The Reluctant Vampire

Chapter Three

Harper stepped through Wal-Mart's sliding doors, and then paused as Stephanie sped past him to pull a cart from a small collec on of them wai ng directly ahead. Shi ing uncomfortably, he glanced around, his gaze barely touching on Drina before it slipped away. "I can probably find something to entertain myself with in the video department if you girls would rather shop without me trailing you around."

"Oh, no," Stephanie protested. "It won't be as much fun without you, Harper. Besides, a guy's opinion is always vital when it comes to fashion."

"Vital, huh?" he said with a faint smile.

"Very vital. My dad always said no woman can tell another woman what looks best on her, only a man can," she assured him. "And Drina and I want to look our best in case we run into some hunky guys when she takes me to lunch."

"Lunch?" he asked with a frown.

"Oh." Stephanie frowned. "Well, she promised we'd go to lunch a er shopping, but that was when we were going by ourselves. I suppose that's out now," she added, her head lowering with disappointment.

"I'll take you both to lunch," Harper said quickly when her lower lip began to tremble.

"Really?" Stephanie brightened at once. Beaming happily, she gave him a hug. "Thank you, Harper. Here, you can push the cart while Drina and I throw clothes in. It will give you something to do. Come on, Drina. I need scads of clothes."

"Hmm," Harper mu ered, taking her place at the cart when she danced out in front of it to lead the way. He had the dis nct impression he'd been played here, an impression that only solidified when Drina chuckled "sucker" in a soft voice as she followed Stephanie into the aisles. Harper shook his head and followed the pair, sighing when he realized his eyes had seemed to fasten on Drina's behind and appeared unwilling to leave it. It was Stephanie's fault. That business about being naked and sweaty with Drina, ge ng it on, and her crawling in his lap, her breasts jiggling . . . Would he want to plunge his fangs into her? The girl's words had painted a picture in his head of the two of them entwined on the sheets of his bed, Drina straddling his lap facing him and his plunging more than just his fangs into her. It had been a rather invigora ng image that had le him hot, flushed, flustered, breathless, and damnably excited. And hell yes, he'd have wanted to sink his fangs in her, as well as other things. The thought had so startled Harper that he hadn't been able to get out of the car, and away from the image, fast enough. Unfortunately, the image was following him.

He supposed it didn't help that he'd accidentally seen just how round and full those jiggling breasts would be if she were to crawl naked into his lap. The image of her on her hands and knees on the snowy driveway, top gaping and revealing her lovely curves, now flashed into his mind again. Sighing, Harper forced his eyes from Drina's behind and up to her face with some effort as she paused to examine some item of clothing they'd approached. From the glimpse he'd got of her face in the rearview mirror, Drina hadn't looked nearly as affected by the image Stephanie had painted of them as he had. If anything, her expression as she'd peered toward Stephanie had been rather confused, though he wasn't sure why.

"What do you think, Harper?"

Blinking, he shi ed his a en on to Stephanie and raised an eyebrow uncertainly. "What do I think of what?"

"Of these," Stephanie said with a laugh, and held a pair of panties in front of Drina's groin. They were red silk with black lace trimming. "Do you think men would find her a rac ve in these? There's a matching bra too." She held that up in front of Drina's breasts next and peered at the effect with a lted head. "I think they're gorgeous, but Drina says the material of the bra is too flimsy and her nipples would show through when it's cold. Do men mind nipple bumps?"

"I - " Harper stared, his mind suddenly on hiatus as he imagined Drina in the ou it, her nipples erect and pressing the material outward. "Don't - "

"See, he said 'I don't.' I told you men don't mind nipple bumps," Stephanie said with a laugh, and tossed the bra and panties into the cart.

Harper stared helplessly at the scraps of material and shook his head. He hadn't meant he didn't mind nipple bumps. Hell, he wasn't sure what he'd meant. Please don't do this to me, maybe. The girl was . . . well, he didn't know what to think of Stephanie. She had been quiet and sad-looking when she'd first arrived in Port Henry, but had blossomed a bit under Elvi's and Mabel's a en on before they'd le . However, she appeared to have really come out of her shell with Drina's arrival and was being rather precocious. He didn't think she had a clue how her sugges ons and words were affec ng him, though. No doubt she was young enough that she really thought a man could just look at this stuff without it affecting him, but -

His gaze shot to Drina, and he wondered what she was making of all this. He'd been too busy looking at the material in front of her and imagining it on her body, to even take in her expression this me. Though he had a vague sense that she'd seemed embarrassed by the girl's behavior. She appeared unconcerned now, though, completely oblivious of his presence, her expression serene as Stephanie held up a black and red bustier in front of her. A bustier, for Christ's sake!

"You're so lucky to have the body to wear this stuff." Stephanie was sighing as he tuned in to what she was saying. "You have lovely breasts. I no ced when you were changing your clothes last night. I hope I have breasts like yours when I finish growing. They're full and round, just like those girls in the screamer movies."

"Dear God," Harper mu ered, forcing his eyes and ears away from the pair as his mind again filled with the image of Drina's full, round breasts in the white lace.

Was this how females talked when alone together? Commen ng on breasts and stuff as they stripped in front of each other? And if it was . . . well, that was one thing. But he wasn't a girl, and yet neither seemed troubled about having the discussion in front of him. What the hell did that say?

He supposed it said neither of them were thinking of him as a sexual male, and he guessed that was as it should be. Stephanie was too young to think of any male that way . . . he hoped. And it wasn't like Drina was his life mate. The woman was old enough she probably didn't bother much with sex despite Stephanie's efforts to gussy her up like a tart and send her out on the prowl for "hunky guys."

Harper was more than relieved when the women finished in the lingerie department and moved on to actual clothing. At least he was un l Stephanie insisted Drina try on a slinky li le black dress and model it for them in case she got the chance to go out and "kick up her heels" a bit. The dress was nothing special . . . un l Drina put it on. It looked to him as if Stephanie had given her the wrong size. Drina seemed to be bus ng out all over the place, her breasts overflowing the cups to the point of almost spilling out, and the slit up the front so high that Harper feared more than thigh would show were she to step up onto anything or sit in it.

"Perfect," Stephanie pronounced, jolting him out of his stupor.

He peered from Drina to Stephanie with disbelief. "Surely it's the wrong size?"

"Actually, it's just my size," Drina said, peering at herself in the mirror.

"But it's - " He paused, mouth open when she turned her back to him. Drina's behind was as generous as her bosom, and he couldn't help no ng the way the material clung to her curves . . . or how short the skirt was. Were she to bend over, he was sure the skirt would climb halfway up her hips. He'd barely had the thought when Stephanie said, "Maybe you should bend over, Drina. We need to be sure it's safe to do that in this dress."

Drina shrugged and bent at the waist as if to pick up something. The skirt didn't rise halfway up her hips as he'd feared, but high enough that he caught a glimpse of her white lace panties.

"It's okay," Stephanie decided. "It only shows a little panty when you do that."

"Then I won't bend over," Drina said dryly as she straightened.

Harper closed his eyes and just managed not to whimper. This was an experience he felt sure he would never forget . . . and definitely never repeat, he thought grimly. Women were crazy.

"I think we should probably get you some FM shoes to go with it when we go looking for winter boots,"

Stephanie announced, and Drina nodded as she slipped back into the dressing room to return to her jeans and blouse.

"FM shoes?" Harper asked blankly.

"It's what my sister calls high heels," Stephanie explained.

"Oh." He frowned and asked, "Is it a brand or - "

"No. It stands for something, but she'll never tell me what," Stephanie said with a grimace, and then shrugged. "Maybe Drina can tell us. She seemed to know what I was talking about. Oh look! Wouldn't these look darling on her?"

Harper stared at the package of thigh-high stockings Stephanie was now holding up and shook his head with bewilderment. It was like the girl was dressing a hooker Barbie. She seemed eager to get Drina in the slinkiest, sexiest items available. Not that Drina seemed to be figh ng the effort. Although, to be fair, the black dress was the only outer clothing that fit that descrip on. The rest of the clothes she'd chosen had been mostly sensible and comfortable jeans, T-shirts, and so on. But every bit of underclothing was downright rated X.

"Girls like to wear pre y things," Stephanie announced with a smile. "My sister, Dani, says it's kind of like a secret. Men don't know what we have on under our clothes. We may look like a librarian or tomboy on the outside, but underneath we can be as secretly sexy and pre y as we please." She turned back to the hose and smiled. "You should have seen the cute li le pink pan es and bra Drina was wearing last night. I suffered some serious envy when I saw them. I can't wait to wear stuff like that. They looked incredible against her olive skin."

Harper blinked, his mind filling with an image of Drina in pale pink pan es and bra, and it did look incredible against her darker skin. Damn, he thought on a sigh as Drina stepped out of the changing room.

"I guess I'll get it. You never know when you'll need to dress up," Drina said lightly, se ng the short, black cocktail dress in the cart. "What's left? Coats, boots, a hat, and gloves?"

"Yeah." Stephanie glanced down at the bomber jacket she wore and winced. "Tiny picked this up for me yesterday, which was really sweet, because if not I wouldn't have had a coat at all. But it's kind of big and really, just not my style."

"Hmm." Drina eyed the overlarge coat and nodded. "We can get you another one."

"Thank you!" Stephanie beamed and whirled to lead the way.

Harper began to push the cart a er her. When Drina fell into step beside him, he cleared his throat, and commented, "Judging by all you've chosen, you don't appear to have brought much with you on this trip."

"Oh, well, I was only expec ng to be at the wedding, spend a couple of days in New York, and then head back to Spain. I didn't count on this added bit," she explained wryly.

Harper nodded; he'd thought as much by the size of her suitcase when he'd seen it last night. "So they roped you in at the last minute?"

She nodded, but smiled. "I don't mind, though. So far it's been fun. Stephanie is . . ." Drina hesitated, and then shrugged. "She's really a sweet kid." She grimaced, laughed, and said, "Well, except for the part about being determined that I should find a nice Canadian farm boy to 'play with' while here."

"So that's what all this is about," he said wryly.

Drina nodded. "Ever since she read my mind and saw how my life has been all work and no play, she's been determined I should 'have fun.' "

"She's frighteningly good at reading minds," Harper said solemnly.

"Uncommonly good at it," Drina agreed, her expression troubled. "New turns can't usually read anyone yet, but she not only seems to be able to read new life mates, but non - life mates too and even those of us centuries or millennia older than her." She bit her lip, and admi ed, "Actually, she says she's not reading minds at all, but that we're all talking into her head."

"Hmm." Harper frowned at the words.

"Oh, Drina! These are pre y, and they're so so !" Stephanie cried, drawing their a en on as she rubbed a pair of red gloves against her cheek. They had reached the outerwear section. Forcing away the concern on her face, Drina moved to join the girl, leaving Harper to follow. He did so more slowly, his mind consumed with Drina's words as he watched the two females consider the op ons in gloves, hats, and scarves.

He now understood Stephanie's apparent determina on to dress Drina up in the ho est gear she could find. The kid probably felt guilty for the woman being roped into helping look out for her and wanted to repay her in some way. Or perhaps in reading Drina's mind she'd picked up on the soul-deep loneliness that most immortals suffered. Either way, it seemed her response was a desire to find Drina a boyfriend while she was here. The girl s ll thought like a mortal and didn't realize that such rela onships weren't really very sa sfying to their kind. To her, a female probably wasn't complete without a boyfriend on her arm. And apparently Drina was humoring the girl.

But the bit about Stephanie claiming not to read minds, but that everyone else was talking into her head was troubling. The truth was that unless an immortal had just found their life mate, their thoughts were usually more private, and they had to be read. While it was rude to do so, immortals did it all the me, which meant they all had to guard their thoughts when around others. But he'd never heard of someone experiencing what Stephanie claimed. Harper pondered what it might mean as the girls picked out hats, scarves, and gloves, and moved on to coats. It wasn't un l Stephanie led them toward the boot sec on that Harper recalled her words while Drina had been in the changing room.

Moving the cart up beside Drina, he asked, "What are FM shoes?"

"What?" She glanced around with a start.

"FM shoes," he repeated. "Stephanie says that's what her sister calls high heels, but she didn't know why and suggested I should ask you. What does the FM stand for?"

"Ah." For some reason the ques on caused a struggle on Drina's face. It looked as if she was trying not to smile or laugh. Managing to fight off the urge, she turned and picked up a pair of impossibly highheeled shoes from the row they were walking down and held them up. "These are FM shoes."

Harper peered at the shoes, black, strappy, and with heels that had to be six inches high. They were sexy as hell and would probably go well with the black dress she'd picked up earlier. "And the FM stands for?"

Drina cleared her throat and tossed the shoe, along with its partner in the cart, then announced, "Fuck Me," and turned to walk over to Stephanie.

Harper stared a er her, stunned. For one moment he thought she'd actually been making a request of him, and he found he wasn't averse to the idea. But then his reason kicked in. Pushing the cart quickly forward, he gasped, "Are you serious?"

Drina nodded.

"Why?" he asked with amazement.

Her eyebrows rose, and then she leaned in and picked up one shoe. "Well, look at it. It's sexy as hell, could turn a guy on at twenty paces." She shrugged.

"But women actually call them that?" he asked with disbelief.

"It's what they are," she said with amusement. Seeing his lack of comprehension, her expression turned pitying, and she said, "You don't think we wear them because they're comfortable, do you? Because I can guarantee you they aren't. We pick them purely to a ract the male of the species. The same reason we pick bustiers and anything else terribly uncomfortable but appealing to the male eye."

"Huh." Harper gave himself a shake. It had been centuries since he'd bothered reading a mortal woman's mind. Well, really, it had been centuries since he'd bothered with mortal women at all. He simply hadn't been interested un l Jenny, and he hadn't been able to read her mind. S ll, he supposed he shouldn't be surprised at these revela ons. Even back then, women had done all sorts of things to a ract mates: lead makeup, corsets, etc. They hadn't openly admi ed that was what it was about, though. It seemed women nowadays were much more frank on the subject if they actually called high heels Fuck Me shoes. It occurred to him that the world might be a much more interesting place now than it had been.

"I'm sorry," Drina said suddenly, and pa ed his shoulder as if he might need soothing. "I guess we need to try to remember that this is all alien to you. I'm afraid we just keep forge ng you're a guy and have been thinking of you as one of the girls."

"One of the girls," Harper mu ered, as she moved off to join Stephanie again. The thought was rather dismaying. It wasn't that he was interested in Drina and wanted her to think of him in that way, but -

"Christ." He breathed with disgust. Being considered one of the girls was damned lowering.

"That guy over there likes you, Drina."

Harper raised his gaze from the menu he'd been reviewing and followed Stephanie's gesture to a table where three men in jeans and T-shirts sat. One of them, a rugged-looking fellow of twentysomething was looking their way, his eyes sliding over Drina with definite interest.

"He doesn't even know me," Drina said with amusement, not bothering to glance up from her menu.

"Okay, he thinks you're hot," Stephanie amended with exaspera on, and then taunted, "You should hear what he's thinking."

"Oh?" she asked mildly, turning the page of her menu.

"Yeah. He really likes the boots. I told you they were hot."

Harper just managed not to bend to peer under the table and get another look at the thigh-high boots. Stephanie had talked Drina into ge ng them, assuring her they would keep her warm over her jeans and be "hot" too. Drina had replaced her running shoes with them in the car on the way here. She'd lain across the backseat and kicked her legs in the air as she'd pulled them on over her ght-legged jeans in the back while he drove. She'd also switched her light coat for the much warmer long coat she'd bought and tugged on her new red hat and gloves. She was now properly attired for a Canadian winter.

"Oh, man, that's just gross," Stephanie said suddenly, and Harper glanced to the girl to see her wrinkling her nose with distaste.

Frowning, he followed her gaze to the "interested" mortal and slipped into the fellow's mind. His eyes widened incredulously at the guy's imaginings. He certainly did like the thigh-high boots. In fact, the fellow was imagining Drina in the boots and nothing else and doing things to her that . . . well, he wouldn't say they were gross, but they were disturbingly hot images and made him withdraw quickly from the guy's mind and scowl at him irritably.

"What are you going to order?" Drina asked Stephanie, no doubt to change the subject.

"A club sandwich and fries with gravy on the side," Stephanie answered promptly.

"Hmm. I guess I'll get the same," Drina decided, closing her menu.

"You eat?" Harper asked with surprise.

"On occasion," Drina said with a shrug. "Besides, we can't make Stephanie eat alone."

"No," he agreed on a murmur, lowering his gaze to his menu again and looking to see what a club sandwich was before announcing, "I'll have the same."

"So," Stephanie said once their waitress had le with their orders, "if you guys are both so old and both from Europe, how come you've never met before?"

Drina appeared surprised by the ques on and chuckled. "Swee e, Europe is a big place. I'm from Spain. Harper is from Germany." She shrugged. "It's like sugges ng someone from Oklahoma should know someone from Illinois just because they're from the United States, or that someone from BC should know someone from Ontario because they're both in Canada."

"Yeah, but you guys are immortals and as old as the hills. Don't immortals hang out together, or have a secret club, or something? You'd think you'd at least have met each other before this," she said, and then added, "Besides, I thought you guys move around every ten years or something. You haven't always lived in Spain, have you?"

"No," Drina admi ed wryly, and shrugged. "Egypt, Spain, England, and then Spain again. Mostly Spain, though."

"Why?" Stephanie asked curiously.

"My family is there," she said simply. "And un l recently, women didn't exactly wander the world on their own. They were expected to stay with family for protection."

"Even immortals?" Stephanie asked with a frown.

"Especially immortals," Drina assured her dryly. "You have to realize that we have it drilled into our head from birth not to draw a en on to ourselves or our people, and an una ached female on her own would definitely have drawn attention through most of history."

"Oh, right," Stephanie murmured, and then her gaze shi ed to Harper. "What about you? You aren't a girl."

The words brought a wry smile to his lips. A er a day of being considered "one of the girls," it seemed that, at least Stephanie, was finally acknowledging he wasn't . . . if only for this conversation.

"I traveled more than Drina appears to have. I was born in what is now Germany, but have lived in many European countries, not England and Spain though. I've also lived in America and now Canada."

"So, if it weren't for Drina's having to help look out for me, you two might never have met."

"Perhaps not," Harper acknowledged, and found himself thinking that would have been a great pity. Drina was an interesting woman.

The food came then, and Harper turned his a en on to the sandwich and fries placed before him. The brown sandwich, pale s cks, and brown gela nous liquid in the small bowl on the side didn't look par cularly appe zing. Harper had been a chef when he was much younger and felt presenta on was important, but the food smelled surprisingly delicious.

Curious, he picked up his fork, stabbed one of the fries, and raised it to his lips, but paused when he saw Stephanie dipping hers in the small bowl of thick liquid on the side of her plate. Emula ng her, he dipped his own fry in what he supposed was the "gravy on the side," and popped it in his mouth. His eyes widened as his taste buds burst to life. It was surprisingly good, he decided, and stabbed, dipped, and ate another before picking up half his sandwich and taking a bite of that as well.

"Aren't you going to finish your fries?" Stephanie asked.

Seeing the way the teenager was greedily eyeing her plate, Drina grinned and pushed it toward her, saying, "Go ahead. I'm done."

Stephanie immediately fell on the remaining fries.

Drina watched enviously as the girl gobbled them, almost sorry she'd given them up. But it had been a long me since she'd eaten, and she simply couldn't fit another bite in her belly. She'd been pushing it to manage half the sandwich and fries.

Her gaze slid to Harper and she noted that while he'd managed perhaps three quarters of his meal, he was slowing. His stomach wasn't big enough either.

"You should go out tonight."

Drina glanced to Stephanie with surprise to see her pointing a fry at her as she spoke.

"Seriously. It's been decades since you've gone out socially. You work and visit your family and that's it. You really need to get out and have some fun."

"I have fun," she assured her defensively.

"No you don't. I can read your mind, remember? You used to love to dance, but you haven't been dancing since those Gone-With-the-Wind-gowns were all the rage."

Drina bit her lip, wondering what the girl was up to now. She actually had been out since then. She had a couple of good female hunter friends back in Spain, and they o en went to an immortal club called Noche and danced the night away to relieve some of the stress of the job. She didn't doubt for a minute that Stephanie had read that from her mind, so she was up to something. Again.

"You should drive into London tonight and hit a bar and just let your hair down. Dance your feet off. It would be good for you."

"I can't drive," Drina reminded her dryly.

"Then Harper should take you," she shot back with sa sfac on. "He needs to get out as much as you do. He hasn't gone anywhere in more than a year and a half except a couple of mes when Elvi and Victor pretty much dragged him out."

Harper stilled, midchew, his expression becoming alarmed. "Oh, I don't know - "

"Yeah, I know, you'd rather hide in the house and go back to nursing your wounds," Stephanie interrupted. "But look how much better getting out today has made you feel."

Harper blinked.

"I really think it would do you both a lot of good. It's certainly better than acting like a couple of turtles."

"Turtles?" Harper asked with a frown.

"Yeah, you immortals all pull into yourselves and hide out at home rather than even consider a social life." She shook her head. "Seriously, I know you all have this thing about life mates and all, and I know you two aren't life mates, but that doesn't mean you can't have fun, does it?" She glared from one to the other, and then said, "If anything, it should free you up to have more fun. Drina, you're too old for Harper to read, and you're also too polite to read him, so you could both relax around each other. On top of that, because you aren't life mates, you won't be all worried about impressing each other and can just relax and enjoy each other's company and have some fun."

She let that sink in, and then sat back in her seat, and announced militantly, "Maybe it's because I'm new to this, but I plan to date like crazy before I se le down with any life mate. And you two should as well. You're both lonely and miserable. What can it hurt to go out and let your hair down?"

Drina stared at the girl, amazement sliding through her. Stephanie was frighteningly brilliant. By saying they weren't life mates, she'd just cleared the way for Harper to agree to an ou ng. And by saying that age was the reason Harper wouldn't be able to read her, she'd eliminated the possibility that he might try to read her, find out he couldn't, and panic. She'd basically just cleared away any protest Harper might come up with for spending me with her and freed him to do so if he wished without feeling guilty that he was enjoying himself when Jenny was dead.

"I do feel be er," Harper said quietly, and sounded surprised by the realiza on. "I guess this change in routine did do me some good."

Stephanie nodded solemnly. "And really, you'd be doing me a favor. I'll feel awful if the only thing Drina sees of Canada is the inside of Casey Cottage and the local Wal-Mart."

"Hmm. That would be a shame," Harper murmured, and then pushed his plate away and nodded. "All right. We'll go dancing tonight at the Night Club in Toronto."

Drina blinked in surprise. Toronto was two hours away. Shaking her head, she said, "No. I can't be gone that long. I have to be back by bedtime for Stephanie."

"Anders is on nights," Stephanie reminded her. "I'm his problem then."

"Yes, but we're roommates so that no one can slip in and take you from your bed."

"And so I don't slip out and run away," Stephanie said dryly.

Drina scowled. So much for Stephanie's not knowing they knew about the possibility.

"It's okay though," Stephanie said quickly. "I'll just snooze on the couch in front of the television un l you guys get back. That way Anders can keep an eye on me, and you can still get out for a bit."

"It's set then," Harper decided, glancing around for their waitress. "I'll pay this and we can head back to the house. I need to call to have my helicopter come for us and - "

"Helicopter?" Drina interrupted with surprise.

"Harper's mad rich," Stephanie told her with amusement. "But then so are you." She shrugged. "I guess when you guys live as long as you do, you eventually build up a fortune."

"Not everyone," Drina assured her.

"Whatever," Stephanie said, standing up. "I have to pee before we go."

Nodding, Drina pushed her chair back at once. Smiling at Harper, she murmured, "Thank you for buying lunch. We'll meet you at the car."

She waited long enough to see Harper nod before hurrying after Stephanie.

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