Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 61

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"Through the walls. They aren't that thick."

"I keep forgetting that preternatural hearing," Rufous said.

"What about Micah and Nathaniel?"

"The police are still questioning Nathaniel, and Micah insisted on being with him or the interview had to end. I'm still not sure why the cop listened to Micah and not to Bram."

"Why are they still interviewing Nathaniel about what happened between Peter and Dixie?"

Nicky's smile slipped around the edges. There was suddenly a cynicism to his face that made me grab his arm and say, "What's wrong, Nicky?"

"They ran everyone's name through the database and Nathaniel's popped with his juvie convictions."

I frowned at him. "What does that have to do with what happened earlier today? Nathaniel didn't do anything but help with first aid."

Nicky looked at me as if I were naive.

"What am I missing here, Nicky? Just tell me."

Rufous made a throat-clearing sound that no one ever used for clearing their throat but was only to get attention. We gave it to him.

"Do you know something about this, Rufous?"

He looked embarrassed, which I hadn't seen on him before. It made me even more nervous. "Let's find my wife. Ted asked her to come in from sight-seeing when Peter went to the hospital just for you, button," he said, smiling down at Becca.

"Ted call you?" I asked.

Rufous nodded.

"I'm not a baby, Mr. Martinez. Is something wrong with Uncle Nathaniel?"

"No, button."

"And stop calling me button. I'm not an article of clothing; I'm a person. I'm just little, but I'm still a person."

I had to turn my face away and swallow hard to stop from laughing or giving her a high five. Both seemed good.

"How much time did you say you were spending with Button here?" Rufous said.

Becca glared at him. I fought not to laugh at her--one, because she was right, and two, because her dignity was on the line. People treat children as if they don't have dignity, but they do, or they can.

"How do you know this is my influence?" I asked him.

"Well, it didn't come from her mother," he said, and there was a note of unhappiness in his voice. I hated that I agreed with Olaf on this, but I did.

"Actually, my mom won't let just anyone call her names like honey or sweetheart or button," she said, arms crossed over her thin chest. That stubborn look that reminded me so much of Peter when he was younger was back.

"She lets Ted call her honeybunch," I said.

She rolled her eyes at me as if I was being stupid. "That's Dad. Of course he calls her that. She calls him teddy bear."

Nicky and Olaf were alerted to someone walking in our direction. I had to move slightly to see around Nicky. Rodina and Ru were walking toward us.

"Teddy bear, huh?" Rodina said.

"No, Morgan, don't even think about it," I said.

"I do not encourage it," said Nicky, "but if you are going to call Ted teddy bear, then I want to watch."

"As do I," Olaf said.

Rufous said, "Me, too."

"If I do it, I'll try to make sure I have an audience," Rodina said.

"If they wanted to keep Nathaniel longer, why are you free this soon, Wyatt? You flirted with her as much as Nathaniel did."

"I'm not sure," he said, but looked uncomfortable.

"I see the little woman," Rufous said, raising his arm to attract the attention of a woman who was almost as tall as he was, but without the middle-aged spread. Her hair was salt-and-pepper in careless curls cut just above her shoulders. There was a heat and happiness in Rufous's face as he looked at the tall woman all the way across the lobby that made me happy to see. As I got closer to my own wedding I liked seeing couples with a decade and counting of happily ever after. She turned and her face broke into a huge smile that made her eyes sparkle far enough away that I wasn't sure what color they were, and it was all for Rufous.

"I thought college football players were supposed to go for short cheerleaders," I said.

"Nope, I like 'em tall, and you can keep your cheerleaders. Marisol was a track star. She nearly made the Olympics," Rufous said, grinning and moving to meet his wife, so after they'd kissed each other thoroughly their conversation was private. Maybe he didn't want us to hear their terms of endearment for each other.

I fought off the urge to ask about Nathaniel again, because we had managed to distract Becca from it. I could have opened the link between Nathaniel and me and seen, or at least felt, everything he was experiencing, but opening a link that wide can alert others with psychic ability. Some police departments were starting to hire psychics or witches to monitor stuff like that. I didn't want to get Nathaniel in more trouble or explain how deep our connection went. Besides, if I kept my mouth shut and was patient, Rufous's wife, Marisol, would take the little girl somewhere else. I al

most had to count under my breath to stop myself from asking what I wanted to ask. Luckily, they didn't keep us waiting long.

They came up hand in hand, both grinning like a couple of schoolkids. It made me feel better to see them all shiny after decades of marriage. I think they'd celebrated twenty-five years together, or maybe that was Frankie and Carol. Edward and Donna had a lot of friends who had hit the twenty-plus mark, and I'd been introduced to most of them in the last forty-eight hours, so they were beginning to glom together.

I wanted to know about Nathaniel, but I wasn't sure about letting Becca out of my sight until Edward relieved me. As if he knew, I got a text from him that told me Marisol was on Becca duty now. Focus on Otto!

Becca didn't want to go with Marisol. She wanted to stay and find out what was happening with Nathaniel. I'd finally had enough. "Becca, this isn't negotiable. You go with Marisol now. We need to talk about things and I'm not sure if you need to hear them or not, and until I am sure, you need to be elsewhere."

"What if I don't go?" she said, crossing her arms and getting that stubborn look again.

"Do you really want to help Nathaniel?" Nicky asked.

She looked suspicious but said, "Yes."

"Then do what Anita says, because the sooner we can talk to her about Nathaniel, the sooner we can help him."

She opened her mouth to argue.

My stomach had tightened into a harsh knot at the phrasing. Nathaniel needed help, damn it. "Becca, this is one of the loves of my life and you're delaying my ability to help him by being a brat." Was that harsh? I didn't know, but we'd wasted enough time being nice about this.

"I'm sorry," she said, but still sounded angry about it.

"Don't be sorry; do better. Now go, so I can find out what's happening."

Marisol held out her hand and said, "There's supposed to be a great cupcake place nearby."

"I don't want a cupcake," Becca said as they walked out of hearing range across the lobby. What kind of eleven-year-old doesn't like cupcakes?

I turned back to Nicky and Rufous. "One of you talk, now."

Ru looked like he was afraid he was in trouble, too, but Rodina seemed eager, as if she was glad someone was in trouble.

"You know Nathaniel has a record for soliciting and a few other things. He pled out and never saw jail time, but he has a record," Nicky said.

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