Vampires didn’t sleep in coffins, well, at least I didn’t.
Naturally claustrophobic, the idea of sleeping in something airtight made my skin crawl.
The squealing sound of a woman’s voice from my bathroom was loud enough to awaken the dead, meaning me. But living in New York, the only complaint I received was the loud boom from the neighbor below, who must have decided that a broomstick banging on the ceiling was the best way to deal with a murderous scream.
I rubbed my eyes, trying to clear them. My head ached liked I’d mixed alcohols—a lesson I learned in my twenties never to do again. The last time I’d done it, it had left me curled up in a fetal position, declaring my desire to sleep next to the then family tuxedo cat, Sylvester. I awoke with Saga curled next to me. If nothing else, she’d soothed me, providing me a comfort I hadn’t had since before my first death.
I moved, and Saga cracked an eye open to peek at me, gave a wonderful feline yawn, to then hop off the bed and scratch at the door.
At least tonight, I didn’t awaken to dead fish in my bed—yep, I seemed to be sleepwalking and eating. All of the fish were neatly drained and wrapped in brown paper.
Hey, some people liked pretzels at night. I, in contrast, was the first and only pescatarian vampire I knew.
Fun fact: fresh blood was not just needed to quell hunger, but also to keep my skin looking young, elastic even. I glanced down at my amber skin, and it practically glowed, like I was either pregnant or had a thousand-dollar scrub at one of those fancy salons.
There was a natural sparkle to it, a radiance. Not only that, but unlike the usual tenseness in my muscles, like my body was moving toward rigor mortis, there was full fluidness. No cracking, popping. No warming up needed to get my joints moving.
I felt marvelous, almost giddy.
I reached my thoughts out to Alistair again, and like it had been since he’d told me to leave him alone, there was nothing but a barrier. I wasn’t going to take it personally, but it was hard to do when I had to try to figure this new life out on my own.
Despite Killian’s request for us to return to Scotland, I’d stayed away. How was I supposed to help when I didn’t even know what was going on?
I swung my feet over the bed’s edge, away from the comfort of a deep sleep, and stretched.
Again, a weird squeal came from my bathroom. My gran liked to do strange things in the morning. I’d seen her do everything from play hide-and-seek with the neighbor’s cat, yes, slipping in and out of the walls, to levitating with a cigarette hanging between her ghostly fingers in her vintage cigarette holder, discussing Kant and the meaning of life to whom she said were her other ghostly friends. But since I hadn’t invited them into the apartment, they congregated in the hallway on the other side of the apartment door—it would explain all of the drafts.
“Gran, what are you doing now?” I huffed and pushed up from the bed, shuffling toward the bathroom, and Saga followed.
The apartment had been in the family since Gran decided to buy the place before the Great Depression. I was sure some of the other ghosts she was communicating with were the original tenants, too.
I was still getting used to this vampire gig. I thought vampires, all dressed in kick-ass leather and stilettos, had impressive dexterity and could sniff out the bad guy. So far, my routine still had me meandering around New York City in jeans, slathered with sunscreen, and wearing wide-brimmed hats like I was heading to either the beach or a Sunday’s service in the South.
“Something strange is truly taking place in this city.” Gran's voice flitted across the room. “Why don’t you hush before more than the neighbors start pounding on the door? You keep on, and those government people will come and usher you off to Area 51. The secret to being a supernatural creature is keeping your trap shut. Now hush it.”
Gran wasn’t usually so stern. And if she was talking like that, I wondered if the person was friend or foe.
“My Leslie will deal with you when she awakens.”
I turned the knob and opened the door to hear another scream—my own.
No, Gran was not talking to another ghost. She wasn’t even pretending to talk to family, who sometimes stopped by. I stared at what was before me and saw it—a freaking siren.
She flapped her turquoise tail up and down in the bathtub, splashing water. She stared at me, and surely her look of terror mirrored my own. Her mouth formed an “o,” and her red, curly hair cascaded down into the water’s depths. She wore a matching starfish-like halter, and seashells hung around her neck like a garnish.
Looking at her neck, my mouth watered.
I felt my canines slowly descend, and my stomach growled.
Was I a monster?
The sound of my scream echoing off of the walls was accompanied by my hissing black cat’s rage. Saga’s fit could best be described as a hellcat on speed. She arched her back until all of her fur spiked, her eyes, once neon, now turned a clarion blue. Her nails extended.
Um, yeah, she wasn’t a normal cat after all.
“Svartur köttur! Keep that away from me,” she begged.
To me, it sounded like scaredy-cat, but surely that wasn’t what she meant. I grabbed Saga to keep her from attacking.
Gran swooped in before me. “For heaven’s sake. You went out again last night and brought home a surprise. A freaking mermaid.” She gave me a Bronx cheer, as she liked to call them, loud raspberries to show her disapproval.
“She’s a siren, I think.”
“Siren, mermaid, whatever she is, she’s a mythical creature that you’ve been snacking on. I might be casting a kitten here, but this smells like trouble.”