Serpentine (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 26) - Page 63

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Olaf said, "Are those your teeth marks in his neck?"

I gaped at him, because of all the questions he could have asked, this wasn't one I'd expected. If Rufous hadn't been there, I might have lied just because I didn't like the emotion coming off Olaf, but Rufous had seen me do it.


"You bit him in a passionate embrace?"


Heat rolled off him, his beast breaking over us.

"You've taken another lover?"

"That's none of your business, Jeffries," Rufous said.

Olaf turned on Rufous, but Nicky stepped in and said, "Did the girl try to seduce you first?"

It distracted Olaf, made him turn to Nicky. "Yes. Has she tried with you as well?"

"No, but she tried with someone else, because she thought it would make Anita happier."

"I don't understand," Olaf said.

"When you turned her down, Wyatt showed you his neck, right?"


"Rufous here is protecting Anita because that's just the kind of guy he is, but you knew me before I met Anita. I wasn't a self-sacrificing kind of guy. Neither were Morgan and Wyatt before they met Anita."

Olaf looked at Nicky, and then at Ru, and finally at Rodina as she joined us.

"You're trying to distract me from Anita, at any cost."

"Which is why we all need a little talk without Marshal Blake being present," Rufous said.

Olaf didn't even protest. He'd gotten Nicky's message that Ru and Rodina were my Brides. Maybe it would make him rethink wanting to play Sherlock to my Irene Adler. I sent Rodina off with them, just in case. Ru stayed with me, on the condition he be more bodyguard and less flirt. He agreed. He was my Bride--he had to agree to almost anything.

I needed to see Micah and Nathaniel and figure out how I could convince Detective Rankin that my boo wasn't his guy.


THE HOTEL EMPLOYEES were impressed by my flashing my badge; the local police were not. "You aren't part of this investigation, Marshal," the uniformed officer standing at the head of the hallway, blocking my way, said. Down the hallway were the conference rooms they were using to question people.

"I just want to talk to my people; that's all."

"Unless you're part of the investigation, you don't get past me. Those are my orders." He was completely unapologetic about it, which meant I probably couldn't bully my way past him. He looked young enough to be new on the job, but there was something about the way he held himself and the buzzed haircut that said he'd been military first. The kind of military who join the police are usually combat veterans. They don't bully easily, and I certainly wasn't going to scare them. He stood at relaxed attention, perfectly content to stand there for hours. No one was shooting at him; it was a good day. When no one trying to kill you is your definition of a good day, it's damn hard to impress you.

I continued to stand there in front of the officer whose name tag read Evans, but I got my cell phone out and texted Micah. "I'm outside the room. Uniform won't let me in. Are you or Nathaniel officially being held?"

"I'm not," Micah texted back.

My stomach did its hard-knot thing again. "Is Nathaniel?"

"Tried to get up & leave. Rankin is trying for material witness."

"He has no grounds," I texted back.

"But he's local, we're not, could he get a warrant?" Micah texted.

I looked at the screen and thought about it. Could Rankin get a material witness warrant against Nathaniel if he got the right judge? Probably. We'd have Nathaniel out before you could say lawsuit, but with the right judge and enough people prejudiced against him for his past and being a wereleopard, it was possible. But one thing I knew for sure was the longer you talked in an interrogation, the more information you gave them to use against you. Hell, if you talked in an ordinary interview for enough hours, you'd end up saying things you didn't mean or wished you could take back. Hours of questions and answers were designed to break you down, to exhaust you, and to make you say things that would incriminate you. Innocent people would confess to things if they were questioned long enough and hard enough.

"Not sure, but either stop talking & say lawyer, or get up and walk out."

"Rankin will imply that we aren't free to go again."

"If he doesn't produce a warrant, he's full of shit."

"OK" was the only reply. I put my phone away.

"What's going on?" Ru asked.

"They're coming out," I said. I believed that; the hard knot in my stomach wasn't quite sure.

I heard my text go off again. When I checked, it was Micah. "We keep trying to leave, but not leaving."

"Why?" I asked.


That wasn't like either of them. Micah worked with the police for the Coalition and Nathaniel had had enough experience with the police early on that he knew not to talk without a lawyer, or he should have known. So why were they still talking? I'd been so busy being scared for Nathaniel that I hadn't been logical, and logic stated that they should have walked out of there a while ago. No bluff should have kept Micah there, and he'd have insisted Nathaniel go with him. And it was a bluff, because no way did Rankin have a warrant yet.

Officer Evans could keep me out of the room physically, but I had other options and I was willing to use them now. I lowered my shields and reached out toward both of my guys, but I forgot that I was already standing beside s

omeone I was metaphysically connected to. The side of my body closest to Ru ran with goose bumps, all the hairs on my arm standing up. I turned to look at him and found him rubbing the arm closest to me, as if I wasn't the only one who'd felt it. His eyes were a little wide, his breathing quicker.

"What is that?" Ru said.

I stared at him from inches away, and just like I had at the pool, I had a sudden urge to touch him. I shut the link down, putting my shields back in place, so that we were left staring at each other.

I stepped back from the officer and the hallway, and Wyatt followed my lead like a good dance partner. We found a quiet piece of wall and I said, out loud, "I don't know what's wrong with our connection, but it's not like this with Nicky or Rod . . . Morgan."

"You and Nicky have a solid connection. You know what you are to each other. Morgan hates you; it helps her keep you out of her head."

"And you and me?" I asked.

"I mirror the energy around me, the behaviors of the people around me, which makes me nearly perfect at undercover work, but it also means that I'm vulnerable to getting lost in my cover."

"You mean you start believing your cover story?"

He nodded.

"So why does that make my energy weird around you?"

"Nicky said it last night: Brides are food or cannon fodder. We aren't meant to be kept around this long, Anita. I'm trying to become whatever you need me to be, and for your powers, that's food--either through blood, meat, or sex."

"Are you saying you don't care which I choose?"

"I'd rather not die, so I'd prefer not to be your meat." He leaned his face close to mine, his arm going around my waist and automatically sliding high enough to not compromise the gun at my waist, just like I had with him earlier. "If you were a true vampire I would happily donate blood."

I spoke with my lips almost touching his cheek. "I'm not that kind of vampire."

"No, through Jean-Claude's powers you're a succubus like Belle Morte." He nuzzled his face against mine like a cat scent-marking its favorite people.

"I have enough lovers; nothing personal."

"I am not asking to join your poly group, my queen, only to be your food."

I drew back enough to look into his eyes. "You know that I can feed on energy without sex."

"Yes, but of all the ways you feed, sex seems to be the most pleasant. I would like to take the pleasant option, if you would allow it."

I felt my energy rise like someone had added hot water to a cooling bath. Ru shuddered beside me, as if the energy had traveled from me to him. It was as if a part of my power had been cut off, or dampened, and it was suddenly bright again. I knew who it was before I saw them. Micah came out of the hallway behind us with his hand on Nathaniel's arm as if he were leading him. Officer Evans was looking behind them as if for orders--did he stop them or let them go?

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