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Toxic #20: The Heimlich Maneuver: Saving Lives Since 1974

May 28, 2014

I stared at my plate and shook my head. My dad. Eating meat. If he made it through the meal without hurling, it would be a miracle.

I focused on my food. I didn’t want to watch my dad choke anything down, and I didn’t want to look at the dean for obvious reasons. The nasty power radiating off him was giving me flashbacks of the alley in New York. At least a quick glance under the table had showed me loafers and not wing-tip shoes.

“How do you like our town, Tizzy? It’s quite different from New York.”

I pushed a clump of mashed potatoes around my plate. “I haven’t seen much. I’ve been busy with school.”

“You haven’t toured Collegetown at least? Maybe visited a café or two?”

I wasn’t surprised he recognized me from the Dragon. As Vincent had pointed out, I’d caused kind of a stir. But where was he going with this? “I took a walk one day. It might’ve been Collegetown.”

His eyes closed down to slits, and a shiver ran up my spine. “You were talking to Fir earlier this week, weren’t you?”

My dad started to cough, his face taking on a reddish-purple hue. Damian chose that moment to show up, appearing out of the kitchen like a ghost materializing. “Way to go, Dad. You’re killing your lunch guests again.” He got behind my dad and whacked him on the back.

Again? My thoughts on that little revelation were distracted by my dad gagging like a choked cat. He spit out a grey chunk of meat, and after a few raspy gasps, waved Damian off. “I’m fine. Thank you.”

“Sure thing, Professor Banks.” Damian flopped into an empty chair next to me. His hair was a riot of white spikes as if he’d just woken up. He pointedly didn’t look at me but at his father. “So what’d I miss, other than your attempt to poison my Lit professor with beef?”

The dean sniffed, contempt dripping from his eyes like tears. “You’re tardy.”

“I was up late working on a problem. And I’m not your student.” Damian picked up a fork and studied the tines. Seeing that pouty mouth of his again made my skin feel ten degrees too warm.

“You were working on a problem or one of your games?”

“Who said the problem wasn’t in the game?” Damian grinned and dropped the fork back onto the table. “So. Tizzy. Has my father bored you with the illustrious history of this house yet?”

My face heated as his mercurial eyes swung my way. It figured he’d finally look at me when I had a mouthful of green beans pouching out my cheeks.

I swallowed, wincing at the unchewed mass scraping my throat. “No.”

“Really?” He threw his leg over the arm of his chair, folding his hands over his stomach. “It was built in 1822 by some old fart who looks surprisingly like my dad. Seriously, they could be twins. You want to see the guy’s portrait?”

“Our family history would hardly be of interest to someone like her.”

I might have had a comeback for the dean if I wasn’t so weirded out by him. But I was weirded out, in a head-cracking, recycled cheesecake kind of way. I kept my mouth shut for once. My dad didn’t. He folded his napkin with a snap, his face still a pale purple from his brush with death. “Could I request a game of chess, Dean? I believe we’re done here.”

The dean gave the same look to my father that I imagined he’d give to some werewolf poop on his shoe. “God knows why you’d want to play, Richard. You always lose.”

My dad smiled at him, his color edging back to normal. “I’m an optimist at heart. One of these days I’ll win.”

The dean rose to his feet, his face dark with annoyance. I wasn’t sure if it was at my dad or Damian; I was just glad it wasn’t at me. “Fine. Let’s go play some chess.”

I got up to trail after them, but Damian’s hand flashed out and gripped my wrist. It was a light grip, but strong. “Probably not a good idea. They get vicious when they play.”

“And I’m safer with you?”

Damian peeked around me, his bed-head hair close enough to my stomach to make my belly button clench. He stayed quiet until my dad and the dean were too far away to hear. “I told you I wouldn’t bite unless you wanted me to.”

“You also told me you were like me, and we know how true that was.” I pulled my arm away, rubbing where he’d touched. “Can I go watch your dad beat my dad into a pulp now?”

“Just tell me one thing first. What did I do that has you crabby?”

I folded my arms over my chest. “Wow. If you think this is crabby, you really don’t know me.”

“I’d like to.” He swung his leg off the chair arm and stood up. “I had fun Friday.”

“I bet. What’s not fun about using your monster mojo on some stupid human, right?”

“Ah. That.” He ran a hand through his hair, making it even messier. “I wanted to kiss you. I upped my odds that it’d happen. Is that so bad?”

I snorted. “It’s not fair to give a girl the equivalent of a mental roofie. You were playing with me, trying to piss off Vincent.”

He shrugged, having the decency, or ego, to not look embarrassed. “Who says playing with Vincent means I didn’t actually like you?”

“Me. Right.”

“Do you know how many girls in this town I can be myself with? Who know what I am? Seven. Unless you count the ones old enough to be my mom or who aren’t remotely human. And I don’t know about you, but I prefer my dates to be at least bipedal.”

“Werewolves are bipedal most of the time.”

“I’d also like them to shave less than me.”

I rolled my eyes so I wouldn’t laugh. I couldn’t let him think sucker-punching me with his dhampir mojo was okay. “Now who’s being speciesist?”

He grinned, looking like trouble again like at the club. It made it hard to remember I was supposed to stay away from him. Or why. “One date. That’s all I want. I’ll keep the charm dialed down.”

“Not going to happen.” I stomped out of the room, away from his killer smile before I did something dumb. But the corners of my mouth were lifting even as I did it.

© A.M. Schilling  2014. All Rights Reserved.

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Toxic

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