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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:15

"Then learn your guns, respect your fellow guards regardless of gender, and don't be a sleazebag about the women you're fucking."

"Anything else . . . ma'am?"

"Yeah, be careful who you piss off here; not everyone is as nice as I am."

That made his eyes widen and that flash of fear return. He buried it under the anger again, but it was in there, behind the bravado and the macho posturing.

I shut my locker, gathered up a towel, and headed into the showers. The men cleared the way for me with silence, or "Ma'am." There were other men, nude or in towels, in the doorway to the showers; apparently we'd had more of an audience than I'd realized. That was okay; I didn't have a problem with all the men now, nude or clothed. I'd been scary and that was what they'd remember, not that I was small and a woman. Peppy followed behind me, smiling. Girls rule; boys drool.

I HADN'T REALIZED just how much stuff had dried in my hair until I tried to get it out. I was still peeling it out of my curls when Peppy told me she'd wait for me. "If you're done, go ahead, and tell Micah that I'm running late, trying to get cleaned up."

"Having trouble getting it out of your hair?" she asked.

"Yeah, how'd you know?"

"You had so much in your hair that it looked straight and paler. Long hair is a pain in the ass when it's got that much in it."

"Micah's in medical talking to Rafael."

"He's with our king?" she asked.

"Yeah, is that a problem?"

"No, no, just . . . I'll get Micah the message."

"Thanks," and I went back to literally scraping with my fingernails down the length of my hair, before shampoo did me any good. It had just made the stuff sort of gelatinous before, so I'd scrape it off and try again. Maybe I'd start packing some of those plastic hair coverings like they wear to crime scenes. It had to be an improvement over this.

When my hair was finally clean I wrapped the oversized towel around me; since it was meant to cover men that were closer to seven feet tall and four times as broad as I was, I was covered from under my arms to my ankles and had enough material to wrap around me tight and secure. I gathered up all the hair stuff to put back where I kept it and stepped out. I knew just from the noise level that the shower was a lot emptier than it had been when I went into it. What I didn't know was that Kane, Asher's new lover and Dev's nemesis, was in the showers near the door to the locker room.

Kane stood with his back to the room. He had serious tan lines low on his hips and in a narrow line across the tight roundness of his ass. The contrast between his skin tones let me know that he tanned darker than Micah did, or his base skin color was paler than Micah's, so the contrast was greater.

"Are you staring at my ass?" he asked.

I looked up and saw he was looking over his shoulder at me. He was almost bald, but it wasn't because he'd lost all his hair; it was because he cut it down to black fuzz. The way his hair looked shaved down that short made me almost certain that if he grew it out it would be curly. He had two deep areas on either side of his head where his hair had receeded from a sharp widow's peak, which again raised the question of baldness, or fashion choice. The lack of hair bared the bone structure of his face and let you know he was handsome, bordering on pretty, especially for a six-footer.

"Yeah, I guess I was." I kept walking, which actually brought me closer to him, but if I kept moving maybe I wouldn't get caught in our usual snark-tastic repartee.

"I was actually wondering if you tanned darker than Micah, or if your natural skin color was paler, and that's why your tan lines are more pronounced."

"What, you don't like tan lines?"

"I think I'm neutral about tan lines."

Kane turned around in the shower, so I could see that the tan lines went all the way around. It was a nice view, but the sourness that always seemed to roll off him ruined any momentary attractiveness. Asher had finally found someone who was more cranky than he was, and dealing with Asher was hard enough; Kane just seemed like too much work for too little payback to me.

He ran his hands down his body to cup himself, massaging a little so I could see he had room to grow. I raised an eyebrow and started walking. I was done here.

"Does it bother you to know you can see, but not touch?" he asked, with that edge of meanness his voice so often held.

That made me stop and look back at him. "Excuse me?"

He was working himself up with his hands in the spray of the shower, almost like he was masturbating. "There's finally a man in town that you want, but who doesn't want you; how does it feel, Anita?"

I laughed; I couldn't help it. It was the wrong thing to do if I'd wanted to de-escalate; most men don't like being laughed at when they're naked and turgid, but Kane had no sense of humor about it. His face went from sexy pouting to scowling at me.

"You think you can lead everyone around with your pussy; well, here's one man who doesn't give a damn about it. If it's not a cock, I don't care."

"Trust me, Kane, you're not on my hit list either."

Two of the guards turned off their showers and hurried past me through the door into the locker room. They smelled scared, and they shouldn't have been. Kane wasn't good enough to be one of our guards, which meant they could have taken him in a fair fight, so why that cold sense of panic?

"I like dick when it's attached to the right person. Since you make such a big deal of being monogamous for Asher, I'd think you, of all people, would understand that."

Two more guards got out of the showers and fled, and that was the right word. They sensed a fight that no matter which way it went gave them something to lose. They shouldn't have felt that way, which meant I had missed something important between our bodyguards and Kane, but what was it?

"Asher said you liked men."

"I do, but not all men, and I have a couple of female lovers now, so I'm exploring my options sans dick." I smiled when I said the last, because it was just such a weird conversation to be having, especially with Kane. It was probably the longest one-on-one conversation we'd ever had.

"I've got to go meet Micah; enjoy your shower." I was actually at the door this time when he said something that stopped me.

"How many lycanthropes did you fuck last night to cover yourself in that much of us?"

I frowned at him. "Not that it's any of your business, but I had to call Domino's beast to save his life. Forcing the change like that can be violent and messy."

"Nice story, but if that were true then you wouldn't have had sperm mixed with Domino's juices so that the guards didn't recognize you."

"I know stories grow in the retelling, but I was only in the shower for an hour, that's damn quick embellishing."

"Yeah, though frankly if I wanted to bring in all my wereanimal lovers and have a bukkake festival, what difference would it make to you, Kane?"

"Your level of debauchery keeps surprising me, Anita, that's all."

"You're the one who was playing with himself in the shower, trying to get me to watch the show, so tell me again which of us is debauch

His anger flared like a hot wind, the edge of his beast riding with it. It was a lot of heat, far more power than the last time I'd been near him when he'd been pissy. "You've had a power jump, Kane. How?"

"Guess," he said, and he was far too pleased with himself, so whatever had happened, he didn't think I'd like it.

"I don't know, and I really do have to meet Micah before I go meet with the FBI, so I really don't have time to play twenty questions."

"Let's play Jeopardy instead," he said.