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And it was moments like this that made me glimpse why Edward was marrying Donna. She got it; at some level she would make the logical leap about Edward, about me, about all of us who put on a gun and went out to hunt the monsters. It also meant she was more insightful than was comfortable sometimes, but it still made me think better of her for thinking of the questions, and then for having the courage to ask them. She'd already gotten brownie points for handling Dixie in New Mexico; now she got more.

"Yes," I said, "that's part of what I do for the job."

"You're not angry about Ted being married before, not even a little bit, are you?"


"You were surprised by it, I saw that, but you weren't upset even before you figured out what Carol had meant by that horrible hippopotamus comment."

"No," I said.

She studied my face. "Why not?"

I licked my lips and tried to be very careful. "Ted and I are best friends, but we've only known each other for nine years. We don't tell each other everything that happened before that."

"But a marriage is important. I'd tell my best friends something like that."

"But your best friends are women. It's different when your best friend is a man. You talk about different things."

"You're not just his best friend; you're his work wife, his monster-hunting partner."

"Yes, but you're his real wife; even without the ceremony, you guys have been dating for close to seven years. You've made him happier than I'd ever thought possible. I didn't even know Ted wanted a family, or could see his life with one, until I got off that airplane five years ago and met you and the kids."

She smiled, but it didn't stay. Her face got all serious again. Damn it, I'd been winning. What was wrong now? "If you'd thought that Ted wanted a family and a more normal life, would you have pursued him harder?"

"Pursued him how?" I asked.

"I believe that you weren't having an affair before, Anita, I do, but there is something between you. It feels like it could have been more than just friendship. If you had thought he wanted a family and marriage, would you have tried to date him?"

"You mean would I have wanted to do the white picket fence with Ted?"

"Yes, that's exactly what I mean."

"Donna, if you haven't noticed, I'm not a white-picket-fence kind of girl."

"Every woman wants that."

"Maybe I did in college--I was even engaged for a little while back then--but I'm never going to have what you think of as a normal life."

"Would you want one if it was possible for you?"

"What would normal mean for me? I'm here with both Micah and Nathaniel. If normal means giving either of them up, count me out."

She smiled then and rubbed at her eyes as if she'd just thought about her eye makeup, but it was too late. The black tearstains had started to dry against her skin; she'd need a makeup remover just to get it all off now.

"And you have Nicky with you again, too."

"He's my personal bodyguard," I said.

"Anita, he's more than that to you."

"Yes, he is."

"When you marry Jean-Claude, is he really not going to make you give any of them up?"

"He would marry Micah and Nathaniel along with me if it was legal."

"And Nicky?"

"He's okay with Nicky, too."

"I'll never understand how you manage so many relationships."

"Not all of them are primary relationships."

"How can anyone be okay with not being someone's primary relationship?" she asked.

"Some people don't want the pressure of being someone's one and only."

"I wanted to be Ted's one and only, but even if his first marriage wasn't important, he still has you."

"We went through this, Donna. He and I are not a romantic item."

"I believe that, but Ted still needs you in his life. I'll never be enough for him alone. He'll never be just mine."

"But we're not having an affair."

"Not a physical one, but emotionally you really are his work wife. You meet emotional needs for him that I never can. I'd almost prefer an affair, because I could make him give that up, but what you and he have is something that he won't give up."

"I don't know what to say to that, Donna, except that he is in love with you, madly, deeply, in love with you. I've never seen him like this about anyone else in all the time I've known him."

"Carol said the same thing."

"And she saw

him with the first wife, so he didn't love her the way he loves you."

"Then why did he marry her?"

"Because he was eighteen and maybe away from home for the very first time, and lonely as hell. It's a recipe for being vulnerable."

"I suppose you're right," she said.

I caught movement from the corner of my eye and realized it was Nicky and Rodina opening the door for Edward. He came through the door still in his swim trunks. He'd just added sandals and sunglasses. I thought he'd hurried to find Donna after someone clued him in, until I saw her face when she saw him. She looked like someone had hit her between the eyes with the oh-my-God-he's-so-sexy hammer. The British would say she was gob-smacked. Edward had come wearing nothing but his bathing suit the same way some women will wear a low-necked blouse if they want to stop a fight and turn it to other things.

I had to admit that Edward looked very nice coming through the door with the sunlight dancing over all that muscled leanness. I'd known Edward was handsome, but I'd never really appreciated that he was sexy. He was my best friend; you just shouldn't speculate about sex and your true bestie. Nope, just nope.

"Oh, Ted, I'm so sorry I was stupid about you being married once before," she said, standing up and going to him.

He hugged her to his mostly naked body as he said, "I was eighteen, it lasted less than six months, and she took me for everything I had. I'm so sorry you had to find out through Carol mentioning it."

"When Carol called your ex-wife a dependapotamus, I thought she was being mean about her weight, but Anita explained what it meant," Donna said.

He flashed me a look over Donna's head, relief and a thank-you all there in his face. To her, he said, "It's exactly what she was, but don't call her my ex-wife; she wasn't important enough to even be that."

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