Joel's face was still frozen as he slowly digested what I'd just told him. I didn't care if he thought I was horrible. Hell, from all of his comments and reactions he didn't much think of humans to start with so I had to be an entire new deal. No matter, Billy had finally gone a giant step beyond what I would or even could take, and Joel's picking up the pieces was going to come back and bite him in the ass not me for a change. Vampire or not, he hadn't done his homework in his eagerness to clean up after Babette and her sordid habit of playing with humans.
"Josie, you're just teasing me right?" His voice was still smooth as silk but I wasn't blinking.
His long white fingers had returned to the frog and distracted me by his continuous stroking of the porcelain frog on my desk while he tried to push slowly into my brain. Subtlety aside, he really wasn't getting it and being stubborn, I wasn't going to let him win. Again budgetary worries flooded my thoughts and I added in some mind numbing actuary tables and projections of potential future earnings. He whimpered a bit as he was forced to pull out of my mind. I well knew that numbers and basic mathematical equations could be frightening even to the strong of heart, add in there wasn't a calculator sitting out for him to see if I was doing real equations or random misfiring of facts and numbers. I wasn't even sure that vampires even had functioning hearts so I let that little tidbit go away while Joel tried to absorb what I'd told him.
"You really don't care if your husband is killed?" He looked pretty disturbed by this. I doubted he talked with humans much more than to say 'look deeply into my eyes -- you are getting sleepy' or junk something like that if he even had to talk. For all I knew vampires simply had their way with the victims then casually mind swiped the humans without saying a word. Not like I could exactly ask him and expect to get an honest answer.
Besides he was still puzzling through what I'd told him.
"Then why were you just giving me grief about the bills and mowing the lawn?" The vampire was confused. That's what he got for pushing me. My husband's family would happily hand over Billy's fortune without a single protest. I'd put my time in and not embarrassed them in any way. Who said blood was thicker? Obviously they didn't have someone like Billy for family. Pushing aside my petty bitchiness, I worked on trying to keep my head above water with Joel.
"I was giving you 'grief' because you came into my house, pulled out my husband, his asshole buddy and your stupid slutty vampire and acted like I should just jump up and down happy that you were here to fix it all. You simply assumed that I would even want your help. So I asked what you were willing to do. I found out that you are pretty willing to do whatever it takes to keep me quiet. Since you aren't having much luck pushing into my mind you must have figured erroneously that you needed to play me like you do Babette." I smiled and watched him wince.
Nothing I said was a lie.
"So let's go back to the whole 'vampires are chosen creatures' argument that you were trying to make. What is it that you want? I notice you haven't really asked me what I want, but simply assumed I gave a damn what you thought." My smile was laden with perfectly lovely teeth not pointed in any unusual manner. I guess he hadn't lied about my swallowing his blood not making me into a vampire. Nothing extra in the canines, yet. But then I wasn't holding my breath that he'd been telling me the whole truth. I didn't think vampires were overly burdened with scruples where humans were concerned.
However, my husband and I weren't exactly prime examples of humans with upstanding and virtuous morals either. Years of turning my head and ignoring what Billy was doing had definitely cost me something. And my husband had brought home the vampire, Babette, not the other way around -- given they were in our bed not hers. I knew Billy for what he was but even this went beyond anything I could accept. Mentally I cringed, feeling dirty for Billy's slutty behavior as if I'd ever controlled him. Babette's handler wasn't doing much better, I'd quickly figured out, but it gave me little comfort. I wasn't able to cleverly hide my stupidity and weakness. Instead I was dragged into further mysteries and vampires. I didn't even want to ask if my day could get much worse.
Small consolation -- it seemed that being a vampire didn't stop stupidity. I was coming to the conclusion that becoming a creature of the night didn't increase their brainpower nor did it automatically help them learn more about the living. That pleasantly surprised me, while Joel was busy trying to figure what answer wouldn't piss me off anymore. I guess years of being around walking the decades hadn't clued him in past the basics of how currently we women acted. I had the feeling last time he was a living breathing human that women were playing at being subservient and respectful. Oops, I guess his subscription to Cosmo hadn't arrived.
"Josie, you aren't fully informed." He tried to grab my mind. I guess I'd overestimated his understanding. He didn't get me at all. Vampire or not he was still an obnoxious pushy male. They all started off assuming things not asking.
"No, you really aren't hearing me." I was speaking softly while envisioning his being stranded on a sharp stake in the noonday sun -- no matter how good-looking he was.
He stopped and dipped his head. I didn't get it for a minute, then I clued in that he was saying sorry in his old-fashioned way. I guess some gestures were unconsciously registered from movies in my brain because I knew that he meant sorry by that, yet couldn't say how I was so sure of it. I wasn't exactly around the posh set that had much in the way of manners other than the barely civilized behavior I needed to use while interacting in the general office workforce. Billy's family was rich but not society climbing sorts. So all I had to go on was work related civility. And the common steps of sucking up for dollars was an age-old work dance that everyone knew, and from what I knew it didn't really have any flashy hip checks or bounces for apologizing that required head dipping. Coffee, chocolate and doughnuts were pretty much the accepted behavior for 'sorry' in my staff's complex office political shuffle.
"I am sorry." He spoke aloud. I think some of the work rant running around in my brain must have been overheard by the vampire as he continued with, "Josie, we need to figure out what is happening and fix it."
Joel was shooting me his own personal set of puppy dog eyes. Their bright blue shades weren't as warm and fuzzy as Billy's eyes; besides, I wasn't buying that act anymore. But I did find it mildly amusing that he felt like he had to try to persuade me to his viewpoint. The logical part of me was very sharply aware that he was perfectly capable of killing me to keep me quiet for nothing more than kicks and giggles.
The stupid part of me was still mourning the loss of Billy in a disturbingly small way. I wasn't under any illusions that I'd see my hubby in any normal manner any time soon -- if ever again. But the years of being his one and only tugged at my heart until I deliberately forced myself to recall how many times I hadn't been the only in his world. And as for Billy's best booze buddy, I hoped Oliver was being pulled apart bit by horny bit. I knew it was his 'nature' but didn't much care. Oliver was not my concern in the least.
Of course, I was not able to keep the edge of my anger at Billy. Surprisingly I had found a sweet memory of him bringing me home dozens of red roses and scattering the petals on our sheets then dropping me onto the bed and whipping me into a sexual frenzy. And that time he used freshly whipped cream and made meringue peaks all over me while telling me I was his favorite decadent dessert with or without toppings. Briskly I shook my head trying to keep from caring and then I noticed the look on Joel's face.
His eyes were half shut and his lips softly parted revealing just a hint of fangs. Instinctively I knew that he was serenely drunk on my thoughts as he murmured and blinked while somewhat slurring his words, "Damn, no wonder Babette wanted to break Billy. That sort of devotion is hard to find in humans." I heard his unspoken 'mere humans'. I was just some mental voyeuristic treat for Joel, I gathered. I wasn't sure whose devotion he was talking about -- Billy's or mine. I squirmed inside at the idea I just fed the vampire unintentionally. I always knew it was bad to feed strays and vampires seemed to fall right in with that category.
"Tell me something I don't know," I said to break the tension.
Yet all I really wanted to do was to club him senseless with a stick then stake him for knowing what I'd lost. It wasn't his even his fault, but that didn't stop me from my bitter thoughts. My stomach churned and I bit my lower lip. Catching myself I sighed. If I kept nipping at my own lip he'd have blood to feed on, not my stray memories. I figured out quickly that neither action was going to end well.
"That all isn't what it seems," he replied.
"You said, 'Tell me something I don't know' so I did." He was smug. His clever wordplay was pissing me off and I found that my anger was quickly whipping up to battle the situation. It'd been a long day already and this wasn't helping any.
"Well, I already know the expression 'that all isn't what it seems', that's a big no duh. So get over yourself, fang face. You really aren't doing much in the way of impressing me much less convincing me that vampires are in any way any different from the typical garden variety of stupid ass humans I deal with daily." I was weary of all the pointless talk both inside my head and out. And I was getting worried that somehow I was still feeding Joel with my thoughts and emotions.
"Babette really has worked you all hasn't she?" I said picking at that thread of conversation.
I found the whole thing insane. Vampires were real and as screwed up as their prey. Dramas that played out in the human world also went on in the vampire domain with some minor twists -- but nevertheless they weren't superior in any way as far as I could tell. They weren't some magical creatures, I had decided over the course of the day, they just were longer lived and really into warm human-derived red liquids.
"We are more than human. We are above you all." He was sounding a tad defensive and whiny I thought, but then he was still reading me I was pretty sure. Oh well, I asked for it. My attempt to seize on complicated work spreadsheets was definitely failing. I was still thinking how damn sexy he was. I blamed it on vampire mystique and pushed those lustful thoughts deeper.
"Humans desire to be us. Not simply like us -- but one of us. I know this because time and time again I have seen the craving in their faces and how much they want it. Over the decades I have seen that they will do anything for the chance to be changed. They beg us vampires and offer the most delightful things. Worship and money the least of what's freely given. Besides, you know that Billy wants to be one of us -- an immortal and vastly superior vampire. You've heard him and know this is true." Yep, there it was. His big argument for how that made him somehow special.
"Well, gee, Joel, I hate to burst your little bubble but what Billy wants doesn't much concern me now." I was pretty sure I could keep that feeling strong in my heart. Joel really thought he was all that and a slice of cheese -- like being a vampire was worth all of the tradeoffs. He was pretty arrogant but then Billy had been also. But all I had to do was remember how at home Babette had been in my bed, pretty much naked and with my husband dancing attendance on her. Yeah, that was good. Ignoring the glow of sexuality Joel was radiating I concentrated on my feelings when seeing Babette in my bed. The ripple of anger and disgust rolled over my skin and I waited.