Good, the Bad, and the VampireBy: Sara Humphreys
“Swell?” Trixie said with a snort. “Dude, no one says ‘swell’ anymore.”
“I do.” He clasped his hands in front of him.
“Of course you do.” She rolled her eyes and muttered, “You probably say ‘neat-o’ too.”
“Yes, ma’am.” He winked at Trixie and suppressed a grin when she looked away. “Swell. Neat-o. All those words are great, and if you ask me, y’all should use ’em more often.”
“As if.” Trixie rolled her eyes. “I’ll keep that in mind, cowboy, but if you don’t update your verbiage, it won’t take long for humans to figure out that something’s up with you. I mean, what if Shane walked around talking like they did back in the olden days?”
“He kinda does,” Dakota said with a wry smile in Shane’s direction. “No offense, Quesada.”
“None taken.” Shane shrugged as Maya snuggled into his embrace. “I’m well aware of my outdated vernacular.”
“Dude? You’re totally not helping.” Trixie made a face of derision. “Okay, cowboy, let’s put it this way. For the decade impaired, when you talk like that, it makes you sound like a real square, man.”
“Hell no.” Dakota’s face fell and he straightened his back. “I ain’t no square, missy, and you can bet your fine-lookin’ bottom on that.”
Trixie flinched and an unreadable expression flickered over her features. Olivia intervened before she could respond.
“Are you two finished?” Olivia asked, looking back and forth between them with a thinly disguised smile. “I’d like to open Dakota’s gift for Emily, but without the banter.”
“By all means.” Dakota made a sweeping gesture with one hand as Emily, now seated in her mother’s lap, tugged at the box. “Like I was sayin’, it’s just a little something.”
When Olivia opened the simple brown box and pulled the present from within, a squeal of delight erupted from Emily. Her small pudgy hands immediately curled around the coffee-colored wooden horse but her reaction wasn’t the one that got to him. Amid the oohs and ahhs over his hand-carved creation, Trixie remained silent. Her brown-eyed gaze was fixed on Emily and her newfound prize. As the little girl hugged her present, the expression on Trixie’s face went from playful to sad in a split second.
“This is beautiful, Dakota,” Olivia said, admiring the handcrafted figure. “Did you make this?”
“I sure did,” he said, turning his attention back to Olivia. Pride filled him along with a touch of humility. “My daddy taught me how to carve wood and, well, as y’all can imagine, I’ve had some years to perfect it. She’s too little for a real horse, so this one will have to do for now.”
“Thank you.” Olivia let out soft laugh as Emily pulled at the ribbon on the table. “But I mostly thank you for not getting her a real horse.”
“We both do,” Doug chimed in.
“Happy to do it.” Dakota nodded and slipped his hands in the pockets of his coat. “If she takes a shine to it, I’m happy to make her more. Hell, I could whittle the girl her own herd of wild horses, if you think she’d like it. Every little girl should have a horse of her own.”
Before Olivia could respond, Trixie headed for the door.
“I’m kinda beat, so I’ll see you guys later.” She curled her hand around the apartment door and tugged it open. Her gaze met his briefly just before she slipped outside. “See you at The Coven after sundown.”
The Coven was their nightclub, where Trixie and Maya tended bar every night.
“Hey,” Maya called to her sister, flying to the door in a blur. “Why are you leaving? It’s Sunday, the one night the club is closed. You can’t tell me you’re going to sleep. Why don’t you and I have a good old sisters’ night? Shane is going out on patrol with Dakota, and we could hang out and watch old movies.”
“No, thanks.” Trixie shook her head. She hugged Maya quickly before waving to the others. “I’m out. I’ll see you after sundown to open the club for Monday.”
“Where do you suppose she’s runnin’ off to?” Dakota murmured. “She’s been doin’ that a lot lately. Y’all notice that?”
“Trixie’s private life is her own,” Olivia said with a sidelong glance in Dakota’s direction. “If you want to know where she’s going, then you’ll have to ask her.”
“I dare you,” Doug said with a snort of laughter.
“I second that.” Shane raised his hand before gathering Maya in his arms.
“You’re supposed to say I double-dog dare you,” Maya said, giggling.
“What does a dog have to do with it?” Shane asked.
“Oh man, y’all are crazy.” Dakota sighed heavily and pointed at Shane as he headed toward the door. “And you make me sound hip.”
“You should go after her.”
Suzie’s soft hesitant voice cut through the teasing laughter in the room with more force than the shy young vampire surely intended. In the almost two years Dakota had been here, he’d probably only heard her speak twice, and that was in response to direct questions. Suzie shuffled her feet nervously and tucked a long strand of pale blond hair behind her ear.