My stomach was a tight knot. I had crossed my arms under my br**sts, and even to me, I looked angry in the shiny mirrors.
Micah leaned beside me but didn't try to touch me. "What's wrong?" he asked, voice mild.
"I didn't expect this kind of... place."
"You're mad because I booked us into a nice hotel with a nice room?"
Put that way, it sounded stupid. "No, I mean..." I closed my eyes and leaned my head back against the glass. "Yes," I finally said, voice soft.
"Why?" he asked.
The elevator doors opened and the bellman smiled and stood so he held the doors open but left us plenty of room to move past him. If he'd figured out we were fighting, it didn't show.
Micah waved me in front of him. I pushed away from the elevator wall and went. The hallway was what I'd expected from the rest of the hotel; all dark, expensive wallpaper with curved candlelike lights at just the right intervals, so it was both well-lit and strangely intimate. There were real paintings on the wall, not copies. No big-name artists but real art. I'd never been in a hotel so expensive.
I ended up in front with Micah close behind and the bellman bringing up the rear. I realized halfway down the dark, thick carpeting that I didn't know what room I was looking for. I looked back at the bellman and said, "Since I don't know where I'm going, should I be in front?"
He smiled, as if I'd said something clever. He walked faster without seeming to hurry. He took the lead and we followed him. Which made more sense to me.
Micah walked beside me. He still had the briefcase over one shoulder. He didn't try to hold my hand; he just put his hand down where I could grab it if I wanted to. We walked like that for a few steps. His hand waiting for mine, my arms crossed.
Why was I mad? Because he'd surprised me with a really nice hotel room. What a bastard. He hadn't done anything wrong, except make me even more nervous about what he expected from me on this trip. That wasn't his bad, it was mine. My issue, not his. He was behaving like a normal civilized human being. I was being churlish and ungrateful. Dammit.
I unwound my arms. They were actually stiff with anger and holding so tight. Shit. I took his hand without looking at him. He wrapped his fingers around mine and just that little bit of touch made my stomach feel better. It would be all right. I was living with him, for God's sake. He was already my lover. This wouldn't change anything. The tight feeling in my chest didn't get better, but it was the best I could do.
The hotel room had a living room. A real living room with a couch, a marble-topped coffee table, a comfy chair with its own reading lamp, and a table in front of the far picture window that was big enough to seat four. And there were enough chairs to do that. All the wood was real and polished to a high shine. The upholstery matched but not exactly, so that it looked like a room that had grown together piece by piece instead of being bought all at once. The bathroom was full of marble-and-gleaming everything. The tub was smaller than the one we had at home, let alone Jean-Claude's tub at his club, the Circus of the Damned, but other than that, it was a pretty good bathroom. Better than any I'd ever seen in a hotel before.
The bellman was gone when I wandered out of the bathroom. Micah was putting his wallet back in that little pocket that good suit jackets have for wallets, if your wallet is long enough and slender enough not to break the line of the suit. The wallet had been a gift from me, at Jean-Claude's suggestion.
"Whose credit card did you put this on?" I asked.
"Mine," he said.
I shook my head. "How much are you blowing on this room?"
He shrugged and smiled, reaching for the bag with the clothes in it. "It's not polite to ask how much a gift cost, Anita."
I frowned at him as he moved past me to a pair of huge French doors on the far wall. "I guess I didn't think of this as a gift."
He pushed one side of the doors inward and moved through it, talking over his shoulder. "I was hoping you'd like the room."
I trailed behind him but stopped in the doorway. The bedroom had two dressers, an entertainment center, two bedside tables with full-size lamps, and a king-size bed. The bed was piled high with pillows, and everything was white and gilt and tastefully elegant. And way too bridal suite for me.
Micah had the suiter in the lid of the carry-on unrolled. He unhooked the hangers from the loops and turned to the large closet.
"This place is bigger than my first apartment," I said. I was still leaning against the folded door, not quite in the room. As if, by keeping one foot in the other room, I'd be safer.
Micah still had his sunglasses on as he unpacked us. He hung up the other suits we'd bought so they wouldn't wrinkle. Then he turned to me. He looked at me, shaking his head. "You should see the look on your face."
"What?" I asked, and even to me it sounded grumpy.
"I'm not going to make you do anything you don't want to do, Anita." He sounded less than pleased. Micah seldom got upset about anything, and almost never with me. I liked that about him.
"I'm sorry this is weirding me out."
"Do you have any idea why it's bothering you this much?" He took off the glasses and his face looked finished, with his eyes showing. The kitty-cat eyes had bothered me a little at first, but now they were just Micah's eyes. They were an amazing mix of yellow and green. If he wore green, they looked almost perfectly green. If he wore yellow--well, you get the idea.
He smiled, and it was the smile he used only at the house. Only for me and Nathaniel, or maybe just for me. At that moment, it was just for me.
"Now, that is a much better look."
"What?" I said again, but couldn't keep the smile off my face or out of my voice. Hard to be sullen when you're staring at someone's eyes and thinking how beautiful they are.
He walked toward me, and just that--him walking across the room toward me--sped my pulse, made my breath catch in my throat. I wanted to run to him, to press our bodies together, to lose the clothes and what was left of my inhibitions. But I didn't run to him because I was afraid to. Afraid of how much I wanted him, of how much he meant to me. That scared me, a lot.
He stopped in front of me, not touching me, just looking at me. He was the only man in my life who didn't have to look down to meet my eyes. In my heels, I was actually a little taller.
"God, your face! Hopeful, eager, and afraid, all there on your face." He laid his hand against my cheek. He was so warm, so warm. I curved my face into his hand and let him hold me.
"So warm," I whispered.
"I'd have had flowers waiting, but since Jean-Claude sends you roses every week, there didn't seem to be a reason for me to send you flowers."
I drew back from him, searching his face. It was peaceful, the way it could be when he was hiding his feelings. "Are you mad about the flowers?"
He shook his head. "That'd be silly, Anita. I knew I wasn't the top of your dating food chain when I hit town."
"So why bring up the flowers?" I asked.
He let out a long breath. "I didn't think it bothered me, but maybe it does. A dozen white roses every week, with a red rose added since you started having sex with Jean-Claude. And now there are two more red roses in the bouquet; one for Asher and one for Richard. So it's like the flowers are from all three of them."
"Richard wouldn't see it that way," I said.
"No, but he's still one of your lovers, and you still get something every week that reminds you of him." He frowned, shook his head. "This room is my flowers to you, Anita. Why won't you let me give it to you?"
"The flowers are a lot less expensive than this room," I said.
He frowned harder and it wasn't a look I'd seen much on his face. "Is it money that makes the difference for you, Anita? I draw a decent salary from chairing the Furry Coalition."
"You've earned the salary, Micah. You average, what, sixty hours a week?"
"I'm not saying I don't deserve the money, Anita. I'm just asking why you won't take this from me, when you take gifts from Jean-Claude?"
"I didn't like the flowers at first either. You got to town just after I'd given up fighting about it with him."
He smiled then, but it wasn't a really happy smile. More rueful. "We're going home tomorrow, Anita. I don't have time for you to get used to the idea." He sighed. "I was looking forward to spending some time, just us, and you aren't happy about it. I think my feelings are hurt."