After Fumiko hung up I numbly put my phone aside. I wanted to go back to relaxing, but I was already too wound up. I let myself sink down in the tub until the water closed in over my head and my toes bumped against the far side.
I didn’t need to breathe, so I just sat like that for a while. Then, when I was done feeling fatalist and starting to feel prune-y, I sat up.
Once air was available I took a big, gasping breath of it. It wasn’t really needed, but I guess some things are habitual.
I found shampoo and conditioner along the edge of the tub and used them to scrub my hair very thoroughly. Then I dunked myself again, pulled the drain, and turned on the shower to rinse when I came up.
When I turned it off and got out of the tub I was relieved to be finally, blissfully clean. Even though I don’t have long hair I used one towel for what I had and another for the rest of me. Those went into the hamper, and then I stopped. I was naked, and I didn’t have a change of clothes – but there was no way I was getting back into yesterday’s. Or digging Hans’ tee shirt out of the laundry. That would just be… ew.
I considered for a moment, then turned and got my phone. I looked up Emma’s number from my recent calls and hit dial while I went to open the linen closet.
Emma picked up on the second ring.
“Hi,” we said over each other. Emma laughed. I started over.
“Hi Emma,” I said. “It’s Abby.”
“Hi,” Emma said. “You know, I was going to call you later,” she admonished. “I just didn’t want to interrupt that nap you mentioned.”
“Oh!” I said. “Oh, no. That’s okay. I mean, you should still do that. I just… Um.” I pulled myself together and pushed forward. “I just finished a bath at Mr. Salvatore’s,” I said, “and I was wondering if one of these robes is yours and if I could borrow it if one was.”
“Oh, sure,” Emma said. She laughed again. “You didn’t have to call just for that.”
“I did to find out which it was,” I said a little crossly. I immediately regretted my tone of voice. I liked seeing – or hearing – Emma happy. When I thought about how vulnerable she’d become when we were alone together last night I felt a twinge of protectiveness that I usually only felt for Megan. It made me want to go and kick Mr. Salvatore’s corpse. Repeatedly.
“I’m sorry,” I hastened to say. “I shouldn’t be snappish. I’m just tired and anxious and shaky from last night, and I’m naked and I don’t have anything to wear and I’m touchy about asking for things because I’m already imposing horribly on Hans just to have a place to stay since my apartment and everything in it burned up.” Wow, it was amazing how much you could blurt out in one go when you didn’t have to breathe in.
Actually, that was probably going to bite me in the ass someday.
“Oh, Abby!” Emma exclaimed. “I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking – I was just going to tease you about calling me first. I’m really glad you did. And it’s the pink and white one with flower print trim.”
“Thank you,” I breathed when I found the one she’d described. I hadn’t been looking forward to yelling for Hans to get me another tee shirt.
“No problem,” Emma said cheerfully. “Oh, I still keep an overnight bag packed. I could swing by with it if… if you need a change of clothes or something.”
My heart rate seemed to speed up a little. What had she thought I would want, before changing it to clothes? “Could you?” I asked. “I would really appreciate it.” I did need something to wear out shopping for necessities. Hans had mentioned having a friend he could ask to borrow things from, but the thought of begging from another person – and a stranger at that – had been something I was doing my best ignore so it wouldn’t freak me out with anxiety.
“Sure thing!” Emma assured me. “I can be over in… oh, an hour or so? Make it two; l I’ll throw a few extras in to give you some options.”
Emma’s cheerful eagerness filled me with warmth. Even though we’d just met yesterday… I was pretty sure I didn’t deserve to have someone go out of their way for me like that. But secretly I was horribly self-satisfied about having a girlfriend who was so awesome.
“That would be fantastic,” I told her. “I’ll let Hans know you’re coming over and maybe take that nap. Um. Do vampires sleep?” I felt tired, but I hadn’t really drifted off in the tub.
Emma giggled. “Wow,” she said to herself. “I have got to get used to knowing more about this than you do. Hm. Well, Salvatore didn’t need to, but he liked to after feeding. I think it might be one of those ‘alive’ things, and you won’t ever feel tired when you’re hungry.”
“Okay,” I said. “Thanks again.” I really meant it, but I was also a little squicked out by the reminder that Emma’s expertise in all matters vampire came from her previous experiences with Mr. Salvatore. “So I’ll see you in a bit?”
“Yes,” Emma said. She blew a kiss through the phone. “Bye!”
“Bye,” I said weakly. Emma hung up. I still held the phone to my ear. I really hoped I turned out to be a healthier relationship for her than Mr. Salvatore had. Unfortunately, I knew I was inexperienced with relationships, inexperienced with being a vampire, and too experienced with being a crazy anxious wreck. I was worried I’d hurt her. I tried to promise myself that I’d never even taste Emma’s blood, but I wasn’t even sure I could do that for her. If I got hungry, how much would how I felt now matter?
I sighed morosely and put down the phone. Sleep. Sleep would be good. I was exhausted. I took out Emma’s bathrobe and put it on. The sleeves were a touch long and the hem didn’t quite reach my knees. It would be even shorter on Emma, I realized. I tried not to think about that and started blushing.
I had a girlfriend. That was still mind boggling. I did not need to be thinking about what Mr. Salvatore had done with her when they had been together. Even if I knew from her own admission that it had involved the kind of exhibitionistic displays that implied she wouldn’t mind having people fantasize about her intimate activities with another person.
Emma’s bathrobe had a couple of cutesy flower print pockets on the front. I thought they were probably just decorative – who really needs pockets on a bathrobe? I slipped my phone in one anyway. Then I went around and blew out all the candles before gathering up my purse. I turned off the CD player on my way out of the bathroom and left the rest of my mess be. I’d clean it after I had a nap. And after I knew where the washer, dryer, and garbage cans were.
I figured Mr. Salvatore had to have a washer and dryer somewhere. After all, bringing a load of blood stained clothes to a Laundromat would just be awkward.
Hans was lounging against the hallway wall when I came out. I started blushing all over again when I saw how he perked up when he saw me.
Also, he still wasn’t wearing a shirt.
“Um, hi,” I said bashfully.
“Hello,” he replied. His accent reminded me that I wasn’t wearing panties anymore. “I hope you’re feeling refreshed?”
“Yes,” I said. “Thank you. Um, I talked to Emma on the phone and she’s going to let me borrow some clothes. So you don’t have to bother your friend.”
Hans nodded. “I’ll let her know not to worry about it after all,” he said. “Although I think she’ll still want to meet you. She rather disliked Salvatore and sounded pleased to hear that he’d been displaced.”
Displaced. My stomach twisted. Like I was the new vampire in town, and would be taking over… whatever it was that Mr. Salvatore did that wasn’t running a publishing house. “Okay,” I said. “Just… not yet? I want to get a grip on… on all of this, before I have to start worrying about making a good first impression.”
Hans nodded. “Of course,” he said, and I breathed a small sigh of relief.
“Thank you,” I said with feeling. Then I fidgeted. “Um, Emma said she’d be here in a couple of hours. Do you think… would it be okay if I just laid down until then?”
“Of course!” Hans said. He offered me his hand and walked me to the guest room. His room. I blushed some more. “Is there anything else I can get to make you more comfortable? More blankets? Pillows? A cup of water for when you wake up?”
I considered. I like pillows. And I like waking up buried under piles of blankets. But none of that seemed really important right now. I shook myself. My mouth went on autopilot. “Yeah, you.” I pulled Hans into the bedroom with me. Then I turned and pushed him down on the loveseat.
Hans looked startled, but he was also grinning and I recognized that glint in his eye.
“Oh, no,” I said warningly. “Down boy. You’re just here to make sure nothing comes crawling out from under that bed, got it?”
Hans’ eyes disappeared beneath his brows, but he did clear his throat and at least affect a serious tone. “Of course, Abigail. You may rest assured of your safety.”
“Good,” I told him. I turned to the bed – then back to Hans. “But you can go after I fall asleep, alright?” I wasn’t sure I’d be able to rest at all if I knew someone was watching me, even if it was Hans. The thought of someone watching me sleep was its very own brand of creepy.
“Is that a rule?” Hans asked.
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Yes,” I said. Then I dropped my purse next to the bed, got out my phone, set it to silent and put it on the end table. Then I glanced at Hans again.
He was lounging back in the loveseat, watching me avidly. Except that his eyes weren’t straying anywhere above the belt of Emma’s bathrobe.
My cheeks had to be scarlet. Maybe my ears, too. “And stop staring!” I squeaked. I mentally added a razor, shaving cream, and moisturizer to my necessities list.
Hans looked up. “I’m sorry,” he said unrepentantly. “What was that? I was distracted.”
I drew myself up to chastise him as he so richly deserved – he’d clearly heard me! – but then I realized that throwing my shoulders back made the folds of Emma’s robe spread into a much deeper V down my chest. I squeaked again and scrambled under the covers before I could do anything stupider. I heard Hans chuckle as I pulled them over my head.
After a minute I pulled the covers down just enough to peek at Hans. He was leaning against one arm of the loveseat, with his knees up and his feet – sans shoes – propped over the other end. He’d grabbed a book from the nearby shelf and was frowning at the first or second page. I bit my lip. It looked like a bawdy romance, and watching Hans’ serious expression as he read a book he could have been on the cover of really made me want to giggle.
I pulled the covers back up over my head. Satisfied that I was safe from Hans and Hans would keep me safe from everything else, I snuggled into the mattress and covers. It all smelled like Hans, which was actually nice. Comforting. Safe.
I have a boyfriend, I thought. That was pretty mind boggling, too. In fact, I needed to sort out so much craziness from the past two days that I doubted I’d be able to fall asleep, no matter how good a nap sounded.
And yet, just a few seconds later, I was out.