Byron was driving me crazy. And not just in the usual big dumb puppy getting his head caught in random household objects kind of way.
It was the guy who was supposed to want this really bad, right? I never thought I’d get like this over some goofy wannabe comedian kissing me and feeling me up a little. Okay, a lot. And all the time. But…I wanted more. I guess. Just to see why Isla seemed to like that crap so much.
And then like the pasty, unpredictable goddess she thought she was, Bianca descended on me on her way back from the bowling alley bathroom and pressed something into my hand…while Byron and I were still making out. “I won’t need this tonight. Or possibly ever. Take Byron there—and don’t return to the apartment tonight or tomorrow.” There were tears in her eyes before she stormed out, still wearing bowling shoes.
Less than half a minute later, Lysander hurried toward the door she’d rushed through—also wearing bowling shoes. Was he crying too?
They were so fucking weird. And they probably thought no one noticed them going into the bathroom together. Gross. Maybe bathrooms were their thing.
Byron’s fangs grazed my neck. God. “What’d Bianca give you?”
“Total privacy,” I said as I stared at the gift card in my hand. “For both of us.”
He pulled his head—and those fangs—away. “But…we don’t need it, yeah? We…we don’t care who watches us kiss. It means they’ll know we’re boyfriend and girlfriend.”
“Byron.” I took his hand. “There are things that boyfriends and girlfriends do together that are…more than kissing and less than man-woman relations, I guess. Things you can’t do in public without getting arrested.”
“What kind of things? And I don’t think I’d mind if Saul arrested me.”
“…How much do you know about baseball?”
“I bowled for the first time ever tonight! Well, real bowling. It’s different when you do it for real than when you just pretend or practice, you know? But maybe you can explain baseball to me too—I love when you teach me new things. Penny.”
“…Sure. On the way to the hotel we’re staying at tonight.”
“A hotel? Not…not home?”
“The gift card won’t cover two.”
“Just…you and me? Penny.”
“Do you need your own room or whatever?”
“Then let’s go. Byron.” I pinched his arm. “…You have to return the shoes. And the shirt.”
Byron looked down at his feet as he felt me up one last time. Even his shoes were greenish, just like those godawful flip-flops that he loved too much for me to set on fire. “But Bianca and Lysander kept theirs…and I think the shirt makes me look very manly.”
“Fine.” I kept things that didn’t belong to me sometimes too—it’s not like I had a right to tell him not to.
I kind of liked walking through the city with Byron. I probably knew almost every corner of it already—I’d had marks in every district—but with Byron…it just felt different. I dunno if it was his goofy fanged smile or all his dumb questions about baseball that really didn’t have anything to do with what I was trying to teach him, but…it kind of made me like San Myshuno more than I ever really had before.
“Huh,” I said when we arrived at the hotel. “Bianca really must be really scraping the bottom of the barrel for these gift cards. I expected classier, I guess.”
Byron trailed after me like a puppy as I headed for the hotel entrance, following me inside. “I’d sleep in a cave if it were with you. Penny.”
“Camping isn’t my thing. But thanks. Byron.” Some sleazy looking guy by the door took my gift card and handed me a key. I kind of wanted to wash my hands after I touched it, and I’m not even Lysander. The whole place was kind of skeezy, and not just because of the lighting.
“I can’t wait for you to teach me more about things boyfriends and girlfriends do that can get them arrested in public. Penny.”
I sighed. Even if he was like three hundred years old, I felt like I was taking advantage of him sometimes. Okay, a lot of times. It was kind of like training a puppy.
“Me too,” I said as we made our way through the dimly lit lit halls. When I found our room number, I unlocked the door and kicked it open. “Guess this is it. I think it’s pretty obvious what this room is supposed to be used for.”
I shot him a reassuring glance. “Doesn’t mean we have to. Just what other people do. And I guess we’re not like other people.”
“Nobody else has face-spots like yours. Penny.”
And then we were making out again. (This happened a lot.) In between kisses, I tried to…enlighten him, I guess—about what boyfriends and girlfriends did together. Maybe I should’ve learned more about baseball before trying to use it to help with those explanations.
“I want to do more. With you.”
“…You know. Things.”
“Byron. You’re three hundred years old. You can just tell me what you wanna do.”
“…Can I maybe show you instead?”
“Sure.” I was surprised when he wrapped both hands around my waist and lifted me off his lap, setting me down on the bed right beside him. Sometimes I forgot he was a vampire, with a vampire’s strength. I wondered if Lysander was like that with Bianca.
And then he was kneeling on the floor beside the bed, looking up at me as his hands grazed my skirt. But he didn’t really remind me of a puppy anymore. …And I was cool with that.
“Can I…” He mumbled something.
“Sure. Get my stupid bowling shoes off too while you’re at it.” I had to try not to laugh at how determined he looked while pulling off my leggings.
“Why are they so tight? I don’t want to hurt you…or tear your pretty new Penny clothes.”
I tried to help him as best I could by pushing myself up and shifting my weight around where he needed it. “Leggings are supposed to be tight, I guess. And you won’t.”
“Your legs are so warm and smooth. Penny.”
“Thanks. That’s probably the first time I’ve ever heard that, I guess. And you forgot something.”
He went back under my skirt—and I helped him, again. At least he made up for his total lack of hand-eye coordination with perseverance.
“Byron. Why aren’t your eyes glowing?”
“Penny. …I’m concentrating. I want to be the best, manliest third baseman of all time.”
I wanted to kiss him then. But I also really wanted to see—and feel—what he’d do next. I was glad when he pushed me backwards into the bed, and not just because I couldn’t see his bowling shoes anymore.
I shivered. “Cold.”
He raised his head the instant the word left my mouth. “I’m sorry.”
I laid my hand in his hair and gently pushed down. “It’s okay. Isla says this is the best thing a man can do for a woman.” Actually, she said most useful thing, but Byron didn’t need to know that.
“Penny. I want to be the best. For you.” His muffled words sent puffs of icy breaths against my thighs. And then he stopped talking completely, and so did I.
Well…I still made some noises. Maybe. I couldn’t help it.
A muffled “sorry.” When I patted him on the head, he got right back to work.
“Fang. Byron.” Maybe teaching a sharp-fanged vampire to go down on me wasn’t the best idea I ever had.
…But it wasn’t the worst, either.
And he just…kept going. No matter what…or how many times I…whatever. For hours. I guess vampires had strength and stamina. Even in their mouths.
And then, finally, Byron resurfaced. “Penny. Did I do a good job?”
“The best,” I told him honestly. “God. You were like a dog trying to get at a whole fucking jar of peanut butter.”
“Penny…” He looked and sounded so happy.
“…Did you like it? Byron.”
“More than anything. You taste like Penny, but more. I usually only get to have plasma packs…and your mouth-juice.”
I snorted. “You’re the weirdest guy I ever met. And it’s called saliva. Or spit. Don’t ever call it mouth-juice again.”
“But I’m still your favorite?”
“…Yeah. You are.” And then I got a good whiff of myself. “God, I smell.”
“Like Penny, but—”
“–More. Yeah, yeah. Gonna take a bath and hope they used enough bleach since the last time somebody got knocked up in there. You coming…?” A flash of glowing red… I pulled his wrists until he fell on the bed next to me—and then climbed on top of him. “Byron. I know your eyes are glowing.”
“I think you’re seeing things?”
“Byron. Open your eyes.”
“I’m sleepy. Penny.”
I sighed. Well, it wasn’t like we didn’t do anything. It just would’ve been nice to do something for him too–if it didn’t break my jaw or choke me to death, maybe. “…Fine. You can get ready for bed while I’m in the bathroom.”
Too bad for Byron that the bathroom walls were see-through.
“Penny. Are you done yet…?”
“Almost. Sure you don’t wanna help me wash my hair? I think my braid is stuck. I can’t get the stupid rubber band out.”
“Penny,” he whimpered. Maybe I was kind of a sadist, because sometimes I liked torturing him.
“Don’t worry. I’m almost done anyway. But now I’m starving. Are you?”
“…I’m fine. Penny. I think I’ll…just lie down. Under the covers. Because I’m so tired.”
Byron was already “sleeping” when I got out of the bath. It was weird, but I kind of felt like I liked him even more tonight. A little. Maybe. He wasn’t the worst first boyfriend a girl could have.
Hopefully no serial killers or pervs were lurking in the hallways while I got something out of the vending machine. That really did wear me out for some reason—and make me hungry, even if I didn’t do much.
The stupid vending machine ate my first simoleon. I would’ve kicked it, but I was wearing free slippers. I cursed.
“Lyanna…” someone whispered. I might’ve been creeped out if Byron weren’t right nearby—and if I weren’t used to all the other weirdos in the city who talked to themselves.
“Come on, damn it.” I tried smacking the heel of my hand against the glass a few times, but all I got out of that was a stinging wrist. Maybe it would be a better idea get Byron and have him shake the whole machine with his freakish vampire strength, but I didn’t want to interrupt his “sleep.”
“Lyanna,” someone said again. “I’ve finally found her. After so many years of failure and dead ends…”
I grimaced and turned. “What the hell are you even—”
“Lissette. I’ll never lose you again.”
His fangs showed when he smiled. And then…everything got hazy.
A sharp, metallic taste invading my mouth.
The voice that yelled my name sounded so far away…