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Crimson Death(Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #25)(18) by Laurell Kaye Hamilton

THE MEDICS INSISTED on Nicky going to the hospital in the underground along with the rest of the wounded. He insisted he was fine. “My mouth has stopped bleeding.”
“You could have a concussion,” the doctor said.
“Can we get concussions?” Sin asked.
The doctor assured us it was possible, though unlikely, which meant Nicky got to go to the hospital, too.
“I can shift to animal form and heal myself without endangering anyone else,” Nicky said.
“But if the concussion is severe enough, the shift won’t heal everything. Let’s do some tests before you change form and confuse the issue,” the doctor said.
Reluctantly Nicky agreed. The four of us were going with him, but my phone rang and it was Edward’s ringtone. He was the reason that I’d had my phone with me in the gym in the first place.
“Hey, Edward.”
“Pack your bags for Ireland.”
“You got them to agree to bring me in on the case?”
“You and some of your preternatural friends,” he said, and sounded pleased with himself.
“Take the call,” Nicky said, and started to walk away.
“Hang on a second, Edward.” I caught up with Nicky, touching his arm so he turned toward me. I’d wanted to kiss him good-bye, but his chin and lower lip were still smeared with blood; the blood combined with the pirate eye patch made him look even more like a Bond villain, but he was my villain, or maybe my henchman.
He smiled down at me and leaned down to offer his cheek for a kiss, which I gave him. “I take it your mouth is hurting too much for a kiss right now.”
“I like dishing out pain, not taking it,” he said with a grin.
“Don’t I know it,” I said.
“We can go with Nicky to the hospital so you can talk business,” Sin said. I wasn’t sure who the “we” included, and apparently neither were Nathaniel and Magda, because they looked at each other.
Nathaniel said, “I know some of the details of the case already, and it may have something to do with what’s happening with Damian.”
“He’s part of your triumvirate, I understand,” Magda said. “Stay. I’ll go with Sin and Nicky.”
“Thank you,” Nathaniel said.
“It is not often that you ask for something like this. I am glad to see the three of you working things out,” she said, and moved off to go with Nicky.
It was Nathaniel who remembered to ask, “Magda, did you go to Ireland on Harlequin business?”
“No, they were very isolationist for most of their history, and my master, Giacomo, could not pass for one of them.”
I felt stupid once she said it, because Giacomo was the exception to the rule about the Harlequin. He went by the name he’d used as an assassin, but he wasn’t a pain in the ass. He had been a Mongol, from what would now be considered Mongolia. He lived there when being in a Mongol horde meant that you rode the steppes, conquering or killing everything you met. If you didn’t know his ethnic background you’d still never mistake him for Irish; Chinese maybe, or Korean, or maybe even from some island in the Pacific, but he definitely looked Asian and not European. He was also almost as broad through the shoulders as Nicky, and it wasn’t from weight lifting. Giacomo’s basic framework was just that big.
“That makes sense,” Nathaniel said.
“Do you know if any of the Harlequin traveled to Ireland regularly, or at all?” I asked.
“Pierette and her master traveled there more than anyone else that I am aware of.” And Magda said it like that because they were spies, which meant that they didn’t all know what the rest of them were doing. Spies mean secrets, and the fewer people who know a secret, the easier it is to keep. Only the Queen of All Darkness had been given all the reports, and when she fell into her centuries of sleep, or hibernation, or Sleeping Beauty curse, or whatever it had been, then they reported to the vampire council. They had given reports to different council members depending on what they were reporting on, which made sense but didn’t help us. Pierette hadn’t liked us before today’s “lesson”; I doubted that watching her friends get beaten up had made her like us better.
“Of course it would be Pierette who knows Ireland better than anyone else; perfect,” I said.
“Do you have another vampire who knows Ireland?” Edward asked on the phone.
“Wereleopard, but who knows if she’ll talk to us after we just beat the hell out of her friends?”
“Why did you beat up her friends?” he asked.
“Long story.”
“Order her to tell you, Anita, and she is oath bound to do so,” Magda said.
“You’re the queen, Anita; act like it. Demand the information,” Edward said.
It was a little unnerving that I was getting stereo advice from Edward and Magda, but I guess not surprising. They were both very practical most of the time.
I shook my head. “She’s part of the world’s oldest and maybe best spy ring ever; if she wants to lie to me, she can.”
“You can all control your breathing and heart rate,” Sin said, “but I swear that some of you can control your scent, so it doesn’t change when you lie.”
“Some of us can.”
“If we get Pierette alone we can scare her into telling us about Ireland,” Nicky said.
“We must do it before her master wakes for the night, because once Pierrot is with his Pierette she will no longer scare so easily,” Magda said.
“She’s probably still in the hospital area holding Scaramouche’s hand,” Sin said.
“And the doctor did say I needed to go to the hospital,” Nicky said.
Sin smiled. “Can I help?”
“Can you be scary?” Nicky asked.
Sin seemed to think about it. “Yes, but scary enough to intimidate one of the Harlequin? Probably not. Can I watch the two of you intimidate Pierette?”
Magda clapped him on the shoulder hard enough to stagger him a little. “Come watch; maybe we can teach you how to be scarier.”
“I’m not sure he needs that kind of skill set,” I said.
Nicky gave me a look I couldn’t quite read. “It’s always good to be scary, Anita; you know that.”
“I don’t think that’s true in the real world for most people,” I said.
“We don’t live in that world and we aren’t most people,” he said. I’d have liked to argue with him, but I couldn’t.
“If they can learn anything that will help us solve the vampire problem here in Ireland,” Edward said, “let them scare the fuck out of her, Anita.”
“Do you want me to talk to you, or go help them be scary?”
“I heard Nicky’s voice, right?”
“He doesn’t need help being scary, and you and I need to start planning your trip to the Emerald Isle.”
Sin came back while the others started toward the far tunnel entrance. “My mouth isn’t too sore for a kiss,” he said.
I frowned at him.
“Stop being a hard-ass and just kiss me.”
The comment made me smile, and just like that all my grumpy street cred went out the window. “Hold on for just another minute, Edward.”
“Who’s asking for a kiss? I don’t recognize the voice.”
“Cynric,” I said.
“My, my, he sounds all grown up.”
“I’m putting you on hold, just so you know.”
“I wasn’t going to critique the kiss over the phone, Anita.”
“Putting you on hold now, Edward.” I turned back to Sin, standing so tall, and older just like the deeper voice that had made Edward not recognize him over the phone.
Magda called to him from the hallway. “Nicky says if you’re late we start the intimidation without you.”
“I’m coming,” Sin called back. He turned to me and leaned down for his kiss. I went up on tiptoe to meet all that six-foot-plus height halfway. His lips were soft, gentle, but his hands where he gripped my arms weren’t. He squeezed just enough for me to feel the strength in his hands, which could throw a football far enough and well enough for colleges to scout him. Some combination of his hands and the kiss made me a little breathless as he pulled away. He grinned at the look on my face, and he knew he’d made my pulse speed up. He was a weretiger; he could taste my heartbeat on his tongue.
He jogged off after the others. He didn’t want to miss learning to be scarier.