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Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter, Book 14. Danse Macabre

By:Laurell K. Hamilton

1



IT WAS THE middle of November. I was supposed to be out jogging, but instead I was sitting at my breakfast table talking about men, sex, werewolves, vampires, and that thing that most unmarried but sexually active women fear most of all — a missed period.

Veronica (Ronnie) Sims, best friend and private detective, sat across from me at my little four-seater breakfast table. The table sat on a little raised alcove in a bay window. I did breakfast most mornings looking at the view out onto the deck and the trees beyond. Today, the view wasn't pretty, because the inside of my head was too ugly to see it. Panic will do that to you.

«You're sure you missed October? You didn't just count wrong?» Ronnie asked.

I shook my head and stared into my coffee cup. «I'm two weeks overdue.»

She reached across the table and patted my hand. «Two weeks — you had me scared. Two weeks could be anything, Anita. Stress will throw you off that much, and God knows you've had enough stress.» She squeezed my hand. «That last serial killer case was only about two weeks ago.» She squeezed my hand harder. «What I read in the paper and saw on the news was bad.»

I'd stopped telling Ronnie all my bad stuff years ago, when my cases as a legal vampire executioner had gotten so much bloodier than her cases as a private eye. Now I was a federal marshal, along with most of the other legal vamp hunters in the United States. It meant that I had even more access to even more awful shit. Things that Ronnie, or any of my female friends, didn't want to know about. I didn't fault them. I'd rather not have had that many nightmares in my own head. No, I didn't fault Ronnie, but it meant that I couldn't share some of the most awful stuff with her. I was just glad we'd made up a long-standing grumpiness in time to have her here for this particular disaster. I was able to talk about the bad parts of my cases with some of the men in my life, but I couldn't have shared the missed period with any of them. It concerned one of them entirely too much.

She squeezed my hand hard and leaned back. Her gray eyes were all sympathy, and apology. She was still feeling guilty that she'd let her issues about commitment and men rain all over our friendship. She'd had a brief, disastrous marriage years before I met her. She'd come here today to cry on my shoulder about the fact that she was moving in with her boyfriend, Louie Fane — Dr. Louis Fane, thank you very much. He had his doctorate in biology and taught at Washington University. He also turned furry once a month, and was a lieutenant of the local wererat rodere — their word for pack.

«If Louie wasn't hiding what he was from his colleagues, we'd be going to the big party afterward,» she said.

«He teaches people's kids, Ronnie; he can't afford to find out what they'd do if they found out he had lycanthropy.»

«College isn't kids, it's definitely grown-up.»

«Parents won't see it that way,» I said. I looked at her, and finally said, «Are you changing the subject?»

«It's only two weeks, Anita, after one of the most violent cases you've ever had. I wouldn't even lose sleep over it.»

«Yeah, but your period is erratic, mine's not. I've never been two weeks late before.»

She pushed a strand of blond hair back behind her ear. The new haircut framed her face nicely, but it didn't stay out of her eyes, and she was always pushing it back. «Never?»

I shook my head, and sipped coffee. It was cold. I got up and went to dump it in the sink.

«What's the latest you've ever been?» she asked.

«Two days, I think five once, but I wasn't having sex with anyone, so it wasn't scary. I mean, unless there was a star in the east I was safe, just late.» I poured coffee from the French press, which emptied it. I was so going to need more coffee.

Ronnie came to stand next to me while I put more hot water on the stove. She leaned her butt against the cabinets and drank her coffee, but she was watching me. «Let me run this back at you. You've never been two weeks late, ever, and you've never missed a whole month before?»

«Not since this whole mess started when I was fourteen, no.»

«I always envied you the regular-as-clockwork schedule,» she said.

I started dismantling the French press, taking out the lid with its filter on a stick. «Well, the clock is broken right now.»

«Shit,» she said, softly.

«You can say that again.»

«You need a pregnancy test,» she said.

«No shit.» I dumped the grounds into the trash can, and shook my head. «I can't go shopping for one tonight.»

«Can't you make a quick stop on the way to Jean-Claude's little tкte-а-tкte tonight? It's not like this is the main event.»

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