Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 3

"Some people still see turning into a wereanimal once a month as a curse, Anita."

I wanted to argue that with all the new laws nobody still thought that way, but I knew he was right. Prejudice against the lunarly challenged, or the terminally furry, to coin just two polite euphemisms, still ran strong in some places. I went back to trying to fix the problem, or at least trying to understand it better.

"Have they tried not chopping it off, but surgical amputation?" I asked.

"They have. Surgery works better; at least they don't split into multiples right away. They've got one cousin that's missing his arm from the elbow down because they've amputated it multiple times. He's willing to give up an arm to keep it from spreading through his body."

"Wait--how can a surgeon be treating him if it's still a secret?"

"They've got one doctor in the family who agreed to help."

"Okay. Has the patient made it through a full moon yet?"

"Three full moons. They've amputated his arm each time as it started to grow back as a snake."

"The Lernean Hydra was defeated by cutting off a head and burning the neck stub, according to legend. Fire still works on regular lycanthropy. If you cut off a shapeshifter's arm or leg and burn the end, it doesn't grow back. Fire cleanses or kills everything."

"That's been tried in the past," he said.

"Jesus, Micah, the Coalition is good, but what can you guys do for them?"

"I told you what they want, Anita: They want a cure."

"I didn't ask what they wanted; I asked what can you and the Coalition reasonably do to help them?"

He let out a shaking breath and whispered, "I don't know."

"If there's nothing you can do for them, Micah, come home."

"I am planning to come home tonight, but I hate to leave them without any hope, Anita."

"Being a police officer has taught me that you can't save everyone, Micah. I hate that we can't, but we can't."

"It just seems so terrible to leave them with nothing."

"I know, and I'm sorry for that. Have they tried modern genetic counseling? I mean, it might not help the adults that have it already, but they might be able to fix their babies in the womb if they could figure out what part of their genetics was causing it."

"I've urged that, and my main contact wants them to try, but the extended family is afraid to come out of the closet. They either don't believe the new modern laws that give shapeshifters rights will last, or they think that the laws won't extend to them because they aren't actually wereanimals. They believe, like some of the older vampires, that the new laws that make them legal citizens with rights will eventually be revoked and it will go back to the way it was, where you could kill us on sight. How can I argue with them, Anita, when there are still some Western states where shapeshifters fall under varmint laws? You, or I, could be shot and killed, but because our blood tests would prove we carry lycanthropy, it would be seen as legal self-defense."

"The law got changed last month in Colorado," I said.

"One state out of how many, Anita?"

"One out of five," I said.

"They have a right to be scared of being outed," he said.

"I'm not arguing that. We'll all be down there in a few days. If they'll let us tell Edward--I mean Ted--then maybe we can come up with something. Like you said, if anyone besides me would have run into something like this, it would be him. We both know supernatural people old enough to tell us if curses like this existed in ancient Greece."

"I have Kaazim and Jake with me. Bram wouldn't let me travel with just him as my bodyguard after the latest round of hate-group death threats."

"Bram's your head bodyguard for a reason," I said. "Is Jake old enough to remember ancient Greece?"

"Not quite, but Kaazim is. In fact, I think he's far older than he wants to admit. Do you think his master, mistress, is vain about her age and told him not to share it?"

"Queenie isn't vain in that way, but all vampires gain power with age. Since they still have duels, she wouldn't want other vamps knowing she was older than dirt. It would be like telling people how many weapons you're carrying before a fight."

"Logical when you explain it, but neither Jake nor Kaazim explain much of anything."

"None of the ex-Harlequin guards like sharing info. I think it's something about having been spies for thousands of years," I said. The Harlequin had once been the elite bodyguards, spies, and assassins for their now-dead queen. Jean-Claude was the new king and they were ours now.

"I had to ask him very clearly with no way for him to misinterpret what I wanted to know if he'd ever seen a curse like this in ancient Greece."

"What did he say?"

"That he'd never seen anything like it, but he didn't travel through Greece much during the time period I seemed interested in."

"Sounds like one of his answers, or Jake's--so helpful and not helpful all at the same time," I said. "Am I going to get to meet any of these new shapeshifters when we all come down for the wedding?"

"You'll meet the family because the island is small, but you won't know it. Right now, they want us to do the wedding as if they aren't here. I think the exact words were, 'Enjoy the wedding and embrace your joy, because you never know how long it will last.'"

"Very fatalistic," I said.

"And very true," he said.

"You need a hug," I said.

"I need a lot more than a hug. I need to wrap myself around you until the only thing I can smell is the scent of your skin."

"Sounds great. First all the hugs and cuddles, and from the sounds of it some serious sleep for you, and then I want to make love with you."

"Just me and you, or the three of us?"

In all the time we'd been a threesome, I wasn't sure he'd ever asked to exclude Nathaniel. "We both miss you, Micah."

"I need some one-on-one time, Anita. I'm feeling overwhelmed. I just need my life to be less of a crowd, once in a while."

I wasn't sure how our shared boy, our shared fiance, would take it, but it was a problem for another day. Sometimes, when your domestic life is this complicated, you pick not only your battles but when to have the fight.

"We all need one-on-one time sometimes," I said. It was the most neutral and true thing I could think to say.

"I'm not sure Nathaniel ever gets tired of group activities," Micah said.

I couldn't really argue that. We were all polyamorous, which meant to love more, a flavor of consensual nonmonogamy, but Nathaniel was probably the least monogamous person in our committed relationship. Hell, he was one of the most poly polyamorous people I'd ever met.

"Anita, you still there?"

"I'm here, just trying to decide if I'd ever heard Nathaniel ask for fewer people in the bedro

om."

"The answer is no," he said.

"Probably," I said.

"Not probably," he said, "but if he were less of a group animal, I might not be in your life. You met Nathaniel first."

"That's true," I said.

"So, can I bitch about his love of more people, when I benefited from it?"

"Sure you can," I said. "I do shit like that all the time."

"But I try not to," he said.

"I know. You are the better person between us, Micah. I never doubt that."

"I do. I've got to go, Anita."

"I know, you have to introduce a witch to her potential clients before you fly home," I said, trying to keep my voice light.

"She has some of her magic group with her, so she won't be on her own."

"If she'd been on her own, you would have stayed," I said.

"We did ask her to consult on an impossible case, so probably."

"Go and play ambassador between the shapeshifters and the coven, and then come home to me."

"They prefer the phrase magical working group, and you're not at home."

"I guess coven, like the word witch, does come with a lot of baggage. The mystical community seems divided on whether to try to take back certain terms or discard them altogether."

"There's one out in California that calls itself a white-light study group."

"Really?"

I could hear the smile in his voice as he said, "Really."

"Our flight leaves tonight for St. Louis, so we'll be home soon."

"Sorry I had Jean-Claude's private jet on this trip, or you could have used it."

"A plane is a plane, Micah. I'm phobic of them all, but having to go through Minneapolis for a layover does make me miss the jet."

"Let me go play ambassador, so I can come home sooner."

"Yes, please," I said.

"I love you, Anita."

"I love you more, Micah."

"I love you mostest," he said and hung up.

It was usually our third who finished the last part of our three-part I love you. One of us would say "I love you," and then we'd say our parts. "I love you mostest": Until today I'd believed that Micah, Nathaniel, and I meant that to one another. Now I was left wondering if our so-very-understanding Micah might be coming to the end of his patience with the added lovers. I knew there were days and nights when I didn't know what to do with them all. Usually it was Micah soothing me about it. I wasn't sure I was going to be as good at soothing him.


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