3 years later: 2001
As she manoeuvered her jeep down the driveway, Anita frowns at the emerald green van parked outside her house. "What the...?" Then she slams her palm against the steering wheel in annoyance. "Damn, I forgot."
"Forgot what?" Cherry pipes up from the back seat.
"Jean-Claude said he'd send someone to quote on fixing the kitchen."
It's four thirty in the afternoon and she's over an hour late. Frankly, it's a miracle the guy is still here. The erratic hours she keeps are a nightmare when attempting to obtain tradesmen, and her interaction with them in the past has never been pleasant.
She recalls one who actually insisted on calling her, "Little lady," and after his refusal to cease she'd spent the rest of their time together addressing him as "Lard guts."
Needless to say things hadn't ended well.
"Great, this is just great," she mutters.
With Micah and Caleb away interviewing potential bodyguards (pending her final approval), her kitty-cats weren't always on their best behaviour. It's likely the muscle bound redneck was pinned up a tree like some gibbering monkey.
A figure exits the van as she parks.
Okay, not muscle bound. Muscular, and much younger that she expected. Blue denim jeans and a white t-shirt covered by a long sleeve blue check shirt. About six foot in height with his black hair, brown eyes and crooked grin.
He has this boy next-door thing going for him. It works.
"Mr Harris, I presume." The handshake is firm; his hands are calloused in all the right places and not a single whiff of power.
"Please," the grin becomes wider. "Call me Xander."
"Fine. My apologies for being late, I honestly forgot you were coming."
"Yeah, I figured as much. Thought I'd just wait outside, Mr Musketeer said your Nimir-raj was outta town and I didn't feel like playing fun and games with the kitties."
Anita whips her head sideways, while Cherry chokes back a laugh.
"You mean Jean-Claude."
Xander nods. "Yep, Puffy-sleeves himself." He met her gaze with serious eyes, "You gotta try and talk that man into something more modern, Ms Blake. God knows the dry-cleaning bills must be costing him a fortune alone."
Cherry and Xander are both in the house before Anita realises that she's standing on her front porch gaping like some loon.
She finds him waiting patiently inside, "I have to see to my pard. Cherry, could you show Mr Harris the kitchen?"
Xander shakes his head, Fang-boy was right, a god damned gun battle in her kitchen.
Cherry takes a seat at the table as he says, "I'm going to take some measurements and check the damage, that alright by you?"
The wereleopard blinks, "Sure."
She watches as Xander moves about the kitchen taking measurements, opening cupboards to see how much damage they've suffered, making notes. A professional who knows his job replaces the goofy young guy.
Having said that, he maintains an almost constant chatter. What does Cherie do? How old is she? And has she seen that latest blockbuster from George Lucas?
This is nice, being treated like a regular girl, she finds their conversation becoming more animated.
Anita stands at the doorway taking it all in. The easy way in which Xander handles himself around her leopard, Cherry's animated face as they debate rock bands and groupies.
Her kitchen is depressing; she used to love the sunlight. Now? She wouldn't be surprised to find a pair of trolls in here it was so dark.
Xander's shaking his head at the boarded up sliding glass door when Cherry's chatter dies away, he immediately knows the cause and turns around.
"Hey, Ms Blake."
Once again Anita is on the receiving end of that smile, and finds herself returning it. "Call me Anita."
"Okay," Xander glances down at his notes. "You're renting this place right?"
"Right," she scowls. Her landlord isn't particularly happy with her at the moment. Anita can't blame the man; gunfights tend to have a bad effect on property prices.
"I'm paying for all the repairs though. Is that a problem?"
"No, no," Xander waves her question aside. "I was just going to say that if you owned the place I could make some serious recommendations and improvements. For safety," he adds at her frown.
Xander motions her over and crouches down by the oven. "I'd recommend you get rid of the gas for starters," he says, pointing to a bullet hole in the wall, an inch above the gas pipe.
"Yeah. That one could have been nasty."
"I had at least six people in here when this went down, some others in the rest of the house. Nasty doesn't even come close." She straightens up, and gives him the once over. Xander definitely knows his stuff. "Anything else?"
"Well," Xander has another look around the room then back at his notepad, chewing on his bottom lip thoughtfully. "What about I do you two quotes? One that will keep your landlord happy, and another with some stuff I think you could use. That okay? You can mix and match if you want."
"Sounds good," and Anita can hardly stifle a yawn. " Sorry, it's been a hard day and I had an even longer night."
"Been there, done that."
Anita raises a brow "You raise zombies at night?"
Another laugh. "Only the alcoholic kind," Xander mimics raising a glass.
She's on the verge of pointing out he's a little young, but at this point he walks round the breakfast island and halts, staring down at the floor. The blood has been cleaned away yet the stains remain.
"One of yours?"
"Did they make it?"
His sincerity can't be denied.
Despite what he's heard, it was obvious that the death had hurt. Xander makes his goodbyes and advises he'll be dropping by the quote in a few days. "I just have to check out some prices on materials first. Or if you want I can just drop it off to Sleeping Beauty at the Circus and you can pick it up next time you see him."
Anita freezes, and fast-forwards to pissed off when her long stare has no effect at all. "You know Jean-Claude's resting place?" She didn't know of any normal human who knew the Master of the City's daytime resting place.
She didn't class Edward as normal.
"Sure," Xander replies casually. "Who the hell do you think Jean-Claude calls when you've finished busting up his place?"
Anita bristles, Xander must have the preservation instinct of a lemming. She wonders why the hell Jean-Claude hasn't killed him by now, for the total lack of respect alone.
Xander snaps his fingers, "Whoops, I almost forgot. All my crew are human," and rolls his eyes off her look. "Hey, I deal mainly with weres and an occasional vamp. Neither of which appreciate strange beasties in their territory. The last thing I need is some dominance struggle while I'm trying to plaster a wall."
"You won't have any problems," she replies crisply.
"I know I won't," Xander states emphatically. "If you agree to the quote you also agree to an additional charge of a hundred bucks every time my crew and I have trouble."
He chuckles, "Sometimes weres like to play 'scare the human'. You'd be amazed how well behaved they can be when their alpha is charged for each transgression. Although," a soft smile. "I'm pretty certain that won't be happening here."
"You're right, it won't." And she's going to have a long talk with Jean-Claude later on tonight about this *handyman*.
Anita wakes to the sound of her telephone, Nathaniel is kind enough to pass it across to her. A quick check of the clock tells her its eight-thirty; she's had a good four hours sleep.
It's depressing how usual that's become.
She moves and her foot hits Zane in the head, or maybe that was Cherry. She's not sure. With Micah away it's like her bedroom's become a sleep-over for the furry inclined.
"What do you know about sword wielding green things?"
"If you woke me up to talk about your Ninja Turtle jammies Zerbrowski, I'm going back to sleep."
"Naaah, I'm a teddy bear and choo-choo man through and through," his laughter echoes down the line.
Unfortunately, Anita knows this for a fact. On account of Zerbrowski turning up to a crime scene with his pajamas poorly hidden by a jacket.
He sighs, "We're down at the warehouse district, two dead bodies and a third who might not make it. Dolph's interviewing the fourth guy, except the poor bastard's so scared we'll probably still be trying to get his name by the time you arrive."
Anita can't say no, and calls from the R.P.I.T unit are becoming more infrequent lately. As far as Dolph's concerned she's crossed over to the 'other side'.
She's not sure he's wrong.