"It takes time to get an order of execution, Ms. Blake. You cannot possibly have one with my name on it in your pocket." He was chiding again. Silly girl, his voice seemed to say.
I shook my head. I was being silly, wasn't I? Asher's hand found my leg. When I'd pointed the gun, his hand had had to move. His hand went up under my skirt, until he traced the edge of the hose, and found skin. It wasn't about sex, it was about helping keep me clearheaded. It was the first time a man touching my thigh had cleared my head.
I straightened my arm a little, and made it a double-handed grip. Damian's hand on my shoulder dug in, as if he was afraid of what I was about to do.
"You try to mind-fuck me again and I'll take my chances with the courts."
There were other guns out in the room, all of them in the hands of our guys, and girl. Claudia said, "If you leave the couch, you bleed."
Adonis and Elisabetta settled back against the cushions again. I didn't spare a glance to see if they were happy about it. Claudia and the others had them; I had my hands full with the vampire in front of me.
"I will not use my power on you again, Ms. Blake. I think you are a little too dangerous to tease."
"Good of you notice," I said, voice quiet, fighting to keep my arms steady.
"Your word that you will not try to use your powers on any of us here tonight," Asher said, his hand very still on my thigh.
"I give you my word that I will not use my powers on any of you tonight."
"Broaden," I said.
"What?" Asher asked.
"His word that he doesn't use his powers on us while he's in town. I want his word that he'll be a good boy until he leaves our territory."
"You heard the lady," Asher said, and he didn't try to keep the humor out of his voice. I was glad I was amusing someone.
He gave his word, exactly as I asked him to. He was an ancient vampire. If you could ever get one of the bastards to give their word of honor, then you had them. They wouldn't break it. Weird, but true.
I lowered my gun, and Claudia and the others did the same. We didn't put the guns up, though. We had Merlin's word, not Adonis's, or Elisabetta's. I guess I should have thrown that in, but I hadn't thought about it at the time.
"You know that I am one of the few vampires she created personally. You have seen the memory of my death."
"I had heard rumors that she was stirring. More rumors that she has visited you in dream, or vision. I am forbidden to approach the council for any reason on pain of death. To have the rumors confirmed, or denied, I had no choice but to come here, to you and Jean-Claude."
"Why the power trip at the ballet?" I said.
"I wanted to see if I could find something in Jean-Claude that would interest her."
"And?" I said.
"I found you."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"It means you are a necromancer, as of old."
"And that means, what?"
"You have powers that I have not seen in many long centuries."
"You haven't seen my powers used yet."
"You have a vampire servant. You have an animal to call. You gain powers as if you were a master vampire. You feed upon sex as Jean-Claude does, as Belle Morte does. It is not an option for you, or an added power from Jean-Claude. You must feed as if you were in truth a vampire. Not upon blood, true, but upon lust."
"Yeah, yeah, I'm a succubus." I tried not to think hard about what I'd just admitted, saying it quick.
"You make light of it, why?"
"Because it scares me," I said.
"You admit that?" This from Adonis.
I shrugged. "Why not?"
"Most people don't like admitting what they fear."
"It doesn't make you less afraid of it," I said.
"I find that it does," he said, and it was his real voice, I think, not a game.
"What do you fear?" Asher asked.
"Nothing I will share with a lesser master."
"Let's not start name-calling," I said. "We were actually talking."
"What do you wish to talk about, Ms. Blake?"
"You say you came here looking for answers about Mommie Dearest; ask your questions."
"And you will answer them, just like that?" He sounded like he didn't believe me.
"I won't know until I hear the questions, but maybe. Stop trying to mind-fuck and just pretend we're both civilized beings. Ask me."
He actually laughed, and it was just a laugh, not that touchable sound of Jean-Claude, or Asher, or Belle Morte. It was just a laugh. "Perhaps I am so old that I have forgotten how to simply talk."
"Practice on me, ask your questions."
"Is she waking from her long sleep?"
"Yes," I said.
"How do you know with such certainty?"
"I've seen her in dreams, and in..." I hesitated, searching for a word.
"Vision," Asher supplied.
"But that makes it seem like some beatific otherworldly shit, and it wasn't like that."
"What was it like?" Merlin asked.
"She sent a spirit cat once, an illusion. It sort of climbed up my body in the Jeep once. She smells of night, soft and tropical, jasmine, rain. She damn near suffocated me once with the taste of a rainy night. Belle Morte does it with the perfume of roses."
"Do you equate their power with each other?" he asked.
"Do you mean, are they similar in power?"
"No," I said.
"How is it no?"
"I've seen her rise above me in vision, or dream, or whatever the f**k it was, like a huge black ocean. I've seen her rise like living night, made into something real, and separate. As if night wasn't just the absence of light, but was something real, and alive. She is the reason that our ancestors huddled around the fire at night. She's why we fear the dark. She's a fear in the very fiber of our beings, something going back to the lizard part of us. We don't fear her because we fear the dark; we fear the dark because of her."
I shivered, suddenly cold. Asher took off his tuxedo jacket and laid it around my bare shoulders. It put Damian's hand against the back of my neck, under my hair, so he could keep contact. I didn't argue about it.
"Then it is true," Merlin said, in a voice that held a sliver of fear, "she is waking."
"Yes," I said, "she is." I took Asher's hand in mine. I needed the comfort.
"Belle Morte believes it is her power that has raised the mother's servants."
"That isn't it, and you know it," I said.
"They wake, because she is waking," he said.
"Yes," I said.
"Why is she so interested in a human servant?" Adonis asked, not rudely, but like he truly wanted to know.
"I believe it is not the human servant who interests her, but the necromancer." He looked at me, and again I fought not to meet his eyes. I didn't think it was mind tricks, just habit. You look in someone's eyes. You just do. "Did you know, Ms. Blake, that it is on her orders that the necromancers of old were slaughtered?"
"No," I said, "I didn't know that."
"It was her orders that all with your gifts be killed before they could grow to such power."
"I can sort of understand that."
I nodded, and squeezed Asher's hand, and pressed Damian's hand closer to my skin. "I can roll a vampire's mind the way you guys roll us."
"Can you, truly?"
I realized that I'd said too much, overshared. "I am too tired to play games tonight, Merlin. When she mind-fucked us both tonight a well-meaning friend gave me a cross to hold."
"Oh, dear," he said.
I raised my left hand so he could see the new scar.
"How did you heal it so quickly? A holy item heals slowly for us."
I put my hand back on top of Damian's. "I'm not a vampire, Merlin, I'm a necromancer. It's just another kind of psychic gift. It doesn't make me evil."
"And are we evil, merely because we are vampires?"
The question was too hard for me with a vampire in each hand. "I'm too tired to debate philosophy with you. It took energy to heal this."
"We felt you feed," Adonis said.
I fought not to look at him again. "Yeah, I fed, but it wasn't enough. Dealing with Mommie Dearest takes a lot out of a girl."