He nodded again. "But still, ma petite, there are many who would come eagerly to your body. You would not lack for food, if you were willing to feed on strangers."
I frowned at him.
He gave a small smile. "Do not frown so, ma petite, I know you do not do casual. In fact, you are the least casual person that I have ever met. So serious, you are, so deadly serious about everything."
"Is that a complaint?" I asked.
"No, but it is the truth."
I nodded, and put a hand to my throat to try to stop the blood from getting onto the silk robe. I looked for Remus. "Gauze, please, or this will have to be dry-cleaned."
Remus handed the gauze over without a word. I tried to stop the blood, but my pulse was pushing it out. I couldn't seem to calm myself enough to slow my pulse. So much for the meditation practice I'd been working on.
"What's your point?" I asked.
"That you need food that you know, and are comfortable with. A pomme de sang is never meant to be the only food for a vampire. It is more like food you always know is on hand. But it is assumed that the vampire will feed off many humans."
"Casually feed, you mean?"
"I don't do casual, sorry."
"True, and that is why the pomme de sang candidates are even more important for you than for a normal vampire."
"I'm not following you," I said.
"You must pick pommes de sang, and other food. You must choose enough food that you are not a danger to others."
He came around the bed so he could touch me, but I moved out of reach. "If you bespell Requiem again, then you cannot seek a pomme de sang among our visitors. Your food will have to be chosen even more carefully, and quietly, behind the scenes, from the very few masters I trust. But it would be better to do it now, while we have so many willing princesses for our Prince Charming. Because choose you must, ma petite, choose you must."
"I thought the whole pomme de sang choosing was a trick to make every-one behave. Nobody wants to piss off their prospective in-laws, that sort of thing."
"Anita"--my name, not good--"we must know how dangerous you are, before Augustine wakes for the day. If you can feed from Requiem and not bespell him, then you can free Augustine. But if Requiem is not free, then he, and Augustine, will be like humans that we have let go, but we know that we can call them to us at any time. We take away our mind spell to please the human police, but we know which ones are so deeply ours that we can still whisper through their dreams. We can still call them." He stood at the foot of the bed, letting me see how scared he was, but under that fear was eagerness. "If we can control this, then we are powerful beyond my wildest dreams. If we cannot control this, then we are dangerous beyond my deepest fears. If Requiem falls to the ardeur again, then we must cancel everything. I dare not even take you to the ballet among so many vampires."
"And if Requiem is okay?"
"Then it is controllable, incredibly powerful, but controllable. It is something our enemies and allies will fear and lust after, but they will not fear us too much, or lust too greatly. It is the difference between having a weapon that one can use, and one that you dare never use."
"Like nuclear bombs," I said.
He nodded. "Oui."
I frowned at him. "Define 'feed the ardeur'?"
He made a sound that was half tsk and half throat sound. "Feed, feed, ma petite. He is not ugly. Feed upon him, completely, no tasting, no holding back. Feed, and if he can withstand it, then the ballet tonight goes on, the party after."
I looked behind me to Requiem. He was trying for a neutral look, and failing. "Let me test my understanding: you want me to make love to another man, and feed the ardeur off him?"
"Yes," he said.
If Ronnie had been there, she'd have shot herself, or maybe shot me. I wasn't planning on keeping Requiem. This was supposed to be like a one-night stand. But I didn't believe it. I'd never had sex with anyone just once. "I can't do another permanent man in my life, Jean-Claude. I can't."
"Think of him as you think of Jason. What did he call himself, your f**k buddy?"
I raised my eyebrows at him, then turned and looked at Requiem. "Did you hear that?"
"Do you understand what the term means?"
"It means someone who is your friend, that you sometimes have sex with, but it is not a relationship. Though I prefer the term fib for it."
"Fib?" I made it a question.
"Friends in bed, fib."
"Prettier," I said. "Fine, you okay with just being my friend in bed?"
"Your heart speaks to others, Anita, I know this. My heart speaks to no one else. But this is not a matter of hearts, but a matter of flesh and blood." He held his hand out to me. "Come to me, Anita, please. I have thrown off your silken chains for this chance to be with you; do not deny me."
Maybe it was the way Requiem talked, all poetry and so emotional sounding. I was a modern girl; I wasn't used to it. Jean-Claude could talk pretty when he wanted to, but he was my serious sweetie, and hearing it from someone who was supposed to be casual just didn't ring right. It was as if the words didn't match the situation. How could you talk about silken chains if you weren't serious? Fuck buddies didn't say things like that, did they? Of course, my experience with the whole concept of f**k buddies was pretty limited, so maybe I was just wrong. Wrong about so many things.
I stared at Requiem, and felt nothing. He was pretty, but pretty had never been enough for me. I was almost perfectly happy in parts of my personal life, for the first time in a long time. I did not want to screw that up, and I'd learned that every new addition had a chance of blowing it all sky-high.
Requiem let his arm fall. "You simply do not want me, do you?" He sounded sad, and more lost than when I'd rolled him.
I don't know what I would have said, because the door opening saved me. Asher glided in, as if his feet weren't quite touching the ground under the golden satin robe. His hair spread out around the robe, putting the shiny cloth to shame by contrast. He glanced at the bed and flashed a wide smile. "Oh, good, I'm in time to watch."
I gave him an unfriendly look.
He shrugged and smiled, way too pleased with himself. "Elinore has filled me in on what's been happening in here. When I woke early, I realized that if I was awake then so was Meng Die."
That stopped us all, made us all turn to him. Remus actually stepped away from the wall as if he'd go running.
Asher waved him back. "She's still in the coffin, though she does want out. She's agreed to behave herself."
"She vowed she would kill me, or scar me so badly that Anita would not want me," Requiem said.
Asher went to Jean-Claude where he still stood by the bed. He hugged the other man from behind, laying his head on Jean-Claude's shoulder, so that his scarred cheek was bare to the light. "Yes, I was there when she made that particular threat. She looked at me, and said she'd forgotten that Anita liked scars." His face tried for neutral when he said it, but failed. A flash of anger flared through the paleness of his eyes, making them flicker for a second like icy sapphires caught in light.
Jean-Claude hugged his arm where it lay across his chest. He leaned his face against the top of Asher's hair, and said, "How did you get Meng Die to see reason?"
"She said, for such power as she felt when you did Augustine she would play virgin. There's always another lover, but this kind of power is rare."
I looked at the two of them standing there, the light and the dark, entwined. I realized in that moment that I had never seen Asher enter a room and simply go to Jean-Claude and touch him like that. I had never seen them hug, let alone more. They touched, but it was seldom this deliberate.
Did they touch like this when I wasn't around? Did they do more? Did I care? Maybe. But did it bother me more that they were lovers, or that they were doing it behind my back? Doing it without me?
Jean-Claude pulled away from him. Asher held on for a moment, then let him go with a flash of annoyance on his face, but he didn't fight to stay closer. He simply let Jean-Claude move a little closer to the bed, and me.
I wanted to say, You don't have to hide, but I wasn't sure about it. I wasn't sure how I'd feel watching them act all lovey-dovey around each other. But the thought that they couldn't touch in front of me bothered me, too. I sighed and hung my head. God, I was confused even in my own head without any help from anyone.