His body tensed against me, even his arms where they were wrapped around me, not so comforting anymore. "Perhaps I was afraid of what you would find in my thoughts." His voice wasn't sleepy now, but had that bland emptiness that he used to hide behind.
"What would I have found?" I asked, but I wasn't cuddling now. Tension is contagious.
"If I had wanted you to know the answer to that question, I would not have shut the marks down."
I started to protest, but another thought stopped me. With the marks that wide open, it had only been chance that I hadn't thought of the baby question. Chance and the fact that the ardeur tended to wipe out anything that wasn't pertinent to the moment. Now the fear came crawling back, tightening my stomach, tensing my muscles. Please, God, don't let me be pregnant.
"What is wrong, ma petite?" he asked.
I let out a breath that shook around the edges and said, "You know, Jean-Claude, normally I'd push for honesty, but I think I've had all the revelations I can handle for one night. It's okay, whatever you thought, it's okay."
"It is okay without your ever knowing what the thought was?" he asked.
I settled back into his arms, willing the hot water and the touch of his body to take away that awful tension. "Yes," I said, "yes."
He moved me to the side, holding me in the water, so he could see my face. "Yes, just like that?" His face showed his skepticism.
I stared up into him; his hair was wet and slicked back from his face, so that nothing took away from it. Those eyes a blue as dark as blue could be and hold no touch of black. His lashes thick and black--it had taken me months in his bed to see his upper lashes by candlelight and realize that he had a double row of upper lashes. Him and Elizabeth Taylor. You only saw it if the light was just right, and his head turned just right. Until then, they were just this unbelievable lace around his eyes. I traced the lines and curves of his face, down to the grace of his lips. I let him see in my eyes what I saw, what I felt, gazing at him.
He leaned in, and laid a kiss upon my lips. Then he cuddled me back against him, as we'd been before the questions started. No more personal questions tonight, but there were other questions I wanted answered. "Why did Requiem look like someone had pounded his face into a wall?"
"Because someone had."
That made me turn enough to look at him. "Who?"
"Meng Die," he said, voice soft, face solemn.
"Was that the emergency?"
"Oui. Thank you for sending the extra guards, ma petite, it was wise of you."
I shrugged, and turned so that I was sitting across his legs, my hands against his chest, his arms around me still, but I could see his face now. "How did it get so out of hand?"
"I was called in rather late, ma petite. In truth, I do not know exactly how Requiem and Meng Die allowed their spat to get so terribly out of hand, and so terribly public. Asher, as manager of the Circus, came down to stop it, or take it to a backstage area. That should have been the end of it." His face was closing down, hiding what he thought of the fight, and the aftermath.
"Why wasn't that the end of it?"
"Because Meng Die decided to fight them both."
I sat up in his lap. "Why fight Asher? She's never been his lover."
"But he is your lover."
I frowned at him. "So what?"
"I believe that if a master vampire had appeared who wasn't in your bed, had never been in your bed, the fight might have calmed instead of escalating."
"I'm totally lost here, Jean-Claude."
He looked directly at me, but his face was empty enough that it gave me nothing. "You have not asked the right question yet, ma petite."
"What is the right question?"
"What the fight was about." I frowned harder, and said, "Okay, I give, what was the fight about?"
Now I was really lost. "What?"
"They were arguing about you."
"What about me?"
"Meng Die thinks you have stolen Requiem from her."
I pushed back enough in the water so I was kneeling, and not cuddled. The water was deep enough that it came to my shoulders. "Requiem isn't my lover. I've worked really hard to make sure he isn't my lover."
"But you have fed the ardeur from him."
"In an emergency, yes. It was to feed, or I was about to suck Damian's life away. I had to feed, but we didn't have intercourse, we didn't even take our clothes off." I thought about it, and added, "Not all of our clothes. I mean, Requiem was fully clothed." I started blushing and couldn't prevent it. I had to stop explaining before it sounded worse and worse. "He has offered to feed you more completely."
"Why have you refused him?"
I looked at Jean-Claude, trying to see behind that perfect mask of a face. "I think I was under the impression that I'm ha**ng s*x with enough men."
His lips twitched. He was fighting not to smile.
"This isn't funny."
He let himself smile. "Ma petite, there have been women over the centuries who traded lands, titles, their honor, everything, for one more night in Requiem's bed. His master in London used him much as Belle Morte used Asher and me. Though because Requiem only did women, he wasn't as flexible as we."
I let that last part go. I still wasn't completely sure how I felt about Jean-Claude doing Auggie. At the time I hadn't minded--in fact, I'd liked it. I'd liked us both doing him at the same time. We'd f**ked him in every way possible, physically and metaphysically, and it had felt a-fucking-mazing. That last part was probably going to bug me the most. But one disaster at a time.
"Are you saying you're surprised I turned him down?"
"No, it is typical of you to turn a man down at first."
"At first?" I said, and sounded a little outraged.
He laughed, and it was that touchable sound, as if it were the sound of pure sex, and it went through my head and all the way down my body. "Stop that," I said.
He smiled, face lit with suppressed laughter, but he stopped. "To my knowledge, the only man you have never said no to is your Nimir-Raj, Micah. But the ardeur was newly woken, and so I do not think we can count that one completely. It was your exception, not your rule."
"Fine, but I'm still lost. I have avoided Requiem. Graham made some remark that Requiem was refusing Meng Die's bed and somehow that was my fault."
"Apparently, Requiem told Meng Die that he would not be her lover any longer, because you do not share your men with other women. He seemed to believe that his being in her bed was what kept you from accepting his offer to be your new pomme de sang."
I shook my head. "He shouldn't have assumed that."
He nodded. "Because that isn't why you refused him, is it?"
I shook my head hard enough to move the water around my body. "No. And if Requiem had asked me why I was saying no, I would have told him it wasn't because he was screwing Meng Die."
"What does it matter?"
"Because he has left his lover's bed in the hope that you will take him to your bed. He is third in rank among my vampires, and second, or perhaps third, in power. Meng Die is powerful enough to be my second-in-command, but her temperament is not suited to it. As she demonstrated today. You have set two of my most powerful vampires at each other's throats, ma petite. I need to know why."
"I did not start that fight," I said.
"No, but you were the cause of it, and if you are to convince Requiem that you will not take him as your pomme de sang, then you must give him a reason that does not include his being Meng Die's lover. His reasoning was sound, ma petite. You have refused all the pomme de sang candidates who have a female lover."
"Graham, Clay, and Requiem are all Meng Die's lovers," I said.
He gave that wonderful Gallic shrug that meant everything and nothing. "So. Is it that you will not take Meng Die's seconds?"
I shook my head. "No, that's not it. You know why not Graham; he might do for a meal, but he'd be a disaster as a permanent member of the household."
"Agreed," he said.
"Clay is in love with Meng Die, she's just about broken his heart, but he wants her, and I say more power to him."
I leaned back against the side of the tub, out of reach. The bath had stopped being comforting. "Did we have to do this tonight?"