Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 43

I looked at her and had to bite my tongue, because what I wanted to say was No. I wanted to tell her she couldn't sleep with Peter. He was Edward's son; my bodyguards weren't allowed to sleep with his kid. But was that fair? Was it fair to Peter? Was I being overly protective? When Peter was fourteen, some very bad people had kidnapped him and Becca. It hadn't been Edward's fault. They'd been bad guys Donna's preservation society had actually gotten on the wrong side of, but it had been Edward, Bernardo, Otto, and me who had gone in and saved the kids. We'd saved them, but not in time for Peter. His first sexual experience had been abuse, and I could never make that not have happened. I could never truly save Peter, and that fact haunted me and colored how I felt about him. I knew that, but knowing it didn't make it go away. Fuck.

My phone beeped. It was a text from Micah. "What's taking so long, sweetheart?"

Nathaniel texted a second later. "Where are you?"

"What?" Peter asked.

"Texts from Micah and Nathaniel."

"Nathaniel's really been looking forward to this trip with the two of you," Peter said.

"I know," I said.

"We should get you tucked into your room so you can start enjoying your trip," Rodina said. Her face was completely blank and businesslike as she said it, but there should have been a smile with it.

"Go have fun," Peter said and turned to go.

"Don't go too far," Rodina said.

He frowned at her, as if trying to figure out if she was kidding.

Again, I had another moment of wanting to play parent or big sister or auntie, or something, and tell Rodina to back off and Peter not to sleep with her. He was nineteen, legally an adult, and I wasn't his mom, his sister, or even his real aunt. I was his father's best friend. What rights did that give me in his life? Deeply conflicted did not begin to cover it.

"We can change and go down to the pool," Rodina said.

Peter shook his head. "I don't think so."

"If you look as good out of your clothes as you do in them, I'm betting I'm not the only girl around the pool that prefers my men a little more rugged than your uncle."

"Rugged, huh." He looked at me. It wasn't a friendly look. "You told her about the scars."

"No," I said.

Rodina looked from one to the other of us. "I meant masculine when I said rugged. Anita doesn't confide in me."

"I don't believe you," he said, and he was just suddenly angry. I remembered another thing that Peter and I had in common--rage. He grabbed the hem of his T-shirt and yanked it up, showing that Edward wasn't the only one who had been working on his abs and that Peter had his own scars. The weretiger's claws had cut across his upper stomach and the right side of his upper chest, and I knew that higher up on the shoulder and his arm were scarred, too, because I'd been there when he'd almost died saving my life. It was the one and only time that Edward had brought Peter as backup for one of our "adventures." I'd made him swear that Peter wouldn't go into the family business again until he hit twenty-one. I'd have liked to get Edward's promise that Peter wouldn't go into the family business at all, but I knew better than to ask that.

Rodina raised eyebrows and smiled. "Nice."

"It's not nice," Peter said.

"You're right, it's not nice; it's awesome. Scars like that are a badge of honor, Peter. It means something monstrous tried to kill you, but you killed it instead."

"How do you know I killed it?"

Rodina smiled. "Well, I did hear the story, but not from Anita. You saved her life, getting those scars."

"Did they tell you that one of the other guards died helping me save her life?"

Rodina's face went blank and unreadable. She stopped trying to flirt. "I heard."

"His name was Cisco and he died to help me save Anita." The anger had turned to something cold and distant, and that was more Edward's flavor of anger than mine. Peter pulled his shirt down and just walked past us all and kept walking. I don't know what Rodina had been trying to accomplish with him, but I don't think this was it.

She waited until Peter was out of earshot and then said, "I tried, Anita."

"What were you trying to do?" I asked, and I couldn't keep the anger out of my own voice.

"Help Peter feel better."

"Why do you care how Peter feels?" I asked.

"Because you care, my queen, and if Peter was happier, you'd be happier."

I frowned at her. "I don't think my emotional health is tied that closely to Peter's happiness."

"We are your Brides; we can feel when you're unhappy, and that is how you feel whenever you talk to him, or even talk about him."

I looked at Nicky. "Is that true?"

"Do you want me to answer that?" he asked.

I sighed. "You just did." I don't know what I would have said next, because Micah texted me again: "Nathaniel isn't happy. Hurry, or we're going to have another fight on our hands." Well, shit.

"Maybe you're right; maybe I am fucked up about Peter and Edward and his whole little family, but there's nothing I can do about it. But there's something I can do with Micah and Nathaniel to avoid another fight."

"Go make Nathaniel happy," Nicky said. He even moved across the hallway and motioned at the door.

"I will leave Peter alone, my queen. I'd hoped to make you and him happier, but the situation is more complicated than I understood."

I looked at Rodina's blank and unreadable face. "Thanks, I guess." I got out my key card and went for the door to our room.

29

I CLOSED THE door behind me and leaned against it, letting out a breath of tension I hadn't even known I was holding. Rodina made me so tired, because how I felt about her and her brother was so damned complicated. Being tied to her metaphysically until she died, or I died, just seemed like a terrible idea. It worked with Nicky, because he made things easier. Rodina and Ru didn't seem to make anything easier. If they were all my Brides, then why were they so different? Why did they make me feel so different? The answer of course was that they weren't Nicky. I'd made the rookie mistake of assuming because my first relationship with a Bride was this way that they would all be the same. I knew it didn't work that way with real romantic relationships; why had I assumed that the rules would be different for Brides? Wishful thinkin

g? Stupidity?

I looked up to find there was a living room with a desk with a flat-screen above it on one side and a couch on the other side. There were closet doors to my immediate right and a half bath to my left and a long stretch of empty living room. I knew that Micah had booked us a honeymoon suite, but I hadn't expected it to be bigger, just more honeymoon-y. Right now, the room could have been simply a nice business suite.

I called out, "Hello, honeys, I'm home."

"Bedroom." Micah's voice, but slightly distant. There was one more closed door in the living room area. Chances were that was the bedroom, and since there were no other doors that made sense to open, I pushed away from the door and forced myself to stand upright, shoulders back. I centered myself and then tried to push all the other issues away. I tried to focus on just Micah and Nathaniel and the fact that they were waiting for me behind this door. We were on a romantic trip together, damn it. I was not going to be the one who dropped the ball and ruined this moment for us.

I opened the door in time to see Nathaniel jerk away from Micah's hand on his shoulder. They were wearing matching robes with the hotel logo on them. Nathaniel turned to me, and as soon as I saw his eyes I could feel the anger like heat along my skin. My own anger tried to flare up to meet his, as if his was just the spark I needed to burn us all up in one spectacular fight. I just stood there, breathing hard and trying to count slowly. I would not be the one that drew first blood. It would not be my fault if this afternoon went up in smoke. It would not be my issues that ruined today, damn it. My hands were already trying to curl into fists, my shoulders rolling forward. My beasts tried to ride the anger, but I thought at them, or myself, or both, Don't even try it! For once all my inner beasts just faded back, like a dog that had been chastised.

"Bettina and I are Facebook friends." Nathaniel spit it at me like an accusation.


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