The Reluctant Vampire

Chapter Eleven

"Chains," Harper barked, as Tiny went into convulsions, and the room was suddenly a hive of ac vity as the group broke off into pairs. Leonora and Alessandro threw themselves at Tiny's right leg, Edward and Dawn took his le one, Mirabeau and Anders went for the right arm, and Harper hurried around the bed to join Drina at Tiny's le arm as Teddy and Stephanie tried to squeeze their way up between the others surrounding the bed to help.

Even with two immortals to a limb, it was a struggle to get Tiny chained down. His body was thrashing wildly, jerking his limbs about. It wasn't un l Teddy gave up trying to help hold one of Tiny's legs to implement an alternate plan that they made any headway.

Harper saw the old mortal straighten and move around the people crowded around the bed. Even so, he wasn't at all prepared for the sight of the man suddenly grabbing up Stephanie, and pre y much tossing her on top of Tiny's chest. He then quickly climbed onto the bed, and dropped to sit on Tiny right next to her. The two hung on for dear life as the mountain of a man bucked and thrashed beneath them, managing to stay put and weigh him down, easing his movements long enough for the others to get the chains in place.

The moment Harper managed to get the wrist he and Drina were struggling with locked up, she reached around and grabbed up the bag of drugs she'd let drop. She quickly prepared a shot and jabbed it into Tiny's arm, pushing the plunger home. Still, it took a moment after that before Tiny's struggles eased.

"Well," Teddy sighed, mopping his brow as he climbed off of Tiny. Tucking the hankie in his pocket, he turned back and helped Stephanie off as well, muttering, "That was exciting. Like riding a wild bronco."

Harper smiled faintly at the man. "It was fast thinking on your part to sit on him."

"I couldn't see what else to do." Teddy shook his head and glanced from face to face before saying, "I suppose it's a li le late for this, but it seems to me it would have been smarter to chain him up before feeding him the blood."

Drina grimaced. "It seems cruel to chain them up before necessary, and usually you get a li le more warning than this. They don't go into it this quickly as a rule."

"Right . . . well . . ." He shook his head again and strode to the door, muttering, "I need a drink."

"She's a good kid."

Drina turned from peering at Stephanie, who had fallen asleep in a chair in the corner, and nodded at Mirabeau's words. They had decided to pide into four-hour shi s. Harper and Drina were taking the first shi with Mirabeau to watch over Tiny. Stephanie was there as well, mostly because the teenager had refused to leave. She seemed to like Tiny and had watched over him anxiously un l exhaus on had overcome her, and she'd dozed off in her chair. She'd done so about five minutes before Harper had fallen asleep in his own chair beside Drina.

Dawn, Edward, and Anders were going to take the second four-hour shi , with Anders administering the drugs Drina had been giving Tiny every twenty minutes to half an hour since the ordeal had started. Leonora, Alessandro, and Teddy were supposed to take the third shi . For that one, Leonora, who it turned out had been a nurse before re ring some twenty years ago, would take over administering the drugs.

Mirabeau was supposed to rest during the second and third shi s, but Drina suspected the woman would insist on staying by Tiny. It was what she would have done if it were her life mate lying there.

"She seems to be fond of you and Tiny," Drina murmured finally in response to Mirabeau's comment. Stephanie had brought up the other couple a lot during the last few days. It was always Beau this, and Tiny that.

"The same is true of you two," Mirabeau said quietly. "But then I think she's desperate to connect to someone. She's pretty alone right now."

Drina nodded and glanced back to the girl again.

"She has a lot of ques ons," Mirabeau murmured, drawing her a en on again. Mee ng her gaze, Mirabeau grimaced, and explained, "She doesn't really know a lot about what she is now. She only had her sister to ask, and Dani would go to Decker to get the answers and, with them being new life mates, they would invariably get distracted and never get around to answering her, so she kind of gave up asking. The only other immortal female she's had much contact with un l now was Sam, and Sam and Mortimer are new life mates too, so - "

"Sam isn't turned."

Both women paused and glanced toward Stephanie as she made that announcement, aler ng them to the fact that she was now awake.

Mirabeau peered at the girl blankly for a moment, then said, "Sure she is. Sam and Mor mer have been together since last summer. Mortimer would have turned her right away."

Stephanie shook her head and stretched. "Sam refused because she didn't want to leave her sisters behind in ten years."

When Mirabeau frowned at this news, Drina asked with amusement, "Mor mer's the head of the North American Enforcers, right?"

"Yeah, under Lucian," Mirabeau murmured.

"And you're an enforcer?" Drina asked.

Mirabeau nodded.

"So, haven't you met this Sam? I mean, if she lives at the enforcer house, and you're an enforcer, you'd have to go there quite a bit. Surely you would have met her and realized she was mortal?"

Mirabeau frowned, and it was Stephanie who answered, saying with amusement, "Beau's been avoiding the house ever since I got there. She goes straight to the garage when she has to meet with Mor mer. And Sam pre y much arrived on the scene just days in front of Dani and me, so I doubt she even met her more than once thanks to trying to avoid me."

Mirabeau looked alarmed, and quickly said, "It wasn't you, Stephanie."

"I know," Stephanie said, some of her humor slipping away. "It was just my situa on. Losing my family and all. It reminded you of losing your own, and so you tried to avoid me to avoid thinking of it."

Drina glanced to Mirabeau curiously. "You've lost your family too?"

"It was a long me ago," Mirabeau said quietly, her gaze moving back to Tiny when he s rred restlessly. She reached out and brushed her fingers along his cheek. Her touch seemed to soothe him.

"Dree's parents were killed when Rome invaded Egypt, but she has all her brothers and sisters s ll,"

Stephanie announced.

"How do you know that?" Drina asked with surprise.

"You just thought it," Stephanie said with a shrug.

Drina just stared at her. She was pre y sure she hadn't just thought that though she supposed it could have been s rred in her subconscious. S ll - recalling the accident, she asked, "You were reading Harper's mind during the accident? It's how you knew there was something wrong with the brakes?"

"I told you, I don't really read you guys. You shout your thoughts at me," she said, looking uncomfortable, and then admitted, "Except Lucian. Him I actually have to concentrate a bit to read."

"Concentrate a bit?" she queried, eyes narrowing.

"Yeah." She shrugged. "With most people, mortals and immortals alike, it's like a freaking radio playing on full volume, and I can't turn it down or shut it out. But with Lucian, I actually have to concentrate to hear what he's thinking. Anders is kind of like that too."

"Anders?" Drina asked sharply, aware that her voice had been sharper than she'd intended. Lucian was s ll rela vely new in the life-mate game, and new life mates were known to be easily read, which could explain away what Stephanie was saying. However, Anders was old and mateless. Even Mirabeau probably couldn't read him. Yet, Stephanie, who had only been an immortal for six months, could. Drina glanced to Mirabeau and saw the troubled expression on her face and knew without a doubt that it reflected her own expression.

"Well, we already knew you had mad skills when it comes to reading thoughts," Harper said mildly, apparently awoken by their discussion. His hand covered Drina's and squeezed gently in warning. Ge ng the message, she tried to blank out the worry from both her mind and expression and noted Mirabeau's suddenly clearing her own expression as well. Harper con nued, "You're a whiz at reading minds. Have you noticed any other new skills since your turn?"

"Like what?" Stephanie asked, looking uncomfortable.

"Anything that is different now that you've been turned," Harper said easily. "Some edentates have special talents other immortals don't. Maybe you're one of the gifted ones."

She bit her lip briefly, but then admi ed tenta vely, "Well, I know when life mates are around, and usually who is whose. Like I knew Dawn and Edward were mated and Alessandro and Leonora were each other's mates before you guys introduced them even though Dawn was helping Leonora in the kitchen while Alessandro and Edward set the table."

"Really?" Drina asked with amazement. "How?"

"There's this kind of electricity between them, and this energy that comes from them," she said, and then frowned and tried to explain, "The closest thing I can compare it to is what comes from cell phones and satellites and stuff. I sense these kind of . . . waves or streams of something coming from cells and satellites. It's the same kind of thing that flows between life mates. Like a million nanos are sending out text messages back and forth between them."

Frustra on crossed her face, and she said, "I don't know how to describe it any be er than that. But anyway, I knew the minute you got here, Dree, that you were Harper's because both your nanos started buzzing."

"I wonder if that's how Marguerite zeroes in on finding life mates for each other," Mirabeau said thoughtfully. "Maybe she picks up on these waves too."

"But Marguerite can find them without their being in the same room. I was in New York, and Harper was here in Canada when she decided I would suit him. She wouldn't have sensed waves between us," Drina said with a frown.

Stephanie shrugged. "Well, she probably recognized that the sounds are the same from both of you."

"Sounds?" Harper queried gently.

She looked frustrated again. "I don't know what to call it. Frequencies maybe."

"Marguerite can't be finding life mates by zeroing in on these frequencies," Mirabeau realized suddenly.

"Tiny is mortal. In fact, most of the life mates she's put with immortals have been mortal. There wouldn't yet be nanos in the mortal to communicate with."

"True," Drina murmured, then glanced to Stephanie and said, "Were you able to tell that Tiny and Mirabeau were life mates?"

She nodded.

"How?" Mirabeau asked.

"The electricity you each give off is the same."

"Electricity?" Drina asked with a frown. The girl had men oned electricity and energy earlier, but she'd thought she'd just been using two different terms to try to describe one thing.

"Yeah. Well, I call it electricity," she said with a sigh that spoke of her frustra on with not knowing the proper terms for what she was trying to explain.

Drina supposed it was like trying to explain color to a blind person. The teenager struggled to try to make them understand, though.

"It's energy too, but different than the waves thing. This energy is more physical, like a shock wave. It makes my hair stand on end on the back of my neck. It's not so bad when there's only one life-mate couple around, but tonight, with so many mated couples here in the house" -??Stephanie grimaced - "it's like my finger is stuck in a plug socket."

"That doesn't sound very pleasant," Drina said with concern.

"It isn't," she said wearily. "But then neither are all the voices in my head. It's easier when there are only a couple of you around at a me. With so many of you in the house, it's like several radio sta ons playing at the same time, all with a different talk program on. It gets maddening and exhausts me."

"You should have said something," Mirabeau said with a frown.

"Why?" Stephanie asked, almost with resentment. "It's not like you could do anything about it."

"We don't know that," Mirabeau said at once. "Maybe if you went up on the top floor, and the rest of us stayed on the main floor, it would make it better."

"She can't be left alone," Drina reminded her.

"Besides, it wouldn't ma er as long as I'm in the house with you all," Stephanie assured her. "The floors and walls don't seem to stop it, at least not inside. Although going outside helps muffle it quite a bit if you're all inside. I'm not sure why, though."

"This is an old Victorian house with connected double outer walls," Harper said quietly, and when Drina raised an eyebrow, he explained, "If you've ever looked at the bricks on the outside of the house, each row has three or four normal-sized or uniform bricks and then a small end piece, then more normal sized and another small one and so on. It's because they built an outer wall and an inner wall. The small bricks are actually ones that connect the outer wall to the inner. It made for good insula on or something . . . or perhaps just sturdier buildings. But that was how they were built when this house was erected." He shrugged, and then suggested, "The double brick, and then plaster on top of that probably creates more of a barrier for whatever Stephanie is picking up."

"I don't suppose you guys would let me just step out on the deck for a couple of minutes?" Stephanie asked hopefully. "Even a few minutes respite would help."

Drina exchanged a glance with Mirabeau and knew at once that the other hunter, like herself, wanted to say yes but just couldn't. Especially when they were on high alert. They had to consider Stephanie's safety first.

"That isn't necessary," Harper said suddenly, si ng upright in his seat. "The porch off Elvi and Victor's bedroom was an add-on some me a er the house was built. They've insulated it and put in an electric heater, but the wall between it and Elvi's room is the original double-walled construc on. It's as good as standing outside in that regard except it's heated, furnished, and has a television and music system and everything." He smiled, and explained, "Elvi and Victor spruced it up a bit to use it as their own private living room, for when they feel like getting away by themselves."

Mirabeau smiled. "Well that sounds perfect; why don't you two take Stephanie out there and watch a movie or something?" When Drina hesitated and glanced toward Tiny, Mirabeau glanced at her watch, and said, "It's only fi een minutes un l the next shi , and Tiny seems quiet enough for now. We should be fine."

Drina checked her own watch and said, "It's me for his next shot in five minutes. I'll get it ready and give it to him before we go." Standing, she glanced over her shoulder to Stephanie, and suggested, "Why don't you run down and get us some snacks or something? Maybe pick a move from the DVD collec on in the living room."

"On it!" the girl said, cheerful now, apparently at the prospect of a respite from the constant voices and energy. She stood and rushed out of the room.

Silence fell briefly in the room as Drina prepared a needle, and then Mirabeau said solemnly, "This isn't good."

"No," Harper agreed on a sigh.

Drina didn't comment. She knew what they were referring to. Stephanie's abili es. Harper had tried to sway it like they were a good thing, a special ability she'd been blessed with, but the truth was it might be a curse.

There were very few edentate in their society, most were from the me of the fall of Atlan s or shortly a er. Very few had come a erward for the simple reason that male edentates never turned mortals. If they found a mortal life mate, the council assigned an immortal the task of turning that mortal rather than create another edentate with the flawed nanos. Any offspring they then had took on the mother's blood and nanos and would be immortal as well.

The same was true for female edentates, except if they did have children, that baby would take on its mother's blood and nanos and so would be edentate.

The council hadn't outlawed edentates having children, but most refused to do so for fear of having to watch their progeny die or be killed as a mad thing. There had been a few born, but not more than a handful since the fall of Atlan s. They were rare. Between that and the length of me since the nofangers had been believed to be wiped out, li le was known about the madness that turned an edentate into the dreaded no-fanger. It was usually assumed that in a turn, the madness was evident as soon as the turn was done, that the turnee came out of it screaming mad. However, there were rumors and legends that suggested it might not be that abrupt, that they could s ll come out of the turn seemingly fine, but then shortly therea er go mad, driven there by something, though the tales had never specified what that something might be.

Drina had always disregarded the rumors as ghost stories told around a campfire, but now wondered if constantly being bombarded by people's thoughts and these energy waves and the electricity Stephanie spoke of might not be the cause. She hoped not. She liked Stephanie and wouldn't want to have to see her put down like a rabid dog.

"Lucian will have to be told," Mirabeau said quietly, when Drina didn't comment, and then added,

"Maybe he knows a way to help her."

Drina ghtened her lips and bent to give Tiny his shot. Once Lucian was told . . . If there was something he could do for her, she didn't doubt he would. But if there wasn't, she also didn't doubt that he wouldn't hesitate to put the girl down.

"She needs to be taught to block thoughts," Drina said grimly as she straightened. "Nobody has bothered because new turns usually need to be taught to read thoughts, not block them. But teaching her how to shield herself from other immortals' thoughts might help considerably. I'd rather try that first than tell Lucian just yet."

"To tell the truth, so would I," Mirabeau admi ed quietly. "But if Lucian comes down here and reads that we knew there was something amiss and didn't say anything . . ."

"I'll take responsibility for the decision," Drina announced, turning to dispose of the needle she'd just used, and then a thought suddenly struck her, and she smiled as she pointed out, "You're not technically on duty anymore anyway. Anders and I are on the job now, and you and Tiny were relieved."

"Yeah, but we've kind of been roped back in because of the brakes being cut," Mirabeau pointed out reluctantly.

Drina frowned. "Did he actually say you were back on duty? I thought he just said to get Stephanie and me back to peak and get Tiny turned because he wanted everyone prepared."

A slow smile curled Mirabeau's lips. "Actually, you're right."

"Then you're not on duty," Drina decided. "It's my problem. And I'm not telling him."

Mirabeau smiled, and then worry began to pluck at her lips. "He'll be so pissed at you."

Drina gave a short laugh. "Uncle Lucian's temper doesn't worry me. Well, not much anyway," she admi ed wryly, and then pointed out, "I work for the European council. I'm only here as a favor. He really has no jurisdiction over me."

"Nice," Mirabeau said with a grin, and then glanced to the door as it opened.

"I got popcorn and some sodas for each of us, and I picked three movies," Stephanie announced, bouncing into the room, her arms full. "An ac on flick, a horror, and a comedy. I figured we could vote on which to watch." She glanced over her shoulder as they heard footsteps on the stairs, and added, "The others are coming to relieve us. Are you two ready?"

The porch Harper had men oned was rectangular, running along the side of the house away from the road on the second story. The upper half of the three outer walls were made up mostly of windows, but there was also a heavy-duty door with a rela vely new dead bolt. It led down to the deck, and Drina vaguely recalled seeing a screen door on the outside while crossing the deck on one pass. As for the windows, they were old-fashioned, tall and narrow with wooden frames that swung open rather than raised or slid to the side as more modern windows did. Their screens had been removed for the winter season and were stacked against one wall. Seasonal caulking of some sort had been run around each window to prevent a dra from slipping through, but while the walls themselves may have been insulated, the windows were not, and it was quite chilly when she, Harper, and Stephanie stepped out into the porch.

"It warms up in here pre y quickly," Harper assured them as he moved to turn on a heavy-duty electric heater in one corner.

Drina nodded and glanced around as Stephanie dumped her cache of goodies on a coffee table between the couch that sat under the wall of windows and the television that sat opposite it against the house wall. A frown drew Drina's lips ght as she considered the vulnerabili es, and then she said, "Stephanie, go get yourself a bunch of pillows and maybe a comforter. Whatever you think you'll need to make a comfy nest on the floor. I don't want you in front of the windows."

"Okay," Stephanie said easily, either not minding the nes ng idea or not willing to cause a fuss and risk losing this opportunity to be away from the others. "I'll bring enough that you guys can join me if you like."

"I didn't think of the windows," Harper said apologe cally, glancing around at them as Stephanie slowly walked to the far end of the room, taking in what could be seen of the surrounding neighborhood. It was probably a charming view during day me, and wasn't bad at night either. However, with the lights on in the room, they were on display to anyone who cared to look up toward the windows.

"It'll be okay," Drina murmured. "We'll just make sure Stephanie keeps her head under the window ledges and maybe turn the lights out so only the television screen casts light. That's more fun for horrors anyway."

"Horrors, huh? Is that what you're vo ng for?" Harper asked by her ear, and she turned in surprise to find he'd crossed the room to join her. When he caught her by the hips and drew her to rest against him, she smiled and slid her arms around his neck.

"Actually, I like actions, comedies, and horrors in equal measure," she murmured as he nuzzled her ear.

"What about porns?"

A startled laugh slid from Drina's lips, and she pulled back to peer at him. "I'm afraid I've never seen one. They just seemed uninteresting when I hadn't bothered with sex in so long."

"I've never seen one either," he admi ed with a grin, and then his voice deepened as he added, "Except for the ones that have been playing through my head since the day you arrived in Port Henry."

"Really?" Drina asked with interest, leaning her upper body farther away, which inadvertently pressed her hips more tightly against his. "And what happens in those porns that play through your head?"

"Oh, many things, but mostly I lick, nibble, and kiss my way from your toes to the top of your head, and then turn you over and do it again," he growled, and then lowered his head to kiss her. Drina opened to him at once, her body pressing eagerly forward in response to his words. They'd sparked a heat in her that was never far from the surface anyway, and she found the image he'd created filling her mind as she ran her hands over his chest, and then down to find the growing hardness between them. Harper growled into her mouth and pressed her back against the window, his own hands moving over her body through her clothes before se ling on her breasts and squeezing almost painfully, evidence of his own excitement.

"I love your body," he mu ered, tearing his mouth from hers to explore her neck and ear, as he let one hand skate down between her legs. "You should be naked all the time."

Drina laughed breathlessly and removed her hand from his erec on to catch his hand as she reminded him. "Windows everywhere and Stephanie returning."

Harper groaned by her ear, but stilled and sagged against her.

"Besides," Drina added on a sigh, "you're just stoking a fire we can't do a damned thing about since I'll be rooming with Stephanie again tonight."

"Damn," he breathed with frustration.

"On the bright side," she added with forced cheer, "if you were to go to bed the same me as Stephanie and me, you and I might finally get to experience those shared dreams everyone talks about life mates having."

Harper pulled back suddenly to peer down at her with surprise. "How come we haven't had those yet?"

Drina smiled wryly. "Well, I'd guess because the first night I went to bed you probably didn't hit the hay ll near dawn, just before Stephanie and I woke up. And then we were together in Toronto and didn't sleep much at all other than brief faints." She paused and raised her eyebrows, before saying, "And I don't know about you, but I didn't sleep much at all last night." She frowned then, realizing that she didn't know how long she'd been out a er the accident. Twenty-four or even forty-eight hours may have passed since then, she realized, and said, "I mean, the night we got back from Toronto."

"Neither did I," Harper admi ed, and then smiled. "Shared dreams. Mmmm. That could be very interes ng. I can put you back in those sexy thigh-high boots of yours and nothing else, or maybe team them up with a maid's apron."

"A maid's apron?" she asked with disbelief.

"Mmmm." His smile turned into a leer. "A very ny French maid's apron that covers barely anything, and you can be bent over dus ng something with your beau ful tush poking up, and I can come up behind you and ravish you like some wicked lord of the manor."

Drina laughed, albeit a bit breathlessly, and shook her head. "You're an old pervert."

"Yes," Harper acknowledged without apology. "Sad but true. However, in my defense, I didn't used to be until you arrived on the scene. So it must be some naughty vibe I'm getting off you."

"Oh now, don't blame me," she said on a laugh. "You probably had just as perverted ideas in your shared dreams with Jenny."

Harper blinked, and Drina bit her lip as she realized what she'd said. Bringing up the ghost probably wasn't the best thing to do, she thought on a sigh, but rather than coming over all guilt-ridden, Harper frowned, and admitted, "I never had shared dreams with Jenny."

Drina relaxed, relieved that he wasn't turning morose on her, and shrugged. "Perhaps she wasn't sleeping close enough for you to have them."

"I don't know," Harper said slowly. "Alessandro made some comment once about the wild dreams he'd shared with Leonora while he was cour ng her, and she lives across the street. Well, they both do now,"

he added, and released her to point out the window. "The corner house there."

Drina turned to follow his poin ng finger. No ng the pre y gingerbread house, she asked, "And where did Jenny live?"

Harper turned her and urged her the length of the porch to look out over the backyard, then pointed to the right a bit to the row of buildings backing this one. There was a midsize house directly behind Casey Co age and right next to it a smaller white one, both facing onto the next road. It was the smaller one he was poin ng to. Drina stared at it. The backyard of Casey Co age was perhaps the length of two cars or a bit more, but the distance was definitely shorter than that between this house and the one across the street. With the front yards, sidewalks, and then streets, Leonora's house was a good ten or fi een feet farther away than the little white house where Jenny had apparently lived.

"Maybe not all life mates have shared dreams," she said finally, not sure what other explana on there could be.

"Okay, I got enough pillows and comforters for all of us," Stephanie announced gleefully. Drina turned toward the door and burst out laughing when she saw Stephanie stepping into the porch, dragging a large, bulging comforter apparently stuffed with pillows and other comforters behind. She'd gathered the ends and pulled them over one shoulder, but the sacklike carrier she'd made dragged on the floor behind her. She looked, for all the world, like a skinny blond Santa in jeans and a T-shirt.

"Here, let me help you with that," Drina and Harper said as one, and moved toward her.

"No, no, I got it," Stephanie assured them. "You two shove the coffee table out of the way, so we can start nest building."

Smiling at the girl's much more cheerful mood, Drina turned to help Harper shi furniture around to make room.

"So did you check out the movies?" Stephanie asked, as they finished situa ng the comforters and pillows.

Drina smiled faintly, knowing the girl probably already knew the answer. She seemed to know everything they thought and did.

"Drina voted for horror," Harper announced. "Lights-out-huddling-on-the-floor-in-the-dark horror. But we can always do that second if you have another preference. First choice should go to you since you had to fetch everything for this excursion."

"No that's good. My first choice is horror too," Stephanie said happily, grabbing the movie in ques on and opening the DVD case as she crawled over to the television and DVD on her knees.

"I'll get the lights," Drina said, hopping up and moving to the door, but then pausing to wait for Stephanie to get everything going.

"All set," Stephanie announced, finishing up, and then dropping back amid the nest they'd built. Drina flipped the light switch off and moved to join Harper and Stephanie on the floor. Stephanie had taken the near edge of the nest, leaving a spot between herself and Harper who had claimed the far end, and Drina settled into the spot, smiling when he slid his arm around her shoulders.

"It warmed up in here pre y quickly like you said, Harper," Stephanie commented, as the FBI warning rolled offscreen and the movie trailers began. She pushed away the comforter she'd automa cally pulled over herself as she spoke, and Drina glanced around, no ng that it was much warmer than when they'd first entered the room. She almost pushed the comforter aside herself, but Harper caught her hand to stop her.

When she turned to him in ques on, he merely smiled and gestured that she should look toward the screen.

"Harpernus Stoyan, if you can't behave yourself and go and turn all Roman hands and Russian fingers under that comforter, you're going to have to sit on the couch," Stephanie snapped, sounding for all the world like a stern schoolteacher.

Drina burst out laughing at Harper's exaggerated groan, suddenly understanding what he'd been up to. She then pushed the comforter aside and shi ed herself up onto the couch behind them to remove tempta on, and said, "That's okay, I'll sit up here. I had nowhere to put my soda anyway si ng between the two of you."

"Oh, I didn't think of that," Stephanie said, glancing down to the can on the floor beside her. Harper's can too sat on the floor at his side since the two were on either end of the nest, but, in the middle, Drina hadn't had anywhere to put hers and would have had to hold it through the movie. Now, however, she se led on the couch in the corner behind Stephanie, far out of Harper's reach and tempta on, and set her can on the end table beside the couch.

"Can you reach the popcorn?" Stephanie asked with concern, as Harper used the remote to skip through the commercial trailers.

"Just put it between the two of you, and I can reach down," Drina assured her. Stephanie did as she suggested, and then they all fell silent as the movie began. It started with a bang, of course, or actually an axing, and Drina rolled her eyes at the an cs on screen. Truly, she liked horrors because they were always rather comedic to her. It never failed to amaze her how mortals could paint their own kind so damned stupid. She'd lived a long me and met enough mortals to populate a small na on but had never met a female mortal she thought would be stupid enough to go creeping out into a dark yard at night, unarmed and in a skimpy nigh e, to inves gate a er hearing or seeing something there that disturbed or scared her.

And while Drina had dipped into enough male mortal minds to know that the majority of them seemed to think about sex with every fifth or sixth heartbeat, she was quite sure even they wouldn't think it clever or exci ng to drag a female away from the safety of the herd to indulge in a quicky when dismembered bodies of friends or partygoers were falling around them like snow in a Canadian winter. Seriously, at one me she had actually considered it insul ng to humans as a whole, but lately she'd started to find it an amusing reflec on of the lack of intelligence of the moviemakers. Between that and the fact that a great majority of movies today appeared to be remakes, it made her wonder how the devil they made any money at all in Hollywood.

Drina almost groaned aloud as one of the characters locked themselves in a windowless bathroom to escape the axe-wielding psycho killer who simply axed his way through the door while the girl trembled in the tub waiting to die.

Couldn't she even find something, anything, to try to hurt the guy with? Granted, perhaps not everyone kept scissors or other deadly items in their bathroom, but there was shampoo to squirt in his eyes and blind him, or even condi oner to squirt on the floor just inside the door so that the killer might slip and fall when he finally entered. That would at least give her the opportunity to race past and make a run for a smarter escape route. Surely anything was be er than just standing there wailing and squealing and wai ng to die with her boobs jiggling about? And it wasn't like she didn't have me to think while watching him slam the axe repeatedly through the door.

Shaking her head as the wailing, screeching, jiggling girl got the axe in the head, Drina reached for her drink, and then paused as mo on in the backyard caught her eye. Frowning, she squinted, trying to make out what she'd seen. From her posi on, all she could see was the very back of the yard, and she'd thought she'd seen motion out there and a brief flash of reflected light.

Stephanie gasped in horror, and Drina glanced back toward the girl to see her cuddling a pillow and watching the screen wide-eyed as another character pre y much threw himself under the axe, or into it as the case may be.

Drina glanced back out the window, briefly, but then stood and stepped over Stephanie, heading for the door.

"I'm going to the bathroom," she said quietly.

"Do you want us to pause it?" Stephanie mumbled, eyes glued to the screen.

"No, I won't be a moment," Drina said, and slipped quickly from the room.

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