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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:00:53

"I hope you do let me help; I'd forgotten how much I love weddings." She laughed, one of the best and happiest laughs I'd ever heard from her. She was usually pretty stern and uncompromising. I tried to picture that girlish laugh from the Rosita I knew, who was five-eight and last I'd seen her well over three hundred pounds. Manny was still lean and shorter than her, so that they looked like the Jack Sprat nursery rhyme. The laugh belonged to that young slip of a girl that Manny had met in Mexico long ago.

"So no issues with me marrying a vampire?" I asked, because I couldn't leave it alone.

She made a harsh sound. "I am a devout Catholic, you know that."

"I do, and since the Church declared all vampires soulless and damned, I thought you might have an issue with my fiance."

"They also declared all who raise the dead excommunicated, but our priest still gives Manny communion, even though he would get in trouble if they knew, so perhaps your man is a good one, too, even though the Church says otherwise."

This was so open-minded for Rosita that I didn't know whether to applaud or ask her what self-help group she'd been going to. Wisely, I did neither.

"Besides, it is not just any vampire, it is Jean-Claude, and he is . . ." She seemed to search for words, and finally settled for, "hermoso."

I laughed, because it didn't mean just "beautiful" here in America, but someone who was amazing in some way that went beyond beauty. "I'll tell him you said so."

"Oh, do not do that, Anita." She sounded flustered; I couldn't quite picture Rosita flustered.

"Okay, I won't, but I will tell him you're happy for us."

"Yes, do, I cannot wait to see the wedding that will match such a proposal."

"Me, either," I said, and again the tight knot in my stomach wasn't about crime-fighting. The proposal had raised the bar too high, and now everyone would be looking for the wedding to top it, and nothing was going to top Jean-Claude in full prince-sweeping-you-off-your-feet mode, not even Jean-Claude.

We said our good-byes, and then I was in the car with Nathaniel and the sound of the wheels on the night-black road. "Manny's wife can't wait to see the wedding that matches such a proposal, she said."

"It was something," Nathaniel said, and his voice was very careful. It made me look at him and study that so-serious profile.

"What did that mean?" I asked.

"What did what mean?"

"That tone of voice and the bland phrase?"

He sighed and rolled his eyes. "Are we close to the cemetery yet?"

"Another four, five miles, and then slow down, the entrance is easy to miss in the dark. But you're not changing the subject."

"You're already upset tonight, and I'm being silly."

"Silly about what?" I asked.

"I'd have been thrilled if someone had tried to sweep me off my feet for a proposal the way Jean-Claude did for you, but men never get the big gesture aimed at them. They always have to do the big gesture."

I studied the side of his face. "Are you saying that you want a big, fancy proposal?"

"I'm saying it would be nice to be the girl once in a while."

"You already do most of the domestic stuff, and you're the one who wants a baby. I think you're better at a lot of the traditional girl things than I am."

"Then if I'm the girl, why don't I get a big, fancy proposal?"

He gave me a look that said, with no uncertainty, that he was. Shit.

"Just me making the gesture, or me and Micah?"

"Either Micah, or you, or both of you, I don't care as long as you mean it."

"Micah proposed to both of us at the same time. I would marry you both if I could, I've said that."

"I know, and I told you it was silly."

"So if Jean-Claude had pulled up in front of you in a horse-drawn carriage with the huge-ass ring, you'd have loved it?"

He nodded. "Yeah, well if it were you and/or Micah, yes."

"That is not quite the romantic sentiment I was hoping for, Anita."

"I'm sorry, really, but you just caught me off guard."

"You said yourself, I do most of the cooking and cleaning, grocery shopping, and you won't get pregnant for me, so is it too much to ask for a little romance?"

"I am a U.S. Marshal with the Preternatural Branch; I can't do my job pregnant, and I don't want to be pregnant. I can't see my life working with a baby in it."

"You're only twenty-three; why do you want a child now?"

"But you're thirty, and I want to have a child with you."

"I've got a few good years left in me," I said, and didn't try to keep the sarcasm out of my voice.

"Thirty isn't old, Anita, I know that, but for a woman to have babies, early thirties is decision time."

"Women have babies into their forties, or even fifties," I said.

"That's with medical technology helping out."

"My aunt had her last baby at fifty and it was a total surprise, no medical miracles involved."

He glanced at me. "Really?"

I nodded. "Really, her doctor told her she was past having babies so she didn't have to take precautions, and he was wrong."

"Okay, I take it back, maybe we do have more time. Fifty, really, wow, that is good genetics."

"Only if you want to keep popping out babies into your fifties," I said.

"I'd settle for one a little sooner," he said.

"Let it go tonight, Nathaniel; I'm feeling pressured enough from the weretigers wanting to be involved with the commitment ceremony."

"I ask for a big proposal and now it's all about you feeling pressured to add more people to the ceremony? You realize that it's not just you being pressured. They want to put a ring on Micah and me, too."

I thought about it for a second or two. "Micah didn't make it sound that way back at the Circus."

"He wouldn't, would he?"

"I'm bisexual; Micah isn't except for me, and so if another man 'marries' us it won't matter to him as much as it does to me."

"Well, crap, I'm sorry, Nathaniel, you're absolutely right. This could be another lover for you, and Micah won't look at another man that way. So really it's your virtue and mine on the line, in a manner of speaking."

"Virtue isn't what's on the line, Anita, it's our domestic happiness on the line, and that's way more important to me."

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, counting to ten. When that didn't do it, I tried twenty, but the flut

tery feeling in my stomach didn't get any better, so I just said it. "Micah told me his choice for the tiger to marry us. What's yours?"

He glanced at me, then back at the road. "Thank you for asking. I know you didn't want to."

"Your point about the sex is fair. Who do you want in our bed?"

"It depends on how you mean 'in our bed,'" he said.

"Don't be coy, after you made me ask, Nathaniel."

He smiled then. "That's fair. Okay, Cynric shares you with me and Micah better than anyone except Nicky, and Micah doesn't share the bed with Nicky at all, but I don't have sex with either of them. They're more like brother-husbands, or something."

"So if you were picking for romance, who would it be?"

"Domestic bliss is either Cynric or Nicky; they live with us already."

"But Nicky isn't a weretiger, so it doesn't help us," I said.

"Come on, you have someone in mind, I can tell."

"Two someones in mind, sort of."

"Dev, he's truly bisexual and he's a golden tiger."

"But he's all domestic-blissed-out with Asher and Kane."

"Kane is starting to be bitchy about sharing Asher with so many people, and Dev doesn't meet any of Asher's BDSM needs. He's just another male lover when Kane is that, too."

"So you think Dev will be up for grabs soon?"

"Not exactly, but he's fun and he's as bi as I am."

"You said two people, who's the second?"

"No specific person, but the only female weretiger you've tried to sleep with is Jade, and we all agree that she's got too many issues, but what's wrong with looking at some of the other female weretigers as a possible addition? It would be another lover for all three of us, not just two of us."

I frowned at him. "Jade has been a disaster."

"But it's not because she's a woman."

"Maybe not, but I like men, Nathaniel, sorry."

"You and I have a really good time when J.J. comes to visit Jason, and she is very much a girl."

J.J. had been a lesbian most of her adult life until she and Jason found each other again. They'd dated in high school until she felt she had to pick one sex to date, and he'd respected her choice and gone on to date other women. But he was the one man she never forgot, and she was THE woman for him, though they'd both agreed that they didn't want to be monogamous. Polyamory is about honesty and loving more, and they'd started with Nathaniel, me, and Jade.