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

"Not quite," he said, moving around in the covers so that they started sliding below his waist.

"Ma petite, think upon the last few minutes and you will know what he wants you to call him."

I thought, and was about to ask for more of a clue, when I got it, or thought I got it. "Fallen angel, you're my fallen angel."

"I like it," he said, and used one hand to jerk the covers off him and out of my hands, so that both of us were suddenly exposed. Narcissus lay back smirking, revealed in all his glory, fallen or otherwise.

JUST LYING THERE on the bed, legs together, he didn't look that different from most men. If I'd seen him nude in the locker room, I'd have just kept walking past him, but I wasn't supposed to keep moving past; I was supposed to do a hell of a lot more than just look at him. It was a little like going into the produce section and fondling the fruit and veggies; was it ripe, would it be sweet, was it too soft, too ripe, firm enough, but not too firm? Except this veg was looking back at me with serious attitude.

"Well?" he said, and that one word was so defiant that it instantly made me want to snap back.

Jean-Claude touched my shoulder. "Do not let his defiance bring your own, ma petite."

I looked at him, sighed, and turned back to Narcissus. He was almost glaring at me now. I wasn't sure if it was Jean-Claude's thought or mine, but I realized that the other man was so sure I'd reject him that he was trying to give me a reason to do it that wouldn't be about his physicality. It was like someone who is so used to being made fun of that they say the mean things first, try to make it their joke, so the bullies don't get a chance to cut them up. It works, in a way, but it means the person saying the words internalizes the message more, because they're the ones saying stupid, clumsy, fat, ugly--whatever the bullies might say.

I counted to ten and spoke, looking into those angry eyes. "You don't look that different from most guys."

He gave a bitter laugh. "Lying bitch, you're staring at my face so hard, just so you don't have to see it!"

"Look, angel cakes," I said, almost snarling back at him, "I'm giving you eye contact, because when I'm naked in a bed for the first time with someone I like them to talk to my face, not my body parts. I get sort of pissy at anyone who talks to my breasts. I'd probably hit them in the face if they talked to my groin instead of my face."

He watched my face, eyes glitteringly angry, but his face relaxed a little.

"Now, if you want me to just talk into your penis like a fucking microphone, ya gotta tell a girl, because that's a request I haven't had before."

He smiled as if I'd surprised him, and he hadn't expected to be amused. "Not one of my kinks, cupcake, but if you like eye contact when we talk, that's cool."

"Good, because I do."

"Ma petite is almost aggressive in her eye contact."

Narcissus looked up at Jean-Claude. "It's a dominance thing, I get that. If I look away then she wins, like a blinking contest."

"I was raised that you look someone in the face when you talk to them. It's just polite," I said. I crossed my arms under my breasts, because without something to hold them out of the way, crossing my arms over them was too awkward.

He smiled again. "I'll bet whoever taught you that is aggressive."

I tried to think if Grandmother Blake was aggressive, and finally said, "Unpleasant, but I'd have to think on aggressive."

He smiled more, and turned to Jean-Claude. "Does she always do that?"

"You listened to me, thought about what I'd said, and actually answered the question."

I frowned. "Wasn't I supposed to?"

He looked at Jean-Claude. "Is she always so . . . earnest?" he asked.

"Actually, ma petite, I think it is a very good word for you, but you will have to leave soon for your work, and earnestness takes time."

Narcissus said, "I will respect that we sprang this on you today, Anita, but never tell me again that I look like all other men. A lie that big . . . just don't, okay, just don't."

I nodded. "I honestly was expecting more visual difference, so I didn't lie."

"I have only one ball, and it's more to the side than below, and my penis is lower on the body than any man you've ever been with, and between my legs is an opening like yours."

"Well, that is different."

"Different, she says. The only reason I still have a dick and an opening is that my penis was large enough that the doctors and my father didn't want to cut it off at birth and make me a girl, and my mom got pissed that they were going to sew up my vagina, so they waited to decide what to do. They were stubborn enough to get an intersexed baby out of the hospital with no surgeries thirty years ago, unheard of. They listed me as a boy, raised me as a boy."

"Was that what you wanted to be raised as?" I asked.

He nodded. "Yes, I was a boy, a gay boy, and I grew into being a gay man, who occasionally cross-dresses, and I like lovers who pay attention to all my parts, but yes, I feel and think male. I'm just gay and male, but I think I'd have been that no matter what my junk looked like."

"We're talking this to death instead of getting up close and personal, because you don't want me, because I'm a woman, and yo

u don't do women. You and I were getting along better before Jean-Claude came into the room, because once you saw him you knew what you wanted and it's not me."

"But he can't make me his hyena to call, and you can."

"Yeah, but I'm not sure that's a good enough reason to tie ourselves together for all eternity, when we don't really like each other. I've done the whole hate-you-love-you-lust-you with Richard, and you and I wouldn't even have the lust going for us."

"The ardeur would force it upon you both, ma petite."

I looked at Jean-Claude. "I don't want it forced anymore. I don't want to tie myself to someone else that I know isn't a good match for me, and watch the ardeur change them into something that fits, or make me fit them more."

"Do you believe that is what is happening?" he asked.

"Maybe. I know that Micah and I become more perfectly matched; Nathaniel, too. I think the magic is changing all of us."

"Couples do that on their own, Anita," Narcissus said.

"I've never had a long-term relationship, outside of Jean-Claude and everyone in my life now."

Narcissus propped himself up on his elbow and looked at me. "Really, Jean-Claude is your first serious guy?"

"Him and Richard, yeah. Before them it was like six months and then broken up."

He looked at me, face serious, showing me the mind that had built his group into one to be reckoned with; he was a lot smarter and wiser than he let on most of the time. "You did jump into the deep end of the dating pool, cupcake."

"Whatever, we're here now, and you and I don't like each other that much. We might be work friends, and that would be it."

"Yes, but I'm willing to let the ardeur take away all my doubts for a chance to be tied to the throne, because that's what Jean-Claude offered if I spared Kane's life and didn't risk killing Asher when his hyena to call died."

I shook my head. "You aren't going to kill Kane," I said.

"Why not?" He lay back on the bed, smiling like a cat who'd gotten into the cream.

"If Jean-Claude were just the local Master of the City, and I were just his human servant, then yeah, we'd have to do something to placate you, but Jean-Claude is king of all the vampires in this country. He's the first king of America, and I'm not just his human servant, I'm a necromancer and I'm the Executioner. That nickname was earned from the vampires long before I got a badge and became a marshal."

"What has any of that to do with me and my small army of hyenas?"