I opened my mouth with his fingers still touching me. He slid his fingertips just inside my mouth, playing along the edge of my lips. The movement stopped me from talking more effectively than anything else could have done. I just lay there and let his fingers play around the edge of my mouth, delicate, sensual. "Let go, Anita, just let go. We'll catch you."
Jason leaned in against my face. "I'm here, Anita. I won't let anything bad happen to Nathaniel. I promise." He laid his face against my forehead. "We can do this, Anita, but you have to let go. You have to let us catch you."
Let go. It sounded so simple. But letting go of anything was so not my best thing. I wasn't even sure I knew how to do it. How do you let go? How do you open your hand and let yourself fall, and trust that other people will catch you? That they'll catch you and not let you hurt them, or yourself. Did I trust Nathaniel and Jason that much? Sort of.
Did I trust anyone that much? Maybe. Okay, not really. I took a deep breath, let it out slow, and I let go. I let go, and trusted. Trusted, even as a small voice inside me whispered, stupid, stupid, stupid.
Hell is claws and teeth, and bodies fighting. I sank my teeth into someone's chest, took in as much meat as my mouth would hold, and began to bite down. I wanted meat. I wanted to feed, and the leopard was screaming that if we didn't kill them, they'd kill us. Let go, they'd said, I'd let go, and now instead of the beast being something struggling to get out, it was me that was small and trapped and couldn't get out.
That part that wanted meat and blood and found struggling somewhere between sex and food was in the front of my head. I'd always thought being an animal must be peaceful, but it wasn't peaceful. It was simpler, but it wasn't peaceful.
I remembered only pieces. The taste of blood in my mouth. The feel of my teeth sinking into flesh. My nails cutting through someone's body. I was on my stomach, and I couldn't move. Couldn't move. Someone was on my back, and someone had my hands, and I couldn't move. Teeth on the back of my neck. A moment of mind-numbing panic, then it was peaceful. Like what had happened earlier in my office, when Nathaniel bit me there. Peaceful.
Jason was kneeling in front of me, off the edge of the bed, holding my wrists. The left side of his face was a bloody mess, and distantly, I knew that my nails had done that. His eye blinked out painfully from the bloody furrows. His arms were traced with bites and scratches, so it looked like he was wearing red gloves all the way up to his shoulders. His chest and stomach were bloody, too.
Nathaniel's teeth on my neck bit down a little harder, and my eyes fluttered up, and when he growled against my skin, my body writhed under him, not struggling, but offering. Jason spoke, and a trickle of blood trailed from his mouth, as he did it. "Next time we do this, you get tied up."
Nathaniel growled, but I didn't think it was meant for me.
Jason looked past me, to meet the other man's eyes, and said, "Okay, okay. Give me your beast, Anita. Let me swallow it down." He leaned into me, and the blood that trembled on the edge of his mouth fascinated me. I tried to strain toward that trembling drop of red, and Nathaniel's teeth made me stop, forced me to wait for Jason's mouth to come to me.
His mouth stopped just out of reach. I tried to raise my hands and touch him, but his hands forced my wrists down tighter on the side of the bed. He laid his mouth against mine, and I didn't kiss him, I licked the blood from the edge of his lip.
He drew back, laughing. "You'd rather eat me right now, than kiss me." But he leaned in toward me, his mouth half-parted, and I could smell the blood inside his mouth. I'd bitten him. I remembered the feel of his lip between my teeth. I made a sound low in my throat, and he laughed again, a purely masculine sound with his lips so close to mine that my tongue could touch them. His voice held that masculine laughter, and an edge of growl, "God, she's eager."
Nathaniel growled again, with his teeth still tight on the back of my neck. The growl was low and deep and vibrated down my spine like my body was a tuning fork. It made me push my body against his. My mouth reached for Jason, but my body was offering itself to the hard weight against the back of my body.
"Alright, but if she bites my tongue off, I'm going to be pissed." And he pressed his lips against mine, but I didn't try to bite him, because his mouth was full of blood and tasted of meat. I'd already started this meal, all I wanted to do was finish it.
My beast was right there, under my skin, only Nathaniel's hold kept it peaceful. The taste of fresh blood, of meat, and the feel of Jason's mouth on mine, brought the beast like heat against my skin. I could feel my body cooking with the heat of it, as if my skin was a container for something so much hotter than human flesh. Something that was almost there, almost ready, almost...
Nathaniel raised his mouth, and only his weight and Jason's hands held me down. He whispered something against the wound in my neck, I think he said, "Now." But I would never be sure, because in that moment my beast rose.
It rose up the line of my spine like heat. It spilled out my mouth and into Jason's, in a scalding, burning wave of power. It tore his mouth off of mine, forced his head back in a scream, and Nathaniel's body bowed on top of mine, and he screamed, too. My beast was like a sword thrust through both of them. I poured my energy into their bodies, until their bodies burst with it.
I saw Jason's skin split, and I felt Nathaniel tremble above me. One moment they were there, and the next I was drenched in liquid, warm, so warm, like being dipped in fresh blood, but it wasn't blood. It was clear and viscous--that fluid that the shapeshifters leave behind when they pull their bodies from one shape to another.
I was covered in it, dripping with it, and because Jason's claws were still pinning my wrists, I couldn't wipe it away from my face. I blinked at the wolfman kneeling in front of me. His fur was dry, like it always is, like magic. I stared into wolf eyes the color of early spring grass. His fur was thick and shades of pale gray. He opened a jaw that was longer than a human's, and full of teeth that any wolf would envy. He ran an impossibly long tongue over those teeth and stared at me with eyes that held things that I'd only begun to guess at.
A claw curled into the wet sheets on one side, and that claw was a black-furred hand. I turned back and did that slow, horror-movie take, where you know what's behind you, but you just can't keep from looking. You have to look, even with the feel and press of fur against your na**d body. I knew what I'd see, and still I turned and looked.
Nathaniel's face was a strangely graceful mix of human and leopard. The face shape was closer to human than the werewolf's, but when I met those gray-blue eyes, there was no one home to talk to.
I'd gotten rid of my beast by bringing theirs, and now I was suddenly covered in warm liquid that mimicked blood, with two freshly turned lycanthropes holding me down. Nathaniel put his furred hands against the bed on either side of me, and he flexed those hands, and claws like white knives sprang out from his fingertips. Just seeing them, lying there, unused, made my pulse speed just a little.
I knew they wouldn't hurt me. I trusted them. But part of me trusted Jason and Nathaniel more than I trusted their beasts. I tried not to be afraid, because fear is like spice for their meat. Fear excites a lycanthrope, it just does. So I lay very still and tried to calm my heartbeat, tried to think how to ask them to let me go, without sounding like a victim.
Nathaniel moved his hands so that they lay on either side of my body, with the fur of his thumbs caressing my skin. My heartbeat didn't like it. Neither did I. He flexed his hands again, and the claws vanished into the fur. He caressed that fur down the sides of my body, and that brush of warm, warm fur brought my breath in a shuddering line.
His voice was more growl than anything else, when he said, "I've never had hands before when I shifted." He put those "hands" back on either side of my body, so close that the edge of the fur touched the sides of my br**sts. He pointed the claws downward, and I felt his muscles flex against the side of my body. His hands were right next to my br**sts, and I felt his claws grip into the bed. He began to pull those claws downward. The sheet ripped, but it was the sound of the mattress tearing that brought a sound like a whimper from my throat. The mattress made a meaty sound, as his claws tore through it, easily. He moved his body so that he could trace the outline of my body against the mattress and sheets. He carved the outline of me with his claws. And I couldn't not be afraid.