In between slamming things around, he was agreeing with everything Gregory said, but his tone of voice sounded like he was fighting. "We've been advertising a leopard for tonight, if they can't have me, you're it," Gregory said, then licked that long pink tongue all the way around his "muzzle."
"Fine, it's not like I'll be doing anything else tonight." Somehow I thought that last was directed at me.
Micah was giving me the look, the one that said as clearly as if he'd spoken, fix this. Why was it always me that had to fix it? Because I was usually the one who screwed it up in the first place. Oh, that was why.
My teeth marks were imprinted into Micah's neck. The marks had been smeared with Neosporin, but he hadn't had to bandage them. Good for him, and for me. I'd stopped before I'd hurt him too badly. It was actually less blood than the one and only time I'd let myself mark Nathaniel. It had been when the ardeur was new and I was still trying to find ways to feed it that didn't involve intercourse. Silly me.
The last straw was when he took the butter dish off the table, before everybody was finished with it. Gregory grabbed for it, and claws were wrong for grabbing china. The plate fell and broke all over the floor. The butter slid across the floor in a long yellow line, like a really nasty snail trail. I don't know what I would have said--probably something not helpful--but just then the phone rang.
"Someone else get that," Nathaniel said from the floor where he was wiping up the mess, "I'm a little busy."
Micah just kept eating his breakfast, I think because he was upset with me for not saying something to help Nathaniel feel better. Problem was I didn't know what to say. So I got the phone.
"Anita, it's Ronnie."
"Ronnie, hi," and I was thinking furiously. Oh, yeah, I wasn't the only one having personal problems. I still couldn't believe that she'd turned down Louie's proposal. Out loud I said, "How ya doing?"
"Louie left a message on my phone, so I know you know." She sounded defensive.
"Okay, you want to talk about it?" I didn't take offense. It wasn't me she was mad at.
She blew out a loud breath. "Yes... no... I don't know."
"You can come here, or I'll meet you somewhere." I was using that careful voice, like the one Micah used so much on me.
"I'll bring bagels," she said.
"You could have homemade biscuits when you get here, instead." I said.
"Homemade biscuits? You didn't make them, did you?"
"No, Nathaniel did."
"Can he cook?"
I could almost feel her doubt wafting over the phone.
"Honest, he's really good at the baking stuff."
"If you say so."
"Well, we'd starve if they waited for me to cook."
She laughed then. "That is the God's honest truth. Okay, I'll be there soon, save some biscuits for me."
We hung up.
I stayed by the phone for a second or two, watching Nathaniel's angry back at the garbage can where he was depositing the broken dish and dead butter. I'd never realized that a ponytail could bob angrily.
Micah looked at me, and the look was eloquent. It said, fix this, fix this, or I'll be mad at you, too. There are a few downsides to having two men living with you. When they both get pissed at you at the same time is one of them.
Nathaniel stayed by the cabinet, hands on the edge of it, and his entire body radiated his anger. I'd never seen him this angry. It should have made me mad, but it didn't. He could be angry if he wanted to be, I guess.
I tried to think of something useful to say. He'd gone from being happy as a domestic lark to being as pissed as I'd ever seen him. The only thing that had changed was the mark on Micah's neck. He'd lived through Micah getting intercourse and orgasm, while he, Nathaniel, got almost nothing. So why was that one over-enthusiastic hickey the breaking point for him? I thought and thought until I could feel a headache beginning just between my eyes. Then I had a good thought--it was almost insightful. I don't usually get too insightful without talking to smarter and wiser friends. But suddenly there it was, the truth, I think.
I walked over to him and touched his shoulder. He jerked away from me. He'd never done that before. It scared me. I didn't want him that angry at me, ever. Micah was right, I had to fix this. But how?
"Nathaniel..." It was as if saying his name opened the floodgates.
"I can't live like this. You give me an inch, and then you take it away. Orgasm today, but only because of some metaphysical shit. You'll find an excuse not to do it again. You always do. He gets intercourse and orgasm, and I get nothing. But you marked me, me. Not him, me!" He was still staring at the cabinet, while he ranted louder and louder. "It was all I had. All I had!" He had to pause to take a breath, and I rushed into that small silence.
"I'm sorry." I said it fast before he could catch his breath.
"I don't know why I keep hoping..." He hesitated, stopped, then turned to me slowly. "What did you say?"
"I said, I'm sorry."
His face softened for a second, then hardened, and he narrowed his eyes at me. He looked positively suspicious. "What exactly are you sorry about?"
"I'm sorry you're upset."
"Oh." And he was off again, ranting.
I touched his arm, and he didn't jerk away this time, but he kept listing all the things I wouldn't do for him, or with him. It might have been embarrassing if I hadn't been more worried about stopping the fight than almost anything else. "You have to go to work tonight," I said.
That stopped him, because I think it made no sense with his train of grievances. "What? Yes, what about it?"
"If you didn't have to work tonight, I'd take you into the bedroom now and mark you, if that's what you wanted."
He pulled away again. "I don't want you to do it just because I'm mad. I want you to do it because you want to, because you'd enjoy it, too."
God, he could be so demanding. I actually had to stop and count slowly in my head, because this whole dominant-submission thing hit my buttons badly. I'd done enough research to understand that the world of dom and sub was a lot bigger and more varied than I'd believed. That there were people out there that considered my love of nails and teeth during foreplay and sex to be perverted. That they considered even that bondage. I liked teeth and nails during foreplay and sex, I really did. It wasn't pretend, and it wasn't just for Nathaniel's sake. Once I thought it through to that point, I wasn't angry with him. I wasn't mad about what he wanted; I was uncomfortable because I enjoyed it. I knew that now, and I embraced it all the way through my head. Well, I wasn't quite there yet.
I tried for honesty with him and myself. "I'd love the feel of your neck under my teeth. I'd love to sink my mouth around all the meaty parts of you and bite down until I was afraid I'd hurt you." I felt heat rush up my face, and I had to close my eyes to finish it. "I loved the feel of you in my mouth. I loved marking you, but I wasn't ready to admit it. And it still makes me uncomfortable, but it's not because it's you, it's because it just seems so... so, I don't know..."
"Perverted," Gregory suggested.
I opened my eyes to glare at him. "Don't help me, Gregory, okay?"
"Do you mean what you just said?" Nathaniel asked, and his voice was oddly empty, as if he were trying very hard not to be angry or hopeful.
I met his face, and even his eyes were being careful. I hated to see him managing me that hard, as if he were afraid if he appeared too eager I'd run. Problem was, he might have been right. I realized I'd been doing my own version of what Richard was doing. I wasn't running from as much of myself as he was, but if I hadn't had the ardeur to push me, I might have been. If I could have pretended as cleanly as Richard could, I would have. That I could at least admit to myself. The ardeur had made that impossible. But this wasn't about the ardeur. This was about Nathaniel and me, and the happy little domestic arrangement that we had.
I'd waited too long to answer. Nathaniel's eyes filled with such sorrow, and he turned away. Oh, hell. I grabbed his face between my hands and went up on tiptoes to make up for that three-inch height difference. I'd startled him so that he stumbled back into the cabinets. I plastered myself against the front of his body and kissed him. I kissed him as if I were eating him. I set my teeth into that lovely lower lip and bit down, not enough to mark, but enough to draw a small sound from his throat. I leaned back from the kiss enough to see his eyes wide and unfocused. His hands gripped the cabinet behind him so tight, they were mottled. It was almost as if he was afraid he'd fall.