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Crimson Death(Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #25)(14) by Laurell Kaye Hamilton

I WOKE IN a welter of sheets on the bed in our room. I didn’t remember leaving the bathroom, or getting into the bed. Nathaniel’s arm pinned me around the waist, his hair lying in a tangled mass as if he’d gone to sleep with it wet. Damian lay on the other side of him. He was on his back, his face peaceful with sleep. Nathaniel’s other arm was flung across his waist, so he had gone to sleep hugging us both. I lay there trying to remember what had happened earlier. I remembered getting in the shower. I remembered some foreplay, and then . . . nothing.
My body was letting me know that we’d had sex, because what goes in has to come out eventually. From the feel of things we hadn’t used condoms. I didn’t use them with Nathaniel, but I would have with Damian. Had I? Had I just had multiple intercourse with Nathaniel and that was what I was feeling? I’d check the trash can in the bedroom and bathroom to make certain. If I didn’t find a used condom in any of them, then I’d know we all forgot the most important safety rule of safe sex. I was on birth control and neither the vampire nor the lycanthrope could carry any sexually transmitted diseases, but still . . . what the fuck were we all thinking?
I tried to sit up, but Nathaniel snuggled tighter so that his arm pinned me to the bed and tight to his body. Damian hadn’t moved at all. I looked at him and held my breath while I looked to see if he was breathing, but his chest never moved. Vampires didn’t have to breathe. I stretched out a hand across Nathaniel’s shoulders until I could touch Damian’s arm. His skin was cool to the touch, and for the first time ever, I found my lover’s flesh gone cold comforting. He’d died like a good vampire should. There’d be no nightmares for us the rest of today, so at least whatever we’d done had helped.
But what had we done to cure him? I couldn’t remember a damned thing after we got in the shower. Okay, we got in the shower, and then . . . What?
I lay there with Nathaniel hugging us both while he slept, and there was something. A memory, a thought, a . . . something. It was like the harder I thought at it, the more my mind shied away from it. Sex, even sex with the ardeur, had never been like this unless something else was interfering with us. The Mother of All Darkness could cause blackouts, and so had Belle Morte and the Lover of Death. Two of the three were dead, because I’d helped kill them; that left Belle Morte, but this was too subtle for her. She liked you to know that she’d fucked you over. So if it wasn’t another vampire, then why couldn’t I remember what had happened?
I glanced at the bedside clock and had to do a double take. It said it was almost one p.m., which meant we’d been in here almost seven hours. That wasn’t possible. The first trickle of fear tightened my stomach and made it a little harder to take a deep breath. The last time I’d lost this much time had been because of the vampire council, or Mommy Darkest. We’d destroyed the power of the first and killed the second. I remembered Kaazim’s words, that the Mother’s power was inside me, and that her power might be acting in ways that I didn’t understand at all.
I tried to move and again Nathaniel’s arm tightened around me, holding me in place, but this time it panicked me. I had one of those claustrophobic moments where I had to get out of the bed. I had to find out what had happened and how long we had really been in this room. I was able to sit up, but Nathaniel’s arm squeezed around my waist, so that moving off the bed wasn’t happening. Nothing was wrong, no one was hurting me, but I was suddenly choking on panic. I pushed at Nathaniel’s shoulder hard enough that he raised his head and blinked at me groggily.
“Up!” I said, my voice strident.
“Up what?” he mumbled.
“I need up, out of bed.”
He rose up on one elbow, letting me go and asking, “What’s wrong?”
I looked down into his lavender eyes and I remembered his eyes glowing in the shower. I backed out of the bed so fast I half-fell to the floor. He came to the edge of the bed and looked down at me.
“Anita, what’s wrong?”
“I don’t know.” But that was a lie. I did know, or thought I did. I just didn’t want to say it out loud.
“Did you have a nightmare?” he asked.
I got to my feet and shook my head. “No. Did you?”
“No, I slept great. How about you?”
“I’m not sure.”
“What do you mean, you’re not sure?”
“What do you remember from after we got in the shower?” I asked.
He gave a very self-satisfied grin, like the proverbial cat that ate the canary. “Everything.”
“Define everything.”
“The sex was amazing, even for us.”
“We had sex with Damian,” I said.
Nathaniel’s smile began to dim. “Are you saying you don’t remember having sex with Damian?”
I shook my head.
He sat up in the bed, and without him to hold Damian in place the vampire slid down the pillows to lie awkward as a broken doll. The angle of his head alone let me know for certain that he was dead to the world, because asleep he’d have changed position. The angle of his neck was so awkward that it looked almost broken. If I could have changed it without getting back on the bed I’d have done it, but at that second nothing would have gotten me back on the bed. I was so scared my skin was cold.
My voice was only a little breathy as I said, “I don’t remember the actual sex.”
He frowned and sat up in bed, the sheets pooling behind him so that he was nude as he sat there looking concerned. “I don’t understand.”
“Neither do I,” I said.
“You look scared.”
I nodded.
“Are you scared of . . . me?”
“I’m scared of whatever made me not remember the last few hours.”
“Are you seriously saying you don’t remember any of the sex?”
“The last thing I remember was your eyes glowing and you said, I want this.”
“Then we had amazing sex,” he said.
“I don’t remember that part, Nathaniel.”
“You don’t remember Damian fucking you?”
“No, I don’t.”
“Or me going down on him for the first time?”
“Or him taking blood from me so we could all keep having sex?” Nathaniel moved his tangled hair to one side so I could see the fang marks in his neck.
“I don’t remember that.”
“What’s the last thing you do remember?”
“I told you, your eyes glowing, and Damian’s eyes glowing.”
“Your eyes glowed, too, Anita, like brown diamonds in the sun.”
“I’ll take your word for it, but I don’t remember it.”
“You should remember, Anita.”
“I don’t.”
“Why don’t you?”
“I don’t know.”
He glanced behind him at the other man lifeless in the bed. “I hope Damian remembers more of it than you do. We hit some serious firsts. It would be sad if I was the only one that remembered them.”
“We need to talk to Jean-Claude,” I said.
“Because I don’t remember anything, Nathaniel. I mean, nothing after your eyes started to glow.”
“Everyone’s eyes glowed, Anita, not just mine.”
“I’ll take your word for it, but I honestly don’t remember.”
He slipped off the bed and I took a step back. He went very still, his face very serious. “You’re not just afraid. You’re afraid of me.”
“I think so.”
“Why? I would never hurt you, Anita.”
“Logically I know that, but this isn’t about logic.”
“No, it’s all about emotion for you. I can smell it.”
“Smell what, my emotions?”
“Your fear,” he said, his voice calm as if he didn’t want to add any more emotion to the situation. It was usually the way that Micah talked to me when I was upset, but I guess we’d been dating enough so that we all knew how to handle each other now.
“Anita, I don’t know what happened, or why you can’t remember everything, but if we did get rolled by some bigger vampire, don’t do to me what you’ve done to Sin, or Jean-Claude and Richard in the past.”
“And what is that? What did I do to them?” I could hear the fear and edge of anger in my voice.
“Let your fear of what happened paint everyone involved with the same issues. It would break my heart if you treated me that way.”
I stared into that handsome face and didn’t know what to say.
“I don’t think I’d deal as well with it as they do.”
“What does that mean?” And my voice was still strident with the first stirrings of anger, because it would help chase away the fear.
“It means don’t blame me, or Damian, when we got rolled, too.”
“But you remember. If you’d been rolled, you wouldn’t remember.”
“I don’t know why I remember, but you and Damian said yes to everything we did. I hate the idea that you don’t remember saying yes, and hope like hell that Damian remembers later.”
I glanced at the vampire lying broken-looking in the bed. “Can you change his position? He looks . . . broken.”
“Can it really hurt him to lie like that?” he asked.
“No, but it just looks uncomfortable.”
Nathaniel didn’t argue, just climbed back onto the bed and moved the vampire until he was lying in a more normal sleeping position. His body moved as only the dead can, boneless and hard to keep where you put it, so that the head kept lolling to one side at that broken-neck angle. Nathaniel finally had to use the pillows to prop the vampire’s head at an angle that made me happier.
“Let’s go find Jean-Claude; he should be awake by now,” I said.
“You’ll want to at least finger-comb your hair,” he said, smiling.
I frowned at him. “Do you really think I care how my hair looks right now?”
“No, but you might if you look in the mirror.”
I half-smiled and shook my head. “For you to keep insisting, it must be bad.”
“Pretty bad. I think we all forgot to put hair-care products and conditioner on after we finished the shower part.”
“You never forget hair-care products,” I said.
He frowned. “True.”
“Are you sure you remember everything that happened?” I asked.
“I thought I did, but now I’m not sure.”
I reached up and touched my hair, but just feeling it didn’t seem so bad. I started to walk to the bathroom, but Nathaniel followed me, and I had to stop him. “I don’t want to be in the bathroom with anyone but me right now, Nathaniel.”
He looked so sad.
“I’m sorry, Nathaniel, but until we figure out what just happened I need a little space.”
“Don’t pull away, Anita.”
“I want some privacy in the bathroom. I don’t think that’s asking too much,” I said.
He nodded and let me walk away alone, but his shoulders slumped forward, every line of him sadder than a few seconds ago. I wanted to run and hug him close, erase all the sadness from him, but I had a right to go to the bathroom alone, damn it. I had a right to a little privacy, a little space, even with him.
I closed the door, but standing there in the room where I’d lost time wasn’t good. I suddenly wanted out of the room as much as I’d wanted out of the bed. I opened the door and came to stand outside, breathing hard.
“Anita, are you okay? Did something happen in the room just now?”
I shook my head. “Going to leave the door open, okay?”
“Okay, I won’t try to come in while you’re in there.”
“Thank you,” I said.
“I don’t know what’s wrong, but I don’t want to make it worse,” he said.
“I know you don’t.” I moved back into the bathroom to look in the mirror and instantly understood why Nathaniel had said something. My curls didn’t always look great after I slept on them wet, but this was spectacularly bad, even for me. It looked like I had lopsided horns, along with other odd protuberances in between. Just sleeping on my hair wet wouldn’t do this; it was like we’d put in shampoo and just left it in, or gotten crazed with hair-care products but never smoothed the hair into place. Once I saw my hair, I knew that Nathaniel didn’t remember everything either. He’d never have let me sleep with this much stuff in my hair without helping me neaten it. Nathaniel thought he remembered the entire thing, but he didn’t.
I did my best to splash water on it and try to help matters, but I finally let Nathaniel in to try to help me. He finally ended by braiding it close to my head with a promise to help me wash it out later. He had to braid his own hair, too. We’d both have to start over with our hair later, but there was no way I was getting back into the shower until I’d spoken with Jean-Claude. I needed to know who had rolled us, and why. Some older vampires will fuck with you just to fuck with you, but most of them have a purpose if they torment you; call it sadism with a reason. I needed to know that reason, and Jean-Claude needed to know there was still someone big and bad enough to roll me that thoroughly, because if they could do that without alerting him to it, then they were serious bad-asses. Every time we destroyed the great evil, another one seemed to rise up in its place like an evil version of “Nature abhors a vacuum.” It was almost like the Mother of All Darkness had kept the other bad vampires in line, and now that she was gone, they were trying their supervillain wings out. I was getting real tired of being the target du jour for them.