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Tiffany Stephens leaned close and whispered, “Sam, get your mother out of my face, or I’m going to stake her.”

My sympathy for my future sister-in-law didn’t last long while we waited for Mom and Antoine to come back with a load of designer bridal gowns. I should have known the lunch invitation was a con job. And I knew Mom would start on my bridesmaid dress once Tiffany’s wedding wear satisfied her Beverly Hills sensibility. Mom had already complained all the way to the boutique about buying off the rack with the wedding a week from Saturday.

I cast a surreptitious look at my brother’s homicidal fiancée. With all the mascara and eyeliner, her squinted eyes were little more than black slashes on her nearly white face. A quick glance around the Rodeo Drive boutique reassured me that everyone else was out of hearing range. Normal hearing range anyway.

I leaned closer to her and whispered back, “Killing her would be the perfect Christmas gift for me.”

She snorted at my teasing and pursed her purple-black lips. Her size two combat boot tapped an irritated rhythm. As one of the few human Enforcers of the Augustine vampire coven, she could hold her own against any supernatural menace.

Standing up to my mother was another story. Not that Tiffany didn’t do a superb job, but resistance didn’t register in Mom’s self-centered, materialistic universe. The bridal gown issue was a prime example.

The subject of our discussion charged back toward the dressing area where she had planted the two of us. Antoine, Mom’s personal image consultant, floated in her wake, loaded to the gills with fluffy white material.

I wasn’t precognitive—at least not yet—but I could see what was about to happen. Hell, the blind guy who panhandled outside of my apartment complex could have seen what was about to happen.

Mom shoved her purse in my arms. Mr. Cuddles, her toy poodle, poked his head out and growled. I wished the dog’s hostility were because he detected my “change” two months ago. Unfortunately, his attitude toward me had more to do with his owner’s and had existed from the moment Mom brought him home from the breeder. I set the purse on the floor, and Mr. Cuddles hopped out and trotted over to sit primly at Mom’s feet.

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