Chris Marie Green, Paranormal & New Adult

 

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Vampire Babylon
Bloodlands
She Code
Jensen Murphy Terror Island

Excerpt

BEST FRIEND EVER - October 2013

A She Code Rule: Tolerate the methods your friend uses to find romance, even if they can be a bit...unsettling.

1 

“Do you think if I showed my tits to Andy he’d finally notice me?”

Scout’s words seemed to cut through the music in the bar even though she’d only whispered. I tried not to spit-laugh the cider I’d just drunk, swallowing it instead and slamming my glass on the wooden table.

“Why stop at your tits? You’re packing a lot more than just tah number one and tah number two...”

“I’m serious, Courtney. Don’t mock.”

We were in the middle of about a hundred loud people, all seated at table benches and shouting over the music while waiting for a band to start its acoustic set, but Scout’s voice had risen above everything again. And why not? She wasn’t exactly a shrinking violet.

“These”—she cupped her breasts in her hands, testing out their heft under her red button down shirt she’d tied at her waist, then letting the girls drop to where they belonged—“are my way of saying, ‘Hey, I’m here. They could be all yours, Andy.’ I’ve got them. Why not use them?”

It was a testament to how occupied everyone else was with their own business that nobody noticed her MTV reality show move.

“Scout...” I said.

“Andy doesn’t know I’m alive.” She rested an elbow on the table and dug her fingers into her short, straight black hair. “All I’m saying is that, maybe if I show him my wares, he’d get a wakeup call.”

“In case you didn’t realize it, you don’t need to go all Kardashian on a guy to make him notice you.”

And that was no lie. Scout Garcia—real name Sonia, nicknamed “Scout” by me because I’d been going through a To Kill a Mockingbird phase sixth months ago when we’d met at the townie bookstore where I worked—was definitely pretty. Actually, she was what you’d call manic-pixie-dream-girl pretty, mainly because of her sunny, assertive smile and personality. But she also had the quality of a Tinkerbell from a foreign land because her mom was Mexican and her dad was white. She’d inherited Mom’s dark hair and curves, plus Dad’s pale skin and light brown eyes. Swear to God, though, she looked like little Scout in the ancient movie, except more exotic, grown up, and powed-out in all the right places.

Once upon a time Scout had tried out a couple nicknames for me, too—Curly Court and Hermione, because of my dark brown, spiraled hair. Neither of them had stuck, though. In fact, Scout hadn’t ever come up with anything for me that’d stuck, but that was fine. I didn’t like commitments so much, anyway. Not with guys, not with school, either, which was a fairly convenient matter since Cal-U Spring Ridge hadn’t accepted me when I’d applied.

As a roar came up from the back of the room, where people were taking body shots at the bar and Scout and I had recently used our new tee-hee-hee-we’re-only-nineteen! fake IDs to get our drinks, she glanced there. Seeing nothing interesting, she focused on the main door, waiting for Andy to arrive. This was supposed to be an every-Wednesday-night thing for him since the band Emo Big Hair Vamp Boy was his favorite.

And, what do you know? Just as if she’d summoned Andy, he walked in, laughing with his friends, waving to a group by the bar, heading straight for them.

“Oh, take me now,” Scout said dramatically, laying her head on the table and pounding her fist by the napkin holder. “He’s so hot, Court.”

I thought Andy was just okay. A little too generic for my tastes, with his new jeans and plaid shirt and Bieber hair. But something about him appealed to Scout’s seeming habit of falling for guys who weren’t available, so all I could do was be a buddy and go with it.

She sat up, suddenly determined. “A flash—just a peek—has got to work. What red-blooded American guy could resist it? It’s just a flirty invitation, that’s all, like a birthday party card saying, ‘Come on over and play.’”

I checked to see just how much beer she’d been drinking when I hadn’t been looking. Nearly all of the glass already. “You’re not kidding about this.”

“Well, I wouldn’t need this plan if you’d just do me a favor and—”

“Please don’t say it—”

“Ask Derek if he’ll set us up.” Scout leaned against me. “You know that one word from you to Derek about what a great girl I am would do wonders with Andy. They’re friends. Derek’s an in for me.”

I shook my head. “Derek and I don’t work that way. We’re not boyfriend/girlfriend.”

“Still.”

Big sigh. Scout absolutely knew that I wouldn’t ever go there with Derek. We were...casual. And he was fine with the arrangement. He even called me a Day Tripper, just like that song about one-way ticket girls. We didn’t have relationship conversations like, “Hey, Derek, how about setting up my buddy with your buddy and we’ll awkward double date?

I lightly pushed Scout. “You’re really being weird tonight.”

“More than normal?” She flashed an innocent, cheesy smile.

“Yes.  You’re being more aggressive than the Scout I know.”

“Maybe you’re just getting to know me.”

That could be. You could say I’d been drawn to Scout from the very first because she was super active while I was…passive. At least I had been that way this past year, after…

Well, after Mom.

Numbness made me go quiet until Scout nudged me.

“Hey,” she said, knowing me well enough to decide when I was in a funk. And that’s why I liked her. She seemed to just always…know.

“Hey,” I said, better now.

She smiled, and I thought it was because I was back to being sociable.

“You were telling me…?”

“That I’ve never seen you flash anyone before,” I said. “You’ve got more pride than that.”

“Yeah, you’re right. Maybe I do. It’s just that I’ve never met someone I’ve liked as much as Andy since you and me have been hanging out.”

“Then get his attention the old fashioned way. You know, talk to him, get to know him, make him fall for you.”

She furrowed her brow. “Listen to you, all suddenly Miss Manners.”

I shrugged. I wasn’t exactly shy when it came to sexuality. It was just that guys were so much work. Scout shouldn’t have to go this extra mile.

Her eyes were bright as she fixed her gaze on Andy at the bar. I hadn’t talked her out of anything.

Time to put the harsh on her. “Okay. If all you want is a one-night stand, then do it. But I think you’re sick of short-term guys. That’s what you said the other day, remember?”

In the time I’d known her, she’d fallen hard for a couple of boys, and neither prospect had worked. Scout had still been optimistic about finding someone who’d last longer, though, and I couldn’t help but admire her resilience.

“Did I really say that?” I could tell she was messing with me.

“Yeah, and it’s my job to keep you out of heartache and trouble.”

“I suppose it is.” She seemed resigned now. “Maybe you’re right about the flash. It’s just that, in college, guys have so many things to distract them, and I have to be new and shiny somehow, right?”

“Shine with your shirt closed.” Thank God she was getting it, because I’d started to think that she’d gone to a new, strange level of social butterfly-ness tonight.

“Easy for you to say.” She tweaked one of my curls. “When’s the last time you had to work for a guy’s attention? They latch on like magnets without any effort from you. And the thing is, you don’t even appreciate what you’ve got when you’ve got it.”

What I’ve got.

The comment only made me think of everything I didn’t have anymore... Then again, what didn’t make me think about that?

Scout realized what she’d said, and she reached over to hug me. “You know I didn’t mean for it to come out that way. You do appreciate everything you have, especially after your mom’s sickness...”

Even though I didn’t respond, she still kept hugging me. A weight dragged at me, and I forced a smile, holding Scout away and acting like, hey, I’d already come to terms a long time ago with the fact that I’d never see my mom again. Really.

“Seriously, Scout. You didn’t hurt my feelings. It’s okay.”

But I could tell she knew better.

Relief consumed me when the band took the stage, and cheers filled the room, punctuated by whistles. Scout cupped my cheek in her hands, looking at me and making sure I was really over it, just like she’d come into my life to be my pepper-upper. And I’m positive she liked it that way. She was a fixer, and I’d been at a point in my life where I’d needed major mending.

As the lead singer welcomed everyone to “beer and sing-along night with the Emos,” Scout turned around on the bench. I glanced behind me and, sure enough, Andy was still at the bar, searching the room. When he spotted me and Scout, he waved.

Before I could stop her, she’d gestured that the seats around us were empty.

“No boobs,” I said in my most threatening voice.

“Thanks, Mean Jiminy Cricket.”

Andy and his friends rolled up to our table, bringing with them a cloud of aftershave that wafted through the hops and burgers aroma of the room.

“Hey, Sonia!” he said over the music.

“Hey, Andy!”

I could see it happening before my very eyes—his smile melting her. And he didn’t even seem to realize the effect he had as he took a seat next to her and his friends went to the opposite side of the table, grinning at me in thanks and maybe with just a little too much interest for me to care about.

I sent them a friendly but very “whatever” smile and drank some more cider as the lead singer introduced the band and the room got noisier in anticipation of the first song.

Then it happened.

Like a stealth Maxim Girl, Scout undid a button on her shirt. I gaped because she was packing her best black lacy bra tonight. Shit.

While the band gave their guitars a last-minute tuning, Andy leaned over Scout to greet me, and I thought for sure that he would see her WonderBoobs on display.

Nope. Was the guy blind?

“Hey, Courtney. Where’s Derek?”

“He’s your friend,” I said. “Don’t you know?”

Andy only grinned. I had to say that I did like him—he was polite. Too polite to bring up the fact that me and Derek were getting it on, and shouldn’t that mean I cared where he was tonight?

Scout sent me a look I’d seen before. Yeah, speaking of Derek...Please help a girl out and work on him for me when we get out of here? Have him tell Andy what he’s missing with me?

I gave a pointed look to Scout’s black bra and rolled my eyes just as a phone rang with a generic tone no one I knew of used anymore. We all glanced at Andy as he cursed, reached into his pocket for his smartphone, which was covered by a case with a tasteful plaid pattern, and turned it off. He raised a hand to the band in apology, then good-naturedly yelled to the room, “All phones off, morons!”

Everyone cheered and made a little fun of him, paving the way for the band to tear into an acoustic version of one of those old fart songs my dad liked to listen to—“Bad Moon Rising.” The boys at our table started to howl. It was totally dumbass, but I could tell it was a college student ritual these people had with this band. The whole room was doing it, and it was obvious that they didn’t come here for the music as much as to get drunk and act dopey.

And...why was I here again? I was a townie, not one of them, and I felt like I was in Timbuktu experiencing a custom that made no sense.

Unfortunately, Scout was doing it, too, like she was bonding with Andy. I almost stopped her, but when I saw that he was howling with her and having a good old time, I shrugged it off.  Fun was fun.

The Emo Big Hair Vamp Boys clearly had cornered the market on music camp, because they made their way through a few more acoustic versions of scary songs like one about werewolves in London and a psycho killer. I took up my glass and Scout’s for a refill at the bar because girls gotta drink, especially on the first night of acquiring fake IDs. We’d planned to catch a ride home with Scout’s roommates, anyway, when they dropped by later.

After I got back, I put Scout’s glass in front of her. Or perhaps I should say in front of her more exposed bosom explosions.

She’d undone another button on her shirt until it absolutely yawned. Andy was singing along with the band, clueless—or maybe it was because he was the best fanboy ever and the Emos had kidnapped all his focus.

It could be. Derek and I hadn’t been seeing each other for very long—about a month at the most—but he’d mentioned Andy a time or two, just because of their friendship, and he’d said Andy was a huge music disciple and a gentleman. I guess I was seeing proof of both right here and now.

Not so much for Andy’s friends, though. One of them sure noticed Scout, and he was trying not to fully turn around and leer at her while he elbowed his other two friends. Before they could turn around, I took the initiative.

“Whoops,” I said. “You need new buttons, Scout?”

I doubt the guys heard me as I did her right back up. All I knew was that they obviously thought I was some kind of ultrabitch for cutting off their peepshow. Credit to Andy, though—he actually sent me a “whoops, indeed” look, like he had noticed the flash, but was truly being that gentleman Derek said he was.

As for Scout? Not amused by my interference. Especially since, as a lesson to her, I’d buttoned her up to the collarbone.

She are-you-serious?ed me by undoing a button, then started singing along to a twisted version of a Katy Perry song since the band had transitioned from their monster shtick to some newer stuff.

Clearly, she still wasn’t shiny enough for Andy, though, and she knew it.

I told myself to just let her undo anything she wanted to as I chilled under the lull of the music, letting everything go for as long as I could…

 

 

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A noir-mystery-fantasy series by Chris Marie Green