Sassy Ever After: Sassy Temptations (Kindle Worlds Novella), страница 1
Table of Contents
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Table of Contents
GIA PENDLETON SAT graveside as the minister spoke of her father. Her eyes were focused on the gleaming cherry wood casket that encased the man who had shaped most of her life. As a single father, Hank Pendleton did the best he could. Even though he held back secrets from her and her brother, Gia couldn’t have asked for a better dad. The gut-wrenching pain that devoured her insides wouldn’t go away anytime soon. She couldn’t let it. Death was a part of life, it reminded the living that each day was a precious gift. Friends of Hank’s gathered behind her and her brother Zach, offering condolences and words of grief. It was one big shit show and Gia was right in the thick of it.
When the minister said the final prayer, Gia jumped from her seat and walked away. She needed space to think and being around all the people was making her nervous.
“Where’re you going?” her brother, Zach jogged up to her.
“I need some air. Dad would have hated this funeral shit. He could’ve cared less about the pomp and circumstance.” she said as she stopped near an intricately carved headstone.
“You’re right about that.” He shoved his hands in the pockets of his dress slacks. It was strange seeing him in anything but jeans and a faded t-shirt—it was too bad a funeral was the catalyst for him to clean himself up.
“I can’t help feeling like his death was my fault. If I hadn’t gone to that stupid vampire club, dad might still be alive.”
“If we’re going to wallow in self-guilt, I think I should take the blame. I was the one who disappeared.” Zach lifted his hand and rubbed his neck. “I’m sorry, G.”
“Don’t apologize. It’s not like it will bring him back.” She sighed.
“Any word on your vamp friend?” Zach asked.
“He seems to be holding up okay. They keep putting his trial off though,” she answered. At first, Gia strongly believed that Layton Kyle murdered her father. The blood on his hands was a sure sign of guilt—so she thought. But after visiting him in jail, she knew for certain he would never do something so horrific. “Zach, I need to tell you something,” Gia took a deep breath.
“What’s that?” his eyebrows lifted in curiosity.
“Before I left the jail, Layton asked me to marry him.” She waited for his reaction with a nervous feeling in her stomach.
Her brother’s eyes became wide with shock. “Please tell me you’re not considering it.”
She shrugged. “I don’t know.”
“Holy fuck, G. Do you realize how insane that is?”
“Yes, I’m aware of that fact.” Anger bubbled to the surface. It wasn’t like she needed her younger brother’s approval of her life decisions, but at the very least, she wanted some semblance of support from his direction.
“Dad would roll over in his grave if he knew you were thinking about marrying a vamp.”
“It’s not like it can just happen. Apparently, he would have to petition the head vampire, Aria. I guess she’s the one who can approve of it or not. They have so many rules.” Letting out a sigh, she tried to focus on anything but Zach’s scrunched facial features.
“You know what, I’m going to assume you aren’t in a good frame of mind with grief. I know you’re smarter than this.”
“I don’t need you telling me how to live my life, Zach.”
“Yeah, because you’ve made so many great choices lately,” a sarcastic note coated his words.
“Whatever.” She tossed her hands in the air and began walking away from him. She wasn’t about to let him make her feel bad for what she’d done when she was trying to find him.
“Gia, wait up!” she halted at the sound of Micah’s voice behind her. He was Zach’s best friend but as of late, Micah seemed to be acting strangely. She couldn’t quite pinpoint the reason for the oddity either. “You okay?” he asked when he caught up with her.
“Yes.” She lied.
“If you need someone to talk to, I’m always here for you.” He offered.
“Thanks. I appreciate that.” As much as she wanted to hate Micah for what he’d done to her in the past, she couldn’t. Deep down she knew he was a good guy. Hell, they’d all been friends since grade school and Micah was practically family.
“I thought you should know I’ll be moving to Blue Creek soon,” he said.
Gia stopped in her tracks. “Really? Why?”
“Change of scenery. Plus, I have some close friends back there I’d like to be with.”
“I’m happy for you,” she offered a small smile.
“I want you to come with me.” He rocked back and forth on his heels, waiting for her reply.
“You know I can’t do that.”
“Because of my job, and Zach is here too. I can’t just leave him.”
“He’s an adult. You don’t have to babysit him, Gia.”
“Maybe I do.” She laughed.
“At least promise me you’ll think about it. That’s all I ask.”
“Then I will take it under consideration.” She smiled while patting his arm.
She didn’t understand why Micah would want her to move to a town mostly made up of werewolves and a few vampires. She was fairly certain he knew about her current issues with the vamp community and if she had her way, she never wanted to cross paths with a wolf. Now that she knew Zach was safe, Gia’s number one priority was finding out who killed her dad. If Layton hadn’t done it, then who? Who would have done something so vile to an innocent man? Every question only succeeded in creating a new query. It was a ball of mass confusion and Gia found every piece of it exhausting. She wasn’t a cop, but her instincts were pushing her toward trying to think like one. She felt some responsibility for the death of her father which spurred her to find the truth.
Gia wasn’t sure what to do, but she knew grieving her father wasn’t something she should spend the majority of her time on. She wasn’t a heartless bitch, but he would have wanted her and Zach to continue living their lives instead of shedding tears for him. Deciding to do just that, Gia crossed her arms over her chest and wa
Lifting a hand, she gave a soft wave in his direction. When he realized she was also watching him, he hurriedly turned away and disappeared. What was that all about?
“Hey, they’re having a lunch at the church, do you need a ride?” Zach caught up with her once more.
“Sure. Nothing spells grief like a shitty tuna casserole.” Gia muttered. “I’m sorry for pissing you off, Zach. I haven’t said yes or no to Layton. I don’t plan on making a rash decision about any of this. I just want to find out who murdered dad so I can move on.”
“You don’t have to explain everything to me, G. I should be the one apologizing for being a hot head.”
“Can we forget all of this for a while? Maybe go back to being normal for a few days?” She walked beside her brother, leaning her head on his shoulder as they found Zach’s truck.
“Sure.” He replied.
Gia knew nothing could ever be normal again. She had deep feelings for a vampire and as confusing as it should have been, she was pretty certain she didn’t want those feelings to vanish.
“That little rat better not testify against you,” Layton’s sister, Astrid sat across the table from him at the police station.
“I don’t think she will.” He stated.
“Really? Because humans are so unpredictable.” She straightened her spine and pinned him with a stare meant to scare most people—it didn’t affect him one bit.
“I proposed to Gia.”
“What? Have you lost your fucking mind?” Astrid jumped from her seat. “Aria will never allow it. That prissy human has caused nothing but problems for us. Do you honestly think Aria would sign off on that?”
“I plan on petitioning her once I get out of here.”
“I hope you’re prepared to be laughed out of the building.”
“I deserve to be happy, Astrid.”
“Yeah, and I deserve to walk in the daylight, but that shit isn’t happening either. She’s a Dahmpir. If memory serves, they kill vampires.”
“Gia would never do something like that.”
“You act like you’ve known her forever.”
“It feels like I have. She’s not like other humans or Dahmpir. She’s…”
“Different? Yeah, I’ve heard that string of bullshit plenty. You think they are different than all the rest. That is until they’re standing over your coffin with a stake in their hands while you sleep.”
Layton abruptly stood, banging his fist on the steel table. “Damn you, Astrid. I will not sit here and let you berate Gia. She has done nothing to you.” He boomed.
“You’re right, she’s done nothing to me. She also means nothing to me.” A smirk crossed her flawless features.
“I’m warning you, sister, stay away from Gia.” He growled.
Her small shoulders shrugged underneath her fur covered jacket. “You have my word. I won’t go near your little blonde tart,” she used her finger to make a criss-cross on her chest, “cross my heart, hope to burn for all eternity.” She flashed a devilish smile, then headed for the door.
“I mean it, Astrid,” he warned.
“So do I.” she opened the door and disappeared through it.
Layton knew her innocent act was just that. His devious sister had something up her sleeve and whatever it was, he knew it wasn’t pleasant. Ever since Astrid had been turned, her vile behavior grew until it spiraled out of control. Lately, he contemplated walking away from her just to be free of the havoc she often created. There would always be love for his twin sibling, but she needed to learn how to survive without him now.
“MAYBE I NEED A CHANGE,” Gia stood behind the check-in desk at The Venetian. She hated the idea of leaving a job she somewhat enjoyed, but the more she thought about Micah’s proposal to move to Blue Creek, the more she thought it might be a good idea.
“Sometimes a change is good. It might give you a chance to recharge your battery so-to-speak,” her co-worker, Yvonne pointed out.
“What about Zach? I don’t want to leave him here by himself. I’m the only family he has left.” Gia sighed.
“I don’t know your brother well, but I’m pretty sure he can handle himself just fine, honey.”
Gia pursed her lips and glanced across the vast lobby of the hotel. Her brow crinkled and she cocked her head to the side, observing a man who stood among a group of people. She squinted, trying to place him. When realization hit, Gia stepped out from behind the desk and strode toward him. Catching up to him, she asked, “Are you following me?”
The man’s head snapped up, “Excuse me?” His tone was rude with body language that screamed of defense.
“You heard me. I saw you in the cemetery right after my dad’s funeral.” She crossed her arms over her chest.
“You must be mistaken,” he said just before turning to walk away.
For a split second, Gia thought she might have been going crazy. But no, she knew he was the exact same man who she saw only days before. Who was the guy, and why did it feel like he was doing some sort of surveillance on her? Clearly, he wasn’t a vampire— he was able to walk in the sunlight. If he wasn’t a vamp, what in the hell was he?
With her thoughts going in too many different directions, Gia decided to get back to work. She didn’t have time to fret over a mysterious stranger.
“Are you okay?” Yvonne asked when Gia returned to her post behind the desk.
“Of course. Sorry about that.” she smiled.
A few hours passed by and soon it was time for her to head home. She hated returning to her house ever since the night she found her father dying on her kitchen floor. Even though everything had been cleaned, it still held the stench of death. Each time she rounded the corner and entered the kitchen, she could see her father lying on the floor with pools of blood all around him. She wasn’t sure the metallic scent would ever be forgotten. When she closed her eyes at night, the only thing she dreamt of was Layton standing over her dad with blood soaked hands. She knew he was only trying to help her father, but the image was seared into her psyche for the rest of her life.
“Need a lift home?” Gia looked up just as she was closing her time sheet on the computer.
“Oh, hi Micah. Um, no I can manage,” she replied. It wasn’t unusual for her brother’s best friend to stop by the hotel but lately, it seemed as if he were trying to babysit her.
“Then how about humoring me with a cup of coffee?”
“I should go home.” She gave a small smile.
“Come on, Gia. Everyone knows you try to spend the least amount of time possible at your house. Have coffee with me, please?” his voice took on a sweet and innocent tone.
“Sure. I might as well.” Grabbing her purse, Gia unclipped the name tag from her shirt and stepped out from behind the desk. “Goodnight, Yvonne,” she called back to the older co-worker.
“How was work tonight?” Micah asked as they strode toward the front entrance of the building.
“Same as usual. Neurotic guests and kids peeing in the pool.” she chuckled.
“I suppose that’s not such a bad thing, except for the pee part.” He placed his palm on the small of her back. “Hey, can you give me just a few minutes? I see an old friend. I should probably say hello,” he stopped and glanced across the lobby.
“Of course,” she smiled.
Gia crossed her arms over her chest as she watched the hordes of people enter and leave the hotel. Laughter rang out from the inebriated groups that seemed to be celebrating one thing or another. That was the beauty of Las Vegas—it was a playground for adults. They could spend a weekend
“Sorry about that,” Micah returned.
“No problem at all.” Gia glanced in the direction he’d come from and spotted the mysterious man she’d been seeing as of late. “That man has been following me,” she got Micah’s attention and pointed to the guy.
“The guy with the tattoos and spiky hair.”
A strange look passed Micah’s face for a brief moment. “That’s Mason. He’s harmless.”
“You know him?” Gia took a step back.
“Yeah. That’s who I was talking to. He’s one of my friends from Blue Creek.”
“Why is he in Vegas?” Gia became uncomfortable.
“Oh, you know, he just needed a weekend getaway like most of these yay-who’s.” he laughed. Gia scrunched her nose as she watched the other man leave the hotel. Something wasn’t right but she didn’t have the energy to pursue it right then. Micah, for the most part, was an honest guy. She’s known him since he and Zach were in grade school together. “How about that coffee?” he grabbed her hand and started toward the exit.
“You have that look on your face,” Micah said as he sat across from Gia at a small diner.
“What look is that?” she continued to stir her coffee even though the sugar and creamer were mixed well enough.
“The one that says you’re in deep thought,” he reached across the table, placing his hand over her free one. “If you need to talk, I’m always here for you, G.”
Gia pulled her hand back and sat it on her lap. “I guess I’ve been thinking about Blue Creek.”