The Reluctant Vampire

Chapter Thirteen

Drina closed the bathroom door behind her with a kick of her heel, set the bags of soap, tomato juice, and vinegar on the bathroom counter, and then turned to the tub, only to pause with a frown. Was she supposed to just pour all this stuff in the tub, or was she supposed to add water or what? She hadn't a clue. She needed the instructions.

Clucking with irrita on, Drina turned back to the door, annoyed with herself because she was about to ruin a damned fine exit by having to scurry back and beg for the instruc ons. Mu ering under her breath, she pulled the door open and found Harper there, hand upraised as if he'd been about to knock. Smiling crookedly, he lowered the knocking hand and raised the other, revealing the instructions.

"Thank you," Drina breathed, taking the sheet of paper with a relief that was not propor onal to the moment. She knew then that her exhaus on was definitely making her overemo onal. She'd sat on that stool all night, nodding off a me or two from sheer exhaus on, but only for a second each me before her swaying body had brought her abruptly back awake.

"Do you want some help?" Harper asked quickly when she started to close the door. Drina paused in surprise, and then smiled wryly at his pained expression and shook her head. "Thank you for offering. It's very sweet, but I know I smell like the worst backed-up drainage system ever and wouldn't even inflict this on Anders."

"I came prepared," he said quickly, bringing her to a halt again. This me the door was almost closed, and she had to pull it back open. When she peered at him quizzically, Harper opened the hand he'd had fisted to knock, revealing a clothespin resting in his palm.

Drina released a startled laugh and shook her head. "You - "

Her words caught in her throat when he suddenly covered her mouth with his. Li ing it a moment later, Harper said gently, "I believe the expression is for be er or worse. Besides, in a few minutes, it will be all better and no worse."

She chuckled at the way he wiggled one eyebrow lasciviously and backed into the bathroom to let him in.

"All right. You can read the instructions to me."

Drina handed him back the instruc ons a er a quick glance at the first one. She then moved to the tub to put in the stopper.

"Take off the clothes you're wearing," Harper read out as she straightened. He then caught the back of her sheet and whipped it away.

Drina gasped, and then turned to prop her fists on her naked hips and give him a feigned scowl. "I read the first instructions. It said take off the clothes you were wearing when sprayed."

"True, but you can't bathe in the sheet anyway, so I thought I'd be helpful," he said, his eyes apprecia ng her pose and nakedness.

Drina snorted at the claim, and then grinned with amusement when he glanced around, closed the toilet seat, and sat on it, then a ached the clothespin to his nose, pinching it closed, as he considered the seat, and sat on it, then a ached the clothespin to his nose, pinching it closed, as he considered the instructions again.

"Fill a tub with water and get in," he read, his voice now nasal.

Chuckling, she turned back to the tub and turned the taps on full. Drina then glanced over her shoulder to catch him eyeing her derriere in a manner that probably wouldn't go under the lis ng of "helpful."

Shaking her head, she asked, "What do I put in first? The tomato juice or - ?"

"Neither," he interrupted, managing to tear his gaze from her derriere and back to the sheet. "It says to wash first with just soap and water, that sometimes if you only got a light spray, it's enough."

"My spraying wasn't light," she said dryly. It had been a nice hard steady stream. The li le beast had probably been saving up all winter to douse someone. Lucky her for being the recipient. "And Teddy said a bath wouldn't help by itself, or I would have done it last night."

"I'm just reading the instructions," he said with an apologetic shrug.

"Right," Drina mu ered. The tub was only half-full, but she stepped into it and sat down anyway. While the water con nued to run, she picked up the bar of soap on the side of the tub, dunked it in the water, and began to lather it up and apply it to herself.

Harper said something she couldn't hear over the sound of the rushing water. Busy lathering her chest and neck, Drina simply lifted one foot out of the water and used her toes to turn off the tap before turning to him to ask, "What was that?"

He was staring rather blankly at the taps.

"Harper?" she asked with a frown.

"You turned it off with your toes," he muttered.

"Yes," Drina said, and lted her head uncertainly. She'd done it automa cally and hadn't realized it was odd, but his expression was . . . well, she wasn't sure what his expression was. His eyes were wide though, and he was now staring at her feet at the end of the tub with a sort of fascination.

"What talented li le feet you have," he murmured finally, his gaze shi ing back to her face. "What else can you do with them?"

Drina opened her mouth, closed it, and then narrowed her eyes. "Are you having another one of your perverted little fantasies like the maid apron and boots?"

"Uh-huh." Harper nodded, his eyes sliding over her naked breasts above the water. Drina chuckled and turned to begin soaping herself again, saying nonchalantly, "I can do all sorts of things with my toes and feet."

Harper released a li le sigh and set the instruc on sheet on the side of the sink, then slid to his knees beside the tub and reached for the soap. "Let me help soap you up."

"No way." She laughed, holding the soap out of his reach. "Back on the toilet, mister. You can help later, when I smell better."

He sighed but did as instructed and simply watched silently as she soaped every inch of her skin, and then rinsed it away.

"I haven't been able to smell for hours now," Drina said on a sigh as she sniffed at her arm. "But I don't think it worked."

Harper caught her hand and pulled it to his nose for a sniff, then bit his lip and shook his head.

"Right," she mu ered, pulling the plug on the water and standing up as the tub began to drain. "So what's the next step?"

"Wash with carbolic soap," he read, and stood to search the bags on the counter for the item in question. Drina glanced impa ently down at the half-drained water, and reached to turn on the shower. It didn't make sense to wash the smell away and then sit in the smelly water full of stuff you just soaped off. She would shower this time.

"No fair," Harper complained when she pulled the tub's shower curtain closed a er taking the soap he handed her.

Drina chuckled but simply con nued with her plan, standing outside the spray of water to thoroughly soap herself up, and then moving under it to rinse herself.

"Now?" she asked a few moments later, jerking the curtain open enough to s ck her hand out for inspection.

He sniffed and then shook his head apologetically. "Better, but . . ."

Drina sighed and turned off the shower. "Next?"

"Fill a bucket with equal parts water and vinegar and use a rag to wash yourself with the mixture. Scrub hard, but not to the point of pain," Harper read, and then glanced around with a frown. "We don't have a bucket."

"Look under the sink," she suggested.

He opened one of the cupboard doors and made a sound of triumph. "A cleaning bucket."

"Good enough," Drina decided, stepping out of the tub and using the ruined sheet to dry herself while Harper quickly rinsed the bucket, dumped a large bo le of vinegar in, then refilled the vinegar bo le with warm water and added that as well.

He reached under the sink again then, and sorted through a stack of washcloths before se ling on the ra est of the bunch, which wasn't truly very ra y. He dropped it in the water and glanced to her. "Shall I

- ?"

"Sit," she said firmly, urging him aside. Drina then began to clean herself with the pungent solu on, first dunking her hair in the pail, wringing it out as thoroughly as she could, and then scrubbing at her face and working her way down. She was aware of Harper's fascinated eyes watching every move and just couldn't resist playing it up a bit, moving the cloth over her breasts more lovingly, and then se ng her foot on the toilet seat between his thighs to wash one leg, leaving herself open to his view as she did. Really, she hadn't got sprayed on the legs and this wasn't necessary at all, but Drina thought the smell was finally beginning to recede, she was feeling be er, and really it was fun, she acknowledged to herself as she switched feet on the toilet seat, giving him the same open view from a different angle. This time she washed everything.

"I think it's star ng to work," Harper growled, his hands reaching for her, and Drina immediately jumped back.

"Starting is good, but I want it gone," she said firmly. "What's next?"

Harper stared mournfully at the crux of her thighs for a moment, and then turned back to the sheet of instruc ons. "Pour the tomato juice all over your body and wash yourself with it as well, scrubbing again." He glanced up. "It's the last step. A er that it's wash with soap and water again, probably to remove the tomato juice."

He set the sheet down and stood to move past her to the bags on the counter. "Get in the tub, and I'll pour the juice over you."

Drina stepped into the tub. She then bent to put the stopper back in to keep the fluid in the tub in case he missed a spot pouring it on her, like under her chin, or her ears or - good Lord - just anywhere the spray may have gotten.

"Head up, eyes closed," Harper ordered, when she straightened and turned back. Drina did as instructed and gasped as cool liquid poured over her head and face and splashed down over her, then blinked her eyes open in surprise when his hands were suddenly moving over her breasts.

"It missed a couple spots as it poured over you," he explained huskily, moving the cool red liquid around and over her breasts . . . repeatedly, first with his hands, and then with the cloth. Drina bit her lip and clenched her fists to keep from reaching for him as Harper spent what seemed an endless amount of me, and half the jugs of tomato juice Anders had purchased, ensuring her breasts were spray free.

Her toes were curling in the red liquid now pooling in the tub, when he finally said, "Turn."

Drina turned her back to him, and sucked in a breath as the cool liquid poured over her head and back. He again used his hands to direct the tomato juice around, this me paying special a en on to her behind. His fingers sliding over the curves, under the curves, and then dipping briefly between her legs, making her brace her hands on the cold les to keep her balance as she gasped, "I'm pre y sure I didn't get sprayed there."

"Yes, but you were si ng in the first batch of tub water when you cleaned the surface stuff away, and it may have go en everywhere. Best to do a thorough job," he said, sounding cheerful and a bit breathless himself. His fingers slipped away as he turned to switch the empty jug for a fresh one, and then he repeated the process, once again ending between her legs.

Drina bit her lip as his fingers ran over her, sure Harper was punishing her for her earlier teasing when she'd been using the water-and-vinegar solu on. On a bright note, though, as her life mate, she knew he was punishing himself as well since he too was experiencing the excitement he was stirring in her.

"Last bottle." Harper's voice was gravelly now, but she was amazed he could speak at all. She didn't think she could, and then the cool liquid was pouring over her for the last me, li le red rivulets running over her shoulders and down her arms.

This me Harper didn't waste me moving the liquid over her derriere but immediately slid his free hand between her legs as he poured. Drina curled her fingers against the le surround of the tub and moaned. When the bo le was empty, and he retrieved his hand to turn and set the jug on the counter with the others, she turned and leaned weakly back against the cool les, glad to s ll be on her feet. She'd begun to worry her shaking legs would collapse under her by the end.

Harper turned back and eyed her, then stepped to the edge of the tub, caught her arm, and pulled her forward for a kiss that did li le to se le her excitement. His hands moved over her briefly as he thrust his tongue into her mouth, and then he broke the kiss and stepped back to begin removing his T-shirt.

"Going to scrub my back?" she asked huskily, sinking back against the le again as the T-shirt hit the floor.

"Your back, your front, your top, your bo om, and everything in between," he assured her, and reached for the waist of his joggers, only to pause as a knock sounded at the door.

"Drina?" Stephanie's voice called. "I'm sorry to bother you guys, but this is the only bathroom, and I really have to go."

Drina bit her lip as Harper closed his eyes on a sigh.

"You don't have to get out of the tub, Dree," Stephanie added now. "Just pull the shower curtain closed if you want. I don't mind. But I really, really have to go."

"One second, Steffie," Drina said finally when Harper bent to retrieve his T-shirt and quickly pulled it back on. He leaned forward then to kiss her again, a quick, hard one, and then tugged the shower curtain closed and turned to open the bathroom door.

"Sorry, Stephanie. Go right ahead," Harper said as he slid from the room.

Drina sat down in the tub with a li le thump, grateful to get off her shaking legs. She heard Stephanie enter and a rustle as the girl announced, "Teddy sent up some joggers and a T-shirt for you. I'm pu ng them on the counter."

"Thank you," Drina murmured, picking up the washcloth. She soaked it in the tomato juice in the tub and began to scrub herself as her nerve endings slowly began to calm.

"The tomato juice and stuff must have worked. It only smells a li le in here now, and I think that's from the sheet." Stephanie's words were accompanied by a rustling Drina supposed was the girl preparing to


"Yes, I think it worked. I can actually smell the tomato juice now, and I haven't been able to smell anything for hours," Drina said.

"Lucian s ll hasn't called Anders back," Stephanie announced, and Drina suspected the girl was just talking to try to hide the sounds as she relieved herself. "You don't think Lucian will make us go back to Toronto now that Casey Cottage is temporarily uninhabitable, do you?"

Drina heard the worry in the girl's voice and frowned, but the sugges on worried her as well. It would be harder to hide Stephanie's abili es - and trouble handling them - from Lucian if they were in Toronto . . . and Drina was worried about what he would do. She wanted to help the girl learn to block the voices and perhaps deal with the electricity and energy she claimed to feel around life mates, and had spent a good por on of her night in the kitchen considering how to do that. The problem was that it was the complete opposite of what new turns usually needed to learn, and she had no idea how to go about it. Realizing she shouldn't be thinking about this with the girl so close, Drina pushed the thought from her head, and said, "I don't know, swee e. But if so, I'll be with you. Don't worry. And it would probably only be temporary until Casey Cottage was habitable again."

"Right," Stephanie murmured. She was silent for a minute, and then said, "Sorry to interrupt your bath."

"You aren't interrupting," Drina said with amusement, scrubbing the tomato-soaked cloth over her leg.

"Yeah, but I mean, you probably want your privacy and stuff."

Drina chuckled at the sugges on. "Steffie, when I was young in Egypt, servants would help me with my bath. They would pour water over me and so on. And in Spain, I always had a maid who helped me bathe. Well, until that went out of fashion. I am not bothered by your being here."

"Really?" Stephanie asked curiously. "Did they have soap in Egypt?"

"Not the hard bars used today. Ours was a cream made up of lime, oil, and perfume."

"That sounds nice." Stephanie sighed. There was a rustle, and then the flushing of the toilet, followed by the squeak of the taps being turned.

Teddy needed some oil on that, Drina thought absently as she continued scrubbing.

"Well, I guess I'll go back downstairs," Stephanie announced, turning off the taps. "Do you want to play cards or something when you come down?"

"Sure," she said easily. "I'll be down in a minute."

"Okay." Drina heard the bathroom door open and thought Stephanie was leaving, but she suddenly said,

"Oh, I forgot, Teddy went out to pick up sandwich fixings before heading to the police station. I was going to make myself a Kitchen Sink sandwich. Do you want me to make you one too?"

Drina stilled and asked uncertainly, "What is a Kitchen Sink sandwich?"

Stephanie chuckled. "That's what my dad calls them because it includes everything but the kitchen sink. It's tomatoes, le uce, onions, radishes, green peppers, cucumber, cheese, mayo, Italian dressing, and ham or whatever. It's basically like a sub sandwich, but on bread."

Drina was actually salivating by the end of that long list of ingredients. "That sounds delicious."

"Oh, it is," Stephanie assured her on a laugh. "So you want one?"

"Yes, please."

"Okay, see you soon."

The door closed, and Drina promptly unplugged the stopper and switched the shower on. She was suddenly in a hurry to get downstairs and try this Kitchen Sink sandwich.

"I hear that Lucian finally called."

Drina glanced up from her cards and smiled at Teddy as he se led at the table with his plate of pork chops, potatoes, and salad. Leonora had made dinner tonight with Drina, Harper and Stephanie basically ge ng in her way as they tried to help. Everyone else had eaten two hours ago, but Teddy had just go en home. She suspected the poor man had worked late to avoid coming home to his presently overcrowded house. She couldn't blame him.

"Yes, he called just before we sat down for dinner," she said finally, and then smiled apologe cally.

"Lucian's going to make arrangements, and then call back. I'm not sure what's going to happen." She discarded so that Harper could take his turn, and then added, "Tiny should be waking up soon. He's calmed considerably and hasn't needed to be drugged for the last couple of hours. That usually means they're through the worst of it."

Teddy nodded as he started to eat.

"Does that mean Leonora, Dawn, Alessandro, and Edward will go home soon?" Stephanie asked, reaching for a card when Harper finished and discarded.

"Yes," Drina said, and then added wryly, "In fact, I suspect they'll leave the minute Tiny opens his eyes."

"Oh," Stephanie murmured, but Drina could see the relief on her face and knew it was for two reasons. One, while everyone was being really considerate, they were all exhausted, the house was just too small, and they were ge ng on each other's nerves. On top of that, though, she knew Stephanie would be relieved to have four less life mates in the house. Drina and Harper had been playing cards and board games with the girl all day to try to distract her, but she didn't think it had helped much. It would have been nice if they'd been able to take her out to Wal-Mart or a restaurant or something to give her a break from the energy and voices bombarding her, but all the vehicles were s ll back at the house, and Teddy had been at work. They'd been stranded here in his house in the country, which might be for the best un l they sorted out who was behind the a acks. They were guessing Leonius, and Teddy and his deputy had been asking around about any sigh ngs of strangers in town, but no one had seen anyone fi ng his description.

"Teddy, I think I'm going to have to make another run to the blood bank," Leonora said, entering the dining room. "As a new turn, Tiny will need a lot for a while, and Stephanie's s ll growing, so she needs a lot as well. I don't want them running low after we leave."

Teddy glanced around with a frown. "How is the supply holding out? Do we need to hold a blood drive?"

Leonora considered briefly, and then shook her head. "No, we should be fine. Well, so long as there aren't any more incidents, we should be fine."

Teddy nodded and glanced back to his plate, then pushed it away with a sigh. "I'll take you now and warm this up when we get back."

"It's a er eight o'clock, Teddy," Harper said quietly. "Finish your dinner, I'll take her." Harper stood, then paused, and frowned. "I forgot, I don't have - "

"Use my car," Teddy interrupted, withdrawing keys from his pocket. "You'd best use my boots and coat too."

"Thanks." Harper grabbed the keys, then glanced to Drina before asking him, "You don't happen to have an extra pair of boots and another coat Drina can borrow, do you?"

"In the closet," Teddy answered, pulling his plate back in front of himself.

"Can I come too?" Stephanie asked, as Drina stood to join Harper.

"Only got the one extra coat," Teddy announced around a mouthful of pork chop.

"It's probably better you stay here anyway," Drina said apologetically. "We'll be right back."

Stephanie looked so despondent that Drina asked, "Is there anything you want us to get while we're out?

We could stop at a store on the way back."

"Chocolate," Stephanie announced at once. "And Coke. And maybe you could stop at the house and pick up my coat on the way back?"

"Good thinking," Harper said as he led Drina out to the front hall and the closet beside the front door. He handed Drina a coat and pair of boots, then pulled out the same for himself. "We can pick up our coats and boots too while there and stop borrowing Teddy's."

"And you can drop me off so I can collect the SUV," Anders announced, jogging lightly down the stairs behind them, already in coat and boots.

"Also good thinking," Drina decided, as the other hunter moved past where they were donning their gear and slid out the front door. It would be be er not to be dependent on Teddy for transport. The man had enough responsibilities in this town and didn't need them being any more of a burden than necessary.

"Maybe we should pick up my car, too," Harper murmured, apparently thinking along the same lines.

"Your car is toast." Drina reminded him quietly of their accident.

"Oh, right." He frowned, and then said, "Well, Victor said I could borrow his car while they were gone if I needed it. We could pick that up."

"That's probably a good idea," Leonora commented as she stepped into the entry to take her coat from the closet. "We could go to the house first. I can drop you two and Anders off there, and go on to the blood bank alone. Then you'd just have to stop at the store on the way back to get Stephanie her treats."

Harper immediately stuck his head into the dining room, and asked, "Would you mind if Leonora drove your car, Teddy?"

"Nope. She's had her license longer than I've been alive," he said easily. "I was only going to drive with her so she didn't have to go alone. But if she doesn't mind . . ." He shrugged.

"She will no be alone," Alessandro announced, coming down the stairs to catch the conversa on. "I too will go."

"Sounds like a plan," Harper said wryly, quickly pulling on his coat and dragging on his boots. When Drina straightened from comple ng the same task, he took her arm and urged her around Alessandro and Leonora toward the door. "We'll go heat up the car and give you two some room to get your stuff on."

He didn't wait for a response but urged Drina outside. She stomped out onto a small porch, her feet sliding about in the overlarge but warm boots. The coat was too big as well, but also did the job, protecting her from the cold night.

Harper kept a hand on her arm as they descended the stairs and headed for the driveway in front of the house. Watching her tramp forward through the snow, he asked with concern, "Are you going to be all right in those?"

Drina grimaced as his hand ghtened on her arm, preven ng her from falling when her feet slipped about inside the boots, and the boots slid on the slippery snow. "For now. But tomorrow I think I will have to visit Wal-Mart again."

Harper nodded, and then said, "I suppose Stephanie won't be able to come?"

"I'm not sure," she said on a sigh. "I'd think Lucian would want her restricted to the house a er these attacks, but since the last one took place in the house . . ." She shrugged unhappily.

"Yeah," Harper murmured, then they both glanced toward the house as the front door opened and Leonora and Alessandro came out. Harper whistled, and when Alessandro stopped and glanced his way, he tossed them the car keys, saying one of them may as well drive since they were essen ally just dropping everyone off.

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