Undead and unwary, p.1

Undead and Unwary, page 1

 

Undead and Unwary



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Undead and Unwary


  Titles by MaryJanice Davidson

  UNDEAD AND UNWED

  UNDEAD AND UNEMPLOYED

  UNDEAD AND UNAPPRECIATED

  UNDEAD AND UNRETURNABLE

  UNDEAD AND UNPOPULAR

  UNDEAD AND UNEASY

  UNDEAD AND UNWORTHY

  UNDEAD AND UNWELCOME

  UNDEAD AND UNFINISHED

  UNDEAD AND UNDERMINED

  UNDEAD AND UNSTABLE

  UNDEAD AND UNSURE

  UNDEAD AND UNWARY

  DERIK’S BANE

  WOLF AT THE DOOR

  SLEEPING WITH THE FISHES

  SWIMMING WITHOUT A NET

  FISH OUT OF WATER

  Titles by MaryJanice Davidson and Anthony Alongi

  JENNIFER SCALES AND THE ANCIENT FURNACE

  JENNIFER SCALES AND THE MESSENGER OF LIGHT

  THE SILVER MOON ELM: A JENNIFER SCALES NOVEL

  SERAPH OF SORROW: A JENNIFER SCALES NOVEL

  RISE OF THE POISON MOON: A JENNIFER SCALES NOVEL

  EVANGELINA: A JENNIFER SCALES NOVEL

  Anthologies

  CRAVINGS

  (with Laurell K. Hamilton, Rebecca York, Eileen Wilks)

  BITE

  (with Laurell K. Hamilton, Charlaine Harris, Angela Knight, Vickie Taylor)

  KICK ASS

  (with Maggie Shayne, Angela Knight, Jacey Ford)

  MEN AT WORK

  (with Janelle Denison, Nina Bangs)

  DEAD AND LOVING IT

  SURF’S UP

  (with Janelle Denison, Nina Bangs)

  MYSTERIA

  (with P. C. Cast, Gena Showalter, Susan Grant)

  OVER THE MOON

  (with Angela Knight, Virginia Kantra, Sunny)

  DEMON’S DELIGHT

  (with Emma Holly, Vickie Taylor, Catherine Spangler)

  DEAD OVER HEELS

  MYSTERIA LANE

  (with P. C. Cast, Gena Showalter, Susan Grant)

  MYSTERIA NIGHTS

  (includes Mysteria and Mysteria Lane, with P. C. Cast, Susan Grant, Gena Showalter)

  UNDERWATER LOVE

  (includes Sleeping with the Fishes, Swimming Without a Net, and Fish out of Water)

  DYING FOR YOU

  UNDEAD AND UNDERWATER

  THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Group (USA) LLC

  375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014

  USA • Canada • UK • Ireland • Australia • New Zealand • India • South Africa • China

  penguin.com

  A Penguin Random House Company

  This book is an original publication of The Berkley Publishing Group.

  Copyright © 2014 by MaryJanice Davidson.

  Penguin supports copyright. Copyright fuels creativity, encourages diverse voices, promotes free speech, and creates a vibrant culture. Thank you for buying an authorized edition of this book and for complying with copyright laws by not reproducing, scanning, or distributing any part of it in any form without permission. You are supporting writers and allowing Penguin to continue to publish books for every reader.

  Berkley Sensation Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

  BERKLEY SENSATION® is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

  The “B” design is a trademark of Penguin Group (USA) LLC.

  eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-60013-9

  Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

  Davidson, MaryJanice.

  Undead and Unwary / MaryJanice Davidson.—First edition.

  pages cm.—(Undead/Queen Betsy ; 13)

  ISBN 978-0-425-26344-0 (hardback)

  1. Taylor, Betsy (Fictitious character)—Fiction. 2. Vampires—Fiction. 3. Hell—Fiction. 4. Humorous fiction. 5. Paranormal romance stories. I. Title.

  PS3604.A949U5277 2014

  813'.6—dc23

  FIRST EDITION: October 2014

  Cover art by Don Sipley.

  Cover design by Lesley Worrell.

  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.

  Version_1

  For Benedict Cumberbatch, on whom I have the most undignified crush. So undignified I’m dedicating a romance novel to the man. The delicious, delicious man. Also, I was into this guy way before the Star Trek movie, unlike some of these Johnny-come-lately jerks. I stand ready to abandon my husband of two decades to be at his side. Also, I’m going to require role-play. Like, a lot of it. I’ll be his Moriarty. And his Kirk!

  Anyway. This one’s for you, Ben! (In my fake relationship, I call him Ben when I’m happy with him and Dict when I’m not, like if he doesn’t want to go to Missouri to visit my folks, or didn’t pick up milk on the way home. This is a partnership, Dict. You have to meet me halfway.)

  Author’s Note

  The St. Paul Winter Carnival is a thing. They’ve been doing it for over a century, it pulls in almost a half million people a year, and the city makes millions. There really is a Snow Slide, a Queen of the Snows, an Annual Snow Stomp, a Moon Glow Pedestrian Parade, a blood drive, a castle, an outdoor baseball game, and beer.

  My feelings on this phenomenon are mixed. On the one hand, I’m proud my fellow Minnesotans not only endure winter, they embrace it. Minnesotans own winter, okay? They have made winter their bitch. It is a glorious thing to see.

  But, and not to be a traitor to my state, I don’t go near the festivities. I went once, and once was enough. It was cold. There was ice and snow all over the place, and the fact that it had been molded and/or sculpted into interesting things made it no less unbearably cold. Lines for hot beverages were torture (“I can see, I can see the steam rolling off the hot chocolate so close and yet so far and, ahhhhh, can’t this line move any faster? I can’t feel my face! I have not felt my face in half an hour! Oh, face, come baaaaaaack!”), most of the activities seem to be designed to make a person even colder, and I just . . . no. I admire the effort, and I want nothing to do with it. St. Paul Winter Carnival, I apologize. I just don’t get you.

  Stoli Elit Himalayan Edition is also a thing. It really does come in a beautiful brown and gold bottle in a keepsake dark wooden box, and it really costs three thousand dollars. And on a list of most expensive vodkas in the world? Stoli doesn’t even come close. Man, if I have a few grand to burn, I’d never blow it on a bottle of vodka. I’d blow it on Coke and Funyuns.

  Scribbling on babies with Sharpies is not cool. Seriously, just don’t. Even if they’re scented. Perhaps especially if they’re scented. The Sharpies, not the babies.

  The state of Minnesota is shockingly cavalier about enforcing a timeline for its citizens to name newborn citizens.

  The dreadful jigsaw puzzle Marc worked on can be found on Amazon and it’s actually called the World’s Most Difficult Jigsaw Puzzle. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who like jigsaw puzzles and those who hate and fear them. The World’s Most Difficult Jigsaw Puzzle is the thing of my nightmares. Proceed with caution.

  Referring to Laura Goodman as the Anti-Antichrist isn’t mine; TV Tropes (tvtropes.org) did it first. And it was wonderful. I am filled with grinding envy that I didn’t think of it f
irst. Grinding envy, however, provides the lubrication for my ambition. And, ugh, I just talked about lubricating myself.

  I am determined to make zangst a thing.

  The Game is a thing! One I lose all the time and, if you’re reading this, you have, too. Check it out here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Game_(mind_game).

  The baggie of diamonds Betsy stumbles across are red diamonds, the rarest in the world. Also, am I the only one who thinks jewelers should just stop rhapsodizing about “Chocolate Diamonds”? Guys: they are brown. You’re selling rocks the color of mud. You are selling fancy gravel. Which is fine, but just . . . just own that, okay? Okay.

  Silver Lamborghinis absolutely look like giant electric shavers. I’ve got nothing against the good people at Lamborghini (who are actually the good people at Volkswagen), but Betsy is quite right to mock Sinclair’s purchase.

  I have nothing against Giada De Laurentiis. I think she is a lovely woman and a wonderful cook. I regret that my characters do not agree.

  Finally, no matter how tempting it may be, faking your death is not cool, not least because of the inevitable paperwork nightmare.

  Contents

  Titles by MaryJanice Davidson

  Title Page

  Copyright

  Dedication

  Author’s Note

  Epigraphs

  CHAPTER ONE

  CHAPTER TWO

  CHAPTER THREE

  CHAPTER FOUR

  CHAPTER FIVE

  CHAPTER SIX

  CHAPTER SEVEN

  CHAPTER EIGHT

  CHAPTER NINE

  CHAPTER TEN

  CHAPTER ELEVEN

  CHAPTER TWELVE

  CHAPTER THIRTEEN

  CHAPTER FOURTEEN

  CHAPTER FIFTEEN

  CHAPTER SIXTEEN

  CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

  CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

  CHAPTER NINETEEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY

  CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO

  CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR

  CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX

  CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN

  CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT

  CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE

  CHAPTER THIRTY

  CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE

  CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO

  CHAPTER THIRTY-THREE

  CHAPTER THIRTY-FOUR

  CHAPTER THIRTY-FIVE

  CHAPTER THIRTY-SIX

  CHAPTER THIRTY-SEVEN

  CHAPTER THIRTY-EIGHT

  EPILOGUE

  “Dee, are you seriously bragging about sleeping with a married man?”

  “I’m not the one who’s married. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

  “You let him buy you a car.”

  “Well, Frank, I’m not going to go passing on free cars.”

  —FRANK AND DEE, IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA

  “I was visiting Carol in Las Vegas and there was . . . a performance issue.”

  “I’m Reaganing, Lemon. Let me solve this.”

  “It’s not him, it’s me. I’m the one with the performance problem.”

  “What? What are you talking about?”

  “I freaked out and my junk closed. It’s like Fort Knox down there.”

  —LIZ AND JACK, 30 ROCK

  “My father loves this car more than life itself!”

  “A man with priorities so far out of whack doesn’t deserve such a fine automobile.”

  —CAMERON AND FERRIS, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF

  “Blood and gore all over the floor / And me without a spoon.”

  —OLIVER SPURGEON ENGLISH, FATHERS ARE PARENTS, TOO: A CONSTRUCTIVE GUIDE TO SUCCESSFUL FATHERHOOD

  “Okay, gross.”

  —ELIZABETH “BETSY” TAYLOR, QUEEN OF THE VAMPIRES

  CHAPTER

  ONE

  You know how you see someone you love stuck with a job they don’t know how to do? Or maybe they do know how, but they don’t like it, maybe even hate it? And you watch them struggle with a kind of dread because you know if they can’t pull it together you’ll end up offering to help them, even if the job’s over your head? Even if you know you’ll probably suck at it but you can’t just leave your loved one stuck with something awful? Even though you’re pretty sure it might devour your lives?

  Yeah, that’s how I ended up working at Walmart the summer my friend Jess and I were eighteen, which was just so stupid. Among other things, neither of us needed the money, and also, Walmart is evil. I knew that long before I became a creature of the darkness. But that’s a whole other story and we come off pretty drunk in it.

  Also, it’s why I’m cobitch in charge of Hell.

  I’m just too nice, dammit. It’s one of my biggest character flaws.

  Fortunately I’ve been able to avoid my cobitch responsibilities for a couple of months now, and I had my brother/son’s—the vampire king’s—new churchgoing activities (he’s on the Historical Preservation Committee and running the cookie exchange, which—I can’t even), my dead dad, the never-ending quest to housebreak Fur and Burr, and the entire household being a slave to Thing One and Thing Two to thank for it. (Off topic, lately I’ve realized we are dangerously close to being outnumbered by babies. Which just . . . yikes.)

  All this to say it’s pretty chaotic around here. Our normal is other people’s chaos. Actually, it’s other people’s fever dreams. I was legitimately busy. Which I told myself as often as I could. It’s not like I just lolled around the mansion, talking my sexy husband into role-playing Scarlett and Rhett having passionate, pre-rape foreplay on our sweeping huge staircase. I loved scooping him into my arms and darting up those stairs only to ravish him in our bedroom and talk about how, frankly, my Sinclair, I don’t give a damn.

  Lots to do, no time to hang around Hell. Except Hell had shown up in the form of my sister, Laura. Half sister, technically; we had the same dad, but Laura’s mom was Satan, making my little sister the Antichrist. Or the Anti-Antichrist, I guess, since she used to rebel against the devil by being good. Because how else would you do it? How can you outdevil the devil? It’d be like trying to outvapid any one of the Kardashians: no matter how determined and driven you are, no matter how much time you devote to what you suspect is the impossible, it cannot be done.

  And I had to give my little sis props: Laura never once tried outdeviling the devil. Instead, she was (and is) a fixture at various local soup kitchens, food banks, church banquets, shelters, and the occasional Democratic fund-raiser.

  Plus, there was no need for passive-aggressive maternal rebellion anymore, because I killed Satan (crazy week—don’t get me started). If nothing else, there was no point in rebelling against the devil when you were the devil.

  Anyhoo, Laura was here, she wasn’t queer, and I’d better get used to it. Or however that was supposed to go.

  “Share,” she said again, tapping her Payless-shod foot on the faded peach-colored carpet. Black flat, rounded toe, made of some horrific plastic/pleather hybrid; I reminded myself that it wasn’t nice to tackle the Antichrist for the purpose of confiscating her shoes and then blowing them up.

  Mind you, this was a woman who could literally travel through space and time using only the force of her will, a woman who, it was foretold, would take over the world, and she can’t bring herself to wear footgear that isn’t wretched.

  Also, round-toed shoes have creeped me out ever since I read Roald Dahl’s book The Witches. The way Mr. Dahl tells it, witches have to wear round-toed shoes because . . . they have no toes! Their feet just stop at the end of the . . . whatever the bones are just before the toe bones start, that’s where their feet stop. They just stop! Even thinking about it summons my vomit reflex.
We agreed. Sharing, remember?”

  Eh? Oh, right. I shook off my case of the creeps and tried to focus. Running Hell. Sharing running Hell. Which was an unfortunate word choice, since I had been an only child for most of my life (my half sister/work buddy/occasional nemesis didn’t pop up on my radar until I hit thirty—an age I’ll be for centuries, so it’s a good thing I never got that tattoo), so “sharing” wasn’t something I’d had much practice with.

  “We agreed,” she continued, being as dogged as I was when I tried to talk her into some decent shoes, “we’d run Hell together.”

  Agreed? Run it together? Hmm. Didn’t sound like me. I tended to avoid work, not blithely agree to it. Unless I was trying to get back on someone’s good side. Which, given that I’d killed my sister’s mom, was something I would have had to do. Dammit. I probably did agree to share. The things we do in moments of weakness: recycling in a desperate attempt to save the earth, obsessively updating Amazon wish lists, agreeing to run Hell with the Antichrist.

  “We agreed”—ah, cripes, she was still going on about this—“it was the least you could do after murdering my mother.”

  That irked me, but not for the reason you’d think, which is why many people are (rightly) convinced I’m a bad person. “First off, the least I could do is nothing.” Huge pet peeve of mine, along with people using amongst and towards and synergy, and people mailing Christmas letters instead of cards. And I’m saying that as someone who used to do the letter thing; I actually thought people were genuinely interested in the promotions I didn’t get, the shoes I did, the guys I didn’t marry, the babies I didn’t have. But even my puffy vanity couldn’t keep convincing me people wanted an envelope full of Who Cares, I’ve Got My Own Problems for Christmas, so now I don’t send anything.

  Ironic, because I actually have cool (cool = weird/terrifying) stuff to write about now. Well, we picked out our tree—had to go at night, obviously, and then helped ourselves to half a pint of B neg from a would-be Christmas tree thief. BabyJon is learning to walk, his parents are still dead, and I killed the devil. Happy holidays from all of us at Vamp Central! In lieu of gifts, donate blood. Because the Red Cross shouldn’t be able to hog it all, dammit.

 
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