Excerpt from Baby Steps

Four days after the fact, I’m not sure what still surprises me most: that I asked Joseph to live with us, or that he agreed.

Honestly, I’m not sure where that impulse came from. I was upset about the food thing, but was I upset enough to be so careless as to invite a vampire to live with me a few days or a few weeks? No, it wasn’t carelessness or an impulsive reaction to my hurt pride. It was… it feels silly, but it was one of those “I have to follow my instincts” moments.

I’ll admit I felt a moment of sheer terror when he said yes. I noticed the blood-stained glass on the table at that moment, and what he is hit me. It’s not like I have forgotten that he’s a vampire. Not killing people doesn’t make him any less of a vamp, and he would undoubtedly feel insulted if I said it did.

But then, I realized something. I was looking at him, and it was suddenly like a revelation. He is a vampire, yes, but that’s not all that he is. He is much more than that. There’s a man hiding behind the bravado of the demon, a man I’ve only seen glimpses of, but I know it’s this man who used to love me, it’s this man who decided not to kill humans. It’s this man I trust.

I didn’t really expect him to accept so easily, though. Living with a Special Enforcer has to rate pretty low on any vampire’s list of fun things to do. And yet, he did accept. Just said “OK” in that slightly doubtful tone of voice that told me just how strange this was to him, too.

What I hadn’t realized when I offered him the attic and my air mattress was that I was getting more than a houseguest. I found myself a substitute babysitter. I’d never have thought he’d know how to hold a baby, or how to give her a bottle of milk. But that’s exactly what he did that very first night after I showed him his new quarters and helped him clean up the dust. Marian was asleep when I went to take a shower. I heard her cry while I was washing my hair and tried to hurry, but she quieted down after a couple of minutes. When I got out of the bathroom, she wasn’t in her crib. I went down to the kitchen, and there she was. There they were. Joseph was sitting at the island with Marian in his arms. He was giving her a bottle. He looked at me when I entered, and his expression turned from a slight smile to wariness.

“She was crying,” he said, as though what he was doing needed an explanation.

I walked closer, expecting to have to correct the way he held her, but it was fine. It struck me, then. He had done this before. Could I ask about it? I wanted to, but I wasn’t sure how he would react.

“Thank you.” I forced a smile to my lips, and added, “You look like you’ve done this before.”

He gave me a startled look but didn’t reply. For a few minutes we stayed there, Marian in his arms, him on the bar stool, and me in front of him. When she was done, he handed her to me and slid off his perch.

“I have done this before. But don’t try to pry, Sandra,” he murmured as he walked past me, and then he was gone.

That answered my question as to whether I should ask when he had the chance to take care of a baby. My guess is that he had a child before he was turned. Maybe he’ll tell me, some day, if he stays long enough.

… continued in Baby Steps

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