Stake Me Out to the Ball Game by Mindy Klasky

Stake Me Out to the Ball Game

Hell hath no fury like a vampire with a toothache!

Vampire Ava Buchanan has a pain in the fang, and the first available dentist appointment is forty-eight hours away. Desperate for distraction, she heads downtown for a baseball game.

At the stadium, she meets Dennis Maugham, a man who soon turns tooth-throb into heart-throb. Dennis is knowledgeable about baseball, he’s emotionally available, and he seems like the perfect companion for an evening out—or maybe even more.

There’s just one catch: Dennis is human. Can Ava gain her heart’s desire while continuing to hide her supernatural existence?

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Hell hath no fury like a vampire with a toothache.

Especially when said vampire had been on hold with Empire Dental for the past forty-five minutes, trying to schedule an emergency appointment. It had taken me fifteen minutes just to work my way through the idiotic phone tree, even after I listened carefully because my options had changed. I would have ground my teeth at the easy-listening rendition of “Bat Out of Hell” but the mere thought of putting pressure on my right fang sent arrows of pain into my temples.

It was my own damn fault, too. I never should have crunched down on those Corn Nuts. I’d known my supernatural body wouldn’t be happy processing the corn, not without an extra dose of blood-fuel from one of my Sources. But I’ve always been a sucker for those salty nuggets. Yes. Pun fully intended.

So, I’d stopped by a 7-11—best store ever invented from a vampire point of view. I’d recruited some of my best Sources from students dropping in for a midnight Slurpee. I just refused to touch the benighted humans who thought “food” was cooked on those heated metal rollers behind the cash register. That was as good a character test as any.

In any case, I’d swung by my local convenience store to check out the, um, merchandise, and I’d been lured by the siren song of the Corn Nuts. Next thing you know, one slipped from between my molars, and I’d somehow splintered my right fang.

Now I was waiting through round eighty-seven of Meatloaf’s serenade, desperate to learn when a dentist could handle my case. The Eastern Empire was supposed to make things easy for all us paranormal types. We put up with imperial bureaucracy day in and day out. In exchange we got peace, justice, and a decent health care plan—including dental. In theory.

I was beginning to think I’d have to give up. Sunrise was approaching. I had to be safely in bed soon if I didn’t want to add third-degree burns to my toothache dilemma.

“Thank you for waiting,” a bored voice finally said, cutting into the sappy violins. “Empire Dental is here to make you smile. And who do I have the pleasure of speaking with this evening?”

The account rep should have had all that information from the account number I’d typed into the phone tree at the beginning of my ordeal. But if I irritated her now, she’d probably hang up on me, forcing me to work through the entire process again. The thought of more “Bat Out of Hell” nearly made me sob, so I answered her questions in short order.

My name was Ava Buchanan.

My Empire Dental account number was X931682.

My employer was Magic Mansion.

I was a vampire.

I’d give my good left fang for an appointment with a dentist tonight, um, within the next half hour, um, right this very minute please.

“Let’s see,” Bored Girl droned. “The next open appointment I’m finding is…next Tuesday. At noon.”

I did grind my teeth at that. And I paid the penalty as a renewed throbbing spiked my upper jaw. “I can’t make that,” I said. “I’m a vampire.”

“Oh, right.” I wasn’t entirely certain Bored Girl understood that I couldn’t be out in the light of day. My suspicion was confirmed when she said, “I’m finding an appointment next Friday, at 10:30 in the morning.”

“I need something sooner,” I wailed. “And at night.”

“Oh,” Bored Girl said. “Most of our patients prefer daytime appointments. Nayads and dryads especially. They’re really partial to mornings.”

Lacking interest in my fellow imperials’ scheduling habits, I managed to say, “Do you have anything at night?”

“Hmmm… Nothing tonight. How about 8:30 on Thursday?”

Night after tomorrow. That beat waiting a week. But I still asked, “PM?” I didn’t trust Bored Girl to remember my situation for longer than ten seconds.

“PM,” she agreed.

“I’ll take it,” I said.

Hanging up the phone, I realized I needed something to distract me from the ache in my mouth. I remembered being a kid, long before I’d ever heard of the Eastern Empire, decades before I’d turned into a vampire. I’d been laid up with chicken pox, and Big Mama had built me a nest of blankets on the couch in the den. My grandmother and I had watched hour after hour of baseball, Big Mama’s calloused hands braiding my hair into the neat rows I never sat still for when I was well.

She’d taught me the basics of the game as we watched her beloved Oakland play. I fell in love with the uniforms first, the bright green and yellow that looked like Oz after the tornado. But when Reggie Jackson hit his mammoth home run in the All-Star game, I was hooked for life. Chicken pox or no, Big Mama and I danced around the den like fools. It didn’t hurt that Reggie was a dead ringer for my daddy, whose picture was centered on the mantel over the fireplace.

Santa brought me a baseball cap that Christmas, and I’d never looked back. I was Oakland’s greatest living fan. And if I looked as if I’d been born twenty-five years after Reggie hit that home run… Well, life as a vampire was confusing that way.

Big Mama was long gone, alas. But my love for baseball survived. So, looking for distraction from the raging toothache that filled my skull, it was perfectly natural for me to see who Washington was playing Wednesday night. It wasn’t Oakland—that would be too storybook perfect. But Philadelphia was in town for a three-game stand.

Bartenders like me didn’t earn a hell of a lot, the occasional super-generous tip excepted. But desperate times called for desperate measures. I could wedge a single baseball game into my budget. Maybe. Just possibly.

I bought a ticket in the last row of the stadium’s highest section.

Unable to arrive until after sunset, I’d miss the first couple of innings. But I’d catch the rest of the game. And with luck, they’d go extra innings.

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