How to Marry a Millionaire Vampire (Love at Stake 1) - Page 33

It had occurred to her while she was walking that she was in desperate need of cash - cash that would not be traceable. She couldn't contact family or old friends without endangering them. Besides, her family was overseas. They'd come to Boston last summer for a short visit, then left again for Lithuania. And her old friends were out of state.

So she'd called some new friends. The guys at Carlo's Deli. Carlo had seen the destruction at the dental clinic and was willing to help. She'd asked Tommy to meet her here.

She was pressed against the building to keep from being mowed over by the constant surge of moving people. When she spotted Tommy, she yelled and waved her arms.

"Hey!" The pizza delivery boy grinned as he dodged pedestrians. In his hands, he carried a zippered pizza case.

"Hi, Tommy."

"Sorry it took me so long." Tommy's jeans slid down his lanky form, revealing boxers with baby Scooby Doos.

She gave him a hug. "Thank you so much. And please thank Carlo for me, too."

"No problem." He leaned close to her ear. "The cash is in a Ziploc bag underneath the pizza. I figured we'd better make this delivery look real."

"Oh. Good idea." She took her checkbook from her purse. "How much do I owe you?"

"For the pizza?" Tommy asked in a booming voice as he looked around. Then, he lowered his voice, "Four enchiladas. It was all we could spare." He seemed to be enjoying the situation, like he'd suddenly joined the cast of a spy movie.

"I'm assuming that's four hundred." She wrote a check out to Carlo's Deli, then handed it to Tommy. "If you can wait a week or so before turning that in, I'd appreciate it."

"What's going on, Doc?" He unzipped the bag and removed a small pizza box. "Some big guys with Russian accents came by the deli, asking questions about you."

"Oh no!" She looked around, suddenly worried they might have followed Tommy.

"Hey, it's cool. We didn't say nothing."

"Oh. Thank you, Tommy."

"Why do those guys want to hurt you?"

Shanna sighed. She hated involving innocent people. "Let's just say that I saw something I shouldn't have."

"The FBI could help. Hey, I bet that's who those guys were."

"What guys?"

"The men in black. They came by asking about you, too."

"Well, I guess I'm very popular lately." She needed to call Bob Mendoza soon. Hopefully, this time he'd answer the phone.

"Anything else we can do?" Tommy's eyes sparkled. "This is kinda fun."

"It's not a game. Don't let them know you've been in contact with me." She fumbled in her purse. "Let me get you a tip."

"No. No way. You need your money."

"Oh, Tommy. How can I ever thank you?" She kissed his cheek.

"Whoa. That'll do. You take it easy, Doc." He wandered off with a grin.

Shanna gathered up her belongings and headed in the opposite direction. In a drugstore, she used the pay phone to call Bob.

"Mendoza here." His voice sounded tired.

"Bob, this is.. Jane. Jane Wilson."

"What a relief. I was so worried. Where have you been?"

There was something wrong. Shanna couldn't quite put her finger on it. He just didn't sound worried or relieved.

"Tell me where you are."

"I'm on the run, Bob. What do you think? I need to get out of New York."

"You're still in New York? Where, exactly?"

Shanna felt a prick at the back of her neck. Rational thought told her to confide in the federal marshal, but her gut was screaming something was wrong. "I'm in a store. Shall I come to your office?"

"No. I will come for you. Tell me where you are."

Shanna swallowed hard. There was something odd about his voice, something distant and mechanical. "I.. I'd rather go to your office tomorrow morning."

There was another pause. Shanna thought she heard a voice in the distance. Female.

"I will give you directions to a safe house. Be there tomorrow night at eight-thirty."

"Okay." Shanna wrote down the address. It was somewhere in New Rochelle. "I'll see you tomorrow. Good-bye."

"Wait! Tell me, where have you been? How did you escape?"

Was he trying to keep her on the phone? Of course, she was being traced. "Bye." She hung up. Her hand was shaking. Good God, she was getting paranoid. Even a federal marshal seemed suspicious to her. In another week, she'd be blubbering to herself about aliens and wearing aluminum foil on her head.

She gazed at the ceiling as if to communicate with God and let out a long, silent groan of frustration. Why me? All I ever wanted was a normal life!

She purchased a box of hair dye and a cheap nylon zippered tote bag for her meager belongings. Then she found a reasonably priced hotel on Seventh Avenue and registered under a false name, paying cash. With a great sigh of relief, she locked herself into her room. She'd done it. Escaped the Russians. Escaped Roman the Pig and his house of horrors. She didn't know which upset her more -  Roman's taste in women or the coffins in his basement. Yeech! She shuddered.

Forget them - think of the future and how you will survive.

In the bathroom, she applied the hair color, then settled on the bed to wait thirty minutes. She ate pizza while flipping through TV channels. When a local news channel flashed by, she stopped. Good God, it was the SoHo So-Bright Dental Clinic. Shattered glass littered sidewalks that were partitioned off with yellow crime scene tape.

She turned up the volume. The newscaster explained how the clinic had been destroyed the night before. Police were investigating the matter in connection to a nearby homicide.

Shanna gasped when a picture of a young blond woman flashed on the screen. Her body had been discovered in an alley close to the clinic. Official cause of death was unknown at this time, but the reporter had heard rumors of a bizarre injury. Two punctures in the neck like an animal bite. People in the neighborhood were blaming a secret cult of teenage dropouts who liked to pretend they were vampires.

Vampires? Shanna snorted. She'd heard about the underground societies - bored kids with nothing better to do with their time and money than drink blood and have their canine teeth purposely altered to resemble vampire fangs. It was sick. No reputable dentist would ever do such a thing.

Still, against her will, a series of memories zipped through her mind. A wolf's fang in Roman's hand. His seemingly lifeless body lying in her bed. A basement filled with coffins.

A chill crept up her spine. No, there was no such thing as vampires. She'd been through too much trauma. She was getting paranoid. That was all. People only pretended to be vampires.

And there were rational explanations for everything. She'd checked Roman's tooth, and it had been a normal size. Okay, so it was more pointed than usual. That could be explained, too. It was an unusual genetic trait. A person could be born with webbed fingers or toes without being a mermaid.

And the coffins? Oh God. What possible explanation could there be for that?

She went back to the bathroom to rinse her hair. She toweled it dry and examined herself in the mirror. Platinum blond, like Marilyn Monroe. The comparison was not too comforting. Marilyn had died young. Shanna regarded herself with dismay. She looked a lot like the woman she'd recently seen on television.

The blond woman killed by a vampire.

"This is not my area of expertise, sir." Laszlo twisted a button on his new, bright white lab coat.

"Don't worry." Roman scooted onto a stool in his lab at Romatech. "Besides, how could you hurt me? I'm already dead."

"Well, not technically, sir. Your brain is still active."

His brain was mush, though Roman didn't care to admit it. Since receiving the news about Shanna's disappearance, he could hardly follow his own train of thought. "You did a good job wiring VANNA to work. I'm sure you'll manage with me."

Laszlo picked up a wire cutter, then changed his mind and selected some needle-nosed pliers. "I'm not quite sure how to go about this."

"Just rip the damn wires out of my mouth."

"Yes, sir." Laszlo advanced toward Roman's open mouth with the pliers. "I apologize in advance for any discomfort."

"Unh." Roman acknowledged the remark.

"I appreciate your confidence in me." Laszlo yanked the wires loose. "And I'm glad to have something to do. Otherwise, I start thinking about.." He lowered his hand and frowned.