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Affliction (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 22) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 16:54:20

Micah's dad's infection stopped trying to spread as soon as the Lover of Death died. The doctors couldn't explain it, but it was as if the body and the antibiotics could fight back now. His left arm may never be the same, but they think with surgery and intensive physical therapy he should be okay. There was a minor scandal about his happy threesome lifestyle coming to light, but the actual problem is that he doesn't live in his own township. They'll be working that out for a while, but watching Bea, Ty, and all the kids clustering around the bed crying happy tears, I knew they'd be all right. There are other jobs.

Nicky and Dev healed perfectly, which is one of the serious benefits to being a shapeshifter. Seamus seemed to have suffered no ill effects from being possessed, and he and Jane seem to be back to normal, but I remembered what she said about being diminished. Just as everyone close to us has gained power as Jean-Claude and I have gained power, so did the Harlequin from the Mother of All Darkness, so they're right, they have lost power. It explains why though they are amazingly good, they aren't the nearly indestructible super-ninja warriors that their reputation promised. It's like they lost their power source. Jean-Claude and I are the power source now, and the Harlequin just aren't as hooked up to us as they were to her.

We also discovered that a good portion of the Harlequin vampires are abusing their animals to call. We found a therapist who specializes in couples with abuse issues; she's one of the few willing to deal with preternatural clients, so we've started the Harlequin pairs in therapy. I'm not sure they all really understand the issues, or how hard real therapy is, but they're going and they're sitting through sessions. I'm taking that as a win.

Asher came into town the next night. He left his new werehyena lover, Kane, in their hotel room, so he could meet with all of us first. I'd honestly expected him to rub our faces in the fact that he'd found someone who wanted just him, so the fact that he didn't throw the man up in our faces means both that he thought about it ahead of time and that the man is important to him. He wants us to like Kane and him to like us. That gives us a bargaining position, so Asher has agreed to therapy, too. We told him that he'd been a month away from coming home when he did his best to nearly get himself killed by Dulcia and her werehyenas. We probably owe her a visit, or at least flowers and a bottle of some really good liquor. Jean-Claude suggested jewelry might be appropriate. Apparently, Asher had been a very bad boy in the last few days of his stay in her territory. Jewelry works for me, as a thank-you for not killing our stupid boy.

Micah's dad told Van Cleef and his people that my panwere powers weren't duplicable without my vampire marks and maybe my necromancy. I asked Edward for more info on Van Cleef, but he said no, unless he contacts me. I let it go, because no one keeps secrets like Edward. If he said no, he meant it.

Edward and Donna are trying to find a date that works for their wedding; as the best man I'm supposed to talk to their son, Peter, about the bachelor party. Peter is an eighteen-year-old boy; I think his ideas for the party and mine may not be the same, but if it's what Edward wants, I'm in. It looks like Nathaniel is going to be standing on Donna's side of the aisle, which still confuses me since she'd never met him before, but something about having one of my guys in the wedding seems to comfort her, so again, who am I to bitch? Besides, Nathaniel is excited about helping her plan the wedding. He's so much at better at this kind of thing than I am, though he'd probably be better at organizing the bachelor party, too.

We're still negotiating who is involved in our commitment ceremony. It seemed so simple and so right to say yes to Jean-Claude and yes to Micah and Nathaniel, but beyond that, who gets to put on a ring and say I do? Asher was totally crushed, and I think the only reason it didn't turn into one of his spectacular fights was that he'd missed us and knew that his homecoming was too fragile for him to throw fits. Micah and I are adamant that we are not committing to Asher. Nathaniel would, depending on how Asher does in therapy with his jealousy issues. Asher's new boyfriend, Kane, is totally against any kind of ceremony that ties Asher to us and not him. Dev surprised us all by proposing to Asher. He went down on his knees, took Asher's hand. It was sweet, and very Dev, and made Asher very happy, but ... you knew there was a but somewhere in there, right? New boyfriend Kane was understandably upset that he'd just moved to a new city, given up his old animal group, and his job, and now his lover that he'd done all that for was going to marry someone else? I couldn't even blame him for it.

Other people who surprised us by being happy until they found out they weren't getting a ring: Cynric, Jade, Crispin, Envy, and Ethan. Nicky is okay either way; as he said, 'I know you're committed to me being in your life, Anita. I don't need a ring to make me feel loved.'

Maybe the reason the others want a ring is that I don't tell them I love them. If you don't feel loved, maybe the outward trappings like weddings and wedding rings become more important? I'd always thought that the wedding stuff was just an outward confirmation of inner truths, but maybe not. Perhaps for some people the wedding is the beginning of the commitment, the promise of more, and by not wanting to include everyone they feel like it's an ending, instead of a beginning. I don't know, but for now we've put the commitment ceremony idea on hold while we try to work through the emotional land mines that blew up in our faces.

Love is not a one-size-fits-all emotion; there are as many different kinds of love as there are people. We' re trying to find a size that fits everyone in our life. Is there such a thing as an uber-ginormous-bigger-than-anything-else-in-the-world-large-size love? Sometimes you need to go big, or go home.