“The laundry room’s in the basement.”

“Then you are on laundry duty.”

“Hey!” Claire poked at her, and Eve poked back. “So . . . the date?”

“We were thinking next Saturday. You busy?”

“I might be,” Claire said. She kept her poker face well enough that Eve looked momentarily crushed, and then she reached into her backpack to pull out another piece of paper, which she slid across to Eve.

Who unfolded it, read it, squealed in ranges that only dolphins could hear, and practically knocked Claire’s laptop off the table in her haste to hug her.

“Wait, am I late to the orgy?” Shane asked as he came through the kitchen doorway carrying two Cokes. “I didn’t get the Evite.

Man, I hate slow Internet.”

“Shut up,” Eve said. She wiped her eyes, carefully because of her extremely expert makeup, and hugged him, too, before he even had the chance to set down the glasses. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“Uh . . . did I mention slow Internet? Wait, what?”


Eve brandished the marriage license in his face, and he gave Claire a quick glance before he said, “Because you were all knee- deep in the paperwork swamp. It took us about an hour. I didn’t want to rub it in, because you get all blotchy when you angry- cry.”

“Idiot,” Eve said, and kissed his cheek. Then she kissed Claire’s.

“Now I’m all blotchy.”

“Can’t even tell,” he said, and finally set down the Cokes.

“What with all the layers of spackle on your face.”

“It’s nice to know that being on the verge of losing your free- dom hasn’t made you any less juvenile.”

“Excuse me, you’re dressing like a Living Dead Doll, and who exactly is—”

“Hey,” Claire said, and held out both hands to stop the come- backs. “I love you both.”

“Let the orgy begin,” Shane said. “Who brought tacos?”


“And he left them unattended? What a fool.” Shane grabbed two from the bag, along with a paper plate, and dumped them on it. “More for me.”

As he was taking his first bite, Michael came down the steps, guitar case in hand, and set his instrument down on his armchair before he said, without even looking, “Those better not be my ta- cos, bro.”

“They’re not yours anymore,” Shane mumbled around a mouthful. “Chill. You have a bagful.”

Michael gave Eve a quick kiss on his way to the table, sorted out tacos onto three more plates, and took his seat. “I heard squealing. What did I miss?”

“Matching licenses,” Eve said, and displayed them. When he reached for them, she smacked his hand. “Oh, no, you don’t. Your hands are greasy.”

“You’re actually going to marry this taco thief?” Michael said, and shook his head. “Disappointed.”

“Hey, man,” Shane protested. He took the hot sauce when Mi- chael reached for it, and then tossed it in his direction. Michael fielded it with almost as much grace as he’d had as a vampire. “So when’s the do- over?”

“Do- over?”

“What do you call it when you get second- time- fake- married?”

“Excuse me— that’s real married,” Eve said, smacking his hand when he tried to take another taco off her plate. He took it anyway.

“When’s yours?”

“Um . . .” He chewed, swallowed, and shrugged. “Actually, I was going to talk to you about that. About maybe . . .”

“Doing it together?”

“Are we back to the orgy talk? Because I’m—”

“God, be serious a second,” Eve said, and rolled her eyes.


“I’d love it if we could have our weddings together,” she said.

“If you’re okay with it.”

“As long as Shane gives me the taco he just straight up snaked off my plate.”

Shane solemnly put it back. They all looked at each other, and then Michael took Eve’s hand, and then Shane’s, and Shane took Claire’s, and Claire took Eve’s . . .

. . . and it was a little like a prayer, and a little like a hug, and a lot like home.

“So,” Shane said after the silence went on just a beat too long.

“Tacos, or orgy?”

“Tacos,” the rest of them said, all together.

“I knew you were going to say that.”

Somehow Claire hadn’t expected to be quite so scared.

She’d faced down humans, vampires, and draug. She’d regu- larly done things that most people would go a lifetime without ever having to deal with even once. And yes, she’d been scared, even terrified from time to time. . . .

But not like this.

“Breathe,” Eve advised her, and tugged slightly at her dress. It felt heavy and close around her, and in the warm air of the church’s dressing room, Claire was afraid she might pass out if she tried to move. The person in the mirror was someone else entirely— someone dressed in a long white gown of satin, with a high- waisted beaded bodice that managed to make her look tall and regal and still gave her curves. A long fall of sheer fabric cascaded from the back, almost touching the floor. Along with the fancy necklace and sparkly bracelet (both lent from Amelie’s no doubt vast collec- tion), and with her hair worn up and fixed with glittering pins, she felt like a princess.

She felt like a woman, and somehow she’d never thought of herself that way before. She’d never stopped being a girl, had she? Well, she had, but gradually, so gradually that she hadn’t even no- ticed.

Her mother was sitting in the corner of the room, and now she came forward to put her arms around Claire and rock her slowly, side to side. “You look amazing, honey,” she said. “I could not be happier for you.”

“Really?” Claire turned to look at her, trying to remember not to cry. Eve had been very strict about that rule, because of the makeup.

“I didn’t think you totally approved of Shane. You or Dad.”

“He’s . . . changed,” her mother said. “And you love him. And I think your dad’s smart enough to know that you’re the second most stubborn person in the world, and he’d be wise not to cross you.”

“Only the second?”

“Well, you did get it from me. Someday, when you’re older, I’ll tell you all about how I convinced your father to marry me,” her mom said. She picked up the bouquet from the table— red roses wrapped with white ribbons. Eve’s bouquet, of white roses wrapped with red ribbons, beautifully complemented her totally nontradi- tional red dress. Of course it looked awesome on her and even showed off her tattoos well. “If you’re ready, dear, I just heard the knock on the door.”

“Mom—” Claire didn’t know what to say, or what to do, so she just lunged forward and hugged her mother. Hard. Tears pricked at her eyes, but she forced them away. Because, mascara. “I love you.”

“Love you, too, sweetie,” her mother said, and kissed her cheek, then rubbed the lipstick away in an absent gesture so familiar it melted Claire’s heart. “I’m so proud of you. Always.”

She opened the door, and Claire almost couldn’t take the step, except that her dad was standing right there, looking tall and trim and— for the first time in a long time— healthy, despite his heart condition. Maybe it was the suit he was wearing, or just the plea- sure of the day, but she’d take it— she’d take every day she had with her parents gladly.

Her dad gave her the biggest, most amazing smile she’d ever seen, and then offered her his arm.

It wasn’t so much like walking as gliding through a dream . . .

Eve was walking ahead of her, vivid in her dramatic red dress with its train. And she had a vampire giving her away, remarkably enough: Oliver. He was wearing some extremely old- fashioned tuxedo thing with a gold sash over it, and he looked feral and handsome and slightly bored, but when he left her at the altar next to Michael, he kissed her hand, and that looked honestly nice. He took his place to the side, next to Amelie. Out of deference to the brides, she’d forgone the white suit she normally wore and instead had chosen a tailored teal blue that still looked like it cost more than the jewels heavy around Claire’s neck.

The church was packed with people. Regular humans and vampires. And one hundred percent Morganville.

She hardly felt the steps down the aisle, though she did feel the weight of all the eyes on her as she walked. It was over in what seemed far too little time, and then her dad handed her off to Shane, and her heart almost stopped as his eyes met hers.

She hadn’t seen Shane all morning, and sometime since she’d seen him last, he’d gotten his hair cut— not short, but shorter. It suited him, brought out the strong lines of his face and made him look fierce and amazing. He’d never, ever looked so good, she thought; he probably hated the tuxedo, but he utterly rocked it, even down to the ruby pin in the lapel.

Then he winked at her, and she knew that he was still Shane, and the tension in her eased. She had to fight the sudden, dizzying urge to giggle.

The service passed in a blur of words she wasn’t sure she got out right, and then the cool touch of the ring sliding onto her finger, and then the warm pressure of Shane’s lips on hers, and the sudden dizzy rush as he bent her backward, because, of course, and the laughter from the audience.

She didn’t completely get her breath or her sanity back until they were in the reception hall, and Myrnin, resplendent in an ut- terly (for a change) appropriate suit and tie, pressed a cup of punch into her hands and said, “Nonalcoholic. Also not containing actual blood. You seem to need it.”

“Oh,” she said, and looked down blankly at the red liquid. She sipped; he was right. It was just fruit juice with a sizzle kick of ginger ale. “Thank you.”

“You’re most welcome,” he said, and leaned against the wall be- side her. “So. Happy?” He crossed his arms, staring out at the people milling about the buffet and taking seats at round tables. “Truly?”

Most Popular