Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 36

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Ru laughed, enjoying the women's reaction. He'd been the quiet, shy one of the triplets. In Ireland when we needed to pretend to be a tourist couple, it had been Rodrigo who had smiled and flirted on my arm. Ru just didn't seem interested, and suddenly he was suave and debonair. "Hi, Anita. Your fiances seem to have missed each other." Even his tone of voice was deeper, richer. If I'd had my eyes closed, I wouldn't have known it was him.

"Did you say they're both her fiances?" the redhead asked.

"I did."

"They are," I said, but I was looking at Ru, trying to figure out how to do this next part. I was terrible at undercover work.

Rodina seemed to have figured out that I needed a push, because she came up to us and said, "Kiss her, brother dear, before her fiances are done with each other and a line starts to form."

The Ru I thought I knew would have hesitated or been embarrassed, but this new person gave me a look from his dark eyes that was all male. "The invitation needs to be from the lady in question," he said in that deeper voice.

"Sure, but you better be fast before they come up for air," I said.

He managed to extract himself from the brunette who had finally let go of Nathaniel's arm. She looked lost and about four years younger than I'd have put her when she was all confident on their arms. I'd thought she was older because she was the tallest, at least five-eight, but the look on her face and the sudden awkwardness of her body language in the bright bikini made me wonder if she was even legal.

The brunette on the other arm wasn't so easy to get rid of; she snuggled tighter to his side, putting both hands and some of her body into holding on. It was a definite possessive gesture. He'd only been flirting with her for less than two hours; how was that long enough for possessiveness? The brunette was short enough that she came in under his shoulder, which made her my height, or maybe an inch shorter. Her dark hair was somewhere between curly and wavy, which probably meant it was natural. Permanents always seem to pick one. She was tanned enough that the white bikini she was wearing made a nice contrast. Her eyes were hidden behind large round sunglasses. The glasses hid a lot of her face. What I could see was pretty, but her face was sort of round and unfinished, which made me deduct a few years off her age no matter how grown-up the body looked. She was college age, somewhere between eighteen and twenty-five, though I was betting much closer to the younger age. I think she was glaring at me through the sunglasses. I managed not to feel intimidated by the glare.

When Ru realized he'd have to actually struggle to extract his arm from her, he stopped trying to get away and gave a small shrug. "Anita, this is Bettina. She and her friends are here for their best friend's wedding."

"The blonde in the Bride shirt?"

"How did you guess?" He grinned, but his eyes were watching me, trying to see what I'd do. If he'd been my real boyfriend instead of a pretend one, I'd have been more aggressive, but . . . "So how did Bettina and friends get the idea that you'd be more than just flirty?"

He glanced down at the woman on his arm. "I'm not really sure."

The redhead said, "You lying bastard, you've been flirting your asses off with us." She had hands on slender hips, small breasts pointed sort of aggressively. She had the beginnings of a sunburn on her pale, freckled face and shoulders.

Micah and Nathaniel came up for air. "You're just too adorable for your own good, Wyatt," Nathaniel said with both arms around Micah, who usually didn't do that much public display of affection with Nathaniel. He loved us both, but he was still a little uncomfortable in public with his first-ever boyfriend, now fiance. It was fun to see him feel he had to mark territory like that, and it was probably the perfect way for him to say sorry to Nathaniel.

"And now you're going to have to wait your turn, Wyatt, because here's my line," I said, motioning toward Micah and Nathaniel. They came toward me still holding hands.

"Hey, Nathaniel, are we going to race or are you going to keep kissing on your boyfriend?" a strange man was yelling from the other end of the pool. He was tall, slender, but muscled enough to have his own six-pack. I was betting he was a college athlete of some kind.

"Give me a minute to kiss on my girlfriend and then I'll be right there," Nathaniel called.

"I don't care who you kiss--just let's do this, unless you want to admit that we're going to win and just concede."

Nathaniel glanced at the redhead and the other brunette, and then back at the tall dude by the pool. "You don't care who I kiss, really?"

The tall brunette held her hands up and shook her head as she backed up. "I'm sorry, but this all got too weird for me."

The redhead looked defiant. "I'm still game if you mean it. The idiot yelling at us is my boyfriend, Randy, and I'd like to see if he really doesn't care."

The redhead came over to Nathaniel and Micah. She was almost as tall as Nathaniel but still seemed delicate beside him. She truly was one of those people who had small bones and a small body frame, and even though not a rib showed on her, she had almost no breasts or ass; she was naturally thin--because of genetics, not a starvation diet. She also looked soft, as if there wasn't much muscle tone to her, so she thought she was in shape because she was thin, but it's not the same thing as being strong. Her big hazel eyes were her best feature to me, but I wasn't the one who had been flirting with her.

Nathaniel smiled at her and said, "Just a minute, let me ask my girlfriend how she feels about it." He came to me then, still wet here and there from the pool, but his front was now surprisingly dry thanks to Micah. I glanced down and found that a lot of the front of Micah's clothes were now wet, as if he'd spilled something all over the front of him. They hadn't tried to keep any space between their bodies. Micah had made a lot of progress to be able to kiss him like that in public; maybe it was his version of makeup kissing.

I turned to Nathaniel and we shared a smile, both of us proud of our shared man for being brave and owning his feelings. His smile was a real one now, without that edge of anger in it. We came together, wrapping our arms around each other effortlessly. We knew where our hands, arms, and finally our bodies went as we slid as close together as we could get with clothes still on, though the itty-bitty bathing suit he was wearing almost didn't count. He was already a little happier to be there from kissing Micah. If he and I kissed too much, the Speedo might not hold him comfortably. I told him so.

"I'll risk it," he said and bent those few inches downward as I raised my face upward. And just like the rest of us, our lips knew exactly where to go. We kissed with lips, tongue, and finally, lightly, teeth. If he wasn't going to have to swim immediately afterward, I'd have used more teeth, but the Speedo had to hold.

We ended the kiss slowly, reluctantly. For a moment we'd forgotten where we were and why we were putting on the show. We'd just got lost in each other. We stood there for a moment sort of trying to recover from it and get back to the reality around us.

"Wow," one of the women said.

"Randy has never kissed me like that," the redhead said. She was almost right beside us, as if it really was a line at a kissing booth.

"I've never been kissed like that," Bettina said.

The redhead actually touched Nathaniel's shoulder as if to turn him from me to her. She wanted a kiss. I don't think Nathaniel would have done it, but Edward stepped between them just in case. "No, we are not going to goad them into a fight. We are going to finish the race, win their money, and then we're done."

"Hey," said the redhead, "it's not your call who he kisses unless you're his dad or something, and dads don't have abs like that." She'd managed to compliment and insult him in one sentence. It took me a moment to realize that Edward might actually be old enough to be Nathaniel's father. I never thought of him as that old, or Nathaniel as that young, but the math worked. Fuck, that sort of bothered me, though I wasn't sure why.

"How do you know that you're going to win?" Bettina asked, still holding on to Ru.

Edward gave her a look that was way mo

re him than Ted. It made her move a little back behind Ru, though she didn't let go of his arm. It made me think better of Bettina that she recognized the look as dangerous.

"Wait, you guys have bet money on this? That doesn't sound like any of you," I said.

"Some of the other men were talking trash, so Ted suggested a friendly wager," Ru said as he tried to get Bettina to let go of his arm without hurting her.

"They implied that they were young stud muffins and some of us were more stud doughnuts now," said Sheriff Rufous Martinez as he walked back to the table with something tall and fruity-looking in a glass. He was a big guy, about six-three, and had played football in college, so I'd learned, but hadn't been fast enough for the pros, so he must have been in good shape once. Now . . . he patted the hard roundness of the belly that covered way too much of the front of his body if you were worried about heart attacks. "It was my fault. I'm the only one who likes doughnuts a little too much."

"Sweets aren't your problem, Rufous," Edward said in his Ted accent. "Fatty meat and starches are."

"You're starting to sound like my wife, there, Ted," he said, easing his bulk into a chair that almost didn't hold him. Apparently, he'd gained weight sort of all over; the belly just distracted you from the rest.

"But why are Wyatt and Nathaniel swimming against each other if it's an us-versus-them thing?" I asked.

"We both won our first matches," Nathaniel said.

"Are we racing or not?" Randy called from the edge of the pool.

Nathaniel smiled and said, "I'll be right back."

"Does that mean he thinks he's going to win?" I asked.

"Win or lose, it's quick," Rufous said.

Tags: Laurell K. Hamilton Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter Horror