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Dead Ice (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 24) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 17:01:20

"I don't usually get to play with men as dominant as you. It was a treat." He licked his lower lip as he said it, as if he could still taste some of the treat.

"And I was about to tie ma petite and myself to you for eternity. I let my fear for Asher's safety blind me, but no longer. Ma petite has thrown the logic on it all, and like cold water it wakes me with a shock from this mistake."

"So I'm a mistake, am I?"

"No, I have been saved from that particular mistake." He kissed my forehead. "Thank you, my queen."

I wasn't sure about the queen part, but out loud I said, "We take turns being smart for each other; I think it's part of the job description of being a couple."

"You think you've tamed me, just like that?" Narcissus said.

"I'm sorry Chimera hurt you. I'm sorry you lost the baby, because I know you wanted to keep it. I'm sorry you were hurt, and I'm sorry that Asher has hurt you more, but one thing police work has taught me is that everyone has a sad story, but they'll still shoot you, or stab you, or tear your throat out with their teeth. The fact that they were abused, or abandoned, or even tortured doesn't make them one bit less dangerous. Social workers and therapists get to worry about the sad backgrounds; if I worry about shit like that I can't do my job."

"I'm not one of your bad guys, cupcake."

"The hell you're not; you come in here threatening to kill one of your own people because your lover chose him over you. If you were all human, that would be first-degree homicide. You threaten to kill Asher so that Jean-Claude will agree to you becoming my hyena to call; it's like threatening to kill someone unless a woman agrees to marry you. Again, that's a crime; marriage under duress isn't legal, and threatening to kill people, well, the cops frown on that, too. Then you threaten to pull out all of your hyenas and go to another city, knowing that we didn't have enough muscle to protect the city from other preternatural baddies without your guys, unless we play with you. That may not be illegal, but it's still not honorable. But wait, there's more, you threaten to use all the soldiers at your beck and call to declare a preternatural war of a scale that hasn't been seen in this country since the 1800s. Dozens, maybe hundreds, would die, and threatening shit like that is what makes gang task forces bust your gang up and take the leader off to jail."

"And you threaten to lie to your superiors and get a warrant of execution for me, which is also murder."

"I'm not going to lie, Narcissus, I'm going to tell the truth. You are threatening exactly that."

"You going to tell them we were naked in bed together when I told you?"

I laughed then, and he didn't like that one bit. "If you think sleeping with you could hurt my reputation with the other cops, think again. They already disapprove of me sleeping with all the vamps and shapeshifters. Hell, some people want me to give up my badge because I'm about to marry Jean-Claude and it's a conflict of interest."

He sat up. "I will kill Kane."

"Asher survived the death of his human servant hundreds of years ago, when he was a lot less powerful than he is now; we'll take our chances."

"You don't believe I'll kill Kane."

"I believe that if you kill Kane because your lover prefers him to you, the rest of your hyenas will see that as yet another strike against you as their Oba. How many strikes you think you got left before they decide they need a new leader?"

"No one under my command would do that unless they knew they had powerful friends backing their play," he said.

I smiled at him. "I'm just so darn friendly," I said.

He glared at me, and I smiled back.

"Go, Narcissus, just go, before I think better of it and have guards escort you to a room without a view," Jean-Claude said.

"I am king!" he yelled, eyes suddenly blazing with vampire fire as if the midnight sky could burn. "Guards!"

Dino and Seamus came through the door first, but there were others behind them.

I said, "Seamus, go, this is not your fight."

"No," Narcissus said, "stay with me, Seamus, they mean to imprison your king."

The big black man just looked at him. "My mistress has woken for the day here in the underground. I feel your call to me, Oba, but my mistress protects me from having to answer."

"Six of you, that are not hyena, escort Narcissus to one of the rooms reserved for when we have a new shapeshifter who is not trustworthy on their first full moon," Jean-Claude said.

"You would not dare," Narcissus said.

"You keep saying that, but I do not think it means what you think it means," I said.

"Take him," Jean-Claude said.

"What do I tell the other werehyenas when they ask why we have done this?" Seamus asked.

"Tell them that Narcissus threatened us, and even the Oba of the werehyenas does not get to do that with impunity," Jean-Claude said, but not like he was happy about it.

They surrounded him and escorted him out. He didn't try to resist. "Some of the other shapeshifter groups in other cities are afraid of you, Jean-Claude. They fear that Rafael is just your puppet, and that you mean to take them all over through Micah and his Coalition. When they find out that you have imprisoned a leader of a group you do not favor, they will be more convinced than ever of your intentions."

ght, Narcissus, before I decide to do more than just imprison you."

He left without another word. I think he saw on Jean-Claude's face what might happen if he kept pushing. When we were alone again, I hugged him. "Is he right? Will this help fuel the same people that tried to assassinate Rafael?"

"Most likely," he said, as he rested his cheek on the top of my head.

"I didn't think that part through."

"You were right in your thinking, up to a point, and beyond that it is my job to think. You made me remember I am king and not just Asher's lover."

"I'm his lover, too."

"But you are more ruthless than I am, ma petite, far more ruthless."

"I thought you'd gained my ruthlessness through the vampire marks like I'd gained the ardeur."

"More ruthless, oui, but where Asher is concerned I am weak."

"Don't be weak while I'm with the FBI, okay?"

"I promise to make no decisions about Asher and the mess he has made without consulting you and Micah."

"Good," I said, and leaned up for a kiss.

He kissed me back, and then said, "You need solid food, before you go."

"I'll grab another protein bar, but I've lost too much time for a meal."

"Water and a bar, but you must promise to at least go through a drive-up and eat real food after this meeting."

We kissed; I got dressed, checked that Micah was recovering from too many rapid shapeshifts in one day, and went back to work. Normally police work was a nice change from furry and vamp politics, but today work was voodoo and zombie sex slaves. I'd have rather kept doing the preternatural politics; at least that I understood. It was not a good sign that I didn't understand what was happening with the zombies and even my own powers. I still didn't know what had gone wrong with the zombie Thomas Warrington, not for sure. I'd stop using cows as my blood sacrifice, but beyond that I just wasn't sure what to do. I wasn't used to saying that about zombies. I drove to meet the FBI with a sinking feeling. I was their expert, and their expert didn't know shit.

IT WAS DEJA vu back in the office with Special Agents Manning and Brent. He had the computer all set up and ready to go; we were just waiting on the rest of our little party. "I'm sorry Zerbrowski can't make it, he's a hoot," Brent said.

"Hoot?" I said, and smiled.

"Don't mind him, he likes to remind me that he's from the backwoods and I'm a city girl," Manning said. She'd gone from black pants, jacket, and a white button-up to navy blue pants, jacket, and a pale blue button-up--a daring use of color for FBI. Brent was still in brown on brown. Either it was the same suit, or he had bought them in bulk. He also still looked like he should be back at college trying to decide if he really wanted to be an FBI agent or pursue that computer career.