Oy. Another six chapters. The action’s heating up and the plot takes a few odd turns, but the characters are pretty much stuck in place. There’s pretty much no characterization beyond “Beth is bold and sexy” and “Wrath is a total bad-ass.” These characters are flatter than a stretch of Interstate in Indiana.
Let’s pick up where we left off…
Chapter Ten: Mangled metaphors on aisle six
Beth lies in bed near the end of her steamy Wrathful night. She looks over her partner dreamily.
“He was huge. And stacked.”
“He had no hair on his torso or arms and legs at all…even down there…why he’d go the Full Monty with a razor was a mystery.”
“His abdomen was ribbed as if he were smuggling paint rollers under his skin.”
Now that’s romantic. Six points for proper use of the subjunctive mood, but only one for metaphorical flourish.
The two of them make small talk, and it’s evident already that they’re falling for one another. Wrath pledges his vigilant protection, and Beth assumes he’s a bodyguard sent by Butch to keep her safe. Before he goes, Wrath schedules a tête-à-tête at Darius’s house and promises Beth that Bill Riddle will pay for what he’s done to her.
Back at the ranch, Rhage gives Wrath a little good-natured manly ribbing about his late-night rendezvous the previous evening. “You got some grind tonight, didn’t you?” After a little more teasing Wrath threatens his friend with bodily harm, at which point Rhage relents in yet more stilted “gangsta” slang: “I’m feeling you.”
Okay, if all of these guys are supposed to be centuries old, why in the hell do they talk like twenty-something bangers? Or at least how forty-something (sorry, J.R., I’m just taking a wild guess…you might want to update your own Wikipedia page) romance writers imagine twenty-something bangers probably talk? Shouldn’t they be doing the dozens in Old High German or something like that? How frickin’ cool would that be?!?
“Rhage, du nalles unwan ein waldesil bist!”
Sadly, it is not to be.
We end the chapter with Mr. X, who’s dragged Cherry Pie’s body into a filth-encrusted alleyway to serve as vampire bait. (Did you think I was kidding before?) The plan works. Kinda. After pelting the poor vampire who shows up to the smorgasbord with ineffectively weak tranquilizer darts, Mr. X flees the scene. Back to the drawing board.
Chapter Eleven: This is a public service announcement on behalf of the Centers for Disease Control
Beth awakens. “With the dawn’s arrival the hot night’s mystery had faded, and she was forced to face what she had done. Unprotected sex with a total stranger was one hell of a wake-up call.”
Props for social consciousness, J.R. Little does Beth know that STDs are the least of her worries.
She sets about her day, breakfasting on Pepperidge Farm goldfish crackers (I wish I were kidding) and finding herself more and more sensitive to the sunlight. She’s off to the police station to see what she can get from Butch on the big doin’s in the downtown dens of deceit and destruction.
“Oh my God, this is Mary,” she tells Butch when she’s shown a picture of Cherry Pie. It appears that Ms. Randall and Ms. Pie (née Mary Mulcahy) were once residents at the same orphanage. Small world! Butch tells Beth that evidence indicates the same culprit in both known murders: “Another throwing star.” The plot thickens.
Especially once Beth thanks Butch for sending her a guardian palooka and he reacts as we’d expect him to: “Friend? What the hell are you talking about? I didn’t send anyone over to your place.” Um. Yeah.
Beth scratches her plan to meet Wrath that night from her mental to-do list.
Back at Darius’s house, Wrath thinks back on the night before, not without another ham-fisted product placement on behalf of an American automaker. After leaving Beth’s place he’d joined Vishous (in his Escalade!) in an attempted rescue of the vampire Mr. X had beaten from the bushes that night. The poor kid (“he’d been six months out from his transition”) hadn’t made it. Oh, the humani…er…vampirity! Wrath tries to clear his thoughts by listening to Jay-Z’s The Black Album (now available at Tower Records!).
The last several pages are a pretty dull recounting of Mr. X’s double date with a pair of students from his dojo, the now-famous Billy Riddle and another we’ll know only as “The Loser.” Mr. X. picks them up in his Hummer (of course) and takes them off to…Laser Tag! Ah ‘80s, may you forever live!
Chapter Twelve: Beth uses the Internets
“Boy, the Internet was handy.” Beth pulls a Nancy Drew on the address Wrath had given her the night before and finds little useful information. The house is in Fritz’s name, but despite the house’s fame (it’s on the National Register of Historic Places!) no one knows much about it. She calls the cops, hoping to get a hold of Butch, but he’s out. Luckily he calls her back in a little while.
“Butch O’Neal’s voice was a gravel pit, she thought. In a good way.” Not in the suck-you-under-and-suffocate-you way, I guess.
Meanwhile Wrath can’t get Beth out of his mind. He wonders if she’s his pyrocant, which Ward defines as a vampire’s “critical weakness.” I guess my pyrocant is Ben and Jerry’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough ice cream.
Even if she’s a weakness, Wrath can’t let her go…after all, who’d look after her? One by one he mentally eliminates his brothers from the list of potential protectors. Rhage would only sleep with her, and Vishous is too messed up. And Zsadist?…out of the question. Nope, it’s gotta be Wrath.
Before the chapter ends we learn a little bit more about Vishous: he’s mildly clairvoyant, but the futures a bit hazy. (Later we’ll learn that, as has been hinted at before, Rhage can channel a demon so terrible it makes Trogdor look like Teddy Ruxpin. But we’ll save that for later…)
Chapter Thirteen: The green-eyed monster
Butch and Beth, having just enjoyed a lovely night together, are about to part company while Wrath looks on from afar. He sees Butch’s car (“a nondescript American sedan”…but what make is it? What model?!!), and he could smell Butch’s lust (“through the sedan’s glass and steel”). His temper flares more hotly still when Butch mans up and plants one on Beth’s lips.
He’s not a bad kisser, it turns out, but Beth feels nothing real. “I’m not doing it for you, am I?” Butch asks. And then, “What’s up with you an men? Do you, ah, do you like them? Us, I mean?” Smooth, Butch. Smooth. Further evidence that every man in this book talks like a steroid-addled high school jock.
Alas, Butch, her heart’s been claimed already. Very easily, I might add.
I can’t help but interject, having at this point read far more of this book than the first thirteen chapters, that I found the lack of romantic tension in this book pretty unappealing. Now, the current chapter ends on page 109, not even a third of the way in, so you might think there are plenty of twists and turns awaiting our would be paramours as they struggle to reconcile their unholy love for one another. Ah, but you’d be wrong! As we’ll see later, every potential obstacle to their love’s requital falls down faster than a Star Trek extra in a bright red shirt.
Chapter Fourteen: Another short chapter, in which our two lead lunkheads fight over the female
The last chapter closed as Butch spied Wrath making his way toward Beth across her apartment complex’s lawn. Quicker than you can say “Bela Lugosi” Butch is out and after Wrath. “Police! Halt!”
Yeah, that’ll work.
Butch takes Wrath into awkward custody and pats him down, revealing a wad of cash and a sample of every weapon known to man, and probably a few that aren’t. After roughing Wrath up a little bit, Butch hauls him off at gunpoint, bound for the station. Before he’s shoved into Butch’s car, Wrath tells Beth why he’d come to her: “your father sent me.”
Chapter Fifteen: Twenty-seven signs you may be a vampire
Down at the stationhouse, Wrath turns the tables on Butch. He frees himself of his handcuffs and gets Butch in a chokehold. Even as he strangles the life out of Butch’s body, Wrath can’t help but be impressed: “the human’s total lack of fear was remarkable. The cop had been pissed to get jumped, and he’d fought back admirably, but he’d never been scared.” Do I sense a buddy cop film coming on?
Beth shows up just in time to plead for Butch’s life, which Wrath grants. As Butch struggles to regain his strength, Beth and Wrath have it out with one another.
“You’re a killer and a liar,” she shouts at him.
“At least you got the first part right,” he replies. And then he shows her he knows what she’s going through by listing all of the symptoms of an imminent transition: “You’ve been really hungry lately, haven’t you? Hungry, but not gaining any weight. And tired. So very tired. Your eyes have been stinging, too, especially in the daytime, right? You’re looking at raw meat and wondering what it tastes like. Your teeth, the upper ones in front, have been sore. Your joints ache, and your skin feels tight. And it’s getting tighter.”
And so on.
What’s next? “Your lumbago’s acting up. You’ve been craving gummi gears, but only on Thursdays. You have a strange obsession with Bob Barker, and want to lick the TV screen every time he implores you to spay and neuter your pets…”
Everything Wrath describes is spot on, and Beth buys his bit well enough to go with him back to Wayne Manor.
What will she there find?
Join me for the next installment, as I make my way into Chapters Sixteen through Twenty!