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Sometimes I look at the state of television and radio and wonder how I managed to get so far out of the mainstream. I couldn't drift along with the "mainstream" if I happened to be thrown in the middle of it. NBC's programming choices. ABC's cancellations (and what they've chosen to keep). "SyFy." Light pop music called "country." It gets to the point where I'm flabbergasted if something I like becomes popular (i.e., "Big Bang Theory" or the like). I'm used to things I love being canceled and things I never watch being the darlings of the ratings (and sometimes the critics). All my "top picks" for an artist's "best album" are never what other critics choose.

I am almost done with my critiques for this month, good on me. I may actually be done on time for a change.

Les Paul died today. You may not know his name, but you would know his guitar if you saw it. One of the finest instruments ever made.

And because I can't remember the other thing I was going to say...




Chapter Six


Christmas time came without a visit, but with a lot of presents, including cards from his
family, which was something Bonnie definitely did not expect. She sat in her dining room with
her overly large Christmas tree and her pile of boxes from Sean Patrick, all bearing names like
"Chanel" and "Tiffany," and wondered why she felt so empty. The pictures of him and his large
family felt as though they were mocking her, teasing her with smiling faces, joy, and love.
Bonnie hadn't even realized she'd wanted those things until she saw them there in those family
photos.

She was drinking rum-soaked eggnog and listening to Bing Crosby sing Christmas carols
when the phone rang, startling her nearly out of his skin. She answered, expecting a wrong
number. "Hello?"

"Hey, Bonnie-girl," said Sean Patrick, his Texas-accented voice taking on a slurred, happy,
somewhat drunk sound. "What're your plans for New Year's Eve?"

"I'm wide open," she said, somewhat startled at the cheer that entered her voice, and her
mind, at the sound of his voice.

"Great. I've made us reservations at the Sands. Dancing, drinking, whooping it up, the
whole works."

"You'll get here the night before, I hope?" she said, trying not to think of him going out into
the sunshine just to make it to Vegas sooner.

"I'll try and time it better. I'll see you in a week. Merry Christmas, darlin' girl."

"Merry Christmas."

The week dragged horribly, as Bonnie tried to decide exactly what to wear for their New
Year's date. She didn't have a clue why she felt so fluttery, why food tasted so funny, or why she
was marking down each day as she eagerly anticipated his arrival.

He came just before sunrise on New Year's Eve, tired, but eager, as usual. He opened a
bottle of Riesling and a large bar of chocolate, drank most of the former and devoured all of the
latter, before unpacking his clothes and carrying her to bed. He made love to her until she was
exhausted, but he was still awake before she got up. She found him in the music room,
strumming his guitar idly.

"Hey, girl," he said when she came in, wrapped in her pink robe.

"You should get some sleep."

"I don't need as much sleep as humans do," he replied, although she'd seen him sleep all day
long more than once. "It was a good trip. Great ending," he grinned at her. "So how's things
around here?"

"Wonderful," she said, taking the seat next to him. "So how much time do I have to get
ready?"

"Couple of hours," he said. "We have time for a shower, shave, and everything we need to
do to get gussied up before we head out." He set aside his guitar and rose, unfolding his long
limbs, and stretched. His arms wrapped around her as they came down, pulling her close.
"Enjoying yourself so far?"

"What, today?"

"No, I mean with me as your benefactor. I'm doing a good job, right?"

"A very good job," she replied, turning her face to his. "You're the best benefactor I could
ever have."

He smiled, bending his head to kiss her deeply. His tongue searched her mouth thoroughly.
He tasted like coffee and pastry, giving her an idea of what he'd already had for breakfast. "Is
there coffee?" she asked.

"Yep," he responded. "And more of those wonderful chocolate croissants. Good stuff. Did
you have a good Christmas?"

The question came at her from a direction she wasn't entirely prepared for, but she hoped she
didn't falter too much as she replied, "Oh, yes. Everything was lovely."

"Well, then, hop into one of them new dresses and let's hit the town," he said, his tone
casual, but his expression showed he'd seen more than she'd let on. Bonnie hurried away from
him before anything awkward could come up between them.

New Year's on the Strip was turning into one massive party, with revelers in their finest
filling the ballrooms of the Sands and the Flamingo, with more casual visitors flooding the street
between the hotels. Sean Patrick, resplendent in a rhinestone-studded jacket and slacks, with
highly polished snakeskin boots, stood out somewhat; he wasn't the only man in formal western
wear, but he was probably the tallest, and in Bonnie's estimation, quite the handsomest. He
squired her to the dance floor, humming in her ear as he swirled her around. Her heels brought
the top of her head level with his eyes, which she liked quite a bit, and she didn't mind the
pressure on the balls of her feet yet. It was just pleasant dancing with him.

They were sitting at the piano bar having drinks and waiting for the Vince Lombardi
countdown on the television over the bar with a packed crowd of cheerful party-goers, all in
various stages of drunkenness, when someone shouted near her ear, "Bonnie? My God, it is
you!"

Bonnie spun to see one of her oldest friends, a girl who had been raised, like her, with a
mother and a "daddy" benefactor. "Joyce!" She flung her arms around the beautiful woman,
who had grown only more sultry and gorgeous in the time since Bonnie had last seen her. She
was with an older man, distinguished and masculine, with silver peppering his dark hair and a
suit that anyone could see cost a fair fortune. Bonnie felt her stomach clench, but she steeled
herself to the introductions.

"This is my dear friend," said Joyce, smiling, "Raymond Branigan."

"Very pleased to meet you," said Bonnie shaking his big, square hand. "This is my dear
friend," code for "benefactor," of course, "Sean Patrick O'Connor."

"The third," said Sean Patrick, shaking the man's hand with a big, guileless smile. Bonnie
gave him a confused look, but her unspoken question was answered by Branigan.

"O'Connor? I think I do business with your granddaddy, son," he said, his tone jovial and
more than a little drunk.

"Yes, sir, I believe you do," said Sean Patrick, giving Bonnie a significant little nudge. She
understood immediately. Sean Patrick had to become his own grandson when confronted by
businessmen who may have been seeing his name on ledger sheets for decades. In moments, the
men were in a tight discussion about business, and Joyce tugged Bonnie away from them.

"What are you doing?" she said, her eyes bright and her expression incredulous. "He's just a
boy!"

"It's not how it looks, honest," said Bonnie, grinning at her friend. "Seriously, it's going
extremely well. He bought me the house out on Madison I always wanted."

Joyce laughed. "Seriously? Oh, my goodness, darling, you have gotten yourself in deep.
You know what a young man can do to you. Next thing you know he's going to want to marry
you and his family is going to raise Cain and you'll be out on the curb in front of that pretty
house."

"Not this time, Joyce. I can't tell you how I know, but trust me, darling, he's the best thing
that could have ever happened to me. So how are you and Raymond doing?"

"Oh, he's a delight. I'm really surprised he pulled himself away from his wife and kids on
New Year's, but I love him for it. You know, that kind of love," she winked, significantly
wiggling her right hand, where a flashy diamond-and-sapphire ring sparkled. "He's good to me.
And your little boy?"

Bonnie gestured to the Chanel original she was wearing. "Where do you think this came
from? And you have to come by the house. The furniture is to die for."

They chatted until the crowd counted down to the New Year, when Sean Patrick grabbed her
and kissed her deeply, causing Joyce to yet again voice caution before the night was over. "A
boy from a family like that, well, they aren't going to be too happy with you," she whispered.

Bonnie was fairly certain Sean Patrick could hear almost everything that was said in the club
with his keen vampire hearing, but she just patted her friend as she thought about the cards from
Sean Patrick's family. "Everything's going to be all right. Honest, it will."

"I'll hope for you, honey. And I will come by and visit, I promise." They hugged and
clasped hands, then parted. Bonnie threaded her arm through Sean Patrick's as they strolled back
to the car.

The sun was starting to come up as he pulled his massive car into her driveway, but he
seemed in no hurry to get inside. He watched the sky lighten, ignoring her suggestions that he
should get under cover, his face calm. "Did you have a good time tonight?" he finally asked,
lighting a cigarette as he casually opened the car door and stepped out into the warming light.
The sun was almost over the edge of the mountains.

"I did. We really should get you inside," she hinted.

"We'll get there." He let a stream of smoke out, standing still as though waiting for
something, his keen eyes scanning the neighborhood as the light continued to strengthen.

"Don't blame me this time if you get a sunburn," she said, throwing her hands up in
annoyance.

That made him chuckle. "I won't." He tossed the end of the cigarette into the street and
turned to her. "Bonnie, are you bothered by what people say?"

"I'd better not be," she replied with a shrug. "I am what I am, after all. It's not like I didn't
choose this life."

"But you didn't," he said, shrewdly, his gaze coming to her face and lingering there, getting
inside her in much the same way he did when he drank her blood. Bonnie could feel it all the
way down in her belly, as though he was honestly seeing straight through her. "You didn't
choose. Your mother raised you this way, expected you to do what she did, become what you
are. Something apparently so vile in this society that we dance around the words and pretend it
doesn't exist when obviously it does. Men like Branigan, leaving their wives over the holidays,
probably told her he's on a business trip. At least the family I'm away from knows exactly where I
am and what I'm doing."

"Are they happy with this?" she asked him, the uncomfortable feeling in her stomach
increasing.

"Depends on who you ask," he said. He turned his head as the first rays of the sun came over
the mountains. Prudently, he took her arm and walked inside, pausing only to throw a friendly
wave at their neighbor woman. Bonnie saw her expression, a little shocked but still managing to
smile back at Sean Patrick.

"Well?"

"Most of my folks think well of you. They know why I come up here, wink behind my back,
all that. But they all know it's better I have you than I compromise any--" He stopped talking
abruptly, his face turning dark red.

"Any nice girls?" she finished for him. He turned his head away. "Sean Patrick, I know who
I am. I know what I am. If I hadn't ended up with you, it would have been someone else, and
who knows what might have happened? My friend Joyce, there, she's just like me. And we're
not the only ones. Why not allow yourself a chance to be happy?"

He turned back to her. "And you?" he asked softly. "What about you?"

Bonnie closed the distance between them and put her arms around his neck. "You've given
me everything I expected, and a good deal more that I didn't even know I wanted. You're
keeping your part of the bargain and then some. If I don't mind the sidelong looks, then why
should you?"

He rested his cheek against her hair a moment, swaying a little to music only he could hear.
"You give me a real measure of happiness, Bonnie, I want you to know that."

"And you give me both happiness and security, and that's all I ever wanted. Come on. Let's
go to bed."




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