Blue Moon (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8)(12)

by Laurell K. Hamilton

"Do you want me to drop you at the police station or take you to the cabins first?" Jamil asked.

"Police. Did you say cabins?"

He nodded. "Cabins."

"Rustic living?" I asked.

"No, thank God," he said. "Indoor plumbing, beds, electricity, the works, if you aren't too particular about the decor."

"Not a fashion plate?"

"Not hardly," he said.

Cherry sat very still between us, hands folded in her lap. I realized she wasn't wearing her seat belt. My mother would be alive today if she'd been wearing hers, so I'm picky about it. "You're not wearing your seat belt," I said.

Cherry looked at me. "I'm squashed enough without the seat belt," she said.

"I know you could survive a trip through the windshield," I said, "but having you heal that much damage would sort of blow your cover."

"Am I supposed to be playing human?" she asked.

It was a good question. "For the townsfolk, yeah."

She fastened her seat belt without any more arguing. The wereleopards had taken me to heart as their Nimir-ra. They were so glad to have someone act as protector, even if it was just a human, that they didn't bitch much. "You should have told me we were trying to blend in. I'd have dressed differently."

"You're right; I should have said something." Truthfully, it hadn't occurred to me until just that moment.

The road spilled down into what passed for flatland here. The trees were so thick that it was almost claustrophobic. There was still a gentle swell to the land, letting you know you were driving over the toes of mountains.

"Do you want us to wait for you outside the station?" Jamil asked.

"No, you guys sort of stand out."

"How are you going to get to the cabins?" he asked.

I shook my head. "I don't know. Taxi?"

He looked at me, the look was eloquent. "In Myerton, I don't think so."

"Damn," I said. "Drive us to the cabins then. I'll take the van back into town."

"With Jason?" Jamil said.

I nodded. "With Jason." I looked at him. "Why is everyone so solicitous of me? I mean, I know there may be problems, but you guys are being awful cautious." I sat up straighter in the seat and stared at the side of Jamil's face. He was watching the road like his life depended on it.

"What aren't you guys telling me?"

He hit his turn signal and waited for a pickup truck to go past, then turned left between yet more trees. "It'll take longer to get to the cabins."

"Jamil, what is going on?"

Cherry tried her best to sink into the seat, but when you're model tall and in the middle, it's hard to play invisible. That one body movement told me she knew, too. That they both knew something I didn't.

I looked at her. "Cherry, tell me what's going on."

She sighed and sat up a little straighter. "If anything happens to you, Jean-Claude's going to kill us."

I frowned at her. "I don't understand."

"Jean-Claude couldn't come here himself," Jamil said. "It would be seen as an act of war. But he's worried about you. He told us all that if we let you get killed, and he survives your death, he'll kill us, all of us." He watched the road as he talked, turning onto a gravel road that was so narrow that trees brushed the sides of the van.

"Define all," I said.

"All of us," Jamil said. "We're your bodyguards."

"I thought you were Richard's bodyguard?" I said.

"And you're his lupa, his mate."

"If you're a real bodyguard, you can't guard two people. You can only guard one at a time."

"Why?" Cherry asked.

I looked at Jamil. He didn't answer, so I did.

"Because you can't take a bullet for more than one person, and that's what a bodyguard does."

Jamil nodded. "Yeah, that's what a bodyguard does."

"You really think anyone's going to be shooting at Anita?"

"The bullet's a metaphor," Jamil said. "But it doesn't matter. Bullet, knife, claws, whatever it is, I take it." He pulled into a wide gravel turnaround and a huge clearing. There were small, white, boxy cabins scattered around the clearing like a Motel 6 that had been cut into pieces. There was a neon sign, pale in the sunlight, that said Blue Moon Cabins.

"Anita is our Nimir-ra. She's supposed to protect us, not the other way around."

I agreed with her. I'd picked Zane and Cherry not for their bodyguarding ability but because they didn't mind sharing blood with the vampires. Even among the wereleopards, most of them didn't like donating. They seemed to think being a blood cocktail for the vamps was worse than sex for money. I wasn't sure I agreed with them, but I wasn't about to force them to do it if they didn't want to. I didn't donate blood, and I was sleeping with one of the undead.

"No," I said. "I didn't agree to this. I can take care of myself, thank you very much." I opened the door, and Jamil reached across and grabbed my arm. His hand looked very dark against the paleness of my arm. I turned very slowly and looked at him. It was not a friendly look. "Let go of me."

"Anita, please, you are one of the toughest humans I've ever met. You are the most dangerous human female I've ever seen." His hand squeezed just enough for me to feel the immense strength in it. He could probably deadlift an elephant if it didn't wiggle too much. He could certainly crush my arm.

"But you are human, and the things you're up against aren't."

I stared at him. Cherry sat very still between us, half-pinned by Jamil's body "Let go of me, Jamil."

His hand tightened. It was going to be a hell of a bruise. "Just this once, Anita, stay in the background, or you're going to get us all killed."

Jamil's body was extended across the seat, across Cherry. I was on the edge of the seat, butt half in the air. Neither he nor I were balanced very well. His grip was on the middle of my forearm, not a good place to hold on.

"What you fuzzballs keep forgetting is that strength isn't enough. Leverage, there's the ticket."

He frowned at me, obviously puzzled. His hand tightened just this side of serious injury. "You can't fight this, Anita."