After my talk with Byron–and Belladonna Blackthorne’s time with Mister Chutney-Worthington–my worries troubled me considerably less. My wedding to Lysander couldn’t come soon enough, even if we made little effort to rein in our passions.
However, Lysander’s pronounced reluctance to “wrap it up” (as Penny had explained was absolutely necessary) did trouble me somewhat. He swore there was no need for it and argued that it interfered with his enjoyment of our illicit passions. Still, I would take no chances before the wedding.
I took chances in other ways, daring to kiss him in the kitchen where anyone could see.
“Miss Bianca,” he said breathlessly. “What if Penny…or Master Byron…?”
“Let them see,” I whispered. “They already know that I intend to marry you. Anyone of importance already knows the extent of my feelings for you, Lysander–and you most of all.”
“Oh, Miss Bianca…”
“God,” Penny said. “Now I miss you two trying so hard to keep all your weird crap a secret. At least then I could microwave some leftover mac and cheese without puking.”
“Penny,” Lysander chided, momentarily distracted from our forbidden love. “Don’t forget to cover the bowl so it doesn’t splatter everywhere. Last time you made quite the mess.”
Some things never changed, I supposed. But for the very first time in four hundred years, I was looking forward to change. A home of my own with Lysander, children (but not too soon), a modest but lovely wedding…
“Get the broom, Lysander,” I said, turning toward the window overlooking the balcony with a well-honed sense for terrible, terrible things.
“Is there a mess that needs tidying, Miss Bianca?”
“There is a mess that needs prodding directly off of our balcony,” I hissed.
“Tell your weird parents I said hi,” Penny said, rummaging through the icebox for food she could never seem to get enough of. Its appeal was as mystifying as Byron’s, who fortunately still slept in his coffin. He was easily excitable as of late–more so than usual, now that he had two parents to teach him new bad behaviors.
“Oh, no,” I whispered as Lysander and I approached the door.
I had seen many things in my time as Corinne and Bartholomew Blackwell’s daughter. Among the worst was…a certain method of copulating that no proper vampires would engage in. I had been so certain that I would never witness such an act again…
“Forget the broom,” I said as I pushed past Lysander. “Get the bleach.” Lysander had always sworn that bleach made everything clean.
Byron didn’t know that I could turn into a bat. Nor did Graham. But I would never, ever turn into a bat after being exposed to such a vile sight in my formative years, and this only cemented my conviction once more.
“Stop that at once,” I snapped.
“Told you it’d get her out here right away,” my father said after shifting back into his true form.
“I never doubted you for a sec, hon,” said my mother, following his example.
The pair of them were always so openly affectionate, no matter the circumstances. Disgusting.
Lysander joined me sooner than I would’ve liked–and with less bleach than I would’ve liked as well. When he saw my mother, he smiled.
“A pleasure to see you both,” he said. “I’m afraid Master Byron is still asleep, however.”
“Oh, we’re not here to see our little ninja,” my mother said, offering a dangerous smile.
“We’re actually here for our bumblebee,” my father added. “We got big plans to discuss. Biiiiig plans.”
What could they possibly want with me? Hadn’t they tormented me enough over the centuries, from the very moment I was born into this cruel, cruel world? “I’ll meet you at the horrid metal deathtrap you call home,” I said hurriedly. Whatever they wanted to discuss, I’d rather it be out of earshot of my future husband. He already had reason enough to think better of marrying me; I had no desire to push him over the edge.
“Sure thing, bumblebee,” my father said. My mother smeared her garish lipstick against my cheek in a kiss before they both took flight as bats.
My respite was only momentary. If I waited too long, I knew they would only return–and I’d rather not subject Lysander to the two of them at once for extended periods of time. Not only did I have to venture out into the city alone (even Penny didn’t volunteer to accompany me, and I certainly wouldn’t take Lysander along), but I was forced to find a way to the roof of a less than sophisticated establishment through means I truly didn’t care to discuss.
How I hated the sight of their “RV”…but even worse awaited me inside.
“Are you two utterly incapable of controlling yourselves for even a single heartbeat?” I demanded.
“Longer than a heartbeat, sweetie,” my mother said. “You know your daddy and I can’t get enough of each other.”
“We’re old,” my father said, “but we still got plenty of urges–don’t we, Cor?”
I (barely) suppressed the urge to scream. They were like animals. They always had been, and they had never cared who knew.
Fortunately, my arrival was enough to motivate them to separate…eventually. I never thought I would be grateful to see a man in shorts, of all things, but they were far better than the alternative. (Sadly, it seemed that poor Byron had not escaped our father’s curse–though our mother called it…something I dare not repeat.)
“Why did you wish to speak with me?” I mumbled, despite the value I placed on enunciation.
My mother’s eyes widened. “The wedding, of course.”
“Oh, sweetie–who else is finally getting married after four hundred years?”
“Almost four hundred.”
She laughed. “Of course.” She looked at my father. “It isn’t every day that our little bumblebee gets married, is it, Bart?”
“No, ma’am,” he said. “Took her long enough, eh?”
“I don’t see how my wedding concerns you in the least,” I said, anxiety threatening to overtake me. “Regardless of how long it took me to make such arrangements…”
My mother guided me to a couch that I hoped she and my father hadn’t defiled recently. “Have you chosen a venue yet?”
“Well, no,” I said. “Lysander has left all the planning to me, but I haven’t made any final decisions yet. Naturally, I have a number of appropriate ideas, but our budget…”
“Ideas aren’t gonna get you married,” she said. “And you best tie the knot before you pop, sweetie. I know how you like to kick up a fuss about bastards and all.”
“But Lysander and I haven’t planned for children yet…”
“All this talk of planning,” she said. “You need more doing. And money. That’s where we come in.”
“But we’re going to pay for our own wedding,” I said. “Lysander and I are quite capable of putting together a modest affair on our own…”
“A Blackwell girl, having a ‘modest affair’? Mm-mm, I don’t think so. We’re the parents of the bride–we can pay for our baby girl’s wedding.”
“We sure can,” my father said, suddenly looming over me. “Four hundred years of saving, bumblebee. The interest alone could pay for a fancy wedding ten times over.”
“But I don’t want a fancy wedding,” I lied. Oh, the weddings I’d dreamed of, ever since I was a little girl.
“Bat dung,” my mother scoffed. “I still remember you gushing over your wedding plans to that decapitation-loving king, way back when. Said he was the handsomest vampire you ever met–whatever happened to him? Me and your daddy never even got to meet him.”
“He met a very gruesome end,” I said quickly. “Vampire hunters.”
“Too bad,” she said. “Would’ve liked to have a queen for a daughter. Makes me feel all fancy. Reckon you’ll have to make do with a human in a pinch, especially after all these years.”
“You’ll want your papa to walk you down the aisle, won’t you, bumblebee?” my father asked. “I know you liked to pretend I died of garlic poisoning or a real bad sunburn when you were little, but I’m still your father.”
A girl needs her father. Isn’t that what I’d told Lysander, more or less? But Penny’s father was so very different from mine…so sophisticated and charming, and he never wore shorts in public. But if I banned my own mother and father from my wedding as I’d originally planned, what would Byron say? He’d probably cry, or worse: side with our parents over me.
“Of course,” I said. “I can’t dream of anything better.”
But I could dream of far, far worse…in a nightmare. Hopefully their financial contribution–and Byron’s happiness–would be worth it in the end.