"Hello, Anita," he murmurs, leaning back in his chair. As always, he wonders if being short and beautiful is a requisite for those who slay vampires. So that creatures of the night never see their deaths coming because they underestimate the Buffys, the Faiths, and the Anitas of the world.
"Lindsey," she greets, her dark eyes filling with irreverence and begrudging respect. "How's the practice?"
"Booming," he lies, with ease.
His only client is Jean-Claude. They both know it. Although he defends the Master's pets in minor criminal cases, there is only one person who pays his bills, who pays his needs.
He wonders what she sees in his eyes. Does she see competition? Does she see his past? Does the necromancer in her sense the taint of death?
"How can I help you?" he asks, politely, praying his voice does not betray the weight of memories.
The respect and humor fades away.
"You can stay away from Jean-Claude." At this moment, she is not just the Executioner...she is all the things that tie her with blood and honor: the Lupa of the local pack of werewolves and the human servant of the Master of the City.
She is not one to be trifled with.
But that doesn't deter him. "No, I can't," he assures, wincing.
"Why the hell not?" Her jacket falls away, and the Browning looks ominous, full of the promise of an afterlife and hours of agony leading up to it. All show, he knows, because she will not kill a human but the threat is still more than effective.
He swallows. The knot in his throat doesn't diminish and neither does the vague imprint of another pair of dark eyes pinning him up with the same exact disdain. Neither does the sulfuric smell of a closed vortex. Neither does the sound of glass shattering. "You wouldn't understand."
"Try me," she challenges, her eyes sparkling with cool anger.
The bedroom was dark...he was draped in night and silks...and Jason's arm thrown over his shoulders. If he didn't stop to think about it, it was almost like being a kid again...curled up with Billy and RaeJean on the air mattress in the back room of the trailer. The buzzing of mosquitoes...the cloying magnolia and swamp scent of the thick air.
But think about it he did.
Jason wasn't his brother and little sister.
Jason was a lycanthrope. A werewolf. Lukoi.
And this wasn't a trailer park in Louisiana.
It was a Master's lair beneath the Circus of the Damned...in St. Louis's vampire district.
He rolled over slowly, so as not to wake the flirtatious blond wolf who took any caresses--accidental or intentional--from anyone of either sex to be cheerful invitations. And he was not surprised at the tell-tale shine of unearthly blue eyes watching him. It was a sensation not unlike being in front of a Wolfram & Hart advisory panel--which he had experienced too many times in his other life.
He risked the hypnosis...the charge of a vampire's thrall...and propped his elbow up on a pillow as he met Jean-Claude's speculative gaze.
"What? What do you want?" he asked, hoarsely, tasting stale red wine and sleep on his dry tongue.
The Master shook his head just slightly, leaning forward in a motion that was too swift for human eyes. His black hair spilled forth in a near-feminine curtain as his whisper caressed Lindsey's ear. "What do *you* want, *mon homme*?"
Fog...the throb of a hangover...bliss. He could feel his mind being probed and he gave over willingly to the tender intrusion, much like he had given his throat that first night. The twin wounds at his pulse still throbbed...still ached for more. Jean-Claude wrapped around him like a cool blanket of sensory overload. "Angelus?" he asked, silkily.
He shook his head, laying his cheek against the branded cross that marred the beauty of the Master's bare chest.
This time hearing the name didn't hurt quite as much. A chord for a lost friend, a lost opportunity. And he shook his head yet again on impulse.
"Then what? Why here? Why me?" The questions were a formality. The vampire didn't need validation for those who chose to be with him...but he did enjoy challenges and mysteries. That much had become apparent in these few weeks.
The backs of long white fingers stroked his cheek, his hair. Lindsey arched against the gentle seduction. "I risk the wrath of my human servant by having you here, *mon homme*....because I cannot deny the desperation in your face. But if I am to bring the Executioner's disfavor down on my bed, the least you can do is tell me why."
The words spilled forth and wove upward before he could even catalog their meaning...called forth by an expert snake charmer. "I want to feel whole again."
He tensed. Waiting for laughter. For mockery. For the sick wrenching of self pity in his own gut. But none of it came.
He tasted a sigh.
A kiss on his forehead. A kiss on each of the sensitive, scabbed over stumps at the ends of his wrists. And then another arm joined Jason's across his shoulders, pulling him close.
The warmth of a different kind of brethren...not bred from shared DNA and poverty...but shared blood and empathy.
"Get some sleep, Lindsey."
And his eyes fluttered shut as he gratefully obeyed his Master's command.
He pulls out of the cache of recent memories, choking back the essence of pain that goes with them, watching the woman who now leans against the doorframe with half-closed eyes. Her jacket has fallen closed, hiding her gun. There are no indications of barely checked rage...or of sympathy.
He doesn't expect any.
Not from Anita Blake.
So he waits. He rearranges some papers on his desk. Makes sure his voice-activated keyboard is properly connected to his hard drive. Counts the paperclips in the ashtray. 16. And he looks up again.
She tilts her head. Something flickers in the furthest reaches of her dark chocolate gaze. "You want to feel 'whole'?"
He blinks. Breathes in, sharply. "Yeah."
Now there's the slight hint of a smile. Actual warmth. "You have the makings of one sick puppy."
"Yeah." He grins back, ruefully. "More than you know."
"More than *you* know." She shakes her head, chewing on her bottom lip for just a second...as if debating a vital piece of information. Then, as if she is confiding something completely against her better judgment, she leans forward. Her lovely face loses it's protective mask for just an instant. "You have the makings of a wolf."
"What?" He furrows his brows.
A wolf? Him? Why? What does that mean?
But she remains cryptic.
"Ask Jason to speak to Richard on your behalf," she orders. "If they they think it's viable, *they'll* fill you in. And if Richard doesn't *want* it...tell him to talk to me."
"I will. For whatever that's worth." He murmurs cursory pleasantries as his mind races ahead to the possibilities...the questions. "Nice seeing you again, Anita."
"You, too. Oh...!" Her hand stills on the doorknob. "And Lindsey...?"
"Hmm?" He arches an eyebrow, breaking out of an interior debate of the implications of lycanthropy for a double amputee.
Her eyes are ice again. Full of promise and a severity that sends a chill down his spine.
"Stay the fuck away from Jean-Claude."