I felt the bed move, and looked up to find Requiem getting off the bed. He stood carefully, showing how much he hurt, but he stood straight, his pale untouched back military straight like most of the older vampires. They came from a time when good posture was beaten into you, sometimes literally.
"Where are you going?" I asked.
He turned his whole body, rather than just his head, as if he knew that it would have hurt to do it otherwise. "I see how you watch Asher and Jean-Claude. I said that you do not want me, and you do not. It is plain in your face, in your lack of reaction to me. The irony cuts deep, Anita. So many women have wanted me over the centuries, but I did not want them. Now it is my turn to burn and be unquenched."
"Non," Jean-Claude said, "you are not going."
Requiem motioned with his good hand. "See her face, taste her lack of pulse. Her body does not respond to me. She does not even see me in that way."
"Anita sees you, or you'd have never gotten to feed the ardeur twice for her," Asher said. He walked wide around Jean-Claude, to climb onto the bed with me. There was a look in his face that I hadn't seen before. It was eager, almost angry, but not unhappy.
He touched my face, and his hand was cool to the touch. He hadn't fed. "I woke before noon today for the first time since I died." He leaned in toward me, as if for a kiss. "So much power running through my veins, even without blood. I feel wonderful." He stopped with his mouth just above mine, so close that it seemed wrong not to close the distance and kiss. So I did.
I meant it to be a good-morning kiss. Good, but not too sexual. But it takes two people to keep a kiss chaste and Asher wasn't feeling the least bit chaste.
He explored my mouth with lips and tongue. I melted into that kiss. I danced my tongue over the dainty points of his fangs, slid between them, deeper into his mouth. He pressed us together, hands urgent on my body. One hand undid the sash of my robe. The nude fronts of our bodies were suddenly touching. I didn't even know when he'd undone his own robe, only that the na**d press of our bodies drove my hands under his open robe to slide along the smooth skin of his back and bu**ocks. When I cupped the tight smoothness of his ass, he drew back enough to see my face. Whatever he saw there painted a fierce look across his own. His voice came harsh and breathless. "Let me feed."
I just said, "Yes."
He wrapped his hand in my hair, hard enough for it to hurt, just a little. That little bit of hurting made me gasp, but it wasn't just the pain. It was the feeling that with that one harsh grasp he could expose my neck and hold me exposed while he fed. I might never have admitted it aloud, but there was something about a little bit of force that just flat did it for me. Asher dug his hand deeper into my hair, jerked, brought a cry from me. It wasn't exactly a cry of pain.
His free hand found my wrists, held them behind my back, while my robe slipped down my shoulders. He stretched my head to the side so that I could no longer see his face. I saw us reflected in the full-length mirror on the other side of the room. My robe had fallen like a dark frame around the paleness of my body. The robe covered our hands, and not much more. It looked in the mirror like my hands were bound. The sight of it made me strain to be free, and Asher tightened his grip, bruising my wrists just a little, just enough to let me know I couldn't get away. I trusted him. Trusted him enough to let him trap me.
Movement in the mirror, and I saw Jean-Claude reflected there. His own robe was tight in place, but his eyes glowed with midnight blue fire.
"The audience is a little large for ma petite."
"She's not objecting," Asher said.
"And do you not find that strange?" Jean-Claude asked.
Asher seemed to struggle to think, then finally said, "I do not know. I can't seem to think with her here in my arms." He looked out into the room. "Their presence seems to make it harder to think."
"The guards, or just certain guards?" Jean-Claude asked.
"Remus"--and he looked to the far corner of the room--"and the new one."
"And what of Pepito? Do you sense him as strongly?"
Asher's body began to relax against me. I didn't want that. I wanted him to feed. Needed him to feed. "Don't stop," I said, "please, don't stop."
Asher looked down at me with those glowing eyes. He seemed to be searching my face for some sign. "You wish me to take you here with the guards watching?"
Of course I did. "Yes," I said, "yes, God, yes."
He looked at Jean-Claude. "Something is wrong."
"Wrong, and right," Jean-Claude said. He came to the edge of the bed. "You have possessed her, completely. You could do what you wished with her, but when she sobered, then she would never forgive you."
Asher turned back to me. Whatever he saw there calmed him, tore the light from his eyes. "Anita, are you in there?"
The question made no sense at first, then I said, "I am here, Asher, right here." Some part of me heard me say it, and thought I'd heard that phrase before. I closed my eyes, tried to not see Asher's face. It helped, to look away. I knew where I'd heard the words now: Requiem. I was echoing Requiem when I'd rolled his mind. Asher had rolled me before, but not like this, never like this.
Remembering Requiem helped me think, but closing my eyes helped more. I was too big a fish for Asher's gaze to keep, but staring into his eyes had lost me, myself. I'd stared into Augustine's eyes and not been swept away, so how did Asher's gaze rate higher than a couple of thousand years of Master of the City? I was supposed to be immune to vampire gaze. My necromancy and Jean-Claude's marks should have kept me safe.
Asher let go of my wrists. I felt him move back from me. I opened my eyes and reached for my robe, drawing it back around me. "What's happening?" I asked.
Jean-Claude spoke from beside the bed. "Are you yourself, ma petite?"
"I think so." I glanced up at Asher's face, but he turned away, the spill of golden hair hiding his face. "Look at me, Asher."
"I did not mean to bespell you with my gaze. I did not even know that my gaze could capture you."
"It's never been able to before," I said. I looked at Jean-Claude. "What is happening? I was as bespelled as Requiem before I freed him."
"Non, you were able to fight free, once you realized what had happened."
"Yes, but why did it happen in the first place? What just happened, and why? And don't avoid the question again, Jean-Claude, I mean it."
He made a gesture that was half bow and half shrug. Managing to make it both apology and an I-don't-know gesture.
"Not good enough. You do know what's going on."
"I know what I believe has happened."
"Fine, tell us." I slipped off the bed so I could tie the robe in place better.
"All our people gained from what we did last night with Augustine. Asher has been a master vampire for a very long time, but he has never had many of the master-level powers that are taken for granted among many of us."
"His gaze has gone up a few notches, I get that," I said.
Jean-Claude shook his head. "Now, ma petite, it is more than that. What is Asher's greatest vampiric ability?"
I thought about it for a second or two, then said, "His bite is orgasmic."
Jean-Claude gave a small smile. "That may be his most alluring power for you, ma petite, but it is not his most powerful."
I thought harder. "Fascination. He makes you fascinated with him, once he's fed off you using full power. Once he's made love to you, it's like a sort of love spell, but it works the way that love spells never work."
"I believe his ability to fascinate has grown in power."
I glanced at Asher, who was still sitting on the side of the bed, but carefully not looking at me. I shook my head and walked closer to him. "Look at me, Asher, please."
"Why?" he asked, in a very still voice, carefully not looking at me.
"I have to know if your gaze can just roll me, or if it happened because I don't protect myself against you."
He almost glanced at me then, but gave me only the perfection of his profile and a wave of shimmering hair. "What do you mean, you do not protect yourself from me?"
"I trust you, so I don't shield from you. I want your power to take me. I don't want to fight it. But before it was a choice. Now I need to see if it's still a choice, or if you've just outgrown me."