Home > In Death #23 - Born in Death

In Death #23 - Born in Death
Author: J.D. Robb


J.D. Robb - In Death #23 - Born in Death

Born in Death (In Death #23)
J.D. Robb

mystery/romance/sf/thriller/fantasy

In_Death_23/index

 

1

THE WAYS AND MEANS OF FRIENDSHIP WERE murderous. In order to navigate its twisty maze, a friend could be called upon to perform inconvenient, irritating, or downright horrifying acts at any given time.

The worst, the very worst requirement of friendship, in Eve Dallas’s opinion, was sitting through an entire evening of childbirth classes.

What went on there—the sights, the sounds, the assault on all the senses—turned the blood cold.

She was a cop, a Homicide lieutenant with eleven years on the job protecting and defending the hard, merciless streets of New York. There was little she hadn’t seen, touched, smelled, or waded through. Because people, to her mind, would always and could always find more inventive and despicable ways to kill their fellow man, she knew just what torments could be inflicted on the human body.

But bloody and brutal murder was nothing compared to giving birth.

How all those women with their bodies enormous and weirdly deformed by the entity gestating inside them could be so cheerful, so freaking placid about what was happening—and going to happen—to them was beyond her scope.

But there was Mavis Freestone, her oldest friend, with her little pixie body engulfed by the bulge of belly, beaming like a mentally defective while images of live birth played out on the wall screen. And she wasn’t alone. The other women had more or less the same God-struck look on their faces.

Maybe pregnancy stopped certain signals from getting to the brain.

Personally, Eve felt a little bit sick. And when she glanced over at Roarke, the wince on his angel-kissed faced told her he was right there with her. That, at least, was a big red check in the Pro-Marriage column. You got to drag your spouse into your personal nightmares and into that twisty friendship maze right along with you.

Eve let the images blur. She’d rather study a crime scene recording—mass murder, mutilation, severed limbs—than look up some laboring woman’s crotch and watch a head pop out. Roarke had horror vids in his collection that were less gruesome. She could hear Mavis whispering to Leonardo, the entity’s expectant father, but blocked out the words.

When, dear God, when would it be over?

Some setup here, all right, she thought, trying to distract herself by evaluating the birthing center. The whole damn building was a kind of cathedral to conception, gestation, birth, and babies. She’d managed to duck Mavis’s attempt to give her a tour of the entire place by pleading work.

Sometimes a well-placed lie saved friendships, and sanity.

The educational wing was enough. She’d sat through a lecture, several demonstrations that would haunt her dreams for decades, been forced as part of Mavis’s coaching team to assist in a mock birth with the labor droid and squealing droid infant.

And now there was this hideous vid.

Don’t think about it, she warned herself, and went back to studying the room.

Pastel walls covered with pictures of babies or pregnant women in various stages of bliss. All filmy and rapturous. Lots of fresh flowers and thriving green plants arranged artistically. Comfy chairs, supposedly designed to aid the women in hauling their loaded bodies up. And three perky instructors who were available for questions, lectures, demos, and serving healthy refreshments.

Pregnant women, Eve noted, were constantly eating or peeing.

Double doors at the back, one exit in the front, left of the vid screen. Too bad she couldn’t make a run for it.

Eve let herself go into a kind of trance. She was a tall, lanky woman with a choppy cap of brown hair. Her face was angular, and paler than usual, with whiskey-brown eyes currently glazed. The jacket she wore over her weapon harness was deep green and, because her husband had bought it, cashmere.

She was thinking about going home and washing the memory of the last three hours away in a full liter of wine when Mavis grabbed her hand.

“Dallas, look! The baby’s coming!”

“Huh? What?” Those glazed eyes popped wide. “What? Now? Well, Jesus. Breathe, right?”

Laughter erupted around them as Eve lurched to her feet.

“Not this baby.” Giggling, Mavis stroked her basketball belly. “That baby.”

Instinct had Eve glancing in the direction Mavis pointed, and getting a wide-screen blast of the bellowing, wriggling, gunk-covered creature sliding out from between some poor woman’s legs.

“Oh, man. Oh, God.” She sat down, before her own legs went out from under her. No longer caring if it made her a sissy, she groped for Roarke’s hand. When he gripped it, she found it as clammy as her own.

People applauded, actually clapped and cheered when the wailing, slippery-looking form was laid on its mother’s deflated belly, and between her engorged br**sts.

“In the name of all that’s holy…” Eve muttered to Roarke. “It’s 2060, not 1760. Can’t they find a better way to handle this process?”

“Amen” was all Roarke said. Weakly.

“Isn’t it beautiful? It’s the ult, the extreme ult.” Mavis’s lashes—currently dyed sapphire blue, sparkled with tears. “It’s a little boy. Awww, look how sweet….”

Dimly she heard the lead instructor announce the end of the night’s coaching class—thank God—and invite people to stay for refreshments or questions.

“Air,” Roarke murmured into her ear. “I’m in desperate need of air.”

“It’s the pregnant women. I think they suck up all the oxygen. Think of something. Get us out of here. I can’t think. My brain won’t work right.”

“Stand with me.” He hooked a hand under her arm, pulled her up.

“Mavis, Eve and I want to take you and Leonardo out for a bite. We can do better than the offerings here.”

Eve could hear the strain in his voice, but imagined anyone who didn’t know him as well as she would only hear that easy, fluid stream of Irish.

There was a lot of chatter going on and women were making a bee-line for the food or the bathrooms. Rather than thinking about what was being said or done, Eve focused on Roarke’s face.

If it couldn’t distract a woman, she was too far gone to worry about it.

He might have been a little pale, but the white skin only intensified the wild blue of his eyes. His hair was a black silk frame around a face designed to raise a woman’s heart rate. And that mouth of his. Even in her current state it was tempting to just lean in a little and take a good bite of it.

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