"No he's not. He wants sex."
Micah offered me his hand and looked way too serious. "I don't understand why you hold that last part back from him."
I didn't take his hand. In fact I crossed my arms over my stomach and frowned at him. "'That last part,' you make it sound like it's nothing."
He knelt in front of me. "Anita, I love you, you know that."
Actually, I didn't know that. People act like they love you, but how do you ever know it's real. I didn't say it out loud, but something about the look I gave him, or my body language must have said it for me, because he moved in close. Close and closer, until he was sitting in my lap with his legs wrapped around my waist. It made me laugh, which was probably why he'd done it.
We ended up with my arms around his waist, and he put his hands on my shoulders. His legs locked behind my back, pressing him up against me, about as close as he could get. "You do realize that from this position, sex won't work, unless we trade equipment."
"It's not always about sex, Anita, sometimes it's just about being close."
"Now isn't that the girl line," I said.
"Not if you're the girl, and I'm the boy."
I felt my face going all serious and unhappy. "I don't know how to do this."
"What?" he asked.
"Richard's right, I don't know how to be in love. I'm not good at it."
"You're great at everything but admitting it," he said. He wiggled himself in even tighter against me, so that I could feel that he was getting happy to be there.
"You're trying to distract me."
"No, I'm trying to keep you from getting angry."
"Angry about what?" I asked, and my hands were sliding down his back as I said it. It was hard to be this close to him and not have my hands wander.
"Just angry. You get angry whenever you're uncomfortable, and what happened in the kitchen is going to hit a lot of buttons for you."
My hands slid past his belt, to touch the top of his jeans. I'd once thought you had to be in love to be able to touch someone like this. It had been a nice thought, I'd liked it, and it had made me feel safe. My hands traveled down the rough fabric of his new jeans, but underneath was the solid swell of his ass. He had a good ass, round and tight, smaller than I liked, but definitely there. I'd told him he needed some ass just to balance out the front of him. Truthfully, Nathaniel had a rounder, fuller ass, more like a woman's, tight and firm, but round. I liked men with booty. My least favorite thing was a man who had severe white-man's ass, where the jeans just bagged over the butt. I wanted something to hold on to, something to sink my teeth into. When I said I liked meat on my men I didn't just mean one thing.
I'd buried my head against his chest, my hands cupping his ass. He rocked himself against me, just a little. Was this love? Was the fact that I could touch every part of him and he could touch every part of me love? Or was it just lust?
I raised my face up enough to touch the skin of his neck, so warm, so sweet. I'd been raised that you only loved one person at a time. If I loved Jean-Claude, I couldn't love Micah. If I loved Micah, I couldn't love anyone else. The only person I was really able to say I love you to without hesitating was, strangely, Asher. I was beginning to suspect that was because Jean-Claude loved him, had loved him for centuries, when they weren't hating each other. In Jean-Claude's arms channeling feelings back and forth for him and Asher, then I could say love and mean it. But here and now without Jean-Claude to push me, the word stuck in my throat like it would choke me to death.
Sometimes I thought I loved Micah, but that's not the way a person wants to hear love declared. Sometimes is worse than not.
I put one hand in the middle of his ass, so that one finger could rub back and forth even through the jeans, but my other hand slid up his back, got tangled for a moment in the thick curls of his ponytail, then touched the warmth of his neck. I knew who was inside my head, even as I put a hand in Micah's hair and pulled his head to one side, so his neck stretched long and clean. Because we were almost the same height, his neck was just in the right position for me to lick along the meat of it. So warm, so incredibly warm. I wrapped my mouth around his neck, felt the pulse of his blood under his skin, and set teeth into that warmth.
Micah cried out, but not in pain. He ground himself against me tighter, giving me more of his neck, like an eager woman would press against a man. I set my teeth into his skin and fought the urge to bite down, to draw blood. Jean-Claude filled my head with images. Images of him and Asher, and Julianna, Asher's long-dead human servant. There was sex, but there was more laughter, more games of chess, and her doing needlework by the fire. There was more holding than f**king. Images of him and me, and Asher, but also of Micah. Micah's neck under his fangs, while I watched them both. Jean-Claude coming to find both of us asleep in his big bed, curled on the silk sheets, Micah's brown curls lying so close to my black curls that he could not tell where one ended and the other began. Jean-Claude let me feel his emotions, as he drew back the sheets and felt the first breath of our warmth. The sensation of him sliding his cold body between us, and how we moved in our sleep, waking slowly to his hands on our bodies. How much he valued that Micah would simply give him blood and not argue, or make less of the gift and the need than it was. Of how much it meant to him, that he could turn from Micah's willing, still bleeding body, to my body, and pierce me in a different way, while Micah watched, or helped. Seeing it from Jean-Claude's point of view was uncomfortable and made me want to slide away, but he whispered through my mind, while my mouth tasted Micah's skin. "If this is not love, ma petite, then I know nothing of it. If this is not love, then no one since time began has ever loved. You ask yourself What is love? Am I in love? when what you should be asking, is What is not love? ma petite. What is it that this man does for you that is not done out of love?"
I wanted to argue, but Jean-Claude was too close in my head, and Micah's neck was between my teeth. So many hungers could be fed off this flesh, so many needs, so much... so much. The sweet tang of blood trailed across my tongue, and it brought me back into myself, helped me pull back before I hurt him. But he collapsed around my body as if we'd finished sex. He shuddered against me and let his breath out with a sigh.
I held him with my arms at his back, or I think he'd have fallen. He'd given himself completely to me. He hadn't tried to protect himself or worried that I'd eat his throat out, and he should have. But he'd trusted me. Trusted me not to hurt him more than he enjoyed. I'd never bloodied him before, never gone past teeth marks and hickeys. It had felt so good to hold his flesh between my teeth and not to stop, until I tasted that first blood.
He gave a shaky laugh and said in a hoarse voice, "Nathaniel's going to be jealous."
"Yeah," I whispered, "he's always wanting me to mark him." The thought that came was, Would it kill me to give Nathaniel some of what he wanted? Not kill me, no. The question was, would it break me, and if so, how much? Jean-Claude's echo in my head was, "Perhaps it will not break you, ma petite, perhaps it will heal you, and him."
"Get out of my head," I said.
"What?" Micah asked.
"Sorry, nothing, just babbling to myself." Jean-Claude did what I asked, but his laughter trailed inside my head like an echo for the rest of the morning.
I was in the kitchen eating biscuits with butter and honey slathered all over them. The biscuits were good, but the show was Gregory. He was still in leopardman form, but he was eating biscuits. Have you ever watched someone eat bread with teeth that are designed for tearing out the throats of gazelles? It was interesting. If he'd just put the whole biscuit in his mouth at once it would have been okay, but he didn't. He ate the rounds of bread dripping with butter and red currant jelly in pieces, delicately. Except that his jaws weren't made for delicate, so his fur was spotted with jelly, and he kept licking it off with an impossibly long tongue. It was disturbing, distracting, and vaguely fascinating. Like a combination of Animal Planet and Food Network.
It was good that I had something to amuse me, because Nathaniel was being very unamused. I'd known he might be upset about me marking Micah's neck, when he'd practically begged for me to do it to him, and I'd refused, but I had no real clue how upset. He'd been banging things around the kitchen. A cabinet door didn't just close, it slammed. Opening the refrigerator was a chorus of bangs, slaps, and the like... I didn't even know that plastic food containers could make that much noise.