Home > Wounded (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #24.5)

Wounded (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #24.5)
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton


   First off, if you have not read my novel Dead Ice, this story is full of spoilers. Seriously, if you read this before you’ve read the novel, some of the mystery will be ruined. Hell, just reading this introduction to the story has spoilers in it, now that I think about it. Please, stop reading now if you have not read Dead Ice! Are you still reading? If so, I’m going to have to assume you have read Dead Ice and nothing I write from this point on will spoil the plot for you. If you have not read the novel and you’ve read all these spoiler alerts but you are still reading this, then that is all on you. You have been warned! Second, Wounded is not a complete story; it’s more an outtake scene from Dead Ice or maybe an extended epilogue. I finished writing the novel and there just wasn’t room to see the wedding on screen or to go into more detail about what happens to Tomas and Connie after the book ends. A lot of fans contacted me online to say that they were wondering the same thing and really wanted to see at least a little of the wedding. So I decided that if we all wanted to see more of the story, maybe I could make that happen. Here, because you guys wanted to see it on stage and so did I, is Anita and the loves of her life at the wedding; and we get to see Jean-Claude dancing with Manny’s wife, Rosita. He made her blush in a good, “part of me is still that teenage girl” way. It made me happy to write the scene, so I could read it. Seeing more of Manny’s family on stage at last was fun, poignant, and reminded me how much I love all my characters. They say that there is no such thing as a small part, only small actors. I feel the same about my characters, which is why I wrote a novelette to share some of the minor-major characters that don’t get enough screen time during the novels. If you guys love Wounded enough, then maybe I’ll be able to do more stories like this one to show you events that never make it into the main novel, but that we’d all like to see somewhere.



THEY SAY WHEN your friends’ kids start getting married, it makes you feel old, but since Consuela Rodriguez was only six years younger than me, I wasn’t really worrying about it. It was the first wedding I’d gone to since I hit puberty where no one asked me when I thought I’d get married, because I was wearing an engagement ring on my finger big enough to signal airplanes from a deserted island. I actually didn’t like wearing it in public; it made me feel like I was asking to get mugged. In a perfect world I should have been able to cover myself in diamonds from head to foot and walk anywhere alone, but the world wasn’t perfect and it just seemed mean to wear something so tempting when I was usually armed with two guns and multiple knives, plus a badge that said U.S. Marshal on it.

   Today I was only carrying one gun. I didn’t think the wedding reception would get that out of hand. I almost never went anywhere unarmed, but I hadn’t thought about dancing at the reception and whether the gun would stay concealed. I’d just been happy to find another dressy outfit that I could conceal any handgun on. The little Sig Sauer .380 fit nicely in the Galco Tuck-N-Go to one side of the short red skirt, with the red top that came down over the belt loops that I’d had tailored onto the skirt. The loops were wide enough for my gun belt to slide through and fasten around front tight enough that the Sig stayed put, so if I did have to draw the gun, my hand would find it from body memory and not have to go hunting around. I’d been carrying at the small of my back when I wanted to be ultraconcealed, until I’d done some training drills and discovered that if the gun wasn’t at my side where I usually carried, it took me a few extra seconds to draw, aim, and fire. Those few seconds could cost me, or someone else, their life out in the field, so I started having belt loops put on my skirts, and the very unfeminine belt slide through all of the waists, because that was what it took to hold the gun, any gun, in place. I could change my holster, my gun, but the gun needed to be at my side for my hand to find it automatically. I was just glad I’d found out in training and not in the field. In training you could fix it; in the field you got dead.

   Nathaniel Graison stood beside me in a gray tailored suit that showed off the broad shoulders, slender waist, and nice ass and slid over the swell of his thighs like a polite glove: tight enough to show off, but not so tight it was obvious. The lavender dress shirt was buttoned up to the smooth line of his neck and gave his skin just a little color and the hint that he’d probably tan if he ever tried, but he didn’t bother. The shirt also deepened the color of his eyes so they were more intense than the shirt, like violets to the shirt’s paler lilac. His driver’s license said his eyes were blue because they wouldn’t let him put purple down as a choice. His tie was silver with a tie bar that looked silver but was actually platinum because it wouldn’t make his skin react, since like most shapeshifters he was allergic to silver. His almost ankle-length auburn hair was back in a tight braid so he didn’t trip me when we danced. His hair never seemed to get in his way when he moved—maybe it was practice; he was an exotic dancer, and the hair was often loose while he worked.

   He was smiling and moving ever so slightly in time to the music. I had enough dancers in my life, from exotic to professional ballet, to know that they all moved, even when they thought they were standing still, as if their bodies couldn’t help but make grace out of the noise of everyday life.

   Manny had been standing next to his slender daughter, gazing up at her, because Connie had gotten about five inches of extra height from her mother’s side of the genetics, but now he was dancing with his wife. Two of her brothers had been dragged onto the dance floor by their wives. Rosita’s brothers towered over most of the other men in the room, not just tall but wide, like big, burly refrigerators who smiled often, bright smiles in dark faces. They hugged more as the afternoon reception wore on. At least two of them had gone to college on football scholarships, though I wasn’t sure which of the six it had been. Another ran his own heating and cooling business, one was an accountant, and another did something about freight hauling. They’d been introduced to me in a mass as “These are my brothers.” Rosita had rattled off their names and jobs too fast for me to follow all of it. I figured the names were more important to remember than jobs, so I concentrated on that. I could name four out of six. At one point she’d tried to fix me up on a blind date with one of them, back when she was convinced I’d end up an old maid at twenty-four. Lucky for me that I was engaged at thirty-one or Rosita would have been having fits.

   Rosita was built like her brothers, though I’d seen pictures of her wedding to Manny and she’d been a tiny slip of a girl, but that’s what can happen when you marry a girl before she’s stopped growing taller. She’d been a couple inches below his five foot six once, but now she was five-eight or maybe five-nine, and three children plus several miscarriages had broadened the rest of her, but Manny gazed up at her as if she were still the delicate girl he’d fallen in love with as they danced, his head resting on her ample bosom. The drinks had been flowing enough that she didn’t make him move his head now.

   Connie, the bride, and Mercedes, her sister and maid of honor, were built like Manny’s lean and wiry frame, but tall like models thanks to Rosita. They were talking excitedly across the room. Their brother, Tomas, sat in a corner across the room in the wheelchair that Connie had finally persuaded him to use. The crutches he’d used to walk up the aisle were leaning by the chair, his hand on them, so he’d know he could get back up. He was thirteen and had never been badly hurt before; the first time is an eye-opener. He’d used crutches to stand in church, proud to be on the groom’s side, but by the time the ceremony was over he’d been pale and sweating. Getting shot will do that to you, even if it was a few weeks ago. He’d missed going to State with his track-and-field team because a bad guy had kidnapped Connie and him. I’d been part of the team that had stopped the bad guy and gotten them out, but not before he’d shot Tomas and left him for dead.

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