partially made of wood.
But this was no Pinocchio. This was a vampire like the world had never seen.
Even though Penny Dredful had become a millionaire by managing talented Leaguers, including her biggest star, Rachel Capilarus, the Dredfuls had stayed in their duplex apartment in the lower half of a West Village town house. The mom in Penny was trying to keep it real for Portia by remaining in their modest home.
In the living room, Morning and Portia lounged on the couch, watching the first airing of the newest
episode. Morning had his Out Day card and present for Portia in his backpack, but he wasn’t producing them until he had her full attention. At the moment, Portia was like a surge protector feeding energy to various devices. There was the TV, and she was on her iPhone, texting to Cody, who was at home, editing the footage they had gotten that day.
This second distraction irritated Morning. Talking on her cell while on a date was bad enough, but texting was worse because it robbed him of at least one side of thedialogue. He figured this might be intentional on her part if they were texting about the footage of him being a jerk and implying that Penny was gouging vampires.
The third device connected to Portia was Morning. He had a leg draped over hers. It was all he could get, seeing how her hands and eyes were otherwise engaged. If her multitasking hadn’t been so vexing, he might have found the situation amusing. He was watching
because it was one of the things they did together, but she was watching her iPhone more than the show, which was turning him into her designated TV watcher. He rehearsed his exit line for later.
Thanks for letting me come over and watch you text
. Like he had the fangs to say as much. No, he was just going to slump on the couch, feign interest in the show, and bide his time until he could blow his EB away with his card and gift.
In California, a carpet of stars stretched over the desert. The only earthly light was the flickering neon of the ca-ne FILLING SALOON . It was the lone sign of life in a cluster of buildings that was three people short of a ghost town. The Ca-Ne Filling Saloon got its name from straddling the California-Nevada border and being both gas station and bar. Its one entrance led on the right to the gas station office and on the left to the garage bay, which had been converted to a saloon.
The man who walked into the Ca-Ne was tall and lean, with a cowboy hat and the dusty duds familiar to the desert rats of these parts. Even the man’s coppery skin wasn’t that unusual in the desert, but to have coppery skin that was smooth and grained like a greasewood bench
The bartender held his tongue upon noticing his customer’s physical oddity. It wasn’t a man’s place to talk about another man’s looks in this part of the world. And since he was the only customer the barkeep had seen all day, he wasn’t going to blow a bar tab by saying something stupid like
Don’t worry, Pinocchio, soon as we get a couple cold ones in ya, you’ll turn into a real boy
Before the bartender could say howdy, the man spied someone by the back wall of the bar. He crouched in a flash and almost sprang at the stranger on the other side of the bar, but seeing the threatening stranger crouch in the exact same motion, he realized the threat was actually his reflection in a mirror.
“Whoa there,” the bartender drawled, “you’re wound kinda tight.”
The man said nothing as he scanned his odd reflection. It was him, but different. His hair was darker, curlier. His face was thinner, his nose more pronounced. Stranger still were the lines streaking his face. He’d never had lines before; he’d become a vampire in his twenties. And his once pale skin was the color of a copper pot.
The bartender tried again. “Everything all right there, pardner?”
The vampire parted company with his reflection and moved down the bar. “Yeah, I
V. Vaughn, Mating Season Collection