"Just try sitting up in my lap without me holding you. If you're okay, I'll fetch towels and you can sit on them, but trust me you don't want to sit na**d on this marble."
"Practical," I said.
"Don't tell anyone I actually made sense, it'll ruin my image."
I smiled. "Secret's safe with me." I tried sitting up, while Jason fidgeted with the water, trying to get the right temperature. I could sit up. Great. I tried to stand, and only Jason's arm around my waist kept me from falling on the marble steps leading down from the tub.
He tucked me safely back in his lap. "Don't try and do so much so fast, Anita."
I leaned back against him, his arm like a safety belt around my waist. "Why I am so weak?"
"How can you have been around vampires this long and ask me that?"
"I don't let them feed," I said.
"I do, and trust me, when you've donated this much, it takes a little while to recover." He seemed satisfied with the water temperature at last. He turned the faucets on harder and had to talk louder over the sound of the water. "We'll get you cleaned up and see how you feel."
I could feel myself frowning, and I wasn't sure why. I felt like I should be angry. I should be something, and I wasn't. Now that I wasn't trapped between Jean-Claude and Asher anymore, I was strangely calm. No, not just calm, I felt good, and I shouldn't have.
I frowned harder, trying to chase this wonderful lassitude away. It was like trying to wake from a bad dream when it didn't want to let you go. Except instead of fighting to wake from a nightmare, I was fighting to destroy a good dream. That seemed wrong, too. Everything seemed wrong. I felt, vaguely, like I'd missed something important, but for the life of me, I couldn't place it.
I felt out of sorts and wonderful at the same time. It was as if my natural grumpiness was fighting some warm happy thought. The warm happy thought was winning, but I wasn't sure that that was necessarily a good thing.
"What's wrong with me?" I asked.
"What do you mean?" Jason asked.
"I feel good, and I shouldn't. I feel wonderful. A few minutes ago I was terrified, dizzy, sick, and scared. But once you got me out of the bed, it all seemed better."
"Just better?" he asked. He was slipping out of his leather jacket, one arm at a time, while he took turns holding me with the other arm.
"You're right, not just better. Once I wasn't scared, it was wonderful again." I frowned and tried to think, and was still having trouble doing it. "Why can't I think through this?"
He rearranged me in his lap so he could unzip his boots, and push them off with his feet. It finally hit me that he was undressing himself, while still holding me in his lap. Who says that the skills you learn at work don't come in useful in your everyday life?
"Why are you undressing?"
"You can't move around without falling down, I'd hate for you to drown in the tub."
I tried pushing this wonderful feeling farther away, but it was like trying to fight a warm, comforting mist. You could strike out, but there was nothing solid to hit. The mist just moved and reformed, and stayed.
"Stop," I said, the one word was firm enough, though I didn't feel very firm inside.
"What?" he asked, as he moved me enough forward so that he could unfasten the tops of his jeans.
"This should bother me, you trying to get naked, while I'm naked, in a tub, that should bother me, right?"
"But it doesn't, does it," he said. He was unbuttoning his button fly jeans with one hand. That took talent.
"No, it doesn't," I said, frowning again, "why doesn't it bother me?"
"You really don't know, do you?" he asked.
"No," I said, not even sure what I was saying no to.
He'd gotten his jeans unbuttoned. "I can either lay you down on the very cold tile, or I can throw you over my shoulder for a few seconds while I take the pants off, lady's choice."
The decision seemed too hard for me. "I don't know."
He didn't ask a second time, just tossed me, as gently as he could over his shoulder, sort of half a fireman's carry. Being upside down made the world spin again, and I wondered if I was going to be sick all over his back. He balanced me there while he wormed out of his jeans.
I was now staring down his bare back as the jeans slid down the top of his butt. The nausea had passed, and I giggled--I never giggle--"Nice ass."
He choked, or laughed. "I never knew you noticed."
"Underwear," I said.
"You had underwear, I caught a glimpse of it." I had this horrible urge to run my hands over his butt, just because it was there, and I could. It was like I was drunk or high.
"Yeah, I had underwear on, what about it?"
"Can you put it back on?"
"You don't really care if I have underwear on, or not, do you?" and there was something in his voice that was almost teasing.
"Nope." I shook my head, which made the world spin again. "Oh, God, I think I'm going to be sick."
"Stop moving, it'll pass. You wouldn't be sick at all if you hadn't fought to get out from between the two of them. Too much physical exertion right afterwards will make you sick as a dog. Sink into the feeling, just ride it, and it feels wonderful."
I felt a little silly talking to his ass, but it didn't seem nearly as silly as it should have. "What feels wonderful?"
"Guess," he said.
That made me frown. "Don't want to guess." God, what was wrong with me? "Tell me."
"Let's get you in the tub, a bath will help clear your head."
He moved me back to his arms, and stepped over the edge of the tub. "You're naked," I said.
"So are you," he said.
That had a certain logic to it that I couldn't quite argue with, though I felt I should have argued with it. "Weren't you going to put something back on?"
"The underwear is silk, I'm not going to ruin it by wearing it in the tub, because you think I should put it on. Besides, you don't really care if I'm na**d or not. Remember?"
A headache was beginning just behind one eye. "No," I said, "but I should care, shouldn't I? I mean . . ."
Jason lowered us both into the water. It felt wonderful, so warm, so smooth, so good against my skin. Jason moved me gently in the water until I was sitting in front of him, cradled against his body.
The water was so warm, so warm, and I was so tired. It would feel so good to just sleep.
Jason's arm on my waist jerked me back. "Anita, you can't sleep in the bathtub, you'll drown."
"You won't let me drown," I said, and my voice was thick with warmth and sleep.
"No, I won't let you drown," he said.
I frowned, as I half-floated in the water. "What is wrong with me, Jason? I feel drunk."
"You have been well and truly rolled by a vampire, Anita."
"Jean-Claude can't, his own marks protect me," my voice seemed to be coming from a long way away.
"I never said it was Jean-Claude."
"Asher," I whispered the name.
"I've shared blood with him before, and it is the most amazing thing. Jean-Claude says he always holds back, because he knows I'm not his pomme de sang,I'm just a loaner."
"Loaner," I said.
"I don't think Asher held back with you tonight."
"The ardeur,we . . . were doing . . . the ardeur." Each word was thick with effort.
"The ardeurcould have made him careless," Jason said. His hands were very solid on me, cradling me in the water more than against his body.
"Careless?" I said.
"Go ahead and pass out, Anita. When you wake up, we'll talk."
"Things," he said, and his voice was sinking away into the candlelit dark. I didn't remember him lighting the candles that Jean-Claude usually kept around the tub.
I started to ask, what things?but the words never made it out loud. I fell into a warm, soft darkness, where there was no fear, no pain. So warm, so safe, so loved.
I woke to the phone ringing. I huddled in the sheets, trying not to hear it. God, I was tired. The bed moved, someone else rumbling for it. It wasn't until Jason's voice said, "Hello," softly, as if he were afraid of waking me, that I woke completely. Why was Jason in my bedroom?
That question was answered as soon as I opened my eyes. I wasn't in my bedroom, in fact, I didn't know where the hell I was. The bed was a king-size, but it was only pillows and a bed, no headboard, no footboard, only a bed, very modern, very normal. The only light was from a small door directly across from the foot of the bed, I could catch a glimpse of a bathtub, or shower. I followed the dim light out and found bare stone walls and knew I was still inside the Circus of the Damned, somewhere.