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  • Home > Laurell Kaye Hamilton > The Anita Blake Series > Wounded (Chapter 21)     
  • Wounded(Anita Blake Vampire Hunter #24.5)(21) by Laurell Kaye Hamilton
  • “Tomas, you are being rude,” Mercedes said.

    “No, it’s okay, I remember being thirteen,” Nathaniel said.

    “What’s that supposed to mean?” Tomas said, trying for angry.

    Nathaniel hugged Micah a little tighter but kept calm, lavender eyes on the boy. “When I was seven my stepfather beat my older brother, Nicholas, to death in front of me with a baseball bat. Nicholas told me to run, and I did, all the way to the streets. By ten I was selling myself for food, shelter, survival; by your age I was a junkie, selling myself to whoever would pay. Gabriel, who was head of the local wereleopards then, saw me on the street. I was seventeen. He was running a high-class male escort service that specialized in shapeshifters to very special clientele. They wouldn’t sleep with a street whore and junkie, so he cleaned me up, forced me into rehab, got me sober, and waited to see if I’d stay that way. I’d turned eighteen before he finally made me a wereleopard, because he wouldn’t do it until he knew I’d stay clean. It was the same year he took me to Jean-Claude for lessons in how to dress, what fork to use at fancy dinners, so that I could escort anyone to anywhere and not embarrass them. Jean-Claude taught me how to dance on stage at Guilty Pleasures, not just shake my junk, but dance, seduce, and promise things I didn’t have to deliver. He wouldn’t let any of his dancers find johns, or janes, at work. We were just strippers, not whores. I still went to certain very special clients through Gabriel, but never at the club. That was separate.”

    Tomas stared at Nathaniel as if he’d sprouted a second, ugly head. He had nothing to offer to such a list of disaster and pain. Who did?

    Mercedes found a chair and sat down heavily in it. I glanced at her and she looked shaken, too, but the main show was Nathaniel and Tomas, with Micah sitting solid and holding him. I would have gone to them, but there was a weight to the three of them, the men and the boy. This was between them, until they needed or asked for me.

    “I was still just nineteen when one of the clients tried to kill me. I don’t know if he thought I’d heal, or if he just didn’t care. Gabriel was dead by then, so I didn’t have anyone to protect me. I went to the hospital and met Anita. She made me give up the escort business, but that was okay. I was making good money at Guilty Pleasures, I didn’t need to do the other anymore, and I’d stopped enjoying it, so it was easy to give up.”

    I kept quiet, but I didn’t remember the story quite that way. I hadn’t actually demanded he give up being an escort, I’d just shut down the business as a whole, so none of the wereleopards could do it anymore. It also hadn’t been love at first sight for me with Nathaniel, and the story seemed to imply that, but . . . I kept my mouth shut, because it wasn’t my story. The story is never about the prince who rescues the princess, it’s always the princess’s story, and in this version that was Nathaniel. I was okay with that; princess was never really my style.

    “I’d say you’re kidding, but . . .” Tomas just stopped, staring at the floor as if trying to figure out what to say.

    Nathaniel figured it out for him. “But if I were going to make up a story, that wouldn’t be it.”

  • Romance | Fantasy | Vampire