"I wanted you out of my life. You don't seem to want to do that."
He sighed. "No, ma petite, I do not want to do that." He let it go at that. No accusations about me wanting to be with Richard instead of him. No vague threats on Richard's life. It was sort of odd.
"You're up to something," I said.
He turned, eyes wide, long fingers pressed to his heart. "Moi?"
"Yeah, you," I said. I shook my head and let it go. He was up to something. I knew him well enough to know the signs, but I also knew him well enough to know that he wouldn't tell me until he was good and ready. Nobody kept a secret like Jean-Claude, and nobody else had as many of them. There was no deceit in Richard. Jean-Claude lived and breathed it.
"I've got to change and pack before we can leave."
"Change your lovely red skirt, why? Because I like it?"
"Not just that," I said, "though admittedly it's a plus. I can't wear my inner pants holster with the skirt."
"I will not argue that having a second gun will help our show of force tomorrow night."
I stopped and turned. "What do you mean, tomorrow night?"
He spread his hands wide. "It is too close to dawn, ma petite. We cannot even drive to the master's lair before the sun rises."
"Dammit," I said softly and with feeling.
"I did my part, ma petite. But even I cannot stop the sun from rising."
I leaned against the back of the love seat, hands gripping the edge hard enough to hurt. I shook my head. "We're going to be too late to save him."
"Ma petite, ma petite." He knelt in front of me, staring up at me. "Why does this boy bother you so very much? Why is his life so precious to you?"
I stared down into Jean-Claude's perfect face, and had no answer. "I don't know."
He laid his hands on top of my hands. "You're hurting yourself, ma petite."
I moved my hands out from under his, crossing my arms over my stomach. Jean-Claude remained kneeling, a hand on either side of me. He was entirely too close to me, and I was suddenly very aware of how short the skirt was.
"I have to go pack," I said.
"Why? Don't you like your room?" Without moving, he seemed closer somehow. I could feel the line of his body against my legs like heat.
"Move," I said.
He leaned backwards, sitting on his heels, forcing me to move past him. The hem of my skirt brushed his cheek as I walked past. "You are such a pain in the ass."
"So nice of you to notice, ma petite. Now, why are you leaving this lovely room?"
"A client's paying for the room, and he's not a client anymore."
"Why ever not, ma petite?"
"I pulled a gun on him."
His eyes widened, his face a perfect mask of surprise. The mask slipped and he stared at me with ancient eyes. Eyes that had seen much but still didn't know what to make of me. "Why would you do that?"
"They were going to shoot a man for trespassing."
"Was he trespassing?"
Jean-Claude just looked at me. "Does he not have the right to protect his own land?"
"No, not if it means killing people. A piece of land isn't worth killing over."
"Protecting our lands has been a valid excuse for slaughter since the beginning of time, ma petite. Did you suddenly change the rules?"
"I wasn't going to stand there and watch them kill a man for walking on a piece of ground. Besides, I think it was a setup."
"A setup? You mean a plot to kill the man."
"Were you part of this plot?"
"I may have been bait. He could feel my power over the dead. It called to him."
"Now that is interesting. What is this man's name?"
"You give me the name of the mystery vampire first."
"Xavier," he said.
"Just like that. Why wouldn't you give me the name earlier?"
"I do not want the police to have it."
"I explained all that. Now, the name of the man you saved tonight."
I stared at him, and didn't want to give it to him. I didn't like how interested he was in the name. But a deal was a deal. "Bouvier, Magnus Bouvier."
"I do not know the name."
He just smiled at me. It meant nothing and everything.
"You are an irritating son of a bitch."
"Ah, ma petite, how can I resist you when you whisper such sweet endearments to me?"
I glared at him, which made him smile wider. There was just the faintest hint of fang peeking into view.
Someone knocked on the door. Probably the manager telling me to get out. I walked to the door. I didn't bother looking through the peephole, so I was caught off guard by who was outside. It was Lionel Bayard.
Had he come to throw us out in person?
I stood there for a second, looking at him. He spoke first, clearing his throat nervously. "Ms. Blake, may I speak with you for a moment?"
He was being awfully polite for someone who had come to kick us out. "I'm listening, Mr. Bayard."
"I really don't think the hallway is the place to discuss this."
I stepped to one side, ushering him into the room. He stepped past me, hands smoothing his tie. His gaze flicked to Jean-Claude, who was standing now. Jean-Claude smiled at Bayard. Pleasant, charming.
"I didn't realize you had company, Ms. Blake. I can come back."
I closed the door. "No, Mr. Bayard, it's all right. I told Jean-Claude about our misunderstanding this evening."
"Ah, yes, uh..." Bayard looked from one to the other of us, as if not sure what to say.
Jean-Claude didn't so much sit in the chair as fold his body around it. The movement was almost catlike. "Anita and I have no secrets from one another, Mr..."
"Bayard, Lionel Bayard." He walked over and offered his hand to Jean-Claude. Jean-Claude raised an eyebrow but took the offered hand.
The handshake seemed to make Bayard feel better. A normal gesture. He didn't know what Jean-Claude was. How he could look at him and think him human was beyond me. I'd only seen one vampire that could have passed for human, and he hadn't been human at all. Bayard turned back to me, adjusting his glasses, which didn't need adjusting. That nervous little gesture again. Something was up.
"What's up, Bayard?" I asked. I'd closed the door and was leaning to one side of it, arms crossed over my stomach.
"I'm here to offer our most sincere apologies for earlier tonight."
I just stared at him. "You're apologizing to me?"
"Yes. Mr. Stirling was overzealous. Why, if you had not been there to bring us all to our senses, a great tragedy might have occurred."
I tried to keep my face blank. I wanted to frown at him, or look confused. "Stirling's not mad at me?"
"On the contrary, Ms. Blake. He's grateful to you."
I didn't believe that. "Really," I said.
"Oh, yes. In fact, I've been authorized to offer you a bonus."
"To make up for our behavior tonight."
"Your behavior was fine," I said.
He smiled modestly. His act was about as sincere as faux pearls, but not half so realistic.
"How much is the bonus?"
"Twenty thousand," he said.
I stayed leaning against the wall, staring at him. "No."
He blinked at me. "Excuse me?"
"I don't want the bonus."
"I'm not authorized to go higher than twenty thousand, but I could speak with Mr. Stirling. Perhaps he would go higher."
I shook my head and pushed away from the wall. "I don't want more money. I don't want the bonus at all."
"You aren't quitting on us, are you, Ms. Blake?" He was blinking so fast I thought he'd pass out. Me quitting bothered him. A lot.
"No, I'm not quitting. But you're already paying an enormous fee. You don't need to pay more."
"Mr. Stirling is just very anxious that he has not offended you."
I let that one go. Too easy. "Tell Mr. Stirling I'd have thought better of his apology if it had been delivered in person."
"Mr. Stirling is a very busy man. He would have come himself, but he had pressing business."
I wondered how often Bayard had to apologize for the big man. I wondered how often the apology was for telling a fellow flunkie to shoot someone. "Fine, you've delivered the message. Tell Mr. Stirling that it isn't the gunfight that's going to make me bail. I read the cemetery tonight. Some of the corpses are closer to three hundred than two hundred. Three hundred years, Lionel; that's an old zombie."