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Danse Macabre (Vampire Hunter 14) - Page 16


"What do you mean, translate?" I said, turning to him.

He took my hand, and shook his head. His face had that I-love-you-but-you-amuse-me look. "You outvamped the sirens, Anita."

"How?"

"I believe," Auggie said, "because your power is over the dead, and the undead. I was told your animal to call was only leopard."

I nodded. "It is, but through Jean-Claude's marks, I also have ties to the wolves."

"Yes, but my men are neither. They are lion, and yet they felt your call."

I glanced behind him at the two men he'd brought along as both bodyguards and food, and I was told as pomme de sang candidates, though Auggie, like Samuel, had a new twist on the whole pomme thing. Auggie was hoping to convince one of our new female vamps from London to come home with him and play house. He wanted another of Belle's line in his bed. Maybe that had predisposed Bunny to be pissy. He had come here to replace her, after all.

Auggie was offering to trade one of his werelions for a bedmate of Belle's line. I wondered how the men in question felt; did they want to stay in St. Louis? Did they want to leave Chicago? Had anyone asked them? I was betting not.

They were both tall, and muscular, and all they needed was a blinking sign over their heads that said "bodyguard." They both wore tailored suits that hid the guns I was almost one hundred percent sure were under there somewhere. One was brunette, the other pale; other than that they looked as if an unimaginative baker had used the same cookie cutter for both of them. Only the icing was different. The pale one had short spiky, blue hair, which had actually been dyed well, so that it wasn't a solid blue color, but pale blue, dark blue, all mixed together like real hair is, and dyed hair seldom is. Except that nobody has hair the color of Cookie Monster and a spring sky on the top of their head. His eyes were a pale blue made deeper, richer, by the hair color. He was a little more slender through the shoulders, and maybe an inch taller, than the other guard.

The brunette's hair looked like it might curl, but he'd cut it so short it didn't have the chance. His shoulders had a swell that I was familiar with; someone lifted weights as more than a casual hobby. Not a bodybuilder, but he worked at it. He was tall enough to carry the shoulders.

Cookie Monster had a slight smile on his slender face. It reached the blue of his eyes, as if we just amused the hell out of him. Brunette watched me like I might do something bad, and he would be ready. The smile didn't fool me; they were both professional muscle. They were dangerous, and they were totally unacceptable as pomme de sang candidates. Too dominant, too unbending. Yeah, it was a quick judgment, but I'd have bet almost anything I was right.

My eyes went to the other man who still stood behind the couch. I'd have said human, but the power that lurked just below that dark, elegant surface made me think, maybe not. I knew he was Octavius, Auggie's human servant. I'd have liked to just greet the two bodyguards, and let their power tell me I was right to think they were too dominant for what we wanted, but technically since they weren't Auggie's special animal to call, Octavius outranked them.

Almost as if he read my face, Octavius said, "Greet them first, Ms. Blake, let us see what you think of your choices. I, too, think the night is wasting away." His voice matched the smooth elegance of the rest of him.

I nodded, and said, "Thank you." But I didn't like that Octavius had read me that easily. I moved around the couch, with Micah and Nathaniel at my back, and Graham and Claudia flanking all of us. I don't think any of our guards liked the two werelions any better than I did. "You guys have names?" I asked.

Cookie Monster grinned at me, eyes sparkling. Why did I think he'd grin just like that while he gutted someone? "Haven, I'm Haven."

I nodded acknowledgment, then turned to Brunette. "And you would be?"

"Pierce."

"You guys only have one name apiece? Like Madonna?"

Pierce frowned at me. Haven laughed, and it was a good laugh. Head back, full-throated; if he hadn't made the hairs at the back of my neck crawl, I'd have smiled.

Auggie glided up to the two men, putting a hand on each of them. Their eyes tightened, not a flinch, but noticable. What had he done when he touched their backs, oh-so-lightly?

Auggie smiled, that happy, happy smile that filled his gray eyes with light. "My lions are like vampires, Anita; they can, if they choose, have only one name among us. Pierce and Haven do have first names, but I think they will keep them until they know if they're staying."

"What, you think I can't run them through a computer and a record check because you don't give me their real names?"

"If their criminal record worries you, then let me allay your fears. They both have one." He was still smiling when he said it.

It was all getting too weird. These were our friends, and I was already feeling like I'd been thrown into the deep end of the pool. Jean-Claude, where are you? I thought.

I got a confused glimpse of fighting. He and Asher were struggling to hold Meng Die down. It reminded me of watching the men carrying Bunny out. If they want to hurt you, and you don't want to hurt them, you are at a disadvantage. They were inside the building that housed the carnival's freak show upstairs. Though most of the "freaks" were rare super-naturals. I saw people looking in at them from the outer areas. They had an audience.

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I thought, Ask for help, get some guards in there and get her out of sight.

I felt more than heard him think that asking for help with the other vamps maybe sensing it would make him look weak. I thought back, Taking advantage of your resources is not weakness, its good management.

I felt him reach out to the wolves upstairs. I felt them moving toward him. Soon there'd be too many men for her to fight back. What they'd do with her once they subdued her, that was a different question. I had one more awful thought. I turned to Claudia. "Can you contact the wererat guards upstairs via mind?"

She pulled a small cell phone from one pocket. "How about phone?"

"Meng Die's animal to call is wolf; I'd like a few wererats to join everyone in the freak show."

Claudia didn't ask, she just made the call. So nice not to be questioned.

"And what does Jean-Claude need that much help with?" Auggie said.

"She's a female of Belle's line. You want her?"

He laughed. "Not if she's this wild, no."

"Auggie wouldn't need help to subdue one of his vamps," Pierce said.

"Jean-Claude could subdue her, or even kill her, but she's chosen a place where there's an audience. Committing murder in front of civilians is a no-no," I said.

"But once behind the scenes, will he kill her?" Haven asked.

I sighed. "Probably not."

"Weakness," Pierce said.

Auggie patted them both on the back, and again there was that tightening around their eyes. "Now, now, boys, some masters would have killed Bunny for her disrespect. Everyone runs his territory a little differently." He was still cheerful, and charming, but there was an edge to it.

"What are you thinking, Auggie?" I asked. I didn't really expect an answer, but I got one.

"That Jean-Claude is too sentimental for his own good sometimes."

I smiled, and knew it left my eyes cold. "You know, sentimental is not a word I would have used for him."

"Then he has changed."

"Don't we all," I said.

Auggie nodded, the smile melting around the edges. "Taste them, Anita. taste your new toys."

I shook my head, and said, "Can you stop touching them while I do it? I'd hate to confuse your tie to them with their power."

He gave a small bow and stepped back. He even went to sit on the couch, where Octavius joined him. I stepped away from my own people. I fought not to look at one particular guard of ours. Our local lions were ruled by Joseph, and he was in the corner dressed as a bodyguard. He was ready to help if needed, but he and I both knew that he was mostly here to check out the new werelions. I was betting he liked them even less than I did.

I looked up at the two men in question. "Do you guys want this trade?"

That surprised them both, though Haven hid it sooner. He smiled. "I'm cool with it, if it works out." His eyes were cooler when he said it, as if the smile were beginning to melt down his face. If I asked the right question I might even see the real Haven behind the smiling, hip exterior. Pierce glanced behind them at Auggie. I said what I'd said to the twins. "Don't look at your master, look at me, and give me an honest answer. Do you want to be traded to St. Louis?"

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