It made me laugh. "And I like men."
"I noticed," he said, still with a trace of laughter in his voice.
I sat up. "I think we've cuddled enough."
He touched my arm, face serious again. "Are you really not going to bed Asher?"
I sighed. "You know how you said Jean-Claude is so amazing when he takes blood."
"Jean-Claude says that Asher's bite is orgasmic, literally. So that means that Asher's bite is more pleasurable than even Jean-Claude's."
"Okay," he said. He propped himself up on pillows, hands folded across his stomach as he listened to me.
I was sitting Indian fashion, still nude, and it didn't seem to matter. It wasn't sexual now, just comfortable.
"I've had sex with Jean-Claude, but never allowed him to take blood with it."
"Never?" he said.
He shook his head. "You are the strongest willed person I've ever met. No one else would have refused the double pleasure, not this long."
"You haven't done both with him," I said.
He grinned. "It's considered bad form to f**k your pomme de sang,unless they initiate it. If they initiate it, then it's an extra treat, and only if they've been good."
"You sound like you asked him about this."
I raised eyebrows at that.
"Oh, come on, Anita, I've slept with him longer than you have. You'd have to be more of a flaming heterosexual than I am to not wonder."
"He turned you down?"
"Very politely, but yeah."
I was frowning. "Did he say why?"
Jason nodded. "You."
I couldn't frown any harder, so I tried to stop, but I was puzzled. "Why me? You've been his pommelonger than I've been his girlfriend, and a hell of a lot longer than I've been his lover."
"By the time I asked, you were dating. He seemed to think that you would dump his ass if you found out he was doing another man."
"You're making my head hurt," I said.
"Sorry, but if you don't want the truth, don't ask." He settled the pillows more comfortably at his back. "But you've managed to avoid answering my original question."
"What was it?" I asked.
He looked at me. "Don't try to be coy, Anita, you're so bad at it."
"Fine, Asher, what to do about Asher. I made sort of promises to them both that we'd find a way to be a menage a trois, or would that be a menage a quatre."
"Who's your fourth?"
"Micah," I said.
"Darn," he said.
I frowned at him.
"Couldn't help myself, sorry."
"If I go back on that promise we'll lose Asher."
"What do you mean, lose?"
I explained about Asher's plans to leave.
"So if you don't come across, he's gone."
He frowned, laughed, then shook his head. "Let me think this through. His bite is overwhelmingly orgasmic, mind-blowing pleasure. You think that if you f**k him while he takes blood that it will be even more amazing."
"Yes," I said.
"Why is this a problem?" Jason asked.
I hugged myself. "I'm afraid, Jason."
He sat up beside me. "Afraid of what?"
"Afraid of being . . ." I hesitated, tried to find a the words, and finally, "I'm afraid of being consumed."
He frowned. "Consumed, I know what the word means, but I don't understand what you mean by it."
"Aren't you afraid of wanting one of them so badly that you'd do anything to have him with you?"
"Do you just mean vampires, or people in general?"
I rested my chin on my knees. "Vampires, of course."
"No, you don't mean just vampires, you're afraid of wanting anybodycompletely, aren't you?"
I wouldn't look at him. "I don't know what you mean."
He pushed my hair back behind my ear, but it was too thick to stay. "Don't lie to Uncle Jason, you didn't mean just vampires."
I looked at him, hugging my legs to me. "Maybe not, but the point is the same. I don't want to want anyone so much that if they aren't with me, I die."
A look passed through his eyes that I couldn't read. "You mean you're afraid of loving anyone more than life itself?"
He smiled, and it was gentle, and a little sad. "I would give one of my less favorite body parts for a woman to care for me as deeply as you do for Nathaniel."
I started to protest that I didn't love Nathaniel.
Jason touched a finger to my lips. "Stop. I know you haven't given yourself over heart and soul to Nathaniel, but then you haven't given yourself over heart and soul to anybody, have you?"
I looked away, because watching that patient, grown-up look in his eyes was uncomfortable to say the least. "One of my goals in life is, just once to have a woman look at me the way you watch Jean-Claude. The way you and Jean-Claude watch Asher. The way you watch Nathaniel. The way Nathaniel looks at you."
"You left Micah off the list."
"You and he have this comfort level that you don't have with any of the others, but it's almost as if the comfort comes at the expense of something else."
"What?" I asked.
"I don't know, I've never been in love, how should I know."
"So, what, I'm not in love with Micah?"
"That is not my question to answer."
"I cannot be in love with four men at once."
I looked at him.
"It's not a rule," he said.
"It would be ridiculous," I said.
"You fought Jean-Claude, because you were afraid of him. Then Richard came along, and I think you loved him, really loved him, and that scared you, so you backed off. I think you dated them both to keep from falling in love with either of them."
"That's not true."
"Originally, Jean-Claude said he'd kill Richard if he didn't get a chance to woo me too."
"And why didn't you just kill Jean-Claude then? You don't tolerate ultimatums, Anita, so why tolerate that one?"
I didn't have an answer for that, or at least not a good one.
"Richard grows more distant, more caught up in his own personal angst, which leaves the field open for Jean-Claude. So suddenly you have Nathaniel bunking with you. I know, I know, he's your pomme de sang,your house leopard, but it was still interesting timing."
I wanted to tell him to stop, to not say anymore, but he didn't, he kept on. I'd never thought of Jason as relentless before.
"Somewhere in all this, Asher comes up on the radar, maybe it's Jean-Claude's old memories, maybe not. But whatever caused it, you're drawn to him, but he's so full of anger that it's not a threat. He's almost as full of self-loathing as Richard is. Then suddenly Richard walks away for real this time. You're left with just Jean-Claude, and Nathaniel, but Nathaniel isn't enough of a romantic threat to keep Jean-Claude at bay, and suddenly there's Micah. Out of the blue, instant lust, instant housekeeping. You have Micah, and now Jean-Claude is back to sharing you with someone else, and you're safe again. You can't fall madly in love with Jean-Claude, or anyone else, because you've divided your world up into different parts with each of them. Because no one man has your whole world, no one man can rock your whole world."
I got out of the bed, tugging the sheet around me like a robe. I suddenly didn't want to be na**d in front of Jason anymore.
"I thought it was all accidental, and it was, and it wasn't. You're terrified of belonging to just one person, aren't you?"
I shook my head. "Not of belonging to just one person, Jason, of wanting to belong to just one person."
"Why, why is that so frightening to you? Most people spend their lives wanting exactly that, I know I do."
"I loved someone once with my whole heart, and he stomped on it."
"Please, not the fiance in college. Anita that was years ago, and he was an ass**le. You can't spend the rest of your life nursing one bad experience."
I was at the foot of the bed now, wrapped shoulders to feet in the sheet. I was cold, and it had nothing to do with the temperature. "It's not only that," I said, voice soft.
"What is it then?"
I took a deep breath in, let it out slow. "I loved my mother with my whole heart and whole soul, she was my world. She died, and it nearly destroyed me." I thought about everything he'd said, and I couldn't argue with it, and I couldn't pretend it didn't make sense. "I never want to put my whole world in any one person's hands again, Jason. If they die, I won't die with them."