Sons. Children. It made me remember why we had pregnancy tests in our overnight bag. Would I be bargaining for some sort of arranged shacking-up for my own child some day? I mean, no matter who the father was, none of us was exactly human, and most of us were scarily powerful. Shit. I wished I hadn't thought of that.
Thea was in front of me, her head to one side, studying my face. "You look worried, Anita, very worried, as if you've thought of something new to fret over."
That was a little too perceptive. I was really going to have to work harder at hiding my facial expressions tonight. I tried for a little truth. "Samuel is only the second master vamp I've ever met with a grown child, or children. It's just... weird."
Micah leaned more of himself against the arm he was holding. Nathaniel cuddled in tighter to my back, though the gun kept him from being as comforting as I wanted him to be. They knew what I'd thought of, or maybe they'd been thinking the same thing, or something close to it.
Thea turned her head to the other side, and it didn't remind me of anything aquatic. It reminded me of a bird of prey judging the distance to my eye.
I shivered. Please, God, don't let me be pregnant.
She touched my face with fingers that were still fever warm. "It is not I who put that frown between the dark beauty of your eyes."
I drew my head back enough not to be touched. "Very poetic. Let's get this done, Thea. We're wasting moonlight."
She gave a smile that reminded me of the one that Tom had used just before he blushed and bit his lip, and admitted wanting to have sex with me. The twins looked very much like her except for the eyes.
"Very well, but your men will have to step away. I do not know what the effect would be if they were touching you while I do this. It might raise the ardeur for certain, or..."
"Or what?" I asked.
"Or they might bolster your defenses and keep me from testing your power at all." She gave a movement of pale shoulders that was almost a shrug, but not quite. "I will treat you as I treat Samuel. I will tell you the truth. I simply am not certain. If you were a vampire then I might know, but you are more, and less. You are not simply one thing or the other, but both, and many. I think it must change the rules of power and magic around you."
I took in a deep breath, let it out slow, and nodded. I moved forward and Micah and Nathaniel moved back. They gave me the room we asked for. I'm not sure any of us were sure it was a good idea, but if she found me wanting then there were three very unpalatable pomme de sang candidates off the table. Yippee.
Thea took me in her arms again, and I didn't fight it. I even wrapped my arms around her. She didn't try to control my head this time. She trusted me to let her kiss me.
I actually went up on tiptoe for her, which meant she was closer to six feet than I'd thought. I found myself putting a hand along the edge of her face as if this were a kiss that I wanted. Sometimes I touched someone's face because it was intimate. Sometimes I touched them because a hand on the face helps you control the kiss more if things get out of hand. Two guesses which reason it was this time, and first guess doesn't count.
SHE KISSED ME, and this time I didn't fight her. I let my body melt into hers, let her feed at my mouth. There is a moment in a kiss, especially an open-mouth kiss, where the caress of lips and tongue spills over some line, and beyond that line, you kiss back. I kissed her, kissed her as she was meant to be kissed, full and complete, tasting her.
I drew back enough to whisper, "You taste salty."
She breathed her answer in my mouth, as she drew me back into the kiss, "You taste of blood." Her breath filled my mouth, caressed the back of my throat. Her breath tasted fresh and clean like the wind off the ocean.
Her lips tasted like she had just that second taken a sip of the ocean. I licked her lip, and found that there was a whitish film on the fullness of her mouth. It wasn't illusion. It was real.
I swallowed the salty taste of her lips, staring up at her, feeling the surprise on my face. "How..." But I never finished the question, because I didn't just swallow the taste of salt, I swallowed her power.
I heard the ocean whispering against the shore. I could hear it like music. I looked around the room. I wanted to ask someone else if they could hear it. I meant to look for Micah, or Nathaniel, but that wasn't who caught my gaze. Thomas was staring at me with wide eager eyes. His brother had collapsed to the love seat, and was covering his ears with his hands, rocking back and forth. Cristos was fighting it, whatever it was, but Thomas wasn't. Sampson had a death grip on the love seat, but his eyes had drowned to black so that he looked blind. The other man and woman they'd brought with them turned black eyes to me. The woman was hugging herself, as if cold, or afraid. The man had a death grip on his own wrist, the typical jock pose turned into something harsh and struggling, as if, if he let go of his wrist, he would do something unfortunate. Last I found Samuel's eyes. His eyes had bled to vampire fire, the glowing brown with flecks of green flame in their depths. They all could hear it, that whispering, seductive sound. The ocean was calling, and I didn't know how to answer.
I was still staring into Samuel's eyes when I felt a hand glide down my shoulder. I turned, and found Thomas standing next to us. Thea began to pull out of my arms, giving me to Thomas's arms as she moved, so that it was as if the embrace never stopped, only the arms holding me had changed.
There was movement around us. I saw Micah's face, his lips moving, but I couldn't hear him. All I could hear was the sigh and echo of the sea. Thomas touched my face, turned me back to look at him. He spoke, and his words held the growling echo of surf over rocks. "You hear my voice though, don't you?"
I nodded, my face pressed against his hand. His hand was large enough to cup the entire side of my face. He leaned down, and I went up on tiptoe to help him finish the kiss. I wasn't thinking that he was seventeen. I wasn't thinking we had an audience that included his parents. I wasn't thinking that men I loved were watching. I saw nothing but his face, felt nothing but the strength of his hands on my face, his arm trailing down my back, his hand gliding down my body. The inside of my head was peaceful, full of a soft, rushing sound, like water as it spills along some peaceful shore. I wasn't the one who fought free of the mind games, it was Thomas who spoiled it. His hand slid down, down, and found the gun at the small of my back. It made him hesitate. Made him stumble as if his magic had legs to be tripped by a misplaced stone.
I pulled back from him, saw the uncertainty on his face. He was still handsome, and the compulsion to touch him was still there whispering through my head, but his eyes were wide, his face uncertain. He looked fresh and new and untried, like someone who had never hugged someone and found her wearing a gun.
The sound of the surf pulled away, and I could hear the murmuring in the room. People wondering what to do, whether they should interfere.
"That's a gun," he said, in a voice as uncertain as his face.
I nodded. I had gone back to being flat-footed on my heels, no more tiptoe, no more helping him seduce me with his mother's magic, or his own.
He'd actually missed the big knife down my spine, because he hadn't come to the midline of my body until low on my back. But it was a big weapon to miss. Baby, he was a baby. And I'd have said that if he'd been twenty-seven instead of seventeen. Baby not in years, but in my world. You don't miss a knife as long as a forearm, not and live, not for long. Not in my world.
I gazed up into his face. The black was beginning to drain away, showing the hazel of his human eyes. He was the son of a master vampire and a siren, but where he lived was a gentler, kinder place than my life. I would leave him to that gentleness.
I drew out of his arms, completely. "Go back and sit down, Thomas."
He hesitated and looked at his mother. She was watching me, not him. Watching me with those black eyes. There was a considering look on her face, as if she wasn't sure what she thought of the show.
"Do as Anita says, Thomas," she said, at last.
He went back to the love seat, to sit beside his brother. It left Thea and me staring at each other.
"He hesitated only for a moment," she said, "yet, it was enough."
"It's not his power," I said, "not yet. It's yours. You loaned him enough power to roll me."
She made a gesture that was almost a shrug, but her hands went out in a wide gesture. I think it meant, Perhaps, or, You caught me. I wasn't sure which, and wasn't sure I cared.