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Affliction (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 22) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 16:53:52

Juliet asked, 'Do I need to drive slow so your other guard won't lose us?'

'You couldn't lose Nicky if you tried,' Dev said. 'You won't lose him by accident.'

'The roads are tricky after dark.'

'Juliet,' Micah said, 'it's okay; all our people know their jobs.'

Nathaniel and I had put Micah in the middle without talking about it. It was partly just because I knew that Nathaniel would want to keep touching him after the marriage statement and partly because Micah was like most wereanimals in that physical touch made him feel better, and no matter how brave he was being, he needed the comfort. He held on to both of our hands, and I wondered how much hand holding he was going to do in front of his family. In public the two men usually kept the touching to a minimum, depending on where they were; some places were more user-friendly for male-on-male affection than others. Or did Micah intend to shove Nathaniel down his family's throat? I wasn't sure that was the best thing, but I'd support his decision.

A streetlight gleamed onto Dev's hair, bringing out the different shades of blond in his shoulder-length hair. It barely touched his shoulders and was as long as he wanted to grow it.

'Don't take this wrong, Dev, but I'm surprised Nicky didn't argue with you being the guard that rode with us.'

'I stayed with the luggage and made sure the people helping with it did their jobs.'

'I'm surprised you stayed with the luggage,' Nathaniel said.

He turned in his seat to look back at us. 'Nicky pulled rank,' he said.

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'He doesn't outrank you,' I said.

Dev gave a wide grin. 'He's a better fighter than I am. He reminded me of that.'

I studied his face for a moment, trying to see if he was offended, but there was nothing but the usual good humor in his face.

'Bram says you could be better than Nicky if you'd work harder in training,' Micah said.

Dev's grin gleamed white in the semidarkness. 'I don't want to work that hard.'

'You're so used to being faster and stronger just naturally that it makes you lazy in practice,' I said, but I smiled when I said it. It was almost impossible to be really upset with Dev.

'I'm faster, stronger, and I practice hard at what I have to do.'

'But only what you have to do,' I said. 'Nicky puts in the extra time to get better, and you don't.'

'No, and I'm not going to.'

'You are a lazy cat,' I said, smiling.

'But I'm your lazy cat,' he said.

Juliet said, 'Is there something I should know about Dev, too?'

'He's a bodyguard,' Micah said.

'Are you sure? I'll run what interference I can about you and Nathaniel, but I can't help if I don't know what to protect.'

'Dev isn't my lover,' Micah said.

Dev turned around, his face alight with mischief. The next pool of darkness came and he spoke out of the dimness, 'Oh, but I so would be if only you would say yes.' His tone of voice was teasing.

But Juliet took it seriously, sort of. 'Oh, sweet Jesus, please don't tease in front of the family at the hospital.'

Dev turned to her. 'I know how to behave. Promise.'

'He does,' I said. 'He just doesn't bother most of the time.'

'Well, please, please, bother this time.'

'I may tease in private with Micah, but I would never do anything to make this ordeal worse.' He turned a very serious face to Micah. 'If I haven't said it out loud, I am sorry about your father.'

'Thank you, Dev,' Micah said.

'You are a lazy cat, but a good one,' I said.

'Don't tell. You'll ruin my reputation with the other guards.'

It made us all smile, which may have been part of his purpose. That, and it was Dev. There was more than one reason that his childhood nickname had been Devil and a reason that it was still his name. Of course, when your legal first name is Mephistopheles, almost anything is an improvement.

Micah leaned in against me so that he could bury his face against the side of my neck. Nathaniel moved his free hand up to stroke along the line of neck that Micah had bared by snuggling into me. Juliet talked to us as she drove. We found out that she and her husband did run a working farm. They had two kids. Most of his generation of cousins were either married or in the military, and a lot of them had kids. Being introduced as the fiancee was going to mean a lot of wedding and kid questions. Peachy. Micah asked questions and replied to her, but mostly we petted him, and felt his tension rise, until we pulled into the hospital parking lot, and I could suddenly taste his pulse on my tongue as if the emotion were mine. I redid my shields between me and my leopard king and prepared to go meet the rest of his family. The only concession we made was that Micah took my other hand. It meant I couldn't go for my gun if bad guys jumped us, but Dev was with us, and bad guys were the least of our worries tonight. I'd take a nice straight-up firefight to families and hospitals any night.