My eyes opened so wide they nearly popped out of my head. I even felt a single tear of joy roll down my cheek as I stared at what was, without question, the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
“I just figured it out,” I whispered. “Kaylie killed me. I’m dead, and God must have mixed up his filing system because somehow I got into heaven.”
Dex looked at me over the hot, steaming pots with a raised eyebrow. “I take it you’ve never had fondue before?”
I could only shake my head, mute with wonder at the sight of it all. Four metal pots were spread across the table in front of us. Two were filled with cheeses, and the other two with some kind of white and brown sauces. The smells filled my nose with every breath. I almost felt like I didn’t need to eat anything because the smell itself was so unbelievably delicious, but I also knew that I’d hate myself forever if I didn’t devour everything on the table.
Dex sat across from me, and as a tribute to his weirdness he didn’t even glance at the array of deliciousness between us.
He was too busy looking at me.
“Well,” he said with a smirk, “dig in!”
He didn’t have to tell me twice! In front of us both was a plate heaped high with meats, breads, and vegetables of all kinds. I grabbed my giant fork—I’m sure it had a name, but I couldn’t have cared less—and skewered a sizzling hunk of steak. I dunked it into one of the cheese pots, stirred it around a couple of times, and brought it back out. Oh, God, the way the cheese stretched into thick, cheesy strings…forget Dex, I was falling in love with this!
And speaking of Dex, once I was able to open my eyes again after tasting that first bite, I looked up at him.
“So, uh, thanks for bringing me here,” I said while I dunked another piece of meat. “It’s been a long time since I’ve eaten anything this mmph frrmgrphr.”
Turns out, talking with a mouthful of fondue takes more talent than I have. I didn’t care, though. I was powerless to stop shoveling bite after bite in my mouth!
Dex smiled. Not a smirk, not a sadistic grin. A real, genuine smile.
“Glad you like it,” he said, finally taking his first bite. He dipped a piece of broccoli into the white sauce. “I had a feeling this was what you needed to unwind.”
I couldn’t answer because my mouth was so full that I could barely chew.
We ate in silence after that, only speaking up to recommend dipping one thing in another. The cheese was outstanding. It was like a hot tub in my mouth, except the water didn’t taste like chlorine and other people’s pee. Does that make sense? It sounded better in my head. Oh well, I don’t care. It was soooo goooood!
I don’t know how long the meal lasted. I feel like it was probably over an hour, but the food had lulled me into such a heavenly trance that I lost the ability to tell time. What I do know is that every time I emptied my plate, a waiter would bring out another. I went through at least four of them. Dex, I think, only had the one, and he ate much slower than me, but I’m a werewolf. Human etiquette doesn’t apply to us. We’re allowed to scarf down food like we’re inhaling it and spill cheese and dipping sauces all down the front of our shirts.
But finally, after who knows how many calories—delicious, delicious calories—I sat back in my chair with a long and happy sigh.
“All done?” Dex asked.
“Mhmm,” I nodded, closing my eyes. I could have fallen asleep right then and there.
“Good. Because now’s when the real fun starts.”
Something about the way he said that bothered me, and I opened my eyes to see the usual mischievous smirk back on his face.
“What does that mean?” I asked nervously.
Dex’s eyes slid back and forth, like he was worried somebody might be listening in, and then leaned in toward me. “Legend has it,” he whispered, “that this restaurant was built on top of an old volcano.”
I blinked. “Uh, what?”
Dex’s hand slowly began to inch its way inside his jacket. “A volcano that could erupt again at any time…without…warning!”
Oh, crap, I thought.
A soft yellow glow came from inside his jacket, and his head suddenly turned. I followed his gaze and saw that he was looking at a table on the other side of the restaurant. For a second nothing happened—but then all four of their fondue pots erupted, spraying cheese and dipping sauce everywhere! The two men eating there were knocked backwards out of their chairs, and scrambled to their feet cursing and spluttering, spitting cheese with every flabbergasted word. It didn’t look like they were hurt, just startled. And messy.
“What the hell was that?” I hissed, turning to stare in shock at Dex.
“Why, Sugarsnout!” he replied, eyes wide with feigned innocence. “I’m hurt that you would accuse me of…oh no, it’s happening again!”
I spun around just as another table’s pots exploded in a geyser that painted the walls and ceiling with thick, hot cheese.
“Mt. Cheesamanjaro is out of control!”
Three more pots exploded, one right after another. People ducked, screaming, beneath their tables. Waiters were running every which way, trying to bring napkins to their poor cheese-ified patrons. The manager was standing in the corner, gnawing on his nails and sweating bullets.
“Not again,” I could hear him muttering with my superhuman senses. “Not again! Why does this keep happening?”
Pop! Boom! Sploosh!
“Oh, dear heavens!” Dex was moaning dramatically. “It’s like Pompeii all over again!”
A little boy took a big cheesy explosion right to the face. Somehow, he didn’t seem to mind.
“Oh, the humanity!”
People were screaming, complaining, furiously trying to scrub cheese and sauce out of their hair and clothes. The manager had broken down into tears. It was terrible. And all the while, Dex was grinning like a sadist in a torture chamber. And I…
I began to laugh too.
I couldn’t believe myself. Dex was tormenting these poor people for his own sick amusement. Who knew how much money he was going to cost the restaurant? I wouldn’t have been surprised if I came back tomorrow to find a big red CLOSED sign on the door. It was wrong. It was disgusting. But I laughed anyway. Seeing the fondue pots explode in people’s faces, like little cheesy landmines, tickled something dark and depraved deep inside of me. I laughed, and I laughed, and I laughed until tears were running down my cheeks in little rivers and I was desperately gulping down air before I suffocated myself.
“You think this is funny?” someone screeched.
I looked up to see the manager standing beside our table, somehow as pale as a ghost and as red as a turnip at the same time. His fingernails had been chewed down to almost nothing, and there were bald patches on his head where he’d pulled his hair out.
“I’m finished!” he yelled. “Finished! Done for! All of my hard work…Hey, why are your pots the only ones that haven’t exploded?”
I shared a look with Dex—and then I grabbed one of our pots and tilted it towards the manager. Another flash of light came from inside Dex’s jacket, and the pot erupted, firing a gigantic load of cheese right into the manager’s face. It sent him stumbling backwards, screaming in rage, until he slipped on a puddle of white sauce, upended another table, and catapulted another pot of cheese right onto his head.
This time, Dex and I both burst out laughing.
“Come on, let’s get out of here,” he said, standing up and offering me a hand. “I hear there’s a fancy art show going on a couple miles from here!”