“Lawyers in Love” interrupted the bad dream I was having. The same one I was having more and more frequently. Something that looked like a velociraptor with tentacles tearing me apart faster than the nanites could put me back together.
Grateful for the
sort-of rescue, I reached for my phone and thumbed the answer button. “Hey,
Colin. What do you have for me?”
“Did I wake you?”
I sighed. “It
doesn’t matter.” I started to fling back the covers, but Duncan wasn’t in bed
with me, so I settled back under them. “Is there any way Lilianne can shut our
act down permanently?”
“It’s always a
possibility, Sam. I stand by the legal team’s original analysis, but that
doesn’t mean she won’t get a sympathetic judge or jury who will do something
stupid. In the meantime, Marshall received a cease and desist order from
Lilianne’s attorney. His people e-mailed a copy to you, me, and Lily this
The urge to cry
hit me hard. This was going to devastate Lily, And I couldn’t blame the show’s
producer, Marshall Wagoner. He had to look out for his own interests.
“What can we do to
fight this?” I leaned over and sniffed Duncan’s pillow. His scent wasn’t fresh.
He hadn’t come to bed last night.
Great. On top of
everything else, I had a pouty fiancé to deal with.
accusation that her mother’s reputation and memory are being desecrated, we
need evidence that Lily is being faithful to her original act since this is a
“But I thought we
didn’t want to violate copyright?”
whistled through the receiver. “That’s the reason you’re not using her original
material, but Lilianne’s accusing Lily of perverting the act by using off-color
jokes and obscenities. We need something, a recording, a newsclip, anything
that shows Lily is sticking to her old style without reusing the same
I swallowed the
hard lump at the back of my throat, unsure if the emotional crap was mine or
empathy for my baby zombie. “I’ll see what I can find.” I really needed to
change the subject before I lost it. “How’s the vampire thing going?”
“I’m getting used to it. Caesar let me go back to Philly to see my family. It’s
unbelievable being able to talk to my nephew Evan again.”
I smiled at Colin’s
excitement. The lawyer was adapting to vampire life far better than any of us
expected. “Caesar must really have taken a shine to you to bend the rules.”
over-aware of the implications in the sudden disappearance of a scion of the
famed political Fitzgerald family.”
Envy stuck a
needle in my heart. Colin had a good relationship with his parents. I had to
die before my mother and I developed an uneasy truce. “At least, you had a
After an eternity
of silence, he said, “Did anyone in the coven besides me choose?”
My laugh was
rather weak. “Alex, but technically he was dying from a dozen bullet holes when
Duncan offered to Turn him.”
was equally uncomfortable. “Yeah, I noticed pretty quick not to ask certain
questions. Thanks for being straight with me.” He cleared his throat. “Anyway,
keep Lily away from the showroom while I work on your case. Hopefully, Lilianne
will agree to settle before this gets too far.”
“Thanks, Colin.” I
clicked off the phone and ran my hand over Duncan’s side of the bed. Compared
to some of our epic battles, last night’s tiff hardly registered on the Richter
scale. But ever since Alex and Phil’s little trip to Peru, things between
Duncan and me had gotten very weird.
But I needed to
deal with Lily’s issue first. I owed her that much.
I wasn’t the one
who resurrected the corpses of her, Bill and Morty. No, that was pro basketball
player and necromancer extraordinaire David Head. All because that asswipe, now
comatose bed warmer, had a major league crush on Duncan.
But thanks to him,
I learned two very important lessons six months ago. My blood killed the
living, and it restored dead things to life. It made me super-cautious about as
small of thing as a paper cut.
I dressed and
raided the suite’s refrigerator. The staff kept it stocked with hard-boiled
eggs, cheese and pre-cut veggies for emergencies. The contents of the fridge
and half dozen bagels I pulled from the pantry would tide me over. I definitely
needed to break the news to Lily before I hit one of the casino restaurants for
later, I knocked on her door. It swung open with a vision I didn’t need to
see—Bill Faith in Lily’s pink fuzzy bathrobe.
He turned beet red,
from his bare toes to his prominent nose. “Uh, I, uh, was expecting room
I crossed my arms
and tried to hide my delight that he and Lily had moved to the next step in
their relationship. “And I thought drag was part of your act, not a lifestyle
was a color more red than beet because Bill’s skin turned that shade. “Our
private life is none of your concern.”
I shoved past him.
“I don’t care if you lick honey off her ass—” I squelched the urge to wince
when he went from red to an interesting shade of purple. “I’m here on business
and I need to talk to Lily.”
She appeared in
the doorway to her bedroom, wearing a retro sweater and skirt set. “What did
the lawyers say?”
I sucked in a deep
breath and released it. “You’re going to have to take a break from the show for
a few days. Just until Colin and his team can get this straightened out.”
expression yanked at my heart as she sank down on the couch.
“Why?” Bill waved
a hand in Lily’s direction. “Red hasn’t done anything wrong!"
“No, she hasn’t.”
I crossed the room and sat next to Lily. “Colin says it would help if we could
find some recordings of your old stand-up act. To show that you’re being
authentic to the original Lily Bell.”
“I am the original
Lily Bell,” she wailed.
I took her fisted
hands in mine. “We can’t tell anyone that. Not unless you want to end up as a
“You were one,”
“And that’s what
got all four of us into this mess,” I shot back before I turned to Lily once
more. “We need to give the lawyers everything we can in order to fight this.”
in her eyes. “I don’t want to fight my own daughter, Sam. We did far too much
of that the first time around. Can’t I just go and tell her—”
I squeezed her
hands. “No, Lily. We’ve been over this before. Your children attended the
funeral for their elderly mother. If you show up on Lilianne’s front door like
you are now, she will never believe you. She wouldn’t have believed you last
The look she gave
me turned downright ugly. “It’s not fair. You get to see your family.”
brother and I are members of the Augustine coven, and because my parents will
keep their traps shut in order to see their grandchildren.” Also because my
Normal mother was the one person in the universe that scared a vampire as
ancient as Caesar. I wasn’t quite sure why.
tactics. More tears trickled down her cheeks. “If we can convince Lilianne of
the truth, she’ll keep our secret.”
“Do you have any
idea what will happen to her if she doesn’t?”
“Duncan can erase
I shook my head.
“And sometimes, the vampires can’t. Anne couldn’t erase my brother’s memory
when he found out the truth about her years ago. If Max hadn’t kept his trap
shut, she would have had to kill him.” Colin’s wife Anne had been Amish before
she was Turned. Despite her attempts to stick with pacifism, she was the most
dangerous of the vampires. I’d seen first hand how efficient she could be at
Lily grabbed my
shoulders. “If they kill her, you could bring her back.”
I stared at her. “No.”
“But you did it
with us.” She waved her hand between herself and Bill.
“Are you honestly
suggesting a horde of zombies invading you daughter’s backyard is a brilliant
idea? Because that’s exactly how you ended up here. You were trying to eat my
brother’s wedding guests.”
regretted the words at the pained look on her face. The antsy prickle of my
conscience drove me to my feet, and I started to pace. I shouldn’t have thrown
the wedding in her face.
Their memories of
the event were hazy; mine crystal clear. Morty had literally ripped out my
throat, and they licked my arterial spray off of everything. Next thing any of
us knew, the three comedians were alive and healthy.
human. Dr. Zachary said so.” This time the tears in her eyes weren’t an acting
job. “And there’s none of your robots in us.”
“This is the same
witch who has no fucking clue what these nanites are doing to me.” My lie
triggered a nasty ache grew in my frontal lobes, and I rubbed my forehead. Bebe
agreed with Alex. Phil’s dad had even offered a sample of his own DNA for Bebe
to compare mine with. Just because I didn’t like Bebe’s conclusions, I couldn’t
take my personal frustrations out on my baby zombies.
And Lily needed to
know the truth about their status within the coven. “I’m sorry, but you can’t
contact any of your family, much less Lilianne. You saw how she freaked out
last night. We can’t take that chance. I
can’t take that chance.”
responsibility. That means if you tell her and she can’t handle it, I’m the one
who has to put her down. And if I don’t, that means Caesar will kill all of
us—Lilianne, you, me, Bill and Morty."
Her eyes grew into
large, blue marbles of shock. Bill’s mouth tightened into a straight line. He’d
obviously suspected the stakes from the beginning.
I sat next to her
on the couch again. “I don’t want that on my conscience, and I don’t think you
do either. Promise me you won’t do anything stupid.”
She slowly nodded.
“I promise. I-I didn’t realize…"
I patted her
hands. “I’m sorry for not being totally straight with you. I didn’t want to
scare you.” My stomach growled. “Feel up to joining me for breakfast downstairs?”
She slowly nodded
I turned to Bill.
“I’ll cancel room service. You need to put on a day dress. I’m not taking you
anywhere in a bathrobe.”
* * *
pulled into a parking spot five cars down from the dark green convertible he had
followed. For decades, he would never have gotten away with tailing the
attractive brunette. Now, no one recognized him. He’d gotten his long-time wish
of anonymity, but he wasn’t sure if it was good thing or not.
He sipped the
expensive shit kids today called coffee. Couldn’t get just a plain cup of joe
anymore. No, it had to creamed, steamed and sweetened until you couldn’t taste
But he needed the
cover. The Karnak’s head of security was a smart cookie for a broad. He claimed
he needed to get out of the damn hotel-casino to think. As long as he came back
with a receipt for the coffee and some notes for the Vegas show, she and Sam
didn’t question his whereabouts for a few measly hours.
Molly climbed out
of her convertible and headed into the grocery store. She still had a set of
legs and an ass any woman half her age would envy. Those nice, tight pants
broads wore to yoga classes showed off her assets nicely. He recited baseball
statistics in his head to get his dick under control. Damn, getting an erection
the last couple of years had been next to impossible with the damn catheter.
And that memory
took care of the problem. He climbed out of the SUV he’d borrowed from the
Karnak’s vehicle pool and arrowed for grocery’s main doors.
second wife now lived in Vegas had been the only reason he’d agreed to Sam’s
cockamamie plan to have him, Bill and Lily join that stupid showcase. Now his
new job would come in handy when Molly recognized him.
recognize him, wouldn’t she?
fear, he yanked a cart out of the rows and guided it toward the produce
section. Molly was still a vegetarian, or that’s what it looked like the last
time he’d followed her through the store. Regret tugged his heart. Why the hell
hadn’t he treated her better? He even missed her eggplant lasagna.
running into her cart might work, but it was too obvious. Ask her advice on
melons? No, too desperate. But then she stopped in front of the bananas.
“Why did the
banana go out with the prune?” He reached for the bunch next to the one she was
She turned and
stared at him. Her face paled the moment the recognition hit her. “I beg your
He smiled. “It’s a
joke. Why did the banana go out with the prune?”
couldn’t find a date,” she answered weakly.
“Ouch. My best
material, and you’ve already heard it.”
“Who-who are you?”
At least, that’s what the fake ID the vampires had given him said. He held out
his hand, but she still stared at him, shock imprinted on her patrician
features. She made no move to take the proffered palm.
He lowered his
arm. “Oka-a-ay, that wasn’t my best pick-up line. I’ll give you that. But why
are you staring at me like you’ve seen a ghost?”<
“Y-you look like
He rubbed his
chin. “Ah, I take it you caught my revival act.”
“No.” The color
flowed back into her cheeks. Her hair was still pinned up from her yoga class,
and it was all he could do not to pull out the clip and bury his face in the
mass. Did she still use that honeysuckle shampoo she had loved when they were
He grinned. “You
can’t tell me you knew the real Mortimer Stern.”
She blinked. “Yes.
I did. He was my ex-husband.”
“Really?” He hoped
his pretend surprise looked real enough. “And you are?”
“I’m sorry. You
really threw me off.” Her gorgeous lips curved into a polite smile, and she
held out her hand. “Molly Weiss.”
He shook it, and her
touch made his cock twitch. “A pleasure to meet you, Miss Weiss. Aren’t you a
little young to have been married to him?”
She released his
hand before he was ready. Her accompanying chuckle was tinged with bitterness.
“That’s how Morty liked his women, the younger the better.”
God, he’d been
such an insecure asshole. “Oh.” He ran his hand over his hair. Since his
resurrection, it surprised him to find some still attached to his scalp.
“Finally get up the nerve to talk to you, and finding out I resemble your ex
makes asking you out incredibly awkward.”
“Asking me out?”
She turned and dropped the bananas into her cart. The same
duck-and-occupy-herself maneuver she used to do when she was uncomfortable.
“Yeah. I’ve seen
you in here a couple of times. And—” He shrugged. Approaching Molly like this
really was the stupidest thing he’d ever done. She wasn’t the easily impressed
girl fresh out of high school he’d first met, but a middle-aged career woman
who knew all the tricks he could pull.
And he didn’t want
to use those tricks on her either.
“Sorry to bother
you, Miz Weiss.” Yep, definitely a stupid idea. He shoved the shopping cart
toward the dairy section, disappointment thick in his mouth. Sam had warned
them. He couldn’t recapture his past. Couldn’t rectify all the things he’d done
to hurt Molly.
“Walter?” A soft
touch brushed his arm.
He stopped and
turned toward her, praying he didn’t look too eager. “Yeah?”
“Would you like to
get some coffee? Maybe? Some time?”
him. She was asking him out. He hadn’t expected the switch
She withdrew her
hand. “I’m sorry. I guess the whole thing about you looking like my ex really
is awkward as hell.”
“No,” he blurted.
“That’s not, uh, I mean—” Dammit! He
was making a mess of things. “I’d love to.”
She reached into
her purse and pulled out a card. “Here’s my number.”
Mortimer took the
proffered card. A wild idea popped in his head. “Why don’t you come to the show
tonight? I can leave a ticket for you at will call and—”
Molly shook her
head, and a tendril slipped from the tortoise shell clip. It took all of his
willpower not to smooth the wayward lock from her face.
“That’s not a good
idea. Let’s stick with coffee.”
The pain in her
expression tore at him. “Look, if my resemblance is hurting you—”
Her smile was wan,
a shadow of its normal brilliance. “I want to get to know Walter Kinney, not
the ghost of someone I used to love.”
Used to love. Her remark couldn’t have
hurt worse if she’d plunge a real knife into his heart. But if that was all he
could have of her, then he’d take it. “Coffee, then. I’ll…text you.”
brightened a notch. “Coffee, then.” She turned and pushed her cart toward the
pile of avocados.
Mortimer pivoted and shoved his own cart toward the
grocery’s main doors. The only reason he didn’t text her right then and there
was he needed someone to show him how.