Home > The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires (Dark Ones #5)

The Last of the Red-Hot Vampires (Dark Ones #5)
Author: Katie MacAlister

Chapter 1

"Oh, look, a crop circle. Let's stop and see if we will be abducted by aliens."

"Why on earth would you want to be abducted by aliens? From what I hear, they're all about strange implants and anal probes. Neither is my idea of fun."

Sarah glared at me as we whipped past a sign noting that tours of a local farm famous for its crop circle were available for a modest fee. "You have the soul of a nihilist."

"On the contrary; I don't believe in either assassination or terrorism. Is this the turn we need?"

A map rustled next to me as my friend consulted the driving directions we'd received from a local travel company. "I don't think so. The directions say the town is called Newton Poppleford. There should be a bridge we go across. And you know full well that's not the sort of nihilism I meant."

"Ah. Newton Poppleford is another kilometer," I answered, nodding to a small sign partially hidden by a dense shrub. "So you're saying I have the soul of a disbeliever?"

"Yes, I am. It's all that science stuff you do."

I couldn't help but smile at Sarah's comment. "You make it sound like being a physicist is tantamount to being a crack addict."

"It's not quite that bad, but it's definitely rotting your mind."

"Oh, come on, that's being a bit extreme." I avoided a startled rabbit in the narrow country road, and spotted a humpbacked stone bridge in the distance. No doubt that was the exit we needed to get to the tiny little village that was Sarah's destination.

"Not in the least. Just look at how your precious skepticism has ruined the trip so far. First, there was the ghost walk in London."

"At which, I feel obligated to point out, no actual ghosts were present."

A look filled with suspicion was leveled at me. "We had you and your doubting Thomas attitude to thank for that, no doubt."

"Hey, all I ask is that people who insist someplace is haunted show me a ghost. Just one, just one little, itty-bitty ghost. That tour guide couldn't produce so much as a spectral hand, let alone a whole ghost. I don't think it's expecting too much for people to back up their claims with empirical proof."

"Ghosts aren't like you and me! They don't like to materialize around non-believers. All that negative energy is bad for them. So if they don't show up around you, you have no one but yourself to blame."

I would have rolled my eyes at that ridiculous statement, but I was negotiating the crossing of an old, narrow stone bridge, and decided safety was more important than expressing my opinion. "Is that the inn?"

Sarah peered out the window at a rustic pub. "No, ours is the Tattered Stote. That's the Indignant Widow. Top of the hill, the instructions say."

"OK. Cute village. I didn't know people here still had thatched roofs."

"Then there was the mystery tour in Edinburgh. I was never so mortified as when you told the tour guide that the spirit facilitators were lame."

"I didn't say lame: I said ineffective and inadvertently comical rather than frightening. Their idea of ghostly attire looked pretty off-the-rack to me. At best it was from a theater company. And besides, the man said he wanted feedback on the quality of the tour. I simply gave him my opinion."

"Everyone else thought it was very scary when one of the body snatchers' victims leaped up off the table! I came damn close to wetting my pants at that, and all you did was laugh!"

"Of course I laughed. Only the very gullible would have been frightened in that situation. For one thing, we were on a mystery tour that promised thrills and chills. For another, it wasn't in the least bit realistic. Dead bodies do not spontaneously resurrect themselves, let along shriek with abandon as they lurch after tourists."

"Do not speak the word 'spontaneous' to me again," Sarah warned with a potent look. "I doubt I will ever recover from the memory of you lecturing the curator of the Museum of the Odd about why spontaneous combustion of individuals was due wholly to people smoking cigarettes."

"Documented cases have proven that people who supposedly combusted by some mysterious force were all smokers and prone to falling asleep in chairs and beds - "

"Speak not to me of your rationalities, O ye skeptic," Sarah said, holding up a hand.

"But that's why you brought me along on this trip - to keep your feet on the ground," I pointed out as we drove slowly through the small village, avoiding dogs, geese, and the village inhabitants who had a disconcerting habit of stopping and staring as we drove past.

"I brought you on my research trip because Anthony refused to leave his bird-watching group for what he called 'yet another excuse to spend money in foreign countries,' and also because I thought exposure to real psychic phenomenon would do you good. You're too hidebound, Portia."


"You are so set on demanding proof of anything before you believe in it, you're positively rigid."

"Right. So understanding the building blocks of our universe is hidebound, not just healthy curiosity."

"But most of all, you're going to be forty soon. You need a man."

I couldn't help but laugh at that. "You're a romance writer, Sarah. You want everyone to be madly in love with someone else, but it's just not practical for me. I was married to Thomas for three years and gave it the best shot I could, but things didn't work out. I think I'm just one of those women who is comfortable going through life without a permanent partner. At least of the human, male kind. I would like a cat..."

Her blue eyes considered me carefully as I drove slowly up a long hill. "Well, I agree with you about the Thomas Affair. I didn't think anyone could be more analytical than you, but he was positively androidlike."

"Honestly, I'm perfectly happy as I am now. I have male friends. There's a researcher at a local software company with whom I get together occasionally."

"Geek boy."

"And I've gone out a couple of times with the vet who lives next door to me."

"In the brown house? I thought those were Wiccans?"

"No, other side, the yellow one."

Sarah wrinkled her nose. "Ah, him. Nice enough personality, but ugly as sin."

"Looks aren't everything, O ye of the blond hair and blue eyes. Some of us have to make do with more mundane appearances. But just to point out I appreciate eye candy as much as the next girl, there's Derek."

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