Nathaniel and Micah went back and forth like busy ants until the seats were piled high with pillows, and there were still plenty left on the bed.
Jean-Claude had come to stand on the other side of the bed from me. We stood there staring across the expanse of red and black silk. When I say expanse, I mean it. The bed was larger than a king-size. Orgy-size is what I'd started calling it, but I hadn't actually shared that with Jean-Claude. I didn't mean to imply anything about what he was doing when I wasn't here. The bed was just the biggest one I'd ever seen. Then I realized, that wasn't entirely true. Belle's bed was this size. I really wished I hadn't thought of that. Suddenly I was cold.
"What is wrong, ma petite?" he asked.
I shook my head. I didn't want to share the observation, as if talking about it would make it more true.
Micah and Nathaniel came back to the bed. Micah stopped and looked from one to the other of us. Nathaniel started unbuttoning his shirt.
"I think you might want to wait on that," Micah said, still looking from one to the other of us.
Nathaniel kept unbuttoning. "They'll work it out." He slipped the shirt off, and went for the large armoire. It was dark rich wood that matched the bed. Nathaniel opened it, and started hanging up his shirt. The armoire was empty except for our extra clothes. Nathaniel's, Micah's, mine. Jean-Claude had a room the size of a small warehouse that was full of clothes. He'd started hanging an outfit at a time in the armoire, but he still kept his room as clean and empty as he could. He'd gotten in the habit when he used to entertain strangers on a regular basis. You don't keep things you value in a room where you're going to have one-night stands. Jean-Claude didn't do one-night feedings and f**ks now, but old habits die hard. Vampires, I'd found, once they have a habit, really don't like giving it up. Old dogs, new tricks, that sort of thing.
Nathaniel came back to the bed wearing absolutely nothing. I had one of those moments of discomfort. I'd seen him nude more times than I could count. I'd seen him nude in front of Micah and Jean-Claude more times than I could count. So why was I blushing?
Nathaniel climbed into the bed, pulling the sheet up just enough to keep me from yelling at him. Left to his own devices I think Nathaniel would have been nude all the time. He lay back against the red and black pillows. His hair was still in its braid so that his face was framed by all that black and red silk. His face had started to fill out; bone structure that had only been a promise six months ago was somehow more real, more masculine. He was moving from the pretty handsomeness that some young men get, to the more handsome handsomeness that most of them grow into. He'd also grown nearly an inch taller in the six months we'd been together. At twenty he was growing into what some people hit at seventeen, or earlier. Genetics is a wonderful and confusing thing.
He smiled at me, and the smile was all male. That pleased smile that said he knew I was looking at him, and how much he liked the effect he had on me. He'd been in my bed for half a year, na**d in it for about a month, and I was still staring at him as if it were the first time.
It made me blush and look away.
"Come to bed, Anita," he said, "you know you want to."
The anger was instantaneous. I wasn't blushing when I raised my eyes back to him. "I don't like being taken for granted, Nathaniel."
He sighed, and sat up, putting his muscular arms around his knees. "Don't let the whole baby thing push you back. You've made a lot of progress in your comfort zones, don't lose ground now."
"And what exactly is that supposed to mean?" I asked, hands on hips, glad to be angry. Anger was so much better than sad, or scared, or embarrassed.
His lavender eyes went all serious, not scared, or worried, but grown-up serious. "Are you really going to make us do this?"
"Do what?" I demanded.
He sighed, and said, "Why is my being nude bothering you?"
I opened my mouth, closed it, and finally said, quietly, "I don't know." That was the truth; stupid, but the truth.
Micah came to me, touched me tentatively. I went to him, wrapped my arms around him. He hugged me close, and I turned my face in against his neck, so I could smell the warmth of him. Just the smell of his skin made something hard and cold inside me loosen. I breathed in the scent of him, and underneath the smell of clean skin and aftershave, Micah had that nose-wrinkling smell, an almost sharp smell, of leopard. The smell of home.
He spoke against my skin, "Let's go to bed, Anita."
I nodded, still pressed against him.
I felt his mouth move in a smile against my skin. I knew exactly the feel of it, which meant I must make him smile with his mouth pressed to me a lot. I guess I did.
He drew away and started unfastening his collar. He had a tie bar to remove. I stood there and watched him begin to reveal his tanned upper body, but instead of enjoying the show, I felt the anxiety creep back.
I touched Micah's arm, stopped him in the middle of undoing one of his cufflinks. "Stop for a minute." He turned puzzled eyes to me.
"You're nervous again," Nathaniel said. "Why?"
I shook my head, then looked across the bed. Jean-Claude was still across the bed, but he was leaning on one of the big wooden posts. His arms entwined around it as he watched us. His face was neutral, but I'd been further into his head tonight than ever, in one special area.
"Shit," I said.
"What?" Micah and Nathaniel asked together.
"I know what's wrong."
They both looked at me, but it was Jean-Claude that I looked at. "It's you," I said.
"I have seen your men nude before," he said in that pleasant neutral voice.
"We've been in bed all na**d and sweaty, Anita," Nathaniel said.
"Yes, but you've never had sex with him. I had sex with him."
"Jean-Claude has fed off me, Anita," Micah said, "has had more of my blood than yours."
I looked at Micah. "Are you saying having him take blood is the same thing as ha**ng s*x with him?"
He shrugged, and I watched his face shut down to the look he wore when he wasn't certain what look I wanted. "I've had sex that didn't feel as good as Jean-Claude's feedings."
"Then you were doing the sex wrong," I said.
He smiled. "I was young; I got better."
"Yes, you did," I said, and smiled back.
He kissed me, then moved back and gave me a searching look. He moved past me to put the first cufflink on the bedside table. He started on the other sleeve, his back to me. I glanced up and found that I wasn't the only one watching him.
Jean-Claude's neutral, beautiful face watched us all. We had been na**d and sweaty in a bed together. Hell, some nights the pile had included Asher and Jason. It just depended on who had fed whom last. So why was I suddenly bothered by Jean-Claude watching Micah take off his shirt?
I suddenly had a smart idea. I don't have that many of them, not about my own emotional life anyway. "I know what's wrong," I said again.
They all looked at me. I touched Micah's na**d back, but looked at Jean-Claude. "It was what we did tonight with Augustine."
Jean-Claude sat on the corner of the bed, one arm still wrapped around the bedpost. "What exactly are you referring to, ma petite? We did many things with Augustine tonight."
"I know that everyone thinks we're all snogging each other's brains out, but tonight was the first time I'd ever seen two men kiss. I've never even seen someone do..." I faltered. God, was I still such a baby? No, damn it, I was a grown-up. "I've never seen anal sex before, let alone between two men. Let alone between my lover and a stranger." I took in a big breath and let it out, and went to the edge of the bed, a little closer to Jean-Claude. "Am I making any sense?"
"You were disturbed by what you saw," he said.
"Wait," Nathaniel said. The wait turned me to him. He was propped up on the pillows, the sheet forgotten in his lap, so that he was barely covered at all, but his face showed he wasn't even thinking about it. "How did you feel when Jean-Claude kissed Auggie?"
I opened my mouth, then closed it, because I wasn't sure what the answer was. How had I felt? "I didn't mind it. It was... interesting." That wasn't true. I looked down at the bedspread and said, "No, I... it was interesting."
"Interesting bad, or interesting good?" Nathaniel said.
Without looking up, I answered, "Good."