"I hope so." India looked depressed. "I’m not a fan of the wedding industry, but I sure would like a steady someone. Dating makes me all confused."
"I never was any good at dating."
"That why you go with the vamp? To scare off everyone else?"
"I love him," I said steadily. "That’s why I go with him." I didn’t point out that human guys were simply impossible for me. You can imagine reading your date’s mind every minute. No, it really wouldn’t be any fun, would it?
"No need to get all defensive," India said.
I thought I’d been matter-of-fact. "He’s fun," I said mildly, "and he treats me nice."
"They’re … I don’t know how to ask this, but they’re cold, right?"
India wasn’t the first person who’d tried to find a delicate way to ask me that. There wasn’t any delicate way.
"Not room temperature," I said. I left it at that, because any more was none of anyone else’s business.
"Damn," she said, after a moment. After a longer moment, she said, "Ew."
I shrugged. She opened her mouth, looked as though she wanted to ask me something else, and then she closed it.
Fortunately for both of us, her table gestured that they wanted their bill, and one of Jane Bodehouse’s buddies came in drunk off her ass, so we both had things to do. Holly finally arrived to relieve me, complaining about her no-good car. India was working a double shift, so she kept her apron on. I waved a casual good-bye to Sam, glad to be walking out the door.
I just made it to the library before it closed, and then I stopped by the post office to buy some stamps from the machine in the lobby. Halleigh Bellefleur was there on the same errand, and we greeted each other with real pleasure. You know how sometimes you just like someone, though you don’t hang around with them? Halleigh and I don’t have much of anything in common, from our background to our educational level to our interests, but we like each other, anyway. Halleigh’s baby bump was pronounced, and she looked as rosy as Tara looked wrecked.
"How’s Andy doing?" I asked.
"He’s not sleeping well, he’s so excited about this baby," she said. "He calls me from work to ask how I am and to find out how many times the baby kicked."
"Sticking with ‘Caroline’?"
"Yeah, he was real pleased when I suggested that. His grandma brought him up, and she was a fine woman, if a little on the scary side." Halleigh smiled.
Caroline Bellefleur had been more than a little on the scary side. She’d been the last great lady of Bon Temps. She had also been my friend Bill Compton’s great-granddaughter. Halleigh’s baby would be three more greats away.
I told Halleigh about Jason’s engagement, and she said all the right things. She was as polite as Andy’s grandmother-and a hell of a lot warmer.
Though it was good to see Halleigh, when I got back into the car with my stamps I was feeling a little blue. I turned the key in the ignition, but I didn’t put the car in reverse.
I knew I was a lucky woman in many respects. But there was life being created all around me, and I wasn’t …
I shut down that line of thought with a sharp command to myself. I would not start down the self-pity path. Just because I wasn’t pregnant and wasn’t married to someone who could make me that way, that was no reason to feel like an island in the stream. I shook myself briskly and set off to complete the rest of my errands. When I caught a glimpse of Faye de Leon coming out of Grabbit Kwik, my attitude adjusted. Faye had been pregnant six times, and she was around my age. She’d told Maxine Fortenberry that she hadn’t wanted the last three. But her husband loved to see her pregnant, and he loved kids, and Faye allowed herself to be used "like a puppy mill," as Maxine put it.
Yes, attitude adjustment, indeed.
I had my evening meal and watched television and read one of my new library books that night, and I felt just fine, all by myself, every time I thought about Faye.
There were no great revelations at work the next day, and not a single outstanding incident. I actually enjoyed that. I just took orders and delivered drinks and food, pocketing my tips. Kennedy Keyes was at the bar. I worried that she and Danny were still quarreling, though he might be at his other job at the home builders’ supply place. Kennedy was subdued and dull, and I was sorry; but I didn’t want to find out any more about her relationship problems-anybody’s relationship problems. I had enough of my own.
It’s a conscious effort to block out the thoughts of other people. Though I’ve gotten better at it, it’s still work. I don’t have to try as hard with the two-natured, because their thoughts are not as clear as human thoughts; I catch only a sentence or emotion, here and there. Even among humans, some are clearer broadcasters than others. But before I learned how to shield my brain, it was like listening to ten radio stations at a time. Hard to act normal when all that’s going on in your brain and you’re still trying to listen to what people actually say with their mouths.
So during that little period of normality, I achieved a measure of peace. I convinced myself that the meeting with Felipe would go well, that he would believe either that we hadn’t killed Victor or that Victor’s death was justifiable. I was in no hurry to face him to find out.
I stayed gossiping at the bar for a few minutes, and on the way home I filled up the car with gas. I got a chicken sandwich from the Sonic and drove home slowly.
Sunset was so late in the summer that the vamps wouldn’t be up for a couple of hours yet. I hadn’t heard a word from anyone at Fangtasia. I didn’t even know when I was supposed to get there. I just knew I had to look nice, because Eric would expect it in front of visitors.
Dermot wasn’t in the house. I’d hoped Claude might have returned from his mysterious trip to Faery, but if he had, there was no sign. I couldn’t spare any more concern for the fae tonight. I had vampire problems on my mind.
I was too anxious to eat more than half my sandwich. I sorted through the mail I’d picked up at the end of the driveway, throwing most of it into the trash can. I had to fish my electric bill out after I tossed it along with a furniture-sale flyer. I opened it to check the amount. Claude had better return from Faery; he was a reckless energy user, and my bill was almost double its normal size. I wanted Claude to pay his share. My water heater was gas, and that bill was way up, too. I put the Shreveport newspaper on the kitchen table to read later. It was sure to be full of bad news.
I showered and redid my hair and makeup. It was so hot that I didn’t want to wear slacks, and shorts would not suit Eric’s sense of formality. I sighed, resigned to the inevitable. I began looking through my summer dresses. Luckily, I’d taken the time to shave my legs, a habit Eric found both fascinating and bizarre. My skin was nice and brown this far into the tanning season, and my hair was a few shades lighter and still looked good from the remedial trim the hairdresser Immanuel had given it a few weeks previously. I put on a white skirt, a bright blue sleeveless blouse, and a real broad black leather belt that had gotten too tight for Tara. My good black sandals were still in pretty fair shape. My hand paused over the drawer of my dressing table. Within it, camouflaged with a light dusting of face powder, lay a powerful fairy magical object called a cluviel dor.