Dead to the World - By Charlaine Harris Page 0,1

he hadn’t been “brought over” too successfully. Probably the morgue attendant, who happened to be a vampire, should have ignored the tiny spark of life. But since he was a great fan, he hadn’t been able to resist the attempt, and now the entire southern vampire community shuffled Bubba around and tried to keep him from public view.

Another silence fell. I’d planned on taking off my shoes and uniform, putting on a cuddly robe, and watching television with a Freschetta pizza by my side. It was a humble plan, but it was my own. Instead, here I was, suffering.

“If you have something to say, you better go on and say it,” I told him.

He nodded, almost to himself. “I have to explain,” he said. His white hands arranged themselves in his lap. “Lorena and I—”

I flinched involuntarily. I never wanted to hear that name again. He’d dumped me for Lorena.

“I have to tell you,” he said, almost angrily. He’d seen me twitch. “Give me this chance.” After a second, I waved a hand to tell him to continue.

“The reason I went to Jackson when she called me is that I couldn’t help myself,” he said.

My eyebrows flew up. I’d heard that before. It means, “I have no self-control,” or, “It seemed worth it at the time, and I wasn’t thinking north of my belt.”

“We were lovers long ago. As Eric says he told you, vampire liaisons don’t tend to last long, though they’re very intense while they are ongoing. However, what Eric did not tell you was that Lorena was the vampire who brought me over.”

“To the Dark Side?” I asked, and then I bit my lip. This was no subject for levity.

“Yes,” Bill agreed seriously. “And we were together after that, as lovers, which is not always the case.”

“But you had broken up . . .”

“Yes, about eighty years ago, we came to the point where we couldn’t tolerate each other any longer. I hadn’t seen Lorena since, though I’d heard of her doings, of course.”

“Oh, sure,” I said expressionlessly.

“But I had to obey her summons. This is absolutely imperative. When your maker calls, you must respond.” His voice was urgent.

I nodded, trying to look understanding. I guess I didn’t do too good a job.

“She ordered me to leave you,” he said. His dark eyes were peering into mine. “She said she would kill you if I didn’t.”

I was losing my temper. I bit the inside of my cheek, real hard, to make myself focus. “So, without explanation or discussion with me, you decided what was best for me and for you.”

“I had to,” he said. “I had to do her bidding. And I knew she was capable of harming you.”

“Well, you got that right.” In fact, Lorena had done her dead level best to harm me right into the grave. But I’d gotten her first—okay, by a fluke, but it had worked.

“And now you no longer love me,” Bill said, with the slightest of questions in his voice.

I didn’t have any clear answer.

“I don’t know,” I said. “I wouldn’t think you’d want to come back to me. After all, I killed your mom.” And there was the slightest of questions in my voice, too, but mostly I was bitter.

“Then we need more time apart. When I return, if you consent, we’ll talk again. A kiss good-bye?”

To my shame, I would love to kiss Bill again. But it was such a bad idea, even wanting it seemed wrong. We stood, and I gave him a quick brush of lips to the cheek. His white skin shone with a little glow that distinguished vampires from humans. It had surprised me to learn that not everyone saw them like I did.

“Are you seeing the Were?” he asked, when he was nearly out the door. He sounded as though the words had been pulled out of him by their roots.

“Which one?” I asked, resisting the temptation to bat my eyelashes. He deserved no answer, and he knew it. “How long will you be gone?” I asked more briskly, and he looked at me with some speculation.

“It’s not a sure thing. Maybe two weeks,” he answered.

“We might talk then,” I said, turning my face away. “Let me return your key.” I fished my keys out of my purse.

“No, please, keep it on your key ring,” he said. “You might need it while I am gone. Go in the house as you will. My mail’s getting held at the post office until I give