The redhead stood outside the open doorway with his hands in his front jean pockets and looked at me musingly. The coffee fizzled on the burner. I retreated to the island but didn’t take my gaze off him.
This dude didn’t smell human, but he didn’t smell like James either. He smelled of fresh-cut grass and leather—strange.
“You are going to invite me inside? Offer me some coffee?” He leaned against the doorframe and reminded me of the jocks from my old high school, although he was absurdly tall—tall enough that his head brushed the top of the doorway where he leaned.
“I was taught not to let strangers into my home,” I said.
“Is this your home?”
Circling around, I kept a good distance between him and me.
An accent swam beneath his learned American English and made me wonder where he came from, but I wanted to know his species even more. “So what are you?”
He smiled wickedly, and it ruined the attractiveness of his face. “I am leprechaun.”
That sent me into a paralyzing giggle fit. My stomach cramped, and I took several minutes to gain control of myself again.
Boden’s frown creased his face so that it resembled a creepy old Halloween mask. Suddenly afraid to breathe, I straightened and retreated further into the darkness of the kitchen nook. He watched me but made no threatening attempts.
After an agonizing silence, he spoke, “Is no joke, girl, and very disrespectful for you to laugh.”
“But, but, but…”
“But I am too tall to be leprechaun? Too young?”
He was both of those things—completely opposite of the little old men with red hair and beards and round bellies covered in green. No big-buckled belt or shoes. Boden stood two heads taller than me and looked like a junior varsity quarterback, just mastering how to shave, in a green hooded sweatshirt and ripped jeans. At least he wore green. He continued to glower at me as I quivered in the dark—dude scared me. And then, he laughed.
“You have to be new to this world. You shake in the corner like you were not vampire.” He moved and sat on the counter beside the oven. “I am also not Irish. I am Scandinavian—Scandinavian leprechaun. You need to learn to take joke. Not all creatures are mirror images of their lore, though I do like shoes and precious metals and mischief. They, at least, got that right.” He took a long sip of his coffee.
“So you’re not mad or going to hurt me or anything?”
“I could hurt you, but would be no good. Like Isaid, I am ally. Your maker sent me here in case you need help.”
“James sent you here?” That shouldn’t ease meat all, but it did just a little bit.
“That is what I said, girl.”
Okay, enough of this ‘girl’ stuff. “You know my name, Leppie, use it.”
“Leppie, I like, sounds like I am leper. Neversay to leper, ‘Give me some skin!’ Worse, do not ask them to give you head.” He laughed his throaty and sensual laugh again and rocked a little while he held his stomach.
“Oh, only sometimes. Mood must strike me. Or was that to be nice?” Boden playfully tapped his finger to his chin and then shrugged. “Come have some of your coffee.”
I took a hesitant step forward.
“Come on, I will not bite. That is your job.” Boden smiled at me again, showing his teeth. He would have been attractive if not for the creepiness of his smile and the fact that he was absolutely bonkers.
I edged closer to him and made myself some coffee. He grabbed my wrist when I poured milk into my mug.
“Why ruin something so good with things that do not belong?”
I shook my head. “What?”
He gestured to the milk.
“Um, yeah. Coffee is undrinkable without milk and about a pound of sugar.”
After letting go of my wrist, Boden made a grand gesture of frustration by throwing his hands up. “What has happened to this world?”
He seemed serious, and it made me laugh. Mr. Giant Leprechaun actually cringed with each spoonful of sugar I added. I made it a little too sweet just to watch him squirm. We sat in an awkward silence before Boden broke it.
“Take me out for dinner? I am starved. Can be date.”
“Um. I’m sort of not hungry, or up for a date with a new psychopath. I kind of just want to go to sleep.” Granted, cold hunger grappled with my insides, but I didn’t think he wanted to venture out with me to scrape and lick someone else to death.
“Sleep already? Is not midnight even. What kind of vampire are you?”
“A tired one. I woke up at like three this afternoon, and I’ve had a hard day.”
“Up in the daylight at days old? What kind of power do you possess? Power causes strife. You will see much strife, I am sure.”
“Yeah, I’m sure of it, too.” I sighed. My body weighed a ton, and I didn’t want to continue with the effort it took to keep my eyes open.
Too bad the coffee affected my body like mud. Intuition told me not to explain that the phoenix part of me from my father’s bloodline probably allowed me to wake up in the daylight. Friend of James’ or not, dude was psycho. Wasn’t there a saying about not trusting the psycho friend of the guy who murdered you? “So, yeah. I’ll give you some cash if you’re hungry, and you can go out and—”
“I will order something and eat here. I am not to leave you out of my sight.”
“All right, fine. You find a phone. If you do, order, and I’ll pay.”
I went upstairs and changed for bed, although bed meant a pile of pillows and blankets. Where was my new, giant leprechaun chaperone going to sleep? Do leprechauns sleep? And why did James tell me I was on my own in his note if he was going to call someone to babysit me? Especially a fried piece of psychosis.
Pulling my grandfather’s duffle out from under my new clothes, I pulled everything out of it. James packed me mostly clothes, a pair of sneakers I hardly ever wore, my journal, and a frame with a picture of my Grammie, Papa, my mother, and me in the hospital, taken right after my birth and right before her death.
In the corner of the frame lay another picture of my mother, one taken while she’d been pregnant.
My mother had long blonde spirals and fiery blue eyes. She beamed with happiness. Had she known she would die having me? She couldn’t have smiled that way, knowing. I set the pictures aside and put everything else back into the duffle. After pushing it back under my hanging clothes, I took the pictures with me and went downstairs.
Boden lay on the island counter top with his feet dangling close to the floor and his hands behind his head. He whistled quietly, and the tune sounded cheery but eerie.
“Girl,” he said.
“Ria,” I said.
He waved his hand at me. “I ordered Chinese food, enough for you if you change your mind. If not, I will eat all. Should be here soon.”
The food arrived, and we both ate. Boden ate enough to feed a family of four. Afterwards, I curled up to fall asleep while he polished off the food.