Blue Moon (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8)(13)

by Laurell K. Hamilton

"What do you want me to say? Uncle?"

Jamil smiled. "Uncle, okay, yeah, say uncle. Admit that just this once you can't take care of yourself."

I pushed myself out of the van, tucking my legs so he was suddenly trying to hold my entire body weight with a one-handed grip on my forearm. My arm slipped through his fingers. I let myself fall to the ground, going for the long blade down my back, not worrying about trying to stand. My right hand went for the Browning, but I knew I wouldn't make it in time. I was trusting that Jamil wasn't going to kill me. We were grandstanding. If I was wrong on that, I was about to die.

Jamil spilled over the seat, arms reaching for me, trusting in his own way that I wouldn't blow his head off. He knew I had the gun. He was treating me like a shapeshifter who knew the rules. You didn't kill over small stuff. You bled each other, but you didn't kill.

I sliced his arm open from a nearly prone position. There was a moment of utter surprise on his face. He hadn't known about the third blade or its length, and getting sliced open is always a shock. He jerked backwards out of sight like someone had pulled him, but I knew better. He was just that fast.

I had time to get to one knee before he bounded onto the hood of the van, crouched like the predator he was. I had the Browning pointed at him. I got to my feet, gun nice and steady on the middle of his body. Standing didn't help things. I didn't shoot better standing. But somehow I wanted to be on my feet.

Jamil watched me but made no move to stop me. Maybe he was afraid to try. Not of the gun but of himself. I had hurt him. Blood was splashing all over those pretty white clothes. His entire body vibrated with the desire to close the distance between us. He was pissed, and it was four nights until full moon. He probably wouldn't kill me, but I wasn't going to test the theory. He could break my neck with one blow. Hell, he could explode my skull like an egg. No more chances.

I pointed the Browning at him one-handed, knife still in my left. "Don't do it, Jamil. I'd hate to lose you over something this stupid."

A low growl trickled from his lips. The sound alone raised the hair at the back of my neck.

The others were out of the back of the van. I had a sense of movement. "Everyone stay back," I said.

"Anita," Jason said, voice very calm, no teasing, no jokes. "Anita, what's going on?"

"Ask Mr. Macho there."

Cherry spoke from her seat inside the van. She hadn't moved. "Jamil was trying to explain to Anita how she couldn't handle herself against shapeshifters and vampires." She slid very slowly towards the edge of the seat. I kept my gaze on Jamil, but my peripheral vision was good enough to catch the spots of blood all over the white skin.

"Stay in the van, Cherry. Don't press me."

She stopped scooting along the seat and just sat there. "Jamil wanted her to take a backseat when the action starts."

"She is still human," Jamil growled. "She is still weak."

Cherry's deep, caressing voice said, "She could have sliced your throat open instead of your arm. She could have shot you in the head when you reached for her."

"I still can," I said, "if you don't tone it down."

Jamil lay nearly flat on the hood, fingers splayed. His entire body trembled with tension. Something lurked behind that human body, swimming up through his eyes. His beast pushed against his flesh like a leviathan swimming just below the water, so you caught a dark glimpse of something huge and overwhelmingly alien.

I'd turned my body in silhouette, my left hand with the knife behind my back, the back of my hand resting lightly on the top of my butt. I'd fallen into the stance I used at the shooting range when I was shooting targets. The gun was pointed at his head now, because he'd lowered his body mass until it was the biggest target. I'd saved Jamil's life once. He was a good man to have at Richard's back, even if he didn't always like me. I didn't always like him, so we were even. But I respected him, and until now, I thought he respected me. His little show in the van said he still thought of me as a girl.

Once upon a time, it had bothered me more to kill people. Maybe it was years of killing vampires. They looked human. But somewhere along the way, it just didn't bother me to pull the trigger. I stared at Jamil's face, looked him right in the eyes, and felt that stillness fill me. It was like standing in the middle of a buzzing field of white noise. I could still hear and see, but it all fell away so there was nothing but the gun and Jamil and the emptiness. My body felt light and ready. In my saner moments, I worried that I was becoming a sociopath. But right now, there was nothing but a very calm knowledge that I'd do it. I'd pull the trigger and watch him die at my feet. And feel nothing.

Jamil watched my face, and I saw the tension begin to leak out of him. He stayed very still until that vibrating energy died down and that awful looming presence of his beast slid below the surface once more. Then he very, very slowly sat back on his knees, still watching my face.

I kept the gun pointed on him. I knew how fast they could move, fast as a wolf, maybe faster. Like nothing this side of hell.

"You really would do it," he said. "You'd kill me."

"You bet."

He took a deep breath, and it shuddered down his body, reminding me strangely of a bird settling its feathers. "It's over," he said. "You're lupa. You outrank me."

I lowered the gun carefully, still looking at him, still trying to keep a feel for where everyone else was standing. "Please tell me that this wasn't some sort of dominance crap?"

Jamil gave a smile that was almost embarrassed. "I thought I was trying to make a point, but I wasn't. I've spent the last month down here having to explain to the local pack how we ended up with a human lupa. How I'm outranked by a human woman."

I shook my head and pointed the gun at the ground. "You stupid son of a bitch. Your pride is wounded that I'm higher in the pack than you are."

He nodded. "Yeah."

"You guys just drive me crazy," I said. I was almost yelling. "We do not have time for macho bullshit."

Zane leaned against the van near Cherry. He was very careful to keep his hands down and move slowly, no sudden moves. "You couldn't have taken Jamil without the knife and the gun. You won't always have them with you."

"Is that a threat?" I asked.