Home > Bite Club (The Morganville Vampires #10)

Bite Club (The Morganville Vampires #10)
Author: Rachel Caine

ONE

Looking back on it later, Claire thought she should have known trouble was coming. But in Morganville,anything could be trouble. Your college professor doesn't show for class? Probably got fanged by vampires. Takeout forgets to put onions on your hamburger? The regular onion-delivery guy disappeared--again, probably due to vampires. And so on. For a college town, Morganville had a remarkable lot of vampires.

Claire was an authority on those subjects: Texas Prairie University and, of course, the vampires. And mysterious disappearances. She'd almost been one of those, more often than she wanted to admit.

But this problem wasn't a disappearance at all. It was an appearance--of something new, something different, and something cool, at least in her boyfriend, Shane's, opinion, because as Claire was sorting through the mail for their weird little fraternity of four into the "junk" and "keep" piles, Shane grabbed the flyer she'd put in "junk" and read it with the most elated expression she'd ever seen on his face. Scary. Shane didn't get excited about much; he was guarded about his feelings, mostly, except with her. 

Now he looked as delighted as a little kid at Christmas.

"Mike!" he bellowed, and Claire winced and put her hands over her ears. When Shane yelled, he belted it out. "Yo, Dead Man, get your ass down here!"

Michael, their third housemate at the Glass House, must have assumed there was an emergency under way--not an unreasonable assumption, because, hey, Morganville. So he arrived at a run, pushing the door back and looking paler than usual, and more dangerous than usual, too. When he acted like a regular guy, he seemed quiet and sweet, maybe a littletoo practical sometimes, but vampire Michael was a whole different, spicy deal.

Yeah, she was living in a house with a vampire. And, strangely, that was not the weirdest part of her life.

Michael blinked the tinges of red away from his blue eyes, ran both hands through his wavy blond hair, and frowned at Shane. "What the hell is your problem?" He didn't wait to hear, though; he walked over to the counter and got down one of their mismatched, battered coffee mugs. This one was black with purple Gothic lettering that read poison. The cup belonged to their fourth housemate, Eve, but she still hadn't made an appearance this morning.

When you sleep later than a vampire,Claire thought,that's probably taking it a little too far.

As he filled the mug with coffee, Michael waited for Shane to make some sense. Which Shane finally did, holding up the cheaply printed white flyer. It curled at the edges from having been rolled up to fit in the mailbox. "What have I always wanted in this town?" he asked.

"A strip club that would let in fifteen-year-olds?" Michael said.

"When I wasfifteen . No, seriously. What?"

"Guns 'R' Us?"

Shane made a harsh buzzer sound. "Okay, to be fair, yeah, that's a good alternate answer. But no. I always wanted a place to seriously train to fight, right? Someplace that didn't think aerobics was a martial art. And look!"

Claire took the paper from Shane's hand and smoothed it out on the table. She'd only glanced at it when sorting mail; she'd thought it was some kind of gym. Which it was, in a way, but it wasn't teaching spin and yoga and all that stuff.

This one was a gym and martial arts studio, and it was teaching self-defense. Or at least that was what Claire took from the graphic of some guy in a white jacket and pants kicking the crap out of the air, and the words defend yourself in big, bold letters at the bottom.

Slurping coffee, Michael leaned over her shoulder. "Huh," he said. "Weird."

"Nothing weird about people wanting to learn a few life-preserving skills, man. Especially around here. Not like we're all looking forward to our peaceful old age," Shane said.

"I mean, it's weird who's teaching," Michael said. "Being that this guy"--he tapped the name at the bottom of the page--"is a vampire."

Vassily was the name, which Claire made out only when she squinted at it. Small type. "A vampire's teaching self-defense," she said. "To us. Humans."

Shane was thrown for just about a minute, and then he said, "Well, who better? Amelie put out a decree that humans were free to learn this stuff, right? Sooner or later, some vamp was bound to make some cash off it."

"You meanoff us ," Claire said. But she could see his point. A vampire martial arts instructor? That would have to be all kinds of scary or awesome, or both. She wouldn't have gone for it, personally; she doubted she had half as much muscle or body mass as it was going to require. But Shane...Well, it would be natural for Shane. He was competitive, and he didn't mind taking some punishment as long as he enjoyed the fight. He'd been complaining about the lack of a real gym for a while now.

Claire handed the flyer back to him, and Shane carefully folded it up and put it in his pocket. "Watch yourself," she said. "Get out of there if anything's weird." Although in Morganville, Texas, home of everything weird, that wasn't an entirely reasonable request. After all, there was a vampire teaching self-defense. That in itself was the strangest thing she'd heard of in a while.

"Yes, Mom," Shane said, but he whispered it, intimately, close to her ear, and then kissed that spot on her neck that always made her blush and shiver. "Eat your breakfast."

She turned and kissed him full on, just a sweet, swift brush of lips, because he was already moving...and then he did a double take and came back to kiss her again, slower, hotter,better .

Michael, sliding into a seat at the kitchen table with his coffee cup, flipped open the thin four-page Morganville newspaper and said, "One of you is supposed to be somewhere right about now. I'm just saying that, not in a dad kind of way."

He was right, and Claire broke off the kiss with a frustrated growl low in her throat. Shane grinned. "You're so cute when you do that," he said. "You sound like a really fierce kitten."

"Bite me, Collins."

"Whoops, wrong housemate. I think you meant that for the one who drinks plasma."

Michael gave him a one-fingered salute without looking up from his study of the latest Morganville high school sports disaster. Claire doubted he was actually interested in it, but Michael had to have reading material around; she didn't think he slept much these days, and reading was how he passed the time. And he probably got something out of it, even if it was just knowledge of local football to impress his girlfriend, Eve, with.

Claire grabbed her breakfast--a Pop-Tart just ringing up out of the toaster--and wrapped it in a napkin so she could take it with her. Book bag acquired, she blew Shane and Michael an air kiss as she hit the back door, heading out into a cold Morganville fall.

Fall in other parts of the world was a beautiful season filled with leaves in brown, orange, yellow.... Here, the leaves had been brown for a day and then dropped off the trees to rattle around the streets and yards like bones. Another depressing season to add to all the others that were depressing in this town. But at least it was cooler than the blazing summer; that was something. Claire had actually dug out a long-sleeve tee and layered another shirt over it because the wind gusts carried the sharp whip of approaching winter. Pretty soon she'd need a coat and gloves and a hat, and maybe boots if the snow

fell hard enough.

Morganville in summer was dull green at best, but all the grass had burned dry, and most of the bushes had lost their leaves. Now they were black skeletons shivering in the cold. Not a pretty place, not at all, although a few house-proud people had tried some landscaping, and Mrs. Hennessey on the corner had put out weird concrete animals. This year, she had a fake gray deer sipping from an empty stone fountain, and a couple of concrete squirrels that looked more menacing than cute.

Claire checked her watch, took a bite of her Pop-Tart, and almost choked as she realized how little time she had. She broke into a jog, which was tough considering the weight of the bag on her shoulder, and then kicked it to a full run as she passed the big iron gates of Texas Prairie University. Fall semester was a busy time; lots of new, stupid freshmen wandering around confusedly with maps, or still unpacking the boxes from their cars. She had two or three near collisions, but reached the steps of the Science Building without much incident, and with two whole minutes to spare. Good--she needed them to get her breath back.

As she munched the rest of her breakfast, wishing she had a bottle of water, others she knew by sight filtered past her: Bruce from Computational Physics, who was almost as out of place here as she felt; Ilaara from one of the math classes she was in, but Claire couldn't sort out which one. She didn't make close friends at TPU, which was a shame, but it wasn't that sort of school--especially if you were in the know about the inner workings of Morganville. Most of the just-passing-through students spent the year or two they were here with the usual on-campus partying; except for specific college-friendly stores that were located within a couple of blocks, most students never bothered to leave the gates of the university. And that was probably for the best.

 

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