Blood Bond


CHAPTER 3





I TAKE MY COFFEE OUT TO THE DECK THAT SPANS THE back of our office. I sink into a chair and let the sun soothe my frazzled nerves. Harris is not going to let his suspicions about me go, no matter how circumstantial they appear to be.

Only I know his instincts are dead-on. Just my luck to get a really good detective on the case.

I'm still on the deck when Tracey and David come back to the office less than an hour after Harris' abrupt departure.

David looks in to make sure Harris is gone.

I get up and come inside. "It's safe. Harris left to find somebody else to harass."

He motions Tracey inside. She goes right to the coat-rack, grabs her jacket and waves a hand at me before standing on tiptoe to give David's cheek a peck.

"See you at the condo?"

Her good humor has obviously been restored.

David gives her shoulder a squeeze. "I'll stop at Sammi's for takeout and see you in twenty."

She smiles at me. "See? You're not the only one who found a good guy. Want to join us for lunch?"

"Good guy?" I feign shock and look around. "Where?"

Tracey laughs and I continue. "Rain check for lunch. I have some stuff to do."

"When your guy gets to town, we'll double-date for sure." She reaches up and pinches David's cheek. "Won't that be fun?"

David groans and closes his eyes. "I can't think of anything funner."

Tracey heads out. When the door has closed behind her, David drops the comedy routine and turns anxious eyes to me. I expect him to tear me a new one over the Gloria Estrella thing this morning. Instead, he surprises me.

"What did Harris want?" he asks.

Relieved, I fill him in. Ever since David started having fractured memories of an evening not too many months ago when he and Judith Williams spent the night together, he's had more than a casual interest in her, too. I could help him fill in those gaps but doing so might trigger another memory I'd rather leave buried . . . the memory of Judith telling him that she was a vampire.

And that I was one, too.

The fact that she disappeared (and I know is dead) granted me reprieve but left David with questions he'll never get answered. I made up a story of a drunken rave where he was drugged and had sex with not only Judith, but others as well. A story part true-he was drugged and he actually did have several sexual partners that weekend-part fiction-there was no drunken rave. Judith Williams kidnapped him to ensure my presence at a little soiree she had planned. But casual sex is so far out of character for David, he was determined to question Judith Williams himself.

Something that now is never going to happen.

David listens to me as I reprise Harris' frustration that he can't pin either Williams' disappearance on me.

"Why would he do that?" David asks, his own frustration adding an edge to his voice. "Just because you were a friend of her husband's? He's making you a scapegoat for his own incompetence. If he comes sniffing around again, I think you should file a harassment suit."

He grabs his jacket from the back of the chair. "Got to run. Finding a place to park around Sammi's at this time of day is going to be a bitch."

"David?"

He stops at the door and turns around.

"I want to fix up the guest room in the cottage for John-John. I don't have any experience decorating for a boy. I thought maybe you could help me pick out some stuff?"

His eyes widen. "Wow. You aren't kidding about this relationship being serious, are you?"

I shrug. "And who knows? Maybe this will be good practice for you and Tracey?"

He holds up a hand. "Whoa. Not even remotely ready for anything like that." Then he grins. "But I'd love to help you. When do you want to go?"

I look over the desktop calendar. "We don't have anything going on tomorrow. After lunch?"

"Sounds good. I know just the place to go, too."

Before I can ask where, he's out the door. Is it my imagination or was that smile on his face one of genuine delight at the prospect? Who would have thunk it?

* * *

THE CLOSER IT GETS TO FREY AND JOHN-JOHN'S VISIT, the first time they'll be staying at the cottage, the more excited I get. I had all the furniture in my guest room moved into a storage area I share with my parents and set about deciding on a color for the walls. They're vanilla-bean bland right now. Perfectly suited for the (very) few adult visitors I've ever had and for the cherry bed and dresser formerly occupying the space. Not suited for an active five-year-old. I spend the afternoon looking through home-decorating magazines and the next morning at Lowe's picking up swatches and paint samples.

It's one when I get to the office.

The voice mail indicator is blinking. Since Tracey and David are MIA, maybe at lunch, I dial in and take the message. It's one of the bondsmen we work for out of L.A. and he has a tip. A skip he's been looking for was spotted eating lunch at Jake's in Del Mar. I call him back, tell him we're on it. I pull the guy's file. Wanted for two counts of aggravated assault. Skipped his first hearing. If he's not in custody by five p.m. this afternoon, his bond is forfeit. Fifty thousand dollars. Not a big payday for us but it'd take care of the tax bill, so after scribbling a hasty note to David and Tracey, I take off.

Since becoming vampire, much of my life has been consumed with adjusting to a dual nature. Most of that has been concealing that dual nature from the people I care for most. Every once in a while I enjoy giving the vamp free rein and setting out on my own to bring in a skip (especially one wanted for violent crimes) without Tracey and David along. I don't have to pretend I'm not as strong as I am or as fast or as invulnerable.

The guy is right where the bondsman said he'd be. He's seated in the patio area in the back of the restaurant so I watch as he finishes his meal, pays the check (with cash), takes one last pull of a cup of coffee and starts for the door.

He isn't a big guy, five-nine I'd guess, and slight of build. He's wearing a suit and tie and good shoes. He looks like any other businessman grabbing a quick lunch before heading back to the office. He doesn't look like the type who beat the crap out of his ex-wife twice before she got the nerve to press charges. What he's doing here in Del Mar I have no idea. And I couldn't care less.

The suit is well tailored and I see no telltale bulges that would indicate a gun. 'Course, he could be wearing an ankle holster. Or carrying a knife. The vampire hopes he goes for it.

I've already set the trap. The hood on my Jag is up and I'm leaning over the engine with a puzzled look of feminine bewilderment.

He has to stroll right by and right on cue, he stops, whether from my predicament or the outline of my ass against a pair of tight jeans, I can only guess .

"Having trouble?" he asks.

I straighten and sigh. "It's the third time this week. Can't get it to start."

He joins me so that our hips are touching. "Don't know too much about foreign cars, but let me have a look."

He bends over and begins touching this cable and that piston, checking gaskets and pulleys. "Well," he says at last, "I can't see anything. Do you have AAA?"

I nod. "Just called them. It'll be about thirty minutes."

My left hand is resting on the edge of the engine well and he places his right hand over mine. "You're cold. Let's go inside. I'd be happy to buy you a drink while we wait for them."

I slip my hand out from under his, grasp his wrist and he's handcuffed before he can say, "What the fuck?"

He struggles, but not too much. My grip is tight. He looks at me and snipes, "You're strong for a woman. What are you? A fucking dyke?"

Nice. I pat him down, none too gently. No gun. No knife.

I manhandle him into the backseat of the Jag. He's cursing and yelling and demanding to know what I'm doing. But he doesn't try to fight back or make a break for it.

Damn it.

I ignore his howls of protest, snapping the cuffs through a metal bar I've had installed on the door of the Jag for just this purpose. Once I get him to SDPD, he'll catch on. Now I'm just disappointed I didn't get to have any fun after all.

* * *

DAVID AND TRACEY ARE WAITING FOR ME WHEN I GET back. The whole episode didn't take more than two hours. I throw the paperwork on the desk and David looks it over.

"Didn't give you any trouble?"

Not really a question. Little veins are bulging at his temple. He's pissed.

I pretend not to notice, knowing what's coming. "Nope. Cakewalk."

He purses his lips. "I thought we decided we wouldn't do any lone-ranger pickups. This guy is wanted for aggravated assault. He could have given you trouble."

I can't say what I'm thinking-that a little trouble was what I went looking for-so I just smile like I don't understand his irritation. "Worked out fine. Came along gentle as a little lamb."

"Damn it, Anna, don't play innocent." He slaps the file down on the desktop. "You should have waited for backup."

I look at Tracey, but she's shaking her head. "He's right, Anna. One of us should have gone with you."

Two against one. I raise my hands in surrender. "Okay. You're right. Next time I'll wait."

Tracey smiles, but David isn't ready to let go of his frustration. I understand. I know he's remembering a time when a skip got away from us and I was raped and beaten while David lay unconscious a few feet away. What he doesn't know, what he can't know, is that attack resulted in my becoming vampire. The reason he's so protective is the reason he no longer needs to be.

He shoves the file into the cabinet and slams the drawer shut.

I clear my throat. "Does this mean you don't want to go shopping with me this afternoon?"

"Of course he'll go shopping with you," Tracey answers before he can, her tone as barbed as a fishhook. "I'll stay here and tend the office."

"You speaking for me now?" David snaps.

But Tracey takes no umbrage from his tone or annoyed glance. "It's all you've been talking about," she says in a voice so honey sweet you could smear it on toast. "You've been as excited as a little kid at the prospect of picking out furniture and toys. Don't try to deny it."

"Really?" I layer my own sugary sweetness atop Tracey's. "I do need your help, David. I don't know what little boys like these days."

Then, because it's the kind of guy David is, he gives in. "Yeah, yeah. Cut the bull. Jesus, you two going to gang up on me all the time now?"

"Probably," Tracey says. "Now go. I'll hold down the fort."

* * *

DAVID IS DRIVING. HE HASN'T SAID A WORD TO ME, AND in spite of Tracey's insistence that he wanted to help me pick out things for John-John, his attitude now is one of resentful indifference.

"So," I say, deciding to break the silence when he obviously is not about to, "you and Tracey? Things seem to be going well."

Silence.

"She's a good match for you. Tough. Won't let you get away with anything."

Irritated sideways glance.

"I like her. It's a big improvement from-"

"Don't."

"Don't what?"

"Don't say her name."

"Look, David. I'm sorry about yesterday. I shouldn't have brought Gl-"

"I. Said. Don't. Say. Her. Name."

Jesus. I shrink back into the seat. Either he and Tracey had a big fucking fight over Gloria last night or . . .

"Tell me you aren't still in touch with her."

David isn't a good liar. Worse, he knows he's not a good liar so he doesn't try to be. He's brutally honest. The fact that he's not answering me is his way of not having to lie so that I won't have to accuse him of lying.

"God, David. What about you and Tracey?"

"What about us?"

"She's crazy about you. Does she know you're seeing-" I catch myself before uttering the G-word. "She who cannot be named?"

"It's complicated."

"No. It's not. It's very simple. Shit. Now I know why you reacted the way you did yesterday. You're cheating on Tracey."

"I'm not cheating on anyone," David snaps back. "I'm not exactly seeing-" A sideways glance to me. "You know. But she's called me a few times. And we talk."

"What's a few times?"

A very pregnant pause while I drum my fingers impatiently on the dashboard and David pretends to be busy driving.

"David? How often do you speak with her?"

"Oh. Maybe three or four times."

"Three or four times since you broke up?"

Color is flooding David's face. "A week."

"Oh. My. Fucking. God." The words explode out in a howl of outrage so loud, David jumps. "Are you kidding me? After all she put you through with that murder investigation? She slept with the guy she was accused of killing, remember? She manipulated you and me and a goddamned fourteen-year-old kid to save her own skin. And you're still in touch with her?"

David's jaw is tight. His eyes are fixed straight ahead. His shoulders are bunched so tight that I think if I poked him in the arm, they'd shatter.

We're pulling into the parking lot of an IKEA. David finds a space to park and it's not until he's shut off the engine that he says another word. Then he doesn't turn to look at me, but simply says, "Look, Anna. We're never going to agree about this. But you know me. I won't break Tracey's heart. She has nothing to worry about. You have nothing to worry about. Can we just let it go at that?"

Then he opens the door to the Hummer and jumps to the ground.






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