Bite (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8.5)(5)


by Laurell K. Hamilton

The office was done in an Oriental motif complete with framed fans around a framed kimono. The colors in all three ran high to reds and blues. A red lacquer screen had a black castle sitting atop a black mountain. The desk was carved wood that looked like ebony and probably was. He leaned against that desk, long legs out in front of him, ankles crossed, hands in his lap, his eyes watching me as I shut the door.

“Please, be seated, ma petite.” He motioned to a black and silver chair sitting in front of the desk.

“I’m fine where I am.” I leaned against the wall; my arms crossed under my breasts, which put my hand comfortably close to the gun under my arm. I wouldn’t really shoot Jean-Claude, but the gun being close made me feel better. It was like a small, lumpy security blanket. Besides, I never went anywhere after dark unarmed.

His smile was amused and condescending. “I do not think the wall will fall down if you cease to lean against it.”

“We need to figure out who the vamp is that’s been doing Amy Mackenzie.”

“You said you had pictures of the girl. May I see them?” The smile had faded round the edges, but his eyes still held that amusement, faint and condescending, which he used as a mask to hide things.

I sighed and reached into the pocket of my leather coat. I held the two pictures out toward him. He held his hand out for them but made no move to come to me.

“I won’t bite, ma petite.”

“Only because I won’t let you,” I said.

He gave that graceful shrug that meant everything and nothing. “True, but still I will not ravish you because you stand a few feet in front of me.”

He was right. I was being silly, but I could taste my pulse in my throat as I walked toward him, the new leather coat sighing around me, the way new leather always does. It was a replacement coat for one that a vampire had ripped off of me. I held the pictures out to him, and he had to lean forward to take them from me. I even sat down in the chair in front of the desk while he looked at them. We could be civilized about this. Of course we could. But I couldn’t stop looking at the way his bare shoulders gleamed against the scarlet cloth, the way the high collar made his hair a pure blackness almost as dark as mine. His lips looked redder than I remembered them, as if he were wearing a light lipstick, and I wouldn’t have put it past him. But he didn’t need makeup to be beautiful; he just simply was.

He spoke without looking up from the pictures. “I do not recognize her, but then she could come here occasionally and I would have no reason to.” He looked up meeting my eyes, catching me staring at his bare shoulders. The look in those eyes said he knew exactly what I’d been looking at. The look was enough to make me blush, and I hated that.

My voice came out angry, and I was pleased. Anger is better than embarrassment any day. “You said on the phone that you could help.”

He laid the pictures on his desk and clasped his hands back in his lap. The placement of his hands was utterly polite, but they also framed a certain area of anatomy, and the satin was very tight, and I could tell that other things were tight as well.

It made me blush again, and it made me angrier, just like old times. I’d have liked to be a smart alec and say something like, that looked uncomfortable, but I didn’t want to admit that I’d noticed, so out of options that were polite, I stood up and turned away.

“None of my vampires would dare bring over anyone without my permission,” he said.

That made me turn around. “What do you mean?”

“I have ordered a…how will you say…hiring freeze on, until that nasty bill in Washington is defeated.”

“Hiring freeze,” I said, “you mean none of your vamps can make more of you until Senator Brewster’s law goes down in flames?”

“Exactement.”

“So you’re sure that none of your vamps is doing this?” I said.

“They would not risk the punishment.”

“So you can’t help me. Damn it, Jean-Claude, you could have told me that over the phone.”

“I called Malcolm while you were en route,” he said.

Malcolm was the head of the Church of Eternal Life, the vampire church. It was the only church I’d ever been in that had no holy objects displayed whatsoever, even the stain glass was abstract art. “Because if it’s not one of your vamps, then it’s one of his,” I said.

“Oui.”

Truthfully, I had just assumed it was one of Jean-Claude’s vampires because the church was very strict on when you brought your human followers over to the dead side, and the church also checked backgrounds thoroughly. “The girl’s friend said she’d met the vampire at a club.”

“Can you not go to church and go to a club on the weekends?”

I nodded. “Okay, you’ve made your point. What did Malcolm say?”

“That he would contact all his followers and give strict orders that this vampire and the girl are to be found.”

“They’ll need the picture,” I said. My beeper went off, and I jumped. Shit. I checked the number and it was Ronnie’s cell phone.

“Can I use your phone?”

“Whatever I have is yours, ma petite.” He looked at the black phone sitting on the black desk and stood to one side so I could walk around the desk without him leaning over me. Considerate of him, which probably meant he was going to do something else even more irritating.

Ronnie answered on the first ring. “Anita?”

“It’s me, what’s up?”

She lowered her voice to a whisper. “Your detective friend convinced Barbara that if Amy got herself killed she’d be charged with conspiracy to commit murder.”

“I don’t think Zerbrowski could make that stick.”

“Barbara thinks he can.”

“What did she tell you?”

“The vampire’s name is Bill Stucker.” She spelled the last name for me.

“A vamp with a last name. He has to be really new,” I said. The only other vamp I’d ever met with a last name had been dead less than a month.

“Don’t know if he’s old or new, just his name.”

“She have an address for him?”

“No, and Zerbrowski pushed her pretty hard. She says she’s never been there and I believe her.”

“Okay, tell Zerbrowski thanks, I’ll see you Saturday at the gym.”

Kuragehime | alphacam | GELD SPAREN ALS STUDENT/IN // JustSayEleanor ♡