Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 48

"You tell me."

"I would if I could, but I left her by the pool with the rest of Bernardo's harem of possibilities."

"So it doesn't bother you that Spotted-Horse fucked Ms. Gonzales?"

He'd used the word on purpose, hoping to shock me. "I think it's probably bad judgment on his part, but other than that, no."

"Why is it bad judgment on his part?"

"Bettina seemed a little high-strung and definitely possessive after a very short amount of time."

"What do you mean a little high-strung?"

"She took insult really easily, even where none was intended."

"Her friends say that you fought with her."

"They're wrong."

"They say things got heated between the two of you after you tried to kiss her, and she rebuffed your advances."

I laughed before I could stop myself. "Rebuffed your advances. I haven't heard that one in a long time, but trust me, I did not try to kiss Bettina."

"Several witnesses say differently."

"I may have implied that I'd kiss her to make her leave Wyatt alone."

"Why would that make her leave him alone?"

"She was homophobic, and letting her think that Wyatt and I were angling for a three-way made her retire from the field."

"Retire from the field. Now who's using old-fashioned terms?"

"Sorry, you're right. Let me just say that using her homophobia against her was a way to avoid a fight, though it was totally Wyatt's fault for flirting that hard when he didn't mean it."

"I'm sorry, Anita, honestly; it was just so much fun to flirt with all of them. We got carried away," Nathaniel said.

"How carried away did you and Bettina get, Mr. Graison?"

"I meant Wyatt and myself. We were both flirting with the bridesmaids from other weddings and we may have gotten carried away."

"How far did you get carried? What plans did you or Mr. Erwin make with Bettina Gonzales?"

"None."

"I find that hard to believe, Mr. Graison. Were you jealous when she slept with Mr. Spotted-Horse?"

"I didn't know she slept with him until you told us a few minutes ago, but no, it doesn't make me jealous. I had no intention of actually sleeping with any of the women by the pool."

"Then why flirt with them?"

"It was fun."

"Was it fun when you arranged to meet with Ms. Gonzales later?"

"No. I mean, I didn't arrange anything with her."

"How angry were you when she chose Spotted-Horse over you?"

"If you want to look at it that way, I chose Anita over Bettina, so it's Bettina that should have been pissed, not any of us."

"How far would you have gone to make sure Mr. Graison there chose you over Bettina?"

"I don't have to go far. He's my fiance; he's already chosen me."

Dunley had to look at his notes again, but this time I was pretty certain he was giving himself time to think. "But you have no idea where Mr. Erwin was last night."

"I'm sure his sister can vouch for them since they were sharing a room," I said.

Micah said, "What has happened to Bettina Gonzales?"

"I didn't say anything had happened to her."

"Stop the game playing, Dunley," I said. "Obviously something has happened to her, or you wouldn't be here asking twenty bajillion leading questions about the day's events."

He smiled before he could stop himself as he said, "I don't think I've hit a bajillion yet."

"It feels like it," Nathaniel said.

"Oh, this is nothing, Mr. Graison. You should see a real interrogation. Now, that may be a bajillion questions by the time everything's said and done."

"This isn't an interrogation, Dunley, and you and I both know it."

"Do you want it to be an interrogation, Blake?"

"No. Do you have enough to bring any of us in for one?"

Dunley gave me the hard cop-eye stare, but it wasn't his serious best, so I didn't flinch. "Not yet."

"You're fishing, talking to anyone who saw her."

"What's happened to her?" Micah asked again, voice more impatient.

"When's the last time you saw Bettina Gonzales?"

"We told you, by the pool before we came upstairs," Nathaniel said.

"I told you, by the pool with Bernardo and his bevy of beauties," I said.

"Spotted-Horse is lucky that her friends came and picked her up at his hotel room door. If we didn't have witnesses that said she'd left his room happy and healthy, we'd have him in a room answering questions right now."

"Why?" I asked.

"Bettina Gonzales is missing." He'd telegraphed it so hard, it wasn't a surprise to any of us.

"I thought you had to be missing twenty-four hours before the police would look for you," Micah said.

"Normally, or even forty-eight hours," I said.

"Neither of you seems surprised she's missing," Dunley said.

"You telegraphed it pretty hard," I said.

"Sorry, but if that was you being subtle, it didn't work," Nathaniel said.

"Why are you looking for her so soon?" I asked. "Please tell me you didn't find anything like blood, or . . . things."

"Like what things?"

"I work with the preternatural branch of the Marshals Service, Officer Dunley. That means I see some really horrible things as part of my job. I can think of a whole bunch of stuff that I hope you haven't found in connection to Bettina Gonzales."

"Why would you care that much about a woman you fought with twice and had to chase away from your man--sorry, men."

"Look, we didn't fight, and I don't chase anyone away from my men. If they're my men, as in my lovers, then I don't have to defend my territory, because they're happy to be with me. Bettina didn't strike me as someone I wanted to become bosom buddies with, but there didn't seem to be any harm in her. I hate the thought of her family and friends here to celebrate a marriage and now they're searching for one of their loved ones. I've seen enough awful things in this world. I really just wanted to enjoy Ted and Donna finally tying the knot and enjoy being in the Florida Keys for the first time ever."

Dunley studied my face as if trying to read more in my eyes than there was to read. He looked at Nathaniel and asked, "Do you have any idea what might have happened to Ms. Gonzales?"

"No, but if I did, I would tell you."

"Did she talk to any other men, flirt with any others?"

"Not that I saw."

"Me either," I said.

"Mr. Callahan, do you have any idea what might have happened to Ms. Gonzales?"

"No."

"Can you think of anything else that might help us locate her?"

We all shook our heads. "We'd help if we could, Dunley."

"I want to believe you, Blake."

"I want you to believe me, because it's the truth."

"Come on, Blake. You're on the job. You know the rule."

"Everyone lies," I said.

He nodded. "Even U.S. Marshals," he said.

"We're Feds. You local guys think we have horns and tails hidden under our clothes."

He looked at me, and this time he let his eyes go up and down. I realized that the front of the robe had gaped a little so that he'd gotten to see more of my breasts than I'd wanted to share. Damn it. I glared at him, as defiant as I could make it, because bold, self-righteous anger was the only defense I had against the embarrassment that was trying to make me blush. I finally lost the battle and closed the robe a little bit more, holding it in place this time.

"How can someone with this many lovers blush?" Dunley asked.

"Anita is a delicate fucking flower," Nathaniel said.

I glared at him as I tried not to blush even harder.

He smiled at me. "I love that you still blush."

"I'm amazed you still blush," Dunley said.

"Get out of our room," I said.

"That doesn't sound like you want to help us find the woman."

"We'll help all we can, but right now we've given you all the information we have."


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