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Показать все книги автора/авторов: Гамильтон Лорел
 

«Incubus Dreams», Лорел Гамильтон

To J,

companion, best friend, lover,

stick and carrot, true partner, husband.

Words fail.

Acknowledgments

To Darla, who is always instrumental in making sure the deadlines get met and the business, all of it, gets attention. Karen, for taking me around to the strip clubs and teaching me never, ever, to sit near the stage. To Sherry, as always, for doing so much to keep everything clean, neat, and as tidy as we’ll let her. I do realize that we are the stumbling block. Bear, also for going around to the strip clubs with us, and just being a large and wonderful presence. Robin, for answering my questions and, as always, for being a wise voice. To Marshal Michael Moriaty, for sending me all the nifty stuff on the federal marshal program, and answering some of my questions. All mistakes are mine and mine alone. To Sergeant Robert Cooney of St.

Louis’s Mobile Reserve, for answering questions, for the tour and letting us see all the wonderful toys. His input was invaluable to this book. All mistakes are mine and mine alone. The more I learn about our own Mobile Reserve and all the tactical units across the country, the more impressed I am and the more I despair of ever getting it just right on paper. My writing group, the Alternate Historians: Tom Drennen, Rhett MacPherson, Deborah Millitello, Marella Sands, Sharon Shinn, and Mark Sumner. Fine writers, good friends, and champions of esoteric trivia. To Mary, my mother-in-law, who did grandma day camp with Trinity so that Jon and I could get this rewrite done. If Jon hadn’t sat with me and made me do it, you might never have seen this book. To Trinity, who gets more amazing every year, and who I hope someday understands what the heck I was doing all those days and nights up in that room at the top of the house.

1

It was an October wedding. The bride was a witch who solved preternatural crimes. The groom raised the dead and slew vampires for a living. It sounded like a Halloween joke, but it wasn’t.

The groom’s side wore traditional black tuxedos with orange bow ties and white shirts. The bride’s side wore orange formals. You don’t see Halloween orange prom dresses all that often. I’d been terrified that I was going to have to shell out three hundred dollars for one of the monstrosities. But since I was on the groom’s side I got to wear a tux. Larry Kirkland, groom, coworker, and friend, had stuck to his guns. He refused to make me wear a dress, unless I wanted to wear one.

Hmm, let me see. Three hundred dollars, or more, for a very orange formal that I’d burn before I’d wear again, or less than a hundred dollars to rent a tux that I could return. Wait, let me think.

I got the tux. I did have to buy a pair of black tie-up shoes. The tux shop didn’t have any size seven in women’s. Oh, well. Even with the seventy-dollar shoes that I would probably never wear again, I still counted myself very lucky.

As I watched the four bridesmaids in their poofy orange dresses walk down the isle of the packed church, their hair done up on their heads in ringlets, and more makeup than I’d ever seen any of them wear, I was feeling very, very lucky. They had little round bouquets of orange and white flowers with black lace and orange and black ribbons trailing down from the flowers. I just had to stand up at the front of the church with my one hand holding the wrist of the other arm. The wedding coordinator had seemed to believe that all the groomsmen would pick their noses, or something equally embarrassing, if they didn’t keep their hands busy. So she’d informed them that they were to stand with their hands clasped on opposite wrists. No hands in pockets, no crossed arms, no hands clasped in front of their groins.

I’d arrived late to the rehearsal-big surprise-and the wedding coordinator had seemed to believe that I would be a civilizing influence on the men, just because I happened to be a girl. It didn’t take her long to figure out that I was as uncouth as the men. Frankly, I thought we all behaved ourselves really well. She just didn’t seem very comfortable around men, or around me. Maybe it was the gun I was wearing.

But none of the groomsmen, myself included, had done anything for her to complain about. This was Larry’s day, and none of us wanted to screw it up. Oh, and Tammy’s day.

The bride entered the church on her father’s arm. Her mother was already in the front pew dressed in a pale melon orange that actually looked good on her. She was beaming and crying, and seemed to be both miserable and deliriously happy all at the same time. Mrs. Reynolds was the reason for the big church wedding. Both Larry and Tammy would have been happy with something smaller, but Tammy didn’t seem to be able to say no to her mother, and Larry was just trying to get along with his future in-law.

Detective Tammy Reynolds was a vision in white, complete with a veil that covered her face like a misty dream. She, too, was wearing more makeup than I’d ever seen her in, but the drama of it suited the beaded neckline, and full, bell-like skirt. The dress looked like it could have walked down the isle on its own, or at least stood on its own. They’d done something with her hair so that it was smooth and completely back from her face, so that you could see just how striking she was. I’d never really noticed that Detective Tammy was beautiful.

I was standing at the end of the groomsmen, me and Larry’s three brothers, so I had to crane a little to see his face. It was worth the look. He was pale enough that his freckles stood out on his skin like ink spots. His blue eyes were wide. They’d done something to his short red curls so they lay almost smooth. He looked good, if he didn’t faint. He gazed at Tammy as if he’d been hit with a hammer right between the eyes. Of course, if they’d done two hours’ worth of makeup on Larry, he might have been a vision, too. But men don’t have to worry about it. The double standard is alive and well. The woman is supposed to be beautiful on her wedding day, the groom is just supposed to stand there and not embarrass himself, or her.

I leaned back in line and tried not to embarrass anyone. I’d tied my hair back while it was still wet so that it lay flat and smooth to my head. I wasn’t cutting my hair so it was the best I could do to look like a boy. There were other parts of my anatomy that didn’t help the boy look either. I am curvy, and even in a tux built for a man, I was still curvy. No one complained, but the wedding coordinator had rolled her eyes when she saw me. What she said out loud was, “You need more makeup.”

“None of the other groomsmen are wearing makeup,” I said.

“Don’t you want to look pretty?”

Since I’d thought I already looked pretty good, there was only one reply, “Not particularly.”


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