Nathaniel rubbed his arms and said, "Easy, Anita."
He was right. Because I couldn't shift, it was possible to call the beast, but impossible to finish the call, so it was like having a seizure. Not pleasant, and I'd ruin the dress. But I was tired of Graham. Tired of him in so many ways. The energy had made him look at me, and for the first time I saw him remember that I was something besides a piece of ass he wanted, and hadn't had, yet.
"I am the lupa of your pack, Graham, until Richard picks another mate." I stepped up, and Micah moved back so I could do it. I kept moving, pushing my power into that tall, muscular body, so that it was Graham who moved out of my way. "But I will always be Bolverk of the Thronnos Rokke Clan, Graham. I will always be the doer of evil deeds for your Ulfric, your wolf king. I am the executioner of bad little werewolves who don't remember their place. I think you've forgotten that."
I'd backed him up among the boxes in the storeroom. His head actually hit the lone light that hung from the ceiling. The light swung and filled the room with shadows, and darkness.
I could feel that part of me that had begun life as Richard's beast, but now, somehow, was mine, pacing just below the surface of my mind. It was as if my body were a cage in the zoo, and my beast paced the narrow confines of its prison. Paced, and did not like it. Trapped, so trapped, and so wanting to break free.
I staggered. Micah and Nathaniel caught me before Graham could reach me. Micah growled, "Don't touch her!"
Nathaniel said, "She's called wolf; if another wolf touches her right now, it will make it harder to control."
I clung to them, my two cats. I put my face against the warmth of Micah's neck, and drew in a deep breath of his scent. But underneath the warm scent of him, the sweetness of his cologne, was the nose-wrinkling musk of leopard. It helped chase back the wolf, helped me fight free before things got out of hand.
Graham dropped to his knees, head bowed. "Forgive me, lupa, I forgot myself."
"Size doesn't make you dominant, Graham, power does. You are submissive to me in our pack. You are always submissive to Micah, because he is the leader of another people that has a treaty with the wolves. You will treat him accordingly or it will not be as lupa that I talk to you next, but as Bolverk."
He looked up, startled, as if he hadn't expected me to say that last. He'd been playing, and I'd upped the stakes so high he didn't like the game anymore. Maybe if I hadn't been so tense about the maybe-baby I wouldn't have invoked Bolverk, or maybe I was just tired of Graham.
Once Nathaniel moved from pomme de sang to my animal to call, then I'd needed a new pomme de sang. As my animal to call he was bound metaphysically too close to be just food. Jean-Claude and some of the other vamps had put their heads together and finally realized that there was a reason that an animal to call, human servant, and pomme de sang are three separate jobs. The first two are so closely bound to you metaphysically that though they can feed you, it's a little like eating your own arm. You can do it, but it has a price. It fills your belly, but it also takes energy from other places. It was actually Elinore, one of the vamps we invited in from England to join our vampire kiss, who figured out why I was having to feed so often from all my men. Because almost all the men I was feeding the ardeur from were bound to me metaphysically--Jean-Claude as my master, Richard as my Ulfric and Jean-Claude's animal to call. We were a triumvirate of power, but we needed fuel from outside that triumvirate sometimes. I'd accidentally made another triumvirate of power with Nathaniel as my animal to call, and Damian as my vampire servant (another impossibility), and again they weren't a complete meal. So no matter how much I "fed" off any of them, I just didn't stay filled up. Asher, Jean-Claude's second-in-command, and our sweetie, was a full meal. Requiem would probably have been a full meal if I'd allowed myself to have full-blown intercourse with him. Byron had been emergency food, and frankly just wasn't enough my type to be a permanent part of my bedroom. He enjoyed sex with me, but he liked boys better. I don't mind not being someone's main squeeze, but being the wrong sex, that just made my head hurt.
Jason, Jean-Claude's pomme de sang, was great, but he couldn't feed both me and Jean-Claude every day. I needed to find someone else to fill the spot, or maybe a couple of someones, until I got more control of the ardeur.
Graham had been one of the local men that Jean-Claude had encouraged me to "interview" as my new pomme de sang. Jean-Claude thought that if I'd "interview" them a little more intimately, I'd have a new pomme by now. He'd called me stubborn. Asher had called me foolish, to refuse to sample such bounty. Maybe it was foolish. I hadn't told Ronnie that all the men in my life had given me a short list of other men to try out. She'd have freaked even worse than she already had, because if Louie had been that generous with her, she'd have been a happy camper. But Ronnie wasn't me, and what might have made her happy just seemed to confuse me.
Of all the men who had come to my bed, to sleep and cuddle, Graham had been the most pushy. He'd made it clear he wanted more from me than I wanted to give. Of course, if I hadn't been so stubborn, he'd be in the running for would-be daddy. The thought made me cold down to my toes. Let's hear it for not f**king everyone who bunks over.
"I beg forgiveness, lupa." His face still showed the shock of hearing me invoke Bolverk, but the words were not begging words. Not really. To beg forgiveness among the wolves meant only one thing--something closer and more intimate than I wanted from Graham--but if I refused the gesture, then it would be a breach between us, one that could grow and eventually harm Richard's pack. Shit.
"Then beg, Graham." My words didn't come out uncomfortable, they came out angry. Anger was always my shield. I was trying to learn other things to hide behind, but anger was still my tried and true, and for that moment, it worked.
He stood, and standing he towered over me. So broad, so muscled, so big, but there was fear in his face. Finally, he believed that I might, if he pissed me off enough, hurt him. That I might have the right to hurt him. It was not a bad thing to see fear on his face. He was overdue for it. We'd tried being nice, Micah, Nathaniel, and me, but some people won't take nice treatment. If a person won't take nice, there are always alternatives.
He could have used the submissive gesture to take me in his arms, but he did it the way it had been shown to me. He touched my face lightly with his fingers, just enough to steady himself. If we'd been in public he would have laid a very light kiss against my lips, but we weren't in public so it got to be more interesting. He leaned over me, and the prelude was too like a kiss for my comfort.
It made me want to back up, but I was dominant to him. A dominant does not back away from a submissive, no matter how much bigger he is. It's not about size and strength. It's about who's tougher, and no matter how big he was, Graham was not the toughest person in the room. Not even close.
He bent down, and down, his mouth hovering over mine so that I could feel his breath warm against my lips. I think even at the last second he thought about stealing the kiss I'd never allowed him, but he thought better of it. He did what he was supposed to do, though frankly the kiss would have been less embarrassing. In some ways, at least.
He was supposed to lick across my lower lip. It was a version of the gesture a submissive wolf uses toward a dominant. It's based on the food-begging behavior of wolf pups. But saying all that didn't change the fact that his fingers were gentle against my face, and his breath was warm against my mouth. The tip of his tongue touched my lip, and slid across it. Wet, gliding, sensual, wetter than the first real kiss should be. Wet, as if I'd taken a drink of wine and spilled just a little across my lower lip. Just enough so that I had to lick across my lip in an echo of what he had just done to me. As if I were drinking down the touch of his mouth.
He shivered, his breath trembling on the air. "That was nice."
"It was supposed to be you begging the forgiveness of your pack's lupa," I said, but my voice was a little shaky, and not nearly firm enough.
He gave a quick smile, the one that ruined the hip-tough-guy image, and made him look his age. Graham had yet to see twenty-five. "I do ask forgiveness, but it's still the most you've ever let me touch you."
I shook my head and pushed past him. Micah and Nathaniel followed me. Nathaniel was carrying the overnight bag that held, among other things, the pregnancy tests. I knew when he came out of the store with them why I'd put off buying them. It made the whole problem more real. Stupid, but it did.