Undead and Uneasy, page 1
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This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.
Copyright © 2007 by MaryJanice Alongi Text design by Kristin del Rosario
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First edition: June 2007
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Undead and uneasy / MaryJanice Davidson.
p. cm. ISBN 978-0-425-21376-6 1. Vampires—Fiction. I. Title.
PS3604.A949U5253 2007 813'.6—dc22
PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
10 98765432 1
Thanks to my long-suffering husband (fourteen years of marriage by the time you hold this book in your hand, poor bastard . . . my husband, not you), my supportive family, Jessica, and my readers . . . long may your credit cards reign.
This book was written alone, but several of the usual suspects helped, either by making suggestions or telling me to get my big butt back into the office chair. In no particular order, they are: Tony; Chris; Liam; Yvonne; Mom; and my I )ad, the artist formerly known as King Al (see The Royal Treatment; The Royal Surprise).
But it's also dedicated to friends I've never met. All the members of my Yahoo group, for one. This is the nicest group on the Internet, sharing pictures, stories, and best of .ill, book recommendations. I also post new chapter excerpts .ind drop annoying hints about upcoming books and plot developments to the Yahoos. If you'd like to join, you can check it out at firstname.lastname@example.org. Special thanks to Terri, Mippy, and Jose, who always put a smile on my face.
Another ridiculously supportive group is the Laurell K. I lamilton forum (www.laurellkhamilton.org). I mean, these .iren't even her books, this is her website to promote her
work, and not only does she make room for a Web page of mine, but everyone there is super nice: they support me, buy my books, discuss same, meet me at book signings, and ask for autographs. Weird. But nice.
Frankly, the romance world is full of warm, supporting authors. Among the best of the best: Charlaine Harris, Susan Grant, P. C. Cast, Nora Roberts, Lori Foster, and Christine Feehan.
I write the books, but no book can get on the shelves, or stay on the shelves, without phenomenal PR representation. In this I am blessed with Julia Fleischaker of Berkley PR and Jessica Growette of J.A.G. Promotions. Their job sucks, because they do the hard work and I get all the glory.
Speaking of sucky, horrible jobs with no glory (no, Mom, I'm not talking about you), there's my editor, Cindy Hwang, and my agent, Ethan Ellenberg. Both have had more than their fair share of migraines, thanks to yours truly.
But this book, and all the ones before it, would not have been possible without e-publishers and e-books. They took a chance on this writer when no one knew me, and I appreciate it.
This past summer I went on my first book tour, which was harrowing yet thrilling. And a lot of the things you're about to read in this book were directly inspired by questions and comments readers asked me at signings and readings. So thanks for caring enough to show up, for caring about characters enough to be concerned about them, and finally, thanks to David, who cornered me (in the very nicest way) at a book signing and begged me to get Marc Spangler hooked up. He was not alone in this request and I, the obedient author, obeyed.
Also, thanks to Martha Stewart, whose Wedding DVD was a great help in figuring out what Betsy's gown, cake, and bridesmaids' dresses would look like.
Thanks to Jamie Poole for thinking up The Betsy, a delightful cocktail that lubricated my creativity on more than one occasion. Take that however you like.
And finally, a tip of the hat to my readers, especially those of you who've been at this since the original Undead and Unwed. This is a book that goes where the first five really haven't. That's not to say we won't have fun along the way . . . those of you who've been with me before know this universe is always a good time.
And the Queene shalt noe a living childe, and he shalt be hers by a living man.
—The Book of the Dead
A cat's a better mother than you.
—Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
A gloomy guest fits not a wedding feast.
Lisa, vampires are make believe. Like elves, gremlins, and Eskimos.
—The Simpsons, "Treehouse of Horror IV"
With enough courage, you can do without a reputation.
—Margaret Mitchell, Gone With the Wind
To challenge the Queene, thou shalt desecrate the symbole.
—The Book of the Dead
Crying is all right in its own way while it lasts. But you have to stop sooner or later, and then you still have to decide what to do.
—C. S. Lewis, The Silver Chair
A Letter to My Readers
First of all, thank you, dear reader. It's standard to refer to you as "dear" but you really are dear to me, and I'll tell you why. Thanks to you, I've gone from the excitement of never knowing when the power will be shut off (during a party? when my folks are over? during my kid's science experiment?) to the staid, dull lifestyle of one who can actually pay her utility bills. Because of my readers, I never go to a book signing unless I'm sporting (a.) designer shoes or (b) a pedicure. Because of my readers, I've gotten to research mermaids, ghosts, psychics, manta rays, the Caymans, Florida, Cape Cod, Monterey Bay, Texas, zombies (Texas zombies?), vampires, were-anythings, Alaska, royal lineage, Martha Stewart, bellinis vs. mimosas, bed and breakfasts, wax fangs, and why nobody starts smoking at age thirty-five.
I've also learned how to write an ongoing series versus a stand-alone single-title novel.
Which brings us to Undead and Uneasy.
If you've been with me since the beginning, since Undead and Unwed, bless you. Your patience is about to be reward
Everything in the Undead universe has been leading to this book (say it with me: poor Betsy!). Yes, there has been a method to my madness. The support group she has so carefully, if unconsciously, been building around herself, that I've been building for her, is about to disappear. Everything she thought she knew about the undead? Totally wrong. Marriage? Life? Death? It's all, like her favorite book and movie, Gone With the Wind.
That's not to say we won't have some fun along the way . . . those of you who've been with me before know that the Undead universe is always a good time. It's just. . . we're not all going to make it out alive. And I'm sorry. I know that sucks. But it's just . . . it's just how life is sometimes. And death.
So, dear reader, thank you for coming along for the ride. Thank you for staying along for the ride. You won't be sorry, I'm pretty sure. And if you are? Well, I can write fast or I can write long, but I can't do both. This is the long version, so what say we give it a try?
So let's get going, shall we? As Betsy might say, "Pipe down and listen up, asshat."
Once, there was a beautiful queen who was as terrible on the inside as she was glorious on the outside. She was vain, wicked, cold, and selfish. Her greatest pleasures were her coalfire earrings, terrible wieldy things that swung past her shoulders. Each stone was as big around as the ball of the queen's thumb, and it was said more than a thousand men died mining the bloodred rocks.
So conceited was this queen, and so greatly did she love her coalfire earrings, that she threatened a curse upon any who might steal them from her. So naturally, her people waited until the queen died before taking them.
The four thieves (who in truth cannot be called grave robbers, because no one waited until the hated queen was buried) went to her unguarded body and helped themselves. The body was unguarded because the parties celebrating the new monarchs (the dead queen's cousin, a plain but generous woman; and her husband, a shy healer) were in full swing, and no one especially cared about guarding a dead jerk.
The first of the four dropped dead before he could mount his horse. The second of the four died after his tent mysteriously caught fire the next night. The third made it to the coast, sold the earrings for a splendid sum, and promptly dropped dead of a brainstorm, what today is known as an aneurysm. What happened to the fourth is not known.
The man who bought the earrings had them in his shop for three and a half days. He sold the earrings to a man of some wealth and standing, just before his shop was struck by hundreds of successive strokes of lightning, sparing his life but driving him out of business forever, and leaving him with a lifelong fear of flashing lights and loud noises.
The man of wealth and standing was the manservant of a European prince (history is vague on which one). He delivered the earrings to his master, and one hour later, the prince ingested a lethal amount of tainted meat, along with half of one of the earrings, which was later extracted during the autopsy.
The earrings eventually reached London, but not after causing a series of increasingly odd and gruesome disasters along the way, including but not limited to a pig plague, a tomato blight, a series of foals born with five legs, multiple drownings several miles away from any natural source of water, and a viciously quick mammal that no one ever saw clearly enough to describe well.
The day the jewelry went on display at the British Museum in their Return of Egyptian Antiquities Exhibit, the head of security suffered a fatal heart attack, the gift shop girl went blind, and three tour guides were stricken with crippling dysentery.
The earrings stayed in the museum for many years. Probably. The earrings, it seemed, disliked staying in one spot, and curators were known to snatch themselves bald looking for the jewels.
They turned up once in the Neanderthal exhibit, twice in the men's urinal on the second floor, six times in the gift shop (by now word of the "cursed" earrings had spread, and no museum employee, no matter how long her hours or how low her pay, dared touch them), and four times in the cafeteria (where an unwary museum guest nearly choked to death on one). They also went on an unscheduled, miniature tour around the world, disappearing and being found in no fewer than eight exhibits: Japan, Rome, Manila, Greece, the Americas, Britain, the Pacific, and the Near East. Each of the other museums, aware of the artifacts' history, returned the jewels to Britain quickly and without comment.
Eventually the British Museum came under new management (the last curator having taken forced early retirement for mysteriously losing his fingers and his sense of smell) who, in an attempt to score points with the House of Windsor, made a gift of the earrings to Diana, the Princess of Wales.
Some time later, they came into the possession of a very old, very curious vampire who had the idea of breaking the earrings into a series of smaller stones and shipping them in twenty-five different directions around the planet. You know, just to see what would happen.
One of the stones ended up in Minnesota, right about at the turn of the twenty-first century. Nobody knows the exact date, because those involved in the shipment arrangements simply cannot be found.
There are three things wrong with that card," the king of the vampires told me. "One, my love for you is not anything like 'shimmering amber waves of summer wheat.' Two, my love for you has nothing to do with adorable, fluffy cartoon rabbits. Three . . . " And he sighed here. "Rabbits do not sparkle."
I looked at the shiny yellow card, aglitter with sparkling bunnies. It was the least objectionable of the pile of two dozen I had spread all over our bed. What could I say? He had a point. Three of them. "It's just an example—don't have a heart attack and friggin' die on me, all right?"
"I do not have," he muttered, "that kind of good fortune."
"I heard that. I'm just saying, there will be a lot of people at the wedding"—I ignored Sinclair's shudder—"but there will also be people who can't make it. You know, due to having other plans or being dead, or whatever. So what you do is, you send a wedding announcement to pull in all the people who couldn't come. That way people know we actually did the deed. It's polite." I racked my brain for the perfect way to describe it so my reluctant groom would clamber aboard. "It's, you know, civilized."
"It is a voracious grab for gifts from the crude and uncouth."
"That's true," I acknowledged after a minute, knowing well where I was in the Wars of the Couth. Come on, we all knew he was right. There was no point—no point—in all those birth and wedding and graduation announcements beyond, "Hey! Limber up the old checkbook; something new has happened in our family. Cash is also fine."
"But it's still nice. You didn't fuss nearly so much about the invitations."
"The invitations have a logical point."
"The invitations are weird. Just 'Sinclair,' like you don't have a middle or first name. Why wouldn't you put your full name on the thing?"
"Our community knows me as Sinclair."
'Our' my butt. He meant the vampire community. I couldn't resist one last dig. "I'm marrying Cher!"
I bit my tongue for what felt like the hundredth time that night . . . and it was barely 9:00 p.m. With the wedding only three weeks away, Sinclair, my blushing groom, was growing bitchier by the hour.
He had never liked the idea of a formal wedding with a minister and flower girls and a wedding cake frosted with colored Crisco. He said that because the Book of the Dead proclaimed him my consort, we were already married and would be for a thousand years. Period. End of discussion. Everything else? A waste of time. And money. Tough to tell the greater sin in his eyes.
After what seemed like a thousand years (but was only one and a half) I'd gotten Eric (yes, he had a first name) to profess his love, propose, give me a ring, and agree to a ceremony. But he never promised to take his dose without kicking, and he sure never promised to
I had two choices. I could rise to his bitchy comments with a few of my own, and we could end up in a wicked big fight, again. Or, I could ignore his bitchy comments and go about my day, er, night, and after (he wedding, Sinclair would be my sweet blushing boy-toy again.
Then there was the honeymoon to look forward to: two weeks in New York City, a place I'd never been! I'd heard NYC was a great place to visit, if you had money. Sinclair had gobs of money to his name. Ew, which reminded me.
"By the way, I'm not taking your name. It's nothing personal—"
"Not personal? It is my name."
"—it's just how I was raised."
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