Incubus Dreams Online - Laurell K. Hamilton

Acknowledgments

To Dark, who is always instrumental in making sure the deadlines get met and the business, all of it, gets attention. Karen, for taking me around to the strip clubs and teaching me never, ever, to sit near the stage. To Sherry, as always, for doing so much to keep everything clean, neat, and as tidy as we’ll let her. I do realize that we are the stumbling block. Bear, also for going around to the strip clubs with us, and just being a large and wonderful presence. Robin, for answering my questions and, as always, for being a wise voice. To Marshal Michael Moriaty, for sending me all the nifty stuff on the federal marshal program, and answering some of my questions. All mistakes are mine and mine alone. To Sergeant Robert Cooney of St. Louis’s Mobile Reserve, for answering questions, for the tour and letting us see all the wonderful toys. His input was invaluable to this book. All mistakes are mine and mine alone. The more I learn about our own Mobile Reserve and all the tactical units across the country, the more impressed I am and the more I despair of ever getting it just right on paper. My writing group, the Alternate Historians: Tom Drennen, Rhett MacPherson, Deborah Millitello, Marella Sands, Sharon Shinn, and Mark Sumner. Fine writers, good friends, and champions of esoteric trivia. To Mary, my mother-in-law, who did grandma day camp with Trinity so that Jon and I could get this rewrite done. If Jon hadn’t sat with me and made me do it, you might never have seen this book. To Trinity, who gets more amazing every year, and who I hope someday understands what the heck I was doing all those days and nights up in that room at the top of the house.

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