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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:28

"It can," I said. I stripped off my gloves and started to put them in the wastebasket, and there on the floor was a longish white and gray hair. It was curly, and I was betting if I touched it, the texture would be coarse, because Manny's hair was coarse, and white and gray.

"Motherfucker," I whispered.

"Did you say something, Marshal?" the doctor asked.

I shook my head. "No, just muttering to myself." I left the room. I did not try to pick up the hair. Maybe it wasn't Manny's. I mean, there were lots of other people whose dark hair was going gray and white. It didn't have to be his, but he was the one who had said that maybe a man's hair would undo the magic. Had he come down here? I didn't know, and as I walked down the hospital corridor I decided I wasn't going to ask him. Estrella was free. Max couldn't hurt anyone else, ever again. Manny and his family, and me and mine, were safe from him, too. He wouldn't be sending killer zombies after me the way his mother had. Maximiliano was not a loss to humanity; in fact we might be a few points ahead with him dead. So why did it bother me that Manny might have crept down here and done it? Did he look down at his grown son and wonder about what might have been, if he'd known and been a father to this one, too? Or had he only seen the man who tried to kill two of his children, and may have crippled one?

BY THE TIME of Connie's wedding Tomas was on crutches, and able to walk himself down the aisle to stand with his new brother-in-law. Tomas spent most of the reception in the wheelchair Connie bullied him into, but everyone was alive and there for the wedding. That counted; that counted for a lot. No one came knocking on Manny's door to ask about Maximiliano's death. "It's magic; who knows why it stops working?" seemed to be the general consensus.

But since he died of complications from the bullet wounds I finally got a full-blown Internal Affairs review just like Sergeant Hudson, who had been the other shooter. I'm barred from working with SWAT here in St. Louis until I get cleared. I think if Estrella the zombie had been "alive" to talk to they would have been more upset with me, but zombies have no rights under the law, so she couldn't even be counted against me--legally. I'd seen these two IA detectives before and they weren't fans of my working with SWAT. It's made me value my fringe status with regular police procedures even more. Let's hear it for orders of execution and being fucking assassins with badges. It makes shooting people amazingly simpler.

I've started using smaller blood sacrifices for raising zombies, so I haven't gotten another one like Thomas Warrington, which is great. But even without a large blood sacrifice my zombies are getting better, more "alive." Until Warrington, and the zombies that Max made, I wasn't worried about my zombies being so good, but now I'm beginning to wonder what's happening with my powers. How lifelike are my zombies going to get? I don't have an answer, but I'm beginning to think I'm going to need one someday.

Asher is still on our shit list. Even Jean-Claude has abandoned his bed for a few weeks, so Asher is getting all the couple time with Kane that he wanted, or that Kane wanted. The werehyena is happy to be monogamous, but it's obvious this wasn't what Asher had in mind. He's chasing everyone he took for granted, even Dev, who I think is enjoying turning him down.

Dev is getting along well with everyone else in our group. In fact one of his serious pluses is how easygoing he is compared to Asher. Dev is still wanting to be the tiger we put a ring on, but we're seeing how the domestic bliss goes before committing. We're being cautious about adding the three women, as well, mainly because the first woman who ever entered my life, Jade, is throwing a fit. She is incredibly hurt and Domino is asking me to consider her feelings. I'm giving her feelings a little time, but not much longer. She's requested a chance to meet the other women and try to understand why I think they're a better idea than she is, and the fact that she doesn't understand why I want women who like men, too, proves one of Jade's great weaknesses. Anyone who's been around me intimately, even briefly, knows I'm probably never going to be a woman just for other women. As Fortune said one night at dinner, "You like dick too much to give it up."

The fact that Fortune, Echo, and Magda could all understand that without sleeping with any of us, and Jade can't after over two years of being in my bed, says a lot about why Jade isn't making much progress in therapy. You have to be honest in therapy, with your counselor and with yourself. I know Jade isn't being honest with herself, which probably means her therapist isn't faring much better.

So, we still have no tiger for the commitment ceremony, though I've accepted that Cynric, Sin, is part of our domestic arrangement. Jean-Claude sees him more as a beloved nephew so he doesn't want to "marry" him in a group, which is fair, so unless Dev works out we are back to not knowing who to choose. I think we're all still hoping that Fortune may help in that area, but Jade stands in the way of that happy experiment. I'm about ready to throw both Domino and Jade off my dating list, because honestly they're both too high maintenance for too little return for me. I'd pretty much broken up with Domino as anything but food anyway. Jade may not even be food for the ardeur if she keeps hitting all the wrong relationship buttons with me. Hell, if she could only see that I hit the wrong buttons for her, too. Whatever love means to both of us, it's not the same thing, and I don't think that's fixable. I think it just is.

Narcissus is back with his hyenas for now, but he's screwed the pooch with most of them, and there is talk of a palace coup. Jean-Claude has let it be known that we won't interfere in the power shakeup, if it goes that way. Narcissus is trying to win back his people's loyalty, because he finally understands that a king without followers is not a king.

Dev is still able to transform into a lion and his golden tiger. Micah is still black tiger and leopard. I know now that Micah needs that extra power display to help him avoid the worst of the out-of-town battles. I worry about him more now. He seems able to call flesh and heal tigers, as well as leopards, now. It doesn't seem to matter what kind of tiger it is, so we're all wondering if more new tiger forms will come. Since clan tiger is a "born" type of lycanthrope and not a contagious form, it's raised a lot of metaphysical questions. So far we have more questions than answers, but the weretigers are researching that prophecy of theirs for clues.

Dev has joined Nicky with the werelions and he's formed a very friendly coalition with him and Travis. Dev is perfectly willing for Travis to continue to be the emotionally intelligent one of the three of them; as he said, "If I was brilliant with interpersonal stuff I wouldn't have loved Asher." He might have a point.

We're still working on the wedding band designs for Jean-Claude and me, but we've moved on to wedding dresses and bridesmaid dresses, and tuxes for the men. How many people are standing up with us? Asher was going to be Jean-Claude's best man, but now he's got to earn that privilege back. Jean-Claude wants a spectacular designer wedding dress for me. I just want one I can actually dance in at the reception without being a hazard to the other dancers. I am not doing a hoop skirt.

The designs for the crowns are actually coming along faster than the rings. I tried to protest them again, but Jean-Claude said, "You are queen to my king."

"I thought I was your general."

"That, too, and if you wish I can have a uniform tailored for you and you can play general to my oh-so-grateful nobleman."

I told him I didn't need a uniform, but thanks.

"I've never had a woman in uniform before," he said, and I watched the thought fill his eyes. Why do I think that when I get measurements for the wedding gown, there'll be plans for some uniforms, too? I don't really mind; after all, he dresses up for me.