[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.As for me, I protect it.Which explained why Eddie was still living in our guest bedroom even though he and Stuart hadn't exactly become bosom buddies, and even though he'd been promising for months to find a nearby apartment.It was a concession on Stuart's part that I appreciated and about which I felt no guilt.I'd made a lot of adjustments to accommodate his run for office.I figured the least he could do was open up the house to a long-lost relative, albeit a fabricated one."Come on, girl," he said, giving me a tap on the shoulder."Time to get a move on.""I haven't missed—?"He shook his head."Not yet.But you need to light a fire.As soon as that principal quits blathering on about all this hoo-ha, they're going to announce the awards.You won't hear the end of it if you miss it.""Not going to happen," I said, any lingering thoughts of following David Long vanishing in a puff of maternal pride.Still, I took a quick peek backwards as we hustled down the hall in the direction of the gym.All quiet.Not a hint of the man.I told myself that it was pointless to worry.After all, if hell broke loose, I'd surely notice.Principal George was still speaking when we arrived, which had the unexpected benefit of giving me an excuse to completely ignore Marissa, who was gesturing like crazy for me to join her and her Coastal Mist charges.I pretended confusion, pointed to Allie, and then started to climb my way over students and parents.Laura was already there, and Timmy clamored from her lap to mine.As Principal George continued on through the hoo-ha, I kept checking the door, expecting David to enter.When he didn't, I started conjuring up scenarios where he'd found the body, called the police, and dozens of siren-spewing cop cars were now descending on the school, ready to cart me away in cuffs and an orange prison jumper.Laura passed me my keys."You're limping.""So I've been told.""Everything okay?""For now," I said."I'll fill you in later."She nodded, and I shoved thoughts of prison and demon carcasses out of my head, then took another look around the gym, this time searching for Stuart.Nothing.I mouthed his name to Laura, but she just shrugged.Laura's husband, I noticed, was also absent.That, however, was to be expected.Paul is the CEO of a thriving fast-food enterprise, and spends a lot of time lately working out of his Los Angeles office.Considering Laura had recently begun to suspect that Paul's having an affair, I think she questions how much work goes on in Los Angeles.But she hasn't confronted the lying, cheating bastard yet.Stuart, at least, was not a cheating bastard.Which meant he had no excuse for not attending Family Day.Which meant that I was pissed off.Particularly since he'd gone to such great lengths to assure me that he'd be there.I didn't have long to revel in my righteous indignation, however, because Mrs.George had moved on to the various awards and other achievements that the school had racked up so far during the school year."And the semester's not even finished!" she enthused as we all dutifully applauded.There were a few athletic awards, some academic accomplishments, and then she introduced Stella Atkins, the Life & Arts editor of the San Diablo Herald.And then Stella introduced my daughter.I squeezed Allie's hand, then choked back tears as she picked her way down the bleachers to Stella's side.She clutched the plaque, and I saw her eyes scan the crowd, focusing particularly on both sets of doors.I knew what she was thinking—her essay had been on Christmas and family.The loss of one dad and the joy of finding another.Not a replacement, but an addition.And a grandfather, too, to smooth out the rough edges.I was there.Eddie was there.But Stuart was nowhere to be found.I tapped Laura, then mouthed the word phone.She passed me her cell phone and I dialed Stuart's number, praying he was just outside the gymnasium doors.Voice mail.I snapped the phone shut, anger and disappointment settling over me like a thick blanket.I sincerely hoped my husband wasn't expecting a hot dinner tonight.Because the only thing he'd be getting from me was ice cold.I might have been seething, but Allie held it together despite the ache I knew she had to feel in her heart.She gave a wonderfully smooth acceptance speech in a voice that didn't even shake once, and in that moment, I think I was more proud of her than I'd ever been.I'd expected the little pang in my heart back when she took her first steps.When she toddled off to kindergarten.When she learned to ride a bike.Those are the moments they tell you about in all those What to Expect books.But these moments—the ones that sneak up on you, where your kid really rises to the occasion and you can't help but think that you did good and your baby's going to be all right—well, those are the moments that really get me in the gut.As angry as I was that Stuart wasn't there, I also felt a little bit numb.Because it wasn't really Stuart that I wanted beside me that day.It was Eric.And as I listened to my daughter read her wonderful essay to the crowd, I had to fight the tears that threatened to overflow and spill down my cheeks.Grief is a funny thing.Had I lost Eric back when we were both hunting, I think it might have been easier to handle.Death was part of the scenery back then.It was normal, expected.But Eric and I had hung up our demon-hunting hats.We'd retired from the Forza Scura and moved first to Los Angeles and then to San Diablo, one of the most demon-free towns in the country.Or, at least, it had been back then.We'd had our baby girl, and we'd ensconced ourselves in the trappings of suburbia.We'd been happy.We had our normal life, our normal family, our normal town.Our problems centered around bills and car repairs and leaky plumbing.The most demonic creature we encountered was the principal at Allie's kindergarten.No longer were our evenings spent performing weapons checks, researching Grimoires, or brushing up on combat medicine.Instead, after we put Allie to bed, we'd snuggle on the couch and watch all the movies we'd missed during our oh-so unusual childhoods.There'd been a time when I could have staunched a stab wound with my fingers or cauterized an artery by flash-burning gunpowder.But once Eric and I settled down, those skills deteriorated, and I'd been thankful.We spent ten wonderful years smoothing our rough edges and learning to be—and to feel—normal.We were happy and secure in the little fairy-tale world we'd built.But it had to be a fairy tale, because we knew the truth.There are giants and witches in the forest, and if you aren't careful, they'll slap you into an oven faster than you can say "boo [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]