Andrew left work early, to get an un-birthday cake for Liz, like he’d promised. He was surprised to find a battered old Ford van in his driveway when he got home. Valentine was standing on the porch, ringing his doorbell. Andrew recognized him from the club, and honked as he pulled in. As soon as he’d acknowledged him, Andrew thought about the Drusilla situation, and a little shock of irritation went through him. What was he doing here? If Dru had sent him up here for some stupid reason he was going to be pissed. Maybe Rob or Dennis had invited him; he’d been hanging around with those guys as well. That must be it. Andrew smothered his anger and jealousy–after all, he’d decided he was better off without Drusilla anyway, so there was no reason to hate the guy, right?
He waved, and met Valentine at the edge of the carefully snow-blown walk. “Hey, what’s up?”
Valentine smiled. “Thought I was in the wrong place, for a second. Rob gave me directions, I guess you guys are having a party here tonight?”
Andrew grinned. He’d been right, there was no reason for melodrama. “Sort of. Old friends coming back to town, that sort of thing. You know Liz? I think you met her the one time.”
“I saw her. Never met her.”
“Well, she’s been kind of down, and had a bad week, but she doesn’t know that one of her best friends ever is coming back to town. She left town a couple of years ago, and Lizbot hasn’t been the same since then. So anyway, this chick’s coming back, and I thought it would be nice to surprise her.” Andrew opened the front door, and let Valentine go in first.
“Sounds good. I guess I’m a little early.”
“I told Rob, Peach and Dennis to show up around seven, and Liz will be here at eight-thirty. Natasha’s working, so she’s not coming. Nikki was supposed to be in town by seven or so, too.”
It was barely five-thirty, and Valentine seemed to realize that all at once. “Oh, shit, I’m real early. Sorry ’bout that.”
“No problem at all,” Andrew said. He glanced at the answering machine. “She hasn’t called yet.”
“There anything I can do to help?”
“Right now, no, except for helping bring in grocery bags before all of this shit freezes.” Now that the snowy weather had passed, it was merely freezing cold outside. The phone rang, and Andrew stopped on the way to the door to get it.
“Hey.” It was Nikki.
“You made it!”
“Yeah.” She sounded both weary and excited.
“Spent all day in a truck, and my leg is in a brace–I fucked up my knee. Is everyone still getting together?”
“Of course they are. And you’re one of the guests of honor. Man, if I had thought of it, I’d have had you jump out of a cake.”
Nikki laughed. “I just told you my leg is fucked up, Andrew.”
“Oh, right. So, when will you be here? I want to give you a huge, embarrassing hug.”
“I need a ride, actually,” she said. “My other friend has some urgent stuff to do this evening, so you’ll have to meet her tomorrow.”
Andrew glanced up as Valentine came in with a load of grocery bags. “I don’t get to meet my mail-order bride tonight? Dammit! The suspense is going to kill me! Tell me what she looks like. Is she cute?”
“Yes. But she kind of needs a shower.”
He smiled. Nikki’s deadpan humor was even better than Peach’s. The girl could say the most macabre, messed-up things without cracking a smile and you had to know her to know she was kidding. “How tall?”
“I don’t know. Taller than me, shorter than Liz. Maybe five-seven.”
“What color hair?”
“It’s brown, with white streaks.”
“Bleached, or is she old?”
“She’s not old,” Nikki said, stifling a laugh. “They’re bleached.”
“Sounds promising so far. Does she have big tits?”
Nikki brayed her loud/embarrassed laugh. “You fucker!”
“No, seriously,” Andrew said, sounding anything but. “Does she have big tits? This is very important to me.”
“No, it isn’t. You’re being an asshole. And you haven’t said if I need to get a taxi or what.”
“No, no, I’ll come get you. Or someone can. Where are you at?” She gave him her hotel information and room number, and then let him go so he could finish preparing what needed to be done. Andrew turned to Valentine as he hung up. “I have another favor to ask. Could you go and get someone for me? Liz’ friend needs a ride–she can’t drive, hurt her leg or something. That way I can stay here and meet people. I’ll give you gas money, and she’d easy to recognize because she’s only five feet tall and probably wearing all black.”
“Sure,” he said. “No problem.”