Cerulean Sins

Тема

Аннотация: The human consort of Master Vampire Jean-Claude and Micah, the leopard shapeshifter, Anita Blake must come to Jean-Claude's assistance when his oldest ancestor sends one of her vicious and powerful underlings to St. Louis, threatening his and his clan's very existence. Reprint.

With herNew York Timesbestselling Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter novels, Laurell K. Hamilton wraps readers up in stories of suspense and sensuality.Cerulean Sinsis no exception. Now, Anita learns what it's like to be at the new end of a centuries-old bloodline—and just how far she'll let herself get pushed around…

How the mighty have fallen! Once a sworn enemy of all vampires, Anita is now the human consort of both Jean-Claude, the Master Vampire, and Micah, the leopard shapeshifter. But her love life doesn't stop there. It can't. For Anita—not quite as human as she once was—is consumed by both the lusts of the vampire and the primal hungers of the wereleopards. Desires that must be sated—time and time again…

But it is Jean-Claude who needs her now. His oldest ancestor has sent one of her vicious and powerful underlings to St. Louis, putting Jean-Claude and his clan on the defensive. Unsure of where she stands with the interloper, Anita finds herself tested as never before—needing all the dark forces her passion can muster to save the ones she loves the most…

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Laurell K. Hamilton

Book 11 of the Anita Blake Vampire Hunter Series

To J.,

who says yes more than he says no;

who never makes me feel like a freak,

and who came up with the title for this book.

Acknowledgments

Thanks to Karen and Bear, who helped me find new places to hide the bodies. To Joanie and Melissa, who helped entertain Trinity when she needed more playtime than a hardworking mommy can supply. To Trinity, who helped me finish this book by being old enough to entertain herself. Every year just gets better. To Carniffex and Maerda, who helped me with research, and who should have been mentioned here books ago. To Darla, without whom so much would go undone. To Sherry, for keeping the place livable. To Sergeant Robert Cooney of the St. Louis City Police Mobile Reserve Unit, for answering my last-minute questions. He did not have time to read over this manuscript, so all mistakes are mine and mine alone. And, as always, to my writing group: Tom Drennan, N. L. Drew, Rhett McPhearson, Deborah Millitello, Marella Sands, Sharon Shinn, and Mark Sumner.

1

It was early September, a busy time of year for raising the dead. The pre-Halloween rush seemed to start earlier and earlier every year. Every animator at Animators Inc. was booked solid. I was no exception; in fact, I'd been offered more work than even my ability to go without sleep could supply.

Mr. Leo Harlan should have been grateful to get the appointment. He didn't look grateful. Truthfully, he didn't have the look of anything. Harlan was medium. Medium height, dark hair, but not too dark. Skin neither too pale nor too tan. Eyes brown, but an indistinguishable shade of brown. In fact the most remarkable thing about Mr. Harlan was that there was nothing remarkable about him. Even his suit was dark, conservative. A businessman's outfit that had been in style for the last twenty years and probably would still be in style twenty years down the road. His shirt was white, his tie neatly knotted, his not-too-big, not-too-small hands were well groomed but not manicured.

His appearance told me so little that that in itself was interesting, and vaguely disturbing.

I took a sip from my coffee mug with the motto, "If you slip me decaf, I'll rip your head off." I'd brought it to work when our boss, Bert, had put decaf in the coffeemaker without telling anyone, thinking we wouldn't notice. Half the office thought they had mono for a week, until we discovered Bert's dastardly plot.

The coffee that our secretary, Mary, had gotten for Mr. Harlan sat on the edge of my desk. His mug was the one with the logo of Animators Inc. on it. He'd taken a minute sip of the coffee, when Mary had first handed it to him. He'd taken the coffee black, but he sipped it like he hadn't tasted it, or it didn't really matter what it tasted like. He'd taken it out of politeness, not out of desire.

I sipped my own coffee, heavy on the sugar and cream, trying to make up for the late work the night before. Caffeine and sugar, the two basic food groups.

His voice was like the rest of him, so ordinary it was extraordinary. He spoke with absolutely no accent, no hint of region, or country. "I want you to raise my ancestor, Ms. Blake."

"So you said."

"You seem to doubt me, Ms. Blake."

"Call it skepticism."

"Why would I come in here and lie to you?"

I shrugged. "People have done it before."

"I assure you, Ms. Blake, I am telling the truth."

Trouble was, I just didn't believe him. Maybe I was being paranoid, but my left arm under the nice navy suit jacket was crisscrossed with scars—from the crooked cross-shaped burn scar, where a vampire's servant had branded me, to the slashing claw marks of a shape-shifted witch. Plus knife scars, thin and clean compared to the rest. My right arm had only one knife scar, it was nothing in comparison. And there were other scars hidden under the navy skirt and royal blue shell. Silk didn't care if it slid over scars or smooth, untouched skin. I'd earned my right to be paranoid.

"What ancestor do you want raised, and why?" I smiled when I said it, pleasant, but the smile didn't reach my eyes. I'd begun to have to work at getting my smiles to reach all the way up to my eyes.

He smiled too, and it left his eyes as unaffected as my own. Smile because you were smiled at, not because it really meant anything. He reached out to pick up the coffee mug again, and this time I noticed a heaviness in the left front of his jacket. He wasn't wearing a shoulder holster—I'd have noticed that—but there was something heavier than a wallet in his left breast pocket. It could have been a lot of things, but my first thought was,gun.I've learned to listen to my first thoughts. You're not paranoid if people really are out to get you.

I had my own gun tucked under my left arm in a shoulder holster. That evened things up, but I did not want my office to turn into the O. K. Corral. He had a gun. Maybe. Probably. For all I knew it could have been a really heavy cigar case. But I'd have bet almost anything that that heaviness was a weapon.

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