"Anita and I couldn't imagine you that young and naive, but I guess we all get to be young and stupid."
"Oh, I was that, honeybunch. I was that in spades." His accent had thickened. I already knew that honeybunch was his special nickname for her. I called Nathaniel pussycat, so I really couldn't bitch.
She held him tight and then raised her head so he could kiss her. The kiss got a little busy, and I suddenly wanted a graceful exit either for me or for them, but I should have known that Edward was ahead of me.
"Let's go to our room, honeybunch."
"I need to go back to the spa. I left Becca getting her nails painted to match her flower-girl dress."
"Becca will be fine with the other bridesmaids with her."
"But I ran out on Carol; she must be frantic."
"She called Frankie, and he told me, and that's how I knew to find you. Carol will explain to everyone that we needed some private time."
"I'll let the two of you kiss and make up, and I'll go back to my guys."
Donna grabbed my hand in another spontaneous gesture of how close she seemed to think we were; sometimes I thought she wanted me close so she could keep an eye on me with Edward, but then, like now, I thought she just liked me as a friend. It was all too convoluted and therapy-rich for me.
"You are the best best woman ever," she said.
"I'll second that," Edward said in his Ted voice. The smile on his face was all Ted as well. If they ever gave out Oscars for playing your secret identity, I'd vote for Edward.
They left to go to their room and I was looking forward to going to mine. I wondered if Wyatt and Bram were still with Nathaniel and Micah or if everyone had gone to separate rooms by now. I mean, we did need to talk about vampire Brides and why I'd almost taken a bite out of Wyatt's neck, but I was really hoping for separate rooms and some alone time with Micah and Nathaniel. This was supposed to be a romantic trip for us, damn it. I hadn't even seen the inside of our room yet. But, hey, I'd managed to calm Donna down, and the wedding was still on. As long as I didn't try to take another bite out of anyone, I'd put today in the win column. I started for the door where Nicky and Rodina were waiting to escort me safely back to my room. I was pretty sure the walk back wasn't going to be that dangerous, but I wasn't a bodyguard; I was the body being guarded. The body being guarded has to learn when to shut up and let people do their jobs; I was still learning.
NICKY WAS STARTING to open the door for me when I was suddenly facing most of the other bridesmaids coming down the hallway. Denny, short for Denise, the five-foot-nine, golden-tanned, natural blond maid of honor, was almost in tears. Dixie was yelling at her. They were almost the same height, and thanks to good hairdressing their hair was even nearly the same shade of blond. You could see the shadow of their being athletes in high school together, though Denny was still a serious runner and even did some triathlons, which meant she was lean and muscled and had that tall athlete's body that only a lifetime of athletics and good genetics will give you. Dixie had stayed thin, but she was no athlete. It made her look ten years older than Denny.
Nicky looked at me, and I shook my head, mouthing, I'll be fine.
Rodina peeked around the door and said, "If you need us, just yell."
"Will do," I said, and followed my fellow bridesmaids back out into the Florida sunshine. At this rate I was going to wish I'd put on sunscreen.
"Dixie, stop being such a bitch." This from Lucy, Donna's partner in her metaphysical shop. Lucy was not a small woman, but she didn't worry about the fact that she wasn't thin, just like she didn't worry that her hair was mostly gray and white with streaks of the original blond she'd started with in among the other colors. Letting her hair go natural and refusing to use makeup made her look older than she was, but Lucy didn't seem to care about age, so it worked for her. I'd have said she looked like someone's grandmother, but she didn't; she just looked like her. She'd explained that her silver-frame glasses were invisible trifocals, which I hadn't known was possible. She was one of the most comfortable people with age I'd ever met. She was also a practicing witch, as in Wiccan, but since Donna couldn't do anything psychic, one of them needed to be talented.
"How dare you call me that?" Dixie yelled, turning to face her with her hands in fists at her sides. I really hoped she didn't take a swing at either of them; she might take manhandling from Donna, but me . . . she'd never forgive me.
"You are being awful, Dixie," Denny said, with a little hiccup that let me know she was either about to start crying or had just stopped.
"What's happened now?" I asked.
"Did you know about Ted's first marriage?" Lucy asked.
"No," I said.
Dixie made a very unattractive snort. "That's rich. Of course you knew. Men always confide everything in their mistresses."
"Would you please stop saying that awful lie?" Denny said.
"It's not a lie," Dixie said.
"How many times do we have to tell you that there is no affair?" I said.
"It doesn't matter what you say, Anita. I see the way Ted looks at you."
"He admires Anita, respects her," Denny said.
"No man respects and admires a woman unless he's fucking her."
"Were you looking for me to pick a fight?"
"No, she wants to tell Peter and Becca that you and Ted are cheating together," Denny said, tearing up again.
"Peter knows about all of it. You leave Becca alone."
"When Carol told us about the first marriage and Donna didn't know about that either, I knew it was all lies," Dixie said.
"What is your problem? Are you jealous that Donna has a second chance at happiness?"
"I'm not jealous that Donna is about to marry a two-timing liar. I want to save her from making the mistake of her life."
"She is going to marry Ted," Lucy said, "and nothing you say will change that."
"She won't forgive him for lying about the first marriage. The wedding is already off."
"Actually, they made up," I said.
"I don't believe you."
"I would say go ask Donna, but they went back to their room to have makeup sex. It'd be rude to interrupt."
I looked at her and let her see how pleased I was that the news upset her. "Why should I lie when the truth pisses you off so much more?"
"I won't let her make a mistake like this, and if you were her friend, Denny, you'd be with me on this."
"Ted is perfect for her," Denny said.
"He's a lying son of a bitch."
"Donna doesn't agree, and she is going to marry him, Dixie," Lucy said.
"I'm going to tell the kids, both of them. Peter won't want his mother marrying a cheating bastard."
"We keep telling you that Peter knows the truth," I said.
"But Becca doesn't. If I tell her what Ted and you have done, there won't be a wedding."
"You leave the child alone," Lucy said, and there was a steeliness to her tone that turned her gray-blue eyes mostly gray.
"Do you not want to be in this wedding, Dixie?" Denny asked.
"Donna didn't trust Anita and Ted at her own wedding unless Anita had someone else to fuck besides Ted. She was ecstatic when you brought Micah and Nathaniel. She thought with two men at your disposal you'd leave Ted alone for this week, at least."
Denny started crying again. "You are being so horrible."
"No, what's horrible is that Donna's own son is okay with her being cheated on."
"He's Ted's son, too," Lucy said.
"No! No! I was there for Donna's wedding to Frank. That was true love! If he hadn't died, then Ted would never have gotten his . . . hands on Donna or their children. I have half a mind to tell Peter how disappointed his real father would be that he's not defending Donna's honor."
"Just leave Peter out of this," I said.
"The woman who is cuckolding my best friend doesn't get to tell me what to do!"
I almost said tha
t I wasn't sure a woman could cuckold someone, but I figured that correcting her vocabulary would not help things.
Lucy touched Dixie's arm and said, "Let Donna handle Peter the way she sees fit, Dixie."
Dixie jerked away from her and glared at us both. "I will tell Becca and see how the wedding goes with the flower girl accusing her father-to-be of fucking one of the maids of honor."
"You will not talk to Becca without Donna's permission," Lucy said, before I could say anything.
"I was there when Becca was born. I'm Aunt Dixie. I'll talk to my niece as I see fit."
"If you really love that little girl, you will leave her alone," Lucy said.
"She deserves to know the truth."
"There is no truth to tell her," I said.
"Lying bitch," she said.
"I thought we had the talk about pet names in New Mexico."
"Donna protected you then."
"No, she protected you and she told you so, because I heard her say it."
"You are a vile woman," Dixie said, and her eyes were shiny now, too, as if the anger was turning into tears.
"Ted is the only father Becca remembers. Do you really want to take that away from her because you don't like him?"
"I am not the bad guy here," Dixie said.
"If you tell Becca those lies, then you will be," I said. Dixie went for the door, slamming it behind her so hard that for a second I thought the glass was going to break.
Denny called out, "Dixie!" and ran after her.
Lucy patted my arm. "I better go after them and make sure she doesn't do anything we'll all regret, like talk to the kids. I'm sorry this is going to be so unpleasant for you, Anita."
I actually patted her hand back and said, "Thanks, Lucy. Good luck talking sense into Dixie."
"Can you tell Bernardo what's going on? Carol told her husband and Marisol told Rufous, but Bernardo doesn't have anyone to fill him in."
"You think he needs to know right now?"
She looked at the door. "I have to go make sure Denny and Dixie are all right, but, yes, my intuition says it's important that you talk to Bernardo." She looked at me and there was weight to it; her power, her magic, whatever word, breathed along my skin. "Talk to him, Anita, and then you can go have fun with your men."