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

"Okay, with Echo and Fortune I guess we can do what I did when the tigers first came to town."

"Kiss them," Dev said.

"Unless you have a better idea," I said.

"Magda, before we even get that far, I need to know why the hell you're beating up Kelly, when it gains you nothing."

"I have stopped challenging her. She can retain her place in the pride."

I frowned, and asked, "Why the change of heart?"

"I was doing it in hopes that she would ask you to intervene."

"You wanted me to do what? Punish you, fight you, what?"

"Pay attention to me; I had done my job flawlessly, worked at practice to the best of my ability, but you had not noticed."

"I noticed, you're great in the gym."

"I could not tell that you had noticed."

"Sorry, I should have given you an 'atta girl.' Next time you need something from me, just ask, don't beat the shit out of anyone trying to get my attention, okay?"

"Once I was able to sleep beside you and help heal you, then I knew you had noticed me."

I didn't know what to say; she seemed to think I'd requested her to sleep with me, and not that Lillian had just offered her name out of a hat, so to speak. Kelly was safe and that's what counted. I turned to Nicky. "You okay with this? You're Rex."

"I'm not sleeping with her, so her sex life is her business."

"Okay, cool." I turned back to Magda and the others. I motioned them to stand and then had the weird moment of having three women in front of me and having to decide how to decide if I wanted to include them not just with me, but with the other men in my life. Weird did not cover it, and only one of them was a tiger, so it didn't even help much with the whole commitment thing.

I turned to Jean-Claude. "Some help here."

"What would you have of me, ma petite?"

"I think they need to kiss everybody, not just me, to see if there's a spark, because I do not want to have another woman in my life who doesn't work with the men in my life."

"But you must kiss them first, because I do not want another woman in my life who doesn't want to sleep with you. Envy was enough of a lesson."

"Okay." I turned to the women and thought, where to start?

"We could do it by height," Fortune said, smiling, "shortest to tallest, or the reverse."

"I know you're kidding, but I don't have a better idea." I moved down to Echo, who was only a couple of inches taller than me. I stared in her face and again there was that jolt of recognition, as if I should know her face from somewhere, but it was more one of those memories that makes me think that past-life memories aren't just silliness.

I moved in closer to her and felt incredibly awkward. I touched her face and moved in for a kiss. She moved toward me, and our lips touched. It was a soft brush of lips, and I thought what I usually thought about kissing women, what small mouths they had. I drew back from her, not sure what to think. It wasn't a bad kiss, but I'd learned I was a lot pickier about women than I was about men when it came to sex.

"Fortune next," Echo said.

I moved a step over. Fortune was at least five-eight, so I stepped into her like I did for Nathaniel. She put her arms around me, and it seemed natural to do the same, as she bent down and I went up on tiptoe to meet her kiss. Our lips touched, a soft kiss like Echo had done, but then Fortune pressed her mouth against mine harder, more insistent, and I responded to it, so that our hands dug into each other's backs, lips and finally tongues exploring, so that when we parted Fortune laughed, excited and nervous.

I was a little breathless, but smiling. "That worked," I said.

"May I try again, after Magda?" Echo asked.

"Sure," I said, and stepped down to the last woman. She was taller, at least five-ten; in the boots she was wearing she had to be six feet. I looked up at her, one hand on my hip.

"You don't like tall women?" she asked.

"I haven't been with enough women to say I have preferences yet, but I think I like shorter. I don't know."

She dropped to her knees so she was gazing up at me, her head at chest height. "Is this better?"

"Yes, actually." I stepped to her, and my arms went around her shoulders easily, like I knew what I was doing, and hers went around my waist. She raised her face up to me, as I lowered mine and her mouth met mine. It was a teasing kiss at first, lips touching and gliding away, as if we were both playing hard to get, and then she slid her hand through my hair and pulled just a little. It made me catch my breath, and she used that little O of surprise to slip her tongue inside, and she kissed me eagerly, biting lightly at my lips, and I melted into her kiss the way I would have with any man. We parted with her eyes bled to lion amber, and me smiling a little dazedly.

"I think we have a winner," someone said; I wasn't sure who.

"There's no winner, no losers," I said. "We share well, remember."

Echo came to me. "May I?"

I nodded, and this time she wrapped herself around like she wanted to be there, so that I could feel our breasts pushing against each other, as she kissed me eagerly, hungrily, my tongue running lightly between the delicate points of her fangs. The smaller mouth made French kissing between them more of a challenge. I found myself wondering what her breasts looked like out of the shirt, and just like that I realized I wanted to know. I had a moment to wonder how much of this was bleedover from the men, but I didn't care. It worked for me, too.

The three of them went to the men to see if it worked for more than just me. Fortune kissed Sin like she was going to climb into him through the kiss. Micah looked just right kissing Echo, because the height matched better. Magda took a knee before Jean-Claude first. He drew her to her feet and they kissed. He had to caution her that she was going to cut her mouth on his fangs if she wasn't careful, but he didn't look unhappy. Fortune left Sin breathless and looking dazed, and went to Dev. There was a lot of laughing in their kissing, but it worked. Echo turned from Micah to Nathaniel and kissed him, but ended by licking the side of his neck until he shivered for her. Magda and Micah weren't sure about each other. She wasn't as sure about Nathaniel. Jean-Claude and Echo were strangely careful of each other, but Fortune went to him smiling and that worked better. Magda and Dev kissed like they were fighting to see who was going to be on top, but it seemed to work for both of them. Fortune seemed to like everyone, and everyone liked her.

Richard never offered to join in, and neither Jean-Claude nor I called him over. He wasn't here enough to be a part of this, and apparently he agreed. It was good to agree. The rest of us were starting to negotiate a time to negotiate for what we might be doing with each other in the bedroom, when my phone rang.

It was Special Agent Brent. "Live event scheduled in one hour; we need you here before that."

"I'm on my way." I hung up and turned to all of my lovers and potential lovers. "I am sorrier than I can say that I have to go, but I have to go."

"You are a police officer, your duty must come first," Magda said.

"We understand duty," Echo said.

"We understand duty all to hell and back," Fortune said.

I realized that they'd all served the Mother of All Darkness as bodyguards, spies, and assassins for hundreds or even thousands of years. I guess that was about as much duty as anyone could ask of a person.

"I guess you do," I said.

"Go, ma petite, we will discuss, but await your input for any decisions." I kissed him good-bye, then kissed all my other men good-bye, including Richard.

"Don't I get a good-bye kiss?" Asher asked.

"Ever again?" he asked, and looked sad, though I knew most of it was like pretend pouting.

"Don't push me tonight, Asher; even you aren't beautiful enough for the shit you pulled today."

He started to protest, and I just held up a hand and said, "Enough."

I wasn't sure what to do with the three women, so I said,

"Whether we do good-bye kisses or not, we'll discuss."

"Looking forward to it," Fortune said.

"As am I," Magda said.

And I left to watch a live online zombie sex show, and try to catch the evil bastard that was making it possible. It had been a full day, and the night was shaping up to be the same. Of course, except for the addition of extra women, how was this night any different from so many others?

THEY PUT US in one of the conference rooms; I guess Dolph needed his office back. It also gave Brent room to put up what looked like a huge-ass flat-screen TV, but was actually a new monitor, so we didn't have to crowd around the screen of his portable computer. Honestly, I'd have been okay with the smaller monitor. I really didn't need to see the glint of terror in the zombie's eyes quite that clearly, thanks. I think Manning and Gillingham agreed with me.

Unlike most of the films, these cam shows started with an image of the as-yet empty room. It didn't fill the screen like I'd thought it would though, because there was a sidebar of chat. Brent's undercover name was one of thirty screen names that were chatting with the computer tech, and with the other customers. They were giving requests for what they wanted the zombie to do, or to be done to the zombie, and then the monitor name typed, "We have enough requests--let's bring on our star attraction."

A man's voice said, "Open the door and walk into the room." The room's only door opened. It was the blond zombie that had starred in the first film. She was still only as rotted as we'd seen her last, the once beautiful face made partially cadaverous, but they'd changed her funeral clothes to a red nightie and matching stiletto sandals. The zombie did exactly what she was told, taking the first step into the room and stopping. "Close the door behind you, and walk farther into the room." She closed the door and took one extra step. The zombie had to obey him, but there was a mind in there with the soul, so she was making it as defiant as the magic would allow. I cheered the effort, even as it made her more real. It was going to be harder to pretend she was just a zombie, and not a person, and that was going to make watching this worse. Distance, emotional distance, or we were all going to have nightmares.

His next order was, "Walk to the bed," so she had to go all the way in the room now. We couldn't see her eyes, barely any of her face now, because her hair had spilled forward enough to obscure even her profile.