What about the love life?” I hear you asking. After all, vampires are known for their powers of seduction and their way with the young ladies, so surely there’s got to be some kind of truth to that legend, right? The answer is a little more complicated than that. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had an awesome streak since becoming a vampire to the point where I can walk into almost any bar in the city and be confident that I’ll be leaving with some gorgeous (and preferably redheaded) young lady in a very short time. But that’s not love. Hell it’s not even lust when you get down to it, just me enjoying the perks of finally getting over a six month absense of any sex whatsoever after Jaime had dumped my stupid ass.
I’m sure some of the women I slept with might have wanted to do the whole romance thing, but I never stuck around to find out. I’m a bit of a sucker for true love you see, believe it or not, and I was still in love with my ex-girlfriend.
So imagine you’re me, and you’re finally settling into the groove of your new life as a vampire. It’s been two months since you first got turned and you’ve been through quite a few memorable (not in a good way) experiences that you have no interest in repeating, but if you were a better person, would have been some defining moment in your life. Instead, you’re stuck being me, the guy who takes valuable life lessons as an excuse to try the same thing again but only harder, convinced this time it will be different.
That idiot up there, the one I just described? That’s the same idiot who got in line at the supermarket behind a woman who looked remarkably exactly like how his ex-girlfriend Jaime used to look. She even had the same nice ass, the same tattoos on her arm and shoulder and yes: the same pissed off expression that became the default the longer we were together and the more I insisted on fucking up her life.
Oh holy shitballs: it actually was Jaime.
I should have known that mane of curly hair couldn’t ever belong to anyone else. The beautifully striking face that was made more striking by the intense light brown eyes under those bushy eyebrows that were so naturally arched. When she smiled, those eyes shone with possibility and friendliness, but they weren’t smiling at me now, reflecting only dull, flat anger.
“Jaime…” I said, and was I more than just a little happy to see her? You bet your ass I was.
You don’t see the love of your life and feel nothing, even if she had decided that there was absolutely no fucking way that there was going to be a “we” anymore. Not even if the last time you had been face-to-face she had given you reason enough to hate her and for a while you had, but she was your true love so of course that couldn’t last forever.
See? Told you I was a sucker for true love.
Of course, the memory of the restraining order she had filed against me should have wiped the smile off my face, but to be fair, this was the supermarket in my neighborhood. The bus dropped me right in front, and I only had to walk four blocks to my shitty basement apartment, so I counted this supermarket as being mine and not off limits. Jaime lived on the other side of town, so what the hell?
Restraining order and all, I should not have been surprised when Jaime wasn’t that happy to see me.
“What the fuck Bob? Are you stalking me again?”
I threw up my hands in innocence. Even the cashier was giving me the stink-eye and was looking around for the non-existent security guard. My main thing was not to upset Jaime anymore than I had to. I should have known it was her. I could pick her out of a crowd at 100 meters, so why the hell hadn’t I listened to myself when I saw her?
Maybe it was because I had not ever expected to see her here and was just content to daydream that it might actually be her. I’d already run into a couple of her doppelgängers, all sharing her same body type, 5’8”, long legs, lean muscle, small but womanly boobs. I saw her on the train late one night, but her arms were devoid of tattoos, and the girl was with a couple of snooty looking girls Jaime would never be seen dead hanging out with; the second time had been at the airport and although a dead ringer for Jaime, the girl had been Chinese. So it wouldn’t have surprised me to be running into yet another doppelgänger who would wonder why I was smiling at them so much.
Yeah… this time it was the real deal.
“I swear this is nothing like last time. This is pure coincidence! This time.” I said, but Jaime still looked doubtful. “Hi?” I tried to not look threatening at all.
I looked around the supermarket, not exactly the most high-end of places, just a regular grocery store that sold all of the basic things I needed at just the right prices. I didn’t even like the place most of the time but it was open 24 hours just like I needed and the cashiers weren’t completely incompetent.
“I live right down the road from here. This is my neighborhood, my supermarket,” I pleaded, trying to radiate innocence, “and in my defense, I didn’t even see you there. Otherwise, I would have waited until you were gone. Really.”
I looked at the cashier for backup, but I didn’t recognize this one. Usually, there was a Pakistani girl working nights. Priya or something like that.
Jaime was hesitant, but she nodded.
“Right. Claude told me you had moved. I guess I should have asked where to so I could avoid you better.”
I was getting the message loud and clear. Time to take my eggs and go hide in an aisle somewhere. I turned to go but—
A tired woman in a hijab had wheeled into the line behind me. She had already started unpacking her huge cart of groceries onto the conveyor belt and was blocking the narrow lane. Three small boys, aged maybe four to eight buzzed around her in the way that children do, with an almost complete disregard for anyone around themselves, caught up in their worlds of imagination and Ritalin overdoses. I shuffled uncomfortably, my avenue for a quick retreat now cut off.
“Don’t worry about it Bob,” Jaime said grudgingly. “You’re right. Let’s just ignore each other until I can get the hell outta here, okay? Okay.”
I love how she didn’t even wait for an answer.
A bro-dude, a total Chad if there was ever one, leaned over from next to Jaime to look at me.
“Is this the guy you were talking about? The shitty ex-boyfriend?”
“Who the fuck are you?” I immediately wanted to know. Then to Jaime. “Who the fuck is that?”
“None of your business Bob!” Jaime snapped. She focused her attention on the cashier, who was having way too much trouble getting a price on the box in her hands. “Is there a problem? We can just leave it. Really.”
I suddenly saw what the cashier was holding in her hands, and before I knew it, my idiot mouth had gone down to the store, bought a backhoe and had started digging my grave.
“Hey! Those are my brand of condoms!”
Jaime slammed her hands down and stared straight ahead, never looking at me once.
“They are a brand of condom Bob. You don’t get to claim a brand as your own, not now, not ever, and especially not these.”
Have you ever noticed how some people can say everything they want to say with all of the words they’re not actually saying? With people you’ve been close to, you learn to read the signs, the language of those unspoken words. If you don’t, then those words eventually get spoken, yelled, even, and it’s all downhill from there since nobody knows how to listen when someone is screaming at them. But some words were never meant to be spoken, and you will do your best to avoid them when you see them bubbling under the surface, just dying to break through. I could see Jaime biting the words back and swallowing them. They were poison to her, and she swallowed them anyway even though the look she gave me spoke of how she was envisioning my brutal murder and was actively avoiding killing me. Hell, she could even use the hole I’d just so conveniently dug for myself to stash my body.
I knew that look, and I knew to back the fuck off. I wanted to reach out to this beautiful woman who had once loved me and ask her what I had done to make her hate me so much. I knew what I had done that had caused the split and I hated myself for it, but I had never expected to see such burning hatred for me. Seeing that look on her face made me want to curl up in a ball and hide and beat myself up for having caused that much pain.
Goddammit. Talking about Jaime is always difficult, especially the way it is now, so I’m just going to skip this part if it’s all the same to you, okay? Great!
So what have we established so far? Oh yes: my ex-girlfriend hates my fucking guts and she’s absolutely right to. I deserve all the hate, I freely admit it, but I still love her whether she wants my love or not. Love isn’t something you just turn off when it’s no longer convenient. You can love someone deeply and even after years apart, those feelings will still be there as strong as anything.
The cashier wasn’t making things any better. She looked hesitantly from me to Jaime. “I’m going to have to do a price check—”
Jaime had reached her limit.
“Never mind. Come on Chad, we’re leaving—”
I really couldn’t help myself. It was always a severe case of foot-in-mouth disease with me when it came to Jaime.
“This douche-canoe’s actual name is Chad? Holy shit!”
“Wait a sec babe, you can’t just let him win—”
“MOVE IT CHAD!” Jaime yelled and shoved her way past the shocked Chad, who had seriously underestimated the dangers of getting in the way of my ex-girlfriend. That usually only happened once, and after that, you were pretty much toast.
As much as it hurt me to see Jaime storm away like that just because of my proximity… and my stupid comments, there was a little thrill of vindication that Chad the douche-canoe was not going to be sticking his dick into my ex-girlfriend anytime soon. Especially not using my brand of condoms.
I looked back to Chad to either give him a smug look that would tell him exactly what I was thinking, or to give him a shrug that said “women, right?”, but he didn’t give me a chance to decide to be a dick to him.
“You fucker!” Chad said and damn he was ready for a fight.
I whipped off my sunglasses and glared at him, ready to take him on. I was a vampire motherfucker! That had to count for something, right?
“You should just walk away Chad!” I growled.
Chad blinked rapidly, and all of the fight went out of him. He looked at me, confused and shook his head. “You’re not worth it man. I’m-I’m just going to walk away now.”
What the actual fuck was that?
I stood there utterly confused and watched Chad exit, my heart still hammering in my chest as the adrenaline still surged through my body, wanting to be put to use, dying to do something. I shuddered as I felt the heat on my top lip, the heat of the adrenaline having nowhere to go and it still wanted me to lash out, break something or someone, so it was letting me smell it, that wavering heat as it dissipated and reminded me of how good it would feel to just let it out. I ignored it and tried to concentrate on breathing and not rushing after Chad to rip his head from his shoulders like it suddenly felt like I could before I had somehow convinced him
or Jedi-mind-tricked him into walking the fuck away.
I looked around, self-conscious now at the way the cashier looked terrified as she rang in my eggs, making more mistakes than she should have; the three boys were now huddled behind their mother, terrified that something they couldn’t recognize was in their midst and it might well be a monster. All I could think as I paid for my eggs and exited the store was that I was glad Jaime hadn’t seen that display of whatever the hell that was.
I admit it. I wanted to punch someone.
Jaime’s jeep blew past me in the parking lot, and I don’t think she saw me, but she was definitely driving angry.
But at least she was driving alone.
I saw Chad aggressively smoking next to a matte black Dodge Charger and had a momentary thrill that I had completely cockblocked that douchebag. From the way he was angrily tapping at his phone, almost like he wanted to break it, he was probably posting something nasty about Jaime online, possibly involving the word “slut” several times. It’s standard operating procedure for a douche-bro like Chad.
I considered going over and confronting him, but that was the punchy side of me talking, looking for an excuse to be unleashed.
God, I really wanted to punch someone named Chad.
So I did the sensible thing and walked the hell away because my life isn’t a movie full of epic fist fights and a questionable lack of assault charges, and as angry as I was, I still don’t like the thought of hurting people, whether they deserved it or not.
Not even if their name was Chad.
Claude gave me a look as I slid into the booth. I just gave him a fake smile, and a thumbs up in response to his unasked question. Then and only then did I slump down into my seat and banged my head gently but firmly on the top of the table.
“You saw Jaime today?”
“I saw Jaime today,” I confirmed. “Wait. How do you know that? Did she call you?”
“Yeah, she was a little pissed. A lot pissed actually.”
“Why doesn’t she love me anymore Claude?”
“Three possibilities, all of them being that you’re a complete asshat,” he said and took a big drink of his coffee. I glared at him.
“You’re so not helping.”
Claude was my best friend for over twenty years. We had met at school after I noticed him with a copy of Stephen King’s Christine. Since I had only recently become a Stephen King fan and had started trying to collect every book he had written, I was more than happy to find a fellow aficionado and possible twisted mind. We had become fast friends with Stephen King as a shared interest and that had been that. Making friends as kids is a hell of a lot less complicated than making friends as adults. Less layers of complications when you’re a kid. Claude had been through the shit with me and we’d always been each other’s moral center and sanity control.
That being said, Claude had been the first person I had called when I had become a vampire.
To tell you the truth, Claude is the one who should have been the vampire.
He’s the one people would automatically look at if you told them that one of us was a vampire, and no matter how much proof I gave them, they would still want to believe that it was Claude who was the vampire. I could rip their throats out with my teeth, and they would still be looking at Claude expectantly. Can’t say I really blame them. I’d been always jealous of his cleft chin and chiseled good looks, although I’m good-looking in my own way. What Claude had was a more classic and rugged looking face, the kind of face that should be on magazine covers. These days he generally preferred to wear tailored suits that made him look more like a banker or broker than anything else, and even when he refused to wear a tie he still looked like the most respectable man in the room.
Considering that Claude was a crook, this was probably for the best.
A gentleman thief by definition, he did not entirely steal to get rich, nor did he steal from poor people or where someone might get hurt. He had very specific rules that he followed and very specific jobs that he hired himself out for. If Claude showed up with a new car, I always had to assume that it was stolen and the owner was not about to discover this fact for a very long time. I didn’t even know if Claude actually owned the condo where he lived or if it belonged to somebody else like some banker in Hong Kong who used the condo once a year. Claude had access to certain circles you see, and he knew the right people, but even more importantly, he fit right in, and nobody ever questioned him. It was a big departure from the early days of sourcing cheap sunglasses or Walkman cassette players or whatever it was people wanted to get their hands on.
He had been there to drink with me and keep an eye on me after my cataclysmic meltdown when Jaime had dumped my stupid ass. He’d bailed me out of jail after that one disastrous night and was generally considered the “responsible one” when people thought about us. I was the sidekick, and I had no problems with that.
Claude raised his eyebrow at me now and flicked a toothpick at me.
“You were a dick to her—”
“I was a dick to Chad—”
He flicked another toothpick, and it caught me right between the eyes.
“She’s dating a guy called Chad? Gross.”
“I don’t think it was any actual dating. They were buying condoms—”
“Doesn’t matter what they were buying. Restraining orders are very specific.” Claude thought for a second, then, “Seriously, his name was Chad?”
“I didn’t know it was her. Besides, it’s my supermarket.” I was trying not to sound whiny and failing badly.
“You’re right, and she apologized for that. She won’t be filing any charges, but she’s still pretty upset.”
“I’m pretty upset. She’s fucking a guy named Chad. Did I ruin her that much?”
Claude winced. “Sure sounds like it. Tell me he didn’t look like a total dude-bro at least—”
I shook my head, and Claude grimaced, disappointed in Jaime’s taste.
“Well, no wonder you were rude.”
“Does this mean you’re back on my side?”
“Dude, I’m always on your side. Why do you think I’m the one chewing you out?” Claude signaled the waitress. “So how’s the vampiring going?”
“Vampiring is hard,” I said and then thought it for a second. “You know, that would actually look awesome on a t-shirt…”
“You never got me those pamphlets you promised me. You were supposed to do some research, remember? Get a little better? Find yourself a mentor…”
“I got busy. Besides, I don’t even remember half of the people I met. People don’t like it when you don’t remember their names or their faces, and I don’t remember anybody. That’s how out of it I was when I was there. Nobody really wants to talk to me anymore dude. I’ve been rejected by vampire society. They don’t love me either.”
“Your mom loves you—”
“She has to.”
“I love you—”
“Ew dude, ew.”
“And I’m sure Sammy has some feels deep within that rotten black pirate heart of hers.”
“She tolerates me, so I guess that counts. But I want Jaime to love me.”
Claude looked disappointed. “Dude, what is the one thing I always tell you?”
“Never run from the scene of a crime since the cops always chase after a running man?” I asked, but Claude shook his head “no.”
“Don’t buy any cars with electronic locks since they’re easier to steal?”
“Put down the toilet seat, I was not raised in a barn?”
The waitress came over, and I turned my head to look at her. “Coffee, and a pot of hot water, please. Waffles, scrambled eggs —no pepper— and my one true love please.”
“Sorry sweetie, we’re fresh out of true love,” the waitress said. Her name tag proclaimed that she was named MOLLY, and I wondered if I’d ever met any Mollys before.
“Can I get you some freshly squeezed orange juice instead?” I asked and Molly gave me a tired smile.
Claude waited until she was gone.
“So, if we’re done talking about your love life–”
“You mean lack of love life,” I interrupted.
“Whatever you choose to call it.”
“I wasn’t done talking about it yes,” I complained.
“Well I am, so get suck it up Ginger,” Claude said. “You gonna fill me in on the rest of your life or what?”
“Whatcha wanna know?”
“How’s the recruiting for the club going? Anybody new showed up yet?”
That reminds me: did I tell you I started a support group for rejected vampires?
THAT’S THE END OF THE EXCERPT! You’re going to have to buy the novel to find out more about Bob’s adventures.
Available in PAPERBACK, HARDCOVER and EBOOK from these fine sellers.