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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:16

Micah answered before I could ask the next question. "They don't know why he's not healing faster."

I looked up at Micah, then back to Rafael. "I see why you wanted me to come down and try healing with the ardeur now."

"Rafael would also be more comfortable with my healing gifts with you here," Micah said. Since his ability to call flesh, as the wereleopards call it, only worked if he licked and bit the healing into the flesh, I could sort of understand that.

I smiled and patted Rafael's arm. "It's a little too much like foreplay for comfort, isn't it?"

He laughed again, but more carefully than he had before, so that he didn't move his body as much. "Especially midback from behind."

"It could be worse," I said.

"It could be your, um, very lower back," I said, smiling.

He grinned then, a bright flash of teeth in the room's gloom. "That is true, much more problematic."

"Okay, I'll hold Rafael's hand while you try to heal him, but can you heal a wound this deep?"

"I'm not sure, but if I can't it's your turn to try to heal him with the ardeur, or the wolves' munin."

"Sexual either way," I said.

He nodded. "We're both aware of that."

"Remember, Anita, I knew Raina when she was alive. I saw her use her healing gift on the werewolves, and it was very sexual. You carry her munin, her memory, inside you, which means it's still her healing gift."

"And you know how the ardeur works for me, better than most," I said.

"Almost all my power is either sex or death."

"It is an interesting paradox that you represent fertility and death," Rafael said.

"She raises the dead, so it's giving life, not taking it," Micah said.

Rafael seemed to think about it. "Interesting, and true."

"For now, just stay where you are beside the bed and hold his hand while I call flesh," Micah said.

"Have you ever tried to use your hands instead of your mouth?" Rafael asked, which to me said that Micah's method of healing was bothering him even more than I'd thought.

"I have, and it doesn't work."

"I've seen films of humans who could heal with their hands, I think it's called the laying on of hands," I said.

"But leopards don't have hands, and this seems to be a gift from the beast side, not the human," Micah said.

"I wonder if there are any leopards alive today that can heal like this?" I asked.

"That would imply that animals can do magic," Micah said.

"It's just psychic ability, Micah, and they've proven that some animals have forms of telepathy, and certainly empathy, why not more?"

"I don't know, maybe, but right now I only have one way to try to heal Rafael."

"I would request that Anita sit on the bed and allow me to rest my head in her lap, rather than just kneel by the bed."

I agreed without thinking through the whole I-was-totally-nude part. What would have been just a friendly gesture with clothes on, as I held his hand and cradled his head, was suddenly much more intimate. He was already my friend with benefits, so why did it bother me? I have no idea; if you figure it out, let me know.

I LAID MY gun, still safely in its holster, on the tiny bedside table, and sat on the bed so my lap could be Rafael's pillow. Since he had to be on his stomach, again it was more intimate than if he'd been able to lie on his back, but I'd agreed and it wasn't like he hadn't been in my lap before. I bucked up and tried to act like a grown-up and not an embarrassed teenager, and stroked Rafael's black hair with one hand and let him hold tight to my other hand. I felt Micah call his healing in a rush of heat that traveled along Rafael's body and into me, so that the rat king's body was like a conduit between two points of electricity, or wood between two fires. Micah bent down, and I had a ringside seat to see him place his lips against Rafael's bare back. Micah was totally dressed in T-shirt and jeans, but even with him dressed there was still something sensual watching him put his mouth on the other man's skin. Micah's hair was back in a braid, so I had a perfect view of his lips caressing the skin, the muscles of his jaw flexing as he began to work his tongue along the wound.

Rafael was fine until he felt tongue and then he flinched, hand gripping tighter in mine. I didn't think it was just Micah French-kissing the wound that bothered the rat king, but the push of energy that went with it. That warm, probing energy pulsed through my body so that I had to catch my breath. I knew it was stronger for Rafael, because the rush of it was being focused directly on his body. Sometimes what freaks us out most aren't the things that feel bad, but the things that feel good.

Rafael's head moved against my thigh and I couldn't tell if it was a pain movement or a cuddle one. I petted his hair, playing with the shortness of it. It was grown out just enough that there was the promise of waves in it, but I knew he would be trimming it soon, and it would go back to being neat and straight and controlled. Control was very important to Rafael.

His body spasmed against the bed, his free hand convulsing in the bottom sheet, his other hand in mine, and then energy rode down his skin and over me. It caught my breath in my chest and tightened my body in a line that went all the way through me. Rafael's head rose off my lap, eyes wide enough to show white edges. His breath came out in a sharp sound that shook at the end. We had a moment of our eyes meeting and a shared knowledge of just how good this was feeling.

I bent over and kissed him. His lips were soft, mouth open with another sigh. A rush of energy took us while we kissed. It rode through Rafael and into me, as if his mouth were a sweet tunnel spilling into mine. I made eager noises, half-muffled against his lips, and slid my body underneath his, so that my hips were under his chest before we had to break the kiss, because we didn't quite bend that way.

I ended with my hips trapped underneath his chest; my knees were up on either side of his body, angling my groin up against his stomach as if I were already prepping for lower things. His face was pressed against my breasts; one hand was behind my body holding me against him, the other pressed to the bed as if he, too, had started that next movement so lower body parts could touch. I looked down his body at Micah.

His mouth was buried tight against Rafael, his throat working convulsively as he swallowed. I had a moment to think he was drinking blood from the wound, because that was what it meant when I saw Jean-Claude or Asher swallow like that. Then his gaze rolled up to meet mine, and those leopard eyes stared at me over Rafael's body. Usually even though the eyes were cat, it was still Micah looking out of them, but in that moment it was leopard that gazed up at me over Rafael's body, with its human mouth pressed against bleeding flesh . . . meat; it was meat. In that second I knew that the friendship, the alliance between us and the rats, how much we liked and respected Rafael, all the hopes for the future, even the reason we were trying to heal him before tonight's meeting, all of it meant nothing to the eyes looking up at me. Those eyes thought only one thing about our fr

iend stretched between us--food.

It thrilled through me from toes to fingertips in a rush of fear, because I was too close to those eyes, that thought, but with that thrill came another one that turned what could have been terror into a different need. A need so strong that it tightened things low in my body and tore an eager moan from my throat.

It helped fill the eyes with a thought that wasn't all leopard, but it was just as predatory. Rafael reacted to my reaction with his hand pressing tight against my back; his mouth spilled over my breast, hot and eager to suck. I held Micah's gaze while the other man reacted to us, and now the thought of "food" included Rafael's hand holding my breast so he could get a better angle to lick and suck. I hadn't fed the ardeur in over twelve hours, and the man playing with my breasts was such good food. Rafael brought another eager sound, made my hips rub upward against his body, so that he caressed parts that his hands hadn't touched yet. Micah's gaze stayed locked on mine the whole time. Rafael was luckier than he knew in that moment that Micah wasn't into men, because predatory could mean so much more than just meat.

Rafael's mouth at my breast tried to flutter my eyes shut, but I fought to keep Micah's gaze. He lifted his mouth away from the wound enough so his tongue could lick the edges of it, while he stared at me. My pulse quickened. I felt the energy begin to build as he licked the edges, and then worked slowly lower, his tongue going in and out of the wound in fast quick movements as if he were licking entirely different things. It made me press my groin harder against Rafael's body, grinding myself on his stomach. It wouldn't bring me, but it helped me climb the edge we were beginning to ride.