Home > The Wicked (Vampire Huntress Legend #8)(15)

The Wicked (Vampire Huntress Legend #8)(15)
Author: L.A. Banks

She kissed him again more slowly, wiped her finger over his damp mouth with the pad of her thumb, and smoothed her palm over his hair. "Let's go back to base camp, go in the house, make the greeting rounds, and then go get a private divination with our councils, be�cause-"

"Do me this one favor," he said, stroking her hair. "Not that I have the right to even ask you for anything right now. But I'm asking you this as your husband, all right?"

"All right," she said, studying the deep pain in his eyes.

"This time, let me have a man-to-man conversation with Ausar first. Just a one-on-one. I do not want the queens in this, or Marlene, or anybody else. But if there's a problem beyond some transitional flux, then we come clean at the house. Together." She nodded. "This is between man and wife."

The way Damali had said that she'd keep his concerns within their sa�cred union until he got answers made him even sadder. Just knowing that she unquestioningly had his back and always would made him need to dig harder for answers. It was all he could do to play the role when they walked in the door of the hacienda a few miles down the road.

Rider was on him like a pit bull, teasing him so hard he made the women in the house shake their heads as they spirited Damali away after she got quick hugs and love from the fellas.

"Well at least this time when you dragged your tired carcass over the threshold, you're legal, Rivera. How's it feel?" Rider slapped Car�los on the back and hugged him hard. "Four days wasn't long enough, I take it, because you seem a little reserved for a man who just tied the knot-like the gravity of it all is finally hittin' ya, or is it that your ass is so bone weary that ya need to lay down before you fall down?"

Carlos laughed as the house erupted in male mayhem and ribald humor. "A little of both, man," he said, dropping his grip on the floor with a thud and hugging Rider hard. "You're a sight for sore eyes."

"You're putting the pressure on, my brother," Big Mike said, laughing and hugging Carlos off his feet once Rider turned him loose. "I'ma hafta get a danged ring myself now," he whispered and then dropped Carlos down, still laughing.

Carlos shrugged, "Hey, man, what can I say? A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do."

Shabazz shook Carlos's hand then pulled him into a lightning fast chest-to-chest hug. Carlos wasn't even sure the hug had happened.

"Glad y'all made it back without incident. Nights get a little tense around here and we was worried about you two all alone. Figured you both had your radar down, and that's a good way for a man to get smoked. But you da man. Aw'ight." Shabazz looked in the direction of the family room, where Damali and the other female Guardians had gathered. He beamed as he looked at her. "You actually married my baby... in a church." Shabazz just shook his head, swinging his long, shoulder-length locks as though the whole thing had just occurred to him.

"Like somebody was gonna get in between them," Dan said, shak�ing his head at Shabazz's comment. "Be serious."

Shabazz just laughed. "The newbies will be next, watch."

"Hold it, hold it," Berkfield chuckled, slapping a hand down on Carlos's shoulder. "They've got a ways to go, but you, my man, I don't know what to say. How's it feel?"

"Fantastic, man," Carlos said, jettisoning the pain from his voice.

Bobby nodded and pounded Carlos's fist. "Good to have you back in the house."

Carlos raised an eyebrow and motioned with his chin toward Jas�mine and Heather, and then glanced at Dan and Bobby again. "How's life treatingyou, is the question."

Bobby beamed and looked away. "Aw'ight."

Carlos cocked his head to the side as Dan's face lit up with a megawatt smile. "Cool."

"Everything's peace," Dan said with a bashful shrug.

Carlos shook his head with a huge grin. "Very cool. I'm im�pressed."

J.L. laughed and refused to look at Berkfield or Carlos. "Good to have you home, brother. Whew!"

Carlos laughed hard and slapped Berkfield on the back. "He'll do the right thing, man, relax. If I did, then shit."

Even Berkfield had to chuckle. "That does make me feel better by comparison, trust me."

Carlos looked around, mentally doing roll call and missing Jose and Juanita. Quiet worry filled him. The one person who might not be cool with all of this would be Jose. Truthfully, Juanita might not, ei�ther. Come to think of it, she might have more of a problem than Jose with everything. But that was squashed, he thought. Then again, as he glanced at the women who were grouped by a table of gifts...

"Where's Jose?" Carlos asked as casually as possible.

"Burnt to a cider," Mike said, laughing, "but you didn't hear that from me."

Carlos chuckled. "Then it's all good." He couldn't ask about Juanita and remain politically correct, so he held his peace.

"Oh, yeah," Mike said in a deep baritone designed to make them all laugh. "It'sall good,oh, baby."

"See, Mike," Shabazz said, laughing harder, pointing at him. "You ain't right. You ain't supposed to be using your special powers to get in our boy's business like that."

"Dude is a-okay,hombre," Rider said, walking away from the group. "I'm just a nose, what do I know? But I didn't need freaking supersonic hearing. Shit!"

"I guess brotherman is aw'ight, then," Carlos said, laughing hard, following Rider into the family room to hug Marlene good.

"Jose is rightas rain, man. Dude is chill," Shabazz said, slinging an arm over Carlos's shoulder. "Hey, Mar, guess what the wind blew in."

"C'mere, boy, and give me a for-real hug," Marlene said, grabbing Carlos to her chest so quickly that she almost knocked the wind out of him.

The women had Damali hemmed in by a sofa with her arm out�stretched from her body, several hands on her forearm, turning her di�amond in the sunlight like her arm just happened to be attached to the rest of her.

"Girl, how was the honeymoon?" Inez said, bubbling with excite�ment. "The rock is off da meter, and I know I saw it fast before, but, girl... how many carats is that blue-white sucker set in platinum? I know, afterall that, the honeymoon was da bomb.How was it?"

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