Haunted Honeymoon at Casa Dracula (Volume 4)

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9780989177375: Haunted Honeymoon at Casa Dracula (Volume 4)

Funny, flirty Milagro De Los Santos is forced to take another ghostwriting job for hoaxer Don Pedro when she can’t pay her condo fees. Her romantic life isn’t much better. She’s conflicted about her torrid affair with Vampire Council director Ian Ducharme and still yearning for her ex-fiancé, Dr. Oswald Grant and her life at his wine-country ranch. When Ian’s flirtations with a pretty neighbor infuriate Milagro, she travels to London, and the blood really hits the fan. People around her are dying grisly deaths, and Milagro’s framed for murder. She escapes to Oswald’s ranch, but an accident gives her amnesia and she forgets her entire existence as the only human survivor of a vampire infection. Will Milagro make all the same mistakes, or will she uncover the real killers and finally get to use the Margaritanator 3000 at her wedding reception?

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About the Author:

Marta Acosta lives with her family in a San Francisco fog belt so she can't grow tomatoes despite writing about gardening for newspapers and magazines. She's the author of the award-winning Casa Dracula series, Nancy's Theory of Style, The She-Hulk Diaries, and Dark Companion. Marta attended Stanford University and wishes her dogs would get jobs.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

one

Love to Blood You, Baby


It was a marvelously sunny April day and I took a minute to admire the dignified bumblebees hovering like stripy zeppelins over the lavender hedge, and inhale the scent of freesia and narcissus before I packed my gardening gear into the back of my small green pickup. Since no one was around, I tossed a thirty-five-gallon bin of green recycling into the truck bed without my usual pretense of effort.

The garden had once been formal and restrained, with perfectly trimmed boxwood hedges; the sort of landscape my father, who had a landscaping company, installed. I’d transformed it into a place bursting with color and texture by adding interesting plant varieties and flowering shrubs.

As I swept the debris from the path, my brown dog, Rosemary, tap-danced by my side, and I told him, “We’ll go in a minute. Thank you for your patience.”

I leaned on the handle of my broom and looked up to see Gigi Barton, my client and friend, coming toward me. The heiress to the Barton tissue fortune (“It’s not worth sneezing at if it isn’t Barton’s!”) was dressed in a bold geometric print wrap dress over skinny pants and heels with a dozen tiny buckles. She worked the path like a runway and held out one arm to display a small silver package.

“Milagro, are you talking to that dog?”

“Yes, I am. The majority of pet owners talk to their pets. Did I tell you that I’m freelancing for Paws to Reflect, a newsletter for canine companions?” I had a degree in creative writing from a Fancy University (F.U.), but I hadn’t been able to sell any of my fiction.

“You have the oddest ways of amusing yourself,” Gigi said, “but the garden looks gorgeous. I love the urns.”

The magnificent terra-cotta urns contained hundreds of deep purple and lemon yellow tulips, pansies, and freesias. “Thanks. I layered the bulbs, so you’ll get a long succession of bloom.”

“Wonderful!” She held the silver package toward me and said, “Would you give this to Lord Ian? I finally had the chance to have the mug shot framed from my arrest at our scavenger hunt last summer.”

Gigi ran in the same circles as my boyfriend/lover/whatever, Ian Ducharme, who had one of those suspect European titles. Of course, I thought all titles were suspect unless they were on the covers of books.

I pulled off my grimy goatskin gloves and took the package. “I’m sure you look stunning.”

She laughed. “I’ve learned a thing or two about getting a good mug shot over the years. The trick is to soften the lights with a scarf and have the photographer work with you. A girl like you shouldn’t have any problem doing that. Just flash a little tit ... or, in your case, a lot.”

“Thanks for the tip, but I’m not planning on getting arrested anytime soon.”

“That’s what’s fun about arrests, so spontaneous!” she said. “Oh, and tell Lord Ian that I’m taking his advice and looking into a summer house in Lviv.”

“Where’s Lviv?”

“Oh, it’s the new Warsaw, Milagro. Everyone knows that.”

“I’ll pass along the message. See you soon, Gigi.”

“Ciao, sweetie,” she said, and returned to her house.

I finished sweeping, put away the broom, and then my dog and I got in the truck. I started the engine, cranked up the music, and considered my options. I hadn’t planned on driving to see Ian, but the heat of the day had made me amorous, and I knew he was returning from one of his mysterious trips.

I’d never been able to stay away from him even when I was engaged to Oswald Grant, a much more admirable man, a good man, a principled man.

I joined in the traffic speeding out of the City and across the bridge, enjoying the sight of the rich orange cables and spires contrasting against the glimmering silver-green water and the azure sky.

On days like this, it was easy to convince myself that all was well with the world. I was grateful that I could not only endure the sunlight but enjoy it. There were few benefits of being the only hybrid (vampire-normal/whatever) alive, and this was one of the most important.

Once over the bridge, I took a boulevard that led to low hills and then exited onto a street that wound through expensive neighborhoods, each more wooded and exclusive than the last. I hated showing up anywhere empty-handed, so I stopped at the posh market in town.

Everyone here had that trust-fund look of studied casualness as they parked luxury cars with bike racks, drank organic soy chai lattes, and jogged in gear designed by NASA scientists.

My mutt barked at a dog walker with a trio of pewter gray Weimaraners.

“I agree,” I said. “But it’s rude to say so aloud.”

I left Rosemary in the truck and went inside the market, conscious of my dirty jeans, sweaty T-shirt, and work boots. You’d think I’d get over my discomfort in these places, but I always felt like the scholarship girl who didn’t fit in anywhere.

The difference now was that I wanted others to see me as an ordinary chica, instead of what I’d become.

It was warm enough to grill tonight. I tried not to look obvious as I lingered by the butcher counter, before picking out two strip steaks dripping with glossy garnet juices. As the butcher wrapped the meat, I caught a reflection of myself in the mirror behind the counter.

Strands of long black hair had come loose from my ponytail and my damp T-shirt clung to my bounteous chi-chis. When I wiped at smudges of dirt by my eyes, I smeared my mascara.

I bought a bottle of pinot noir, radicchio, two baskets of blackberries, sourdough bread, and a Nylabone for Rosemary. While I was waiting for my turn at checkout, I picked up a copy of the latest Vogue and flipped through it.

I stopped at a page with an ethereally beautiful blonde modeling boots and little else. Her name was Ilena, and I’d met her when she was with Ian. She’d called me a “pretty chubby little pickle,” and I was fairly sure she meant “pretty chubby,” not “pretty and chubby.” Either way, the insult still rankled. I shoved the magazine back in the rack.

Once in my truck, I gave the chew toy to my dog, who let it drop to the seat.

“Don’t be like that. I’ll share my steak with you later.”

I drove on a series of twisting lanes up a wooded hill. Most of the houses were hidden from the street. At the apex of one turn, I made a sharp right into the driveway of a belligerently modern house. The real estate agent had called this ugly arrangement of turquoise and peach blocks a West Coast Tuscan, but I thought of it as a California Crapsman.

There were no other car here, meaning that my boyfriend/lover/whatever hadn’t returned yet.

When I opened the car door, Rosemary leaped out and ran around to the back of the house. I grabbed the groceries and Gigi’s gift and followed my dog to the backyard, a plateau of grass with a small oval pool and a fantastic view of the wooded hills beyond. It was private here and serene, so long as I kept my gaze averted from the house.

I left the packages in the shade of a patio umbrella and stripped off my clothes. When I dived into the pool, Rosemary jumped in, too. I swam a few laps, enjoying the weightless sensation, and then I got out and looked for a stick to throw for my dog.

I spotted one of Rosemary’s tennis balls in the shrubbery border. When I bent to pick it up, I heard, “Ah, a glorious full moon in broad daylight.”

I grabbed the ball, jumped, and turned.

My boyfriend/lover/whatever, Ian Ducharme, let out a sexy, rumbly laugh. He was wearing an ivory long-sleeved shirt and navy slacks. His deep brown eyes glinted in the shadow of the Panama hat that was tipped forward to shield his face from the sun.

He had dark curly hair, an aquiline nose, hooded eyes, and a Cheshire Cat grin. He wasn’t tall and he wasn’t markedly good-looking, but he had charisma, which came from the Greek kharisma, meaning “gift,” and that charisma made me distrust my attraction to him.

I said, “Don’t do that!”

“Do what? I was merely admiring the sumptuous vista.” Ian and his crafty sister, Cornelia, had been hauled around their family’s properties when they were young, and they spoke English with a Continental accent: some words had a clipped British pronunciation and others were rolled luxuriously.

“Don’t sneak up on me like that. I’m going to sew tiny bells onto all your clothes so that I can hear you coming.” I threw the tennis ball in the pool and Rosemary paddled after it.

“Aren’t you going to welcome me back?” Ian took a step toward me, and I suddenly felt both shy and thrilled.

I walked in the other direction, putting the pool between us. “I don’t want to muss your clothes. You dress so flawlessly that I’m abandoning all efforts to keep up with you. I’m going to stay naked from now on.”

“A laudable policy.”

Ian moved toward me, but I kept stepping away. Despite all the times we’d been together, he could still make me feel wary; and, yet, I trusted him implicitly, inexplicably. I trembled with anticipation.

I said, “I only came here to deliver a package from Gigi. It’s on the table. It’s a framed mug shot.”

“How thoughtful. I’d like to have a photo of you now, my raven-haired Venus rising from the waters.”

“I bet you would.”

He feinted a move left and I took a step right.

“Hellooo!” came a woman’s voice.

As I looked to see who was calling, Ian moved swiftly to me and grabbed my wrist. I yanked hard, trying to throw him off balance, but I was distracted by the woman who appeared around the side of the house.

She was a pretty honey blonde with hair below her shoulders and a golden tan. She had the look of the wealthy women here, from her neatly arched brows to her narrow nose to her perfectly polished toenails in chic sandals. She wore a gauzy sleeveless shift and her arms and long legs were toned. She seemed to be about thirty, but it was hard to tell.

“I hope I’m not interrupting anything,” she said cheerfully.

“Not at all,” Ian said with a smile as he let go of my wrist.

It’s amazing how accurate those dreams of being naked are: you think that if you act normal, no one will notice. I held my hands demurely in front of my hoo-ha.

She said, “I saw your Jag here and thought I’d introduce myself. I live next door.”

Her eyes were hidden behind sunglasses and I couldn’t read her expression as she took in my nakedness. I stood straight and pulled my shoulders back, although parts of me continued to point forward. “Do excuse me for being underdressed.” And overfleshed.

“What’s the good of having a pool if you can’t skinny-dip?” she said, and turned her attention to Ian. “I’m Christine Poindexter, but everyone calls me Cricket.”

“Delighted. This lovely young woman is Milagro de Los Santos and I’m Ian Ducharme.”

Cricket tilted her head in a way that her first boyfriend probably told her was adorable. “Lord Ian Ducharme? You’re a friend of Gigi Barton’s, aren’t you?” Her smile broadened, showing lots of straight white teeth.

I said, “Yes, Gigi’s fab. I just came from her place,” but Cricket wasn’t asking me.

“Milagro redesigned Gigi’s garden to reflect her vivid personality,” Ian said, gazing fondly at me. “Milagro has a talent for bringing out one’s essential character.”

I liked that he never left me out of conversations even when he dragged me naked into them.

Cricket gave me another look. “Oh, is that your truck out front? I was wondering why it wasn’t parked in the service lot down the street. I just lost my yard man.”

“I’m a garden designer,” I said, even though I was wild about double-digging and weeding. “I’d be happy to recommend someone to do maintenance.”

“Would you? That would be great.”

My dog dragged his soggy self out of the pool, dropped the tennis ball at my feet, and stared at me. One of the great things about dogs was that they didn’t care what you wore, or didn’t wear.

I said, “Very nice to meet you, Cricket. If you’ll excuse me.” I picked up the ball, aware of my boobies swaying with the movement, threw it in the pool, and my dog and I jumped back in the water.

While we splashed about, Cricket and Ian spoke for a few more minutes. I submerged so I wouldn’t have to hear her giggle and flirt with him. Women were prone to giggle and flirt with Ian, and then they were prone to get prone with him.

When I came up for air, she was gone and Ian was standing at the edge of the pool.

“You stayed under for a very long time,” he said.

“I’ve been practicing holding my breath in case anyone tries to drown me.”

Ian was a member of the quasi-governmental Vampire Council, and my only ally in the secretive organization. Throughout my life, people had frequently wished I was dead, but only the Vampire Council and my mother Regina had ever taken the initiative to do anything about it.

“Why don’t you learn self-defense, Milagro? I can recommend an excellent instructor.”

“He’d probably tell me to shoot anyone who looks at me sideways. I’ll manage on my own, thank you.”

“And yet you thought you needed to attend university to read novels,” Ian said. “I invited Cricket for drinks later.”

“Cricket,” I sneered. “Letting her see me naked was hilarious. Ha, ha, and ha.”

“You could have jumped in the pool, or run into the house, or hidden behind me if you were so concerned.”

“I have nothing to be ashamed of. Besides, Nancy told me that naked is the new black,” I said, referring to my friend from F.U.

“I have long considered Nancy Carrington to be one of the great thinkers of our time. Come inside. I have something for you.”

“Is it in your pants?”

He laughed and strolled toward the door at the back of the house.

I threw the tennis ball for Rosemary for a little longer, but curiosity won over and I got out of the pool.

Ian had placed thick Egyptian cotton towels on a chair. I dried off, wrapped a towel around me, and gave Rosemary a vigorous rub. His short fur was shiny and smooth, the color of semisweet chocolate, and he had a snowy white chest. We’d found each other on a city street and been together ever since.

I left my Rosemary lolling in the sun and went inside to the not-so-great room. The orangey brick floor and brick oven of the kitchen carried on the misguided Tuscan theme. On the other side of the room, a mirror ball hung over a varnished parquet dance floor. Oversized turquoise leather furniture had come with the house.

Ian was in the master bedroom, which had beige “texturized” walls, ridiculous white marble columns, and an ostentatious stone fireplace. I perched on the king-sized bed and watched Ian unpack his accessories from an overnight case.

“I am still baffled that you actually bought this house,” I said. “It’s beyond hideous.”

“You like the disco ball.”

“Well, that is fabulous. Who wouldn’t want a disco ball in their house? No one worth knowing. However, one could easily buy a disco ball and install it in a less hideous house, or even in an attractive house.”

“The location suited me. There’s room enough for you to live h...

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Book Description Badinage Press, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****. Funny, flirty Milagro De Los Santos is forced to take another ghostwriting job for hoaxer Don Pedro when she can t pay her condo fees. Her romantic life isn t much better. She s conflicted about her torrid affair with Vampire Council director Ian Ducharme and still yearning for her ex-fiance, Dr. Oswald Grant and her life at his wine-country ranch. When Ian s flirtations with a pretty neighbor infuriate Milagro, she travels to London, and the blood really hits the fan. People around her are dying grisly deaths, and Milagro s framed for murder. She escapes to Oswald s ranch, but an accident gives her amnesia and she forgets her entire existence as the only human survivor of a vampire infection. Will Milagro make all the same mistakes, or will she uncover the real killers and finally get to use the Margaritanator 3000 at her wedding reception?. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780989177375

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Book Description Badinage Press, United States, 2013. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Language: English . Brand New Book ***** Print on Demand *****.Funny, flirty Milagro De Los Santos is forced to take another ghostwriting job for hoaxer Don Pedro when she can t pay her condo fees. Her romantic life isn t much better. She s conflicted about her torrid affair with Vampire Council director Ian Ducharme and still yearning for her ex-fiance, Dr. Oswald Grant and her life at his wine-country ranch. When Ian s flirtations with a pretty neighbor infuriate Milagro, she travels to London, and the blood really hits the fan. People around her are dying grisly deaths, and Milagro s framed for murder. She escapes to Oswald s ranch, but an accident gives her amnesia and she forgets her entire existence as the only human survivor of a vampire infection. Will Milagro make all the same mistakes, or will she uncover the real killers and finally get to use the Margaritanator 3000 at her wedding reception?. Bookseller Inventory # APC9780989177375

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