Nathaniel moved back to the coffeemaker, and since I was still leaning nearly in front of it, that put him beside me. He was very careful not to meet my eyes, almost as if he were afraid where the conversation would go.
"And that seems to bother you, why?"
"You're not sleeping with him."
"Yeah, I am, almost every damn night."
"Fine, you want to split hairs, we can do that. You aren't f**king him."
I shook my head. "You always were a sweet-talker when you got pissed."
"I'm not pissed, I'm trying to understand."
"Understand what?" I asked.
Micah wasn't watching Nathaniel or Richard, he was watching me. His chartreuse eyes were very serious, as if he were afraid of what I was going to do. I tried to give him a reassuring smile, that I wasn't going to blow this, but I'm not really good at reassuring smiles. So his eyes went from serious to a little worried.
"You and Nathaniel and Micah."
What I wanted to say was, Why do you need to understand it? But I was trying to be nice, or nicer. "What's to understand, Richard?"
Nathaniel began to pile his hair up into a high, tight ponytail. It was a style women wore more than men, that high, bouncy ponytail that moves when you walk. But his hair was long enough that, to keep it out of the way for cooking, he had to either braid it or do the bouncy ponytail. Once he figured out that I actually thought the bouncy ponytail thing was cute, he'd started doing it more. He washed his hands and went for the fridge.
"How can you watch him like that, when you aren't f**king him?" Richard asked.
By the time I looked fully at him, I knew my face wasn't friendly. "If you want to play rough, we can, Richard, but you won't like it."
"What are you talking about?"
"Fine," I said, "we'll play it your way. Why don't you watch Clair the way I watch Nathaniel, if you've f**ked her?"
His face darkened. "Don't talk about Clair like that."
"Then don't talk about Nathaniel," I said.
Nathaniel seemed to be blissfully unaware of us. He got the big marble board out of the cabinet and put it down beside the sink. The marble was only used for one thing--baking of some sort. He moved to the fridge, getting out the dough that he'd made yesterday before we had to get ready for the wedding. Apparently, we were still going to have homemade biscuits, as planned.
"What is he doing?" Richard asked.
"I think he's making biscuits," Micah said.
Nathaniel nodded, making the long fall of auburn hair bounce like it was on a string. "Who's having biscuits, so I'll know how many to make?" He turned peaceful eyes to the kitchen, as if we weren't fighting. Of course, I'd seen what his memory of "fighting" entailed, so maybe by his childhood standards this wasn't a fight.
"I want some," Fredo said.
"Homemade biscuits?" Doc Lillian asked.
"From scratch," Nathaniel said with a smile.
"In that case, yes, please."
Nathaniel looked at Richard and Clair. "Do you want some? I know Gregory will."
"We're only staying until we're sure Damian is safe," Richard said.
He turned his lavender gaze to Clair. "Do you want a biscuit?"
She looked at Richard, sort of nervously, then nodded. "Yes, please." She patted his shoulder. "We didn't get breakfast."
I was willing to let the fight go. Nathaniel was right, without saying a word he was right, it hadn't been much of a fight. Of course, just as it takes two people to fight, it takes two sides to call a cease-fire.
"Why do you care what I say about him? He's nothing to you."
I sipped the last of my coffee, put the mug down carefully on the cabinet, and smiled. I knew without a mirror that it wasn't a good smile. It was the smile I got when I finally got to do something violent, when people had been making me behave. If I'd had any doubts about the smile, Fredo pushing himself upright, hands loose at his sides, clinched it. He knew it was trouble. The look on Micah's face said he knew it was trouble, too. Even Clair looked worried. Nathaniel had gone back to smoothing out biscuit dough. No matter what happened, we'd need breakfast, so he was going to make breakfast. In his own way, Nathaniel could be as practical as I was.
Richard scowled up at me, and I knew in that moment that he wanted to fight. And strangely, I didn't.
"Even if he was only my pomme de sang he wouldn't be nothing to me, Richard."
Micah had moved around to stand beside me. I don't think he was sure what I'd do, but, for once, I was okay. I took his hand, partly to reassure him, and partly because he was close enough to touch.
"If he's more than just food to you, why..." Again he seemed at a loss for words.
"Why aren't I f**king him?"
Micah moved me in against his body, so that he was spooning me and had his arms around me. Almost as if he thought he'd have to restrain me and give Richard time to get to a door. My temper wasn't that bad, honest. Well, most of the time. Well, some of the time. Oh, hell, I guess I couldn't blame him for being nervous.
I leaned in against Micah, let his body hold me like it was a favorite chair. I could feel tension I hadn't even known I was carrying seep out of my muscles.
"I thought you were screwing them both," Richard said.
"Such a nice turn of phrase," I said, and the tension just seeped right back in.
"You won't let me say sleep. I'm trying to avoid saying f**k."
"How about sex, or intercourse, those are nice technical terms."
"Alright," he said, "I thought you were having intercourse with both of them."
"Now you know different," I said.
"Yes," he said it, and his voice was softer, less angry.
I felt like I was missing something here. "What difference does it make whether I was ha**ng s*x with one, or both?"
He looked down then, and wouldn't meet my eyes. "Could everybody leave us alone for a few minutes? Please."
Clair got up a little uncertainly. Dr. Lillian got up, and Fredo moved to follow her. Nathaniel had rolled out the dough enough that he was shaping the individual biscuits. The oven dinged, indicating it was preheated. He looked a question at me.
I wrapped my arms around Micah's arms, pulling him around me like a coat. "You can't kick Nathaniel out of his own kitchen, Richard, and I don't want Micah to go either."
"It's not his kitchen," Richard said, and he was angry again.
"Yes," I said, "it is."
Nathaniel turned back to his baking with a small smile on his lips. He'd already greased up the pans, so he began to arrange the thick doughy circles on them, ignoring us again.
Richard stood, and even though he had one arm bandaged up, I was suddenly aware of how tall he was, how broad his shoulders were. He was one of those men that never seemed as big as they are, until they got angry. "No, it isn't. It isn't even Micah's house. It's yours."
"They live with me, Richard."
He shook his head and grimaced, and made a low sound, not a growl, just frustration. "Micah is your Nimir-Raj, you had the same reaction to each other that Marcus and Raina had. Instantaneous melding, but Marcus didn't move into Raina's house. They couldn't help being attracted to each other, but Raina saw other people. They weren't a couple, not in that way."
"Raina wouldn't have known what monogamy was if it bit her on the ass," I said.
Dr. Lillian and Fredo were making for the door. Lillian grabbed Clair's arm as she went past, and took her with them. Richard didn't even seem to notice.
"Don't you dare talk about monogamy to me," Richard said.
"You may have gotten a peek inside my head, Richard, but I saw into yours, too. I'm not ha**ng s*x with everyone you thought, but you're ha**ng s*x with almost anyone that will have you."
"I'm looking for a new lupa," Richard said.
"Bullshit," I said.
Micah's arms were tense against my body. He laid his cheek against the side of my face, but he didn't say anything. He knew better.
"You always screw around when we aren't dating," I said.
"At least I wait until we aren't dating to do it. You always manage to f**k someone else while we're still an item."
I started to move away from Micah, but his arms tightened just enough. He was right. I didn't trust myself not to get more physical than was wise. Slapping Richard right that moment sounded so good. I stayed where I was, but it wasn't relaxing anymore.