Richard said, "Did you say seventeen?"
Richard looked at me, and the look was eloquent.
"I've already turned them down as too young, Richard. You don't need the look, thanks." I took my hand out of his, because I hadn't deserved the look he gave me.
"But you'll f**k Sampson."
I stood up, letting go of both of them, and stared down at him. "Apologize to me, Richard. Apologize to me, now."
Embarrassment was on his face, but so was anger. "I shouldn't have said it, and I'm sorry I said it, but don't expect me to be happy that you're adding another man to your list of lovers. I'm not going to be happy about it, Anita, I'm just not."
"Do I ask how many women you've slept with this week?"
"No, but you don't have to meet them, either."
I couldn't argue that. "Fine, you're right. It would probably bug me to meet your dates." I threw my hands up in the air. "Damn it, Richard, do you have an opinion on this that isn't based on jealousy?"
He looked down, then got up from the couch, and paced away to the edge of the carpet. "All I can see when I look at Sampson is that he's not bad looking, and he's about my height, and... I don't want you f**king him. But then I don't want you f**king anyone but me, so--" He spread his hands wide, and shrugged.
"Have I raised a sore point?" Samuel asked.
"An ongoing disagreement," Jean-Claude said.
"If this is a problem," Sampson said, "then forget it. We were under the impression that everyone was okay with Anita adding to her list of men."
Richard crossed his arms across his chest, and said, "And if we don't do this, because I'm not happy about it, and your mother..." He closed his eyes, his face struggling with so many emotions. "God help me, but you and your brothers are actually in a more perverted sexual mess than we are. If I say no, and the worst happens..." He paced the edge of the white carpet as if the walls were still there. "I don't want to watch, but it has to be Anita's call. I won't say no. Neither of us is monogamous, so why should I bitch?" He stood there arms crossed, shoulders hunched as if something hurt.
"Anita," Samuel said.
I looked at him, still standing. I sighed. "I'd rather not add to my list of men either, truthfully, but as Jean-Claude has explained to me, I need a new pomme de sang sooner rather than later. I'm not promising, but I'll agree to try." I couldn't look at anyone when I said it, because it felt squeechy. To agree to try to take another lover, in front of three men I was already sleeping with.
"Good," Samuel said, and there was such relief in that one word that I looked at him. He was smiling, his eyes sparkling with happiness, and tears. Unshed tears glittered in his eyes. In that moment I realized that he had accepted that his wife would seduce one of their sons, and he would kill her, and the son would be mad, and he would have to kill him, and... too Oedipal for words. Samuel had accepted that someday the worst would happen, and suddenly he was saved. He looked like a man who had thought the executioner was coming, and the governor called instead.
I still wasn't sure how I felt about adding to my men, but it was nice, for a change, to be someone's salvation instead of their doom. Yeah, being the savior instead of the executioner, that sounded pretty damn good.
SAMUEL SMILED AT Jean-Claude, and it was like a lot about Samuel, a very human smile. I realized that he, like Auggie, could be more "normal" than most vamps I'd ever seen. Was it a vamp trick like Auggie's had been? Maybe. Was it any of my business to mess with it, and reveal his secret? Nope. No more grand revelations tonight, not that were my fault anyway. I wasn't messing with anyone or anything tonight if I could help it. My goal was simply to get through the rest of this interview without anything bad happening. Why was I so worried? I'd sat back down beside Jean-Claude, but Richard hadn't. Richard was still standing, arms folded, shoulders rounded as if with pain. I knew the look on his face, it was the look that usually meant we were going to have a really bad fight. I didn't want to fight tonight, not with anyone, but especially not with Richard.
Jean-Claude touched my hand. It made me jump, and turn startled to him. "What is wrong, ma petite?"
I gave him a look, and rolled my eyes back to our other third. "Ah," he said.
I gripped Jean-Claude's hand tight, and tried to head this fight off. "Richard?" I made his name a question.
He turned those smoldering brown eyes to me. "What?" That one word was so angry that even he flinched. "I'm sorry, what is it, Anita?"
"You don't have to pick a fight with me to leave." There, that was as honest and as calm as I could make it.
He frowned at me. "What does that mean?"
"It means that ever since we started talking to Samuel about his sons and their problem, your tension level has done nothing but rise."
"And if we were talking about me ha**ng s*x with three new women, two of them seventeen years old, wouldn't you be angry?"
I thought about it, then nodded. "Yes."
"Then don't expect me to be happy about it."
"What am I supposed to do, Richard, apologize? I wouldn't even be sure what I was apologizing about. Anyway, I've told you that my answer was no on the seventeen-year-old."
"I think, Jean-Claude, Sampson and I will leave you all for the night." Samuel stood. "You seem to have much to discuss."
Sampson stood alongside his father. He was about two inches taller than Samuel, as if he'd gained height from his mother's genetics. I wondered what else he might have gained. I really didn't know much about mermaids, or sirens. I probably needed to remedy that before I got too up close and personal with any of them.
"Not yet, my friend, please," Jean-Claude said. He looked at Richard, giving a peaceful face to the unhappy one. "We need some riddles answered before we dare take ma petite among our brethren tomorrow night."
Samuel nodded, and sat back down. "You're wondering, if you take her among nearly a dozen Masters of the City, whether the night will be even more interesting than this one."
Jean-Claude nodded. "Exactement."
"Are these questions that only a vampire can answer?" Sampson asked.
"It is from a master like your father that I need advice," Jean-Claude said.
"Then, I could go back to the hotel and check on Mother and the twins."
"I think they have enough watchdogs, Sampson," his father said.
Sampson gave his father a look like he was trying to say something with his eyes, and his father wasn't getting it.
"You're leaving because you think it will make me less upset," Richard said.
Sampson looked at him, with that open, honest face, and nodded.
"That's..." Richard's face struggled with his emotions, because a friendly gesture, honestly given, always touched him. "That's really... good of you."
"You obviously don't like sharing Anita, and now here I am asking you to share her again. We need her to help us. I don't want to lose my mother and one, or both, of my little brothers." Sampson shook his head, eyes staring off into space, but not seeing anything in this room. The look in his eyes was haunted as if he, like his father, had given up on avoiding the tragedy. As if he'd been picturing it all in his head for months, trying to make peace with it, and failing.
He looked up at Richard. "I won't give up this chance to save my family, but I am sorry that it's causing you pain." He came out into the middle of the room, facing Richard. "If my going will make you feel better, I can do that."
Richard hung his head, his newly long hair hiding most of his face. When he raised it again he looked like a man coming out of deep water, shaking his hair back from his face. "Insult to injury, damn it."
"Did I say something wrong?" Sampson asked.
"No, nothing wrong," Richard said. He sighed, and his arms started to unfold, stiffly, as if it hurt him to let go of the anger. "No, I just didn't want to like you."
Sampson looked puzzled. "I don't understand."
"If I can hate you, I can get angry, and storm out. If you'd acted like some kind of lustful ass**le, I could have just gone. Wrapped my injured righteousness around me, and gotten the hell out of here."
I stood up and faced him; Jean-Claude kept my hand lightly in his. "I've already told you, Richard," I said, "you don't have to pick a fight to leave."