Nathaniel fed it to me in pieces, while my teeth started to chatter. When I'd managed to get it down, the shivering was a little less, but not a lot. "Meat, protein," Nathaniel said.
Jason lifted out a carton of Chinese takeout, but shook his head without offering it. "Too old." He got out a flat foam container and handed it up. "Fajita fixings from El Maguey, from yesterday."
Nathaniel opened it, lifted out a piece of the beef with his fingers, and held it close to my mouth. "Eat."
I ate, and the meat was unbelievably good, even cold. The meat seemed to fill up more than just my stomach. I picked through the grilled onions and peppers, and ate the beef. When my skin wasn't cold to the touch, and I'd stopped shivering, I slowed down, then shook my head. "I can't eat any more."
"You've eaten most of the meat," Jason said. He was kneeling beside the bed, his arms propped on it, his chin resting on his arms. "Did I hear Nathaniel say that you were eating Damian's energy?"
"Jean-Claude said that you'd formed a second triumvirate with Nathaniel and Damian."
"Apparently," I said.
"I take it there's a learning curve," he said.
"You could say that. This is the second time in less than twenty-four hours that I've almost killed Damian."
Jason's eyes went wide. "How?"
"She's trying to do what she always does," Nathaniel said, handing the now closed box to Jason. "Barely eat, barely sleep, not do anything to take care of herself except exercise."
"I can't tell the cops, oh, sorry, I need a nap," I said.
"No, but I told you that you needed to eat more. I told you that you were acting more like a lycanthrope than a vampire. All you had to do was go through another drive-up. There are all-night drive-ups."
I didn't like his tone. "I didn't think of it. I just wanted to get to sleep. I was so tired I was nauseous."
"Or maybe you were nauseous because your energy was bottoming," Nathaniel said, and he was angry, "but you didn't think of that did you?"
"No, I didn't. Happy?"
"No," he said, "because once Damian's dead, who do you think you'll start draining next?" He was so angry that his eyes had darkened, so they were almost purple.
I started to be angry back, because the nightmare had scared me, and endangering Damian again had scared me. I felt stupid that I hadn't thought to eat, when Nathaniel had explained it to me. I'd just been so tired. Come to think of it, I'd been more tired than I should have been, hadn't I? I wanted to be angry at him, because it was my fault. I hate it when it's my fault. I hate being wrong, especially this wrong.
"You're right, you're right. I'm sorry. I am."
"You're not going to argue?" Jason asked.
"Why argue when I'll lose? I was careless. It's not just the triumvirate, or the new one, it's the ardeur. I've finally got it conquered, sort of."
"What does 'sort of mean?" he asked, and came up to sit on the edge of the bed. He was nude. He'd been nude the whole time. I just really hadn't noticed. I noticed now, and gave him very good eye contact.
"It means that the ardeur doesn't rise on its own anymore."
"That's a good thing, right?" Jason said, he was studying my face like he was puzzled by my expression.
"That's the good news," I said, "the bad news is that the ardeur doesn't rise, but it still needs to be fed. It won't remind me, it's time to be fed. That's what happened with Damian earlier. I hadn't fed the ardeur in over twelve hours, a lot over, but it hadn't raised either."
"So you didn't feed it," Nathaniel said, softly.
"Exactly," I said.
"And you started sucking energy off of Damian," he said.
I nodded. "He called inside my head, sort of."
"Then you fed the ardeur,'" Jason said.
"Before you got to the club," Nathaniel said, and his voice was soft.
"Yes." I turned and looked at him, and what I saw in his eyes both made me feel bad and pissed me off. He looked hurt, and it wasn't my fault. But saying it wasn't my fault that I had to have sex with other men sounded wrong somehow, so I didn't say it. He had every right to be tired of me f**king everyone but him.
"I did the minimum for a snack, just to tide me over," I said.
"With who?" he asked, and his eyes were wide and careful.
"If you were already feeding off of Damian's energy, then you needed to have fed the ardeur earlier, right?" Jason said. I think he actually wanted to know, but I think he was also trying to stop a fight before it started. I wasn't sure we were going to fight, but I wasn't sure we weren't, either.
I thought about Jason's question and finally said, "Yeah, I guess so."
"You gain energy through the ardeur, right?"
"And now you're the power source for a new triumvirate. Your energy powers Damian especially, and to a lesser extent, Nathaniel?"
"Why a lesser extent for me?" Nathaniel asked.
"You're alive. You make your own heart beat; Damian doesn't."
Nathaniel nodded. "Okay."
"What's your point, Jason? I know you have one."
"Would I have a point?" he said with a grin.
I shook my head. "There's a very fine mind hiding behind those baby blues. You just don't let everyone see it, so yeah, you have a point. What is it?"
"Anita is having to eat more often, right?"
We both nodded.
"What if she needs to feed other things more often?"
I think we both took breath to ask what he meant, then we both got it at the same moment. "Oh, shit," I said.
Nathaniel said, "Oh, God."
"Before tonight it was every twelve hours, fourteen if I stretched it," I said. "How much more often could I need to feed?"
Jason spread his hands wide. "How should I know? I'm just pointing it out."
"It makes sense," Nathaniel said. "You fed off of Requiem about how long before we fed?"
I thought about it, tried to do the math in my head, and it was harder than normal, because that little flutter of panic was so loud. "Two hours, maybe less." I shook my head. "No, absolutely, not. I cannot feed the ardeur every two hours."
"No, but you could keep like snacks in the Jeep and eat every two hours," Nathaniel said. "Like I said, if you meet one hunger, the other hunger lessens."
The panic pulled back a little, not much, but a little. "Are you sure that peanuts in the car are going to do it?"
He shrugged. "I don't know, but I think so." He suddenly looked young, and not sure at all.
I hugged him, and he hugged me back. "God, Nathaniel, God, we were already low on daytime feeds. What am I going to do?" I let some of that panic out in my voice.
He squeezed me tighter. "We'll work something out. I'm sorry, I got mad about Requiem. It's just..."
"That everyone gets me, and you don't," I said.
He nodded. Then drew back enough to smile at me, that wonderful smile. He took my hand and placed it on the side of his neck. I felt the marks of my teeth under my fingertips. "This was good, Anita. This was exactly what I wanted in that moment, exactly."
I had to smile back at him, but the smile didn't last. "What time is it?"
Jason answered, "Ten o'clock."
Great. Less than two hours of sleep. Out loud I said, "I fed on you at about two in the morning, which means it's only been eight hours. Eight hours is too soon, Nathaniel."
He looked at me, and there was a fierceness there, a determination. "Make love to me, Anita. Make love to me, and then you can feed on someone else. But you're right, I am tired of watching everyone get there before me." He was on his knees, and he touched my arms, not quite clutching at me, not quite holding me. "Make love to me, and I won't have a reason to be jealous."
"I'll still be having to have sex with other men," I said. "Why won't you be jealous?"
"Because I'll know that you want to make love to me, and you have to have sex with them."
My head was beginning to hurt. Nathaniel often made me feel out of my depth. I loved him, and wanted him, but, hell, I didn't know what to say to him. "If it was you in other women's beds, I'd be jealous, no matter the why."