I woke up with a pounding headache. I moaned, seeing the light stream in my bedroom window. I groaned, pushing myself to sit up on the bed. My cheek ached and I couldn’t remember why.
Making more noise, I pulled myself off the bed and stumbled across the hall to the bathroom. I looked at myself in the mirror and I assumed this is what death looked like. My eyes were blood shot, my hair looked like I’d had angry sex, and one of my stitches pulled out of my cheek in the middle of the night, leaving a tiny trail of blood down my face.
I quickly washed off the blood and when I looked in the mirror again, Benny stood against the door frame. He startled me so much, I fell over.
“Ya alright, darlin’?” He asked, pulling me off the floor.
I covered my heart with my hand and leaned over the sink. “You scared the shit out of me, Benny.” I told him, trying to regain my breathing.
“Sorry darlin’. I heard ya stumblin’ ‘round.” He said.
I saw him stiffen up when my broken stitch leaked a drop of blood. “For the love of God.” I mumbled, digging out the needle and thread from the previous night. I took a big breath and held it as I put two more stitches in my cheek.
I tied a knot in the thread and cut it off, letting go of the breath. “I gotta give you props.” I said, feeling suddenly exhausted.
“Why?” Benny asked.
“You’ve seen blood three times in the last twelve hours. I appreciate that I’m still here having this conversation with you.” I said, gesturing loosely between us.
He stayed quiet for a moment. “I’m sorry about your mom.”
I stalled. Why were we talking about my mom? “It was a drug overdose. Nothing I could have done about it.” I said, thinking I really needed coffee. I walked past him and he let me go, even following me into the kitchen.
“I know it wasn’t an overdose.” Benny’s words floated from behind me and I paused, my hand halfway to the coffee pot.
“What?” I asked, not entirely registering the situation I was in.
“I know it was a vampire attack.” He said, sitting at the table.
I hesitated. “Who told you that?” I asked, feeling violated all of the sudden.
He ducked his head a little bit and I knew, he knew I was getting pissed. “You told me last night after I took your whiskey away.”
I paused again, dread creeping over me. I turned back to the coffee pot so I didn’t have to look at him. “I never meant to tell you. I know you’re a good person. If I didn’t think you were, I wouldn’t have let you stay in my house.”
“But you let me stay anyway; despite my condition.” Benny said from the breakfast table.
I nodded, still not being able to look at him.
“Why?” He asked.
I looked at him over my shoulder, suddenly not sure how to answer him. “You’re a good person.”
He shook his head as he stood up and came to stand in front of me. “You keep sayin’ that. Why did ya not stake me and get it over with?”
I thought about it for a moment, taking a sip of my coffee.
“Why did you let me stay?” He asked more quietly.
I opened my mouth to answer him when the phone rang, making me jump. I scrambled for it, knowing it was the guys. “Hello?” I asked, sounding winded.
“You ok?” Sam asked from the other end of the phone.
“Yeah, hey Sam. Just had to run from the bedroom out here. What’s up?” I asked, trying to change the subject.
“We talked with our contact over here and we’re not turning anything up. We’re gonna talk to one more person before we head back. We should be there tomorrow morning.” Sam said, before there was a rustling noise.
“How’s it going on your end?” Dean’s voice was gruff. He was irked about something.
“It’s fine. Nothing to report.” I said, maybe a little too quickly.
“What happened?” Dean asked.
“What… What do you mean? Nothing happened.” I told him, looking at Benny for help I knew he couldn’t give me.
“Did you kill Benny?” Dean asked, loud enough I had to pull the phone away from my head.
“What? Dean! No! I didn’t kill Benny, for the love of God. He’s sitting at my table giving me shit just like yesterday.” I said in a huff, holding the phone out to Benny.
“Hey Dean. No dead man’s blood for me and I still have my head.” Benny said with a little bit of a smile.
“What happened?” Benny asked, looking at me and I turned around, covering my face. He was gonna spill. I knew it. I could see it in his aura. It was this milky red-gray color.
“Nothing. Scar almost got in a scrap with his boss, but she handled it well.” Benny said from behind me and I paused, turning to him.
He sat there, listening to whatever Dean said. “No, I had her back the whole time. I was gonna jump him when she pulled me away from it. We make a good pair.” He said, looking up at me with a smile.
I just stood there, forgetting my coffee as I watched him.
“Yeah, yeah alright.” Benny said one last time before holding the phone out to me.
“Yeah?” I asked when I got the phone back.
“Scrap?” Dean asked.
“Nearly. Nearly a scrap. And if you’d ever read those letters I wrote you, you’d already know.” I said, in hopes of changing the subject from last night.
“Yeah, yeah I know.” Dean said, sounding flustered. “You watch his back, you got me?” Dean said, sounding very much like his father.
“Aye, aye boss man.” I said, quickly hanging up on him before he could reply. And then I was faced with Benny, sitting at my breakfast table. “You didn’t tell them.” I said, sounding more surprised than I probably should have.
Benny gave me a little smile. “You asked me not to.”
“Well, yeah. But Dean is your best friend.” I said, with a useless gesture to him. “If I’d ask Sam not to tell Dean, it’d be out of his mouth before Dean got all the way through the door.”
“You didn’t shoot me; I didn’t tell.” Benny said, with a shrug.
“So. We’re even?” I asked.
He just gave me a big southern smile that was infectious. “We’ve always been even, darlin’.”
I ducked my head a little and turned, trying to hide the smile tugging at my lips. “Alright then. Breakfast?” I asked.
“Best if I don’t. But I’d like to step outside for a smoke, if you don’t mind.” He said, standing up.
“Sure. The back door’s unlocked.” I told him, gesturing pointlessly to the back of the house.
He gave me a quick head nod before he exited the house.
Part of me wondered if vampires got anything out of smoking. Maybe I’d go have one with him. But another part of me wondered if he’d finally had enough of me and was just going to find the guys. With this at the forefront of my mind, I started making a few pieces of French toast for me.
So when he returned nearly ten minutes later, I was almost surprised. “Enjoy your smoke?” I asked him.
He smiled. “I did. Can I help?” He asked, coming to stand incredibly close to me.
For a moment, my brain slowed to the pace of dripping maple syrup in twenty degree weather. “Help? Uh, no. No, thanks. I got it. Almost done.” I said, as my brain slammed into overdrive to cover up my brain slip.
“You alright, darlin’?” He asked, still standing nearly too close and his accent a little thicker than I remembered it being ten minutes ago.
“Yeah. Yeah. I just was thinking about how Dean’s gonna flip when he gets back.” I said, trying to change gears.
He nodded, not moving otherwise. “Why’s that?” He asked.
I wordlessly tapped my cheek, then cringed because of the pain. “Ouch.” I mumbled, trying not to rub it.
“Does it still hurt?” He asked.
“Um. Yeah. But it’s ok. Totally used to it.” I told him, waving it off as I flipped my French toast.
My body wasn’t adjusting to how close Benny stood to me; it was like all my nerve endings were on fire.
“What do you mean?” He asked.
“Huh?” I said, forgetting our conversation.
“What do you mean you’re used to it?” He asked.
I shrugged. I hadn’t meant to say anything, but I guess I was in it now. “It’s not like last night was the first time a guy has hit me, Benny.” I told him, trying to down play the conversation we were about to have. I flipped my toast once more before plating it.
“Your mom and the drug dealer.” Benny said simply, still standing ever so close.
I moved out of his space and sat at the table. “Yep.”
“Were those the only two times?” he asked, sitting across from me.
“Why ask a question you already know the answer to?” I asked back, taking a bite of my breakfast.
“How many other times?” He asked, watching me carefully.
I shrugged, avoiding his gaze as I continued with my breakfast.
“A lot?” He asked, his voice dropping.
I shrugged. “Depends on your definition of a lot.” I told him.
He sighed in frustration.
I shrugged again. “It’s not a big deal. Some guys just get psychical when they’re mad.”
“And that’s an excuse?” He asked, sounding disgusted.
His tone hurt more than his words did. “I’m not exactly a body builder here, Benny. And I’m not sure if you remember or not, but love makes you do crazy things.” I said, trying for the defensive.
He shook his head. “I left my nest; ya let a guy hit ya.”
“Don’t patronize me, ok?” I said, standing up from the table and taking my dishes to the sink. “I loved him and he broke my heart. End of story.” I told him. “I’m going to change. I have work in an hour and I’m going with or without you.” I told him turning and following the hallway to my bedroom.
I closed and locked the door behind me. I felt tired suddenly and sat on the floor in front of the door. “Oh, Bobby.” I said to the empty room. “Why’d you have to go? I could’ve called you and talked for an hour about this whole thing. You would’ve just told me you loved me and to deal with it. And then I’d figure it out for sure. But you’re not here anymore.” I said, feeling as if my heart weighed fifty pounds.
I heard a noise from the other side of the door, but I couldn’t tell what it was. I pulled myself off the floor and sat at my vanity. I brushed my hair before putting a light curl in it. The blue and brown blended nicely when it was curled. I pulled the right side of my bangs up and pinned them with a nice hair clip. I left the left side down to cover most of the stitches.
You could hardly see them if you looked right at me with my hair down. So I put on a little eye liner and put on my chap stick. I pulled another blue diner dress out of my dresser and pulled it over my head. I looked at myself in the mirror and nodded before opening the door and walking to the kitchen.
“Did you sleep any last night?” I asked Benny, who sat at the table with his hands folded under his chin.
“Lil’ bit.” He said, not moving.
I didn’t know what to say. I poured myself a glass of water and took a slow sip. I felt the need to apologize, but I didn’t feel I was in the wrong. I didn’t think I’d done anything to deserve the silence that was going to suffocate me soon.
I stole a glance at him and he was just watching me. His aura shifted to this bright green with bits of dark blue here and there. “What are you thinking about?” I asked. I wanted to know why he was feeling love and fear.
He shook his head, moving his hands to rest in his lap.
I sat at the table across from him and held a hand out to him. Slowly, he took one of my hands. “Benny. I can feel the fear coming off of you.” I said quietly.
He gave a half smile and shook his head again, but he didn’t let go of my hand.
“Is it me?” I couldn’t help but ask. It sounded silly in my head, but what did I know?
He paused and looked up at me.
“What is it?” I asked him, becoming more worried about him.
He shook his head again and let go of my hand. “We best get you to work.” He said, standing up.
I nodded slowly. Maybe he’d talk about it later on. Maybe he’d never talk about it. So I grabbed my purse and my keys and locked the door behind us.
Benny opened my door in true gentleman fashion before getting in himself. We drove into town in silence.
“So. I should warn you. Since you told Denise you’re my boyfriend, chances are half the town knows about it. So just keep that in mind if anybody wants to talk to you.” I mentioned, turning the radio down a few clicks.
“How did we meet?” He asked, looking over at me.
I shrugged. “What says you?”
He thought about it for a minute. “I bought you coffee.”
“Coffee?” I asked, a bit surprised.
He nodded. “We supposedly met in high school, right?” He asked.
“So I was in a coffee shop and told the cashier to charge me for your coffee. But the cashier told you about it and you came over to thank me.” He said with a smile.
I thought about it for a moment. “That’s incredibly romantic, Mr. LaFitte.”
“Is that a yes?” He asked.
“That’s a yes.” I told him.
The rest of the ride was silent and I wanted so badly to talk to him, about anything. But I didn’t know how to say something and I didn’t want him to get mad at me. So I sighed as I pulled into the parking space at the back of the restaurant.
Benny took hold of my arm before I got out. I looked over at him and he looked almost lost. “Will ya promise me somethin’?”
I sat there for a moment. “Yes.” I said with a little nod. I didn’t care what it was.
He didn’t say anything for a moment and I was starting to worry. “Don’t let him treat ya badly anymore.”
I opened and closed my mouth, not entirely sure what to say. “I need this job.” I said quietly.
“Not enough you need him treatin’ ya like that.” He said.
I was having an inner struggle. I looked down at the steering wheel, trying to think.
“I’m not askin’ ya to quit outright. Just tell him to leave ya alone. Because if I see him touch ya again, I’m gonna kill him.” Benny said, his accent thickening the more he talked.
I looked up at him. “Kill him?” I repeated.
Benny nodded, holding firm.
I nodded. “Ok. I’ll confront him if the situation presents itself. But I’m not looking for trouble.” I told him sternly.
Benny nodded, letting go of my arm. “That’s all I’m askin’.”
I nodded once more, climbing out of the truck. Benny met me at the tailgate and I looped my arm around his elbow as we walked in. “My shift is only four hours today. I assume you can hold the bar down for that long?” I asked him.
He smiled at me a little. “Suppose I have to.”
I nodded and we entered the back door of the diner. I nodded to Jonny the cook and went to set Benny up at the bar.
“How was your morning, Vivian?” Gunner asked, coming to stand much too close. It wasn’t like when Benny stood too close, a comfortable confusion. When Gunner was too near, it was like I just wanted to punch him in the face.
Oh, how I hated my ‘name’ when he said it. Maybe one of these days I’d live in a place where I could use my real name… “Fine, Gunner.” I said curtly. “Miller?” I asked Benny.
“Yes, ma’am.” Benny said with a smile.
I zoned Gunner out for the next three hours. I brought Benny beer as he flagged me down and thankfully, Joe was nowhere to be seen. However, problems arose three hours into my four hour shift.
I was standing behind the cash register, ringing up an elderly couple who had come in for lunch. They smiled constantly and gave me a pretty decent tip. When I went to turn around, I found Gunner close enough to me that I couldn’t take a step without running into him.
“So how’s Benny doing, Viv?” He asked.
“Just fine, last I checked.” I told him.
“That’s good. Denise told me about you guys.” He said, still blocking my way.
“Oh. Am I your pillow talk?” I asked with a nice smile.
He looked irritated by my words. “Denise is just a passing thought.” He said, moving a little bit closer. His arms reached around me and firmly grabbed my butt.
My instincts flared and I pushed him as hard as I could. Gunner was much stronger than I was, but luckily, I caught him off guard and he landed hard against the wall behind him.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Benny stand up and move towards us.
“Don’t you ever touch me again. I’m sick of you treating me like some prize to be won. I hate it!” I said, my voice raising with my temper. “I quit.” I said, taking my apron off and throwing it at him.
I went into the back, clocked out, grabbed my purse and found Benny. I took his hand and we left the restaurant.
“That was brave, darlin’.” He told me quietly as we walked back to the truck.
I shrugged, feeling my adrenaline running out. “Guess it’s back to credit card scams.”
He smiled and squeezed my hand.
The ride home was silent. I stopped at the liquor store a few blocks from my place and Benny said nothing as I climbed out and he followed. I got a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of blackberry merlot. I finished my transaction and we got back in the truck.
I unlocked the door when we got home and set the liquor on the counter. “I’m gonna change. If you’re tired, you can catch a nap in the bedroom.” I told Benny.
He nodded. “Think I’ll stay up for a bit.”
I nodded, pulling the pin out of my hair as I walked down the hallway and closed my bedroom door behind me. I sat at my vanity, taking off my makeup. Then I changed out of my diner dress and replaced it with my yoga pants and a tank top.
I went back into the kitchen to pour myself a glass of wine, despite the fact it was only three in the afternoon. “Don’t suppose you’d want one?” I asked Benny.
“No thank you.” He told me.
I nodded and sat at the table with him. “Do you miss being human?” I asked.
He thought about it for a moment. “Sometimes.”
“What do you miss most?” I asked.
Benny smiled, staring fondly at my kitchen table, but not really seeing it. “I suppose the company of a good woman.”
“Don’t most vampires have mates? Or… donors, they get along with?” I asked, not quite sure how I should word my question.
He smiled at me. “Most do, yeah.”
“But you didn’t want that?” I asked, sipping my merlot.
His smile stayed in place. “No, I never enjoyed that part. I did it briefly, because it was the way of the nest. But when I found Andrea, all that changed.”
“It made you want to be better.” I added.
He nodded. “She saw me for what I really was and she never thought of me as a monster. So I had to prove to her she was right.”
I nodded with a small smile. “I had a boyfriend once. He was tall and muscular. Smart and witty. Equal parts handsome and intelligent.” I told Benny, trying to paint him a picture. “We were home one day, just watching movies when I had a vision and passed out in his lap.
“I woke up not three minutes later and had to explain what happened because he was freaking out. I told him why I passed out and he was curious about it; asking me all kinds of questions. But he never looked down on me for it. He never looked at me like a freak or something he could use for his own benefit. It was nice, for a while.” I told him.
“What happened then?” Benny asked.
I gave him a small smile. “He was sleeping with Denise on a regular basis.”
Benny’s face was disappointed. “A real winner.”
I nodded, finishing off my glass of wine. “So.” I said, looking around my small house. “What do we do until the guys get here tomorrow?”
Benny shrugged. “Anythin’ you’d like.”
I smiled at him. “Well, in that case; I want to bake something. Any preference on the food you won’t be eating?” I asked, standing and going to the cabinet that had my few cookbooks.
Benny smiled. “I once enjoyed the smell of chocolate chip cookies.”
I nodded, setting the four books on the table. “Chocolate chip cookies it is. We’ll have to go to the store though.”
He nodded as I searched for another recipe. “Grandma Singer’s Carrot Spice Cake.” I said with a smile as I pulled the recipe card out of the back of one of the books.
“A favorite of yours?” Benny asked.
“My mom was a druggie my whole life. Her parents were dead. Mom and Bobby were the only family I ever knew. When I was little, I think Bobby realized how much of a hell my life was going to be. I hadn’t got my psychic mojo at that point, but I still think he knew I was going to be a freak among freaks.” I said with a smile.
“So every time mom took me to see Bobby, he’d take me to do something fun. We’d go to a museum, or we go to the mall and window shop sometimes. One day, my mom brought me over, cracked out of her mind. She passed out on the couch as soon as we got there. Bobby was making a cake in the kitchen.” I told him.
Benny smiled, watching me.
“I asked him if I could help and he got the biggest smile. ‘That depends,’ He told me. ‘Can you stir a spoon?’ I just crinkled my nose. ‘Of course, Uncle Bobby,’ I told him. He smiled and gave me the spoon. I got to mix everything up while he added the ingredients, because I couldn’t read yet.” I said.
“Sounds like a good memory.” Benny told me.I nodded. I smiled at him best I could. “I’ll get dressed and we’ll go to the store.” I told him, standing up and making my way to my bedroom.