"Oui, ma petite, I believe that is part of your immense anger toward each other."
"He's right, I'm trying to make him into something he's not, and he's trying to do the same to me. Shit."
"What, ma petite?"
"I hate being this slow about something that feels so obvious."
"It is only obvious once you have thought of it," he said.
"I'm not sure that makes sense, but okay, fine. I'm not saying I'll like hearing it, but tell me why you're so worried about Asher using his gaze on me."
"I'll answer this one," Asher said. He came to me, his robe still open over his body. It took more concentration than I'd have admitted out loud to give him eye contact and not look lower. "If I can capture you with my gaze, we are both afraid you will exile me from your bed. Your bed, and Jean-Claude's."
"I'm not in charge of Jean-Claude's bed. You and he sleep together in your bed whenever I sleep by day in his bed."
The two men exchanged a look I couldn't read. I touched Asher's arm, brought his attention back to me. "What is it?"
He looked down at me, using all that gold hair to cover the scarred side of his face. He didn't usually hide from me anymore. "What do you think that Jean-Claude and I do in my bed when you are asleep in this one?"
I frowned, then couldn't quite meet his entirely too-frank gaze. Vampire powers didn't make me look away, embarrassment did. "You're right, I don't want honesty, I just think I do."
"You are blushing," Asher said, and he gave a delighted laugh. "You think we are lovers, don't you?"
I was blushing so hard I was dizzy, and I felt like he was making fun of me. So I got angry. I crossed my arms over my stomach, and said, "Yeah."
Asher looked at Jean-Claude. "She believes what most believe of us."
I finally looked at Jean-Claude. His face was very empty. I had to lick my suddenly dry lips to say, "Are you saying that you're not doing it, when I'm not around?"
"All the touch I am allowed is when you are with us," Asher said, and it was his turn to sound angry. But his anger had warmth to it, to fill his voice.
I kept staring at Jean-Claude.
"You do not believe us?" Jean-Claude asked.
"It's not that, it's..."I tried to put it into words. Finally, I said, "How could you be so close to him and keep turning him down?"
"Thank you for that," Asher said.
"And what would you have done, ma petite, if you had found us in an embrace?"
"I... I don't know. I guess it depends on what you mean by embrace."
"Sex, ma petite, sex."
I opened my mouth, closed it, and didn't know what to say. "I don't know."
"I do. You would have stormed away. You would have abandoned my bed, damaged our power base, the triumvirate. You might have run to our so-conservative Richard, or left us both again. So shocked you would have been, so unready to conceive of such things."
"Maybe, but I didn't freak about you and Augustine."
"You were involved. We shared him. If you had come upon the two of us alone, you would have taken it differently."
"Well, yeah, he's a stranger for one thing."
"Wait," Asher said, "are you saying that you would share Jean-Claude with me?"
"We share each other now."
He shook his head. "We share you, Anita, we barely touch each other."
"Do not do this tonight, Asher. I ask this as your friend, and as your master. When our guests are gone, then we will continue this discussion."
"Your word on that," Asher said.
I nodded. "When we're not ass-deep in alligators, and I've had a few days to digest the news."
"Is this news to you, that I want him as my lover?" Asher asked.
I shook my head. "Truthfully, I thought you guys were doing it like bunnies behind my back. You know, the whole don't ask, don't tell policy. It never occurred to me that all the touching you did was with me."
"I thought you would see it as cheating," Jean-Claude said.
"With another woman, yeah, but I don't have the same equipment. I mean if guys do it for you, I don't have those parts. But it wasn't guys I thought I was sharing you with, it was Asher. He's not just one of the guys to us."
"Are you saying that Asher is your exception to the rule?"
"I'm not sure I had a rule, but I won't share you casually with anyone, any more than I'd expect you to share me. But I assumed that you and Asher were lovers, without me." There, that was the truth.
"Why did you assume it?"
I motioned at Asher. "Look at him. Look at the way he watches you."
Asher laughed. "Are you saying I am so adorable, how could anyone turn me down?"
I nodded. "Yeah, I am."
His face softened, and he came to stand beside me. "Oh, Anita, you make my heart young again."
I took his hand in mine. "And sometimes you make me feel like such a baby."
"That I can take you both to bed, but I assumed you were doing each other behind my back, to save my sensibilities. It was a neat, clean solution, I thought. I didn't have to decide how I felt about you two being a couple, but we all got what we needed. Instead, Jean-Claude has been a very, very good boy, and you've felt neglected."
"Rejected," he said, and gave Jean-Claude a dark look.
I touched his face, turned him back to face me. "That was my fault, not his. He's right, Asher. You know me. I can ignore the elephant in the living room until I'm eyeball-deep in shit, but if you make me look at something before it's that big, sometimes I take it badly. If I'd walked in on you guys together, I'd have used it as an excuse to run for the hills. Jean-Claude's right about that."
"And now?" he asked.
"I'm not sure. That's the truth. Before I saw Jean-Claude kiss Auggie last night, before we shared him, I would have just said no. Not only no, but hell no." I looked down, not sure if I was embarrassed, unhappy, or just out of my depth. "But I want everyone that I love to be happy. I know that. I want us all to be happy, and to stop running." I touched my stomach, so nice and flat with all the exercise. "To stop pretending that we're something we're not." I looked up at him. "No one asked you how you feel about the baby thing. I mean, you have as good a chance at it as Jean-Claude. Being the father, I mean."
He smiled at me. "I am a selfish clod." He dropped to his knees, gazing up at me. "I wake power drunk, and forget you have been through so very much in the last few hours. Forgive me."
I shook my head. "No, I've been ignoring your problem for a lot longer."
"I am in the bed of two people I love, there is no problem. I am luckier, and happier, than I ever dreamed to be again."
He put his fingertips against my mouth. "Hush. You ask how I feel about your pregnancy. How could I be anything but happy about the possibility of a little you, or Jean-Claude, coming into our lives? Julianna regretted that she never gave me a child." He said her name without aching sadness, for the very first time.
I kissed his fingers and moved his hand so I could say, "You're happy about the pregnancy."
"Not happy, or unhappy, but I am very happy with you right now. I am very proud to call you my lover. You truly want us all to be happy, Anita. You have no idea how rare it is for two people in a relationship to truly want the happiness of the other, but you juggle many hearts and seek happiness for all. It is a rare gift, this desire."
"How could you love someone and not want them to be happy?"
He smiled up at me, his hair falling back. He smiled broad enough to flash fangs, which he did rarely. A smile this broad stretched the scars, made him notice how tight the skin was, but it was the effect on others that made him not do it, or the perceived effect on others. I remembered this smile from centuries before I was born. It was a smile he had before Julianna died, before holy water was trailed over him to try to chase the devil out. I smiled back, because it eased something in my heart to see that smile again. I was almost certain that the feeling of ease was Jean-Claude's and not mine, but it felt real.
Asher hugged me, putting his face against my stomach. He went very still, as if he were listening. I stroked his hair, always a surprise, because it was soft and foamy, not as soft as Jean-Claude's, but as soft as mine. Hair that looked like spun gold shouldn't be that soft, should it?