Page 17

Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:00:51

"Fuck them," I said, forcefully.

Micah smiled at me. "That's our girl."

"Indeed she is," Jean-Claude said. He leaned in and laid a gentle kiss against my hair.

I nodded, but this time it was just a nod, not that endless, helpless gesture. I wrapped my arms around their waists, which made them wrap their own arms around each other so they could both hold me together. I pressed my face into Jean-Claude's chest and Micah's shoulder. Jean-Claude was still bare-chested, his smooth skin soft against my face. Micah's T-shirt was soft, but not as soft and warm as his skin would be. I almost told him to take off the shirt so I could touch more of his skin, and just thinking it helped me feel more like myself again. I wasn't gone, or changed, by the evil that had touched me. I was still in here, still me, and that meant sex was good, not bad. I felt bad that I'd pushed Domino and Crispin away for something that wasn't their fault. I wasn't sure I would ever feel closer to them, but I could at least acknowledge what I'd been doing and maybe why.

I'd thought I had too many people in my life, but maybe I had too much trauma attached to too many people. It sounded like almost the same thing, but it didn't feel the same. Leaving people out because you didn't feel that spark was one thing, but doing it because you blamed them for being with you when you all got mind-raped just seemed like punishing the victims. I tried really hard not to do that.

"Do I owe them an apology, or do I just keep moving?" I asked.

One of the men smoothed my hair, but it was Micah who asked, "Who?"

"Domino and Crispin."

"I do not believe so," Jean-Claude said.

I rose back enough from them to look up into his face. "Why not?"

"Because there is not enough of you to go around now, ma petite. I would not be willing to cut more of your time away to offer to them."

"I asked if I should apologize, not sleep with them more."

He smiled. "Ma petite, it is you; sex often goes with an apology."

Micah gave a half shrug, and his expression showed he agreed.

I frowned at them both.

"Truth is truth, ma petite."

"But you're encouraging me to put more time into Cynric."

"No," Micah said, "we're not, just acknowledging what's already happening, that's all."

"I don't understand what that means."

He glanced at Jean-Claude.

"What? What's that look?" I pulled away from them both. The anger flared immediately, hot and ready. I felt better, more myself, because anger had been one of my primary emotions for years. Sometimes when you're under stress you revert back to old habits, even the ones that you broke, because they weren't good for you, or your life.

"Did you notice that you talked about apologizing to Domino and Crispin, but not Cynric?" Micah asked.

I stood there furious with him, hands in fists at my side, my shoulders tensed and ready to fight, but I forced myself to think back over what I'd said. My shoulders loosened first, and then my fingers, so that I wasn't standing there as if the next thing I wanted was to hit someone.

"Well, shit," I said softly.

They just waited for me to think it all the way through.

I sighed, and wrapped my arms around myself, because I was suddenly cold standing there in my blue bra and panties. "Why didn't I talk about apologizing to Cynric?"

"That might be a therapy question," Micah said.

"Yeah, I guess it is. Shit." I hugged myself, starting to shiver.

Micah came to hug me, wrapping his warmth around me, but I stayed tight in his arms holding myself. "I need to get dressed and head in to work."

He rose back and looked at me. "You're shaking from emotional shock, and you're just going to dress and drive to your appointment?"

"Yes, I have a job to do."

"Throwing yourself into your work won't make this go away."

I pulled away from him. "I'm not avoiding the issue, I really have to go to work, or I'm going to be late."

"The zombie you're raising tonight is a few hundred years old; I think it'll wait a few extra minutes."

I shook my head. "I'm going to work, because it's mine. If I'm still me then I keep moving forward. I go to work, I keep my appointments, and I do my regular stuff."

"And if you give yourself a few extra minutes to process, what happens?" Micah asked.

"If I let this change anything, if I hesitate, then it gets me," I said.

"What gets you?" he asked.

"This, this issue, this thing, this emotional shit."

"So run fast enough and it won't catch you," he said, voice low.

I shrugged, still hugging myself, and shivering harder.

"Ma petite, would you do two things for us?"

"What?" And I snapped it at them. I took in a deep breath, let it out slow, and said in a more normal tone, "What?"

"Kiss us good-bye so we know that you will not take this revelation and punish us with it."

I wanted to argue, but as he'd said, truth was truth, and I'd run away from all the relationships in my life for months at a time for far less trauma than this.

I nodded. "Okay, what's the second thing?"

"Let one of the guards drive you to your first appointment."

"I don't want them tagging along all night."

"As I understand it, Nicky and Dino are meeting you at the cemetery with a truck big enough to tow a trailer containing a cow."

will have room for the extra guard to drive off with them after you have raised your first zombie of the night."

His logic was great; it made perfect sense, so why did I want to argue? Answer: Because I had had a nasty shock and was all emotionally vulnerable; that usually made me want to either run for the hills or get angry and stay angry. In the end I agreed to a driver, because of how badly I didn't want one. The more I didn't want to be logical, the worse I was hurt; once it would have led to a full-blown fight about something peripherally connected to the thing that was actually upsetting me. Now, the urge to throw logic and caution to the wind was a way of lashing out without starting an actual fight. I knew this; I actually had a therapist now, because somewhere in demanding that other people in my life work their issues, it started to seem hypocritical not to do the same. I wondered if she would be surprised by my revelation about Cynric, or have one of those "I've been waiting for you to realize that" moments.

I got dressed, and wanted to give them each a quick kiss, but that was me trying to pull away and blame everyone for the parts that were bothering me. I didn't do shit like that anymore, damn it, so I forced myself to stop and look at them both. I took their hands in mine, took in a deep breath, and let it out slowly.

"I will do my best not to fuck up all the great things in our lives because I've hit some kind of personal issue." I looked at Jean-Claude. "I won't run away like I did before, I promise. I know now that I can't run far enough, or fast enough, because most of the issues are inside me, and that travels with me."

"You have grown wise, ma petite."

I smiled, but wasn't sure how happy it was; it didn't feel happy. "Smarter, I'll give you; I'm working on wise."

"As you please, ma petite; I will not argue semantics with you."

I smiled for real then, and shook his hand a little. "That's good, because I'd probably lose right now, and I hate to lose."

That made them both laugh, which was good. I turned to Micah and had a second of getting lost in those extraordinary eyes. "You never saw me at my worst, but I'll tell you, before you ask, that I will do my best to work my shit and not let it rain down all over us."