Here's an preview of my soon-to-be-released novel ZOMBIE WEDDING!
Tiffany Stephens leaned close and whispered, “Sam, get your mother out of my face, or I’m going to stake her."
My sympathy for my future sister-in-law didn’t extend far while we waited for Mom and Antoine to come back with a load of designer bridal gowns. I should have known the lunch invitation was a con job. And I knew Mom would start on my bridesmaid dress once Tiffany’s wedding wear satisfied her Beverly Hills sensibility. Mom had already complained all the way to the boutique about buying off the rack with the wedding a week from Saturday.
I cast a surreptitious look at my brother’s homicidal fiancée. With all the mascara and eyeliner, her squinted eyes were little more than black slashes on her nearly white face. A quick glance around the Rodeo Drive boutique reassured me that everyone else was out of hearing range. Normal hearing range anyway.
I leaned closer to her and whispered back, “Killing her would be the perfect Christmas gift for me.”
She snorted at my teasing and pursed her purple-black lips. Her size two combat boot tapped an irritated rhythm. As one of the few human Enforcers of the Augustine vampire coven, she could hold her own against any supernatural menace.
Standing up to my mother was another story. Not that Tiffany didn’t do a superb job, but resistance didn’t register in Mom’s self-centered, materialistic universe. The bridal gown issue was a prime example.
The subject of our discussion charged back toward the dressing area where she had planted the two of us. Antoine, Mom’s personal image consultant, floated in her wake, loaded to the gills with fluffy white material.
I wasn’t precognitive—at least not yet—but I could see what was about to happen. Hell, the blind guy who panhandled outside of my apartment complex could have seen what was about to happen.
Mom shoved her purse in my arms. Mr. Cuddles, her toy poodle, poked his head out and growled. I wished it were because he detected my “change” two months ago. Unfortunately, his attitude toward me had more to do with his owner’s and had existed from the moment Mom brought him home from the breeder. I set the purse on the floor, and Mr. Cuddles hopped out and trotted over to sit primly at Mom’s feet.
She held up the first filmy concoction.
“No fuckin’ way.” Tiffany glared at her.
“Now, Tiffany, darling, since you don’t have any family to assist you with planning your wedding, you really need me.”
Smooth move, Mom. Remind the psychotic future daughter-in-law that her parents are pushing up daisies. I bit my tongue to keep from saying those thoughts aloud.
“I have my uncle, and I already told you I have a dress.”
Even I could barely understand Tiffany through her gritted teeth.
Mom sniffed. “Really, dear, fishnet is inappropriate in a society wedding.” Tossing the first gown aside, she snatched the next one in the pile.
Picking up the hanger, I straightened to find a perfectly coifed woman with a fake smile surgically grafted to her skin. The owner took the dress from my outstretched hand.
“Sorry,” I mouthed.
Her eyes flicked from me to Mom and back, the pleading evident. Like I could stop the rampage.
“No, no, this one won’t do, either.” The bundle of satin flew in my general direction.
Tiffany planted silver-decked fists on her non-existent hips. “I don’t need—”
Mom just tutted and reached for the next dress in Antoine’s arms. She held the blinding whiteness in front of the seething Enforcer. “What do you think, Antoine?”
He shook his head. “I really would suggest off-white or pale rose with Ms. Stephens’s coloring,” Antoine simpered. “Nothing fitted with her—” His cough barely registered as semi-discrete. “—delicate condition,” he finished sotto voce.
Mom shot him a nasty look. I switched to gnawing on my lower lip and stared at the ceiling to keep from laughing. Tiffany’s pre-marital pregnancy was a touchy subject—for everyone except Max since it proved my brother’s manhood. But she was only six weeks along so it wasn’t like the baby would be showing on her petite frame at the wedding.
“I’ll give him delicate,” Tiffany muttered. I held my breath, but she didn’t reach for the silver dagger tucked in her right boot.
A gusty sigh blew from Antoine’s artificially puffed lips. “Not much we can do about the hair.”
Red flared across Tiffany’s pale cheeks. I released the pent-up breath when she didn’t reach for the dart gun in her messenger bag either. A dose of the concentrated garlic and silver iodide solution may not be lethal to a human, but it stung like hell.
Antoine’s shook his head. “And that atrocious make-up she has on simply won’t do—”
Tiffany leapt, black-nailed hands reaching for Antoine’s throat.
Okay, I didn’t foresee that one. Mr. Cuddles yipped and dove back into Mom’s purse.
Honestly, I could have stopped Tiffany, but it was more fun to watch the nineteen-year-old goth try to strangle Mom’s snobby image consultant. That is, if she could find his pencil neck amid all the taffeta.
“Samantha! Do something!” Mom’s shriek had more to do with mortification at Tiffany’s scene than concern over harm to Antoine. Especially now that everyone in the boutique, not just the owner, watched Tiffany pound Antoine’s head against the floor. Lucky for him, it was plush carpet instead of something harder.
I sighed and rolled my eyes. “Tiff?”
She was too far gone, screaming insults that definitely wouldn’t win her brownie points with the Gay and Lesbian Alliance. I scooped her up under my left arm, but she still had a firm grasp on Antoine’s emerald collarless silk shirt. I shook her, as if she were Mr. Cuddles and I’d caught him humping one of my stuffed animals. Unlike Mr. Cuddles, Tiffany ignored me and continued her assault.
I shook Tiffany again. Antoine’s head bobbed, but she still wouldn’t let go. On the third shake, it registered in her pea-brain that I had her hoisted on my hip. She dropped Antoine, whose skull hit the carpet with a dense thud.
“Put me the fuck down, bitch!” She began fighting me in earnest. Not that it had much effect in her awkward position or with my new gifts.
“Let me go, you freak! So help me, I’m going to whip your zo—”
I slapped my free hand over her mouth. Tiffany bit me. Hard. I discovered how difficult it was to keep a smile planted on my face while Goth Girl gnawed on my palm, but I managed.
“We’re just going to step outside and have a little girl-to-girl chat. Be right back, Mom.” I hauled the still struggling Tiffany out the boutique door and into the hot afternoon California sun. Mom said nothing behind me. I guess she wasn’t too worried about Tiffany’s “delicate condition.”
Once outside of the boutique, I set Tiffany upright. She stomped back a couple of paces, her breathing heavy. She glared at me, fingers flexing, but she didn’t reach for the silver dagger, the gun or the pencils in the pockets of her camouflage pants. She was the only Enforcer I had met whose favorite weapon against rogue vampires was a yellow No. 2.
Eyeing her just as warily, I shook my right hand to get some feeling back into it. A quick glance showed that she had nearly severed off a large chunk of flesh. I may heal fast, but a wound like that still hurts like a sonuvabitch while it existed. After a few seconds, not even a bruise showed, but I had to fish in my shoulder bag for a tissue to wipe off the excess blood.
“You still haven’t told your folks, have you?” Tiffany’s expression wasn’t friendly, but it no longer had that endearing maniacal quality.
“No, I haven’t.” I shoved the nasty-looking tissue back in a Ziploc I kept in my bag for these types of occasions, crossed my arms and glared back at her. I didn’t like the reminder of the ticking clock over my head. “But you have no excuse for screaming the z-word in public. You know better.”
She had the grace to look abashed and muttered, “Sorry.” With a gusty exhalation, all the fight rushed out of her. She slumped against the boutique’s brick wall. “You’re right. I’ve never slipped up in front of Normals like that.”
I believed her. Ignorance was bliss when it came to John and Jane Public. The less they knew about the supernatural world, the better off everyone was. And Tiffany had been living in the dual cultures far longer than my measly two months.
The tears welling up in her big, brown eyes disturbed me on more levels than I cared to admit. Weepy was not a word anyone would use to describe Tiffany. I stepped forward and laid a hand on her shoulder. “It’s probably the hormones talking, but—”
“I know, I know.” She wiped the tears away on the hem of her black t-shirt, leaving streaks of blue-black mascara across her pale cheeks. “I’ll be more careful.”
I let my hand fall from her shoulder, reassured that Tiffany had regained control of her temper. As I turned back for the door, her touch on my sleeve stopped me. My initial tension released at her uneasy expression.
“Sam, it’s not my business, but—” She paused as if searching for the right words. This had to be a first. I mean, Tiffany? Using tact?
She glanced around to make sure no one was near, but she still lowered her voice. “Maybe you should tell your parents.” Her hand dropped. “Before they find out accidentally.”
“Ri-i-ight.” I glanced around myself, but few shoppers were on the sidewalk this time of day with the unusual spring heat. “The only thing Mom and Dad are going to love more than Max knocking you up is finding out I’m a zombie.”