Bite (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8.5)(6)

by Laurell K. Hamilton

“Wouldn’t miss it,” she said.

“Oh, and thanks to you, too, Ronnie.”

“Always happy to save someone from the monsters, which reminds me, are you with you know who?”

“If you mean Jean-Claude, yes, I am.”

“Get out of there as soon as you can,” she said.

“You’re not my mother, Ronnie.”

“No, just your friend.”

“Good night, Ronnie.”

“Don’t stay,” she said.

I hung up. Ronnie was one of my very bestest friends, but her attitude toward Jean-Claude was beginning to get on my nerves, mainly because I agreed with her. I always hated being in the wrong.

“The name Bill Stucker mean anything to you?” I asked Jean-Claude.

“No, but I will call Malcolm and see if it means something to him.”

I handed him the phone receiver and stepped back out of the way, i.e., out of touching distance. His side of the conversation consisted mainly of giving the name and, saying, “Of course,” and “Yes.” He handed the phone to me. “Malcolm wishes to speak to you.”

I took the phone, and Jean-Claude actually moved away and gave me some room. “Ms. Blake, I am sorry for anything my church brethren may have done. He is in our computer with his address. I will have a deacon at his doorstep within minutes.”

“Give me the address and I’ll go down and check on the girl.”

“That will not be necessary. The church sister that is attending to this was a nurse before she came over.”

“I’m not sure what Amy Mackenzie needs is another vampire, no matter how well-meaning. Let me have the address.”

“And I don’t believe that my vampire needs the Executioner shooting down his door.”

“I can give the name to the police. They’ll find his address, and they’ll knock on his door, and they may not be as polite as I would be.”

“Now that last is hard to imagine.”

I think he was making fun of me. “Give me the address, Malcolm.” Anger was tightening across my shoulders, making me want to rotate my neck and try and clear it.

“Wait a moment.” He put me on hold.

I looked at Jean-Claude and let the anger into my voice. “He put me on hold.”

Jean-Claude had sat down in the chair that I’d vacated; he smiled, shrugged, trying to stay neutral. Probably wise of him. When I’m angry I have a tendency to spread it around, even over people who don’t deserve it. I’m trying to cut down on my bad habits, but some habits are easier to break than others. My temper was one of the hard ones.

“Ms. Blake, that was the emergency line. The girl is alive, but barely, they are rushing her to the hospital. We are not sure if she will make it. We will turn Bill over to the police if she dies, I give you my word on that.”

I had to take his word, because he was a centuries-old vampire and if you could ever get them to give their oath, they’d keep it.

“What hospital, so I can call her mom?”

He told me. I hung up and called Amy’s mother. One hysterical phone call later I got to hang up and now it was my turn to sit on the edge of the desk and look down at him.

My feet didn’t touch the ground and that made it hard to look graceful. But then I’d never tried to compete with Jean-Claude on gracefulness; some battles are made to be lost.

“There was a time, ma petite, that you would have insisted on riding to the rescue yourself, questioning the girl’s friend, and refusing to bring in the police at all.”

“If I thought threatening Barbara with violence or shooting her would have made her talk, I’d be perfect for the job. But I’m not going to shoot, or hurt, an eighteen-year-old girl who’s trying to help her best friend save her leg, if not her life. Zerbrowski could threaten her with the law, jail time, I can’t do that.”

“And you never threaten anything that you cannot, or will not do,” he said, softly.

“No, I don’t.”

We looked at each other. He at ease in the straight-backed chair, his ankle propped on the opposite knee, fingers steepled in front of his face so that what I mostly saw of him were those extraordinary eyes, huge, a blue so dark it treaded the edge of being black, but you never doubted his eyes were pure, unadulterated blue, like ocean water where it runs achingly deep and cold.

Ronnie was right, I should leave, but I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to stay. I wanted to run my hands over his shirt, to caress the naked surprise of those shoulders. And because I wanted it so badly, I hopped off the desk, and said, “Thanks for your help.”

“I am always willing to be of assistance, ma petite.”

I could have walked wide past his chair, but that would be insulting to both of us. I just had to walk by the chair and out the door. Simple. I was almost past the chair, almost behind him, when he spoke, “Would you have ever called me if you hadn’t needed to save some human?” His voice was as ordinary as it ever got. He wasn’t trying to use vampire tricks to make the words more than they were and that stopped me. An honest question was harder to turn my back on than a seductive trick.

I sighed and turned back to find him staring straight at me. Looking full into his face from less than two feet away made me have to catch my breath. “You know why I’m staying away.”

He twisted in the chair, putting one arm on the back of it, showing that flash of bare shoulder again. “I know that you find it difficult to control the powers of the vampire marks when we are together. It was something that should have bound us closer, not thrust us farther apart.” Again his voice was as carefully neutral as he could make it.

I shook my head. “I’ve got to go.”

He turned in the chair so that he leaned both arms on the back, his chin resting on his hands, his hair framing all that red cloth, that pale flesh, those drowning eyes. Less than two feet apart, almost close enough that if I reached a hand out I could have touched him. I swallowed so hard it almost hurt. I balled my hands into fists, because I could feel the memory of his skin against my hands. All I had to do was close that distance, but I knew if I did, that I wouldn’t be leaving, not for awhile anyway.

My voice came out breathy, “I should go.”

“So you said.”

I should have turned and walked out, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to do it. Didn’t want to do it. I wanted to stay. My body was tight with need; wet with it, just at the sight of him fully clothed, leaning on a chair. Damn it, why wasn’t I walking away? But I wasn’t reaching for him either; I got points for that. Sometimes you get points for just standing your ground.

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