Undead and Unappreciated Chapter 28

"Not like this!" a vampire I didn't know was shouting into Klaus's ear. "We can't attack the queen! We all agreed not to attack the queen!"

Yeah, I wanted to shout, but couldn't say a word. I just made an agreeable sort of peep while I clawed at his hands some more.

"She's not the queen," he muttered and jerked one of his elbows back, straight into Sane and Helpful Vampire's throat. It didn't appear to hurt the guy, but it knocked him back. Even better, it caused Klaus's grip to loosen. I managed to get my hands up between his and shoved and kicked at the same time. He didn't get off me, but his grip fell away.

"It's times like this when I like to say a prayer," I said, still kicking and clawing for all I was worth, trying to get out from under him. It was the Homecoming Dance all over again! "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. Also, God is great, God is good, let us thank him for this food. Also, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so." Since Klaus was now screaming and clutching his ears, when I kicked him again, he finally flew off me. I rose up on my elbows and finished triumphantly, "And God bless this mess!"

I was fresh out of Bible verses, but the damage had been done. Sane and Helpful Vampire had already flung the door open and was frantically gesturing for the others to follow him. Some did-I'd worry about them later-but a distressing number stayed. Including Klaus, who had backed all the way up to the bar, his face twisted with hate and fear, his hands still clamped over his ears.

Laura was coughing a little and waving her hand in front of her face, and I saw that the half dozen or so vampires that had been around her were now-gone. Vaporized. All but the last one. Laura's crossbow was a sword again, and she blocked a fist with her forearm, then stuck the woman (formerly "the woman at the bar") right in the chest. Bye-bye, annoying barfly.

"Ha-ha!" I crowed, pointing. "How about that? Hah? Hah? Didn't figure on her being hell sp-I mean, the devil's daughter when you grabbed her, didja?" Another vampire had me by the hair and was yanking me backward, but I didn't care. "Didja?" I was practically delirious with triumph.

"Betsy-" was as far as my wonderful, supertalented, too-cool sister got before she had her hands full again. I noticed that in addition to the kickass hellfire weapons, she was a pretty fair hand-to-hand fighter. Sometime in the last few years while she was finishing Bible school and volunteering for church bake sales, she'd picked up a black belt or two along the way. Now if I could just get her to wear some decent clothes...

"Don't worry about me," I called, though my skull was throbbing like a rotten tooth. "Everything's under contr-yeeouch!"

"Shut up, bitch," someone growled.

"Oh, you shut up," I snapped back. "Do you have any idea how often this happens to me? It's almost boring." And terrifying. But mostly boring.

Two more-not that there were that many left, thanks to Laura and their cowardice-came straight at me, and I heard the ominous sound of a chair leg being snapped off. The other one had me in a firm grip, his arm across my throat, his other hand still in my hair. Holding me nice and still. Well, the joke was on him! Stakes in the chest didn't work on me, so there. Of course, it was going to hurt like hell, and ruin my shirt, and if they decided to give 110 percent and cut my head off after, that could pose difficulties. I could buy a new shirt, but I kind of needed the head I had.

I opened my mouth to torture them with more psalms, when Laura got to the one on the right-stab, poof! It was amazing. I could never describe how cool it was, not in a thousand pages. She looked like an avenging angel with her shiny hair and demure bangs, her nondescript clothing, and the sword that actually hurt to look at, held so comfortably in her fist.

The vampire on the left was suddenly yanked out of sight, and there was a sickening crunch as he hit the wall. Courtesy of-I nearly gasped-Eric Sinclair. He'd come out of nowhere-probably pushing his way past the stream of frantically exiting vampires-and just grabbed the nearest one and shoved. The vampire bounced off the wall and hit the floor, and I could see where his entire face had actually been pushed in by the force of smacking into the concrete. The worst part of it was, it hadn't killed him. He moved feebly on the floor like a stunned beetle, trying to grow his nose back.

"Oh, guh-roxy!" I screamed.

"Wow," Laura goggled.

"Take your hands off her," Sinclair told the guy behind me, "or they'll write books about what I'll do to you."

The vampire let go of me so quick, he yanked out a handful of my hair. I yelped and shook free of him.

Suddenly, surprisingly, it was just the three of us in Scratch-two vampires had picked up the guy who needed a new face, and they scrammed.

Oh, wait-four. Klaus was in the corner, showing his teeth like one of those little ratty dogs that liked to challenge everyone from the mailman to the preschooler.

Sinclair turned to him, but I held up a hand. "Tut, tut, my good man. I'll take care of this. Strike on me, will you? Form a union in my club, willya?"

"For shame," Laura added.

"Shut up, devil's whore," Klaus spat.

"Don't you call her that!" I said, shocked. "She's the farthest thing from a whore in the whole world. You're just mad because death is imminent."

He snarled at me. It would have been scarier if Eric hadn't been right at my elbow. "This isn't over yet, Betsy"

"Excellent," I said. "I would also have accepted 'You haven't seen the last of me' and 'You'll regret this.' " Then I picked up the discarded chair leg and ran it into his chest. (You'd think, since it was a vampire bar, they'd have metal chairs.) Sayonara, Slight Overbite.

Unlike Laura's more dramatic death-dealing, he just toppled over, which forced the stake farther into his body (ugh), and lay there like a big old dead bug.

Now that that was over with, I had several impulses. I picked one and rushed to Laura and hugged her. "Wow, Laura, you were amazing! I'm so sorry I got you into such a mess, but wow! How cool were you?"

"I hope you don't think I'm a bad person," she explained. "Violence isn't usually the answer. But they didn't seem amenable to listening to reason, and I didn't want you to get hurt."

"You didn't want me to get hurt? Laura, you're amazing! How did you do that? How come it's a sword sometimes and a bow some other times? Can it do anything else? Did your mother give it to you?"

She laughed and twirled the sword in a small circle so the hilt was in her palm and not her fist, then sheathed it at her right hip-except she wasn't wearing a sheath. The sword just disappeared. Except I had the distinct impression it was still there.


I turned to Sinclair. "And you! Not that I'm not glad to see you, but-"

"Elizabeth!" I eeped and nearly cowered away from him; I'd never seen him so furious. His dark eyes were slits, and even his hair looked angry-it was messy and I squished the urge to straighten it with my fingers. His white shirt was open at the throat, and he was sockless and coatless. He'd come in a hurry. "What were you thinking, instigating a brawl with two dozen vampires?"

"I didn't start it," I said, shocked. He was holding my shoulders, and his fingers were actually biting into me. "I told them they couldn't kill people, and then they went on strike! Which isn't as nonviolent as it sounds, by the way."

"You might have been killed," he said through gritted teeth. "You must never, never do such a thing again."

"But I didn't do anythinmmmmph!" He'd yanked me to him and planted one on me, effectively cutting off my protest. I was so surprised he was kissing me-surprised he was mad at all-I just stood there for a moment and took it. Then I managed to pull away-or at least pull my lips away. My head was arched back like a snake's, but our chests were touching.

"Wait, wait, wait. I'm really glad to see you. But I'm confused."

He quirked a small smile at me. "Thus, the universe resumes its axis."

"Never mind about the universe." I gave in to my impulse, managed to free an arm, and straightened his hair. "I thought you were making moves on Laura."

"I've been meeting with her," he replied, looking confused.

"Right, but I thought-you know, after what happened, after I made you have sex with me-"

"Twice," he added. I could tell he was trying not to laugh. "After you raped me twice. Well, one and a half times."

"Um, yeah. I thought you didn't like me anymore."

He looked astonished. "Didn't like you?"

"And then Laura-she's so beautiful and her breasts are so perky."

"Thank you," Laura called from behind the bar, where she was fixing herself a Shirley Temple.

"And you were so mean to me-"

"I was a little cold," he admitted, his grip loosening. He didn't let go entirely, I noticed.

"A little?"

"It hurt me that you only made love with me because you had gone insane."

"I can't hear any of this," Laura announced, dropping a cherry into her drink. "Just carry on like I'm not here."

We did. "I'm sorry. But I wouldn't want you to think I only want to have sex with you when I'm crazy."

"I don't. I hung on to the notion that you were motivated by more than the impulse to hurt. And, truthfully, I could never leave you. Certainly not after you were vulnerable to the Book. I thought it was odd that the devil's own should show up-was so easily found-right after you read the Book. I dislike coincidences. So I resolved to find out as much about her as I could."

"So they were like-like business meetings?" I was starting to feel dumber than usual. He was looking at me so earnestly, and he still hadn't let go. Maybe because I hadn't asked him to. "You weren't interested in her as, like, a date?"

"I couldn't be with him," Laura said, so shocked she actually set down her drink with a clunk and a slosh. "He's a vampire!"

"And I couldn't be with her," he said, "because she isn't you. Oh, and for your information, dear," he added mildly, glancing over at her, "once you go undead, you never go back."

"Yuck! And Betsy. I can't believe you thought I'd try to steal your boyfriend," she said reproachfully.

"Consort," Sinclair corrected.

"I'm sorry. To both of you, I'm sorry. I guess I jumped to some pretty dumb conclusions." I hugged him. "I've never been so happy to be wrong! And with all the practice I have, you'd think-"

He pulled back and looked at me. "Elizabeth, even if I did not adore you, you are my queen. We're fated to be together. I've known that since the moment I saw you in the crypt."

"That's so romantic," Laura sighed, rinsing her glass.

"Sinclair-Eric-" Why did the most meaningful moments of my life happen in front of witnesses? "I-I adore you, too. Well, I don't know if I adore you. That's not really the word I'd use. But I-I-" I managed to wrench it out. God, this was hard! "I love you."

"Of course you do," he said, totally unsurprised.

"What? I finally tell you my deepest, most personal feelings and you're all, 'Yeah, I already got that memo'? This, this is why you drive me nuts! This is why it's hard to tell you things! I take it back."

"You can't take it back," he said smugly.

"I do, too, take it back! And don't you dare kiss me again!" I cried when he leaned forward. "Why do you have to be so annoying and smug all the time?"

"Because with you by my side, I can do anything."

I calmed down a little. He was still acting way too superior, but that was kind of sweet. In a frightening, world-domineering way. "Well... well, I guess I don't take it back. Not entirely."

"Of course you don't."

I almost snarled. "I guess I really do love you."

"And I you, darling Elizabeth. I cherish you, my own, my dear one."

Okay, now I was really calming down. "Well. Okay."

"Where are the darned napkins?" Laura sobbed from the bar.

He reached out and smoothed a lock of my hair behind my ear. "You're wearing my necklace."

I touched the small platinum shoe he had given me when he got back from Europe-had it only been a few days ago? "Well, yeah. I wanted it tonight... for luck, you know?"

He smiled. "Were you really jealous? You thought I was wooing Laura?"

"Maybe a little. You're not smirking, are you?"

"No, no." He smothered a snicker. "I am sorry for giving you cause for doubt."

"Oh, like you didn't notice she's fantastically beautiful," I bitched.

"She is not you," he replied simply, which was flattering, yet slippery of him.

"Eric... the thing about doubt..." I groped for the words. This was my chance. Maybe my only one. He was an all-powerful vampire king, but he wasn't a telepath. "I would feel more-together-with you, I mean-if we-if you and I-if we got married."

"But we are married," he said, puzzled.

"Not Book of the Dead married. Really married, with a minister-well, a judge-and my mom there and cake and hymns-songs-and a ring and dancing."

"Oh." He looked sort of horrified. "Well. Ah. I see."

"You see? Now? Why not before? It's one of the things I complain about constantly."

"Question asked, question answered."

I let that pass. "Look, I know this is probably getting old, but I was kind of shoved into this whole consort thing. I don't know a lot about you; we don't have this deep, meaningful relationship."

"To be fair, I think that's just as much your fault as his," Laura said, munching on olives. When we both looked at her, she said, "I'm sorry. But that's the impression I got."

"Anyway. A real-person wedding would-I would really love that."

"But we are already married." Sinclair seemed to be having trouble actually grasping my essential problem.

"But I don't feel it."

"And a real"-the corners of his mouth turned down, as if he was contemplating a fresh dog turd instead of getting married-"wedding... would help you feel it?"


Sinclair clasped my hands. "You are so immature," he said, looking deeply into my eyes, "that you take my breath away."

I jerked my hands out of his grip. "Aw, shaddup. And you don't even need to breathe. Yes or no, pal?"

He sighed. "Yes."

I was shocked. "Really? Yes? You'll do it?"

"Of course. You had only to ask."

"I had only to ask? See, this is part of the problem. You-"

"Elizabeth, darling. Shut up." Then he kissed me again.

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