Book One of "Laws of the Blood"
(From Ace Science Fiction October 1999)
The players came back on the court for the second quarter and the music faded from heavy to a dull roar. The sound system was drowned by the crowd noise anyway. Selim leaned forward beside her. He ruffled through her expensively cut short hair. She hated when he messed with it in public, and he knew it. She didn't complain. She certainly didn't object to his hand came to rest on the back of her neck. It was warm there, comforting. She arched against his palm, like a cat. She didn't need to think to react to his touch. She couldn't help but react, she couldn't close her eyes and do nothing but react, though, even if she wanted to.
He whispered, half aloud, half in her mind. "There's something important you want to discuss."
Even though she knew it was the wrong tack to take, she couldn't help but think back, You don't want to kill people.
No, I don't.
A jolt of pleasure went through her. Relief. Hope. She knew he hadn't meant to let her hear the thought, but there it was, out in the open. He had something she could work with. It was called a conscience. She turned to look at him.
He struck at her hope before she could say anything. "This isn't about me, Siri."
She ground her teeth in frustration. "I understand that." She didn't. Not quite. There were lots of things she didn't understand even though she'd thought she knew so much. She had to try once more. "I know it has to happen. But " Blunt words were impossible. She didn't have time to worry about this being the wrong place to talk. He was willing to start a riot to cover his ass - the hunting vampires asses. She had to talk him out of it, find alternatives. "Couldn't you make them take the bad ones?"
Selim scratched his jaw, and pretended to look like he was thinking about it. She could tell by the anger in his narrowed eyes that he wasn't interested in her opinions, didn't want to hear them. As far as he was concerned they'd had this argument, and he'd already won it. Bastard.
"There's no need for good people to die," she pleaded.
"Why not? Martha, my love?" His voice was soft, sarcastic and cutting. "Good people die all the time."
She bridled for the usual reason. No one called her Martha, especially Selim. She could hear an echo of Larry Jager's mocking voice with Selim's use of her name. Jager had called her Martha, a moment before she ran from him. Was Selim trying to rattle her with the reminder? If so, she tried not to let it work.
"Do in drug dealers, murderers. No need for innocents to suffer. No need for families to have to mourn," she said, mindful of how odd the conversation would sound if anyone was listening. Then again, maybe not. What was odd in Los Angeles? Especially here in the courtside, expensive season ticket seats at a Lakers game? They could be talking over a script idea more easily than discussing the real events of the future. Which reminded her.
"Who do you want to play you in the movie?"
That got his attention. Every muscle in Selim's body tensed. The terrified energy that shot from him gave her a brief, blistering headache. After a moment the pain in her head cleared, but the grip he had on her arm was crushing. She squirmed. "Selim!"
He relaxed, and carefully stroked her bruised arm while she looked at him anxiously. After a deep breath, he said, "Sorry." He shook his head, and offered a lame smile. "It was like somebody walked over my grave."
"Which is somewhere in Egypt, right?" she asked jokingly.
"Somewhere in the Middle East," he agreed. "What do you mean 'play me in the movie'?" Siri felt the strain of worry beneath his light tone.
"New vampire movie in the works," she answered. "Tentatively titled IF TRUTH BE TOLD. Pre-production press release said that it's about 'real' vampires. Who do you want to play you?"
Selim looked at the court as a player came to the freethrow line. Siri watched him rather than the shot. Selim was pale. Living at night tended to make vampires that way naturally, but a tanning booth helped give a certain healthy glow to his honey gold complexion. Right now he was pale beneath the tan. Siri found this most worrying. His reaction to her mention of a movie was very, very interesting. Siri smiled to herself, and eagerly grabbed onto the chance of diverting him from causing a very real riot.
"Well?" she persisted.
His laughed was forced. He looked around and pointed. "How about that scary looking guy in the sunglasses?"
She peered across the court, and spotted a balding man wearing
sunglasses. He was on his feet, shouting at the iniquity of Shaq
missing an easy layup. "Jack Nicholson?"
Copyright © 1999 by Susan Sizemore