"Find more gauze pads. That's the only pack in here, and she's going to need more."
Nathaniel put the first aid kit on a chair that he moved close to Byron, then he went for the door. Apparently he knew where they kept the extra gauze. "How bad do you guys get cut up here?"
"Usually scratches," he said, "though you'd be surprised the number of women that try to bite."
I looked at him.
He grinned. "Now, duckie, why would I lie?"
One second I was looking at Byron and thinking nothing really. My wrist hurt, and I wondered why I hadn't noticed it sooner, and then suddenly I was wondering if he was na**d under the robe, and I was hoping he was.
I closed my eyes and tried to shield. Tried to nail anything and everything I had between me and Jean-Claude, but his voice came through. "I am sorry, ma petite, so sorry, but Primo is still fighting me, and I have not fed enough. I cannot feed and control him, but you can feed for me. You can give me what I need, ma petite. Please, please, do not deny me. If I lose control of Primo now, he will slaughter these women. He will see himself humiliated by them. Please, ma petite, hear me, and know that I speak only truth. Help me!" He cut contact abruptly, and I got a glimpse of Primo's rage stabbing at the lust that Jean-Claude had fed him. It was as if Primo were a human besotted, but still fighting, fighting to break free.
"Damn you, Jean-Claude," I whispered.
Byron touched my arm. "Don't faint on me."
I opened my eyes, and his gray ones were so close to mine. He was so close. I don't know what showed in my eyes, but he let go of me like I'd burned him. His eyes were a little wide, and his voice was breathy when he said, "I don't like the look in your eyes. It doesn't look much like you."
I leaned into him, and he leaned back. I kept moving forward, and he kept moving back, so that I slipped out of the chair, and he ended up on the floor for a second, before he rolled to his feet. I was left kneeling on the floor, but I had a handful of his robe. The cloth stretched away from his body, and I saw that he was wearing something under it, but not much. It was lust, but it was more than that. It was lust, as if sex were food. I'd thought the ardeur was the worst of it, but this felt... less, worse. Except for that first time I'd had some control over the ardeur. Not liking someone, or knowing someone helped me fight it off. This was different. It wouldn't have mattered. This was need so raw that it just wouldn't have mattered.
Jean-Claude screamed through my head, "Anita, help me!" He'd used my real name, and his desperation cut through me like a knife.
Some of that desperation fell into my voice. "I'm sorry, Byron, but Jean-Claude is about to lose control of Primo. He needs more food."
"And who gets to be the food?" he asked, and there was that edge of fear to him.
I had to close my eyes and take a deep breath. "There's no time."
"I won't let you tear my throat out, just because the master has bitten off more than he can tame."
I shook my head, eyes still closed. "Don't be afraid, Byron, please, that fuels the beast. I'm offering the ardeur." I opened my eyes and stared up at him. He still stood as far away as the stretched fabric of the black robe could take him. My voice had found an edge of growl when I said, "But it's a limited time offer. Either come across, or food won't be a euphemism."
A funny look crossed his face. "Do you mean sex? Real sex? Not a euphemism for anything?"
If I'd had time, it would have been funny. "Yes."
"Oh, duckie, why didn't you say so?" He came to me, undoing the sash of his robe and letting it fall away. He was wearing only the tiniest of black thongs, with his pale, pale body exposed everywhere else. The muscles that he'd managed to acquire in less than a month worked under his skin as he dropped to his knees in front of me. "Who gets to be on top?" he asked with a smile.
I put my hands on his bare shoulders, and the moment I touched his skin, the smile faded. "I do," I said, and pushed him to the floor.
Byron lay back against the floor with my body riding him, my hands on his wrists, pinning him to the floor. The only thing I'd ripped off my own body had been underwear. There was no foreplay, there was no time for it, no need for it. Everywhere I touched him, I could feed a little. Bare skin was all I needed now, but it was an incomplete feeding. It wasn't enough. I pressed our mouths together, slid my tongue into his mouth, and again I could feed, but it wasn't enough. I ground myself against him, but he was still trapped in the thong. I let go with one wrist, and his hand found the side of the thong first.
"Snap away," he said, in a voice that was deeper, more real than his usual.
I tore the cloth away, and he was suddenly na**d against me, not inside me, but pressed against me, and he was warm. Warm with the blood he'd taken from someone else. The feel of him pressed against me made me cry out.
Nathaniel said, "Anita?" He came pressed as far from us as he could get and stayed where I could see him. "It's like the ardeur, but worse, more." He looked almost panic-stricken. He had an armful of gauze packets.
I wanted to say I'm sorry, or something civilized, but Byron moved his h*ps underneath me, and that one small movement brought my attention back to the man underneath me. His eyes had darkened like sky before a storm. And staring down into them, I wondered how I'd ever thought they were soft. He spent so much time being the charming youth, playing to the body he'd been given, but now suddenly out of his eyes I saw just how much grown-up I was dealing with.
"Fuck me," he said, and it came out softer the second time, "fuck me, f**k me." He whispered it over and over, softer and softer, until his breath itself whispered, "Fuck me."
I leaned over him, pressed my mouth to his, and it was as if I could feel his soul down the long tunnel of his body, as if I knew how to reach in and snatch it away. I knew in that instant that I could feed on everything that Byron was. I could feed on that divine or infernal spark that made him vampire. I could eat him up, completely and utterly, and leave only the lovely corpse behind.
I came off his mouth screaming, because the urge to do it was almost overwhelming. The hunger wanted it all. All of him. It couldn't have all of him. It couldn't. I wouldn't do that to him. I wouldn't do that to anyone. For the first time I understood just what they meant by a fate worse than death, or rather that sex wasn't it.
If I could feed the ardeur, then maybe this darker thing would go away, but even willing, I had trouble. I didn't know Byron's body. I tried to simply rock back onto him, slide him inside me, but twice we slid across each other but didn't go in. I finally yelled my frustration, and he said, "Let me have my hand, lover, and I'll help."
A hand appeared between us, and it actually took me a moment to realize it was Nathaniel. He had a condom in his hand. "We don't know where he's been."
I growled at him, but he growled back. "The only way you can catch something from a vampire or lycanthrope is if one of us has f**ked someone who's got something, then f**ks you after. You want to take that chance?"
"Let me have my hands, lover, and I'll put on anything you want."
I let go of his wrists, and he moved himself just enough so he could open the foil packet and slip it on. Then he slid himself back where we'd started, with him pressed against me, but not inside. He put his hands on either side of my thighs and lifted me at the same time that he shifted his own hips. He slid inside me, in one smooth movement that threw my head back and made him yell, "Oh, yes!"
When I looked back at him, his gray eyes had lost focus, his lips were half-parted. I wanted to cover his mouth with mine, I wanted that brief sweet taste of his soul again. I finally realized it wasn't the ardeur we were fighting, not entirely. Something else was happening, something darker, something worse. I'd thought the worst would be sex with strangers, but I was wrong. Byron wasn't my friend yet, I didn't make friends that quickly, but he wasn't a bad man. I liked him, with his "duckie" and "luvs." I liked that he had told me the first time we'd met, that no, he wasn't that Byron, and that actually Lord Byron wasn't one of us, that had just been a rumor spread by people that wanted an excuse to burn him at the stake in some backwater country. Though if he'd known the great poet was going to get himself drowned before the age of thirty, he'd have offered.
I liked Byron. He didn't deserve to die. There was an angry echo in my head. I thought it was Primo, and then knew it wasn't. He didn't have the kind of power it took to interfere from a room away, not through my shielding and Jean-Claude's. I asked myself the question, Where would the power go if I sucked Byron's life away? I threw the question out to Jean-Claude. I let him see that darkest of desires in my head.