When she's diagnosed with late-stage cancer, widow Libby Stratton is not about to leave her 7-year-old son to be raised by her rigid, overbearing in-laws. So she arranges to be turned into a vampire. It wasn't the best idea she's ever had, but she's desperate.
On top of post-turning transition issues, like being ignored at PTA meetings and other mothers rejecting her son's invitations for sleepovers, Libby must deal with her father-in-law's attempts to declare her an unfit mother, her growing feelings for Wade — a tattooed redneck single dad she met while hiding in a closet at Back to School Night — and the return of her sire, who hasn't stopped thinking about brave, snarky Libby since he turned her.
With the help of her new vampire circle, Libby negotiates this unfamiliar quagmire of legal troubles, parental duties, relationships, and, as always in Harper's distinct, comedic novels, "characters you can't help but fall in love with".
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Suddenly, the door popped open and smacked me in the forehead, knocking me back on my heels.
"Oof!" I cried, clutching my face. Thank goodness I had rapid healing powers, because I was pretty sure I'd just sustained a concussion.
"Are you OK?" a gruff voice demanded.
"What the hell — Who are you?" I demanded.
"I'm the guy with the keys to this closet. Who are you?"
My eyes went wide. This was the school janitor?
The contemporary school janitor was made from a slightly different mold. Tall, lean, almost wiry, with respectable cords of muscles rippling over arms covered in a swirling cloud of colorful tattoos. His face was long and lean, with sharp features only softened by a scruff of white-blond beard and longish darker blond hair that brushed against the collar of his T-shirt. If Thor had a pissed-off, tattooed younger brother, he would be the guy blocking my exit from the supply closet.
"I came in here for a fresh shirt," he said, nodding toward the flannel shirts hanging neatly from hooks on the closet wall. "The air conditioner was on the fritz . . ." He stared down at the ruined doorknob. "What the hell did you do to the door?"
"Nothing!" I exclaimed, but I hid my hands behind my back as if it would keep me from being caught red-handed.
"What are you even doing in here?" he demanded. "You don't have any good reason to be in here, damaging school property. What the hell is wrong with you parents? Ya know, just 'cause you pay taxes doesn't mean you own the school!"
"I got turned around."
"Well, turn back around and get out." He jerked his thumb toward the open door behind him as he shrugged out of his sweat-stained gray Half-Moon Hollow Howlers T-shirt and into a blue cotton uniform workshirt with "Wade" stitched on the breast pocket.
My jaw dropped. Who the hell was this guy, and who did he think he was, bossing me around? Nobody had talked to me like this in . . . well, I couldn't remember the last time someone talked to me with such an irritated tone, certainly not since I became a tragic terminally ill widow. I'd been treated with kid gloves lined with cotton balls for the past two years.
And holy Hades, he had even more tattoos underneath the shirt. Even with my super-vision, I couldn't take in the details in the brief glimpse I got. Still, I got a good look at the big picture, and the picture was pretty damn nice. Long, sinewy arms, a broad chest, and a flat stomach tapering to hip bones that jutted out just a few inches above the waistline of his worn jeans.
How perverse was it that between the pretty face, the tattoos, and the surliness, I was actually beginning to feel the faint stirrings of attraction? Fine, they weren't so much faint stirrings as a deep, reverberating echo between my thighs, like a super-dirty version of those Tibetan meditation bells.
"Just as an FYI, in case the policy manual is outside your reading-comprehension level, most school employees don't strip in front of parents."
As soon as the words left my mouth, I regretted them. Why had I said that? That was mean. But my insult hadn't even fazed "Wade," who was waving me toward the door. "Keep walking, Bree."
"My name isn't Bree."
He scoffed. "Your names are always 'Bree' or 'Krissy' or 'Elizabeth.' And then you slap it on everythin' you own, including those stupid little stick figures you stick on the backs of your minivans."
"It's Libby," I shot back.
"Which is short for Elizabeth. Thanks for proving my point."
"Do us all a favor and try to develop a nicer attitude before the kids come back to school."
"I don't need to. The kids know better than to go where they're not wanted!" he shot back as I walked out to find a bemused Jane Jameson standing outside the closet.
"So was that your first time?" he asked.
"Having sex in a death barn? Yes."
"Drinkin' blood from a human," he said.
"Yes, you took my fang-ginity," I told him. "Sorry about that. I didn't feed properly before I left the house."
"You've gotta take better care of yourself, Libby," he said. "You run around takin' care of everybody else but you. I know you're immortal and all, but I think that only counts if you're a fully functionin' vampire."
"I know, I know." I sighed, tracing the path of the koi that swam along his arm.
"You can ask," he said.
"Didn't this hurt? I mean, clearly, you kept going back, so it couldn't have been that bad, but . . ."
"Oh, no, it hurt like a b*tch," he said. "But it was a good hurt. And I love all of 'em. I'm assuming you don't have any."
"No. Rob didn't like them, thought they looked trashy. And I don't think I could get one now, since I basically heal up within seconds of getting a wound."
"That's a shame," he said. "Because I think you would look insanely hot with ink."
"I'm insanely hot without ink," I countered.
"Of course you are," he said. Leering a little, Wade bent, rummaging through his pants pocket, and pulled out a black Sharpie. He balanced my ass on the edge of the table as he methodically wrote something along the curve of my rib cage.
"If you're writing 'Property of Wade,' I will punch you in the throat," I told him, craning my neck as I tried to make out what he was writing.
"Nope." He bit the tip of his tongue while he finished his work with a flourish.
He hitched up his pants, crossed back to the bike, and grabbed my purse. "Use your mirror thingy to look."
"Thank you for not going through my purse," I told him, plucking my compact from a side pocket. "Also, thank you for knowing that I have a reflection."
"I may be a redneck, but I ain't fool enough to go through a woman's purse uninvited. And everybody knows that vampires have reflections."
It took me a second to figure out how to read Wade's neat handwriting backward, but I eventually read, "I had sex in a death barn, and all I got was this temporary tattoo."
"Wow," I said, shaking my head.
"Hey, a girl's first tattoo, that's a milestone. That, your fang-ginity, and your first barn sex all in one night. I'm just glad I was here for it."
"Well, it's been so long since I've had sex, you might get credit for taking my actual virginity," I muttered into his neck.
"How long?" Wade asked, smirking down at me.
"About two years . . . two and a half . . . three. It's been three years since I've had sex," I told him. "Oh, my God, this is pathetic."
"Nah, it's not pathetic—three years?" he marveled. "How is that possible? Your husband's only been dead for two years."
"Well, the last year with Rob was . . . distant."
"Were y'all living in the same state?"
"My marriage was far from perfect!"
"You know, every time I think I like ya just enough, ya go and say something like that, and I like ya even more."
"There is something very wrong with you," I told him as he helped me right my clothes.
"And you love it," he said, kissing me.
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