"Sometimes I fantasize about horrible things, Anita."
What I wanted to say was, I wasn't his mother confessor, but I didn't, because I didn't know who else to send him to for this talk. Who else would I trust? No one. Damn it.
"So don't we all, Richard, the difference isn't what you think, it's what you do about it. Most of us know the difference between fantasy and reality. We know that what works as pretend doesn't work in the real world."
"What if I want things that would hurt other people?"
I so didn't want to be having this talk, but looking into his face, I knew that this was part of the demon that had driven him to nearly destroy himself, and us. "If it's going to permanently maim, scar, or kill someone, you don't do it. Outside of those parameters you talk to your lover and see what they want to do. What they're willing to do."
He was frowning at me. "No maiming, scarring, or killing, and everything else is okay? Just like that."
I shook my head, "No, everything else that your partner says 'yes' to, is okay. If you're on top, dominant, then you have to hold it together and make sure it's all safe and not too scary."
"I want it to be scary," he said.
I shrugged. "I said, 'not too scary.' Through... friends, I'm beginning to understand that a little fear goes a long way as foreplay."
"You don't mean friends, you mean Nathaniel."
"If I'd meant just Nathaniel, I'd have said just Nathaniel. He can't teach me how to be a good top. To learn to be dominant you've got to talk to a dominant, not a submissive."
"You sound like you've researched it."
"Most of the wereleopards in my pard are into bondage and submission. I can't be a good Nimir-Ra for them if I don't understand them."
He looked at me, considering something. I wasn't sure exactly what he was thinking, but at least it wasn't sad or angry. At this point I'd take almost any emotion that wasn't one of them. "I know that before today you weren't f**king Nathaniel. I was in your mind, and I know. You really did research to try to understand your leopards, not just for your lover."
"You sound surprised," I said.
"Because Raina was our lupa for so long a lot of the werewolves are into BDSM, too, but I learned everything I ever wanted to know about it from Raina and Gabriel, and their accomplices."
I almost didn't say it, but he said he'd come to me for the truth. I'd see if he really wanted truth, or just some of it. "Richard, you say you like fear with your sex. You like the game of fear, and you like your sex rough."
He was looking at me, the look was a warning. Those dark brown eyes were willing me not to finish, but if I didn't tell him, who would?
"You enjoy the scene, too, Richard."
I held up a hand. "You don't do what Raina and Gabriel and some others did, but you can be a little in without being a sexual sadist. Some people think just enjoying teeth and nails during sex is sadistic."
He was shaking his head over and over. If it hurt the scratches on his face, he didn't show it this time. "Just because I like teeth and nails doesn't mean I'm like that. I'm not like them."
"If you mean Raina and Gabriel, no, you're not. But you didn't run from me just because you thought I was bloodthirsty. You ran because with me you couldn't keep pretending."
"Pretending what? I'm not pretending anything."
"It's not just you that's been pretending, Richard."
"Pretending what?" His anger started to fill the room, hot and close, like a storm that hadn't broken yet.
"I like teeth and nails during sex. Hell, I like biting alone without much sex. I like the feel of flesh between my teeth."
He looked away. "That's my fault, and Jean-Claude's. It's our hungers in you."
"Maybe, but they're still in me, and it's still something I enjoy. I may never be as comfortable around the scene as Nathaniel is, and that worries me, because if he's mine, then I want him to be happy. But I've had to stop pretending that I don't like rough sex. Jason said that I like dominant men, because they sort of take charge, and I don't have a choice. The reason I was able to avoid Nathaniel for so long was he tried to get me to do all the moves. I need a little dominance play, or I don't play. I thought he was crazy, but it's been a busy twenty-four hours, and I'm tired of running."
He looked back at me. "Running, running from what?"
"Same thing you are, myself."
I stopped him with a hand again. "Yeah, I was. Maybe I still am. There are parts of my life that I don't want to look at. Someone told me that it's okay that I like two men in bed with me. I argued with them, Richard. I argued that, no I didn't." I took two steps closer to him. "But arguing is pretty silly, don't you think?"
"I don't know what you mean."
"I'm dating Jean-Claude and Asher. I was dating you and Jean-Claude."
"Not at the same time in the same date," he said.
I waved it away. "Fine, I'll leave you out of it. But I'm still dating Jean-Claude and Asher. I'm living and sharing a bed with Micah and Nathaniel. Yes, it was sort of accidental. I didn't try to get into either situation on purpose, but I'm there. And now with Damian and Nathaniel, I've got another threesome where I'm the only girl. Not on purpose, but after awhile, Richard, arguing that I don't enjoy two men together with me just sounds silly."
"Do you?" he asked.
I didn't owe him the answer, but maybe I owed myself one. I'd only admitted it to myself seconds ago. "Yes, being in the middle of two men just flat does it for me. Just the feel of them on either side just flat does it for me." I waited for the blush to start, or at least the embarrassment, but it didn't. It was true, and it was okay. I was okay. I had men in my life that thought it was okay.
Richard looked at the floor, as if whatever he saw in my face he didn't want to see. Or maybe there was something in his face he didn't want me to see. "I could never do that."
"No one's asked you to."
He looked up then, and his anger lashed out, almost like he'd laid a hot whip across my skin. I jumped from the feel of it. "Ow," I said.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you, but the hell you say, no one's asked me."
"Alright, to my knowledge no one's asked you."
"Everyone, everyone in the preternatural community, whatever animal, or thing they are, thinks that I was doing Jean-Claude and you. That we were some happy little ménage à trois."
"I've run into that rumor," I said. "You know what you were doing, and who, so what does it matter?"
He let out a shadow of that inarticulate scream he'd done before. "Anita, how do you think I feel when almost every leader in this town that I have to do business with thinks I'm shagging the Master of the City?"
"Are you saying that people thinking you're bisexual hurts your standing as a leader?"
"It doesn't seem to hurt Jean-Claude's," I said.
"I don't think so."
He made fists, and that hurt, and he made that sound again. "You don't understand, Anita. You're a girl, and you don't understand."
"I'm a girl, and I don't understand. What does that mean?"
"It means it's still more socially acceptable for a girl to be bisexual than it is for a man."
"Who says?" I asked.
"Everyone!" His anger flared outward like hot water, and it was about waist high, and rising.
"You're homophobic," I said.
"I am not."
"Yeah, you are. If it didn't bother you so much that people thought you were bisexual, then you wouldn't care what they said. You'd know the truth, and it would be enough." I moved closer to him, pushing through the heat of his power, his anger, his frustration. "Besides, what's wrong with being bisexual, or homosexual, or whatever? What does it matter, Richard, as long as you're happy and no one is getting hurt?"
"You don't understand," he said.
I was standing close enough to touch. Standing so close that his power bit and sizzled almost against my skin, as if the robe wasn't there. God, he was so powerful, more than the last time I'd touched his power. He'd gained from Jean-Claude and me, just like Jean-Claude had, like I had. If we could get our triumvirate to truly work the way it was meant to, no one would touch us, no one would dare.