Jean-Claude was the tallest of us at six feet even. Lying on his back, he looked every inch of it. His long black curls fell almost to his waist now, as did mine. We both had truly black hair, me because my mother’s family had been Mexican, and his because it just was; his skin was paler than mine, but not by much thanks to my German father. I was pretty sure that if Jean-Claude hadn’t been a vampire I’d have been paler than he was, but no one is paler than a vampire. Even literally dead to the world he was still one of the most beautiful men I’d ever seen, and that was with Nathaniel and Micah to compare to, though admittedly both their faces were currently covered, but I knew what everyone looked like. I was told that I was beautiful and some days I believed it, but looking down at the three of them I was still amazed that everyone and everything in the bed was mine, and I was theirs. I caught a gleam in Micah’s hair and realized it was his eyes open and watching me through the tangle of his rich brown curls.
I whispered, “Were you just pretending to sleep?”
He started to sit up and nodded.
I tsk-tsked at him. “It’s police business.”
“Then get a policeman to help you with the computer,” he said, but he was already climbing out of the covers, carefully trying not to uncover the other two men.
“Get my gun,” I whispered.
He reached into the specially made holster attached to the headboard and grabbed my Springfield EMP, and crawled to the foot of the bed to hand it to me so that he didn’t cross Nathaniel’s body with it. He was nowhere near the trigger, and he was being careful, but he knew the rules for gun safety. Treat every gun as if it’s loaded and lethal, and never, ever cross someone’s body with it unless you mean to shoot them. I took the gun and put it in my pocket, wondering if it would hold the weapon. The gun fit, but my robe was seriously hanging crooked from the weight. I tied the sash at my waist even tighter and tried to see if my hand would fit into the pocket well enough for me to draw the gun if I had to; it wasn’t perfect, but it worked.
Micah crawled out of the bed with his own handgun. He was one of the few lycanthropes I knew who carried a gun and weren’t professional bodyguards or mercenaries. He was not only the Nimir-Raj of our local wereleopard pard but also head of the Coalition for Better Understanding Between Human and Lycanthrope Communities. The Coalition was a national organization that was slowly but surely forging the country’s different types of shapeshifters into a cohesive group with one voice, shared goals, and they looked to him to lead them toward those goals. Not everyone was happy that the infighting that had always divided the shapeshifter communities was being turned into something more cooperative. Some hate groups saw it as a danger to humanity. Some lycanthropes saw it as us forcing our rule onto them, even though the Coalition never entered another group’s territory unless invited in to solve a problem they couldn’t solve on their own. It was like people who called the police when they needed them and then got angry that the police found evidence of a crime while they were saving the phone caller and his or her family.
There’d been more than one death threat against Micah, so he had bodyguards when he traveled and carried his own gun when he could. Not all buildings and businesses would allow concealed carry on the premises, so sometimes he had to leave the gun behind and rely on the bodyguards, but he liked to be able to take care of himself, too. Just one more thing we agreed on.
Micah’s robe was one that Jean-Claude had bought for him, or maybe had had made, because it looked like something from the Victorian era, deep forest green velvet covered in gold-and-green embroidery. The thick cuffs and the collar and lapels that swept from his neck to his waist were shiny gold with more of the brocade embroidery. The robe also fell exactly to his feet but was a fraction short enough that he never tripped on it or had to lift it up when he was walking on anything but stairs. Stairs were tricky with anything that went to your ankles. I knew that at least the robe had been tailored to fit him. He added dark green house slippers and he was ready to go.
I finally had house shoes, too, so that my feet were warm, and they stayed on rather than making me shuffle like the house slippers had done, but the silk robe . . . I needed something warmer. Especially now that we were here at least five nights a week. The two days in the Jefferson County house were mainly so we could get some sunlight. Except for Micah, we all worked almost exclusively nights, and after a while it was just depressing without some sunshine. I’d finally asked Jean-Claude if he missed it, and he’d said, “Very much, ma petite, much more than I thought I would when I agreed to become what I am.”
Micah gathered his own phone and his eyeglasses from the bedside table on his and Jean-Claude’s side of the bed. The glasses had green frames with gold accents to complement his green-gold leopard eyes. He’d been wearing prescription sunglasses for a long time without most of us being aware they were prescription. A very bad man had forced him to stay in leopard form until he hadn’t been able to shift completely back to human form. He had his summer tan from running outside, so that the eyes looked incredibly exotic against the darker skin, but the serious downside to his having kitty-cat eyes was that cats are nearsighted. He’d also lost some of his color vision, though not as much as a real cat, as if something were more human about his leopard eyes. His optician had asked permission to write a paper on the difference in his vision and was cowriting the paper with a zoo veterinarian. Micah had worn the sunglasses to hide his eyes when he didn’t want to stand out and because he’d worried that having less-than-perfect eyesight might be used against him in fights for dominance in the lycanthrope community, but finally he’d gotten glasses that helped him read more easily as well as see farther away. Cat eyes focused differently and had made him work harder to read than we’d realized. He had contact lenses, too, but here with us he didn’t bother. I liked the way the dark frames bordered his eyes like they were works of art that finally had a frame worthy of them rather than being hidden away behind dark sunglasses.