Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 49

He held out a business card to me and gave me two extra ones so that he didn't have to walk to the bed and give them to the men directly. Maybe he was more bothered by the almost naked men in the room than he'd let on.

"If you think of anything that will help us in our investigation, call."

"We'll do that."

"Enjoy the rest of your day, Marshal Blake."

"We'll do that, Officer Dunley."

He left. I shut and locked the door behind him and said, "Well, fuck."

So much for a leisurely room service breakfast and more sex. I was pretty sure the mood was ruined for all of us.

33

"HOW COULD YOU get involved in a case on our wedding trip?" Donna asked all of us later, as if we'd planned the whole thing. And by us, I mean everyone who got questioned by the police and knew both the lie and the truth about the supposed affair.

We were in a conference room in the hotel. We were supposed to be double-checking if we liked the room for the rehearsal dinner; instead we were on the verge of another argument.

"Now, honeybunch," Edward started in his best Ted voice.

"Don't you honeybunch me, Theodore Magnus Forrester! You promised no crime-fighting on this trip. You gave me your word!"

"Magnus?" I said, smiling.

That stopped Donna's rant long enough for her to turn to me, frowning. "You didn't know his middle name?"

"Nope."

"How can you share information about you and your life so differently between us?" she said, turning back to Edward.

"According to you and your therapist, the fact that I share different parts of my life with both of you is the entire point of me living with you and working with Anita." His voice had dropped down into that low, middle-of-nowhere accent that was Edward. He didn't even fight to keep Ted's smiling eyes and pleasant expression going; he just looked at her. I knew he loved her to pieces, but in that moment I realized it was possible for her to wear him down enough that down the road it might not be her who called the relationship quits. He'd marry her and it would work for years to come, but that one look said he was already tired of some of her shit, and she was certainly telling everyone around us that she was tired of his.

Donna nodded and said, "That's true, but . . . I'll never understand it."

"And I'll never understand why you had to tell Dixie about Anita and me in the first place. If you hadn't shared the lie with her, then she wouldn't be trying to tell Becca."

"I thought it was the truth, and we are not changing topics yet." She actually walked up to him with her finger pointing at his face like he was five and she was scolding him. "You promised me no police stuff on this trip."

"Ted didn't plan on one of the other hotel guests going missing," Micah said.

She turned on him as if trying to find a reason to scold him, too. He just stood there, smiling softly, his hair still loose around his face. He'd left it down because he knew how much Nathaniel and I both loved it. Maybe he was also seeing if he could distract Donna for a minute. I hadn't tagged her as a long-hair fan, but a pretty man is a pretty man. Or maybe she just couldn't find anything to yell at him about, and that was probably exactly why he'd spoken up.

She turned to Bernardo, as if Micah hadn't said anything. She wanted a fight and she was going to have it. "And you--if you could keep it in your pants, the police wouldn't be questioning all of us."

Bernardo actually took a step back from her shaking finger. "Hey, I'm in the clear. Her friends can testify to the fact she left my room happy and healthy."

Donna gave him a look of such scorn that he started looking guilty. I hadn't been sure he could feel that where women were concerned. "You wouldn't need an alibi for the girl's disappearance if you hadn't fucked her."

I think Donna had cussed more on this trip than I'd ever heard her. The shock was beginning to wear off.

"I'm not the one getting married to you, so who I fuck is none of your business."

"How dare you talk to me like that?" She turned to Edward. "Are you going to let him talk to me like that?"

"You yelled at him first," Edward said in a voice that was cold and even, and very not the Ted she thought she was marrying.

"So you're taking his side against me?"

He gave her as cold a look as I'd ever seen him give her and said, "No, Donna, I'm taking mine."

"What does that mean?" she said, and she was still angry, but there was an uncertainty to her voice now. Maybe he'd never aimed this much of the real Edward at her before.

"It means that this isn't one of our cases. We did not seek this out or bring this to our door. You, on the other hand, told Dixie our secret. The secret that you made me swear not to tell to any of my groomsmen. You said that it would be humiliating and that they wouldn't understand the arrangement we all had. I kept my word, but you told one of your bridesmaids. Why? Why did you do it, when you'd expressly forbidden me from doing the exact same thing?"

She actually started to blush, but her words were still angry and strong. "How can you compare the disappearance of a young woman to me telling what I thought was the truth to one of my oldest and closest friends?"

Edward stared up at her from the chair that he was sitting in, and I watched his anger slide through his eyes. I'd never seen him this kind of angry with her. "Why, Donna? Why tell anyone?"

"I . . . I needed to tell someone. I needed a friend to talk to about it."

"Why?"

She turned to me, because she was one of those women who didn't like being the only woman in a group, but it just seemed weird that she kept turning to me since I was the other woman. "I just needed to be able to talk about it with another woman that isn't my therapist. You understand that, right, Anita?"

I looked at her, trying to figure out what to say that wouldn't make things worse.

Nathaniel tried to help, stepping in and taking my hand in his, which made her look at him. "Anita's not like that, Donna. She doesn't feel that compulsion to talk about everything with her girlfriends."

"Well, I do," she said, and she reached out toward Edward in his chair. "I didn't know that it would affect how Dixie felt about you and Anita. I swore her to secrecy. She promised she wouldn't tell anyone. I even told her that I just needed one friend to know the whole truth, so I could vent from time to time."

"So she broke her word of honor to you," Edward said.

"Yes, and I never thought she'd obsess about it like this."

"She's still threatening to tell Becca," he said in a voice so cold and so full of icy anger that I didn't blame Donna for flinching. It was a shame the make-up sex had been wasted on the news about Dixie and her threat.

"I talked to her about that, Ted. She says she won't tell Becca."

"Did she give you her word of honor that she won't tell Becca?" Edward asked, still in that cold, angry tone.

"Yes, she swore to me, promised me."

"The same way she promised she wouldn't talk to anyone else about your secret?" he asked. His eyes were that pale, winter blue now; it was almost a gray. It was the color his eyes went when he was being Edward the assassin. Edward the cold-blooded sociopathic killer had eyes the color of winter skies.

Donna went pale. "Don't look at me like that, Ted, please." That meant that she'd seen the look on his face before, but never aimed at her. It also meant she had some idea what that look in his eyes meant. I almost felt sorry for her, but she had brought it on herself.

"If Dixie tells our daughter, it could change how she sees me forever, Donna. I won't be Daddy anymore; I'll be the lying bastard that's cheating on her mommy."

Donna started to tremble, and then her eyes filled up, and I knew it was only a matter of time before the tears started. I did not want to stand here and watch her cry. I did not want to be part of this fight. Apparently, I wasn't the only one, because Micah said, "We'll give the two of you some privacy to

talk this out." He touched both Nathaniel and me on the shoulder and started ushering us toward the door. Nicky, Bram, Ru, and Rodina were by the door, trying to be bodyguards and not get dragged into anything. Bernardo followed us toward the door. We were all wanting out of the fight, but sometimes no matter how hard you try, you can't get out of it.

"And Anita won't be Aunt Anita anymore. She'll be the lying bitch that's betraying her mommy by sleeping with her daddy. Is that what you want Becca to think about both of us?"

The huddled group of us froze. Nicky had his hand on the doorknob. Damn it! "Please, Ted, don't drag me further into this than I already am."

"Do you want to lose Becca as your niece?" he asked, still in that cold voice.

"No, of course I don't." I stayed looking at the door, though. I wasn't turning around and losing the few steps of freedom I'd gained if I could hold on to them.

"I didn't mean . . ." Donna's voice shook, and I didn't have to turn around to know she was crying. "I didn't want to damage anyone's relationship with Becca. She's recovered so well from what happened, and she loves you so much."

"You have to think things through, Donna, especially where the kids are concerned."

"I always think about the kids first." That was less tearful and angrier again.

"Do you, or do you think about your feelings first? Because that's the only reason you told Dixie--so you would feel better."

"I thought we all worked through the mess with Dixie," Nathaniel said.

I wanted to grab him and say, Don't, but I guess he was invested in the wedding further than the rest of us.

Edward answered, "We've been having to hide Becca from Dixie. I don't see how she can be in the wedding."

"And now you're involved--you're all involved--in a police investigation on our wedding trip," Donna said.

I don't know what would have happened next, but we heard Peter yelling and a woman's voice raised. Nathaniel opened the door and led the way out. In that second, I think all of us preferred whatever fight was in front of us to the one in back of us.

34

PETER WAS CARRYING a screaming and struggling Dixie across his shoulders in a fireman's carry. She was wearing a one-piece bathing suit and looked to be still wet from the pool. He was wearing baggy swim trunks and a soaking-wet oversize blue T-shirt. He had her arms and one leg pinned, but her other leg was kicking out wildly. She was also yelling, "Put me down, you son of a bitch! How dare you! I used to babysit your ass!"

I knew Peter was better at hand-to-hand fighting than Donna was. If all he'd wanted to do was to take Dixie to the ground like Donna had done in New Mexico, he'd have been efficient and quick. But unless he wanted to hurt Dixie, or had zip ties or restraints of some kind, it was hard as hell to make someone go with you if they really didn't want to. He'd also been socialized not to hit a girl, but the girl had no problem hitting him.


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