Home > Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(3)

Zen and the Art of Vampires (Dark Ones #6)(3)
Author: Katie MacAlister

"Sorry." She raked me over with a scathing look. "I didn't mean to rub it in that Raymond wants into my pants but not yours. Not that you're missing much, despite Magda's histrionics. Have you ever seen such a motley collection of men as the ones on this tour? We're expected to hit it off with Ray the lounge lizard, Gary, who has to be right off the set of Queer as Folk; Ben, who is clearly sixty if he's a day; or Alphonse, the Mafia pervert. And we paid money for this? Audrey sure has some sort of a scam, and we're the suckers who fell for it. Romantic Europe, my ass."

I'd lived with Denise's negativity and overall nastiness for three days now, and was sorely tempted to tell her just what I thought, but I reminded myself that we had another eighteen days together, and it wouldn't actually kill me to turn the other cheek. Instead I indulged in a fantasy wherein she was left behind on a remote fjord.

"Have you dated much lately?" she asked, obviously sharpening her claws for another attack.

I smiled and threw in a couple of hungry wolves prowling along the edge of the fjord. "I live outside of Seattle in a small town in the mountains. There aren't a lot of people there to begin with, so it's kind of hard to meet guys. That's why I decided to go on this tour, to open my horizons."

"At least you're not opening your legs for everything with a penis, unlike some people I could mention," she said with another waspish look toward Magda. "I think we've been had, though. The men on the tour are useless, and as for these Icelanders... they may be descended from Vikings, like Audrey says, but I don't see any of them panting over us. Mind you, if you said the words 'green card' to them, that would change things fast enough, but that's not going to happen."

"We've only had three days so far - " I started to object, but was cut short when she slammed her glass down on the little table.

"You don't get it, do you? Pia, look at yourself! You're, what, forty? Forty-five?"

"Thirty-nine. I won't be forty for another ten months," I said defensively, trying to keep a grip on my temper. I had spent every cent I had to go on this tour, and I absolutely refused to let one sour woman ruin what was sure to be the trip of a lifetime.

"Close enough to count. You're forty, with no man, no looks, and a dead-end job in some insignificant little town."

"Hey!" I objected. "You don't even know what I do. My job is quite nice."

"You said at the orientation that you were some sort of a secretary."

"I am the administrative manager for an animal shelter that specializes in elderly pets who have been displaced," I answered, my fingers curling into fists beneath the tabletop. "It's a very rewarding job!"

"I'm sure it is," she answered with a half sneer. "But there's hardly any room for advancement, is there?"

I gritted my teeth and said nothing. I didn't have to defend myself or my job to this harpy.

"Face it," Denise said, grabbing my arm as she leaned forward across the table. "Women like us get the shaft our whole lives. You may think that there is a man out there for you, a Mr. Wonderful who will be everything you want, but there isn't. Look around you, Pia. Look at who has all the handsome men - it's the pretty ones, the skinny ones, the ones who don't give a fuck about anything but getting what they want. They've got no morals and don't care who knows it."

"I don't buy that," I said, jerking my arm out of her grip. "I know a lot of nice women who get men. Sometimes it just takes a while; that's all."

"Something your mommy told you?" she asked, her words whipping me like a scorpion's tail.

"I really don't think - "

"No, of course you don't. That's because everyone is so politically correct these days. But let's cut the crap, shall we, and get real. We're the last pick on the volleyball team, Pia. We get the leftovers. I can tell you don't like to admit it, so I'll prove it to you." She scooted around in her chair, waving a hand toward the stage.

The music had stopped while one group of musicians was being replaced by another, leaving the dancers to catch their breath, and the square half empty. The sun was low in the sky now, little fiery orange and red tentacles streaking upward, long indigo shadows beginning to edge their way across the square. A few people strolled through the shadows, mostly families, the kids leaping about less enthusiastically as they started to wind down from the day's activities.

"That guy, that one there, the blond guy with the receding hairline. You think he'd like you?" Denise asked, pointing at a man who stood with his arm twined around a slender woman. "Or how about that one, the man with the beard. He looks like an accountant. Maybe he'd go for you."

My lips tightened. I refused to tell her that she was perfectly welcome to live in her misanthropic world, but I preferred a much happier place.

"Oh! Those two! Those two across the square, coming out of that building. Oh my god, they're gorgeous. That's what I'm talking about - perfect eye-candy specimens. Both tall, both dark haired, although I don't like long hair on a man, and both absolutely and completely out of our reach."

I looked where she was pointing. "Oh, I don't know."

She swiveled around in her chair to pin me back with a maliciously triumphant gaze. "You're never going to have a man like that, Pia. Neither will I. If we're lucky, we'll get some balding, paunchy couch potato, but the good ones are not for us."

"There's nothing wrong with a man who is balding and has a bit of a paunch," I protested.

"Oh, come on! They all end up that way, sure, but you don't want them to start out looking like that!"

"Not all men are alike," I pointed out. "Some men like more than just a perfect body, just as some women prefer men who aren't drop-dead gorgeous. There's no reason to assume that just because we aren't supermodel gorgeous, we'll never have a hunky guy like one of those eye-candy men."

A hard look settled on her face. "You just refuse to face reality, don't you? Well, let's put our money where our mouths are, OK? You go talk to those two hunks and see what happens."

"I didn't mean those two specifically," I said quickly, my palms suddenly sweating at the thought of the humiliation that would follow should I even think of approaching the two men in question. "I just meant eye candy in general."

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