Blue Moon (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #8)(7)


by Laurell K. Hamilton

I had lost my temper. It had been stupid. Inexcusable. I had a temper, but I was usually better at controlling it than that. "I'm sorry," I said.

Jean-Claude gave a very inelegant snort. "Now she's sorry." He dialed the phone. "I will have Asher and the others pack."

"Asher?" I said. "He's not going with me."

"Yes, he is."

I opened my mouth to protest. He pointed one long, pale finger at me. "I know Colin and his people. You need an entourage that is impressive without being too frightening, and yet if the worst happens, they must be able to defend you and themselves. I will pick who goes and who stays."

"That's not fair."

"There is no time for fairness, ma petite. Your precious Richard sits behind bars and the full moon is approaching." He let his hand fall to his lap. "If you wish to take some of your wereleopards with you, that would be welcome. Asher and Damian will need food while they are away. They cannot hunt within Colin's territory. That would be taken as an act of hostility."

"You want me to volunteer some of the wereleopards as walking provisions?"

"I am going to supply some werewolves as well," he said.

"I'm lupa for the pack as well as Nimir-ra for the leopards. You need to run the wolves by me, too." Richard had made me lupa of the werewolves when we were dating. Lupa is often just another word for the head wolf's girlfriend, though usually it's another werewolf, not a human. The wereleopards came to me by default. I killed their last leader and found out that everyone else was pretty much beating the hell out of them. Weak shape-shifters without a dominant to protect them end up as anyone's meat. It was my fault, sort of, that they were being hurt, so I extended my protection over them. My protection, since I wasn't a wereleopard, consisted of my threat. My threat was that I'd kill anyone who messed with them. The monsters in town must have believed it, because they left the leopards alone. Use enough silver bullets on enough monsters, and you get a reputation.

Jean-Claude put the receiver up to his ear. "It is getting so that a person cannot insult a monster in Saint Louis without answering to you, ma petite." If I hadn't known better, I'd say Jean-Claude was angry with me.

I guess, this once, I couldn't blame him.

3

The private jet was like a long white egg with fins. Okay, it was longer than an egg and more pointy at the ends, but it seemed just as fragile. Have I mentioned I have this little phobia about flying? I sat in my comfy, fully swivel, fully reclinable chair very upright, seat-belted in, fingernails digging into the cushioned arms. I had purposefully turned the seat away from one of the many round windows so I couldn't see out the side nearest me. Unfortunately, the plane was so narrow that I caught glimpses on the opposite side windows of fluffy clouds and clear blue sky. Hard to forget you're thousands of feet above the ground with only a thin sheet of metal between you and eternity when clouds keep floating past the window.

Jason plopped down in the seat next to me, and I let out a little yip. He laughed. "I can't believe you're this scared of flying." He pushed his chair with his feet, making it spin around, slowly, like a kid with Daddy's office chair. His thin blond hair was cut just above his shoulders, no bangs. His eyes were the same pale blue as the sky we were flying through. He was exactly my height, five three, which made him short, especially for a man. He never seemed to mind. He wore an oversized T-shirt and a pair of jeans so faded they were almost white. He wore two hundred dollar jogging shoes, though I knew for a fact he never jogged.

He'd turned twenty-one this summer. He'd informed me that he was a Gemini, and he was now legal for everything. Everything could cover a lot of ground for Jason. He was a werewolf, but he currently lived with Jean-Claude and played morning appetizer or evening snack for the vampire. Shapeshifter blood has a bigger kick to it, more power. You can drink less of it than human blood and feel a hell of a lot better, or so I've observed.

He flung himself up from the chair and fell to his knees in front of me. "Come on, Anita. What's to worry?"

"Leave me alone, Jason. It's a phobia. It has no logic. You can't talk me out of it, so just go away."

He sprang to his feet so fast it was almost magical. "We're perfectly safe." He started jumping up and down on the floor on the plane. "See, solid."

I yelled, "Zane!"

Zane appeared beside me. He was about six feet tall, stretched long and thin as if there wasn't enough flesh to cover his bones. His hair had been dyed a shocking yellow, like neon buttercups, shaved on the sides and gelled into small, stiff spikes on top. He wore black vinyl pants, like a slick second skin, and a matching vest, no shirt. Shiny black boots completed the outfit.

"You rang?" he asked in a voice that was almost painfully deep. If a shapeshifter spends too much time in animal form, some of the physical changes can be permanent. Zane's gravelly voice and the dainty upper and lower fangs in his human mouth said he'd spent a little too much time as a leopard. The voice could have passed for human, but the fangs -- the fangs gave it away.

"Get Jason away from me, please," I said through gritted teeth.

Zane looked down at the smaller man.

Jason stood his ground.

Zane moved those last two steps to close the distance between them. They stood there, pressed chest to chest, eyes locked. You could suddenly feel that skin-crawling energy that let you know that human was not what they were.

Shit. I hadn't meant to start a fight.

Zane lowered his face toward the shorter man, a low growl trickling out of his closed lips.

"No fighting, boys," I said.

Zane planted a big, wet kiss on Jason's mouth.

Jason jerked back, laughing. "You bisexual son of a bitch."

"Now, if that isn't the pot calling the kettle black," Zane said.

Jason just grinned and wandered off, though there wasn't a lot of room to wander anywhere. I also have a touch of claustrophobia. I got it from a diving accident, but I've noticed it's worse since I woke up one morning trapped in a coffin with a vampire I didn't like. I got away, but I like enclosed spaces less and less.

Zane slid into the seat beside me. The shiny black vest gaped over his thin, pale chest, giving a glimpse of a silver nipple ring.

Zane patted my knee, and I let him. He was always touching people, nothing personal. A lot of shapeshifters were touchy-feely, as if they were animals instead of people and had fewer physical boundaries, but Zane had turned to casual touch into an art form. I finally realized that he touched others as a sort of security blanket. He tried to play the dominant predator, but he wasn't. Underneath the show of teasing confidence, he knew it. He got really tense if he was in a social situation where he had to stand alone, literally without the touch of other flesh. So I let him touch me when I'd have bitched at anyone else.