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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:06

"Very true, very true." He looked down, gave that little frown again, and then gave me very direct eye contact from those hazel eyes of his. "I never found the right girl when I was alive, but I believe Justine would be that girl. What does it mean that I had to die and come back to find someone that I loved?"

This question was soooo above my pay grade. "I don't know what to tell you, Mr. Warrington, except that we don't plan who we fall in love with, it just happens."

"Justine has spent her life studying the past. She feels more at home with it than current reality."

I nodded. "I figured something like that, and here you are a true blast from the past."

"Blast from the past?"

"It's a saying, just something old, like a song you haven't heard in a long time, or a trend in clothing."

"Ah," he said. "Well, then I am truly a blast from the past."

I smiled at him; I just couldn't help it. He seemed like a nice guy. I really didn't want to see what would happen when the hunger gnawing at his gut overrode all that niceness. "I can give you a few minutes with Justine."

"Would it be safe to have some true privacy with her?"

I debated and then went for truth. "I don't know; maybe. How much privacy were you wanting, and for how long?"

"I'd love to have all night, but you have to put me back in my grave before dawn."

"Would it be possible to have an hour?"

"I'm going to have to be blunt here, Mr. Warrington, and I'm sorry for that."

"You raised me from the grave, Ms. Blake; surely we can be blunt with each other."

"Are you just planning to talk for an hour, or have sex?"

He blushed. Zombies didn't blush. Fuck. "Well, that is indeed blunt, Ms. Blake. I think I am shocked."

"Sorry, but I feel responsible for you, and that means whatever you do with Justine is kinda my responsibility, too."

"Would it be so wrong?"

"I can't answer that, but I know that if a woman gets pregnant by a vampire over a hundred years old, then you can have birth defects, things wrong with the baby. So I'd need to know to keep an eye on Justine, if anything happened."

He nodded. "I could not leave her with child and me dead; it would ruin her."

I didn't bother explaining the change in morality, because it wasn't ruining her morally I was worried about. It was more the thought of the baby being part zombie. I couldn't even imagine what that would mean for the child, or Justine.

"Justine did mention there were ways to prevent such things."

"There are, but they aren't a hundred percent reliable."

"Blunt for blunt, Ms. Blake; do you have . . . intimate relations with your vampire fiance?"

"Aren't you afraid of the very thing that you fear for my lady?"

"Yeah, but we take precautions and so far, so good."

"Then isn't it a choice for Justine and myself?"

I rubbed my temples. I was getting a headache. "I don't know, I just fucking don't know."

"There is no reason for such language from any woman," he said, and he was genuinely outraged. It made me laugh; I couldn't help it.

"I am sorry that I shocked you, and I will watch my language in the future, Mr. Warrington."

"I truly do not see the humor in a woman, a lady, using such language."

"I suppose you don't, but . . . I will refrain from using that word in front of you again."

"Or in front of Miss Justine."

"Of course not in front of her," I said, and managed to keep a straight face. I cussed like a sailor, but no need to tell the zombie that.

"I am asking you for time to be with the only woman I have ever loved."

"You just met her tonight."

"Have women ceased to believe in love at first sight?"

"I believe in lust at first sight, Mr. Warrington, but not love."

"You are very cynical for a woman. I suppose it is being a law officer that has done it."

"I was cynical before I put on a badge, but yeah, most police officers end up pretty cynical."

"It is a sad state of affairs if a beautiful woman doesn't believe in love at first sight."

"You're a romantic, Mr. Warrington."

"Most gentlemen are, Ms. Blake; we just hide it better than the gentler sex."

I wasn't sure women had ever truly been the gentler sex--it depended on how you defined gentle--but I didn't argue with him. I just wanted time to discuss the moral implications of Warrington and Justine with Manny before I said yes or no. It wasn't the romantic in me; it was the fucking guilt. I'd raised him from the grave and Justine was in love with him. There was no Hippocratic oath for animators, but it seemed like I'd broken some rule somewhere. I just wasn't sure what rule, or when it broke. It was just all so fucked up in ways that I'd never imagined. I called Manny over to me; Nicky and Domino trailed him and I didn't tell them to stay back. Warrington went to hold hands with Justine while I tried to decide what was the lesser evil. Or hell, if it was evil at all.

"YOU CAN'T REALLY be thinking this is a good idea," Domino said.

"I didn't say it was a good idea."

"Anita, you can't let the nice white-bread girl have sex with a zombie," Manny said.

"What does her ethnicity or lack thereof have to do with anything?" I asked.

"It's not her ethnicity, Anita, it's that she's never had a bad thing happen to her."

"You don't know that, she could have a tragic past."

"Look at her, Anita, she's nearly thirty and still shiny." All four of us turned and looked at Justine, like one of those movie takes where everyone looks and tries so hard not to look like they're looking that it's painful. She was gazing up at the zombie as if he were the most wonderful thing in the world, but that wasn't it. Her brown hair was straight and untouched by chemicals, skirt not too short or too long. Her blouse was long-sleeved with a little frilly collar; her shoes were sensible pumps. But it wasn't the clothes either. I'd known people who dressed like that who actually had had horribly tragic childhoods, or old romances that had needed police to save the day. I couldn't put my finger on it, or list the reasons, but Manny was right.

Justine looked at us and said, "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I said, and we all looked away at once, which wasn't suspicious at all.

"See, white bread," Manny said.

"I get it, she still has that new-car smell," I said.

"How do people get that old and be that . . ." Nicky groped for a word.

"Untouched," I offered.

"Innocent," Domino said.

"I don't know," Domino and I said together.

"Dominga Salvador's sister was like that," Manny said.

"Was, as in past tense?"

sp; "What happened to her?" Domino asked.

"She fell in love with a man she thought was the moon and stars. We all liked him, too."

"Your voice has that bad sound to it."

He nodded again, face very solemn. "He ended up beating her; by the time Dominga got her away from him they had two boys. The oldest is just like him. There's something wrong with him."

"Has he hit any of his dates yet?" I asked.

"I lost touch once I left Dominga's circle, but her sister remarried a nice guy from all accounts."

"How do you know that there's something wrong with the boy then, if you lost contact?" I asked.

"I watched him from a baby, Anita; he's not right. He's never been right. That's not going to change. Men like that are attracted to girls like that."

"The crazy bitches are attracted to the male equivalent," Nicky said.

"Bad boys and girls either like the good boys and girls, or people as bad as they are," Domino said.

"Agreed; now what are we going to do about Justine and the love of her life?" I asked.

"Anita, he goes back in the grave tonight; you can't let this girl carry the memory of the one perfect night with her forever."

"She knows he goes back in the grave tonight, so it won't be perfect. It'll be sad and full of her knowing this is the only time they'll ever have together."

"It's like Romeo and Juliet stuff," Domino said.

"Girls like her eat that tragic shit up," Nicky said.

"Anita," Manny said, "someone like her could take the tragic romance of tonight and live on it forever."

"No man will ever be able to live up to the romance of this, Anita. Either she'll never date again, or she'll compare every man to this, and every other man will lose."

"Why will they lose?"

"Because she'll build it up in her mind until it was the perfect sex, the perfect man, and if they had been born in the same century then they could have been perfectly happy."

"You sound like experience talking again," I said.

"I had a good friend in high school, Maria. She lost her first love in a car accident. She married and had children, but her husband is still fighting the ghost of that perfect love thirty years after they married, and thirty-two years after the boyfriend died. I knew Ricky, he was a good guy, but he wasn't all that Maria remembers. I've always felt sorry for Carlos, because he's still fighting the perfect boyfriend who will forever be young, handsome, and perfect."