He blushed. "Would you really be jealous of me?"
"I wasn't entirely happy watching you get pawed at the club, so yeah, I think it would bother me."
"I think that's the nicest thing you've ever said to me."
"That I'm jealous of other women around you?"
"You've had girlfriends be jealous of you before," I said.
He shook his head. "I've never had a girlfriend."
I stared at him. I didn't know what to say. I knew he wouldn't lie about it, but I just found it hard to believe. "You've been in p**n ographic movies. You've--"
"Been a prostitute," he finished for me, and his eyes never flinched.
"Yeah, I'm sorry, but..."
"Fucking isn't dating, Anita. Fucking for money really isn't dating."
"But..." I said.
He touched my lips with his fingers. "Hush," he said, "you are the first girlfriend I've ever had."
I stared at him with a sort of soft horror growing in my mind. I was his first girlfriend? I couldn't wrap my mind around it. How can you do p**n and be a prostitute and not date? Some of the confusion must have shown on my face, because he smiled and touched the side of my face. The bandage had come off and he traced the healing scratches that Barbara Brown had given me.
"I told you, you're the first person who ever wanted me, for me. Not because of the way I looked and what I could do with my body. You love me without sex. You let me take care of you. You let me organize your kitchen."
"You cook in it more than I do," I said.
He smiled, and his eyes were gentle, as if I were the child and he was so much older than I was. "That's it, Anita. You let me buy the tea set, even though I know you think it's sort of silly."
"You like the tea set," I said.
He nodded. "You do things not because you want them or enjoy them, but because it makes me happy. I've had people buy me jewelry, clothes, weekends in great hotels and spas, but no one ever let me buy what I wanted with their money, only what they thought I wanted. Let me remake their schedule. Let me make a place for me in their life." He cupped my face between his hands. "Maybe girlfriend isn't the right word, but I think any other word I could think of will make you run away, and I don't want that."
My lips were suddenly dry.
"Make love to me," he whispered and started to lean in for a kiss.
I felt the bed move on the other side. I had to fight the urge not to grab Jason's arm or something, anything to keep him with us. Anything not to be alone with Nathaniel. Ronnie was right, it wasn't rational, but I felt like if I consummated our relationship, I had to keep him. She was wrong. It wasn't sex that was a commitment for me anymore. The ardeur had taken that away from me. But sex with the right person was still a commitment, and the person bending in to kiss me, oh, so gently, was the right one.
I turned out of that kiss, to see Jason going for the bathroom. "I'll turn the shower on, enjoy."
"Sorry to kick you out of your own bed," I said. And I was, for more than one reason.
He grinned, and tried not to, as if he were pretty sure it would get him into trouble. "It's not like I won't be back in it."
I stopped Nathaniel from pressing closer with a hand on his shoulder, and stared at Jason. "What's that supposed to mean?"
He fought to control his face, and failed, and finally looked pleased with himself. "You can't feed on Nathaniel, it's too soon. Jean-Claude won't wake for awhile yet. And if Jean-Claude won't wake, then Asher is out, too."
I narrowed my eyes at him. "So?"
"If there's another shapeshifter here that you'd rather feed on than me, I'll get them for you. Graham is just down the hall." The look on his face said, plainly, he didn't expect me to take him up on it.
"You arrogant little--"
"Uh-uh-uh," he said, "now is that anyway to talk to someone who's going to let you feed on the very essence of his body?"
I scowled at him, then looked at Nathaniel. His face was utterly peaceful. "And you're okay with this?"
"As long as I'm first, yes."
"I could stay and help with the foreplay," Jason said.
Before I could answer, Nathaniel answered, "Not the first time, Jason. I want this to be just the two of us."
Jason grinned more for me than Nathaniel, because he could see the expression on my face caused by Nathaniel's casual attitude toward making it a threesome later. "I'm going to go hide in the bathroom now." He shut the door behind him, and we were left with the bedside lamp.
I looked at him, sort of outraged. "Thanks for volunteering me for a threesome."
He looked puzzled. "I sleep with you and Micah almost every night."
"But we're not ha**ng s*x all at the same time."
He looked at me, and the look said that I was protesting too much.
"We don't," I said.
"Anita, you wake up, you need to feed, and whoever you didn't feed on the day before you touch, but the other man doesn't always crawl out of bed. I've watched you have sex with Micah more than once, and he's watched you feed off of me."
The headache was beginning to pulse behind my eye. I was having trouble swallowing, and it had the familiar taste of panic.
"I know that you and Jean-Claude are with Asher together. I know that that's a true threesome."
"Not all the time," I said, and even to me it sounded weak.
He frowned at me. "There's nothing wrong with enjoying being with two men at the same time, Anita."
My pulse was threatening to choke me. "Yes, there is," and my voice was breathy.
"Why, why is it wrong?" He leaned into me as if he'd kiss me, but I leaned away, and it was one of those stupid moments, because leaning away put me on the bed, so that I was looking up at him. There was no logic to pulling away from a kiss and putting myself flat on the bed. Of course, there was no logic to the screaming panic inside my head either.
He propped himself up on his arms and looked down at me with that smile that said I was being silly. I understood in that moment that I'd been wrong to think of him as a child. That one look let me know that in his own way, he'd been as careful of me as I'd been of him. That he thought of me as sheltered, innocent. That in many ways, I was a child in the face of his experience. It was one of those moments when a relationship changes, when the way you look at the world suddenly expands or explodes, and the world that was, isn't the one that is there a heartbeat later.
We stared at each other, and I don't know if it showed on my face, or if it just occurred to him, too, or what, but he hesitated and smiled down at me. "What's wrong?" he asked.
The question seemed so ridiculous that I laughed. "Oh, I don't know, I've almost killed Damian twice. I thought controlling the ardeur would make things easier, and it hasn't. I had intercourse with Byron, Byron, of all people. I almost raised the entire cemetery tonight. I could feel it, like some army of the dead just waiting for me to wake it. I could feel it, Nathaniel, feel the power of it." I was crying and hadn't meant to be. "So much went wrong today."
He kissed my tears as they slipped from my eyes, gently, so gently. "Let's make something go right." He kissed me, and the salt of my tears lay on his lips.
He kissed me again, a little more forcibly. "Anita, please stop talking."
I frowned up at him. "Why?"
"So we can f**k," he said.
I opened my mouth, and don't know what I would have said, because he spoke first, "Make love to me," and he leaned over me, "consummate me," I thought he was going to kiss me, but his lips moved lower, and he kissed the front of my neck, then moved a little lower, "screw me," and he kissed the mound of my breast through the T-shirt, "suck me." He raised the short shirt up, spilling my br**sts free. I started to protest, but the look in his eyes, on his face, stopped me. He put his lips over my nipple, just below the bandage that covered Jean-Claude's bite. He licked a long solid line over my breast and rolled his eyes to meet mine. "Fuck me."
I'd like to say that I had something equally salacious to say, or something suave, but for the life of me, the only thing I could think to say, was, "Okay." It wasn't suave and debonair, but when you love someone, you don't always have to be suave and debonair, sometimes you can just be yourself, and okay said at the right moment is sweeter than any poetry and can mean more to someone than all the pillow talk in the world.