That was a mistake, because the bulldozer guy had evidently paused to pick up Claire’s fallen baton, which he whipped out to its full length and smacked into Shane’s leg. Shane yelled and went down to his other knee, and his grab for the man’s foot failed to slow the guy down.

Claire ran up the steps to the house. The door opened ahead of her, because Miranda had been waiting, and the instant Claire was clear, the door tried to slam shut.

The tip of the riot baton got in the way, and the front door sprang back open, banging hard into the hallway wall.

The construction guy stepped into the Glass House, flexed his wrist, and lifted the baton as he bared his teeth at Claire and Mi- randa.

That was when all hell broke loose.

Miranda must have had some warning, because she grabbed Claire and pulled her down to the hardwood floor an instant be- fore the battered little table they used as a backpack/purse/key depository lifted up off the floor and smashed hard into the in- truder’s chest. He yelled in surprise, but it didn’t do much damage; he grabbed it and flung it off to the side, into the parlor, then came after the two of them with murder in his eyes.

Claire felt the equally furious surge of energy rising up— out of the floor beneath her, swirling in from the walls, down from the ceiling, a thick but invisible cloud of power that raised goose bumps and tingles all over her body.

And then the coffee table from the parlor upended itself and body- slammed him into the wall, hard enough to leave cracks in the plaster. He dropped the baton and staggered.

An old, weirdly shaped vase in a particularly unpleasant shade of brown flew off a shelf and smashed into bits against his head.

And then he was down, sagging down the wall. Groaning.


The house seemed satisfied with that— Claire felt the surge of triumph and knew it hadn’t come from her or Miranda. She scram- bled up, moved the coffee table out of the way (it was heavier than she remembered), and kicked the sharp pieces of the vase aside as she picked up the riot baton.

The construction worker looked up at her woozily through bloodshot eyes. She stuck the bulldozer keys in her pants pocket and said, “Are you okay?”

He mumbled something that sounded rude, so she just as- sumed he was, and looked outside. Jenna’s car was screeching to a crooked halt at the curb ahead of their police cruiser; she must have sensed the house’s distress, or Miranda’s. The fight on the lawn was still going, but it was just about over, and as Jenna got out of her car and strode over to help Shane to his feet, the remaining construction worker raised his hands to signal surrender.

“Okay, okay,” he yelled, as Michael and Eve paused, fists raised.

“Enough already. They don’t pay us enough for this!”

“Surprise,” Jenna said crisply. “They aren’t paying you at all for this. If you think the Daylight Foundation is writing you a check, you’re in for a surprise. They just shut their doors for good.”

He must have been the foreman, Claire thought, because he just looked disgusted. “Well, crap,” he said. “I ain’t paying for that broken fence, lady. I had my orders.”

“Let’s call it even,” Eve said. “I never did like that fence, any- way. What do you think, Michael? Something Gothic, like wrought iron? With spikes?”

“Spikes are good,” he said, and grabbed her to look her over.

He ran a thumb over her chin. “You’re going to have a bruise.”

“Jeez, I hope so. Didn’t do my part if I don’t.”

He kissed her, looped an arm around her shoulders, and walked her toward the house.

Shane was limping, but when he got to the door with Jenna, he gave Claire a reassuring grin. “It’s a bruise; I’ll shake it off,” he said. “You might have to kiss it better later.”

She rolled her eyes. “Dream on,” she said, but she reached up to push back the sweaty, thick hair from his face. “Look at that. Still handsome.”

“Damn straight.” Shane nudged the bulldozer guy with his foot. “Hey. Want to get the hell out of our house, fool? Don’t make me tell you that you’re not welcome. Bad things happen.”

No kidding, Claire thought. The house was practically vibrating, it was so upset. She shook her head, helped the guy up (seemed like the least she could do, really), and pushed him out the door into his foreman’s arms. “I think you’d better call it a day,” she told him.

He nodded. “You got it, kid. It’s beer o’clock.”

Claire dug the keys out of her pocket and tossed them to him.

“Then get that thing off our lawn.” She hesitated, holding his stare. “You understand that if you even think about putting it in gear the wrong direction . . .”

“Oh, I get it,” he said. “Trust me. Far as I’m concerned, this damn house can stay standing until the whole town falls down around it.”

That seemed like an acceptable way to look at it, but Claire checked her friends to be sure. Miranda nodded gravely, and hugged Jenna tight. Michael raised his eyebrows at Eve, who polled Shane, and then spoke for all of them when she said, “Sounds good. Oh, and I’d get your friends checked out at the hospital just in case.”

“Them? What about me?” He rubbed his jaw. “You kick like a mule, Mrs. Glass.”

He retreated with his two weaving, staggering buddies.

Eve smiled and relaxed against Michael, who wrapped his arms around her. “We’re home. I like the sound of that,” she said, and looked up at him. “Wait, weren’t we talking about a wedding be- fore all this?”

“We were,” he said. “Let’s go discuss it. In private.” He grabbed Eve’s hand and towed her off down the hall. Eve waved back toward the rest of them, and all the Goth makeup in the world couldn’t have concealed the blush in her cheeks.

“We should go,” Miranda said to Jenna, in a very businesslike tone. “Because they get weird about me being here when they’re, you know.”

“I’ve been thinking that maybe we should make you a bed- room at my house,” Jenna said. “I’ve got a spare room. You’ll have to visit here to keep your connection, but you’re welcome anytime.”

Miranda’s eyes widened, and she looked so bright and hopeful that it almost hurt Claire to look at her. After all the kid’s misery, maybe things were starting to finally, finally look up. “Yeah, that sounds okay,” she finally said, and managed to make it sound teen-indifferent, even though she definitely wasn’t. “Can I bring my posters?”

“Of course. I love posters.” Jenna smiled at her with genuine warmth and walked her toward the door. “You going to be okay until we get home? Not feeling too weak?”

“No,” Miranda’s voice drifted back, as they picked their way across the destroyed lawn. “The house is happy. I feel strong.”

Shane put his arms around Claire from behind, and kissed her in a place just behind her ear, a place he knew made her shiver.

“Hmmm, so there’s going to be a wedding. What do you think?”

he asked her.

“You mean Michael and Eve’s wedding?”

“Yes. And no.”

She turned in his arms and looked up into his eyes. Felt as if she was falling, and falling, and falling, but it wasn’t frightening, not at all. It transformed into a feeling of flying. Of freedom. Of possibilities.

She took a deep breath and said, “Yes.”

None of it happened instantly. Couldn’t, because even though Fal- lon had been taken into custody and the vampires released from the prison, there were . . . issues. Of course. Morganville was never without them.

“I frigging hate politicians,” Eve sighed as she dumped her cof- fin purse on the kitchen table and dropped into a chair next to Claire, who was surfing the Web on her laptop.

“How was the mayor?”

Eve gave her a look. Then an eye roll. “Mayor Ramos is resigning. She says she can’t serve in a council with vampires. Guess we should have seen that coming, right? I waited for two hours for her to show up, and then she told me she couldn’t help straighten out the mess with our marriage license. I mean, how hard can it be to get married, involuntarily divorced, and remarried? Don’t they want me to be happy? Don’t answer that.”

Claire didn’t. The old, bitter lines of Morganville would never completely go away; with the vampires back, if not back in charge exactly, some people blamed Eve (and the rest of them) for screw- ing things up just when they were going right. If by right they meant horribly wrong, then Claire supposed they were correct. She found that she didn’t mind being thought of as a villain quite so much, after the fact, because the people who were blaming her for the generally crap state of their lives had a lot to answer for in general.

“So, no date yet?”

For answer, Eve slapped a piece of paper down in front of her, onto the keyboard. Claire looked up, then down at the document.

It looked official, all right. “I didn’t say that,” Eve said, and smiled in slow delight. “I got an Amelie- class override. Plus, Ramos is cleaning out her desk, and the incoming mayor said he’d stamp it the second he took over the office.”

“Charlie Kentworth? Really?” There had been a very hasty two- day campaign and election for the suddenly open mayoral chair, and Officer Kentworth had been the fairly obvious choice.

Especially since his sole opponent, recycling her campaign materi- als from her last failed attempt, had been Monica Morrell. She’d gathered about five percent of the vote, mainly from the irony de- mographic, but she was still determined to find something to be in charge of. She’d talked about buying the old Daylight Foundation building— locked up tight now— and making it into a dog board- ing facility. Shane had found that weirdly, hilariously appropriate.

“He’s a pretty decent guy when he’s not finding dead bodies in your house,” Eve said. “Speaking of that, I’m not going into the basement anymore.”

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