to breathe deeply, humming a soft little tuneless hum. A gentle breeze swept in through a nearby window, pushing before it the familiar scent of the herbs Miranda used in her invocation candles. A bit guiltily, I remembered that I was supposed to be making my mind open and responsive, and spent a few moments doing a spot of breathing and humming myself, until I got tired of squashing all the little thoughts that kept popping into my head when it was supposed to be an unpainted canvas just waiting for fate's bold brushstrokes. Or whatever it was that Roxy had read from Miranda's instructions. I couldn't quite remember, that part of the conversation being in the pre-gin-and-tonic part of the evening. Instead I looked back at Davide, now engaged in doing a hearty round of personal hygiene on his rear legs.
"It really is funny that you should have a black cat."
Roxy, who had been emulating Miranda, cracked an eye open and rolled it toward Davide. "Why is it funny she has a black cat?"
Miranda continued a soft hum of indistinguishable words, swaying slightly from side to side as her voice rose and fell fluidly in the evening air. I raised my voice a little so I could be heard over the Call to the Goddess.
"Because she's a witch, idiot.
I wouldn't think most witches would want a black cat, but you have to admit Davide fits the role of familiar perfectly."
The hum became a bit more pronounced, although Miranda kept her eyes firmly closed.
Roxy sent a worried little glance to her, then leaned close to me and whispered, "I don't think they like the word 'witch' anymore, Joy.
is what you're supposed to call them now."
I whispered back to her, "Why? What's wrong with 'witch'?"
She sat up straight again and closed her eyes. "Not PC," she hissed out of the side of her mouth. "Besides, Wiccans are more in touch with nature. Can't you feel the power in her Summoning?"
I looked at the Circle of Knowledge Miranda had laid out around the two of us, and felt a little shiver of excitement ripple down my back. I may be a skeptic, but I wasn't a boob. There was something in the air, an electric charge that had the fine hairs on my arms waving around. I reminded myself that it wasn't everyone Miranda practiced her magic for, and tried to look grateful.
"It's a bit nerve-wracking, this," I muttered a few minutes later to Roxy in a soft voice so as not to disturb Miranda as she was Communing with the Goddess. I fished out a piece of ice from my drink and popped it in my mouth. "Not that I think it'll work with me, but still, it is a bit nervy just sitting here waiting for a spirit on high to flash me the curriculum vitae of the love of my life."
"It's time you got a little proactive with your love life," Roxy muttered back at me. "I may still be a virgin, but at least I'm trying to find Mr. Wonderful. You don't even go on any dates. How do you expect to find the heavenly bliss of the man nature created just for you if you won't even look for him?"
"Well," I said around the crunching of ice, "there
"That's not heavenly bliss, Joyful." Roxy smiled, taking the sting out of her comment with the use of my childhood nickname. "That's purgatory."
"You have a point," I conceded, grimacing at the sight of Davide as he turned his attention to his rectal area. I fervently hoped it wasn't a comment on the success of Miranda's foreseeing. "Although it's not like I haven't tried or anything, God knows I have, but you've experienced the single scene out there—it's blood tests and background checks and references and 'Please pee in this cup before we go on a date' screenings, all clinical and stripped bare of any romance."