Blue Moon (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8)(3)

by Laurell K. Hamilton

I called, "Who is it?" Bad guys usually didn't ring the doorbell.

"It is Jean-Claude, ma petite."

My mouth dropped open. I couldn't have been more surprised if it had been a bad guy. What was he doing here?

I clicked the safety on the gun and opened the door. The satin nightie had been a gift from Jean-Claude. He'd seen me in less. We didn't need the robe.

I opened the door and there he was. It was like I was a magician and had thrown aside the curtain to show my lovely assistant. The sight of him caught my breath in my throat.

His shirt was a conservative business cut with fastened cuffs and a simple collar. It was red with the collar and cuffs a solid almost satiny scarlet. The rest of the shirt was some sheer fabric so that his arms, chest, and waist were bare behind a sheen of red cloth. His black hair curled below his shoulders, darker, richer somehow against the red of the shirt. Even his midnight blue eyes seemed bluer framed by red. It was one of my favorite colors for him to wear, and he knew it. He'd threaded a red cord through the belt loops of his black jeans. The cord fell in knots down one side of his hip. The black boots came almost to the tops of his legs, encasing his long, slender legs in leather from toe to nearly groin.

When I was away from Jean-Claude, away from his body, his voice, I could be embarrassed, scratchy with discomfort that I was dating him. When I was away from him, I could talk myself out of him -- almost. But never when I was with him. When I was with him, my stomach dropped to my feet and I had to fight very hard not to say things like golly.

I settled for "You look spectacular, as always. What are you doing here on a night that I told you not to come?" What I wanted to do was to throw myself around him like a coat and have him carry me over the threshold clinging to him like a monkey. But I wasn't going to do that. It lacked a certain dignity. Besides, it sort of scared me how much I wanted him -- and how often. He was like a new drug. It wasn't vampire powers. It was good, old-fashioned lust. But it was still scary, so I had set up some parameters. Rules. He followed them most of the time.

He smiled, and it was the smile I'd grown to both love and dread. The smile said he was thinking wicked thoughts, things that two or more could do in darkened rooms, where the sheets smelled of expensive perfume, sweat, and other bodily fluids. The smile had never made me blush until we started having sex. Sometimes all he had to do was smile, and heat rushed up my skin like I was thirteen and he was my first crush. He thought it was charming. It embarrassed me.

"You son of a bitch," I said softly.

The smile widened. "Our dream was interrupted, ma petite."

"I knew it wasn't an accident that you were in my dreams," I said. It came out hostile, and I was pleased. Because the hot summer wind was blowing the scent of his cologne against my face. Exotic, with an undercurrent of flowers and spice. I almost hated to wash my sheets for fear of losing the scent of him sometimes.

"I asked you to wear my gift so I could dream of you. You knew what I meant to do. If you say other, then you are lying. May I come in?"

He'd been invited in often enough that he could have crossed my threshold without the invitation, but it had become a game with him. A formal acknowledgment every time he crossed that I wanted him. It irritated me and pleased me, like so much about Jean-Claude.

"You might as well come in."

He walked past me. I noticed the black boots were laced up the back from heel to top. The back of his black jeans fit smooth and tight so there was no need to guess what he wasn't wearing under them.

He spoke without turning around. "Do not sound so grumpy, ma petite. You have the ability to bar me from your dreams." He turned then, and his eyes were full of a dark light that had nothing to do with vampire powers. "You welcomed me with more than open arms."

I blushed for the second time in less than five minutes. "Richard is in jail in Tennessee," I said.

"I know," he said.

"You know?" I said. "How?"

"The local Master of the City called to tell me. He was very much afraid that I would think it was his doing. His way of destroying our triumvirate."

"If he was going to destroy us, it would be a murder charge, not attempted rape," I said.

"True," Jean-Claude said, then laughed. The laughter trailed over my bare skin like a small, private wind. "Whoever framed our Richard did not know him well. I would believe murder of Richard before rape."

It was almost exactly what I'd said. Why was that unnerving? "Are you going down to Tennessee?"

"The master, Colin, has forbidden me to enter his lands. To do so now would be an act of aggression, if not outright war."

"Why should he care?" I asked.

"He fears my power, ma petite. He fears our power, which is why he has made you persona non grata in his territory as well."

I stared at him. "You are kidding, I hope. He's forbidden either of us to help Richard?"

Jean-Claude nodded.

"And he expects us to believe it's not his doing?" I said.

"I believe him, ma petite."

"You could tell he wasn't lying over the phone?" I asked.

"Some master vampires can lie to other master vampires, though I do not think Colin is such a power. But that is not why I believe him."

"Why then?"

"The last time you and I traveled to another vampire's lands, we slew her."

"She was trying to kill us," I said.

"Technically," he said, "she had set all of us free save you. You she wished to make a vampire."

"Like I said, she was trying to kill me."

He smiled. "Oh, ma petite, you wound me."

"Cut the crap. This Colin can't really believe that we are just going to leave Richard to rot."

"He has the right to deny us safe passage," Jean-Claude said.

"Because we killed another master in her own territory?" I asked.

"He doesn't need grounds for his refusal, ma petite. He merely has to refuse."

"How do you vampires get anything accomplished?"

"Slowly," Jean-Claude said. "But remember, ma petite, we have the time to be patient."

"Well, I don't, and Richard doesn't."

"You could have eternity if you would both accept the fourth mark," he said, voice quiet, neutral.