I was dreaming of cool flesh and sheets the color of fresh blood. The phone shattered the dream, leaving only fragments, a glimpse of midnight blue eyes, hands gliding down my body, his hair flung across my face in a sweet, scented cloud. I woke in my own house, miles from Jean-Claude with the feel of his body clinging to me. I fumbled the phone from the bedside table and mumbled, "Hello."
"Anita, is that you?" It was Daniel Zeeman, Richard's baby brother. Daniel was twenty-four and cute as a bug's ear. Baby didn't really cover it. Richard had been my fiance once upon a time -- until I chose Jean-Claude over him. Sleeping with the other man put a real crimp in our social plans. Not that I blamed Richard. No, I blamed myself. It was one of the few things Richard and I still shared.
I squinted at the glowing dial of the bedside clock. 3:10 A.M. "Daniel, what's wrong?" No one calls at ten after the witching hour with good news.
He took a deep breath, as if preparing himself for the next line. "Richard's in jail."
I sat up, sheets sliding in a bundle to my lap. "What did you say?" I was suddenly wide awake, heart thudding, adrenaline pumping.
"Richard is in jail," he repeated.
I didn't make him say it again, though I wanted to. "What for?" I asked.
"Attempted rape," he said.
"What?" I said.
Daniel repeated it. It didn't make any more sense the second time I heard it. "Richard is like the ultimate Boy Scout," I said. "I'd believe murder before I'd believe rape."
"I guess that's a compliment," he said.
"You know what I meant, Daniel. Richard wouldn't do something like that."
"I agree," he said.
"Is he in Saint Louis?" I asked.
"No, he's still in Tennessee. He finished up his requirements for his master's degree and got arrested that night."
"Tell me what happened."
"I don't exactly know," he said.
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"They won't let me see him," Daniel said.
"Mom got in to see him, but they wouldn't let all of us in."
"Has he got a lawyer?" I asked.
"He says he doesn't need one. He says he didn't do it."
"Prison is full of people who didn't do it, Daniel. He needs a lawyer. It's his word against the woman's. If she's local and he isn't, he's in trouble."
"He's in trouble," Daniel said.
"Shit," I said.
"There's more bad news," he said.
I threw the covers back and stood, clutching the phone. "Tell me."
"There's going to be a blue moon this month." He said it very quietly, no explanation, but I understood.
Richard was an alpha werewolf. He was head of the local pack. It was his only serious flaw. We'd broken up after I'd seen him eat somebody. What I'd seen had sent me running to Jean-Claude's arms. I'd run from the werewolf to the vampire. Jean-Claude was Master of the City of Saint Louis. He was definitely not the more human of the two. I know there isn't a lot to choose from between a bloodsucker and a flesh-eater, but at least after Jean-Claude finished feeding, there weren't chunks between his fangs. A small distinction but a real one.
A blue moon meant a second full moon this month. The moon doesn't actually turn blue most of the time, but it is where the old saying comes from -- once in a blue moon. It happens about every three years or so. It was August, and the second full moon was only five days away. Richard's control was very good, but I'd never heard of any werewolf, even an Ulfric, a pack leader, who could fight the change on the night of the full moon. No matter what flavor of animal you changed into, a lycanthrope was a lycanthrope. The full moon ruled them.
"We have to get him out of jail before the full moon," Daniel said.
"Yeah," I said. Richard was hiding what he was. He taught junior high science. If they found out he was a werewolf, he'd lose his job. It was illegal to discriminate on the basis of a disease, especially one as difficult to catch as lycanthropy, but they'd do it. No one wanted a monster teaching their kiddies. Not to mention that the only person in Richard's family who knew his secret was Daniel. Mom and Pop Zeeman didn't know.
"Give me a number to contact you at," I said.
He did. "You'll come down then," he said.
He sighed. "Thanks. Mom is raising hell, but it's not helping. We need someone here who understands the legal system."
"I'll have a friend call you with the name of a good local lawyer before I get there. You may be able to arrange bail by the time I arrive."
"If he'll see the lawyer," Daniel said.
"Is he being stupid?" I asked.
"He thinks that having the truth on his side is enough."
It sounded like something Richard would say. There was more than one reason why we'd broken up. He clung to ideals that hadn't even worked when they were in vogue. Truth, justice, and the American way certainly didn't work within the legal system. Money, power, and luck were what worked. Or having someone on your side that was part of the system.
I was a vampire executioner. I was licensed to hunt and kill vampires once a court order of execution had been issued. I was licensed in three states. Tennessee was not one of them. But cops, as a general rule, would treat an executioner better than a civilian. We risked our lives and usually had a higher kill count than they did. Of course, the kills being vamps, some people didn't count them as real kills. Had to be human for it to count.
"When can you get here?" Daniel asked.
"I've got some things to clear up here, but I'll see you today before noon."
"I hope you can talk some sense into Richard."
I'd met their mother -- more than once -- so I said, "I'm surprised that Charlotte can't talk sense to him."
"Where do you think he gets this 'truth will set you free' bit?" Daniel asked.
"Great," I said. "I'll be there, Daniel."
"I've got to go." He hung up suddenly as if afraid of being caught. His mom had probably come into the room. The Zeemans had four sons and a daughter. The sons were all six feet or above. The daughter was five nine. They were all over twenty-one. And they were all scared of their mother. Not literally scared, but Charlotte Zeeman wore the pants in the family. One family dinner and I knew that.
I hung up the phone, turned on the lamp, and started to pack. It occurred to me while I was throwing things into a suitcase to wonder why the hell I was doing this. I could say that it was because Richard was the other third of a triumvirate of power that Jean-Claude had forged between the three of us. Master vampire, Ulfric, or wolf king, and necromancer. I was the necromancer. We were bound so tightly together that sometimes we invaded each other's dreams by accident. Sometimes not so accidentally.
But I wasn't riding to the rescue because Richard was our third. I could admit to myself, if to no one else, that I still loved Richard. Not the same way I loved Jean-Claude, but it was just as real. He was in trouble, and I would help him if I could. Simple. Complicated. Hurtful.
I wondered what Jean-Claude would think of me dropping everything to go rescue Richard. It didn't really matter. I was going, and that was that. But I did spare a thought for how that might make my vampire lover feel. His heart didn't always beat, but it could still break.
Love sucks. Sometimes it feels good. Sometimes it's just another way to bleed.
I made phone calls. My friend Catherine Maison-Gillette was an attorney. She'd been with me on more than one occasion when I had to make a statement to the police about a dead body that I helped make dead. So far, no jail time. Hell, no trial. How did I accomplish this? I lied.
Bob, Catherine's husband, answered on the fifth ring, voice so heavy with sleep it was almost unintelligible. Only the bass growl let me know which of them it was. Neither of them woke gracefully.
"Bob, this is Anita. I need to speak with Catherine. It's business."
"You at a police station?" he asked. See, Bob knew me.
"No, I don't need a lawyer for me this time."
He didn't ask questions. He just said, "Here's Catherine. If you think I have no curiosity at all, you're wrong, but Catherine will fill me in after you hang up."
"Thanks, Bob," I said.
"Anita, what's wrong?" Catherine's voice sounded normal. She was a criminal attorney with a private firm. She was wakened a lot at odd hours. She didn't like it, but she recovered well.