I groaned. “Gods, if you’re going to start peer pressuring me to watch that crap, I might have to revoke permission to TV altogether.”
He hissed. “Bite your tongue! It’s bad enough Zen doesn’t get the Temptation Channel. Don’t take my Opry away, too!”
I breathed in through my nose as I prayed for patience. On the exhale I reminded myself that Giguhl seemed to take perverse joy in seeing steam come out of my ears. But he was a Mischief demon, after all. On the other hand, I was standing on a busy street arguing with a cat in a black turtleneck. “Perhaps I went too far with that threat. I see that now. But do you think you could refrain from lecturing me about my many and varied personality deficits for five minutes so I can go buy some godsdamned chicken feet?”
I hadn’t known cat lips could purse before. But Giguhl rocked the martyr mask like a pro. “I suppose.”
“Good. Now, please remember not to talk in there. Alodius might be okay serving vamps and mages, but I’m pretty sure he’s not prepared to deal with you.”
The cat muttered something under his breath but settled into my arms like a good kitty. I threw open the door and walked in. This time the Cajun Sausage Fest had a few customers waiting at the counter. I pulled a number from the machine and prepared to wait. From what I could tell, the line consisted of two mortals and a werewolf.
Alodius chatted with the mortals while he packaged up their order. Ahead of me, the were perked up and looked at me over his shoulder. His shaggy brown hair matched his eyes. As he gave me a once-over, his nostrils flared. Catching my scent, his eyes narrowed.
My mixed-blood scent— a combo of copper and sandalwood— generally confused other members of the dark races. Half-breeds were exceptionally rare, which made it hard for potential foes to decide whether I was an actual threat or merely a freak of nature.
I tilted my head in an amiable nod. He hesitated and tipped his chin in my direction. Just like that, the tension evaporated like vapor. He turned back around and tapped his cowboy boot on the linoleum.
At Alodius’s urging, the humans— Germans, judging from the accents— added a pound of head cheese to their order. Not that I’m in any position to judge others’ eating habits, but the idea of meat jelly made me gag. I mean, the name alone inspires images of things best not contemplated while eating.
Giguhl, however, licked his chops. As Alodius wrapped up the package, he soliloquized like a freakin’ Cajun Willy Shakespeare about making the damned stuff.
“First ya brine the head— eyeballs, snoot, and all— with the hocks. Throw a couple tongues in there for some flavor. Once that’s done, boil the shit out of it till the face meat’s falling off …..” He said more, but I was too busy trying not to vomit on the werewolf’s boots. I tuned back in time to hear Aldoius declare, “Hoo-eee, that there’s good eatin’.”
Finally, the Germans exited with the booty. “Y’all come back now.” Alodius waved the humans off and turned to the were. “Sorry for the wait.”
“Give me two porterhouses,” he all but growled.
Dollar signs appeared in Alodius’s eyes. “You doing some grilling? We got a great sauce—”
A low growl came from the were. “Just get the f**king steaks.”
Alodius nodded and scurried away to fill the request. I repressed a smile at seeing the chatty Cajun shot down. The butcher started wrapping the steaks in paper, only to receive another low rumble from the werewolf. “Don’t bother.”
He grabbed the meat right off the scale. He lifted the first steak directly to his mouth and chomped into it. Red juice dripped down his forearms, and he grunted like a pig at a trough as he swallowed large chunks whole.
My mouth fell open. I glanced at Alodius, whose expression was a combination of awe and disgust. Before either of us could figure out how to react, the were licked his fingers clean. That done, he dug into his back pocket for his wallet. He tossed a few bills on the counter.
“Keep the change.” The were’s magnanimous gesture was ruined by a loud belch. Then, without further comment, he stalked out of the store.
Alodius cleared his throat. “Well, if that wasn’t the damnedest thing.”
“I take it that doesn’t happen often,” I said.
His eyes stayed on the door, as if he expected the wolf in man’s clothing to return any minute. “We get plenty of weres in here, but usually they don’t get that ornery until closer to a full moon.”
“Maybe his bitch left him,” I said.
He shot me a quelling look. Obviously the butcher wasn’t too fond of puns. A muffled groan rose from the bundle in my arms. I constricted my arms to let the cat know I didn’t appreciate his opinion.
“Sooo, you’re back soon. And you brought a friend.” He reached to pet the cat. But Giguhl wasn’t having any of it. He hissed and swiped a paw at the man. Alodius jerked his hand out of harm’s way and shot an accusing glance at me.
“Sorry about that.” I lifted the cat higher, playing up his indignity for all it was worth. “Apologize to the nice man, Mr. Giggles.” The cat dug his claws into my arm in retaliation. I gritted my teeth and forced a smile at the frowning Cajun.
Alodius cleared his throat and said, “Anyhoo, y’all want two more pints?”
“Sure,” I said. Figured I might as well since I was there anyway. “Also, Zen needs some chicken feet.”
“Can do.” Alodius leaned forward over the counter. “How about I throw in some nice calf brains for Kitty-No-Manners there. Might soften his disposition.”
The cat groaned in my arms. For a demon who subsisted on Cheez Doodles and beer, the thought of raw brains obviously didn’t sit too well. “Err, that’s okay. He’s on a special diet. But I’m surprised you carry brains. Is that ….. normal?”
“Darlin’, us Cajuns eat everything from the rooter to the tooter.” He cackled, slapping the counter at his joke.
I swallowed the bile his word picture conjured. “Oh.”
Alodius laughed again. “All righty then. Let’s get that blood.”
He whistled tunelessly as he took the jug out of the cooler. Once he’d plopped it on the counter and pulled out a funnel he said, “So what happened to that mage friend of yours?”
I jerked a thumb toward the door. “He’s waiting in the car.”
Blood sloshed out of the container to land on the butcher block with a splat. Alodius smoothly wiped up the spill with a towel. “That’s nice. Have y’all had a chance to see much of the Big Easy yet?”