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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:00:58

I smiled. "That's okay, it's sort of a new thing for me, too, and I think of you as just a friend."

Kelly laughed a little, but any laughter was good at this point.

"What about me?" Meng Die asked.

"I don't want to sleep with you either," Kelly said.

"I meant Anita. I even look like Jade; why pick her and not me?"

I stared at the vampire for a second or two, hoping she was joking, but she looked utterly serious. I rubbed my hands against Nicky's arm. I was nervous, because just as Dino had surprised me with Lita, this offer from Meng Die was completely out of left field. "I thought we sort of hated each other; kind of hard to date, if that's the case," I said.

"Date, date"--she threw her hands up--"fucking is all I'm talking about, Anita. I know how to please a woman."

"And that's a big reason we could never be a couple. I'm not good at just fucking."

"That's not what I heard," Lita said.

I gave her an unfriendly look.

"Be careful, Lita," Kelly said.

"Why, are you going to step in and defend Anita?"

She shook her head. "No, but you may wish I had."

"What does that mean?"

"No," Meng Die said, "this is my argument. You're late to the party, little Spanish."

"I've told you, I'm not Spanish, I'm Mexican."

"You were born here," Meng Die said. "That makes you American."

"My people came from Mexico."

"Fine, I was born in China, but I don't go around saying I'm Chinese, and I could."

I wondered if Meng Die really didn't like Lita, or if she was picking on her because picking on me didn't get her anywhere. She turned back to me and said, "Answer my question, Anita. Wasn't I pretty enough for you?"

The compliment seemed to surprise her.

"But the only reason I'm with Jade is that she's my black tiger to call; we're metaphysically tied to each other. We didn't exactly choose each other. I'm all full up on vampires."

"You fuck Jason's girlfriend when she comes into town," Lita said.

Kelly laughed again, but this was more nervous.

I stepped away from Nicky and he moved his arm so I could do it. "First, I don't fuck J.J.; we have sex with our shared boyfriends. Second, why the hell do you care who I fuck and who I don't? Or are you like Meng Die here and want to be my new piece of ass?"

Lita blushed hard. Her pretty face scrunched down into angry lines. "I told you, I don't do girls."

"Good, because neither do I. I do women; little girls need time to grow the fuck up."

She called me something bad in Spanish.

"Puta, really, that's the best insult you got? I've been called the Whore of Babylon on national TV; puta just doesn't quite cut it."

"Who called you that on TV?" she asked.

"Malcolm, the head of the Church of Eternal Life, before we came to an understanding."

"Before you and Jean-Claude fucked him and rolled him, you mean," Lita said.

"You really don't know when to stop, do you?" I asked.

"Don't hurt her until tomorrow," Dino said, "as a favor to me."

I turned and looked back at the big man and tried to read his face. He looked pleasant, like he usually did, but I knew now that there was a hell of a lot more going on behind that smiling face than I'd known. Insight into your friends is good; insight that makes you wonder if they're really your friend or just a really well-socialized sociopath, not so good.

"Just for you, and if she stops saying insulting things, I'll let it go until after you've fucked her," I said.

"Hey," Lita said, and she sounded genuinely insulted.

Dino grinned. "Thanks, Anita, you're a good friend."

My phone text sound played, and it was Jean-Claude. He was almost here, which meant he'd cut his night at work short to make the tiger reception.

"I need to get ready for the party, so first, Kelly, you're not fit for guard duty. Dino, Nicky, we need a replacement partner for Lita; who would you suggest?"

"Claudia isn't working tonight, and all the other female guards are either too new or too unstable to pair up with Little Miss Thing," Nicky said.

"What did you call me?"

He turned a very cold face to her. Nicky didn't try to hide his sociopathy; he wore it proudly. "The only reason you're partnered with Kelly is that you spend too much time flirting, or trying to fuck all the men. You're a distraction, Lita, and that's not impressing Claudia, or Fredo, or me."

"I don't care if you're impressed; you're just Anita's pet, you don't count."

"How about you don't impress me?" I said.

"You're just Jean-Claude's blood whore; I don't have to impress you either."

"Here, I was going to pick a fight, but you're doing so much better than I am at it, that I'll just let you have it," Meng Die said.

"Have what?" Lita said.

"The fight," Meng Die said.

Meng Die laughed, shaking her head. "I knew you were young, Lita, but I'm beginning to suspect you're stupid, too."

"Who you calling stupid, little China whore!"

Meng Die just kept laughing softly and walked toward the door. "Everyone have fun, I've got to go to work."

I walked over to Lita, and she let me get close. Either she didn't see me as dangerous, or she was that arrogant about her own abilities; either way it was a mistake.

"How much of the gear you're wearing is yours?"

"The weapons; is the AR yours, or did someone give it to you when you arrived?"

She almost caressed the gun. "I got it here. No way could it come on the plane."

"Then hand it over," I said.

"What are you talking about?"

"I'm firing you, so all the company equipment stays with us."

"I can fire you and send you back to L.A."

"You can't send me back. You're not my king, and you're not Claudia or Fredo, they're my bosses."

"I'm their boss," I said. I was close enough to take any weapon she was wearing or to keep her from using them. She still didn't see the danger. She really wasn't good enough to be one of our guards. It had been Claudia and I who decided we needed more female guards, but this wasn't what we'd had in mind.

"Jean-Claude is their boss," Lita said.

"No," Kelly said, "Jean-Claude is in charge of the business side of things, but Anita is the one who makes decisions on the guards." She looked up at the other woman, sort of satisfied, which meant that Lita hadn't been all that pleasant before we got here. Sending her home just kept sounding better.

"Technically, I can't send you back to L.A."

Lita looked justified, smug even.

"But I can fire you from our security detail, and I can recommend to Rafael that you be sent back to L.A., that I can do."

She finally looked uncertain.

"You said it yourself; he is my lover. Most men give more weight to a woman's opinion if she's sharing his bed."

"You're not sharing a bed; you're just fuck buddies."

Dino said, "You know that Rafael fucks Anita, but you haven't been in town, been one of us, when it happens yet."

He gave that deep chuckle and shook his head. "It's quite a show." I knew Dino meant that when I had sex with their king, Rafael, and fed the ardeur on him that I took energy from all the wererats in the area. It was a power rush of near epic proportions.

"You mean we watch them fuck?"

"I'll explain after we fuck tonight," Dino said.

I might have added to the conversation, but I felt Jean-Claude. He was almost here, and I was tired of Lita. I just reached out and had her AR in my hand, using the strap across her body to pull her off balance. She fought to keep control of the AR, not go for her handgun; again, a mistake. I used her own momentu

m to drive her to the floor and took the nine-millimeter out of her holster as she went down. I trapped the AR behind her back with the knee I drove into her. She tried to fight then, but it was far too late. I put the business end of her own pistol against the side of her head. My finger was on the trigger; there was no safety on this model of gun.