Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 25

"I think we can manage that," I said, half laughing.

"I'll do my best to make sure the sex is great when we wake up," Micah said.

"Then let's go to bed," Nathaniel said, grinning at both of us.

And for once, the three of us stripped off our clothes, crawled into the big bed in Jean-Claude's room, and just slept. We were waiting for him when he finished his meeting, just before dawn. He stripped off his clothes and crawled into bed next to Micah with a murmured, "So warm." He had time to fall asleep with us in a tangle of arms and legs and spooning bodies before the sun rose aboveground and he died for the day.

15

MICAH AND I talked to Jean-Claude about the security hiring issues before we had to fly out on Friday for Edward and Donna's wedding. A phone call for another treaty-dispute issue between animal groups out west came up as we were packing. Normally, Micah would have blown off the wedding to take care of it, but he sent Jake and Kaazim in the private jet. They'd both been with him on the last trip to deal with the same two groups, so they knew the situation as well as he did. That meant that we suddenly had to find tickets on commercial airlines to Key West. Having to do last-minute ticket shopping helped us make the decision to limit the number of bodyguards we were bringing with us. On one hand we were all feeling a little suffocated about having so many bodyguards around; on the other hand, we'd had a ton of bodyguards in Ireland and still almost come to grief. Choices, choices.

Nicky and Bram were givens, but after that it got trickier. Jake and Kaazim would have been our next top picks, but they were handling Coalition business so Micah could enjoy the trip. Jean-Claude insisted if we were taking so few guards that two of them be Harlequin. I couldn't argue, but then Micah insisted that none of the extra guards be ones we were sleeping with since this was supposed to be a couple trip for the three of us. That was fair, but one or more of us was sleeping with the rest of the Harlequin we trusted. Yeah, yeah, we've got to stop sleeping with our employees or we're going to need an HR person. Because I couldn't come up with a better idea, Rodina and Ru were in coach behind us.

They'd shown up in oversize black T-shirts with young-angry-person slogans, baggy khaki shorts, and combat boots. The 5.11 boots were the only thing that was part of their normal clothes--well, and the black eyeliner. It didn't look very bodyguard professional, but honestly what bothered me most was that I was wearing almost the same outfit, except I was wearing a plain black tank top over blue jean shorts with a black boyfriend-style black shirt over the tank. I was even wearing my own 5.11 boots, the pair with side zippers, perfect for going through the airport. If I'd seen their clothes first, I might have changed, or made them change. I was supposed to be the boss, after all.

I hadn't chosen my clothes just for comfort; I'd chosen them because I knew they'd help hide the gun at my waist. I had the sky-marshal training, so I was allowed to carry on the plane, but a lot of people get nervous around guns, and the last thing I needed was some Good Samaritan thinking I was going to hijack the plane while Nicky and Bram were only a few seats away. The poor Samaritan wouldn't know what hit him. So, in the interest of everyone's safety, I chose clothes that would keep the gun our little secret.

Bram was the only one of us in jeans with a white tank top tucked into them, and a black shirt unbuttoned like a jacket over the first shirt. He was wearing black 5.11 boots just like the three of us. Nicky had a black tank top with a large Hawaiian shirt in a bright pattern unbuttoned over it. The bold pattern would hide his gun, as would Bram's black shirt--once we landed and they could get their weapons out of the checked luggage. Nicky's thighs wouldn't fit in most shorts, so he was wearing jean cutoffs that he'd sort of made himself. He'd gone for black slip-on Vans instead of combat boots.

I'd known the wedding was in Florida. I'd known that the closest airport was in Key West. What I hadn't realized was that the airport isn't big enough for really large airplanes, so it was two seats on one side, a single seat on the other side of the aisle, and a round metal tube that was far too small for my claustrophobia. I wasn't the only one I knew with a fear of flying, aviophobia, but I was the only one I knew with the combination of phobias. I'd thought I was getting better at flying because of how well I'd taken the flights to New Mexico and back, but this trip was teaching me that though my fear of flying might be easing through a sort of immersion therapy from all the business flights, the claustrophobia hadn't really improved much. I'd loved small spaces until I'd had a diving accident that involved a cave underwater, in the dark. That had been the start of it, but I'd also woken up in a couple of coffins when vampires captured me and decided to save me as a snack for later. Waking up in the pitch black with a dead body beside you that you know in a few hours will come to "life" and feed on you . . . I'd earned my claustrophobia.

I sat in the small airplane thinking this was so much better than being trapped in a dark coffin with a vampire. It was, it really was, and this plane was fully functional, not like the one that had nearly crashed with me on it a decade earlier that had given me my fear of flying. I'd been in a helicopter that crash-landed more recently, but it hadn't made the phobia worse. It just hadn't made it any better.

I sat beside the window because that helped ease the claustrophobia. If only looking out and seeing clouds and the ocean so far below didn't make the aviophobia worse. I closed my eyes and tightened my death grip on the arm of my seat. I tried not to grip Micah's thigh quite as tight as the chair arm. I'd been holding his hand, but he'd lost feeling in his fingers, so he'd moved my hand to his jeans and the thigh underneath. On one flight I'd actually bled him through a pair of jeans, so I was really trying to monitor my grip. He shouldn't have to bleed because I was a great big baby on planes.

The plane shook and then hit some bumpy air, like a car hitting a rough spot in the road. With my eyes closed, my stomach rolled from the movement, so I had to open my eyes. I'd never thrown up on an airplane and I didn't want to break that streak.

"Anita, honey, it's okay," Micah said.

I turned and looked at him. Sunlight from behind me spilled across his face, making the pupils of his eyes spiral down to a pinpoint so that the green and gold of his irises filled his eyes. They were framed by his new glasses. We'd finally persuaded him to get colored frames. They were a mix of brown and green tortoiseshell that made the green in his leopard eyes more prominent than the yellow, but maybe that was partly the forest green T-shirt he was wearing and the tan. As a human he'd had perfect eyesight, but cats, even leopards, are nearsighted, and now so was Micah. I was actually feeling better, just gazing at him, when the plane shuddered again. It sort of slid sideways as if there were ice on some invisible celestial highway. I suddenly didn't feel well again.

"It's okay, Anita. It's just a little bit of turbulence."

"Easy for you

to say." It sounded grumpy even to me, and I didn't want to be grumpy at him. A few nights sleeping home in St. Louis with us had helped chase away the dark mood he'd been in about the Florida case. Some really great sex as a threesome had helped, too. I didn't want to rain on his brighter outlook because I was being cranky.

His smile widened, as if I hadn't just grumped at him. "You know how I feel about your fear of flying."

I frowned at him because I couldn't help it. "You sort of like that I'm afraid of it."

"I don't like that you're afraid, but that I can be brave for you is kind of nice."

"We could talk about work; that usually distracts me."

Nathaniel leaned across the aisle from the one seat on that side and said, "I like that you're both big and brave for me, but no work talk. You promised." He smiled and offered a hand to Micah, who took it, and between them they had enough reach to be able to hold hands across the aisle. I'd have had to squeeze Nathaniel's hand and let it go.

Since Nathaniel was the only one of us who didn't have a concealed-carry permit, he didn't have to stick with dark colors or patterns that would conceal things later, so he was wearing a pale lavender tank top, black khaki shorts, and purple jogging shoes. The tank top showed off the muscles in his shoulders and arms and the shorts managed to be tight across his ass but loose elsewhere. I wasn't sure how the shorts managed that, but it meant that he looked great coming and going.

"No work talk at the wedding unless something new happens with my . . . clients," Micah said. His face was already losing some of its happiness, the tension singing down his body where I was touching him.

"Thank you," Nathaniel said, and lifted Micah's hand up so he could plant a light kiss across his knuckles. Micah smiled and some of the tension eased away. I kissed him on the cheek and he turned and looked at me, smiling again.

The announcement for landing came on, and my pulse instantly tried to climb out of my throat. It was so ridiculous that my phobia was still this bad. I clung to Micah's thigh through his jeans, took a few deep breaths, and concentrated on controlling my breathing. He put his hand over mine, which made me look into his eyes. He smiled and there was such confidence, such surety that we were going to be fine. In the face of his calm it was hard to be afraid. He'd been my steadying force from almost the moment we met. He fit a role in my life that I hadn't even known I needed filled, as if he'd shown up for a job I hadn't been advertising but that I really needed someone to do.


Tags: Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Horror
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