He froze against me, but he was still touching me. He simply stopped kissing and licking me. I guess I'd have to be careful how I worded things. I had to find Requiem. Not just a vampire, or the dead. I needed him, his individual self. I'd done something similar once in the Church of Eternal Life, when the police and I were searching for a vampire murder suspect. I'd sought the flavor of one person, and that had been someone I hadn't known. I knew Requiem. I was holding him.
I wrapped my arms around him, moved all that thick hair to one side, so I could bury my face in the bend of his neck. I breathed in the scent of his skin. He didn't smell warm. I could smell his cologne, the soap he used, his shampoo, but underneath all of it was the faint smell of death. Not of corpses and rot, because vampires did not do that, but the scent of long-closed rooms, vaguely like the smell of snakes. Musty, not warm, nothing that you could cuddle. Yet his arms were strong, the edges of his wounds on the one arm catching in the silk of my robe. He was real, but he wasn't exactly alive.
I held him close, and pushed my necromancy into the body I held. Pushed it carefully, just into this one body, nowhere else. I searched not for this befuddled stranger but for that spark that was truly Requiem. I found him, in the dark, inside himself. He wasn't afraid, but softly confused, lost. I called to him. I felt him look up, hear me, but he could not come. I could see his prison, touch the door, gaze at him through the bars, but I did not have the key. Then I realized what we needed. Blood. No matter what type of undead you're dealing with, blood is usually the key.
I rose up from his neck, and swept my own hair to the side. "Feed, Requiem, feed from me."
He showed me a face with eyes wide with shock, as if he couldn't believe I would let him do it, but he didn't ask me to repeat the order. His hand wrapped in my hair, his other hand at my back. He pressed me tight against him, holding my neck to the side, and he brought me down to him, for he was sitting and I kneeling. He brought my neck down to his mouth, the way you would do for a kiss. He could not roll me with his eyes, and he didn't try. There would be nothing to change the pain to pleasure. I felt him tense, and I tried to relaxed, but you never relax. You tense up, just a bit, and it hurts more.
He bit me, fangs sinking in, pain sharp enough to make me push at his shoulders, as I tried to get away. I just couldn't take that much pain out of the box without pushing against it. I felt him begin to drink me down, his throat convulsing, swallowing. Something that could be so erotic, and it just f**king hurt like this.
But it was just like beheading a chicken to raise a zombie, or spreading blood on a vampire's lips to heal him. It was blood with a purpose, and I sent my magic down with that blood. I used it, to call Requiem. Used it to find him in the dark, and set him free.
He drew back from my throat, gasping, as if he'd been running. There was blood on his lower lip as he stared up at me. One moment he still looked dazed, the next he spilled into his eyes. They flared with blue fire, with that hint of turquoise in the center. His power danced over my skin like a cold, prickling breeze.
"I am here, Anita. You have cleared my mind. What would you have of me?"
I moved back from his arms, touching my neck, and came away with blood. Remus was already sending the young guard Cisco to the bathroom for gauze and tape.
"I wanted you free, and yourself. We've got that."
He shook his head, and winced, as if only now did the bruises hurt. He leaned back against the mounded pillows, favoring his stomach and chest, holding his injured arm carefully. "It was like being on drugs; nothing hurt that badly, when you touched me. I am free, but everything hurts."
"Isn't that always the way," I said, but I smiled. He was himself again.
I looked around at the other vampires. I looked at Elinore still gripping the back of her chair. I felt her. Felt her as if she were a flavor of ice cream that I could have put in a cone and licked. Mostly vanilla, but with chocolate chips. I looked at London. Not vanilla, definitely something darker, chunkier, full of hard crunchy bits. Wicked filled my mind like icing, chocolate icing to spread on skin and lick clean. I shook my head at the imagery, and looked for Truth, still huddling by the fireplace. Something fresh and clean, strawberries, maybe, strawberry ice cream to melt down the skin, and be licked away, so you could suck the cold around the ni**les...
"Anita"--and it was Jean-Claude's voice--"Anita, you must stop this."
He never called me Anita. It made me look at him. "Why can't I taste you?" I asked.
"Because I am your master, and not a toy for your power."
The look on his face frightened me, because he was frightened. I licked dry lips, and said, "I guess this answers the question. I don't touch anyone else's vampires."
"No," he said, "no." He was at the edge of the bed. "Now shut it down."
It took me a second to realize what he meant. My necromancy, I needed to turn it off again. I closed my eyes, and drew it back in. I drew in tight and tighter, closed and squeezed that metaphysical fist tight and hard. But it was like the hand wasn't big enough to hold it all now. I could squeeze it down, but it leaked through as if the fingers were trying to hold sand. No, not true. I didn't want to stop. It felt so good to wander through the vampires, better than playing with zombies. The moment I realized I was the one letting the fist leak, I was able to shut it down. It almost hurt, but I did it. I could do it. But I wondered if there would come a day when there was so much power that I wouldn't be able to shut it down completely? I needed to talk to my magical mentor, Marianne, about that, sooner rather than later.
I opened my eyes and said, "How's that?"
"Good," he said, but his voice was not happy.
"That was frightening," Elinore said. "I felt your power, as if you were licking along my skin, my..." She shivered, not in a happy way.
"Sorry," I said.
"You could roll me," London said, "roll me the way I can roll a human. You could, I felt it."
"You must undo to my brother what you have done to him," Wicked said, "or bind me as you bind him."
I nodded. "We'll discuss it later, okay? I've got a full plate today."
"You promised me," Wicked said.
I sighed. "Look, I didn't know that taking blood from me instead of Jean-Claude would be that big a deal, okay? I'm doing the best I can here, Wicked. Truth was dying when I offered him blood. I saved his life, if I remember correctly, so stop being so pissy about it." I was getting angry, because I felt guilty, and that almost always led to anger for me.
"Anita can work on your problem another day," Requiem said. "Today is mine."
Something in the way he said it made me look at him. He lay like he hurt, but the look on his face wasn't about pain. It was almost anticipatory.
"What are you thinking, Requiem?" I asked.
"That you still need to feed the ardeur in front of all these good people."
I shook my head. "I don't think that's a good idea."
"The test is to see what will happen if you feed the ardeur in front of our visitors. You know not to use your necromancy in front of them now, but this question has not been decided."
I nodded. "Yeah, I think it has."
"I'm with Anita on this one," London said, "no ardeur in front of the guests. No anything much in front of the other masters."
"That is not your call to make," Elinore said.
"Do you think I'm wrong?" he asked.
No one answered. So I did. "No, you're not wrong. My powers are too unpredictable to use in public right now. I just have to shield like a son of a bitch."
"Perhaps you can control the necromancy to that degree, but the ardeur is not broken to bit and bridle, yet," Requiem said.
"She just freed you," Wicked said. "How can you want her to enslave you again?"
"I don't want to be enslaved, but I do want her to feed. I want it more than I've wanted anything in a very long time."
I looked at Jean-Claude. "Is he free, or not?"
"You called me back so I could choose, Anita."
I looked at Requiem. "I don't understand."
"You said you would never feed the ardeur on me again, unless I broke free and could choose. You said it would be like rape, unless I could choose."
"I wasn't sure you'd remember everything I said."