But was it mind tricks? That's what I wanted to know. I reached up to touch his face, and he didn't lean away from me, as he had Nathaniel. I'd seen part of his memory of what had happened to him at the hands of other men, men that she-who-made-him had given him to, so she could feed off his pain and fear. So I understood some of the homophobia, but Nathaniel wasn't a threat to him, not in that way. In other ways, he was a threat to everyone who saw him. Oh, well.
I touched Damian's cheek, and it was solid. But it was all solid. Nathaniel was right, it was like a really good face-lift; there wasn't that much difference. What was it about his face that was different? What had kept Damian's face from being this heart-stopping before? I'd never made a study of his face, I wasn't sure I knew him well enough to know what had changed. Maybe my confusion showed on my face, because Nathaniel said, "His mouth, his lips were too thin for his face, now they're full and... they match."
Now that Nathaniel had said it, I could remember Damian's mouth, and this wasn't it. Was it just mind glamour? It had to be, didn't it? I closed my eyes and touched his mouth, but I'd never run my fingers over his lips. I didn't remember them. I kept my eyes closed and used my hands to guide me. I kissed him, soft but firm. I'd kissed this mouth less than two hours ago, and it wasn't the same mouth. The lips were fuller, as if he'd gotten a collagen injection while we weren't looking. I drew back just enough to see his face clearly. There was a slight up-tilt to his eyes, and they were bigger, not much, but just a little, or was it that his eyebrows had a wider arch to them? Were his lashes thicker, darker? Shit.
"What's wrong?" Damian asked again, and this time there was a thread of fear in his voice.
"I'll get a mirror," Micah said, and turned and went for one.
"This isn't possible," I said.
"Is there anything I can do?" Dr. Lillian was at the far end of the island. Damian looked up at her, and she said, "Oh, my."
"What?" he asked, and his voice was frantic.
I patted his hand. "You're fine, in fact you're... beautiful."
The fear spread from his voice to his eyes. "What are you talking about?"
Micah came back in with a hand mirror. He simply held it out toward me. I took it, but Damian shut his eyes tight, as if he were afraid to look. "It's okay, Damian, I promise, you look wonderful." But I sort of understood the fear, because even if it was an improvement, how weird would it be for the face you've had for a thousand years to suddenly change. I'd have had trouble with changes to the face I'd only had for part of a lifetime.
He was shaking his head over and over again.
"Please, Damian, just look. It's good, not bad. I promise."
He opened his eyes a little at a time, but once he saw enough, his eyes went wide, and he took the mirror from me. He moved it around so he could see his eyes, his mouth, and there was some change to his nose that he could see and I couldn't. Like I said, I hadn't made a study of his face, but he had.
He touched his face tentatively, as if he expected it to feel different than it looked. He dropped the mirror, and Nathaniel caught it before it hit the floor. "What is happening to me?"
I opened my mouth to say, I don't know, but Micah said, "I think we need to call Jean-Claude. We know he's up."
Good idea, I thought. "Yeah, I think so."
I actually got up to go for the phone, but Richard was at the end of the island, across from the phone, and I suddenly didn't want to be that close to the phone. His right arm was taped to his chest, completely immobile, like Lillian had started to mummify him and stopped. He wasn't looking at me. He was looking lower, at Damian.
"Healing and a little facial reconstruction, you are good," he said, and his tone made it not a compliment.
"I didn't do it on purpose."
"I know," and those two words just sounded tired. "Jean-Claude told me once that he couldn't remember what he and Asher looked like before Belle, but he'd seen others before and after. Belle never chose people who weren't pretty, but some afterward were more beautiful than before. It wasn't a common thing even in her bloodline, but it happened often enough to start the legend that it always happened to her blood."
I looked at him. "And when did you and Jean-Claude find time for all this information sharing?"
"When you deserted us for more than half a year. We had a lot of time to talk, and I had a lot of questions."
I couldn't argue with the "deserted us" part, so I ignored it. "I asked him once if his body and face were vampire tricks, and he said no."
"Vampire tricks aren't real," Richard said, "this," and he motioned at Damian with his good arm, "is."
"But Damian's been a vampire for a long time; if this kind of change was going to kick in, then it should have done it by now."
"I'm not of Belle's line," Damian said. He was touching his face with just the tips of his fingers, as if that made it less awful, or something.
"But Anita is," Richard said. "Through her ties to Jean-Claude, she is a part of Belle's line."
"I'm not a vampire," I said.
"You feed like one," he said.
Anger was finally rearing its ugly comforting head. If I could get mad, I'd feel better, and Richard's presence wouldn't bother me so much. "You're as tied to Jean-Claude as I am. It's only luck that's kept the ardeur from you, Richard. Next time we get an extra special treat, maybe it'll be your turn."
"I can't heal with sex, and it looks like you can."
"Did you raise the munin when you were with Damian?" Dr. Lillian asked.
I shook my head. "I'd have noticed Raina being around. She's sort of hard to miss." I heard a distant echo in my head, Raina's "ghost" saying, so glad you noticed. I shut that particular metaphysical door tight, locked it, and bound it with silver chains. All metaphorical, or metaphysical, but all real just the same. A part of Raina lived inside me, and nothing I could do seemed able to rid me of her completely. I could control her to a point, but not exorcise her from me. God knows I'd tried.
"If it wasn't Raina, then one of you was able to heal during the sex," Dr. Lillian said. She said it like it was just logical. Two plus two is four, that kind of thing.
I was shaking my head long before I realized I was doing it. Shaking my head over and over. "I didn't do this."
"Then who did?" Richard asked. His face wore the arrogance of his anger. When he looked like that, he was both more handsome somehow, and less approachable. It was one of the few times I was sure that Richard was aware of just how handsome he was, when he was angry enough to want to strike out and cause someone pain. Why does anger make people pretty? Rage doesn't. Rage makes you ugly, but a little anger, that just seems to add spice. One of nature's cruelties, or maybe it's to keep us from killing each other more often.
"I don't know, but he didn't look like this after the sex. He didn't look like this in the bathroom when Mor... she-who-made-him popped up. He didn't look like this in the hallway," I took a step closer to Richard, "or the bedroom," another step, "or the living room." Another step, and I was as close to him as I could stand and still see his face comfortably. He was almost a foot taller than I was, there were angle issues.
"The closest person connected to Jean-Claude in this room at that moment wasn't me."
He looked down that perfect profile at me. "I didn't go near him."
"Jean-Claude might know the answer to this," Micah said. He was behind me, not too close, but close enough that if I'd done something stupid, I wondered if he'd planned on interfering.
"Micah is right," Dr. Lillian said.
"Yeah, Micah is always right," Richard said, and his voice held emotions the words didn't even hint at. It was the first real sign of jealousy I'd seen. Part of me was happy about it, and the moment that tiny glad spark reared it's ugly head, I knew better. I was ashamed of myself, and I hate that.
"Most of the time he is right," but my voice wasn't angry. We needed answers, not temper tantrums. I made a motion with both hands. "If you'll let me get to the phone."
He moved, but looked puzzled. For a second, I wondered if he'd been picking a fight on purpose, and if he had been, why? Picking fights was more my thing than Richard's. Later. I'd worry about it later.