"Sure--" I mumbled. "We'll talk later. I'm going to study."
"Study? You've been studying since the party. Alexander has had a positive effect on you," she said.
If my mother only knew I had been holed up in my room, waiting for e-mails, calls, and letters that never arrived.
Billy Boy and my dad were watching a basketball game in the den.
"When's Alexander coming over?" Billy asked when I passed by.
What could I tell him? Maybe never?
I quickly settled for, "Not for a while. I don't want to overexpose him to suburbia. He might want to start playing golf."
"I think you've found yourself a keeper," my dad complimented.
"Thanks, Dad," I said, stopping for a moment, thinking of the family picnics, holidays, and vacations Alexander and I wouldn't be able to share. "Please don't disturb me," I ordered, heading toward my bat cave.
"Could she actually be doing homework?" Billy Boy asked my dad, surprised.
"I'm doing a report," I called back. "On vampires."
"I'm sure you'll get an A," my dad replied.
I locked myself in my bedroom and feverishly searched the Internet for any info on vampire hangouts where Alexander might be. New Orleans? New York? The six months sans sunlight of the North Pole? Would a vampire want to hide among the mortal population or isolate himself with his own kind?
Frustrated, I lay on my bed, boots still on, and stared at my bookshelves of Bram Stoker novels, movie posters of The Lost Boys and Dracula 2000, and my dresser top adorned with Hello Batty figures. But nothing gave me insight into where he might have gone.
I reached over to switch off my Edward Scissorhands lamp when I noticed on my nightstand the object that had gotten me into this mess: Ruby's compact!
Why hadn't I thought of her sooner? At the party, Jameson had asked her out for a date.
No one stands up Ruby--not even the undead!
Chapter 2 Flower Power
The following morning I ran full throttle to Armstrong Travel, arriving before the agency opened. I heard keys rattling and heels clicking behind me. It was Janice Armstrong, the owner.
"Where is Ruby?" I asked breathlessly.
"She doesn't come in on Tuesdays until the afternoon," she answered, opening the door.
"The afternoon?" I groaned.
"By the way," she said, moving close, "do you know anything about Alexander's butler?" "Creepy Man?" I asked. "I mean, Jameson?"
"They were supposed to have a date," she confessed, switching on the office lights and adjusting the thermostat.
"How was it?" I asked naively.
Janice put her purse in her top drawer, turned on her computer, and looked at me.
"Don't you already know? He didn't show," she said. "And with a stunner like Ruby he was lucky she even looked in his direction!"
"Did he say why he canceled?" I pressed.
"No. I thought Alexander would have told you," she said.
She shook her head. "A good man is hard to find, you know. But you have Alexander."
I bit my black lip.
"Hey, aren't you late for school?" she inquired, looking up at the Armstrong Travel clock.
"I'm always late! Janice, can you give me Ruby's address?"
"Why don't you stop back at the end of the day?"
"It's just that she left her compact--"
"You can leave it here," Janice suggested.
The front door opened and in walked Ruby.
I imagined a jaded woman in jeans holding a cigarette and a beer, but even being jilted, Ruby was in style. She was wearing full makeup and a white sweater and matching tight white slacks. "You're in early today," Janice said.
"I have a lot to catch up on," Ruby replied with a sigh. "What are you doing here?" she asked, surprised to see me.
"I have something of yours."
"If you are here on behalf of Jameson," she said, "you can tell him I'm sorry I had to cancel."
"You? But he was--" I began.
Ruby settled in at her desk and turned on her computer, accidentally knocking over her cup of pens.
"Darn it!" she exclaimed, agitated, trying to grab the pens as they fell to the floor.
Janice and I raced over to help her pick them up.
"This has never happened before!" Ruby said angrily. "Now everyone will know."
"I knock things over all the time," I comforted.
"No, she means about Jameson," Janice whispered to me. "I got stood up several times before I met my Joe. But I must admit I'm surprised about the butler. It was doubly rude, since we came to the party to support the Sterling family." Janice glared at me as if Jameson's no-show was my fault. "I feel as though he stood me up, too."
"It's not the biggest deal," Ruby said. "Anyway, he's more...shall I say, eccentric than I am."
"He's a fool," Janice said.
"This really surprises me. He was such a gentleman," Ruby lamented. "And that accent. I guess that's why I was taken by him."
"He likes you, too," I said. "Only--" Both women looked at me as if I were going to reveal national secrets.
"Only what?" Janice asked.
"Only...that he should have called."
"You're darn right! I hope you haven't told anyone about this," Ruby said worriedly. "In a small town like this, being stood up could ruin my reputation."
"You must know something, Raven," Janice pried.
"Yes, did Alexander allude to anything?" Ruby asked.
I had to console my former boss. After all, I was the one who caused Jameson to abandon their date. I couldn't let Ruby take it personally.
"Just that the reason he canceled had nothing to do with you," I said evasively.
"I bet he has a girlfriend," Ruby speculated. "I read in Cosmo--"
"Of course he doesn't!" I exclaimed with a laugh. "But I need to know something as well. Did Jameson have a trip planned?"
"Do you know something I don't?"
"Did he buy any airline tickets? Or come in asking for any road maps?" I hinted.
"What aren't you telling us?"
Ruby and Janice stared at me hard. I wasn't about to tell them the truth--that Alexander didn't reflect in her compact.
Ruby's compact! I almost forgot. I began to pull it out from my purse when a man dressed in chinos and a red polo shirt entered the office with a grand bouquet. Distracted, I replaced the compact and zipped up my purse.