Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 41

I didn't ask her how she knew I was eager to get to my men--she was psychic, after all, or maybe it was just a good bet that if I had a couple of hours before dinner I was going to be with them. Either way, I wouldn't argue with the power that goose-bumped along my arms.

I was left alone in sunshine and heat, the sound of waves on the shore below. It should have been idyllic. Peter knew the truth, the real truth, both what his mother had believed and what Ted and I had admitted to, and why we'd admitted to a lie. Peter didn't understand why she'd needed the affair to be real either, but he loved his mother and wanted her to marry Edward. We'd all agreed--Ted, Donna, Peter, and I--that Becca didn't need to know either way. She was eleven; her parents' sex lives weren't her problem. If Dixie told Becca about the affair without Donna's permission, I wouldn't have to take care of Dixie; if Donna didn't do it, Edward would. I didn't think he'd kill her for it, but Dixie didn't understand how much danger she might be in if she messed with his happy family. She saw handsome Bruce Wayne or bumbling Clark Kent, not the Dark Knight or Superman. If she pushed hard enough, she'd find out that even Superman has a temper.

27

I TEXTED BERNARDO to find out where he was, and wasn't surprised to find that the answer was "Pool." Nathaniel couldn't follow through on the flirting, but Bernardo was footloose and fancy-free. What better place to pick out his gazelle than the watering hole where he could observe them in their natural, bikini-clad habitat? Rodina took the lead this time, so I could see around her; following Nicky was like driving behind a semitruck on the highway--it blocked all the exit signs. I remembered to put my sunglasses on before walking outside this time; that was an improvement. I could see the sunlight dazzling and dancing on the blue water of the pool, but it didn't blind me this time. There was a family group with two small toddlers at one end of the pool and a dozen young ladies in various states of undress on the other end of the pool. Two of the women were actually wearing one-piece bathing suits, so I'd have to revise my earlier sarcasm about bikini-clad gazelles.

Some of the women were sitting with their feet dangling in the water, some going in and out of the pool, more showing off their bathing suits than actually swimming. I looked around at all the tables with umbrellas and empty chairs and then realized there was one table I couldn't see because the majority of women were blocking my view. Call it a hunch, but I walked toward the table I couldn't see.

"We'll wait here," Nicky said as he took up a post at the edge of the gazelle herd.

"Good luck in there," Rodina said with a smile.

I had to weave my way through the women until I found him sitting at the table under the umbrella, with a tall drink at hand and a pair of swim trunks the only thing covering all that tall, dark, and handsome. The only thing that surprised me was that the trunks were loose fit. I'd have bet Bernardo was a form-fitting-trunks kind of guy, but, hey, it's nice to leave something to the imagination sometimes. Besides, I'd accidently found out just how well-endowed he was, and maybe looser trunks were better. He wouldn't scare any of his gazelles prematurely.

It was hot enough that he should have had his long, thick black hair in its usual ponytail or braid, but it was loose around his broad shoulders. It was Bettina, the short brunette who had flirted so hard with Ru earlier, who came up behind him and ran her hands through his hair. Apparently, when she lost out with Ru and Nathaniel, she'd gone looking for other flirtatious men. I looked around and didn't see the redhead but did see the taller brunette in the bright bikini moving in from one side with a fresh drink in her hand. I didn't recognize any of the other women; maybe it was a fresh batch. I'd thought Bernardo would use the swimming pool the way a lion uses a watering hole, but I'd been wrong. He was using himself for bait--not to attract gazelles, but to find a lioness.

"Hey, Bernardo," I said, and I didn't try to hide the smile and headshake.

"Hey, Anita."

"Not you again," the tall brunette said.

"Are you sleeping with all the beautiful men in the hotel?" Bettina asked.

Bernardo reached up and caught her hand in his, bringing it around so he could lay a gentle kiss on her wrist. Her eyes damn near fluttered closed. That seemed like a lot of reaction for something so small, but, hey, it wasn't my wrist being kissed.

"Don't worry, baby--we're just work friends, no benefits."

"Absolutely no benefits. He's all yours, girls," I said.

Bettina wrapped her other arm around Bernardo's neck and leaned her breasts against his hair. It was such an obvious marking of territory that it made me smile. Then Bettina put both arms around his neck, which made her breasts spill around either side of his throat like bikini-clad pillows. Bernardo patted her arm but kept looking up at me as if she wasn't trying to hug him with her breasts. This wasn't the reaction she was hoping for. She didn't understand it, but she wasn't frowning at him; she was frowning at me. Why is it that women never blame the guy for ignoring them for another woman, but only blame the other woman?

"I need to ask you to give the groom a message before you retire to your room."

"I'm a little busy; why can't you tell him yourself?" he asked, and his voice sounded gruff, almost unfriendly. He moved Bettina's hand so that he could lay a kiss on her other wrist. That made her smile happily and wriggle her breasts even closer to him, though frankly she had to be driving her collarbone into the back of his head at this point, or maybe that was just me being picky.

"He and the bride went back to their room for makeup sex. I don't want to disturb them, but this is important."

"Makeup sex? What are they fighting about?"

"Ted's first marriage that Donna didn't know about."

"What? I didn't kn

ow Ted had been married before." He'd stopped touching Bettina and was sitting there with her wrapped around his shoulders like a PG-13-rated towel.

"Neither did I," I said.

He let the surprise show on his face. "I can see why Donna got pissed."

Bettina rubbed her face against his hair, which made him reach up and rub his hands down her arms, idly, like you'd pet a dog that had shifted in your lap. The other women were beginning to see the writing on the wall, and it was either going to be Bettina's name or mine, but not theirs. They were looking uncomfortable and frowning at both Bettina and me.

"I talked her down, but she confided something in Dixie, and now Dixie has shared it with the other bridesmaids and she's threatening to tell Becca, and that would go really badly."

He was serious now, watching my face, still touching the girl's arms, but even she had figured out he wasn't concentrating on her. She tried to put her leg around the edge of his chair and into his lap, I think, but moves like that look better in the movies. Her leg ended up over the chair arm but couldn't reach more than the edge of his thigh, and it looked awkward, but she kept it there because she couldn't seem to figure out how to take it back. Ah, to be a few years younger and both that bold and that bad at it.

Bernardo touched her calf, letting her know that he appreciated the effort, but most of his attention was on our conversation. "What is it? What is the crazy bitch threatening to tell the best niece in the world?"

I tried to think of a clever way to hint, but I suck at hinting. I'm really more of a just-say-it kind of person. Bettina was pouting because he wasn't paying enough attention and the other women were trying to decide if they could outflirt her. The awkward leg thing had given some of them hope. "I'm sorry, ladies. Can you excuse us for just a few minutes? I'll make it quick, promise."

"Ladies? I'm not a lady," Bettina said, standing up but keeping her hands on his bare shoulders.

"Well, you said it, I didn't."

"I meant that you know my name," she said, and I half expected her to stamp her foot at me.

"Fine. Excuse me, Bettina, but I need to speak with Bernardo for a few minutes."

She gave a little upset sniff but said, "That's better, thank you." I'd really expected her to be more insulted by all the talk of ladies, but apparently she was harder to insult than I'd thought. She flounced off to join her tall friend, who began to shake her head almost as soon as they started to talk. Bettina might still be game to try to bag Bernardo, but her friend was fed up with me interrupting their fun, or maybe she just didn't like her odds. It was quite a crowd around Bernardo.


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