He frowned, but finally whispered, "Yes."
"If I take you like this, it's rape, and I won't do it."
I watched the emotions struggle across his face. "Anita... I do not know how to break these soft chains. Once love was strong enough to break them, but without love, let me be covered in your silken chains. Tie me down, and let me drown in your sweet flesh." He moved in for a kiss as he said the last, and I had to pull back. I slid off the bed, away from him. I wanted to run screaming with frustration. I had not meant to do this. Fuck.
"If another master had bespelled Requiem, what would you do, ma petite?" Jean-Claude said.
I thought about it, frowning. "I would try to break the spell. I would use my necromancy and try to break the spell."
"But, I did it. I can't break my own spell, can I?"
"Why can you not?"
I thought about it again. "Because... well."
"It is not your necromancy that has bespelled him, ma petite, but your power through the vampire marks, through me. Use your necromancy to free him, as you used your ties to the wolf to free you from Marmee Noir."
It made sense, but... "I don't know."
He spoke softly in my head. "You broke Willie McCoy free of the Traveller when he had possessed Willie's body. You used your necromancy to drive him out."
Willie was one of our least powerful vampires. He was manager at the Laughing Corpse, our comedy club. The Traveller was one of the vampire council. He had come to town in "person," except that he traveled by jumping from body to body. He could use any vampire body that wasn't strong enough to keep him out. He had possessed Willie, and tried to use him to hurt me. I had used my blood and my tie to Willie to find him in the dark where the Traveller had hidden him. Find him and bring him back to himself.
I thought carefully, because I was still not that good at the mind-to-mind thing, "I'd accidentally raised Willie from his coffin during the day once. I already had a tie to him that I don't have to Requiem."
He whispered through my mind, "Through the ardeur you have a bond to him that you did not have with Willie."
"How can I use necromancy to break him free of the ardeur, if I'm counting on the ardeur to be his bond to me. That doesn't make any sense."
"Perhaps the logic is a bit circular, but what do you have to lose, ma petite?" He spoke aloud, finally. "Look at him."
I pressed as much of me against as much of Jean-Claude as I could, then turned and looked at Requiem. He watched us like a man who was dying of thirst, and was only inches away from a cool, soothing pool, but there was a glass wall between him and it. I finally realized something. "It's not just the ardeur he's craving. It's the blood. He's hurt and he needs blood."
Jean-Claude ran his hands up and down my back in soothing motions. "Oui, but the ardeur overrides the other thirst."
"I thought that wasn't possible," I said.
"I have seen it with Belle. I have seen her give ardeur to vampires while they neglected their blood hunger, to the point where, one night, they did not rise from their coffins."
"She did it on purpose," I said.
"She wished to see if the ardeur alone was enough to sustain other vampires. She had hoped to travel with us across Europe, but the marks of blood taking give us away. The ardeur leaves no trace."
I stared at Requiem. "Nothing physical."
"Oui, there are signs, but nothing the authorities would have recognized. Nothing that would have given away her plan."
"But it didn't work," I said.
"She could share her ardeur with others, so they could feed upon it. She could sustain herself with it for long periods, as can I, but unless the ardeur is truly your gift to own, then it does not work."
"The Traveller..." He stopped me with a hand on my mouth.
He spoke in my head, again, "Quietly, ma petite."
I thought, "You said, no mind-to-mind, that some of the other vamp masters might overhear us."
"They are still dead to the world, but the people in this room can hear us."
"You don't trust them?"
"I would not like to have it well known that you were able to force a member of the council to do anything."
He had a point. I thought, slowly, carefully, "The Traveller was taking blood from me when I called Willie. I called him with the blood."
"Then feed our Requiem."
I wasn't sure that was a good idea. "He's fed from me once; what if drinking my blood is part of the problem? Asher thinks that any vampire who feeds from me is drawn to me."
"You are very tasty, ma petite."
"It's not just that. It's something more."
"We want our vampires bound to us, ma petite, that is why we blood-oath them. We simply do not wish them bound to this level of slavishness."
I was close enough in his head to feel that he believed that. He did not like to see Requiem this bespelled. "You're almost as creeped out by this as I am, why? This strengthens our power base, right?"
"Perhaps, but I did not invite Requiem, or anyone, into my lands so I could enslave them. I wanted to give them shelter, not chains."
"Auggie said you were too sentimental for your own good sometimes."
Out loud he said, "Perhaps, but you have taught me that sentiment is not always a bad thing."
I stared up at that impossibly beautiful face, and felt love swell up inside me like a physical force. It filled my body, swelling upward until it made my chest ache, my throat tighten, and my eyes burn. It sounded so stupid. But I loved him. Loved all of him, but loved him more because loving me had made him better. That he would say that I had taught him about being sentimental made me want to cry. Richard reminded me at every turn that I was bloodthirsty and cold. If that were true, then I couldn't have taught Jean-Claude about sentimentality. You can't learn, if you don't have it to teach.
He kissed me. He kissed me softly, with one hand lost in the hair to the side of my face. He drew back and whispered, "I never thought to see that look upon your face, not for me."
"I love you," I said, and touched his hand where it lay against my face.
"I know that, but there are different kinds of love, ma petite, they are equally real, but..." He smiled, and said, "Such soft tenderness I thought you had reserved for others."
"What others?" I asked, because I couldn't leave it alone.
He gave me a chiding look, as if I knew the answer to the question, and I guess I did. I knew Richard was almost desperately jealous of Micah and Nathaniel, but for the first time I realized Jean-Claude was jealous, too. And jealousy always hurts. I was sorry I ever made him doubt how much I loved him. He would never hold my hand in a delivery room, or vacuum a floor, but within the parameters of his life, I could ask anything of him.
"I don't mean to interrupt this little lovefest," London said, in a tone of voice that said clearly he did want to interrupt, and maybe be cruel on top of it, "but could you try to free Requiem? Or did you not mean to free him, and it was all just talk?"
"London," Elinore said, with a warning in that single word.
"I am allowed my cynicism, Elinore. I have been disappointed too many times in too many different masters."
"Haven't we all," Wicked said.
Truth just nodded.
I frowned at all of them, and suddenly even cuddling with Jean-Claude wasn't quite as comforting. "Thanks guys, no performance anxiety here."
"We do not mean to make things more difficult for you," Truth said, "but like most vampires who have not spent their entire existence with one master, we have been ridden hard, and cruelly, by those who were supposed to take care of us."
"The idea of the feudal system is that the people at the top take care of the needs of those on the bottom, but I have seldom seen it work that way," Wicked said.
"Yeah," I said, "it's like trickle-down economics; it only works if the people at the top are really good, decent people. The system is only as good as the people in power."
The brothers nodded, as if I'd said a wise thing. Maybe I had.
I laid a kiss on Jean-Claude's bare chest, caressing the slicker skin of the cross-shaped burn mark. I drew away from him and went for the bed. I prayed as I walked toward Requiem. "Let him be free, but don't let me hurt him."