He stared at his son's hand until Sampson let it drop away. Samuel then met my gaze. His eyes didn't look friendly now. They looked older, full of some deep knowledge, and sad around the edges, and angry. "Why such anger, Anita?"
I started to count to twenty, knew it wouldn't be enough, and just said it, in a voice that was choking with anger, confusion. "Don't tell me how to feel, Samuel, you don't have that right."
He stood up, and pushed his son's hands away from him. "Think how powerful a child you and Jean-Claude could have."
"There's no guarantee it's his," I said.
"The odds are that if you are pregnant, it won't be any of the vampires," Richard said. His voice was low and careful, but there was something underneath all that that I hadn't wanted to hear--eagerness.
I turned to him, and I don't know what I would have said, or even done, because Jean-Claude was just suddenly there between us. "Do not do anything rash, ma petite."
"Rash, don't do anything rash!" I pulled away from him. "He's not unhappy about this and you're locked down so tight I don't know what you're feeling."
"I feel that anything I say, or do, in this moment, will upset you." It was the most diplomatic way I'd ever been told that I was a pain in the ass.
I fought the urge to scream at him. I managed a voice that was strangled low and tense with the effort not to yell. "Say something," I said.
"Are you with child?" he asked in that neutral, pleasant voice of his.
"I don't know, but I missed October."
Richard came closer and he tried for neutral, failed, but he tried. "Have you ever missed a whole month before?"
I shook my head. "No."
Emotions fought on his face, and finally he had to turn away, as if whatever expression he had, he was sure I wouldn't want to see it.
"Don't you dare be happy about this, damn it!"
He turned back, face mostly under control, but his eyes held that look. That soft I-love-you look that once was meant just for me, but which lately I hadn't seen much of. I'd seen lust, but not this.
"Would you prefer me to be angry, or sad?" he asked.
"No, yes, I don't know." There, that was the truth. "I don't know."
"I'm sorry," he said, and he looked it around the edges. "Sorry if I'm making this harder, but how could I be completely unhappy if we made a child together?"
He would pick the very worst way to say it. The way most guaranteed to panic me. "It's not a child, yet. It's a bunch of cells smaller than my thumb."
His eyes got more careful. "What are you saying, Anita?"
I hugged myself tight and wouldn't meet anyone's eyes. "I don't know what I'm saying." But I was beginning to have more sympathy with Ronnie's idea about just going away and making the choice without any of the men.
"Would you really be able to kill our baby?" he asked, and I didn't have to see his face to know he looked hurt; I could hear it in his voice.
"Mon ami, you put the cart before the horse. Let her find out if she is pregnant before we make plans." Jean-Claude tried to move between us again, tried to block my view of Richard, as if that would help.
Richard moved around him, so he could still see me. "Anita, could you really kill our baby?"
I wanted to scream yes, just to see the pain on his face, but on this I couldn't lie. I already knew the answer, I just didn't like it. "NO!" I yelled it, and the sound echoed against the stones without the hanging drapes to soften it.
Richard's face softened and he started to walk toward me, around Jean-Claude. The look on his face was almost beatific, as if all his dreams had come true. I felt as if I were suffocating in a nightmare, and he looked like that. I had to wipe that look off his face, I had to.
"What if it's not yours?" I asked, and my voice was ugly. I wanted it to hurt.
He hesitated, then got a look that was almost smug. "The odds are in my favor, Anita." He looked entirely too pleased with himself.
"Why, just because Jean-Claude and Asher, and hell, Damian are several hundred years old? That doesn't mean it's not theirs; look at Samuel. He has three sons, two separate pregnancies."
Richard started to frown. He wasn't walking closer now. Good.
Jean-Claude sighed, and stepped back as if he'd given up trying to stop the fight.
"And what about Micah and Nathaniel?" I asked. "They're not vampires and I've had more sex with them in the last two months than with you." I was happy when he flinched. Ugly, but true.
"Micah's fixed," he said, and his face darkened. "That leaves Nathaniel." There was such anger in those three words, that I wished I'd left it alone.
As if on cue, Micah and Nathaniel came out of the far hallway. They looked at all of us and Micah said, "Is this about what I think it's about?"
"You knew about the baby?" Richard asked.
"Are we sure?" Nathaniel asked.
"No," I said.
"You both knew?" Richard said, and his power started up again. I was suddenly standing too close to the metaphorical fire.
"Yes, we knew," Micah said.
"You told them before you told us?" Richard said, and he gestured at Jean-Claude.
"They live with me, Richard, it's harder to keep a secret from them. I didn't want any of you to know until I did a test. I didn't want to deal with all this crap, if I didn't have to."
"Let us calm down until we know for certain," Jean-Claude said.
"Doesn't it bother you that she told them before us?" Richard said.
"No, mon ami, it does not."
Richard glared at Micah and Nathaniel, but his gaze finally settled on Nathaniel. Not good. "You know that if she is pregnant, it's probably you, or me," Richard said. The words were neutral; the tone wasn't. The tone was a warning as clear as the heat rolling off his body.
Nathaniel had one of the most careful looks I'd ever seen on his face. He looked blank, pleasant, but not sorry, not submissive. Always before when dealing with Richard, Nathaniel had given off subservient vibes. Now, suddenly, there was nothing subservient about him. He might still bottom to me, but his days of doing it for Richard were over. It was there in the set of his shoulders, the eye contact he gave the bigger man. He wasn't being aggressive, but he wasn't giving off those subtle submissive signals either. His attitude said, clearly, he wasn't backing down. On one hand I was happy to see it, on the other hand it scared me. I'd seen Richard fight and I'd seen Nathaniel fight. I knew who would win.
Of course, if Richard started the fight, he would win the slugfest, but he'd lose the girl. I hoped he understood that.
I DON'T KNOW what would have happened. Something bad, almost certainly, but help came. "You guys are all being ass**les." It was Claudia.
Everyone turned to look at her.
"How dare you make this about some macho ego shit. Can't you see she's scared?" She gestured in my direction. "Ulfric, if you think a baby will make her give up the police work and the execution work, or the zombie raising, you're wrong. Do you see a baby fitting into Anita's life? Are you going to quit work and stay home and play nanny, because Anita sure isn't."
We all looked at Richard. He was scowling at her.
"Well," she said, "are you? Are you willing to completely disrupt your life if it's yours?"
He scowled harder. "I don't know," he said, finally.
"I will." Nathaniel's voice, turning us all back to him. "I'm already the wife, why not the mother?"
"Have you ever taken care of a baby?" Claudia asked.
He shrugged. "No."
"I had four younger brothers, trust me, it's harder than it looks."
"I will," Micah said. "Whatever Anita wants, or needs."
"Stop being perfect," Richard said.
"You work days, Richard," Nathaniel said, "and you work a regular weekday. I can make more part-time at Guilty Pleasures than any teacher's salary I've ever heard of."
"So you'd be a good provider," Richard said, and his voice was full of scorn.
Nathaniel smiled, and shook his head. "Anita provides for herself just fine. She doesn't need my money. What I meant was that dropping my work hours down won't affect my job that much. It would ruin yours."
Richard didn't want to be mollified. He wanted to be angry, so he turned to Micah. "And what about you? You work as many hours as Anita does."