Everyone stared at him.
I screamed it, "Out, get out, all of you out!" I started to rush at them, but Nathaniel caught me around the waist, and I let him pick me up. I fought not to struggle. But I kept screaming, "Get them out! Get them out!"
Steve Brown grabbed his wife's arm and started dragging her toward the door. Bert finally moved, taking her other arm, and helping. He was looking at me as if he'd never seen me before, and maybe he hadn't. Bert had a gift for only seeing what he wanted to see.
Mary's pale face was the last thing I saw before the door shut, and the words, get them out, changed to a wordless, formless scream. One ragged scream after another, until my throat went raw and I sagged in Nathaniel's arms.
Before I'd only felt the beast like it was some huge pet that rubbed itself against my body and my mind, but today, I knew that that wasn't the most dangerous part of the beast. The most dangerous part was that it was an animal, and true animals have absolutely no sense of right and wrong. I screamed, because to stop and do anything else was to risk that mind coming back up through me, and I wasn't sure I could stop it again.
Nathaniel called my name, but I couldn't answer. I was afraid to answer. Afraid if I took even a moment to think that that other colder mind would take over again. Nathaniel dropped to his knees with his arms still around my waist. The sudden movement startled me, stopped the screams like a switch had been thrown. That other mind spilled into the silence. But it wasn't cold anymore, it was frightened. Leopards are solitary. There are only three reasons to meet another leopard in the wild. Fighting, f**king, or eating. He was either something that would hurt us, something that would f**k us, or something that would eat us. There were no other choices in the fear that roared through my brain. I thought I'd understood what the fight or flight response was, but I'd been wrong. This made anything I'd ever felt as a human being pale by comparison. The need to strike out, or run away, thrilled all the way down to the tips of my fingers and toes. It was a rush of adrenaline like I'd never known. My entire body was thick with it, stronger, faster, because I was about to fight to the death.
I fought that panic, fought not to struggle, not to fight Nathaniel. I could get away. I knew it, and that other mind knew it. We could get away. We could be safe. But that small part that was still human knew that Nathaniel wouldn't hurt us. We had to let him pin us, had to, because I knew I could escape. What I didn't know was what would happen if I got away. What would happen if Nathaniel couldn't pin me and hold me down until I could think like a person again? I didn't want to find out, because it would be something bad, something I wouldn't want to live with afterward.
I struggled to be still. To let Nathaniel take me down, to be limp in his arms as he pressed me to the floor. That other mind shrieked through me as my body touched the carpet. It shrieked that we would die, and it believed that. It had no friends here. I'd always thought that at least part of my beast was Richard's wolf, but in that moment, I knew it wasn't so. What fought me wasn't anything that recognized the larger social order of the pack. There was only prey, rivals, mates, and young. No part of me saw Nathaniel as a child.
I let him pin me facedown on the carpet. My skirt was too short for being flat on the ground, and it began to ride up. His body molded to my back, his hands on my wrists. I fought that screaming voice in my head, to lay still, to let Nathaniel get as good a hold on me as he could. He had no training in how to pin someone. He did it the only way he knew how, by forcing my legs apart with his hips, so I couldn't just go to my knees and lift him off. The skirt rode up my h*ps until it was bunched so high that there was nothing between him and me but the silk of my panties and his pants. It was a horribly vulnerable position. Even the part of me that was still me, didn't like it. Because once you're pinned under someone like that, your options vanish. I like options. Options keep you safe.
Nathaniel won't hurt me. Nathaniel won't hurt me. I kept repeating that over and over and over, as he settled his body tighter against mine. The part that was beast knew he could break our spines from this position. The part that was me felt like it was a prelim to rape. I knew that Nathaniel wouldn't do that, and I also knew that truthfully if you're intent on rape you want some clothes off before you get here. Because once you've pinned someone like this, your hands are busy, and men's pants don't unzip themselves. Logically, I was safe, but logic isn't always what wins when you're scared. The beast was scared because it couldn't trust another leopard. I was scared of what would happen if the least dominant person in my life couldn't dominate me enough to keep me from tearing out his throat, or breaking through that thin office door and slaughtering everyone outside. I trusted Nathaniel not to hurt me. I did not trust him to control me and keep everybody else safe. I especially didn't trust him to keep himself safe. Hadn't he begged me just this morning to set my teeth in his throat and draw blood? I didn't trust him to be... enough. Enough leopard, enough man, enough person, just enough. And that doubt fed my fear, fed all the fears, and I lost. Lost myself. Lost control. Lost.
The last clear thought I had before panic set in was, I have to get up off the floor. I had to get up. I forgot everything I'd ever known about how to use my body, how to fight. Panic was all I felt, and panic does not plan. It reacts.
I went from that limp stillness that I had fought for, to bucking, writhing, throwing my body from side to side. I struggled with my whole body, with every muscle. I literally threw everything I had into simply trying to get up.
Nathaniel's body rocked with me. He fought to keep my wrists pinned to the carpet, my h*ps pressed down, my legs apart so I couldn't just get to my knees and throw him off. I felt him struggling above me, but he wasn't used to being the one on top.
I threw my body to the left and lifted us both half off the ground. He shoved us back down, and I had a moment to feel the potential strength. So terribly strong as he forced us back to the floor. If he'd been willing to let go of one wrist, and used his other arm for something else, but he kept my wrists, and maybe I couldn't get up, but he couldn't control me either, not enough.
He was saying something, I don't know how long he'd been repeating it, before I understood it. "Don't make me hurt you, Anita, please, please, please!" He almost screamed the last word.
The panic in his voice told the leopard that we were winning. Make him afraid of us, and he'll let us go. It spurred the cat, and we threw ourselves to the left again. If his back hadn't hit the desk we'd have rolled him. I screamed, but it wasn't fear this time, it was triumph.
We ended sitting with his back propped against the desk. His legs encircled my waist. I scratched at them, and part of me didn't understand why the cloth did not part in bloody strips. One arm went across my chest, and only later would I realize that he'd covered my gun butt with his hand. His other hand balled into my hair, jerking hard enough that it tore a scream from my throat. I had a moment to feel his breath like heat on the back of my neck. The leopard screamed that he would snap our neck, the other part of me was just confused. Nathaniel bit me.
He sank his teeth into my skin, into my flesh. I felt his teeth slide inside me, and I stopped fighting. It was as if he'd hit a switch I didn't know I had. At first I simply stopped fighting. My hands fell limp to my sides. My body relaxed, and what should have been pain, felt warm and comforting.
Nathaniel growled with his mouth still locked against my body, and it drew a moan from my throat. The growl turned to a purr, a deep vibrating sound, and because his mouth was locked over the top of my spine, that deep, pulsing rhythm played down my spine, as if my body were a tuning fork for his voice.
I cried out, but it wasn't fear or triumph now.
He loosened his legs around my waist. I stayed limp and easy against his body. He uncurled his legs, slowly, body tense, as he waited for me to react, but I was past reacting. I was waiting, waiting for him to master me, it was the only word I had for it. It was the most wonderful feeling, so peaceful, so safe.
He kept his teeth around my neck, his hand in my hair, but the other hand, he took slowly away. I sank into him. My body sliding along the front of his, held in place only by teeth and hair. My skirt had bunched like a belt at my waist and rode higher behind from my body sliding against his. Nathaniel slid his arm around my waist, pulling the bunched skirt even higher, I think by accident. He drew us both to our knees with his arm around my waist. He moved his arm away from my waist, slowly. I stayed on my knees, swaying a little, because every muscle was loose and calm. I actually had to concentrate to stay kneeling and not simply fall to the ground, but his hand in my hair, and his mouth at my neck kept me upright, made me want to stay on my knees. But that little bit of effort on my part started to help me climb back into my own head, a little, not a lot, but a little more of me was here. Enough to both worry and enjoy his bite on my neck. Worry, because what would happen when he let go, would I revert back to that cold mind? Enjoy, because part of me that wasn't just cat liked that firm grip, that pull of teeth in flesh.