Micah got on the phone long enough to take the address and name of the bar down, then hung up. He looked at me, face careful, neutral with an edge of concern. "I'm okay with you and Nathaniel being here alone for the ardeur. The question is, are you okay with it?"
He shook his head. "No, Anita, I need an answer before I leave."
I sighed. "You need to get there before the wolf loses it. Go, we'll be alright."
He looked like he didn't believe me.
"Go," I said.
"It's not just you I'm worried about, Anita."
"I will do my best for Nathaniel, Micah."
He frowned. "What does that mean?"
"It means what it says."
He didn't look happy with the answer.
"If you wait around for me to say, Oh, yes, it's fine that I'm going to feed the ardeur and f**k Nathaniel, the wolf in question will have shapeshifted, been shot by the cops, and maybe taken some civilians with him before you even leave the house."
"You're both important to me, Anita. Our pard is important to me. What happens here tonight could change... everything."
I swallowed hard, because I suddenly didn't want to meet his eyes.
He touched my chin, raised my face up to meet his gaze. "Anita."
"I'll be good," I said.
"What does that mean?"
"I'm not sure, but I'll do my best, and that is the best I can offer. I won't really know what I'm going to do until the ardeur rises. Sorry, but that's the truth. To say anything else would be a lie."
He took a deep breath that made his chest rise and fall nicely. "I guess I'll have to settle for that."
"What exactly do you want me to say?" I asked.
He leaned in and laid a gentle kiss against my lips. We rarely kissed so chaste, but this close to the ardeur, he was being careful. "I want you to say you'll take care of this."
"Define take care of it?"
He sighed again, shook his head, and stepped back. "I've got to get dressed."
"Are you taking your car or the Jeep?"
"I'll take my car. You might get a call from the police for another body, and your gear is all in the back of the Jeep." He smiled at me, almost sadly, and left to go get dressed. He made a soft exclamation as he went around the corner. He spoke in low voices with another man. The cadence was wrong for Nathaniel.
Damian glided around the corner. "You must be very distracted not to have sensed me sooner." He was right, I was good at sensing the undead. No vamp should have been able to get this close without me knowing, especially not Damian.
Damian was my vampire servant, as I was Jean-Claude's human servant. The ardeur was Jean-Claude and Belle Morte's fault, something about their line had contaminated me. But Damian as my servant, that was my fault. I was a necromancer, and apparently mixing necromancy with being a human servant had some unforeseen side effects. One of them was standing across the kitchen staring at me with eyes the color of green grass. Humans didn't have eyes like that, but apparently Damian had, because becoming a vamp doesn't change your original physical description. It may pale you out, lengthen some of the teeth, but your hair and eye and skin color remain the same. The only thing that was probably more vibrant was his hair. Red hair that hadn't seen the sun for hundreds of years, so that it was almost the color of fresh blood, a bright, fresh scarlet. All vamps are pale, but Damian started life with that milk and honey complexion that some redheads have, so he was even paler than the norm. Or maybe it was the quality of his paleness, like his skin had been formed of white marble, and some demon or god had breathed life into that paleness. Oh, wait, I was that demon.
Technically, my power, my necromancy made Damian's heart beat. He was over a thousand years old, and he would never be a master vampire. If you aren't a master, then you need a master to give you enough power to rise from the grave, not just the first night, but every night. Sometimes people rise by accident with no master near, and that is how you get revenants. Walking corpses little better than zombies, but they take blood instead of meat, and they don't rot. Little problems like that is why there are vampire laws about how you attack humans and how you don't. Break the laws, and the vamps will kill you for it. And that's in countries where vampires are still illegal. In the United States where they have rights, the vamps are more civilized, if the police find out about the crime. If they can keep it secret they take care of their own. Even if it means killing their own.
Damian must have come straight from work, because though he, like most of the vamps fresh over from Europe, almost never wore jeans and tennis shoes, he also didn't like dressing up as much as Jean-Claude insisted on.
He was wearing a coat I'd seen before. It was a deep pine green, a frock coat like something out of the 1700s, but it was new, designed to gape open to expose the pale gleam of his chest and stomach. Embroidery nearly covered the sleeves and lapels of the coat, putting a little glitter of color near all that white skin. The pants were black satin, poofy, like there was way more cloth there than was needed for Damian's slender legs. He wore a wide green sash for a belt and a pair of black leather boots that folded over just above the knee, so that the outfit was very pirate-y.
"How was work?" I asked.
"Danse Macabre is the hottest dance club in St. Louis." He kept walking toward me, gliding rather. There was something about the way he looked at me that I didn't care for.
"It's the only place where people can go and dance with vampires. Of course it's hot." I looked at him, concentrated, and I knew he had fed tonight, on some willing woman. Willing blood feeding was considered the same as willing sex. Just be of age, and you could feed the undead and have bite marks to show your friends. I'd ordered Damian to only feed from willing victims, and because of our bond together, he could not disobey me. Necromancers of legend could boss around all types of undead, and they had to do your bidding. The only undead I could boss around were zombies and Damian, and frankly, I found even that unsettling. I didn't like to have that kind of control over anyone.
Of course, there was one kind of control that Damian had over me. I wanted to touch him. When he entered a room, I had an almost overwhelming urge to touch his skin. It was part of what it meant to be master and servant. This attraction to your servants, this need to touch and tend to them was one of the reasons that most servants were treasured possessions. I think it also kept even the craziest, most evil of vamps from killing their servants out of hand. For often a vamp didn't survive the death of his servant, the bond was that close.
He walked around the table, fingers trailing on the backs of the chairs. "And I am one of the vampires that they have been pressing their bodies up against all night."
"Hannah is still managing the club, right?"
"Oh, yes, I am merely a cold body to send into the crowd." He was around the table now, to the island that separated the working area of the kitchen from the rest of the room. "I am merely color, like a statue, or a drape."
"That's not fair. I've seen you work the crowd, Damian. You enjoy the flirting."
He nodded, as he came around the end of the island. Nothing separated us now but the fact that I was still leaning against the far cabinets and he had stopped at the end of the island. The urge to close that distance, to wrap my hands around his body, was almost overwhelming. It made my hands ache with the need, and I ended with them pressed behind me, pinned by my body the way Nathaniel had leaned against the Jeep earlier.
"I enjoy the flirting very much." He traced pale fingers along the edge of the island, slowly, tenderly, as if he were touching something else. "But we are not allowed to have sex while we work, though some of them beg for it." The emerald of his eyes spread and swallowed his pupils, so that he looked at me with eyes like green fire. His power danced along my skin, caught my breath in my throat.
My voice started out a little shaky, but I gained firmness as I talked, until the last was said in an almost normal voice. "You've got my permission to date, or f**k, or whatever. You can have lovers, Damian."
"And where would I take them?" He leaned against the island, arms crossing over that expanse of pale chest.
"What do you mean?"
"I have a coffin in your basement. It is adequate but hardly romantic."
He could have said a lot of things that I'd expected, but that wasn't one of them. "I'm sorry, Damian, it never occurred to me. You need a room, don't you?"