As this first chapter of the second half of Ward’s novel begins, Beth and Wrath wrap up their first dinner date with dessert: “Whole strawberries on a gold-rimmed plate. Some chocolate on the side to dip them in. A little cookie.” And not one of them with a corporate sponsor! How sad.
Wrath takes especial pleasure in feeding Beth a strawberry, even as she questions him about his whereabouts and goings-on from the night before. Licking a dribble of juice from Beth’s face, Wrath decides that dinner has come to an end, and they adjourn to the bedchamber, where Beth’s lesson in Vampire Biology continues. She now learns that they’ve no need for condoms since vampires aren’t susceptible to human diseases and she’s clearly not in any danger of getting preggers (“you won’t have your first needing for another five years or so after the change”).
After Wrath takes a few minutes out to answer a phone call, they return to their regular foreplay, already in progress. It’s at this point that Beth asks to remove Wrath’s shades. “I want to see your eyes. You can be hard to read with those glasses on.” When he hesitates, she finally asks the $64,000 question: “You’re blind, aren’t you?” He acknowledges this, and she swears that she still trusts in him to protect her.
Here we’re gifted with one of the most appealing physical descriptions in the whole book. Let’s make it into a little quiz, shall we?
Which of the following descriptions of Wrath’s eyes do you suppose elicit the line “your eyes are beautiful” from Beth’s lips? (Owners of this book: no peeking!)
a.) his eyes shone with a nacreous light, gentle haloes warming the rest of his face in their glow.
b.) his eyes gleamed like they were lit from inside his skull, all but popping out of his face like lightbulbs.
c.) his eyes were pools of cool fire, dimly radiant. They seemed to light his face in a soft and soothing glow.
d.) his eyes were bright and blue and round, with tiny black dots in the middle.
The answer will be at the end of this post!
The ensuing sex scene is a pretty steamy affair that finds Wrath uttering the line “Sweet heaven, that is so it” (OMG!) and Beth looking forward to Wrath going omnomnomnom on her neck. The chapter ends with Wrath babbling on about his favorite fruit like a Faulknerian man-child: “Do you want to know what you taste like?…Peaches. Like eating peaches…Just like peaches. And I love peaches.”
Chapter 27: Daddy dearest
As this scene opens we’re havering with Havers again. He’s wandering about his medical lab, thinking dark murderous thoughts about everyone’s favorite vampire warrior. But how can this ninety-pound nebbish hope to tackle nearly seven feet of full-on vampire? Oh, scheme, scheme, machinate! Yet even as he plots Wrath’s downfall, he feels his strength ebb: his transfusions aren’t working.
Meanwhile, Wrath wraps up his get-together with Beth and withdraws to meet up with the boys. They’re going on a lesser hunt. “If you leave, I need to know where to find you,” he tells Beth. “The change, Beth. The change. Look, it’ll be safer if you stay.” He points the way to her father’s room, just, y’know, in case she wants to check it out.
Once Wrath’s gone, she does just that, and finds a veritable shrine to her: “There were pictures of her everywhere. Black-and-whites, close-ups, colored ones. She was all ages, from infancy through childhood and into her teens. In college.” And so forth. She learns a lot about her father as she wanders aimlessly through his bedroom: he has a refined sense of aesthetic taste (“Hudson River School landscapes set in gilt frames”), he’s wealthy (“as in millions and millions and millions loaded”), and he’s only recently dead (“there was still an inch of water in the glass”). As the curtain falls on this chapter, Beth finds a single picture of her mother, a shot of shy raven-haired lass captured in black and white.
I know I’ve pointed this out before, and I know it’s nothing new to the legions of chrack addicts out there, but surely one of the most markedly unbelievable aspects of this book is the utterly cavalier way with which Beth copes with the unending life-changing updates that fall down on her head like revelatory raindrops. “I’m a vampire? Rilly? Got any delicious Pepperidge Farm™ goldfish?”
Chapter 28: Thank god for
Hey, kids! It’s
everyone’s favorite our beloved
a vampire killer, Mr. X! I hadn’t noticed this guy’s similarity to Wile E. Coyote until several of the Bitchery pointed it out, but…damn. “Hapless” is the perfect word for this guy. (Incidentally, can anything ever be “hap”?)
In this chapter Mr. X goes vampire hunting with his Acme-brand dart gun filled with Acepromazine-filled darts and bags himself a ten-point civilian male whom he manages to smuggle past a DUI checkpoint. We’ll have to wait for a later chapter to learn of this poor vampire’s demise, but we can already be sure it won’t be a pleasant one.
There’s a Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie sketch in which Stephen utters a sentence that he’s quite certain has never been said before. If memory serves, the sentence is something along the lines of “grasp the solicitor’s nose firmly waiter, or else warm milk will countermand my trousers.” This sketch is all I could think of on reading the following not-something-you-read-everyday sentence from this chapter: “He reached into his black bag, took out the dart gun, and fired another two into the vampire to keep the noise down.”
The chapter’s second scene involves Wrath and Rhage’s stakeout of Mr. X’s martial arts academy. There’s a bit of
pretty pointless male bonding before three lessers show up and things start to get more interesting. The two vampires have got everything pretty much under control (we even get a rare drinking game grand-slam: “Even to Wrath’s poor eyesight, [Rhage] was a thing of beauty when he fought. All fists and kicks. Rapid motion. Animal reflexes. Power and endurance.”) until the lessers bring out the shotgun.
Chapter 29: The soup tonight is a tangy lessersoisse with finely chopped chives
We start things off at Butch’s favorite bar, where he’s tossin’ ‘em back and flirting with Abby the Barwench when José gives him a call: they’ve found the hooker Mr. X used for vampire bait in the previous chapter. Of course, they all think that Wrath’s behind the killings, and Butch curses Beth for getting herself involved: “Goddamn it, I can’t believe she’s protecting him.”
Next we return to WWE’s Raw Lesser vs. Vampire No-Holds-Barred Catch-as-Catch-Can Smackdown 4, wherein two more lessers have just joined the fray, announcing their arrival with a shotgun blast to Wrath’s forearm. It’s not serious, we’re told with characteristic Wardian bluntness: “Bone was intact. He could still fight.”
“Wrath arm gooooood. Wrath no like lesser. Lesser baaaaaad. Wrath big hurt lesser!”
And then all hell breaks loose. Rhage channels his demon, Trogdor the Ruxpinator, and proceeds to…um…well…[massive spoiler alert] eat the lessers. Yum. After the demon has fed, Rhage returns to “normal,” a huddled, naked (and bloated) figure shivering in the night air. “Hate this,” he tells Wrath laconically.
Minutes later (this chapter switches scenes with vertiginous quickness) Beth has an encounter with a demon all her own. It seems that Zsadist was the only BDB brother within driving range of Wrath and Rhage, so after bringing those two back to the ranch he takes the opportunity to introduce himself to Beth.
It doesn’t go well. “Not willing to share the female?” he asks Wrath when the latter steps in the end the former’s confrontation with Beth. When Wrath responds with a negative, Zsadist slinks away menacingly. Surely we’ll hear more from him before the book’s up, right? Wrath’s certainly not up for taking chances with him. “He walks into a room and I’m in the house, you come and find me. If I’m not around, you lock yourself in one of these rooms down here. The walls are made of steel, so he can’t materialize inside.”
Why must every superpower come with seemingly arbitrary limitations? “You can fly, but not when the moon is full.” “You’re impervious to everything not colored yellow.” “You can shape-shift into anything you want to, as long as that something is somehow made of water.” Kinda spoils the fun, doesn’t it?
On a completely unrelated note, will you allow me to whine once more about Ward’s vampire naming conventions? What’s that you say? You have no choice but to do so? Very well, then.
Okay, some of the names have a surfeit of ‘h’s, right? Rhage, Tohrment…now why not “Vichious”? Too much like “vichyssoise”? At least, however, “Vishous” suggests an obvious phonetic rendering; the one that really annoys me is “Phury.” If you drop the ‘h’ from “Phury” you get “Pury,” which is how I’m always tempted to pronounce it.
Getting back to our story, Wrath ushers a much-encumbered Rhage into Wrath’s own bedchamber, leading him gently to bed. “Belly hurts.” Once Rhage’s been laid in bed, Beth impresses the holy hell out of Wrath by tenderly nursing Rhage, holding his head in her lap and humming to him softly. She also offers him a popular brand-name relief for indigestion, all but acting out an entire advertisement for this particular product. Your next quiz question asks which of the following (IswearIswearIkidyounotIcannotMAKEthisshitup) lines actually appear in the book (Again, no peekies!):
a.) She took the roll of Tums tablets from her purse and peeled two of them from the end. These ought to work, she thought to herself. They’ll go to work in seconds and last all night.
b.) Beth knew how to spell relief. She dug around in her purse and found the small bottle of Rolaids she always carried with her. He might not want to have to chew them, she thought. She took two tablets and broke them into small pieces before giving the pieces to Rhage to swallow.
c.) Beth walked back to her purse and decided on Alka-Seltzer because it had aspirin it for his aches. She went into Wrath’s bathroom, grabbed a glass, and did the plop-plop, fizz-fizz thing.
Ms. Ward’s gratuitous product placements make me wonder what sort of intrusion corporate sponsorship might have made in some of the most beloved literary classics. Might Jane Eyre’s Mr. Rochester have purchased fire insurance from Allstate? Would Crime and Punishment have had a happy ending had Raskolnikov found a brighter career after attending ITT Tech? Would Charlotte ever even have had a chance to build her web, after a visit from the Orkin man?
But I digress, all the way into the mercifully short…
…Chapter 30: The perfect place for a Shamwow plug
Morning comes. Mr. X’s plans have hit another snag: it seems that vampires are tough to torture. He’s not even able to wake his vampire captive and only succeeds in killing him. “At least cleanup was easy,” Ward remarks, as Mr. X flings back the doors to his torture cell and lets the sunlight do its thing on the vampire bits.
Mr. X then has a quick shower before heading into the dojo to oversee a lesser meeting. Tensions are running high at the meeting: Mr. X had asked his minions to slay ten vampires on their hunt the night before, but only three kills had been made, two by a noob, Mr. O.
“We couldn’t find any,” says another, Mr. M. “The numbers in this area have thinned.”
“The problem is not geography,” offers Mr. O, “the problem is motivation. There are no consequences for failure.” With this, he deftly slits the throat of Mr. M and leaves him to bleed to death on the floor. Mr. X calls him on the carpet and shouts for all of the other lessers to leave the room while he dresses Mr. O down. “Good boy,” are the last words of the chapter.
One last carp, and then I’ll go. If the lessers are called by their last initials only, what happens when there’s redundancy, as we know there must be since at one point Ward says there are more than 26 of them? (I don’t remember exactly how many she said there are, but I’m pretty tired and I don’t care nearly badly enough to look for the reference right now.) Do they start appending numbers? Is it like Mr. S-2? Or maybe they use the first two letters of their last names? Like Mr. Me and Mr. Mo? That’s the way we had to distinguish between two Colins in my classes in elementary school: Colin Morgan and Colin Meloy (yes, I really did grow up with the front man for The Decemberists; he’s the most famous member of my high school graduating class…if only being a math professor came with more splash and glamor…). And I had Alex Ga and Alex Go in one calculus class this past spring…
…Sorry. Must have been a runaway [senselessrambling] tag in there somewhere.
Okay, so at least the action’s heated up. Meanwhile the lead romance has gone pretty much nowhere. Beth and Wrath are madly, unobstructedly in love with one another, so there’s pretty much zero romantic drama to be had. Well, hell.
Coming up next: more sex! And the collapse of the last wall that could possibly stand between Wrath and Beth.
Oh, yeah…here are the answers to the quiz questions!
Chapter 26: (b). Perhaps Beth’s favorite actor is Marty Feldman?
Chapter 29: (c). For real, J.R.? For real?