Home > Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(19)

Dead Spots (Scarlett Bernard #1)(19)
Author: Melissa F. Olson

“Look,” I began, “I know we talked about this, and I know you already made it a whole day without telling anyone about the Old World—”

“How do you know that?” Cruz interrupted.

Because you’re still alive, I thought, but I didn’t think a cop would appreciate that particular wording. “Because,” I said carefully, “if you’d run around telling people, I can guarantee it would have gotten back to Dashiell by now.” While he was still thinking that over, I added, “But do I need to be worried about you going back on our deal? You can’t tell anyone, you know, not family or your best friend or your dentist...”

Cruz rolled his eyes and held up a hand. “I’m not a child, Scarlett. I understand the stakes here.” I must not have looked very convinced, because he met my gaze and held it, giving me a small nod. “Really.”

I let out a breath. “Okay. Good night.”

Chapter 7

Jesse Cruz couldn’t remember the last time he’d been this tired. There had been no point in trying to sleep after Scarlett had dropped him off, since he was working the day shift on Wednesday and only had two hours before he needed to be at work. So Jesse decided to go have breakfast at his parents’ house. He reasoned that free food and his mother’s customary interrogation would go a long way toward helping him stay awake and thinking.

Overall, he thought he was handling the Old World thing pretty well, although maybe that was partly just shock and exhaustion. Part of him felt as if he were in a movie, and any minute the credits would roll and he’d go back to his normal, supernatural-free life. Films were filled with all manner of supernatural, and though he was a cop now, Jesse had been a child of the cinema. It was hard not to be, growing up in Hollywood with film-production parents. When Jesse was seven, he had seen the original Dracula at a friend’s Halloween party and became instantly terrified of vampires. He’d hidden garlic cloves in the pockets of most of his clothes, and started sneaking his parents’ empty wine bottles out of the recycling bin and setting them up around his room, figuring that since Dracula didn’t drink wine, he probably wouldn’t like seeing the bottles everywhere. They also served as a nice early-warning system, creating a terrible racket every time someone entered his room and knocked down the stack behind the door.

After about a week of that, his mother had gotten fed up and taken Jesse on a visit to the set of a vampire movie, the third in a popular series. She’d shown him all the different tools that the crew used to make regular actors look like vampires, and the makeup artist had even given Jesse a set of old fangs to keep. He still had them somewhere. After that, young Jesse’s fears about vampires had dissolved, but he still remembered that feeling of wonder and terror, knowing there was something out in the night that wanted to get you. And now...He kept waiting for the makeup person to come out and show him the fake fangs, but it hadn’t happened yet. And there was something sort of...exciting about that, he thought. The world had gotten a lot scarier, but it had gotten a lot more interesting, too.

Jesse’s parents’ home in Los Feliz was big and sprawling. His mom and dad had taken a basic ranch house and built on to it every ten years or so until it reminded Jesse of a hospital—new additions and corridors that made it hard to find anything. The house was hardly sterile, though—his mother had overdecorated it to the point of suffocation, which Jesse, his father, and his older brother tended to smile about.

When he pulled into the driveway, Carmen Cruz was outside the house watering the mums and dahlias that crowded the porch. Max, his parents’ pit bull mix, was prancing—there was no other word for it—in circles around her, trying to catch the falling water in his mouth. As Jesse pulled up, Max went on high alert, immediately charging the newcomer with affection that bordered on assault.

“Hey, buddy,” Jesse said happily, crouching down to let Max lick his face. “Long time no see.”

“Hijo, you were here last weekend,” Carmen said, coming up for a kiss. She was short and stocky, with good looks that hadn’t faded with age. Last year, she’d finally cut off all her long hair, and Jesse still missed seeing it when he looked at her.

“True, but in dog time, that’s like years and years.” He kissed her cheek.

“Ah, I see. Am I to assume that this unannounced visit will involve me cooking you breakfast?”

“Only if you want to. I can always hit the McDonald’s drive-through,” he said mischievously, happy to be in the familiar rhythm of teasing her. It was about as far as he could get from werewolves and dead bodies in the dark.

“God forbid! All right, follow me. Max, come.” She slapped her leg at Max, who was eyeing the flowers as though he might lick the moisture right off them. “There’s water in the house, silly dog.”

In the kitchen, his mother stirred up some híjoles caramba, Mexican omelet, while Jesse sat at the counter and drank coffee. He hated the taste of all coffee, but he’d been pretending to enjoy his mother’s for years and had no good reason to give up the charade.

For a moment, he wanted to blurt out the story of the last few days—the werewolves, the girl, the whole thing—but he swallowed it. It was exciting to know that vampires were out there, but he still didn’t want to piss them off or involve his mother. Instead, he asked, “Is Dad working this morning?” trying not to wince at each sip of his coffee. While her back was turned, he dumped in a few more spoonfuls of sugar.

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