We were in the center ring of the Circus of the Damned. I reached out to Richard's beast, his rage, because if we couldn't control it, the council would kill him. I reached out to that rage. That power that he called his beast came at my touch. I smelled like home to it, somehow, and it poured into me, over me, through me, like a blinding storm of heat and power. It was similar to the times I'd raised power with Richard and Jean-Claude, but this time there was no spell to use the power on. Nowhere for the beast to run. It tried to crawl out of my skin, tried to expand inside my body, but there was no beast to call. I was empty for it, and it raged inside me. I felt it growing until I thought I would burst apart in bloody fragments. The pressure built and built and had nowhere to go.
Richard had crawled to me on hands and knees, bleeding. He'd laid his lips against mine in a trembling kiss. A sound came from low in his throat, and he was suddenly pressing his mouth against mine, until it either bruised or I opened my mouth to him. I opened, and his tongue plunged inside me, his lips feeding on mine. The cut inside his mouth filled my mouth with the taste of him, salty, sweet. I held his face in my hands, my mouth searching his, and it wasn't enough.
We moved to our knees, mouths still pressed together. My hands slid over his chest, his back, and something deep inside me clicked and relaxed. His power tried to spill outward, but I held it back... Richard's hands slid up my legs, finding the lace top of the black panties. His fingers traced my na**d spine, and I was undone.
The power spilled upward, outward, filling us both. It flared over us in a rushing wave of heat and light, until my vision swam in pieces, and we both cried out with one voice. His beast slid inside of him. I felt it crawl out of me, pulled like a large, thick string, spilling inside of Richard, coiling into his body. I expected to feel the last bit of it spill between us, like draining the last drop of wine from a cup, but that drop remained.
The memory rolled back and left me gasping on the bed. Nathaniel was leaning over me. "Anita, Anita, are you alright?" His eyes had bled back to lavender.
Jason was nuzzling my hair. "You smell like pack."
Richard was standing in his kitchen, one hand on the edge of the cabinets as if he were steadying himself. "Now, do you remember?"
"I remember," I whispered.
"What do you remember?" Nathaniel asked.
"Can't you smell it?" Jason asked. He was rubbing his lips against the side of my face.
Nathaniel leaned over me, his face very close to mine. "Wolf," he sniffed my skin, "Richard," he whispered the name against my skin.
The feel of their lips against me made me close my eyes for a moment. But once sight was gone, the scent of them covered me like a blanket. The sweet musk of wolf and the acrid sweetness of leopard were everywhere, like invisible water, and I was drowning in it. I expected my cat to complain, but it didn't. It was strangely calmed by both scents.
"You're still pack, Anita, as much as you're pard. Give your beast to them." Richard stared up at me, and I noticed for the first time that he had scratches low on his right cheek. Not usually a place you mark in the heat of passion.
I stopped seeing Richard's scratched face in his sunny kitchen. I opened my eyes to a wisp of auburn hair across my eyes. Nathaniel was pressed against the side of my face, his mouth just under the line of my jaw. His body was back on top of mine, laying his weight along me. He was so warm.
Jason still had my hand, and his mouth was rubbing along the side of my neck on the side opposite from Nathaniel.
I was warm and safe, and I realized that Richard had given me some of his control. He'd given me breathing space. I needed to use it before my beast shook free of this warm, comfortable lassitude.
I thought back over the memory of giving Richard's beast back to him. How had it worked? A kiss, why did everything take a kiss, or a touch? Jean-Claude had answered that question last night. Because we could only use the tools we had available. Most of our tools came from Belle Morte's line, and that meant that our tools, our skills, were going to have a certain theme. I waited to be tired of that theme, and part of me was, part of me thought we really needed some new skill sets, but most of me was warm and safe, and covered in the scent of pard and pack.
Their lips worked gently at each side of my neck, soft kisses. Nathaniel's body was so warm pressed the length of mine, warmer than any blanket, better than simply being held in someone's arms. Jason's hand smoothed along the edge of my hip, and I couldn't help but cuddle into the feel of his touch. That one small writhing movement seemed to affect Nathaniel's body. He was suddenly heavier than he had been, heavy in the way Richard's kiss had been in the memory. Nathaniel's h*ps pressed in against me, and as with the remembered kiss, he pushed against me, and I had a choice of opening to him, or keeping him outside my body.
Richard's beast had left through a kiss. I could only kiss one of them at a time. The thought came that I could do other things, and still kiss. But I'd had enough of threesomes and more. My battered morals had had about all the multiples they could handle for awhile. That little voice whispered, but it feels so good. And the voice that I'd learned at my grandmother's hand yelled, Slut! You work so long and so hard to listen to your inner voice, but sometimes guilt or habit makes you listen to those other voices--the ones that beat you down. Sometimes you just can't shake them.
"I need to give my beast to my cat," I said, and my voice was thick, slow. I tried to draw my hand out of Jason's, but he held on. He whispered into the bend of my neck, "I'll be your cat."
Nathaniel whispered against my other cheek, "I'm her cat."
Jason's voice against my skin, "I'll be your doggy then." He licked along my neck, and it made me writhe, but I shook my head, just a little, turning my head so I could see the side of his face.
"Not tonight, Jason." This time when I pulled my hand, he let me go.
His blue eyes came into my vision, and he kissed me, long and deep, and my beast lay quiet. "You taste like blood and other men's kisses," he whispered, as he pulled away.
My beast woke inside me, as if it had only been napping. It woke and tried to spill upward. It filled my body like someone trying on a coat that was far too small. I could feel it stretching out inside me, feel it filling me, like hot water spilling up and up inside me until it filled every inch of me, and still there was more to come. It poured and poured, if water could have bones and muscle and anger. Because when it found that there were limits, that my skin did not burst, my bones did not bend, my body did not give, the beast began to rage inside me. It slashed with claws and fought with muscles that should have been metaphoric but felt all too real. It was trying to tear its way free of the cage, and the cage was my body.
I screamed, screamed and struggled, but you can't fight something that you can't touch. Nathaniel was still on top of me, eyes wide and frightened. He started to slide off of me, but I grabbed his arms, and managed to say, "Kiss me."
If it had been almost anyone else, they would have argued, but he didn't. He put his mouth against mine, and the next scream was muffled into his mouth. I willed the thing inside me into him. I tried to force it, but it was panicked, and could not hear me. It was like a wild animal, cornered, it heard nothing, but its own fear.
I tore my mouth from Nathaniel's and simply screamed. Jason was there, a hand on either side of my face, and the moment he touched me, the beast hesitated. The cat paused long enough to sniff the air, as if wondering what he was.
I looked up at Nathaniel with Jason's hands still holding my head. "Try again, kiss me."
He kissed me, and this time I was able to kiss him back, but the beast didn't rise. It sat inside me, sniffing, puzzling, but it did not rise. I broke the kiss and screamed not from pain, but frustration. "Richard said to share my beast with someone who can give it release, but it won't go. It won't leave."
"Are you still fighting for control of the ardeur?" Nathaniel asked.
I blinked at him and thought about it. Was I? Not consciously, but controlling it had become automatic. Now that I didn't have to control it, but had to, instead, call it into being, was I still quashing it? Was I still shielding? The answer was, yes.
"Stop fighting," Nathaniel said, "just let everything go."
"No," I started, but he touched my lips with his fingers.
"Hush, Anita, you can feed off of both of us, and it won't drain me that badly. It's not a good idea, but it's not a disaster. Stop fighting, and maybe the beast will stop fighting, too."