"This is not the first scene I've thrown up at, not even the fourth," I said. "I haven't done it in a while, but I've certainly done it before. Surely they've told you the story about me throwing up on the body. Zerbrowski loves that one."
"Sure, but I thought he was exaggerating. You know how Zerbrowski is."
"He wasn't exaggerating."
"You can lie to me if you want to, but unless you're planning to abort, they'll all figure it out sooner or later."
"I am not pregnant," I said, though I had a little trouble saying it, because I was shivering so badly it was hard to talk. "I'm just sick."
"You're freezing, Anita, you don't have a fever."
How could I explain to her that I was having a bad reaction to a vampire bite and the fact that I shared Richard's beast. Odd metaphysics weren't easy to explain. Pregnancy was nice and simple, compared to that.
She grabbed my arms, a lot like Dolph had. "I am three months pregnant. How far along are you? Please tell me, tell me I haven't been a fool. Tell me I haven't ruined my life by not reading the fine print on a bottle of medicine."
I was shivering so hard, it was hard to talk, but I managed to get out, "I--am--not pregnant."
She stood and turned her back on me. "Damn you for not sharing."
I tried to say something, I wasn't even sure what, but she left, leaving the door open behind her. I wasn't sure being left alone was a good thing, the shivering was getting worse, like I was freezing to death from the inside. Larry Kirkland was off being trained to be a federal marshal. He didn't have four years as a vamp executioner yet, so he couldn't get grandfathered in. I wondered if the pregnancy was making it harder for him to be away from Tammy, or easier. Damn it, anyway.
Perry brought Jason up to me. He touched me. "God, you're cold." He picked me up in his arms like I weighed nothing. "I'm taking her home."
"We'll give you an escort through the press," Perry said.
Jason didn't argue. He carried me down the stairs. We waited for a few minutes, while Perry rounded up enough warm bodies to act as a sort of living gauntlet to try and keep the press at bay.
The door opened, the sunlight hit my eyes and the headache roared to life. I buried my face against Jason's chest. Jason seemed to know what was wrong, because he raised an edge of Tammy's jacket across my eyes.
"Are you ready?" Perry's voice.
"Let's do it," Jason said.
Normally, I'd have felt humiliated to be carried out of a murder scene like a wilting flower, but I was working too hard on keeping the shivering under control. It took all my concentration not to let my body shake itself apart. What the hell was wrong with me?
We were outside, and moving at a good pace. I could judge how close we were to the press by how loud the yelling was getting. "What's wrong with Ms. Blake?" "What happened to her?" "Who are you?" "Where are you taking her?" There were more questions, lots more. They all melded into a noise like the ocean against the shore. The crowd surged around us. There was a moment when I felt them closing like a fist around us, but Merlioni's voice rose to a shout, "Back up, back up now, or we'll clear this area."
Jason got me inside the Jeep, leaning his shoulder into me, so he could fasten the seat belt. The jacket was across my face now, and strangely it felt claustrophobic.
"Close your eyes," he said.
I was already doing what he'd asked, but I didn't say anything. The jacket moved away, and the sun was bright against my closed eyelids. I felt the sunglasses slip over my eyes, and I opened them cautiously. Better.
There was a line of detectives and uniforms in front of the Jeep, keeping the pack of reporters back, so we could make our getaway. Every camera they had was pointed our way. God knew what the captions would read once they were done with it.
Jason gunned the engine and backed up with a screech of tires. He was a ways down the street before I could chatter out, "you'll get a ticket."
"I've called Micah. He's waiting. You and Nathaniel can share the bathtub."
I managed to get out, "What?"
"I don't know exactly what's wrong, Anita, but you're acting like a shape-shifter that's been badly hurt. Like your body's trying to heal some deep wound. You need heat, and the touch of your group."
"I," teeth chattering so hard I couldn't finish, "haven't . . ." I stopped trying for a sentence and settled for, "Not hurt."
"I know that you're not hurt that badly. But even if it was the vampire bite, you'd be warm to the touch, hot, cooking to heal yourself. You shouldn't feel cold."
My ears started ringing. It sounded like someone was hitting a chime over and over. The ringing drowned out Jason's voice, the sound of the engine, and finally everything. I passed out for the second time in less than two hours. This was not turning out to be one of my better days.
I was floating in water, warm, warm water. Arms held me in place, a man's body brushed against mine in the water. I opened my eyes to the flickering light of candles. Was I back at the Circus of the Damned? Two things happened to let me know exactly where I was: pale tile gleamed on the edge of the bathtub, and the arms around my shoulders tightened, drew me closer. The moment the back of my body settled firmly against the front of his, I knew it was Micah.
I knew the curve of his shoulder, the way my body seemed to slide into every line and hollow of his body. His tanned arms were delicate for a man's, but as he snuggled me against him, muscles moved under his skin. I knew how much strength there was in his slender body. He was like me, a lot more than met the eye.
"How are you feeling?" he asked, voice so close to my ear that a whisper seemed loud.
My voice came distant and hollow the way I'd been feeling all day. "Better."
"At least you're warmer," he said. "Jason said you were sick, dizzy. Has that passed?"
I thought about it, trying to feel my body, and not just the comforting warmth and closeness. "Yeah, I do feel better. What the hell was wrong with me?"
He turned me in his arms, so that he held me across him, and we could look at each other. He smiled down at me. The tan that he'd come with had started to fade a little, but he was still dark, and that darkness framed his most startling feature. His eyes were kitty-cat eyes. I'd originally thought they were yellow green, but they were yellow, or green, or any combination of either, depending on his mood, the light, the color of shirt he wore.
His pupils had spread like black pools, and the thin line of color that chased round them was a pale true green. Human eyes weren't really green, not really. Grayish green, maybe, but a true clear green, rarely. But Micah's eyes were.
Those eyes sat in a face that was beautiful in the way a woman's face was beautiful. Delicate. There was a line to the jaw, a chin that was male, but gently so. His mouth was wide, with the bottom lip thicker than his upper, giving him a permanent pout.
I wanted to feel his lips on mine, feel the brush of his skin under my hands. He affected me as he'd affected me almost from the first moment I saw him--like he was a missing piece of myself that I had to bring as close to my body as I could, as if we'd meld together someday.
He didn't argue as I brought him down for the kiss. He didn't tell me that I was hurt and needed to rest. He just leaned in and pressed his mouth against mine.
Kissing him was like breathing, automatic, something your body did so that it wouldn't die. There was no thought to wanting to touch Micah, no waffling indecision like with every other man in my life. He was my Nimir-Raj, and from the moment we had been together it had been deeper than marriage, more permanent than anything words or paper could bind.
My arms slid over his back, his shoulders, the slick wetness of his skin, and our beasts rose. His energy was like a hot breath along my skin, shimmering everywhere we touched. My beast rose up through the depths of my body, and I felt Micah's beast echoing mine. They moved in our two separate bodies like two swimming shapes, up and up, each racing the other with only our skin to keep them apart. Then it was as if the skin was not enough to contain them, and our beasts swam through each of us. It bowed my back, brought Micah's voice in something near a scream. Our beasts writhed between our bodies, the energies intertwined more than our bodies ever could. They wove and danced like some invisible rope, knotting, tying, gliding in and out of us, until I raked my nails down Micah's body, and he set teeth into my shoulder.