Home > Real Vampires Have Curves (Glory St. Clair #1)

Real Vampires Have Curves (Glory St. Clair #1)
Author: Gerry Bartlett

Chapter One

Vampires are everywhere. Lose the all-vampires-are-rich-and-powerful stereotypes. Think Mike, the night clerk at the minimart. Brittany, the barmaid who brings your appletini at last call. Even the night stocker at your local superstore. And, don't freak out now, but Mike could have looked deep into your eyes and willed you to follow him to the back room. There, he could have taken you down a pint before he sent you on your way with your cigs and six pack, and you wouldn't have a clue.

Cool, really. Forget those telltale fang marks. We can make them disappear along with your memory. No harm, no foul. Only the most depraved vamps would suck you dry and leave you for dead. Most of us have figured out that we live longer if we're discreet.

Yes, that's right, we, us. I'm Gloriana Eloisa St. Claire. Glory to my friends. Did you think all vamps were pale, thin and brooding? If only. The thin part anyway. But whatever shape or size we are when we're turned vampire, that's how we are forever.

Just my crappy luck that I was bloating the day I got the big V. I have curves, okay? At least that's my positive spin on things. I do what I can with what I've got. To look at me you'd think "healthy" twentysomething with a great sense of style, thank you very much. I'm blond, blue-eyed and tanned with the best spray on money can buy.

So how did I end up an older than dirt vampire? Long story short, a man, of course. Tall, dark and deliciously sexy. His name was and is Angus Jeremiah Campbell the third. After a little squabble with his father he changed his name to Jeremy Blade. His choice, not mine. When our paths cross, I call him "Jerry." He hates that. We've been on-again, off-again for centuries, currently off.

We met in London. Jerry was checking out the action and I was an actress at the Globe, back in the days when most female parts were played by men, and how sad is that? Anyway, I'd disgraced my family and married an actor. When he was killed in a really ugly accident with a slop jar, I'd have starved if the company hadn't let me take on some small parts. And I was good, a real actress, not one of those sluts who called themselves actresses. Billy Shakespeare loved me. Then Jerry came backstage one night and the rest is history. I fell hard. Lust with a capital L. And, trust me, you haven't experienced the big 0 until you've gotten it on with a man's teeth in your neck. Jerry is irresistible when he wants to be. I begged him to make me vampire so we could be together forever.

If I'd only known… Turns out the man lasted forever, the love, not so long.

At least we never married. First, he didn't want to be "tied down," then a hundred or so years later, when he decided to do me a big favor and make it legal, I'd snapped to the fact that we were talking about literally forever together. No way. With a sixteenth-century man? You get the picture.

And imagine the same in-laws for centuries. Trust me, the Campbells weren't exactly thrilled when their eldest brought home an English actress. Two strikes right there. And we were living in sin. They didn't know whether to be relieved that Jerry and I hadn't tied the knot or horrified. I eventually brought them around, but by then I'd had enough of the Scottish Highlands and their crumbling castle. The place is in the middle of nowhere.

I'm social. I need people, bright lights, action. So I became an even better actress, blending in, moving on every decade or so when my twentysomething looks raised some eyebrows. That's the hard part, you know. Drifting. There's a vamp network for things like IDs so that's no problem. No, it's being rootless that gets to me.

This time I stayed longer than I should have. Even Botox and cosmetic surgery couldn't explain to my mortal friends why gravity or crow's feet hadn't caught up with me.

Yeah, I like to hang with mortals. But I have lots of vampire friends too. I've run across quite a few over the years. I can smell them and vice versa. Oh, nothing nasty, like failed deodorant. A mortal can't smell us at all, but we've got heightened senses, especially when it comes to our own kind.

Sound creepy? Get over it. Vamps can be fun, real party animals. You may be wondering how someone born in 1580 can sound so now. I'm an actress, remember? And addicted to HBO. I still watch Sex and the City reruns. The shoes! Anyway, I'm a chameleon. I can listen to people talking and within minutes I'm one of them. Right now, I'm on the move again. I've done Vegas and was lucky enough to get a gig dancing in a revue in a small club off The Strip. Clever costuming disguised my "problem areas," but my cups runneth over if you know what I mean so I was a hit. Now the club is going to be knocked down to make way for one of those megacasinos so I decided it was time to move on. I'm going east this time. Austin. Yes, in Texas. I've heard it's a happening place. I've got vamp friends there, plus I've checked it out on the Net. There are the usual freaks. Vampire wannabes with dead-white skin, black lipstick and a total lack of fashion sense. But there's also a nice group of fellow vamps, including Frederick von Repsdorf. He's one of those fun vamps I told you about. He and his boyfriend live in a neat old house near the University of Texas. He e-mailed me pictures. Okay, okay, I admit it. I heard Blade had been through there recently. What can I say? His folks are safely tucked away in the Highlands, and Blade without the baggage still floats my boat. I'm going to check it out. Austin, that is. Hills, cowboys, dot-com millionaires. Why not?

And there are opportunities for entrepreneurs. I'm not rich like a lot of vamps, including my ex. I've always had to work for a living because I'd never take a dime from Blade—then I'd be obligated. So I work. I made good money in Vegas but discovered I had a weakness for all-night poker games.

Yeah, I could have put the vamp whammy on the other players and read their minds, but I don't cheat. So I played fair, and found out I suck at poker. Enough said. A twelve-step program later and I've given up games of chance. Another reason Austin sounds good. No legalized gambling. The closest casino is a state away.

It's close to midnight when I hug my best gal pals, shed a few tears, then take off in my 1997 Suburban pulling a twelve-foot UHaul. I know a cute little convertible would better suit my image, but I'm a collector. Seriously. I have a lot of stuff that I drag with me wherever I go.

I'm just crossing the Nevada/Arizona border and singing "Don't Cry for Me, Argentina"—love those Broadway show tunes—

when my cell phone rings. Caller ID unknown. I answer it anyway.

"Frederick tells me you're moving to Texas."

Blade. Who else would assume I knew who he was and dispense with pleasantries, even though I haven't seen him for four years, three months… Oh, God, I was not counting.

"Keeping tabs on me, Jerry?" I could almost hear him grinding his teeth. I flashed back to the way he would stroke those bicuspids across my body… He wasn't saying anything. I sighed. "Yes, I'm on the road as we speak. Why?"

"Gloriana, you never write. You never call."

I stared at the phone as if it had sprouted fangs. Jeremy Blade being flip?

"Who are you and what have you done with my—" I couldn't finish the thought. Our relationship was too complicated.

"Your lover? Husband?"

"Definitely not husband." Leave it to Blade to propose when I'd had it up to here with family togetherness in the Highlands. There had been some talk of a handfast, but I deny we ever did it. But about that family. Would you believe Blade has four brothers and two sisters? His folks didn't become vampire until after all the kids were born. Then Mag and Angus let their adult children decide their own future.

No one knows how Mom and Pop Campbell decided when to pose the big question. Trust me, none of the Campbell kids were retaining water on their V-day: the day each one got to choose—vampire and immortality, or the pitiful life span they could have expected way back then. Just my luck that's a no-brainer for the Campbell clan. You try living happily ever after with nine vampires.

"What am I then?"

"I call you 'my ex.' That about says it."

"You're breaking my heart, babe."

Babe? I couldn't believe my ears and, trust me, a vamp's hearing is supercharged. Supercharged enough to glom on to the hint of a Scottish burr that had melted my resistance all those centuries ago. Nope. I was immune now.

"I can't break what doesn't exist, Jerry.. Why are you calling me 'babe'?"

"I decided you were right about a few things."

That did it. I pulled off the highway and stopped the car on the shoulder. No traffic at three in the morning. And no wonder. This stretch of road wasn't exactly the scenic route. Rocks, scraggly bushes and sand. Period.

" I was right?"

"About fitting in. I've had a few skirmishes with some hunters recently."

I felt sick. Skirmishes in Bladespeak meant he'd come within inches of being staked. We all feared vampire hunters. Living forever can be depressing, but I sure didn't want to go out with a stake through my heart.

"God, Blade. What happened? Are you all right?"

"I'm fine. A new man you might say."

"Good. Because the old one…"I didn't have the heart to ream him out like I usually did. A world without Blade. I bitch and moan, but our always interesting love-hate relationship was one of the things that kept me going.

"The old one has missed you."

Now that tore it. " Missed me? Please. I know for a fact that you were in Vegas less than a year ago and didn't even bother to see my show."

"You know how I feel about that show. I hope to hell you're not planning to continue exposing yourself in Texas." I felt instantly better. I'd told Blade my show was topless. It drove him insane. "I was a dancer, Jerry. Showing a little skin earned me a nice living."

"You don't have to work at all. I'm responsible for what you are—"

"Who, not what. And I begged you to do it, so I am responsible for my condition. No one else." God, we'd had this discussion at least a thousand times. Blade was nothing if not hardheaded. And with a memory like an immortal elephant. Once, almost three hundred years ago, I'd yelled at him that he'd ruined my life, robbed me of having children, blah, blah, blah. It was a meltdown, brought on by too much Campbell togetherness. I'd gotten over it almost immediately, but Blade seemed haunted by it. I admit the children thing was a low blow. I don't know which would be worse. To see your kids grow old and die. Or turn them vampire so they can live forever and ever and… See? I thought about it. And I've come to terms with it. Jerry hasn't. Damn him, I would not feel anything for him. I took a steadying breath.

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