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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:19

"She seeks to possess my clan and add to her power base, Anita. She claims that she wishes to give Jean-Claude a hyena vampire that is truly loyal to him and the power structure, unlike Asher, who uses us like a threat. Do what I want, or I'll take the werehyenas to another territory and leave you with too few guards to protect your territory."

I watched his face as I asked the next thing. "I heard you were encouraging Asher to use your clan to overthrow Jean-Claude and take over."

He gave a little shrug. "I thought about it, but Asher is too weak to take Jean-Claude's place, even with me at his side."

"You can't fix stupid," I said.

He looked startled, like he didn't understand what I meant.

"I mean Asher. You can't fix how stupid he is about politics and power. He lets his heart overrule everything else, like this bonehead move with Kane."

"It's not his heart that overrules his head, Anita, it's his dick."

"You don't think he loves Kane?"

"I don't know if he truly loves anyone, except Jean-Claude, and since he can't have him he tries to find other people to fill that hole in his heart."

"He and Jean-Claude are lovers," I said.

"But Jean-Claude still loves you more than he loves Asher, and that's one thing our golden-haired vampire can't abide, to be second."

"He's not that ambitious," I said.

"Oh, he doesn't have to be first place in anything that matters, but he's like some women I've known who had to be the prettiest girl in any room, or men who have to be the best man at any party, or meeting. It's the same deal, except Asher wants to be first in everyone's libido and heart, but his heart belongs to only one man."

I squeezed his hand. "I'm sorry he's such a turkey."

"But such a beautiful turkey," Narcissus said.

I sighed. "He is, unfortunately. We wouldn't put up with half this shit if he wasn't so pretty."

"And so good in bed," he said.

"And in the dungeon," I said.

"Can't live with him, can't live without him," I said.

"And can't kill him," Narcissus said.

"I was so mad this morning that I was going to come in here and demand shit from you, but you've been too nice and I know Asher has hurt you, too." He held my hand in both of his, looked me in the face, so sincerely, and said, "Would you consider me for your hyena to call, Anita?"

He made it sound like a proposal, so I treated it as seriously. "Well, one little problem: You don't like girls, and I am one."

"If you weren't part of Belle Morte's line of vampires and all sexy-pants, that wouldn't be an issue, you know. Most vampires choose their animal to call for power, not sexual compatibility."

"I know, but no matter how hard I try, things just go all lust, love, and domestic bliss, so you not liking girls is a problem for both of us."

"If it's a deal breaker I'd be willing to try."

I must have looked shocked, because he laughed and patted my hand. "Oh, the look on your face." He lay back and just laughed.

I lay there and let him, because I wasn't sure what to say.

He finally slowed down enough to say, "If you were a man, we could have such fun."

"But I'm not a man," I said.

He looked at me, face still shining with the laughing fit. "I hear your pussy is almost as tight as an asshole; it might work."

I gave him a very unfriendly look and sat up, the sheet held in front of my breasts, though since he didn't care about breasts, I guess it was really for my benefit. "Jean-Claude did not say that."

"No, he didn't." He was serious again.

"As amusing as it would be to let you be that angry at his vampire ass, no, it wasn't him either."

I frowned. "There aren't that many people who would know and would comment; in fact, none of them would talk to you like that about me."

"One of them did, I swear. I talked to him after Jean-Claude offered the idea of being your hyena to call, so I wouldn't kill Asher, or start a war over the insult."

"Did you actually threaten to go to war with the rest of the wereanimals and vampires in St. Louis over this?"

He actually looked embarrassed, which wasn't something I ever thought to see from him. "I might have said that."

"So you called someone who likes boys, but has been with me, so you could ask what? Pointers? Opinions?"

"Something like that, yes."

I frowned. Who the hell had it been? "This is going to bug me until you tell me who it was."

"I'll tell you under one condition."

I frowned at him. "What?"

"That you don't hurt him for it. I wanted someone who's primarily into men to give as honest an opinion of you as possible, because you're right, I'm not a fan of women. I honestly think girl parts are just unappealing."

"I like boy stuff better, too, so I can't really fault you, but I also don't know how to be with a man who finds my genitalia unappealing."

"So who talked?" I asked.

I frowned. Byron had been fifteen when he died, so he was caught forever in that first blush of high school when the guys fill out and muscles seem to happen. He was forever unfinished, never to find out what he'd look like at twenty. "Byron? We only had sex once. It was an emergency feed for the ardeur."

"Yes, but he actually came inside you, and he's only done that with three women, ever, counting you."

"Hmm . . . I didn't know that."

"It's a huge compliment, Anita."

I frowned harder; I had a headache starting right between my eyes. "Okay, I guess I can see that as a compliment."

"The ardeur is the other thing that might make us work together. You unleash it on me and I think even I will find you irresistible."

"Unappealing lady parts and all?" I asked, giving him a look and raising an eyebrow.

"Don't give me that look; I think we need to be absolutely honest with each other, or this will not work."

"I don't think it'll work now."

"I understand that, but if w

e aren't honest it will surely fail."

I looked down at him, so serious in the bed, with his eyeliner decoratively smeared, and his hair looking almost artful in its messiness. He was one of those people who wake up looking good; I was so not one of those people.

"One other thing that you need to know before you give your answer," he said.

"You know, they used to call intersexed people like me a hermaphrodite."

"I have functioning boy parts and girl parts."

"Knowing is one thing, actually seeing and touching is another. I've had people be intrigued and then get grossed out, or scared, so you should see everything before you decide."

I looked down at his body where it was covered with the sheet. I hadn't felt nervous about it until he announced the possibilities; now suddenly I wasn't sure I wanted to see the whole show. "You know, I wasn't weirded out by the idea of seeing you nude until you said that."

He studied my face, his own expression cynical. "Really, I find that hard to believe; most people are either intrigued or horrified by my . . . uniqueness."

"I honestly hadn't spent a whole lot of time thinking about what your plumbing might look like, sorry."

"I thought that was part of your issue with me."

I shook my head. "My issue with you was that when I met you, you managed to let my words and your club rules hurt people I loved and cared about."

"I am sorry for that, by the way. I honestly didn't understand what they were doing to them, especially Nathaniel. I would never have let them leave the swords in long enough for his body to heal around them."

I could still remember that moment when I'd finally gotten a good look at what Chimera's men had done to Nathaniel. The anger came back to me, so that my hands made fists before I could stop them. "It was your club, your rules, Narcissus, and you had a werehyena in the room, reporting to you."

"Your eyes are almost black with anger, just remembering that moment."

I gave him the full weight of that darkened gaze. My hyena rose in the dark center of me and looked up with golden brown eyes; again she wasn't behaving like most of my beasts around another of her kind. She seemed reluctant to approach him, but why?

"I thought my man was reporting accurately to me that night, Anita, but I swear to you, he was not."

"I believe you taunted me with comments about it being my fault for ordering you to order them to stop what they were doing and wait for me."

"I did not know what they had done. I would swear on my honor, but my reputation says I have none."