Midnight Brunch (Casa Dracula Series, Book 2)

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9781416520399: Midnight Brunch (Casa Dracula Series, Book 2)

What's a girl to do when she discovers she's the main course on the menu?

Hip, funny Milagro de los Santos thinks she's finally found love and a home at the California ranch of fabulous Oswald Grant and his urbane relatives, who have a rare genetic disorder that some call vampirism. But Milagro is bewildered when she's excluded from an ancient and mysterious midnight ceremony whose participants include Oswald's unfriendly parents, a creepy family elder, and Milagro's ex-lover, the powerful and decadent Ian Ducharme. What skeletons are the vampires keeping in their designer closets?

When Milagro's life is threatened by a rogue family member, she flees to the desert to hide. Instead of solitude, she encounters an egomaniacal actor, a partying heiress, a sly tabloid reporter, and a lavish spa full of dark secrets -- all of which might help her find a way home.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:

Marta Acosta received a degree in English literature and creative writing from Stanford University. She is a regular contributor to The San Francisco Chronicle and the Contra Costa Newspapers. Her debut novel, Happy Hour at Casa Dracula, was a Book Sense Pick.

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

one

snappily ever after

I was sitting on the edge of the claw-foot bathtub, blow-drying the insides of my sodden work boots and conducting a state-of-the-chica analysis. My dwindling bank account had a disturbing inverse relationship to my increased efforts to sell my stories.

Oswald poked his head into the bathroom and asked, "What's that funny smell?" Looking at him made me feel as ebullient as champagne fizzing over the top of a glass.

Floating over the smell of my cooked leather boots was the faintly herbal scent of multispectrum sunblock. Oswald had to wear sunblock every day because he had a genetic autosomal recessive disorder that made him highly sensitive to sunlight and subject to unusual food cravings. On the plus side, he never got sick and healed rapidly from injuries.

Otherwise, he was perfectly normal. It was ridiculous that people harbored primitive superstitions against anyone with a medical anomaly.

I flicked off the blow-dryer. "That's the smell of my botas cooking. Your grandmother told me I can't put them in the dryer anymore because the thump-thump-thump sounds like a body. Which begs the question: how does she know what a body in a dryer sounds like?"

"Why are your boots wet?"

"I fell into the pond when I was checking on my planting of native wetland grasses. They're doing great, by the way."

"You should buy an extra pair of boots."

"Of more critical importance is something to wear to Nancy's wedding. Like Thoreau, I'm wary of all enterprises that require new clothes."

"I thought you liked clothes," he said, and leaned against the door frame. He was dressed for work in a slate-gray suit of lightweight wool, a shirt the color of forget-me-nots, and a tie in a diamond-pattern silk.

I surreptitiously brushed dirt off the knee of my worn jeans. "I do like clothes. It's the enterprises that worry me. On the flip side, are you sure my old skirt and blouse are fine for the baby's christening tomorrow?"

"It's not a christening," he said. "It's a naming ceremony, very dull, and you still can't go to it because it's only for family."

"That seems rather churlish," I said. "If my niece was getting baptized, I'd invite your whole family to both the ceremony and the party afterward, and it wouldn't even be BYOB."

"You don't have a niece."

"She's a theoretical niece. Her name is Elena and she adores me."

He sighed. "A skirt and blouse are fine for our get-together after the ceremony. You can use the card I gave you to buy something for Nancy's wedding."

The shiny new credit card lay hidden beneath my favorite lace chones at the bottom of my underwear drawer. I had no intention of ever using it. "I dread going to the wedding alone."

"You'll be fine. You'll like seeing your old college pals."

Nancy and I had met at a Fancy University, but we'd run in different circles. Her snobby F.U. friends had a way of looking past me and talking around me that made me yearn to stick gum in their shiny rich-girl hair.

I decided that my boots were dry enough and shoved my feet into the damp, smelly things. "I find this whole family situation very perturbing. I'm beyond perturbed."

"Let it go, babe. Besides, once you meet them you might be glad you don't have to spend much time with them."

"But your parents are nice, right? I mean, they raised you."

Oswald shrugged. "They take a little time to warm up, but once they get to know you, they'll love you."

I hoped so, even though I was not one of them. I was just an underemployed girl who'd grappled romantically with their son after a party and been accidentally contaminated by their condition. His people were stunned that I had survived. I had a freakishly efficient immune system. Perhaps I was born with this immune system; perhaps it had developed as a result of my mother Regina's malignant neglect.

I stood and went to the mirror. Using my fingers, I parted my hair into three sections and plaited it into a braid. When I'd lived in the City, I'd been used to a hectic social schedule. But after months of calm routine in the countryside, the prospect of three events within a week -- Oswald's family visiting, Oswald's departure, and Nancy's wedding -- seemed overwhelming.

Oswald stood behind me. He was just above medium height, but he was tall enough to rest his chin atop my head.

His lovely pale, creamy skin contrasted nicely against my black hair. I admired his gray eyes, high brow, rich brown hair, and the smooth line of his cheekbones.

"You're beautiful," he said as he pulled me close.

I always appreciated him saying this, even though I had a look common to Latinas: black hair, brown eyes, olive skin, and a curvy figure. Whenever I saw a girl who resembled me, I secretly fantasized that she was a long-lost relative and that when the connection was discovered, we'd become loving primas.

"Why are you making that face at me?" Oswald asked.

"I'm raising one eyebrow cynically at your ploy to divert me from the issue at hand."

"Keep trying. Focus on isolating the occipitofrontalis muscle on the right side of your face."

That's why I so treasured him: he thought any problem could be solved by exercising the old gray matter. I said, "Dr. Grant, I'm going to miss you while you're gone."

"I can cancel my trip, stick around for Nancy's wedding if you need me."

"Yes, I'm so pathetically insecure that I would take you away from children who need surgery."

"That's not what I meant. But you don't always have to put yourself at the bottom of every list."

"You spend your time around too many spoiled, self-involved women."

"Yes, I do." He kissed my neck and I tingled all the way down to my popsicle toes.

"Hasta, babe," I said. "See you tonight."

I went to the hall of our love shack. It was a charming one-bedroom cottage tastefully decorated in classic blues and whites. My friend Nancy had once told me, "Taste is not style." I'd been using this aphorism to justify cluttering up the cottage with rural treasures, like old signs and vintage kitchenware and smooth stream rocks.

I picked up my stack of envelopes to be mailed. I had written a duo of novellas, titled Uno, Dos, Terror!, about brave young women who encounter diabolical creatures: genetic crop engineers, fascists, and a poltergeist. These novellas were a homage to the political writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter's classic political horror story, Frankenstein.

My shaggy dog, Daisy, gamboled with excitement when she saw me preparing to go outside. I had never had pets before, and I still marveled at how happy they could make me feel. Four other dogs lived at the ranch, but Daisy had latched onto me from the moment I'd arrived. She looked like a cross between a herding dog and a caterpillar, with luxuriant fur in many colors and golden eyes.

I opened the door and lifted my face to the cloudless sky. The air smelled damp and clean. Petunia, my chicken, was scratching in the dirt path by the garden fence.

In our little shack, I could pretend that Oswald and I were equals, but in the bigger world, Oswald Kevin Grant, board certified plastic surgeon, was a Big Enchilada. He earned a fortune nipping and tucking, slicing and dicing, plumping and sucking, sewing and gluing people into new, improved versions.

He owned the large house across the field. He owned the animals, the tractor, the trucks, the small vineyard of cabernet grapes, and the fields that spread out past the creek and the pond to the rise of the hills. He had other properties and investments that kept the money rolling in.

Oswald resided in the shack on a whim, and sometimes I worried that I was also a whim. He brushed aside our class differences, but I was always keenly aware of them.

I raced with Daisy across the green field to the car park by the main house. We hopped into my little green truck. After I went to the post office, I would visit shops in town and try to get a few more gardening clients.

I hadn't planned on gardening professionally, but my F.U. degree had not trained me to do anything other than write unmarketable fiction and say gins and tonic, not gin and tonics, a distinction that impressed no one.

My mother Regina would be disgusted that I was laboring "like an immigrant in the dirt." After I'd gone off to F.U., my father's landscaping business had thrived. He'd started with a humble residential service and had expanded Jerry D-Lightful Landscaping to corporate campuses and shopping malls. My mother Regina equated my proximity with her miserable days as a member of the lower classes.

As I drove round the impressive pale sandstone house, I honked my horn. Edna, Oswald's grandmother, appeared at a window. I couldn't tell if she was waving me good-bye or flipping her wrist in dismissal, but I decided to stop and check.

I went to the Big House through the back entrance. I pried off my damp boots and left them in the mudroom by the cupboard with the hats and sunblock lotions.

Everything in the capacious kitchen was coordinated in clear yellows and blues, very Monet-meets-restaurant-quality-appliances. Something deliciously cinnamon was baking, and I remembered those weeks when I'd lived in the cozy maid's room adjacent to the kitchen. The family had grudgingly taken me in after Sebastian, my Lunatic Incensed Megalomaniac Ex-boyfriend (SLIME) tried to kidnap me. According to SLIME's delusional rantings, I'd been infected with vampirism. SLIME's group, Corporate Americans for the Conservation of America (CACA), had planned to extradite my friends offshore and experiment with their DNA for fun and profit.

Yes, I had been dreadfully ill and perhaps I'd had a yen for uncooked meat, and I won't argue that I'd reacted negatively to sunlight, but I was fully recovered now. I did have a few felicitous side effects from the infection. My eyesight had improved, especially my night vision, and I healed immediately from minor cuts and scratches, a handy trait for someone who liked to grow roses.

Besides, as the family frequently reminded me, there was no such thing as vampires.

Edna came int...

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