Incubus Dreams (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #12) read online by Laurell K. Hamilton
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Incubus Dreams (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #12)
Author: Laurell K. Hamilton

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 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.”

That had been the last conversation the wedding lady and I had had. She positively avoided me after that. I think she’d been mean on purpose, because I wasn’t helping her keep the other groomsmen in line. She seemed to believe that just because we both had ovaries instead of balls that we should have joined forces. Besides, why should I worry about being pretty? It was Tammy and Larry’s day, not mine. If, and that was a very big if, I ever got married, then I’d worry about it. Until then, screw it. Besides, I was already wearing more makeup than I normally did. Which for me meant any. My stepmother, Judith, keeps telling me that when I hit thirty I’ll feel differently about all this girl stuff. I’ve only got three years to go until the big 3-0; so far panic has not set in.

Tammy’s father placed her hand in Larry’s. Tammy was three inches taller than Larry, in heels, she was more. I was standing close enough to the groom to see the look that Tammy’s father gave Larry. It was not a friendly look. Tammy was three months, almost four months pregnant, and it was Larry’s fault. Or rather it was Tammy and Larry’s fault, but I don’t think that’s how her father viewed it. No, Mr. Nathan Reynolds definitely seemed to blame Larry, as if Tammy had been snatched virgin from her bed and brought back deflowered, and pregnant.

Mr. Reynolds raised Tammy’s blusher on her veil to reveal all that carefully made-up beauty. He kissed her solemnly on the cheek, threw one last dark look at Larry, and turned smiling and pleasant to join his wife in the front pew. The fact that he’d gone from a look that dark, to pleasant and smiling when he knew the church would see his face, bothered me. I didn’t like that Larry’s new father-in-law was capable of lying that well. Made me wonder what he did for a living. But I was naturally suspicious, comes from working too closely with the police for too long. Cynicism is so contagious.

We all turned toward the altar, and the familiar ceremony began. I’d been to dozens of weddings over the years, almost all Christian, almost all standard denominations, so the words were strangely familiar. Funny, how you don’t think you’ve memorized something until you hear it, and realize you have. “Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to join this man and this woman in Holy Matrimony.”

It wasn’t a Catholic or Episcopalian wedding, so we didn’t have to kneel, or do much of anything. We wouldn’t even be getting communion during the ceremony. I have to admit my mind began to wander a bit. I’ve never been a big fan of weddings. I understand they’re necessary, but I was never one of those girls who fantasized about what my wedding would be like someday. I don’t remember ever thinking about it until I got engaged in college, and when that fell through, I went back to not thinking about it. I’d been engaged very briefly to Richard Zeeman, junior high science teacher, and local Ulfric, Wolf-King, but he’d dumped me because I was more at home with the monsters than he was. Now, I’d pretty much settled into the idea that I would never marry. Never have those words spoken over me and my honeybun. A tiny part of me that I’d never admit to out loud was sad about that. Not the wedding part, I think I would hate my own wedding just as much as anyone else’s, but not having one single person to call my own. I’d been raised middle-class, middle America, small town, and that meant the fact that I was currently dating a minimum of three men, maybe four, depending on how you looked at it, still made me squirm with something painfully close to embarrassment. I was working on not being uncomfortable about it, but there were issues that needed to be worked out. For instance, who do you bring as your date to a wedding? The wedding was in a church complete with holy items, so two of the men were out. Vampires didn’t do well around holy items. Watching Jean-Claude and Asher burst into flames as they came through the door would probably have put a damper on the festivities. That left me with one official boyfriend, Micah Callahan, and one friend, who happened to be a boy, Nathaniel Graison.

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