I put my hand over Nathaniel's where it still gripped my shoulder. His skin was so warm, almost hot. I turned towards him. I looked into those lavender eyes, and just the intensity of my gaze, drew him closer, close enough to rest his cheek against my seat. I had enough left of me inside my head to think, dimly, he must have undone his seat belt, but there wasn't enough left of me to care for his safety. All I could think was that it brought him closer to me, and I wanted him closer.
"Anita," Jason's voice, "Anita, what the hell is happening? My skin is crawling with whatever it is, it feels like the ardeur.But it's not."
I never took my gaze from Nathaniel's face. Jason's voice was like a buzzing insect, noise, something I heard, but didn't really listen to.
I lifted Nathaniel's hand from my shoulder and pulled it gently against my lips. His hand cupped the lower part of my face, my breath was warm against him, and the heat of it brought the scent of him to me. His hands smelled not only of warmth, and blood, but of everything he'd touched that day. Faint traces that soap could not erase completely. His hands smelled of life, and I wanted it.
"Anita, talk to me," Jason said.
"What's happening?" Caleb asked, "why is it hard to breathe in the car?"
"Power," Jason said, "I don't know what kind yet."
I pulled Nathaniel's hand past my face, until my lips glided over his wrist, and there, there, just under the skin was a new warmth.
I flicked my tongue across the skin of his wrist, and he shuddered.
"Anita!" Jason said.
I could hear him, but it was utterly unimportant. The only thing that was important was the warmth of skin, and that faint pulse just below. I opened my mouth wide, lips pulled back to taste that pulse.
The Jeep swerved violently, throwing Nathaniel backwards and to one side, tearing his hand from me. He landed in Caleb's lap.
I looked at Jason then, really looked at him. In the back of my mind I knew it was Jason, but in the front of my mind, all I could really see was the pulse in the side of his neck. It beat against his skin like a trapped thing. I knew I could free it, make it rush red and hot into my mouth.
I unbuckled my seat belt. That froze me for a second, because I was fanatic about seat belt safety. My mother would be alive today if she'd used hers. I never rode in a moving car without one. Never. So deep rooted was that fear, it pushed Belle back, pushed back the blood lust she'd raised in me.
I found my voice, hoarse and strange, but mine, "I thought it was the ardeurshe raised, but it's not."
"Blood lust," Jason said.
I nodded, my hands still frozen on the unbuckled seat belt.
"Blood lust feels like the ardeur,but not. Sometimes you don't know which lust it is until you find out if he's going for your neck, or your groin."
I blinked at Jason. "What did you just say?" I never heard the answer, if there was one, Belle roared back through me, and I was suddenly more concerned with the beating of his pulse in his neck, than the fact that his mouth was moving. I heard no sound except that overwhelming thunder of my own blood, my own heart, my own throbbing, pulsing body.
I was sliding over the front seat towards him, and hadn't remembered moving, or wanting to. He hit the wheel again, sending me back across the car against the far door. The moment my back hit the door I could hear the angry honking of horns, as the Jeep slid through traffic, sideways. Then it evened out, going straight again. Jason was giving me wide eyes.
"I can't drive with you feeding on me."
My voice was thick, "I don't think I care." I sat up, my hands on the seat to keep him from throwing me against the door again.
"Nathaniel, Caleb, keep her away from me until I can find a safe place to pull over."
I was awkwardly straddling the gearshift when Nathaniel put his arm in front of my face. He didn't try and touch me, but held his wrist close enough for me to smell the warmth of his skin, then he slowly drew his arm back into the backseat, and I followed, sliding between the seats, following the pull of his flesh, like there was a line tied from him to me.
I spilled into the backseat. Nathaniel was sitting on his side of the seat now. I knelt over his body, straddling him. I could feel him stretched tight inside his shorts even through my jeans, but today that wasn't nearly as important as the smooth line of his throat. He'd braided his hair before we left, so that his neck was bare.
The Jeep swerved again, and I fell onto the floorboard, at Caleb's feet. We'd been lucky so far to avoid an accident or the concrete median on the road. Our luck would run out, and I wasn't sure I cared.
"If you can't take sex from Nathaniel yet, I don't think you should take blood. He's still weak." I heard Jason's voice, as though it were coming from far away.
I stared up at what sat above me, his jean-clad legs brushing my body. For sex, Caleb wasn't desirable, but for blood . . . I came to my knees between his legs, and began to pull myself up Caleb's body, fingers digging into the jeans, feeling the flesh underneath.
My hands slid under his untucked, button-up shirt with its loud comic book pictures. His skin was so warm. My fingers slid upward, touching the ring in his belly button. I hesitated there, tracing the edge of the metal ring, pulling on it gently, feeling the skin stretch, until he made a small sound of protest. I stared up into his face, and whatever he saw there widened his eyes, made his lips part in a small ooh of surprise.
I traced my fingers up his stomach, his chest, my arms lost under the oversized shirt, until when my hands slid over his shoulders, the shirt began to raise exposing his stomach. The sight of that bare skin began to raise other hungers, for flesh instead of merely blood. But Belle roared down that metaphysical leash she'd attached to me, and the beast receded before it had truly risen. She wanted me to want what she wanted, and in that moment I knew that though she had animals to call, she did not share their beast, their craving of flesh. The thought was too rational, and the leash loosened and I could think for myself.
"Why do you care if I take blood or flesh, you can feed off both energies? You've been feeding on Richard all day." I asked.
"Perhaps I am tired of flesh."
I had a flash, as if I read her thought. "You couldn't make Richard feed. He fought you all day, let you suck him dry, but you couldn't make him attack anyone else."
Her anger was like hot metal shoved against my skin. It bowed my back, brought a gasp from my throat. Caleb grabbed my arms, or I would have collapsed.
Belle's voice purred through my head, "The loup was surprisingly strong, but he is not my animal to call, nor is he attracted to the dead, but you are, ma petite,oh, yes, you are." Her power poured over me, but it wasn't the heat of blood lust, it was cold, the coldness of the grave. The moment the energy touched me, my own power flared to life, that part of me that raised the dead. It flared inside me as if Belle's cold energy was some sort of fuel for my own cool fire. "You are mine, ma petite,mine in ways that the loup cannot imagine. His connection to the dead is accidental, yours was fated from the moment you were born."
Her power was the power of the grave, of death itself, but so was mine. She meant to prove a point, but she'd wakened my necromancy, and she was just another kind of dead. I knew how to handle the dead.
I drew a breath, drawing in my own magic, getting ready to cast her out. I'd done it before. But her chill changed to heat before I could finish that breath. The blood lust washed my magic away, drowned it in a flood of need.
Her voice dripped across my skin like warm honey, as if the dark-power of her eyes had melted across my skin. "The power of the grave is yours to control, but not the power of desire. Desire, in all its forms, is mine to control."
If I'd had air to breathe, I would have screamed; but there was no air, and no sight for a swimming, dizzying moment. But I was drowning in sounds, blood rushing through my body, my heart wet and thudding, my pulse like a second heartbeat in a thousand places under my skin. I could hear, and I could feel.
I could feel Caleb's chest under my hands, feel the roughness of the hair that traced the edge of his ni**les, and finally the ni**les themselves, growing hard and firm under my fingers. The tiny metal barbells that pierced them were a distraction. I wanted to roll his ni**les between my fingertips, and the metal interfered. Like a toothpick in your sandwich, they got in the way. I had a moment where Belle thought about ripping them out, and that was so not my thought that it helped me crawl back into my own head, at least a little.