I looked at Jean-Claude for some clue, and he merely motioned me to follow Asher across the room. When I just stood there, Jean-Claude took my hand and led me over to the other man.
Asher must have heard us coming, because he said, "I was very angry with you, Anita, very angry. So angry I did not think you might have just cause to be angry with me."
Jean-Claude squeezed my hand as if to tell me not to interrupt, but I seemed to be ahead on the discussion, so I hadn't planned to say a word. Never interrupt when you're winning.
"Jason told us how ill you were after I took blood from you. If you were as ill as he has reported then you would naturally fear my embrace." He looked up, suddenly, eyes wide and almost wild, lost in the glow of his hair and the flickering candlelight. "I would not have hurt you. It has never been so . . ." he seemed to be searching for a word, "terrible for any of my other," again he hesitated, "victims."
I wasn't sure what to say to that, because I agreed with part of what he'd said. I felt that he'd made me a victim of his powers, by not asking first. But whether I'd been aware of it, or not, somewhere in the back of my mind I must have been thinking about the problem all damn day, because I knew one thing for certain. I wasn't completely in the right, either. Damn it.
I let go of Jean-Claude's hand, because the feel of his skin against mine made it harder to concentrate right now.
"I can see where you might have gotten the idea that I understood what sharing blood with you would mean. I did ask you to bite me, I did offer to feed you, and you were right, I did know that your bite could overwhelm my natural defenses." It was my turn to look down at the pretty fire screen that would never know the touch of flame. "I just was so out of my head with," I almost couldn't say it, "desire that I wasn't thinking clearly. But that wasn't your fault. You could only go with what I said out loud."
I looked up, met those eyes. "Oh, hell, Asher, even if you could have read my mind at that moment I wanted you to take me, whatever that meant. There were no rules or stop signs in my head." I let out a long breath, and it shivered, because I was afraid of this, afraid of admitting it out loud, afraid of it all. I was afraid of being consumed by desire or love or whatever the hell you want to call it. "I wanted you to take me while Jean-Claude made love to me. I wanted us all to be together as of old."
"It is not of old for you, Anita," Asher said. He looked past me at Jean-Claude. "See, it is as we feared, she is besotted with me through your memories. It is not real what she feels for me. With my powers of fascination or without them, it is not real."
"That sounds like what I've been saying, Asher," I said. "That because you mind-fucked me I'll never know if what I feel for you is real. But I can tell you this, what I felt for you before, that was real. It isn't you before the holy water that I think of, it's you now, just as you are."
He shook his head and looked away, making his hair a barrier between us, so I couldn't see his face. "But I did use my powers to fascinate you, as a snake fascinates a bird. I captured your mind, and I meant to do it."
I touched his hair, and he jerked away from me, moved down the mantel out of reach. I didn't try and follow. I took in a lot of air and blew it slowly out. I'd have rather faced a dozen bad guys than this next bit of conversation.
"In your defense, I think we were na**d and doing the nasty before you rolled my mind."
He looked up, face barely clear enough through the shadows and uncertain light for me to see he was puzzled. "Nasty?"
"Having sex," Jean-Claude said. "It is a quaint American slang term for it, to do the nasty."
"Ah," Asher said, though he didn't look any less puzzled.
I plowed on. I'm nothing if not determined once I've made up my mind. "My point is this, we were already having sex. You hadn't rolled my mind when I agreed to everybody taking their clothes off. You hadn't rolled my mind when we had foreplay. You hadn't rolled my mind when I was licking the back of your knees, and other things." I forced myself to meet his slowly calming eyes. "I volunteered for all that. If I could have figured out a way for you to be inside me that didn't include fangs I would have, but I wanted you both inside me."
I had to close my eyes, because I suddenly had a visual so strong that it nearly made my knees buckle. With the visual came the wave of sensation. It didn't make me claw the air this time. But I was left with a death grip on the mantelpiece, and my breath coming in gasps.
"Ma petite,are you well?"
I shook my head. "Compared to the first time I flashed back on the orgasm, yeah, I'm peachy."
"She has experienced the pleasure of us earlier today."
Asher looked even less happy. "She has every symptom. I did not believe she would. I thought her necromancy would protect her."
"I should also tell you that I think Belle Morte had something to do with how sick I was. She was feeding on me and Richard through you two."
Jean-Claude leaned against the wall, arms crossed. "Jason had told us that ma petite.But I still believe that your power has struggled with Asher's power all day. It is the old question of what would happen if an irresistible force met an immovable object."
"Asher being the irresistible force and me the immovable object," I said.
I'd have liked to argue with the division of labor, but it was too damned appropriate. "So what does that mean for us being together as a menage a trois again?"
Jean-Claude had a moment of something showing on his face, then he went to his blankest of blank faces. It was Asher who spoke, "You would be willing to do this again?"
I started to let go of the mantelpiece, decided not to, just in case, and said, "Maybe." I looked at Jean-Claude, his careful beautiful face. "I think Jean-Claude has finally found something that he won't compromise on."
"Whatever do you mean, ma petite?"
"I mean if I cost you Asher, it will drive a wedge between us."
"So I am something that you will take to your bed to be with Jean-Claude!" He was suddenly enraged, eyes full of liquid blue fire. His humanity folded away before my eyes to leave him pale and still beautiful, but it was the beauty of carved rock and jewels, a hard, bright beauty with no life to it, no softness, nothing human. He stood before me with his golden hair moving around his face like a halo, blown by the wind of his own power. He was wondrous and horrible, a terrible beauty, like the angel of death come to find you.
I wasn't afraid of him. I knew Asher wouldn't hurt me, on purpose. I knew more that Jean-Claude wouldn't allow it. But I'd had enough. Enough of Asher and of me. In some perverse way Asher and I were well matched in a bad need-therapy sort of way. We both had so many issues about personal intimacy and so many hoops that people had to jump through, that even I was tired of it.
I unbuckled my belt and started sliding it through the loops, when it was far enough back; I slid the belt out of the loop on my shoulder holster.
Asher asked in a voice that echoed through the room, crawled down my spine, "What are you doing?"
I finished taking my belt off, then shrugged out of my shoulder holster. "I'm getting undressed. I assume that Jean-Claude's got some clothes around here somewhere for me, too. Though I am so not wearing an outfit that matches yours if it has like petticoats and stays and stuff. You can't move in that shit."
"Have no fear, ma petite,I have held your preferences in the forefront of my thoughts, as I chose the clothing." He held his hands out to the side and struck a lovely, if overly dramatic poise. "Even ourclothing is comfortable and easy to move about in."
We were both ignoring the vampire that was glowering at us. Nothing takes the wind out of your sails when you're trying to be scary like being ignored.
I started to take my shirt off, but stopped. I did not want to have to go through the glowing cross routine again. I did not want to mess with it. So I went for the bed, where I could take off my shoes in comfort.
"So Jason told you what else Belle did?"
"She has given you the first mark, oui."
"She knows, Jean-Claude, she knows that Richard and I don't have the fourth mark." I hopped up on the bed, laying my belt and shoulder holster beside me. I concentrated on untying my shoes, because I did not want to go where I feared the discussion would go.