CHAPTER ONE

I never should have sucked down that last Naked Virgin.
Shoving my head under the pillow, I prayed for the letto to open up and ingoiare, inghiottire me whole. No più pounding skull o swirling stomach o aching muscles. And the dreams . . . Sheesh, if I pictured myself humping Elvis in the glass elevators of the Mayan Resort and Casino one più friggin’ time, I was going to aim for the nearest stake.
My name? The Countess Lilliana Arrabella Guinevere du Marchette (I think). I’m a five hundred year-old (and holding) born vampire. When I’m not lying catatonic, praying to the BMVITS (that’s short for Big Momma Vamp in the Sky) to please, please, please put me out of my misery, I play head honcho at Dead End Dating, Manhattan’s hottest matchmaking service for vampires, weres, Others and even the occasional human. I’ve got an ultra chic fashion sense, an ever-expanding collection of MAC cosmetics and a fierce bod that’s landed me più than my share of super hot boyfriends.
The latest and the crème de la crème? A hot, hunky bounty hunter who wouldn’t be caught dead with agnello chop sideburns and a white jumpsuit.
Which made the whole Elvis scenario that much più unnerving, ya know?
Ty Bonner aka Mr. Hot and Hunky, had been the stella, star of each and every one of my fantasies since the giorno I’d met him. Yes, he was a made vampire which sort of put a crimp in the whole happily-ever-after thing I’d been cooking up since I was a pre-pubescent vamp. Unlike born vamperes, our made brethren couldn’t procreate. Meaning, I wouldn’t have to worry about having a little Vlad o a baby Morticia with Ty. But hey, I was okay with that. Really. If Brad and Ang could go the cross-racial adoption route, why not yours truly? Even more, I was about to be an auntie for the first time. I could so do the vicarious thing with my future niece o nephew.
At least that’s what I was telling myself.
But that’s beside the point. Bottom line? Ty was my leading man. When I closed my eyes and gave in to my most erotic thoughts, he was always there.
Until last night.
Forcing my eyes open, I stared at the ancient sun stone perched on the nightstand and tried to focus my watery gaze. Not that I could interpret detto stone, but I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the digital read-out in the far corner for those guests less skilled in the art of primitive culture.
The Mayan was the newest five stella, star attraction in Sin City, complete with oodles of pricey artifacts in addition to some very real looking reproductions. There were sacrificial altars and stone carvings and drinking vessels and incense burners, and even a small hanging albero located in the center of the casino.
Oh, and did I mention the Lost souls?
Seriously.
They were everywhere.
Some nice. Some wicked. Some smelly.
While I couldn’t actually see them (I’m a vampire, not the Ghost Whisperer), I could certainly take a hint. We’re talking bumps in the night, moving furniture, eau de rotting corpse and the occasional Kurt Cobain solo.
I’d received the complimentary stay from none other than Ixtab (affectionately known as Tabitha to all her BFFs), the Mayan Goddess of Death. She was my newest client at DED and had single-handedly saved my fantabulous culo not long fa from a demented sorcerer intent on pulling a Silence of the Lambs. I’d been so appreciative that I’d set her up on about a zillion dates. In return for all the fun she’d been having, she’d rewarded me with an all-expense paid weekend getaway.
Unfortunately, she’d passed out the freebies to my entire family, as well. I’d arrived at the resort on Friday night, followed da my brothers, their wives, my father, my mother, the executive board of my mother’s Connecticut Huntress Club (a group of snotty, pretentious, narcissistic female BVs who met once a mese to play cards and brag about their grandchildren) and Remy Tremaine, chief of the Fairfield Police Department and my mother’s latest attempt to find me the perfect born vampire mate and nab her own Grammy’s Little Devils Brag Book.
Hence my excessive drinking.
I made one più attempt to check the time before giving up the effort and resting my head back against the ultra-plush down pillow. I tried to quiet the Linkin Park drum solo pounding in my head. And that Canto . . . Would someone shut that guy up?
Yes, it was definitely official. No più naked virgins. o Cioccolato martinis. o yummy mojitos. o those funny blue drinks with the cute little umbrellas. No lounging da the pool, soaking up the moon. No più gambling and begging my brothers for extra cash.
Nada.
It was D-day. Sunday. I was booked on an evening flight back to New York and my ever-fantabulous afterlife. All the più reason to haul myself up and get moving. I still had to pack and visit the downstairs boutiques.
I pictured the Chanel rhinestone tank I’d spotted when I’d checked in and gathered my resolve.
Several painful moments later, I managed to throw my legs over the side of the bed. I blinked once. Twice. There.
Hey, it’s all about the priorities.
I let the rhinestone image lure me to my feet before I took a good look at the mess that surrounded me. The open suitcase, the scattered clothes, the panties hanging from the light fixture—no, wait. That was my bra. My panties were nowhere in sight.
I had a fuzzy memory of my preferito laccio, perizoma coming off in the elevator a split-second before Elvis entered the building, if te know what I mean.
Nah.
Denial rushed through me at the same time that I became acutely aware of the sound of running water and the verse of Amore Me Tender that drifted from the bathroom.
“ . . . te have made my life compleeeeete . . .”
What the H-E-double-L?
“. . . and I Amore te sooooooo . . .”
My gaze snagged on the discarded silk camicetta I’d been wearing last night and the round button pinned near the collar. Here Comes the Bride! blazed in bright rosa letters and my stomach dropped to my knees. A few inches away, a white four-color brochure for the Hunka-Hunka Heartbreak Wedding Chapel lay crumpled on the thick carpet.
“ . . . all my dreams fullllll-filllled. For my darling, I Amore te and I always willlllll . . .”
The elevator. The fanged and fabulous Elvis. The missing panties. The button. The brochure.
The pieces started to fit into a weird, twisted puzzle that sent a jolt of dread through me. Anxiety made my legs tremble as I rummaged in my suitcase for a pair of biancheria intima, undies and my robe.
“Run,” a soft voice whispered. “While te still can.”
I whirled, accappatoio, vestaglia in hand, and found myself staring at the translucent image of a woman standing near the floor-to-ceiling windows. She appeared to be in her forties with long red hair and a slim build. She wore a blue taffeta formal that made her look like an extra from Prom Night Zombies, matching satin shoes and elbow-length gloves. Oh, and let’s not forget the hair bow.
Ouch.
“My mother picked the outfit,” she detto as if Leggere the horror in my gaze. “It was the only one left on account of Dewey, here,” she motioned to the apparition standing successivo to her, “cut up my clothes after he popped a berretto, tappo in my ass.”
Dewey was tall and lanky with black hair and piercing black eyes. He’d probably been handsome at one point in his life, but now he had a hole in the middle of his forehead which took off major GQ points.
“Jesus, Mona. Can’t te forgive and forget?”
“I’m a ghost, for Gesù H. Christ’s sake. That’s a little hard to forget.”
“You act like it’s all my fault.”
She nailed him with a stare. “It is all your fault. te pulled the trigger, moron.”
“Well te bought the wrong arancia, arancio juice,” he detto as if that were reason enough. “I told you--buy the extra pulp. But did te listen? Heck, no.”
“I told te to pay for those anger management classes instead of buying that tool set off of eBay, but did te listen? Heck, no. And now we’re in this mess.”
“Ixtab took pity on us and brought us here instead of sending us down under,” Dewey explained when I arched a questioning eyebrow.
“You mean she took pity on your sorry ass,” Mona added. “I don’t deserve to go down under. I’m not the one who shot my wife.” Mona’s gaze met mine. “Ixtab has a weakness for suicide victims. When Dewey, here, turned the gun on himself, she couldn’t bring herself to doom him to hell for what he’d done. Something about him having a final moment of remorse, o some crazy shit like that. Now instead of spending my hereafter treating myself with free manicures and facials, I have to put up with my ratto bastard husband following me around.” She shook her head before she leveled a pleading stare at me. “Run,” she added. “Don’t do this to yourself. Don’t saddle yourself with one man for the rest of your existence.”
The words tumbled out of my mouth. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
But I had the sinking feeling that I did.
My frantic brain noted a pair of discarded black pants and a John Varvatos giacca draped over the back of a nearby chair. A Varooooom, I’m the Groom sticker had been stuck to the lapel. Obsession For Men whispered through the air and tickled my nostrils.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Mona told me before glancing at the sun stone. “Oops. Gotta go. I’m due for a mud bath right now.”
“I hate mud baths,” Dewey grumbled. “They make me all itchy.”
“So go do something else.”
“Without you?”
She threw up her arms. “Why me?” she muttered.
The couple disappeared and I became acutely aware of the hard glass dangling between my breasts. I stared down at the small crystal vial filled with a dark crimson liquid. A lump jumped into my throat.
Nuh, uh.
No way.
I didn’t . . .
I couldn’t . . .
Steam rushed at me as I pushed open the door and stepped into the marbled bathroom. The tile had been arranged in an ancient Mayan pattern, the sink a stone number that would have looked as if it had been plucked from the Mexican jungle if not for the ornate oro fixtures. The doccia was one of those open designs with a digital keypad and multiple jets that blasted water from all angles.
Water sluiced over the muscular form of the male vampire standing center stage. He was tall and toned and tanned. And very blonde.
A small sound bubbled past my lips. Part cry. Part scream. Part holy shit.
He turned then. A pair of vivid green eyes met mine and I found myself staring at one of Connecticut’s finest.
The small vial suspended around his neck confirmed my worst fear even before Remy Tremaine, Fairfield police chief and my mother’s current BV pick, opened his mouth. “There’s my beautiful eternity mate.”
“But . . .” I wanted to talk. To tell him he was crazy. To tell him I’d had way too many drinks.
Oh, hell no.
Not him.
Not me.
Not us.
But suddenly, the only thing I could do was stand there, my cuore pounding, my mind racing.
And then the truth weighed down, my legs gave out and I fainted dead-away.