"You promised to do whatever I asked, if I gave you the morphine. You gave your word."
I swallowed, licked my lips, and thought about calling her a bitch, but since she was the only doctor we had, and I was hurt, it seemed unwise to piss her off. I could control Raina's munin now, if I hadn't been on drugs. I said, "No."
"Then you will miss the ballet, and the party, and you will not be there to help Jean-Claude against the other masters. Richard will not be there because he is hiding. If you think it is a good idea to strip the master of this city of both of his thirds on this night, then refuse."
Hell with it. I said, "Bitch."
She smiled, and patted my cheek. "Once you are healed, your beasts may rise, so I will leave you with people who can take your beast, if they must."
"I don't understand."
"But I think we should start with someone that Raina never touched. I knew her, you see; she always loved new conquests."
I shook my head, gently. "Don't understand."
Nathaniel appeared beside her. He was not new to Raina; she'd had him every way a woman could have a man, and some that stretched the imagination to the screaming point. He was nude, except for the amethyst and diamond collar. It had been a gift from Jean-Claude and me, though frankly, more Jean-Claude's idea than mine. It would simply never have occurred to me.
"You're not wearing any clothes."
He smiled. "We're going to try to go back inside afterward."
He glanced at Lillian. "How much is she following all this?"
"I'm not certain."
A voice from behind us. "I don't do rape."
Jason's voice then. "None of us do."
Lillian leaned over me. "Anita, Anita, you must give permission for this."
"For what, exactly?" There, that was a clear question.
"Raise Raina's munin, heal yourself, and heal Requiem."
"Raina will like that he's someone new, and that he's badly injured."
I stared into Lillian's face. "You really did know her."
She nodded. "Better than I wanted to. I would not ask this, if I thought we would survive this night without you. Raphael felt one of the masters in the ballet. One of them can call rats, Anita. Do you understand what that means to our people?"
"Yes," I said, "if they take Raphael, then they own you all."
"And we invited them here," I whispered.
Requiem's bare shoulder appeared around Lillian. "Merlin, their dance master, rolled the human audience to make his dancers appear and vanish, but he did not try to roll the other masters. Until tonight."
I wasn't so sure of that. I'd felt Merlin's mind. If he'd rolled them, then let them go, they might never have figured it out. I tried to explain it. "His mind, powerful enough. He could let them go. They might never know."
"You mean that he rolled them, and was so powerful that they don't remember it?"
I watched fear march over his face, swallowed by that perfect blankness that the old ones have. "Perhaps, but I do not believe that Marmee Noir appeared in the other cities."
"Who is Marmee Noir?" Lillian asked.
"Our dark mother, the first of us. It was her power added to Merlin's that did what was done tonight. It was her power that made Richard's cross melt into Anita's hand."
"Is she here, with the troupe?"
"No," I said, "she lies in the room with windows." That probably made no sense to any of them, but they let it go. They took my drugged assurance that the nightmare of all vampires wasn't physically in St. Louis. Drugged out of my ability to concentrate and they took my word about it. They shouldn't have done that. But more than Mommie Dearest, there was Auggie and Samuel, and hell, Samuel's wife, Thea. If these were the masters Jean-Claude trusted, then what would the other masters do to us? Jean-Claude didn't need to be alone tonight. Something bad would happen.
"Get out, doc."
"Don't want you here when the wicked bitch comes."
"I'll get out, and the only ones in the car will be people you've fed on before, Anita." She glanced behind her. "With one exception."
"Go, Lillian," Jason said. "Jean-Claude's nervous. Something else has happened. Not as bad, but something."
Lillian moved out of sight, and Jason knelt beside me. He was as nude as Nathaniel. He was wearing the cuff bracelet that Jean-Claude had had commissioned for him. Wolves running over a gold and platinum landscape. The wolves looked so real you expected them to move. I stared at the bracelet. "Pretty," I said.
He grinned. "And the bracelet's nice, too." He looked down at me, and his face was so serious. I couldn't feel what Jean-Claude was feeling; the morphine and my own earlier panic had shut the marks down. I didn't like how serious Jason looked. What was happening to my sweeties while I was arguing?
"Let's get you out of the clothes. You've got to have something to wear back inside."
A moment ago, I might have argued, but Jason was scared, and I couldn't feel Jean-Claude. I was too befuddled to risk opening the marks. Afraid I'd screw up Jean-Claude's concentration as badly as mine was, and that would be a disaster. Bad things were happening, and it was our fault. The vampires had invited bad things to the city, and now everyone was in danger. "Help me out of the corset."
"Thought you'd never ask," Jason said, and he leered at me, the way he usually did, but I could see his eyes, and his eyes weren't having any fun at all. Bad things, bad things, what was happening inside? I thought, Hold on, Jean-Claude. I felt him like a distant caress of wind against the door I'd used to shut us down. That breath of power smelled sweetly of his cologne. His words seemed to fill the car. "Feed before you come back to me, ma petite. Do not loose the ardeur on the crowd." Then he was gone, shut down and tight, shielding his ass off. But he'd raised a good point. It was perfectly me to raise munin, heal, and not feed the ardeur, if I could stave it off. That brief message let me know that he wanted me back fed, and ready to fight, not hungry and dangerous to the crowd. Jason helped me sit up, and Nathaniel started unlacing my corset back. Was it too small-town Midwestern of me to think it was weird that my main squeeze was encouraging me to have sex with a limo full of men before I came back inside to him? We had the mother of all vampires lurking around. A master vamp powerful enough to roll every master in town. And mustn't forget the blond dancer, Adonis, who had almost rolled me with his gaze. Powerful, dangerous shit going on, and the thing that made me squirm inside was the sex? It was one of those evenings when I'd really get to decide if it was a fate worse than death.
The corset loosened enough to spill my br**sts into the open air. "Requiem," Jason said, "get over here."
The vampire came, and he used his hands to hide his nakedness. He seemed embarrassed. I was uncomfortable with it, too, but the morphine took the edge off the embarrassment, like it took the edge off everything.
They lifted the corset over my head, and other hands went to the top of my skirt. Nathaniel took the clothes away as they came off. They took everything but the diamond necklace. Apparently the jewelry was a theme tonight. There was plastic over the far seat, and he was putting the clothes under it. How messy was everyone expecting to be?
I caught movement in the far back of the limo. It was Noel. "No," I said, "get him out."
"Justin didn't get here, Anita," Jason said, "he's the only lion we got except for Auggie's bodyguard. If your lion rises, we need somewhere for it to go."
"He's a baby."
Jason nodded. "Raina loved virgins."
I shook my head too hard, made myself dizzy. I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate. "He waits outside the car. If my lion rises, then I'll bring his beast, but we are not feeding him to Raina." I opened my eyes, and the world had stopped wavering. Good.
Jason touched Requiem's shoulder, drew my attention back to him. "I don't think we'll have to, Anita. Look at Requiem through her eyes. Look at those wounds, Anita. He's fresh meat and he's wounded. She'll like that."
I looked at the knife wounds on his chest and side. His arms were cut up. "Silver blades," I said.