Shaded Vision, p.1part #11 of Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon Series by Yasmine Galenorn / Fantasy
“I’m going to be sick! Move!” Iris shoved past me and ran to the bathroom. I could hear her retching and then, after a moment, the toilet flushed and the sound of water ran in the sink.
Grimacing, I decided she could manage on her own and busied myself by putting the finishing touches on my outfit. I wasn’t a fashion maven, and all I could think was, Please, oh please, let me be dressed up enough for tonight.
My jeans were new, for a change, with no rips, and dark black, and I was wearing a bright fuchsia tank top with a rhinestone kitty on the front. I’d traded my utilitarian brown leather belt for a white leather one with a silver buckle, and I’d grudgingly changed my shit-kicker boots for a pair of suede ankle boots with three-inch heels, which put me at an even six four.
My spiky hairdo was back to the golden shade it normally ran from the horrible calico mess that it had ended up, although I’d waffled and finally asked Iris to add in some chunky platinum highlights and a few thin black ones, and now I had tiger-striped spikes. The vining leaf tattoos on my arms had darkened some—with each passing week, they seemed to fill in a little more. Camille had helped me with my makeup, and I looked reasonably ready for clubbing, even though my typical evening was spent hanging around in front of the TV with Shade, curled up eating junk food and trading kisses. That is, when we weren’t out kicking demon ass.
I slipped into my black leather jacket and patiently sat on the edge of the bed, playing with one of my kitty toys. The squeaky mouse had become a favorite of mine and—even in human form—it made me grin. I shook it until it let out a string of loud squeaks.
Iris poked her head out of the bathroom.
“Will you stop that damn noise? You’ve been obsessed with that toy night and day for the past two weeks. If you don’t put it down, I’m going to toss it in the garbage. ”
“Not my squeaky mouse!” I quickly dropped it on the floor. I loved my squeaky mouse, and nobody was going to take it away from me.
Iris had fixed her makeup, and, with a look that told me she wasn’t at all sure about our plans for the evening, she edged out of the tiled room and shouldered a smile. “Do I look okay?”
Grumpy notwithstanding, I could tell she was anxious. About six weeks’ pregnant, even though she wasn’t showing yet; her hormones were playing her fast and furious—like Jimi Hendrix played his guitar. Add to that, tomorrow she was getting married, and our Talon-haltija sprite was as jumpy as a cat in a thunderstorm.
“You look beautiful,” I said.
Iris was radiant, for all she was going through. Her ankle-length hair shone like spun gold, and her skin was smooth and flawless—pregnancy agreed with her in that regard, at least. Her eyes were luminous, round, and blue as the early morning. And she still had her figure—she was curvy and buxom and, standing at three ten, she put me to shame in the girly department. But the feminine demeanor was deceptive—Iris could pack one hell of a punch, both magically and physically.
She stared at me for a moment. As she cautiously dashed at her tears, trying to keep from messing up her mascara, she gave me a blissful smile. “You’re so sweet. Can you braid my hair for me? I sure wish I had Smoky’s ability to order it to fix itself. ”
“I think a lot of people want a taste of Smoky’s talents. Among other attributes of his. ” I sat her down and divided her hair into three sections. “I know I’d love to come out looking peachy clean every time we fight a battle. ”
After I wove one section over the other and finished it off with an elastic-coated rubber band, Iris coiled it around her head in an intricate pattern, leaving the tail end of it hanging down to her midback like a tidy ponytail. We added a brilliant yellow bow. It reminded me a lot of Barbara Eden’s hairdo in I Dream of Jeannie.
“I wish you could, too. Then I wouldn’t have so much laundry to do. ”
She laughed and smoothed her skirt—a gorgeous cobalt blue number she’d paired with a pale gray button-down shirt and a pair of pumps that matched the color of her hair bow. The Finnish house sprite looked like a pretty secretary rather than the high priestess she was. Talon-haltijas were good at blending in. Even when they could whip your butt in a battle.
“You don’t think Menolly is upset about putting off her promise ceremony to Nerissa? They had decided on February second and now…they changed their plans because of me. ”
“Are you kidding? Both of them are fine about it. And it gives them more time to get ready. ” I knew that Iris felt she had upstaged them, but neither my sister nor her lover were upset in the least.
“As long as you’re certain I didn’t tread on their toes. ”
“I’m sure. Now, are you ready?” I stood, reaching for my purse.
She closed her eyes and pressed one hand against her stomach. “My stomach feels like it won’t ever be ready for anything again, but let’s get a move on. ” As we left my room, she glanced up at me. “By this time tomorrow, I’ll be Iris O’Shea. Bruce’s wife. What the hell am I doing?”
I laughed at her panicked expression. “You’re marrying the leprechaun you love, Iris. And you’re going to have his baby, so you might as well get used to it. Life’s changing. ” Cocking my head, I added, “So, you’re taking his last name?”
She nodded. “If Kuusi were my family name, I’d hyphenate. But…as much as I loved the Kuusis, they weren’t exactly family. I worked for them, I cared about them, but when it comes down to it, they were my employers. So I figure, since I’m starting over yet another time, so I might as well start with another new name. Only this time, someone I love is attached to it. You’re right. Life is changing. And I’m embracing it. ”
As we headed downstairs, I realized that was so true for all of us. Life was changing all around us. Some things for the better, some things not. And there was no way to stop the ride now that we’d all gotten on board.
The guys were sitting around the living room looking guilty. Not sure what they were up to, I gave them a sideways glance as we passed into the foyer and then the kitchen, where my two sisters—Camille and Menolly—were waiting with Menolly’s lover, Nerissa. A trail of wolf whistles followed, and Iris gave me a look and shook her head.
“They’ll be out like a light by the time we get home, want to make a bet?”
“I kind of hope so. ” I really didn’t want to think about what kind of trouble they could get up to without us here to supervise.
Menolly’s coppery cornrows shimmered under the lights, and she was dressed in blue—tight jeans and a denim jacket over a rust-colored turtleneck. Her boots were even made of denim, and they sported thin stiletto spikes, almost as high as Camille’s.
Camille, on the other hand, was fully decked out in her usual fetish noir. Chiffon skirt, with a green underbust long-line waist cincher with black boning and silver hooks and eyes, beneath which she wore a shiny black spaghetti-strap top that left nothing to the imagination with regard to her DD breasts. She balanced on a pair of sky-high stilettos that I couldn’t even imagine wearing and was carrying a sparkly black wrap.
Nerissa, who was munching on a bread stick she’d found in the cupboard, wore a flirty tiered powder pink skirt that barely covered her butt, and a glitzy tank top. Strong, lean, and muscled, she was an Amazon of a woman, a werepuma who wasn’t afraid to tackle life with my sister the vampire—and she was always ready to party.
Camille lit up as we entered the room. “You both look great. Sharah’s meeting us at the club. Come on, let’s get this show on the road and leave the house to the guys. Trillian told me they’ve got a fully stocked bar, but he didn’t say anything about a stripper…I’d be surprised if they don’t just end up playing games on that damned Xbox all evening. ”
Supes or not, some of our lovers and cohorts had developed an addiction to video games. It seemed odd to watch two grown demons battling it out over Super Mario or whatever was the latest Xbox rage, but they took it seriously.
“What about Maggie? Who’s looking after her?”
“Don’t you worry about our baby gargoyle. Hanna’s watching her. Maggie has really taken to her. ” Iris picked up her purse. “I’m ready. ”
“Then we’re ready. ” Camille arranged her shawl. “Bruce gave us the use of his limo and driver. Ladies, our chariot awaits. ”
“At least we aren’t headed out to get our butts kicked. ”
I peeked back in the living room at the guys. They looked innocent enough, but the amount of trouble an incubus, a demon, a leprechaun, a dragon, an FBH (full-blooded human), one of the dark Fae, and a half dragon, half shadow walker could get into boggled my mind. Without us to keep an eye on things, I fully expected to come home and find the house trashed.
Iris must have been reading my mind because as we clattered down the porch steps, she muttered, “Here’s praying Hanna can keep those men in line. ”
“Hanna’s a tough woman, but I don’t know if she’s that tough. ” Camille nodded to the limo. “Bruce’s driver is named Tony; tip him big tonight. Okay, let’s go, ladies. Iris, this is your last night as a free woman; we’re going to live it up. ”
“Just so long as my supper stays where it’s supposed to,” Iris countered.
As we maneuvered through the melting snow—spring was finally on the way and though it was still cold, most of the harsh winter snows were standing puddles of slush and mud now—Tony got out of the car to open the doors for us.
The limo was lush; roomy enough for six in the backseat. I pushed my worries away for the evening. Nothing would go wrong. It was the night before Valentine’s Day—and the night before Iris’s wedding. The gods had to be kind to us at least once, didn’t they?
The Demented Zombie lived up to all the hype except for its name. Though not a high-class club, the disco seriously rocked. Run by a Fae couple from Otherworld; the club was named it after a cocktail they served. I was determined to find out if the drink was as good as the rumors had it.
We slid through the crowd. “Do you think we’ll be able to find a table?” I looked at the crowd on the dance floor. Most of them were women, and I had a sudden suspicion Menolly and Nerissa had brought us to a lesbian bar. “Hey, this a gay bar? Not that it matters, but…”
“Not so much. And we’ve got reservations for the big table in back they keep for parties, so chill. ” Menolly shouldered her way ahead, and after a moment, we caught sight of the bar. She winked at the bartender, who looked like your average hunky guy, except I could tell he was Were. He motioned us over to the big table that had balloons surrounding it. Dangling ribbons. I stared at them for a moment. My Tabby self stirred, wanting to come out and play, but I forced the instincts back long enough to turn to Camille.
“Balloons—ribbons? You think such a good idea around me?”
She snorted. “Can’t you control yourself for one night? Sometimes I think you use the fact that you’re a werecat as an excuse for bad behavior. Now, be a good Kitten, Delilah, and don’t tear up the joint. ”
As we slid into the booth around the table, a familiar voice echoed through the crowd and Sharah hustled up, carrying a large pale silver box wrapped in a pink ribbon. Her blond hair caught back in a sleek ponytail, the elf looked very sixties. Waiflike in her go-go dress and white knee-high boots, she made retro work.
Sharah was Chase’s girlfriend, and Chase used to be my boyfriend, but we knew we couldn’t make it work so we broke up. Now we were good buddies. Sharah had slipped in to fill the void, and they seemed to be grooving together. Whatever the case, I knew enough to keep my nose out of it.
She handed me her present for Iris, and I put it with the others on a side table as the waitress came up to take our orders. We quickly went around the table. Iris couldn’t drink, of course, so she ordered a glass of orange juice. Camille ordered a rum and Coke, Nerissa asked for a mai tai, Sharah and I ordered Demented Zombies, and Menolly ordered a Bloody Vamp—which was actually just blood, but it sounded better with a cool name.
“Here—you have to wear this tonight. ” Camille pulled out a rhinestone tiara with a miniature veil attached and plunked it on top of Iris’s head.
“Only if you guys are wearing party hats, too. ” Iris shook her finger at us, at which Nerissa pulled out a pack of sparkling princess crowns. We all slid the cardboard hats on as Iris grinned and adjusted her tiara.
The music started—Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way”—and Menolly and Nerissa excused themselves to the dance floor. A stunning pair, their dancing got dirtier and they began to pull in looks from both sides of the fence. I stifled a snort—some of the women looked jealous, while others looked at them like they were the best thing since sliced bread. Not a gay bar, my ass. Most of the men around didn’t seem interested in anybody but each other.
A rather tall biker chick tapped Camille on the arm. “Dance?”
Camille blinked but then grinned and excused herself to work the floor as the music turned to “Weapon of Choice. ” After a few seconds, Biker Chick was looking mighty impressed; Camille had lost herself to the music and they went spinning around the floor, Biker Chick’s arm hooked around Camille’s waist.
“I’m glad to see her smile,” Iris whispered to me.
“Yeah, after Hyto’s attack, I wasn’t sure how she’d come through. ” I leaned down so Iris could hear me. The noise in the place was deafening.
“It will take her awhile to fully move on, but I think she’ll be okay, eventually. Her men help a lot, especially Smoky, though it can’t be easy for them since he looks so much like his father. ”