Real Vampires Don't Diet (Page 3)

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I'm not being mean calling it a creature and a beast, though I sure as hell had a right to be mean. I couldn't move. You know how horrible that is? Never again will I laugh at those scenes on TV or in movies where the guy has both arms and legs in casts and can't scratch his nose. I can so relate.

But back to the thing. It would definitely come in a distant second to the Loch Ness Monster in a beauty contest. Imagine scales, green, slimy with tufts of seaweed and barnacles clinging to it like it hadn't bothered with a shower in a few millennia. Its eyes were red and uneven, but had long beautiful lashes. A good thing, since its teeth were too gross to stare at for more than a second. That explained the miasma that gusted from its pursed leathery lips.

“Now, darling, you can just quit judging me. Under this disguise I'm as cute as a button. Wear size-four jeans.” She flicked my size-twelve (okay, fourteen without Lycra) butt with a slimy finger. “But I'm cursed. Because I screwed up. So I'm stuck here in Lake freakin' Travis in Austin freakin' Texas until I can bring the goddess who cursed me three vampires.” She grinned and blasted me with some of that breath.

I would have gagged if I could have moved. I had just discovered hell on earth. Yep. If I could, I'd fall on a stake right now rather than spend one more minute so helpless.

“I've been stuck on the rocks over there for a month. Waiting. I've sensed humans, shifters, even a damned witch and her coven out for a joyride in a stolen cabin cruiser. But not one vampire.” She sloshed to Ray's side.

“So you see why I'm so thrilled to get two in one boat.” The moon came out from behind a cloud and she got a good look at Ray. “Oh. My. Goddess.” The man always has that effect on women.

I felt a surge of hope. Ray's not shy. Maybe he could bargain his body for our freedom. Of course his standards would have to take a nosedive. I struggled to find a shred of optimism. Ray would have to be struck deaf, dumb, blind and wear a clothespin on his nose to hook up with the big ugly here. We were doomed.

“Honey, no way am I turning you over to any other woman until I have a sample first.” She waved a scaly hand and Ray suddenly fell to the deck. “Speak to me, baby.”

Ray rubbed his face, blinked, looked at me standing there in concrete mode and managed to show me horror, sympathy and resignation before he faced the creature without flinching. If we got out of this, I was calling his agent. He definitely had a future in Hollywood.

“Someone cursed you too? Sorry to hear it.” He smiled and I saw the woman inside the Siren melt like all women do for Ray.

“Too? Oh, honey. You mean someone did you dirty?” She squished across the deck and collapsed on the white bench seat that ran across the back of the boat.

“I'm Ray. What should I call you?” Ray actually had the stones to hold out his hand. God, I couldn't believe it. I tried to move, but only my eyeballs were operative and I'm sure they were bugging out of my head.

“Aglaophonos. It's a mouthful, honey. Just call me Aggie.” She frowned down at her scaly appendage, then placed her fingertips gently in his hand. “Sorry about the way I look. If I ever get this curse lifted Well, the only way to do that, though, is to deliver three vampires to Circe. You and the chubby one there are my first two catches. One more and I'm good to go.” She sighed.

“What'd you do to this Circe? Seems the punishment is a little harsh. What kind of goddess is she?” Ray managed to slip his hand from hers and actually refrained from wiping it on his jeans. I couldn't believe him. I was falling in love where I stood. Too bad I'd never live to do anything about it. Somehow I figured a delivery to Circe didn't allow for returns.

“Circe is the goddess of the night. She's got some serious skills. You don't want to cross her. On top of that, she's a b***h.” The boat suddenly rocked, thunder cracked and Aggies scales turned bright red. My vision of hell just got worse. I could be pitched overboard while paralyzed. Fishy crawly things could have their way with me while I sank to the bottom unable to move. Ray grabbed me just before I toppled over the side and righted me, setting me closer to the steering wheel and slapping a bungee cord around my arm to secure me there. Have I mentioned how much I love him?

“Holy s**t, Circe! You trying to burn me alive? Sorry, oh wondrous one! Do you see me working here? I've got two vampires for you. Let me do my job, okay? I'll cut out the trash talk. I promise.” Aggie was shaking but seemed to have calmed her goddess down. The boat settled and her scales went back to pea green.

“She took my singing voice too.” Aggie said this in a quiet voice and a pink tear dripped off the end of her snout. “That's my pride and joy. When I'm in top form I can bring a whole ship to a standstill. Every man in the crew falls in love with my voice and will do anything I ask.” She reached up in what looked like an automatic gesture, as if to fluff her hair, then frowned. “I'm a shape-shifter. She took all my forms too and stuck me in this thing. When I'm on my game, I can be a mermaid or look human, a beautiful woman with long golden hair.” She sighed. “But it's my voice I miss most. There's nothing I love more than a fantastic singing voice.”

“For true?” Ray smiled. Vampires don't really need to breathe. Ray's a really new vampire, but I guess he'd figured that out because he couldn't be taking in her nasty fumes and still look so cheerful.

The only cheerful thought I could come up with was how it would feel to rip open Aggie's throat, tear her hideous body to pieces and turn her into fish bait. Even an immortal would have a tough time snapping back from that. Ray moved in on Aggie. I hoped he tossed her overboard.

“You ever hear of Israel Caine in whatever land you're from?”

“I move around. But sure. Who hasn't? I could listen to his CDs forever.” Aggie straightened and peered at Ray. “Holy goddess of the night. I don't see so well in this scaly outfit, but are you, I mean, could you possibly be ?”

“I am. Would you like for me to sing to you?”

“Are you kidding? After a month with a rock up my butt and only a few bats for company? Hell, I'd do anything to hear some decent music.”

I wanted to scream. Ray was going to serenade this monster slash woman? While I stood here helpless with, damn it, a hair in my mouth that was driving me certifiable?

“All right then.” Ray became my hero when he reached over and pulled the hair from my lips. Thank God I'd taught him to read minds. “I'll sing for you if you'll do me a few favors.”

“I can't let you go. I've got to satisfy Circe. And get my voice and my form back.” Aggie actually looked a little desperate, but not so much that she didn't take a second to grab Ray's hand and pull him closer. She stroked his face with a claw that had certainly never had a manicure. “Israel Caine. Wow. I didn't know you were a vampire.”

“Its a new development.” Ray gestured at me. “Come on, Aggie. At least let my lady relax. Like you did me. She's going crazy being stuck like that. You can see her eyes moving.”

“Yeah, it's hysterical.” Aggie laughed, a horsy bray. “Might as well. You guys may think you're badass vampires, but I can freeze you again with a look if you come at me with a fang or try to shape-shift out of here. So don't even think of making a break for it.” She waved a ringer and I flopped to the deck, the bungee cord jerking me back up like a yo-yo.

“Thank God! I was going crazy.” I was shaking as Ray unwrapped the cord, lifted me to my feet and wrapped his arms around me. I hugged him tight. No matter what Aggie said, we were getting the hell out of here. I hate to shape-shift, but right now I'd even risk doing the bat thing to win my freedom.

Aggie gave me a sharp look. “Don't even think about it, vampire. You're not the only one who can read minds and if you so much as shift a toenail I'll freeze you permanently and hold your head under water until you wish you could die.”

“Ease up, Aggie. Glory's not going to try anything. Are you, sweetness?”

“Who me?” My voice was a few octaves higher than usual and I decided that burying my face in Ray's shirt was the best way to filter Aggie's odor and comfort myself in what was clearly a lose-lose situation.

“Let her go and sing something for me, Israel Caine. Man, I think my luck is finally turning.” Aggie leaned back in the seat with what probably passed for a smile on her gruesome face.

“One song. Then I want to discuss a deal.” Ray settled me in the drivers seat with a comforting pat on the shoulder. I hoped to God he had a plan because my mind was as blank as crap, I couldn't even think of a clever metaphor, I was so strung out.

“What kind of deal?”

“There are some vampires in town we wouldn't mind getting rid of. What if Glory and I brought you three primo vampires? You could wait here for months before another vamp came by, if ever. You want to take that chance?” He moved close to the creature again.

“Maybe your vamp friends will send a search party for you when you don't come back from your boat ride.” Aggie looked at her nails, then snorted in disgust and shook her head.

“And what makes you think we told anyone where we were going?” Ray smiled at me. “It's New Year's Eve. We were having a private celebration.” Then he turned his back on me and got down to business. “Come on, Aggie. Think about it. Three male vampires who could make Circe happy. You'd get your curse lifted and I could keep singing. Maybe write a special song just for you.” Ray sat on the bench seat next to Aggie. “Make a video. Put you in it. I have a thing for beautiful blondes.” He turned to wink at me, like I was one of them. And, even in the middle of a major freak-out, I felt my hormones happy dance. Stupid. I should be all about survival. I wondered if I could block my thoughts from Aggie like I could from other mind readers. I put up a shield.

“I don't know if I should deal with you.” Aggie fluttered her lashes. “Why should I trust you? Your friend over there is doing her best to block her thoughts.” She gave me an evil grin. “Not working, hon. And you're not helping Israel's cause either.”

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