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  • Home > Laurell Kaye Hamilton > The Anita Blake Series > Wounded (Chapter 9)     
  • Wounded(Anita Blake Vampire Hunter #24.5)(9) by Laurell Kaye Hamilton
  • The last time I’d seen Mercedes had been in the hospital with Tomas. She’d looked younger and a lot less finished. Today with full makeup, she looked like she and Connie could have been twins; without makeup she looked younger, but didn’t most of us under thirty? Mercedes had graduated with a degree in nutrition and was actually working in a doctors’ group that specialized in helping athletes, and us ordinary folk, after an injury. Last I’d heard they’d partnered with a gym whose trainers specialized in helping people after injuries, or helping them prevent injuries through smarter exercise: work smarter, not harder. I hadn’t even thought about it, but it was almost designed for helping her little brother. Sometimes karma plans way ahead of the game.

    I moved closer to Mercedes to say, “I thought you were living with the tall, dark, and handsome that’s been at your side most of the day.”

    “Frankie, Francisco, is great.”

    The tone alone took a lot of the positive out of the “great.” I raised eyebrows at her but didn’t want to say anything she wasn’t ready to hear. You can realize someone is wrong for you a long time before you’re ready to say I quit. Mercedes and I chatted, but we weren’t like besties or anything, so it wasn’t my job to say the hard, awkward things.

    “I don’t think I realized until tonight that he doesn’t make me feel like that”—she nodded at her parents on the dance floor, and then turned to me—“or make me feel like the three of you.”

    She’d said it, so I took the opening. “Then why are you living with him?”

    “He’s handsome, charming, athletic, a doctor specializing in sports medicine with an emphasis on rehabilitation after injuries. My degree in nutrition will help us treat the whole patient, not just the injury. Professionally we’re great.”

    “But professional isn’t everything,” I said.

    She gave me a smile that was more irony than laughter. “Maybe not.”

    I was debating on whether she wanted more girl talk, or if we should just tell her about Tomas, but she saved me the trouble, stepping forward and including Micah and Nathaniel in the conversation. “I saw you talking to Tomas. He hasn’t wanted to talk to anyone in the family much, but he seemed to be talking to you.”

    “It’s part of my job to talk to people afterward,” Micah said.

    “After what?” she asked.

    “Usually it’s after they, or someone in their family, has been attacked by a lycanthrope, but violence is violence, and how people react to it is pretty similar.”

    She nodded, as if that made sense to her. “Let’s go somewhere we can talk without spoiling the reception for anyone else.” She looked up, then nodded and smiled at her live-in boyfriend, Francisco, because that was what he’d introduced himself as, not Frankie. She took my arm and pantomimed that we were going somewhere together. He’d probably assume we were going to the bathroom. Men were always willing to accept that women weren’t capable of going to the restroom alone, because most women moved in packs for the powder room. I’d never understood why; I was okay on my own, but in the blue formal you might need some help with the skirts. Connie’s gown with its layers of lace and hoop skirt was lovely, but I was betting she’d need all the bridesmaids to hold the skirts if she wanted to use the bathroom. It was one of the reasons I was not wearing a hoop skirt for my own wedding.

    The moment that Francisco wasn’t looking she dropped my arm, picked up her skirts, and just started for a door in the far corner. Micah followed her with a glance back at us. I nodded him onward and he caught up with Mercedes. She was moving pretty good in the dyed-to-match high heels.

    Nathaniel and I brought up the rear. I glanced back and found that Manny and Rosita had been joined by Connie and her new husband. The four of them had the dance floor to themselves while everyone beamed at them, happy to see thirty years of happiness alongside the beginning of more. It was a nice visual, but as usual when there was something nice, I was walking away from it to talk about things that would have spoiled the happiness behind me. At least now I wasn’t alone when I did it. Nathaniel and Micah were willing to leave the easy happy stuff behind to deal with the hard stuff that you had to do so other people could be safe and happy. Hell, the three of us spent a lot of our couple time discussing hard topics with the rest of the people we were involved with so we could keep being happy. Ignoring the hard things doesn’t make them go away. I was glad I had people in my life now who were willing to work at things.

    Mercedes led us to what looked like a break room, complete with vending machines, small tables and chairs, and even a couch against one wall. It was blissfully quiet. I hadn’t thought the reception was loud until we got away from the noise. My shoulders dropped and let me know I’d been hunching them a little, like I did when I was tense. I expected Mercedes to go to a table, so we could all sit, but she turned to us as soon as the door closed. I guess we were standing.

    She turned to Micah. “Tomas talked to you longer than he’s talked to any of us. He’s started with a counselor, but I don’t think he’s talking to her either.”

    “He might do better with a male counselor,” Nathaniel said.

    Mercedes looked at him; her eyes were solid brown, but it was a pale brown like milk chocolate Easter candy. I realized that my eyes were darker. I was all mixed heritage, but my mother’s nearly black eyes came true.

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire