Blue Moon (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8)(6)


by Laurell K. Hamilton

"Hello, Colin?"

"This is he." His accent was pure Middle American. It made him sound less exotic than some of them.

"My name's Anita Blake."

"I know who you are," he said. "You're the Executioner."

"Yeah, but I'm not coming down there for an execution. My friend is in trouble. I just want to help him."

"He is your third. If you enter my lands, then two of your triumvirate will be within my territory. You are too powerful to be allowed entrance."

"Asher said you also denied access to any of our people, is that true?"

"Yes," he said.

"Why, for God's sake?"

"The Council, the rulers of all vampire kind, itself fears Jean-Claude. I will not have you in my lands."

"Colin, look, I don't want your power base. I don't want your lands. I have no designs upon you whatsoever. You're a master vampire. You can taste the truth in my words."

"You mean what you say, but you are the servant. Jean-Claude is the master."

"Don't take this wrong, Colin, but why would Jean-Claude want your lands? Even if he was planning some sort of Genghis Kahn invasion, your lands are three territories away from us. If he was going to try conquering someone, he'd pick land next door."

"Maybe there's something here he wants," Colin said, and I could hear the fear in his voice. That was rare with a master vamp. They were usually better at hiding their emotions.

"Colin, I'll swear any oath you want that we don't want anything from you. We just need for me to come down there and get Richard out of jail. Okay?"

"No," he said. "If you come down here uninvited, it is war between us, and I will kill you."

"Look, Colin, I know you're afraid." As soon as I said it, I knew I shouldn't have.

"How do you know what I feel?" The fear rose a notch, but the anger rose faster. "A human servant that can taste a master vampire's fear -- and you wonder why I don't want you in my lands."

"I can't taste your fear, Colin. I heard it in your voice."

"Liar!"

My shoulders were beginning to tighten. It doesn't usually take much to piss me off, and he was working at it. "How are we supposed to help Richard, if you won't let us send anyone down there?" My voice was calm, but I could feel my throat tightening, my voice going just a little lower with the effort not to yell.

"What happens to your third is not my concern. Protecting my lands and my people, that is my concern."

"If anything happens to Richard because of this delay, I can make it your concern," I said, voice still quiet.

"See, already the threats begin."

The tightness in my shoulders spilled up my neck and came out my mouth. "Listen, you little pip-squeak, I am coming down there. I am not letting your paranoia hurt Richard."

"We will kill you then," he said.

"Look, Colin, stay out of my way, and I'll stay out of yours. You f**k with me, and I will destroy you, do you understand me? It's only war if you start it, but if you start something, by God I will finish it."

Jean-Claude was motioning for the phone rather desperately. We wrestled for the receiver for a few seconds while I called Colin an antiquated politician, and worse.

Jean-Claude apologized to the empty, buzzing phone. He hung the phone up and looked at me. The look was eloquent. "I would say I am speechless, ma petite, or that I don't believe that you just did that, but I do believe it. The question is: Do you understand what you have just done?"

"I am going to rescue Richard. I can go around Colin or over him. It's his choice."

Jean-Claude sighed. "He is within his rights to see it as the beginning of a war. But Colin is very cautious. He will do one of two things. He will either wait and see if you initiate hostilities, or he will try and kill you as soon as you set foot on his lands."

I shook my head. "What was I supposed to do?"

"It doesn't matter now. What's done is done, but it changes the travel arrangements. You can still take my private jet, but you will have company."

"Are you coming?" I asked.

"No. If I arrived with you, Colin would be certain that we had come to kill him. No, I will stay here, but you will have an entourage of guards."

"Now, wait a minute," I said.

He held up his hand. "No, ma petite. You have been very rash. Remember, if you die, Richard and I may die, as well. The binding that makes us a triumvirate gives power, but it does not come without a price. It is not merely your own life that you are risking."

That stopped me. "I hadn't thought of it that way," I said.

"You will need an entourage now that befits a human servant of mine, and an entourage that is strong enough to fight Colin's people, if need be."

"Who do you have in mind?" I asked, suddenly suspicious.

"Leave that to me."

"I don't think so," I said.

He stood, and his anger lashed through the room like a scalding wind. "You have endangered yourself and me and Richard. You have endangered everything we have or hope to have with your temper."

"It would have come down to an ultimatum in the end, Jean-Claude. I know vampires. You would have argued and bargained for a day or two, but in the end, it would have come down to this."

"Are you so sure?" he asked.

"Yeah," I said. "I heard the fear in Colin's voice. He's scared shitless of you. He'd have never agreed to us coming down."

"It is not just me he fears, ma petite. You are the Executioner. Young vampires are told if they are foolish, you will come and slay them in their coffins."

"You're making that up," I said.

He shook his head. "No, ma petite, you are the bogeyman of vampirekind."

"If I see Colin, I'll try not to scare him more than I already have."

"You will see him, ma petite, one way or the other. He will either arrange a meeting when he sees you mean him no harm, or he will be there when they attack."

"We have to get Richard out before the full moon. We've only got five days. We didn't have time to do this slowly."

"Who are you trying to convince, ma petite, me or yourself?"