I pulled back from him. "What are you saying?"
"I'm saying we have choices, Anita. Choices that I didn't have the last time."
My pulse was in my throat, threatening to choke me. "Even if I am--" and it took me two tries to say--"pregnant, I'm not sure I'm keeping it. You understand that, right?" My chest was so tight I could barely breathe.
"It's your body," he said. "I respect that. I'm just saying that we have more than one way to go here, that's all. It has to be mostly your choice."
"Yes," Micah said, "you're the woman, and like it or not, the final choice has to be yours."
"Your body, your choice," Nathaniel said, "but we need a pregnancy test. We need to know."
"We're running late now," I said. "You guys need to shower and we have to go to Jean-Claude's place."
"Can you really just go to the cocktail party with this hanging over us?" Nathaniel asked.
"I have to."
He shook his head. "It's fashionable to be late, and once he knows why, Jean-Claude won't mind."
"But..." I said.
"He's right," Micah said, "or am I the only one that thinks I would go crazy smiling and nodding tonight, and not knowing?"
I hugged myself tighter. "But what if it's positive, what if..." I couldn't even finish it.
"Then we'll deal with it," Micah said.
"Whatever happens, Anita, it will be okay. I promise," Nathaniel said.
It was my turn to look into his face and realize how young he was. We were only seven years apart in age, but they could be an important seven years. He promised it would be all right, but some promises you can't keep no matter how hard you try.
That tight feeling climbed up my throat and spilled out my eyes. I started to cry, and couldn't stop it. Nathaniel wrapped his arms around me, held me against his body, and a moment later Micah moved in behind me. They both held me, while I cried my fear and confusion and anger at myself. Self-loathing didn't even begin to cover it.
When the crying slowed, and I could breathe without hiccuping, Nathaniel said, "I'll go out and get the test. Micah can shower while I'm gone. I should be back in time to clean up and we'll only be a little late."
I pushed myself away, enough to see his face. "But what if it's a yes, I mean how can I go to the party if it's a yes?"
Micah leaned over my shoulder, putting his face next to mine. "You don't want to know," he said, "because you'll find it easier to pretend tonight, if you don't know."
I nodded, my cheek sliding against his.
"I'll get the test," Nathaniel said, "and we'll use it later tonight, after the party. But we are getting one, or two, to take with us." For someone who was supposed to be a submissive his voice held no compromise. It was simple fact.
"What if someone finds it in our stuff?" I asked.
"Anita, you're going to have to tell Jean-Claude and Asher sometime," Nathaniel said.
"Only if it's positive," I said.
He gave me a look, but nodded. "Okay, only if it's positive."
Positive. It seemed like such the wrong word. If I was pregnant it was definitely a negative. A really big, scary negative.
AN HOUR AND a half later we were parked in the employee lot behind the Circus of the Damned. Nathaniel had helped me with my eye shadow. He could blend about a dozen different colors and make it look like I wasn't wearing anything, yet make my eyes look amazing. He did his own eyes for the stage, so he had the practice. My dress was actually a skirt outfit. Black, stiff material, so that the gun in its holster at the small of my back didn't show through the dark cloth. Nor did the knife in its spine sheath. My hair hid the hilt. I'd left my cross in the glove compartment, because the chances of no one "accidentally" using vamp powers on me tonight were between zero and nothing. Yeah, they were our "friends" but they were still Masters of the City, and I was the Executioner. Someone wouldn't be able to resist trying me out, just a little. Like someone who shakes your hand too hard. But this "handshake" could make the cross burn against my skin. I did not want another cross-shaped burn scar.
Both the men were in Italian-cut suits, tailored to their bodies. Nathaniel was in black with a lavender shirt shades paler than his eyes. His tie was rich, purple silk. He'd braided his hair, so that it gave the illusion that his hair was short, until you saw the braid waving around his ankles. His black leather shoes gleamed, the cuffed pants long enough to hide the fact that he wore no socks. Micah was in charcoal gray with a thin black pinstripe. His shirt was a green with yellow undertones, almost the same shade as his eyes. Depending on how the light hit the shirt it brought out either the green or the yellow of his eyes, so that the color of his eyes changed with almost every breath. It was a nice effect.
I was wearing jogging shoes, but there was a pair of four-inch black heels in the overnight bag. Four-inch spikes, with open heels, and laces that wrapped around my ankles. When Jean-Claude couldn't persuade me into a skimpier outfit for the night, we'd compromised with the totally impractical shoes. Though strangely, they weren't uncomfortable. They looked like they should have been, but they weren't. Either that, or I was getting better at walking in high heels. Jean-Claude's fault. I'd put the shoes on when we reached the bottom of the stairs, before we saw our guests.
I had a key to the new back door of the Circus of the Damned. No more waiting around for someone to let us inside. Yea!
I'd actually turned the key and felt the lock click over, when the door started opening inward. Security was pretty good at the Circus of late, since we'd made a deal with the local wererats. But it wasn't a wererat that opened the door; it was a werewolf.
Graham was tall enough and muscular enough to make it impossible to move through the door without brushing him. He stood for a moment looking down at me, at us, I guess, though it felt more personal than that. His perfectly straight black hair managed to fall decoratively over his brown eyes, and still be very, very short on the bottom, so the strong line of his neck was left bare and strangely tempting. His eyes tilted up at the edges, and I now knew that he had his Japanese mother's eyes and hair, but the rest of him seemed to have been copied from his ex-navy and very Nordic-looking father.
Graham was the only one of the lycanthropes I'd ever known to have his parents visit his place of work. Since his usual job was security at Guilty Pleasures, a vampire and furry strip club, that had been an interesting night.
I thought for a moment Graham would stay in the doorway and make me push past him. I think for a moment, so did he. I was almost sure he would have moved, given us room, but Micah stepped up, just a little in front of me. "Give us some room, Graham." He didn't say it mean, or even call any of that otherworldly energy. He even made it a little bit of a request, but Graham's face darkened just the same.
I watched Graham think about it. Think about not moving. He was already dressed in what all the security would be wearing tonight; black slacks, black T-shirt, though the shirt should probably have been a size larger. The one he was wearing looked like it was having trouble holding on, as if one flex too many and it would shred. Micah looked fragile beside him.
Micah let down some of his careful control. He let just a whisper of the power that lived inside him breathe through the night. My skin shivered with it. His voice came lower, deeper, an edge of growl to it. "We are Nimir-Raj and Nimir-Ra and you are not. Move."
"I am wolf and not leopard; you have no authority over me." He actually tensed, as if he were bracing for the fight.
I'd had enough. "But I have authority over you, Graham," I said.
His eyes did not move from Micah, as if I weren't a threat. There were so many reasons Graham had not made the leap from bodyguard to breakfast snack for me.
His ignoring me pissed me off, and the first thread of anger brought my own version of the beast. That warm, prickling thread of power breathed over my skin and danced around the men around me. I was not a true shapeshifter, because I couldn't shift, but I carried four different strains of lycanthropy in my bloodstream. If you catch one type of lycanthropy, it protects you from any other strain. You can't carry more than one disease at a time, but I did. A medical impossibility, but blood tests don't lie. I carried wolf, leopard, lion, and one mystery strain that the doctors couldn't identify running through my veins. That, and some metaphysical impossibilities, meant I had power to call. Power to use, up to a point.