Bite (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8.5)(4)


by Laurell K. Hamilton

She took his arm, obviously trying to persuade him to have another dance. He shook his head, kissed her cheek and managed to extract himself, leaving her smiling. But as she watched him walk toward me, the look was not friendly. There was something familiar about her, as if I should have known her, but I was almost certain I didn’t know her. It took me a second or two to realize she was an actress, and if I ever went to movies I would have known her name. A photographer knelt in front of her, and she instantly went from unpleasant to a perfect smile, posing, choosing another partner. A second photographer followed after Jean-Claude, not taking pictures, but alert for a photo opportunity. Shit.

I had two choices. I could either stand there and let him take pictures of Jean-Claude and myself, or I could flee to the back office and privacy. I wasn’t news, but Jean-Claude was the vampire cover boy. The press had been amused that the woman the other vamps called the Executioner, because she had more vamp kills than any other vampire hunter in the country, had been dating the Master of the City. Even I could admit it was nicely ironic, but being followed around by paparazzi had gotten old very fast. Especially when they tried to take pictures of me while I was working on preternatural murders for the police. For the American media if you stood next to the gruesome remains they wouldn’t air the pictures, or print them, but European papers would. Some of the European media makes American media look downright polite.

When I stopped dating Jean-Claude, they drifted away. I was not nearly as photogenic, or as friendly. I didn’t have to worry about winning the press over; there wasn’t a bill in Washington that was trying to get me killed. The vamps needed the good press, and Jean-Claude was tagged as the one to get it for them.

I decided not to watch Jean-Claude walk toward me because I’d seen what my face looked like when I did—in color on the front of the tabloids. I’d looked like some small prey animal, watching the tiger stalk toward it; that explained the fear, but the fearful fascination, the open…lust, that had been harder to see in print. So I kept my eyes on the circling photographer and tried not to watch Jean-Claude glide toward me, as I leaned against the far wall, right next to the door that would lead into the hallway that led to his office.

I could have fled and avoided the press, but it would have meant I would be alone with Jean-Claude, and I didn’t want that. All right, truth, I did want that, and that was the problem. It wasn’t Jean-Claude I didn’t trust, it was me.

I’d been concentrating so hard on not watching him come toward me that it was almost a surprise when I realized I was staring into the red satin of his shirt. I looked up to meet his eyes. Most people couldn’t meet the gaze of a vampire, let alone a master one, but I could. I was a necromancer and that gave me partial immunity to vampire powers, and I was Jean-Claude’s human servant whether I wanted to be, or whether I didn’t, and that gave me even more immunity. I wasn’t vampire-proof by any means, but I was shut up pretty tight to most of their tricks.

It wasn’t vampire powers that made it hard to meet those midnight blue eyes. No, nothing that…simple.

He said something, and I couldn’t hear him over the beat of the music. I shook my head, and he stepped closer, close enough that the red of his shirt filled my vision, but it was better than meeting that swimming blue gaze. He leaned over me, and I felt him like a line of heat, close enough to kiss, close enough for so many things. I was already flat against the wall; there was nowhere else to go.

He had to lean his mouth next to my face, a fall of his long hair moving against my mouth, as he said, “Ma petite, it has been too long.” His voice, even over the noise, caressed down my skin as if he’d touched me. He could do things with his voice that most men couldn’t do with their hands.

I could smell his cologne, spicy, exotic, a hint of musk. I could almost taste his skin on my tongue. It took me two tries to say, “Not nearly long enough.”

He laid his cheek against my hair, very lightly, “You are happy to see me, ma petite, I can feel your heart trembling.”

“I’m here on business,” I said, but my voice was breathy. I was usually better than this around him, but three months of celibacy, three months of nothing, and being around him was worse. Damn it, why did it have to be worse?

“Of course, you are.”

I’d had enough. I put a hand on that satin-covered chest and pushed. Vampires can bench-press small trucks, so he didn’t have to let me shove him, but he did. He gave me some room, then his mouth moved, as if he were saying something, but I couldn’t hear him over the music and crowd noise.

I shook my head and sighed. We were going to have to go back into the office so I could hear him. Being alone with him was not the best idea, but I wanted to find Amy Mackenzie and the vampire she was going to get executed. I opened the door without looking at him. The photographer took pictures as we went through the door. He had to have been taking pictures when Jean-Claude had me practically pinned to the wall, I just hadn’t noticed.

Jean-Claude shut the door behind us. The hallway was white with harsher lighting than anywhere else in the club. He’d told me once that he had made the hallway plain, ordinary so if a customer opened the door they’d know instantly that it wasn’t part of the entertainment.

A group of waiters, vampires all, came out of the left hand door, wearing vinyl short-shorts and no shirts. They’d spilled out of the door in a cloud of excited talk; it stopped abruptly when they saw us. One of them started to say something, and Jean-Claude said, “Go.”

They fled out the door without a backward glance, almost as if they were scared. I’d have liked to think it was Jean-Claude that they were afraid of, but I was the Executioner, their version of the electric chair, so it might have been me.

“Shall we retire to my office, ma petite?”

I sighed, and in the silence of the hallway with the music only a distant thrum, my sigh sounded loud. “Sure.”

He led the way down the hallway, gliding ahead of me. The pants were black satin and looked as if they’d been sewn on his body, tight as a second skin. A pair of black boots graced his legs. The boots laced up the back from ankle to upper thigh. I’d seen the boots before; they were really nice boots. Nice enough that I watched the way his legs moved in them rather than the way the satin fit across his butt. Very nice boots, indeed.

He started to hold the door for me, then smiled, almost laughed, and just walked through. It had taken me awhile to break him of opening doors for me, but I’d finally managed to teach a very old dog a new trick.

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