"I thought if I could break my dream, it would free ma petite. It did not, but I was able to break Marmee's hold on my mind. That, in itself, is a surprising thing."
"Surprising doesn't begin to cover it," I said. "How did you break free?"
"How did you?" he asked.
"I called the only animal I have that isn't a cat. She only does cats. I saw her in that room, where her real body is. I saw her body jerk. My wolf bit her, for real, I think."
The two men held me tighter, pressing me between them, as if something about what I'd said scared them. I guess it was scary, but... "Am I missing something here, guys? You're suddenly both even more afraid."
"The ability to send a spirit animal through dream and harm another is rare among us."
"Among vampires, you mean," I said.
"Us, too," Micah said, "but..." Then he stopped abruptly.
"But what?" I asked. When he didn't answer, I pulled away from them both, so I could see his face. Jean-Claude, if he wanted to, could hide anything behind his face, but Micah wasn't that good. If I looked hard enough, I might get a hint.
He lowered his eyes, as if he knew what I was doing.
I touched his face, turned him to look at me. "What, Micah, what is it?"
"Chimera could invade your dreams."
"Could he hurt someone that way?"
"No"--then he seemed to think about it--"not when he took over my original pard, he couldn't. He had grown in power in the years I was with him, so maybe? Ask some of the dominants he took, who survived. Ask them if he could hurt them in their dreams."
"It is very rare for a lycanthrope to be able to invade dreams like a vampire," Jean-Claude said.
"Chimera was a rare kind of guy," I said, and just thinking about him scared me. He was dead, I'd killed him, but he had been one of the scarier things I'd ever fought.
Micah looked at me, and his face held such pain, as if whatever he was thinking was something so awful.
"What?" I asked.
"We learned last month that you carry lion lycanthropy. That had to come from your fight with Chimera."
I nodded. "He was in lionman form when he cut me up, yeah."
Micah licked his lips, as if there were any possibility in the hot, misty tub that his lips were dry. "What if you gained more from him than just lion lycanthropy?"
I frowned at him. "I'm not following."
"He means, ma petite, what if you gained not simply lycanthropy, but the kind of lycanthropy that Chimera held? He was not a werelion, he was a panwere. He held over a half-dozen types of lycanthropy, did he not?"
Micah nodded. "Leopard, lion, wolf, hyena, anaconda, bear, and then he took the cobra's leader. I think if he'd lived until next full moon, he would have been cobra, too."
"Chimera thought that once he hit his first full moon, the animals he had were all he got."
"I don't think that was true," Micah said.
"Are you sure it wasn't true?" I asked.
He shook his head. "No, but it would explain what's happening to you."
"What do you mean, what's happening to me?"
"Anita, you almost shifted tonight. Blood came out from under your nails. It was close."
"We're not sure I'm a panwere."
"No, but if you are, then you won't lose the leopards when you shift."
I shook my head. "I'll pick leopard, if I have to pick, thanks, just in case."
"I agree," he said, "but if you are a panwere, and you're close to shifting..." He stopped talking, then looked down.
"You are thinking what I am thinking, mon chat, and you know she will not like it," Jean-Claude said.
"What?" I asked.
Jean-Claude answered, "If you are to be a panwere, and there is a chance that you will gain new animals until your first change of shape, then we have the opportunity to gain great power."
"What are you talking about?"
"If you are going to shift, then wouldn't it make sense to add more types of lycanthropy?" Micah said.
"Make sense, no," I said, "no, it wouldn't make sense."
"Why not, ma petite? You called the lions, and they came to your call. You call the leopards and they come. You call wolves, and I begin to wonder if it is my power that attracts them to you, or something more."
"You're saying I should deliberately infect myself with other types of lycanthropy?"
They exchanged glances. "Put that way, no," Micah said.
"It is a thought, ma petite, merely a thought."
"Are you always thinking about how I can help you be more powerful?"
He sighed. "We must be powerful, and stable. We must show the other masters that we do not pose a threat to the council in Europe or anyone else."
"Powerful we can do, but stable--" I shrugged. "I don't know about that one."
"We aren't a threat to the council," Micah said, "but they may not believe that."
"They may not," Jean-Claude said.
There was a knock on the door. "Who is it?" Jean-Claude called.
"Is there something you need, Remus?"
"Claudia ordered me to check in, physically, with you for the shift change."
Jean-Claude glanced at us. He held an arm out. "Come to me, ma petite, let us make certain you are hidden from sight, then allow him to enter."
"I don't see why he needs to enter," I said.
"We will ask him." Jean-Claude took me into the curve of his shoulder. Micah moved in front of me. I wrapped my arms around Micah's shoulders, drawing him in against my br**sts. Yeah, the water covered me, but Remus was still one of the newer guards. I didn't know him well enough to be comfortable in the tub with him in the room.
"You may enter," Jean-Claude said.
The door opened; Remus stepped inside, but kept his hand on the doorknob, as if he were no happier about invading our bath than I was. His eyes were green-gray, nice eyes, if he'd ever look directly at you. He never did, or at least he never did at me, or Jean-Claude, or Micah, or Nathaniel. Why? Remus's face had been broken at some point, and been put back together. There was no one thing you could point to and say, "That's out of place," but the overall effect was lopsided, and looked almost uncomfortable, like a ceramic mask that had been glued back together wrong.
I couldn't make complete sense of Remus's face, because he wouldn't look at me. I wanted badly to tell him to just look at me, but I couldn't without raising a subject that was probably painful, and none of my business. So I let it go.
The rest of him was dressed in the usual bodyguard black. If there were injuries under the clothes, it didn't show when he moved. He moved like there were steel springs in the lean muscles of his body.
"Claudia ordered anyone who takes over to check with you in person, eye to eye. Her orders."
"Did she say why?" I asked, because it was a change.
He looked up then, gave that lopsided smile. I had a moment to see disbelief on his face, before he looked away. "She filled me in on what's been happening. She wants at least two guards in the room with you, at all times."
"I don't think so," I said.
"That's what I told her you'd say." He gave another glance at me, and I had a second of those green-gray eyes, angry, then down and away again. "With Micah with you, it's not a problem, but if it were only Jean-Claude--" he shrugged. "If you shift for the first time and it's wolf, then he may be able to control you, but if you shift to an animal he doesn't control, then what if you eat him?"
"He's a Master of the City; I think he can handle it."
"You don't get it," Remus said, and he came into the room a step, letting go of the doorknob. He finally looked at me, and held my gaze. Since I give absolute eye contact, it left us staring at each other. His eyes flinched, but he kept the gaze. It was a relief to be able to see his face straight on. "Jean-Claude is powerful, but in plain unarmed combat, shifters beat vampires. Unless they can mind-fuck us, we will win a fight."
I glanced at Jean-Claude to see how he felt about that. He gave the same lovely, blank face. I turned back to Remus. "So, what, you guys get to watch?"
"Do you think this makes me happy?" he said, and his power flared through the room like a hot wind. He closed his eyes, and counted to ten, or something, because the heat vanished. He gave calmer eyes to all of us, but he knew it was mostly me he had to persuade, so he stared at me. The angry defiance, was back in his eyes. "You have no idea how dangerous you could be when you first shift. You won't just be a lycanthrope--that's bad enough, but you'll be this uber-preternatural power. You'll be a shifter with powers over the dead. If you lose control of one power, maybe you'll lose control of all of them. Do you have any idea what could happen?"