Home > The Wicked (Vampire Huntress Legend #8)(16)

The Wicked (Vampire Huntress Legend #8)(16)
Author: L.A. Banks

Damali winked at Carlos. "Good. Real good."

Inez giggled and squeezed her hard, and Damali silently winced.

"It's too bad you kids couldn't have stayed away longer, but..."

Marjorie trailed off and sighed. "But at least you got away for a little bit, right?"

"I would hardly call being two or three miles down the road 'away' " Marlene laughed, cupping Damali's cheek as she passed her. "But not here works, I'm sure."

"I cooked, y'all, 'cause I knew you was coming home today." Inez raced to the kitchen behind Marlene.

"I just think it's so romantic," Krissy said, practically swooning as Jasmine and Heather joined in her sigh.

"Okay, tell ya what," Damali said, "I'm gonna go drop this luggage in our room and-"

"Our room,did you hear that?" Krissy said, closing her eyes.

"Why don't you let the girl go lay down for an hour, 'cause I know she's tired," Inez shouted from the kitchen.

Damali shook her head as everyone in the room fell out laughing. Leave it to Inez to just flat blast her in front of the team. Marlene was laughing so hard that she had to turn her back and wipe her eyes. But the fact that Juanita and Jose were nowhere to be found made her ner�vous. Either it was a good sign that those two were in deep cohabita�tion and not to be disturbed, or it meant that they were somewhere nursing very old wounds. Still too taxed to summon a scan, Damali just made small talk and enjoyed being home.

"Let them get settled, guys. Lawdy-B!" Marlene fussed, trying to force authority into her voice, and then just broke down against the sink, laughing.

Krissy squeezed Damali into another too-tight hug, and this time Damali felt the tender spot beneath her shoulder blades give way, al�most making her gasp as a damaged wing shifted.

"You're making me have to pee," Damali said with a tense smile, struggling out of Krissy's well-intentioned hold. "Oh, chile. I'll be back in a flash."

"See, Carlos," Inez teased. "You done sent her back here with a weak bladder-ya need to give her a break for twenty-four hours," Inez hollered, gaining more laughs as Damali slipped out of Krissy's love-fest embrace.

Almost numb from pain, Damali ran down the hall, leaving her bags, just needing not to be touched for a moment. Her whole body hurt, and yet pride kept her on her feet, smiling in front of the family. It was one of her best performances ever. But once in the still bath�room on the other side of the huge hacienda, she almost cried from the body aches that consumed her.

As carefully as she could, Damali opened the back of her silver col�lar to see if the redness and swelling from Carlos's bite had gone down. She placed the jewelry that was embedded with her seven col�lected stones on the sink with care and studied her throat. It was fiery red but sealed over, thank Heaven. However, the inside of the collar looked like an old Band-Aid, crusted with dried blood and wound ooze. Damali shook her head with disgust and glanced down at the necklace. The huge diamond Aset had given her covered her throat chakra, the same one that had screamed bloody murder, not passion, the night before. Even the pearl had splatter on it from the backside of the open settings. Carlos was right; this didn't make sense.

Damali rolled her shoulders and closed her eyes, stretching her back. A weeklong soak in one of the hacienda's old claw-foot tubs would be a luxury cure, but who had that kind of time? The team had been fortunate to get seven days of battle hiatus and, in a day or so, it would be time to move out to places unknown. Tonight, they'd party. Tomorrow, they'd sit in the makeshift war room, otherwise known as the family room, and figure out where the next safest place would be. In the interim, she and Carlos had to find clues as to what was going on while holding their shit together in front of the team. No emo�tion came. She was too tired to dwell on it right now. Tonight, after the welcome-home festivities, she'd slip into bed in her husband's arms and respect his personal space.

Damali plugged the sink with her eyes closed. The headache from the probable concussion was making her eyes sensitive to the glaring, bright light of Mexico's sun. She filled the bowl with cool water to splash her face, wondering how long she could endure the family hugs and slaps on the back before breaking down and begging them not to touch her. If Big Mike came at her-and he would because she'd slipped by him intentionally-one mighty crush from those huge arms... a two-hundred-and-seventy-five-pound-and-climbing weight category from Inez's loving pots, combined with an off-the-floor hug by the six-foot-eight team giant, would make her see stars and call on Jesus.

A light tap on the door jerked Damali's attention around, and she slowly said, "ouch," in a silent, openmouthed wince as she clutched the sink. Her necklace got bumped into the sink and was now sub�merged under cool water, but her arms hurt so badly at the moment she couldn't immediately move them to get it. If Carlos was sweating her to help fend off family, she couldn't.

"Come in," Damali said, breathing hard. "I can't come out; you'll have to come in."

When Juanita walked into the bathroom slowly, latched the door behind her, and kept her back to Damali, she tried not to bristle. Of all days... if girlfriend was gonna start some meeting-in-the-ladies'-room mess, today would not have been the day she would have picked.

"Hey, lady," Damali said, trying to be cool, and forcing herself to remember all the good things Marlene had told her Juanita had done from before.

"Hey, D. Welcome home."

The fact that Juanita kept her back to Damali wasn't helping mat�ters, but there was something in the sound of her voice that gave Damali enough energy to push off the sink and meet Juanita mid-floor.

"Girl, you okay?" Now Damali was concerned. Something wasn't right; even Juanita's voice was off. She held her body strangely, too.

Juanita turned around. She had on dark sunglasses, her hair was di�sheveled, and she was wearing a man's white cotton shirt with the collar flipped up and long sweatpants-in La Paz, in eighty-five de�grees? When, of all the women in the house, 'Nita always showed the most skin?

"Are you all right?" Damali asked again, her voice steady as she ap�proached Juanita.

"I have to ask you a question," Juanita said in a quiet, serious tone, unafraid. "This is nothing about your business. I'm just asking you this because I have a reason." She carefully lowered her collar and re�moved her sunglasses.

   
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