He spoke low and soft, in French. I caught the word bebe. Baby. I waited to be irritated, but all I could think while I stared down at him whispering to my stomach was how cute it was. That didn't sound like me. I looked across the room, and found Jean-Claude's face gone soft with emotion. I knew who thought it was cute, and it wasn't me. But with that much of Jean-Claude's emotion going through me, I had to agree. I held my hand out to Jean-Claude, while the other hand stroked Asher's hair. Jean-Claude took my hand and hugged me from behind, pressing his body to Asher's arms around my waist. So happy, Jean-Claude was so happy. It filled us both, so warm, so good, like being wrapped in your favorite blanket cuddled against someone you love. I leaned into Jean-Claude's arm, and he laid a kiss against my neck. Asher raised his face, and smiled up at us both. His face somehow looked younger, the way he must have looked centuries ago when he was alive.
The happiness was real, touchable; then the thinnest slice of regret crept into Jean-Claude's mind. I caught the thought before he could hide it, that happiness like this does not last. That the last time he'd been this happy, it had all gone horribly wrong. He buried his face in the crook of my neck to hide his expression from Asher. I touched his face, gave him my eyes, and let him see that I'd "heard" his thought, and it was all right. It was all right to fear the-great-bad-thing coming to get you, because I believed in the-great-bad-thing, too.
When I was younger, I'd wanted someone to promise me that things would work out and nothing bad would ever happen again. But I understood now that that was a child's wish. No one could promise that. No one. The grown-ups could try, but they couldn't promise, not and mean it. I stood there between the two of them, and knew that I would do whatever it took to keep them safe, to keep them happy. I'd been willing to kill for the people I loved for a very long time; now I had to start living for them.
EVERYONE I CONSIDERED a boyfriend or a lover left. I wanted some alone time. But truly alone was too dangerous. Requiem and some bodyguards stayed. I dressed in the bathroom, which seemed stupid since everyone had seen me naked, but I needed some privacy.
While Jean-Claude and Asher were with me, I felt utterly calm about the baby, even happy. Once they were gone the panic set back in. One of them, I wasn't sure which, had used vampire wiles on me. Or maybe, I was just picking up someone's emotions. Hell, I was bound metaphysically to so many different men, it didn't even have to be Jean-Claude's emotions I was picking up. All I knew for certain was that they weren't mine.
I got dressed in the emergency clothes I'd started keeping in Jean-Claude's room. Jeans, black T-shirt, jogging shoes, good leather belt, and enough underwear to go under it all. The belt helped hold my shoulder holster. The familiar tightness of it made me feel better. More secure. The security had little to do with being able to shoot people. Most of the people making my life hard, I loved, and didn't want to shoot. No, the gun was more psychological-better than real-life-better. Guns only work against things you're willing to kill. If you're not willing to kill, then a gun is, in some ways, a false sense of security. The wrist sheaths and silver-edged knives, that was extra security. Short of a heart blow, most of the people in my life would survive a knife. I didn't expect to argue that hard with anybody, but the wrist sheaths helped me feel better. I left the bathroom dressed and armed. Much better.
I added another thing I kept at Jean-Claude's, an extra cross. I got it out of the bedside table. It was cool against my skin, hidden under the shirt.
"I am the only monster in the room that a cross will stop, do you distrust me that much?" Requiem said from the bed.
His comment made me glance at Remus and another new werehyena sitting near the fireplace. "It's nothing personal, Requiem, but I've been visited by Belle and Marmee Noir. The cross helps keep them at bay."
"They are terrible powers."
"Yeah." I rummaged in the overnight bag until I came up with my cell phone, then headed for the bathroom.
"You can talk in front of me, Anita. I will not bear tales."
"You're blood-oathed to Jean-Claude. You'll talk if he wants you to, but frankly, I just want some privacy. Again, nothing personal, Requiem." I sighed, because this kind of shit was one of the reasons I'd been able to keep turning him down as pomme de sang. He was messy, or at least not neat, and I didn't need more emotionally messy men in my life. "Look, this isn't going to work between us if you take everything so damned personally. Fuck buddies don't fret this much, okay."
His face had closed down to that handsome blankness. "Okay," he said, and that one empty word let me know his feelings were hurt. Shit, I did not need this.
I closed the bathroom door, and used my cell phone to call my gynecologist. I'd finally realized that a little piece of plastic wasn't quite good enough. It was ninety-nine percent accurate; for this, I wanted a hundred percent. It took me nearly five minutes to convince the receptionist that I needed to talk to a nurse, or the doctor. The doctor, of course, was with a patient, but five minutes on hold snagged me a nurse.
"What seems to be the problem?" she asked in a voice that was part cheerful and part impatient.
"How accurate are those home pregnancy tests? I mean I know what the box says, but really, how good are they?"
"Very good, very accurate." Her voice had softened a little.
I swallowed hard enough that she probably heard me. "So if one comes back positive, then..."
"Then congratulations," she said.
"But it's not a hundred percent, right?"
"No, but a false positive is very rare, Ms. Blake, very rare."
"Isn't there like a blood test that's a hundred percent accurate?"
"There is a blood test, yes, but normally the doctors trust the home tests, too."
"But if I wanted to schedule a blood test, to be absolutely sure, then I could?"
"Ms. Blake, if you're that worried, take a second home pregnancy test, but I doubt that the second test will give you a different answer. False negatives, those we see, but false positives are very rare."
"How rare?" I asked.
I heard paper rustling. "When was the date of your last period?"
"First week of September."
"Do you have the exact date?"
"No, I don't." I fought not to sound angry. Who the hell kept track to the day of their period?
"Ms. Blake, Anita, I think we need to schedule you a prenatal visit."
"Prenatal, no, I mean, yes, I mean, oh, hell."
"Anita, I talk to a lot of women. Most of them are happy about the news, but not all of them. You don't sound like this was good news to you."
"Dr. North is just coming out, I'll let you talk to him." Silence, then the sounds of movement, cloth rustling, and a man's voice. "Hey, Anita, how's my favorite vampire hunter doing?"
"Not so good today," I said, and my voice sounded small, and hurt.
"I'm sorry about that. We need to schedule you an appointment."
"I don't want to be pregnant."
He was quiet for a moment. "You're not very far along, Anita; you still have options."
"Abortion, you mean?"
"I can't, not unless there's something majorly wrong. I mean, I'll need to be tested for Vlad's syndrome, and Mowgli syndrome."
"I figured the Vlad's syndrome test, but you only need the Mowgli test if you've had sex with a shapeshifter while he's in animal form."
I put my forehead against the cool marble tiles of the wall, and said, "I know that."
"Oh," he said in that overly cheerful way, the way people say it when what they really want to say is OH MY GOD.' He recovered quickly; he was, after all, a doctor. "Peggy, I'm going take this in my office, transfer it, please. Hang on a minute, Anita, let's get some privacy." I listened to a mercifully short amount of Muzak, then the phone picked up, and he said, "Okay, Anita, we'll need you to come in as soon as possible." I heard paper rippling. "We had a cancellation at two o'clock this afternoon."
"I don't know if I can make it."
"If this were just a regular prenatal visit, Anita, I'd say fine, do it next week, but if we're testing for both of the syndromes, and you're telling me there's a chance, especially for Mowgli syndrome, then we need to do the blood work now."