Jean-Claude gazed out at the audience with fresh crimson lipstick smeared across his entire lower jaw. It looked eerily like blood, and I knew him well enough to know that the resemblance was not accidental. His blue eyes had bled to solid blue light, as if a summer's dusk could burn in his eyes. "Who will be next?" And it was as if he whispered along my skin, as if he were standing just behind me. The illusion was so strong that I had to fight not to turn around and look. I was supposed to be immune to this crap, if this was how I was feeling, what must the women connected to all those eager faces be feeling?
I lowered my shields just enough to see Jean-Claude shining with power. This was what he was meant to be. This wasn't just feeding the ardeur. This wasn't a substitute for a blood feed. This was an end in itself. This was something I'd never seen, not in Jean-Claude, not in anyone. It was akin to all his other abilities, but more, somehow this was more.
I turned back to Buzz. "Him feeding like this is what saved me."
He looked puzzled, vampires under twenty years dead have so many more human facial expressions. "Saved you from what?"
"If he hadn't fed, then I'd have had to feed for him. That's one of the things a human servant is for. We feed when the vamps can't. I would still be trapped backstage f**king my metaphysical brains out." I shook my head. "No, thank you."
"So you're not disappointed that's he's doing strangers?"
I felt my face go sort of unfriendly. "You sound disappointed that I'm not upset about this, why?"
He raised his hands, making his big arms flex. I think by accident. He meant it to be a harmless gesture, but he was too muscle-bound for it to look anything but impressive, or scary, depending on how you looked at it.
"It just seems like a fast turnaround, that's all."
I sighed. "The last time Jean-Claude asked me if he could feed off the audience, I didn't really understand what he was asking." I smiled, but not like I was happy. "Besides, I wasn't f**king strangers to feed the vampiric powers then. Strangely, that's changed my mind about a lot of things."
He looked way too serious for my tastes.
I didn't know what was up with Buzz, so I decided to change topics. "Primo all tucked away in the spare coffin?"
"We put him in while you were cleaning up."
I nodded. I'd been told about it, but I'd also laid my hands on the coffin and felt Primo trapped inside, behind silver chains and a holy item. It wasn't that I didn't trust everybody, it was just good business to be cautious. Buzz's odd behavior hadn't changed my mind about that, not one little bit.
"Lisandro told me that you ordered him to baby-sit the coffin."
I nodded. "Yes, I did."
"Primo is in a cross-wrapped coffin, Anita. He's not getting out."
I shrugged. Lisandro was tall, dark, handsome, with the longest hair that any of the new security had. He was also the only one with a gun tucked into the small of his back under the black T-shirt. Once I spotted the gun, I pegged him for a wererat, and I'd been right. I told him if Primo started to tear out of the coffin, to kill him. Jean-Claude would probably have agreed with me, but he'd been busy on stage, so I'd made the call. I was happy with the call, and I didn't like that Buzz wasn't.
"Let's just say that I feel better going off to raise the dead, knowing that Lisandro is sitting by that coffin with silver ammo, and a willingness to shoot."
"I'm head of security here, Anita. You should have cleared it with me."
I sighed. "You're right. You're right, I should have. I'm sorry."
He just blinked at me like a deer caught in headlights. I think he'd expected an argument. But I was tired, and late, and feeling squidgie about having had sex with Byron and Requiem.
"I've got to go, Buzz."
"Your security detail is waiting at the door," he said, and nodded toward the door in question.
Requiem was by the door in his black cloak, wearing a fresh pair of pants that he'd borrowed from someone. The new pants were leather, so he'd probably borrowed them from another dancer. But we had a new addition, and that was the dark-haired werewolf that had fallen on top of Clay and me when Primo was fighting everyone. His name was Graham, and his body had that width of shoulder and impressive swell of arm that only semiserious weight lifting can get you. His black hair was cut in a longish layer on top so that it fell like a silken fringe over his ears, but underneath the hair was shaved close to his head and upper neck. It seemed an odd haircut to me, but it wasn't my hair.
His face was exotic, in the way that people can be when some ancestor didn't come from Northern or Southern Europe. The straight black hair, the ever-so-slight uptilt to the edge of his eyes made me bet he'd come from somewhere much farther east.
I'd argued that I didn't need or want guards, but just as I'd made the call about Primo and Lisandro, so Jean-Claude had given his orders about this before he got carried away on stage. I was to go nowhere without someone with me. He wasn't sure the Dragon was done with us for the night, and it would be a shame if something went horribly wrong. What he hadn't told the security detail, vampire or otherwise, was about what had happened earlier in my office. That had had nothing to do with the Dragon and everything to do with my own metaphysical shit. Well, mine, and Jean-Claude's.
Jean-Claude had even left a list of people he thought were appropriate to the job. Byron had not been on the list, nor had Clay. It had been a damn short list, actually, basically Requiem and Graham. The last thing I wanted to do was be trapped in a car with Requiem, but I didn't have time to argue. I'd gone from having plenty of time, to having to call my clients and tell them to hold fast in the cemetery, I really was on my way.
I was wearing Byron's leather jacket to take the place of my bloodied suit jacket. His was the only one that came close to fitting me and not making me look like I was wearing the upper half of a gorilla. It smelled faintly of his cologne.
Buzz's eyes left me and went to the audience. The man who had been arguing with his date was still standing, but now so was the woman, and she was starting to make a scene. "Sorry, gotta catch that."
"Be my guest," I said.
Nathaniel seemed to appear from nowhere. He escorted me toward the outer door. He was smiling and seemed terribly at ease, more so than I'd seen him in a long time, maybe ever. It seemed an odd night for him to be happy. "You promised to get back in time to see some of my act," he said, smiling.
"I've got two clients stuck in cemeteries," I said.
He gave me the look that was half-pout and half-he-knew-he'd-already-won-the-argument. "You promised."
"Can't we just f**k at home later?" I asked.
He gave me a frown. "I'll be furry, you don't do furry."
I had an idea, an awful idea. "I promised to mark your neck tonight. Oh, no, you so are not planning on me doing it in front of an audience?"
He smiled, and there was something in that smile that I hadn't seen before. Some hint of confidence, of security that hadn't been there before. He'd watched me have sex with two near strangers, and suddenly he felt more secure. Go figure.
"You little exhibitionist, you," I said, "you like the idea of me marking you for the first time in front of all these people."
He gave an aw-gee-shucks shrug, which was all act, because his eyes were bright with the answer. "I like a lot of things, Anita."
I tried to frown at him, but couldn't keep it up. "You got me to promise I'd mark you, and now you're taking advantage of it."
"You're running late," he said, "clients waiting in the cemetery." He looked solemn except for the glint of humor in his eyes, which spoiled the effect.
I shook my head, smiling. "I've got to go."
"I know," he said.
"Would it ruin the illusion if I kissed you good-bye?"
"I'll risk it," he said.
I kissed him. It was chaste, a touch of lips, a little pressure, barely any body language. I drew back with a suspicious look on my face. It made him laugh and push me toward the door. "You're late, remember."
I went, but I went out into the October dark even more certain that I knew absolutely nothing about men. Alright, to be fair, that I knew absolutely nothing about the men in my life. I glanced back to see Jean-Claude on stage with another woman, kissing her as if he were trying to find her tonsils without his hands. Most people looked disturbing or awkward when they kissed that deep. He didn't. He made it all seem suave, erotic, and perfect. I realized I'd kissed Nathaniel good-bye, but not Jean-Claude. Didn't want to interrupt, but didn't want him to feel left out, either. I blew him a kiss as his arms emptied of the woman. He returned the gesture with one pale hand. The lower half of his face was smeared bright crimson with lipstick. It didn't really look like blood, not if you'd seen enough of the real deal, but it was still a less than comforting image to take away into the night. One of the other men in my life was smiling at the door, looking forward to having me do foreplay on him in front of an audience. Sometimes the parts of my life that are weirdest to me aren't the parts dealing with vampires and werewolves and zombies. Even vampire politics didn't confuse me as much as my own love life.