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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:00

"Don't be naive," Echo said. "Jade shares you with men, because they're men, but another woman will bother her more, unless you plan to always include her in the bed with the new woman. Is that it? Are you building an all-girl menage a trois?"

My opinion of that must have shown on my face.

Echo laughed again. "Oh, you don't like that at all, so at least one man at all times, is that it?"

"I prefer men to women, if that's what you mean."

"There's preferring men to women and then there's not wanting to be alone in a bed with just a woman, that's a different issue."

"I hadn't thought about it," I said.

"Really?" Echo said, and that cynical look was back, and those so-blue eyes seemed to try to study me all the way through, but I gave her blank cop face. She was the one who looked away first. "You really are immune to vampire gaze."

"You weren't really trying that hard, but yes, pretty much."

"You are far away in your head, Anita Blake, and haven't really looked at anyone in this room seriously. You aren't shopping for a new lover."

I sighed. "I'm sorry, you all deserve better than this. I really am working on a case that's bad. Even by my standards it's . . . haunting."

"We're intrigued," Echo said.

Fortune nodded. "If half the things they say about you are true, you don't haunt easily."

I had an idea. "Can you sense my power, my necromancy?"

They exchanged a look, then nodded.

"We all can, ma petite. I told you long ago that the dead respond to your power."

"But I mean if you're around someone with my powers, would you know it, even if they weren't raising the dead?"

"Sometimes," Fortune said.

"It depends on how powerful they are, but you . . . you shine like dark flame and we are moths drawn to that burning darkness."

"Even when I'm not doing anything with my necromancy, I mean like now, right now, can you sense me?"

Fortune frowned, and Echo studied my face again. "You're hunting another necromancer of some power, aren't you?"

"Ma petite is very careful not to share ongoing police investigations with us."

"If you were hunting another like yourself, then some of us might be able to give you a hint where to look, if that's what you're asking," Echo said.

I nodded. "Have you touched any other power like mine?"

"You outshine the stars, Anita, so if there is another in this area you make them invisible to us, but outside your locus of control then yes, there are others."

"In Los Angeles," Fortune said, "but you know them all. They raise the dead for a very public living."

"I'm looking for someone who isn't well known."

"Ma petite, I could contact the masters across the country and ask them. They would know if there was anyone to rival you in their lands."

"Oh, no one to rival Anita," Echo said. "We'd all know if there was another dark mistress on the rise, or is this a dark master?"

I debated on whether to share that I thought he was male, but what if he wasn't? What if it was another woman who had just given the zombie's control over to the man in the films, the same way I'd given over the zombie tonight? "I'm not sure and I don't want to guess; I don't want to miss this person because I narrowed the choices."

Jean-Claude wrapped his arm tighter around me, drawing me very close. "If you desire this information, ma petite, I can simply tell the Masters of the City across our lands that we are interested in any new animators."

"They will think that Anita is hunting them as the Mother of All Darkness did," Echo said.

"She killed anyone who had her powers," I said.

"Yes," Echo said, "but she missed you until it was too late."

"She was right to fear other necromancers," Fortune said.

It was hard to argue that, so I didn't try. "I'm looking for someone powerful, really powerful, so powerful that if they'd been around long I think I'd have heard about them."

"So they're young in years," Echo said.

I nodded. "I think so."

She wrapped both arms around Fortune's shoulders, though she had to go up on her knees to do it. My stepmother, Judith, would have told her to get her boots off the couch, but I didn't care, not if this idea worked. I wouldn't even have to tell the FBI that I'd overshared unless the vampires found something; until the idea worked, what the Feds didn't know wouldn't hurt anyone.

MICAH CAME IN with Mephistopheles--Devil was his nickname, but he went by Dev--and most of the other male golden tigers, plus Good Angel, Dev's twin sister, were with them. All the golden clan were tall, between five-ten and six-four with varying shades of blond hair and a golden cast to their skin, as if they had a pale, permanent tan. They were all handsome, or beautiful. The men tended toward broad shoulders and gathered muscle easily if they worked at it, though most of them didn't like the weight room that much. The women were all model tall but ranged from model thin to curvy; the thinner girls had trouble gaining muscle, and the curvy ones muscled up like Valkyries, which had prompted some of them to stop lifting. Angel was the only one who had dark hair. She'd dyed it black, as dark as she could get it. Her eyes were still blue with a circle of pale brown around the iris just like her brother's hazel-blue tiger eyes, but the black hair made hers look a little bluer, the brown darker. I bet if she went to the right dance club they'd think they were contacts and she was going for Goth. When someone had asked her about the black hair, she'd said, "My legal name is Good Angel; maybe it gave me a complex?" She didn't hit the gym as much as I would have preferred, and she didn't train enough to be one of the guards, but I appreciated the bad attitude.

Except for Angel and one of the other males, all of them were dressed as guards, because that was their day job. They'd spent their lives being trained to keep up with whatever vampire master they ended up serving, so they could fight and do whatever their master might need.

"I need to talk business with Micah; excuse me for a minute." I got up, planting a quick kiss on Jean-Claude's lips.

"Police or zombie business?" Fortune asked.

I stopped and blinked at her. "Furry business," I said.

Echo laughed. "Furry business, I like that."

"Coalition business, you mean?" Fortune asked.

"Yeah, that's what I mean."

"We like how hands-on you are with the local wereanimals," she said.

"Thanks, I'll be right back."

"I doubt that," Echo said, "but if I had all that waiting for me I might take my time, too."

I glanced back at the golden tigers and Micah, then back at her. "They aren't all mine."

"They could be," she said.

"Yeah, but think about the emotional upkeep."

She laughed again. "Well, if you leave out Thorn and Angel, it wouldn't be that much upkeep."

I couldn't argue that, so I didn't try, just smiled vaguely at her and went for Micah. The fact that he was surrounded by the golden tigers meant I'd have to talk to them, too, but I was willing to brave the tall, gold crowd of them to talk to my other third.

He smiled that smile that was only for me and Nathaniel, and then I was in his arms and we kissed as if we hadn't seen each other just a couple of hours before.

"She never kisses me like that."