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I wondered if it had been our child bleeding out, would we all have been our normal calm selves, or would we have struggled to hold our shit together, too? Did the fact that your child was the one injured make that much difference? I didn't know, and I didn't like not knowing, and I didn't want to find out the answer; I really didn't.

"How about Denny?" I asked.

"I haven't even seen her since yesterday," Nathaniel said.

"She wasn't in the hotel when Peter was taken off in the ambulance, was she?" I asked.

"I don't remember seeing her," Bernardo said.

"Nor I," Bram said.

R and R both said that they hadn't seen her either.

"Anita's right. She wasn't in the lobby with everyone else when the ambulance came," Micah said.

"Wait, are you saying that none of us have seen her since yesterday?" I asked.

We all looked at one another, and then slowly we all shook our heads. "Shit," I said.

"She's not as close to any of us. She could have just been hanging with the other bridesmaids, Anita," Micah said.

"Nathaniel, call her. She knows you better than any of the rest of us."

He didn't argue, just got out his phone and started pushing buttons. "It's ringing," he said, eyes distant with listening.

We waited. We waited until her voice-mail box kicked in and said it was full. Nathaniel lowered his phone and looked at me. "Denny should have come down when the ambulance came. No matter what her issues with Edward or you or even Dixie, she's known Peter since he was a baby."

"Shit," I said with real feeling.

"One of you call Detective Rankin," Bernardo said.

"Why one of us?" I asked.

"Didn't you all talk to him more than I did? I mean, I got lucky and Bettina's friends were able to alibi me."

"He still should have talked to you more than just a hi and a bye," I said.

"He found my conviction when he ran my name, and my being a shapeshifter on top of it . . . He's sure I've done something." Nathaniel's voice was bitter.

"Prejudiced bastard," I said.

"It's not just that, Anita. The cops in St. Louis know me. Some of them helped me when I was a kid. To a strange cop who doesn't know me, I will always be my record. I will always be a strung-out street whore, and it doesn't help that I'm a stripper. Most people think that's just one step above prostitution, and if they've seen the porn I did, then they don't believe I'm a reformed anything."

"None of us can call Rankin," Micah said.

"You have to do it, Bernardo," I said.

"One of us can do it?" Rodina asked.

"No," Nicky said. "None of Anita's bodyguards can attract more attention to her, or to Nathaniel and Micah."

"I'm sorry about how he treated Nathaniel, but that doesn't mean the rest of you can't call him and tell him about Denny. What aren't you telling me?" He gave me suspicious eyes out of that handsome face of his.

I told him the Reader's Digest version.

"Are you saying he used magic to keep you in the room for questioning?"

"He used something," Micah said. "It was only after Anita tried to reach out to me that I sort of woke up and realized we could just walk out."

"I know not to talk to the police," Nathaniel said, "but somehow every time I tried to leave, Rankin would make it seem reasonable to stay."

"That's so illegal," Bernardo said.

"And so hard to prove," I said.

"Do you think whatever he does works on straight-up humans like me?"

I shrugged. "I don't know what he is, so I can't answer that."

"You don't know

what he is? You're, like, the queen of supernatural knowledge. Edward goes to you when he doesn't know."

I shrugged again. "Sorry, but this time I'm stumped. He hit my radar as normal, vanilla human, but the power he was wielding was sophisticated and takes practice."

"Couldn't he just be psychic, or a witch?"

"Maybe, but if he is, it's a type of psychic power I've never seen, and a flavor of witchcraft that's never come near me before."

"You only got it from a distance, Anita," Micah said.


"If he did it to you in person, you might learn more."

"No, just no," I said.

"None of that matters right now," Nathaniel said. "Someone call about Denny not answering her phone or showing up for the ambulance."

"Wait--call Lucy or Rufous or Frankie and have them check at Denny's room," I said.

Nathaniel nodded. "Yeah, of course, why did we just assume something terrible had happened to her?" He started to dial his phone again.

"Because it's us," Micah said.

"I was thinking it, too," Nicky said.

Micah smiled at him. "You're part of us."

Nicky smiled back at him.

"Am I part of 'us,' too?" Bernardo asked.

"No," Micah said.

"Why not?"

Nathaniel was talking on the phone, so we all stopped to listen. "Lucy, it's Nathaniel. Have you seen Denny since you tried on the bridesmaid dresses?" Silence. "You haven't either. Could you go check her room? Yeah, I tried to call her, and it went to a full voice-mail box. Thanks, Lucy. Text me if she's there and phone if she's not." He hung up and we all waited. I was praying for a text.

"Come on, Callahan--why am I not 'us'?" Bernardo asked.

"You still think being tall, dark, and a ladies' man should get you ahead of the rest of us, for one thing," Micah said.

"Hey, until Anita, it was working pretty good for me."

"I'm not the only woman that's ever told you no."