I took one of the chunks of cheddar first. We'd found that protein worked best at keeping my energy up. Some of us just aren't meant to be vegetarians.
"Are you all right, Anita? You look very..." Micah seemed to give up on finding a word.
I smiled at him. "Thanks for the food, and I've got a two o'clock appointment with my gynecologist."
"Today?" he asked, "Is that wise?"
I nodded, picking up the first cup of coffee. I'd been good and eaten a piece of cheese first, but that wasn't what I'd really wanted. I took that first sip of hot, strong coffee. Later in the day I'd drown it in sugar and cream, maybe, but first thing, I wanted it black, naked, the way I used to drink all my coffee. I closed my eyes as I sipped, letting the warmth flow through me. Was I addicted to coffee? Probably, but as addictions go, it could have been worse.
I opened my eyes and looked at him. "Good coffee."
He smiled. "I'm glad you're enjoying it, but by two we'll have most of the vampires awake and moving around down here. We'll have daywalking visitors, too."
I nodded, and took a smaller sip this time. "I know." I told Micah what the doctor had told me.
He blinked at me, that long slow blink that I used sometimes when I was trying to process too much information too quickly. "You have to go."
"I know," I said. I sat down on the edge of the bed, and made myself take a bite of croissant. The croissant was good, soft and buttery, but I wasn't hungry. I wanted the coffee, but the rest of it I was eating because I had to. Eating to keep everybody alive and well. I'd never been a big breakfast eater, but today I think I was just too nervous. Fine, too scared.
"I'll go with you, as boyfriend and leopard."
I nodded. "Nathaniel probably won't be back in human form by then, I know."
"You know that Richard had arranged today off from his job."
I nodded. "He arranged a substitute."
"He's going to want to go, you know he will."
I nodded. "Probably."
"He can be your wolf," Micah said.
Someone cleared his throat. Remus was closer to the bed than I remembered. "I couldn't help overhearing."
"I'll have to have at least two guards with me, so you needed to know anyway."
He nodded. "Good, but Anita, from what Claudia told me, Richard wouldn't let you bring his beast. What good is his wolf, if he won't let you bring it?"
I nodded. "Point, but he'll still want to go."
"How about if I make sure one of the guards is a wolf?" Remus said.
"Do it quietly."
"I'll make sure Richard doesn't know," Remus said. "Though maybe he'll come through."
I shook my head. "If he wouldn't change here in the underground, then he is so not going to want to change in the middle of St. John's maternity ward."
"Can't say that any of us would want to; it's a good way to get the cops called on you," Remus said.
I nodded. "I know, and I will do my damn level best to hold my shit together, but I'm scared, and it's going to be stressful."
"You need a lion. The new guy isn't going to be in human form in time for the appointment," Remus said.
"Didn't someone mention that Joseph is bringing some of his lions by today so I can pick someone?"
"We need to call him, and see how early he can be here," I said. I'd made myself finish the croissant, and one cup of coffee was gone. I took the lid off the second cup, and leaned back against the headboard. I had some food in me now, so I could allow myself to sip this cup without ruining it with food.
"I'll check." He pulled a tiny folding cell phone from somewhere on his person, and stepped away from the bed to give us some privacy. It was illusionary privacy, because he would hear anything we said, but I appreciated the effort.
Micah was wearing a man's white dress shirt unbuttoned around the tan of his upper body. The sleeves were buttoned tight, but he wore it more like a jacket than a shirt. The jeans had started life black, but were now sort of gray. When he curled up on the bed beside me, his feet were bare. "You're dressed in clothes you wouldn't mind shifting in," I said.
He nodded. He'd pulled his hair back in a ponytail, but missed a few curls, so they framed his face here and there. He looked very winsome, except for his eyes, which were way too serious for comfort.
"You think I'm going to have another"--I waffled my hand back and forth--"attack."
He smiled, but it didn't quite reach his eyes. "Let's just say, I'm prepared."
I drank my coffee a little faster, because it was cooling. "Have I eaten enough?"
"No," he said softly.
I hung my head. "My stomach feels like a hard knot today."
"Either one more croissant, or a whole piece of fruit, or all the cheese."
I finished the coffee, and reached for the bread. When you didn't want to eat, bread was less objectionable. I started nibbling at it.
"Jean-Claude needs to know about the appointment."
"I could tell him."
I frowned at him. "You don't trust me to do it."
He sat up, raising his hands. "I will do whatever will make this easier for you, Anita, but he needs to know as soon as possible that you are going to take his human servant, his animal to call, and at least two or three blood donors with you this afternoon."
I tossed the half-eaten croissant back on the tray. "If there is another way to do this, tell me, and I'll do it."
"I didn't say that. All I said was that Jean-Claude needs to know."
"Then go tell him," I said, and the first flare of anger came.
He didn't give me hurt eyes, he gave me careful eyes. He tried to hold my hands, and I jerked away. "If you hold me, I'm going to fall apart."
He pulled back. "No one would blame you if you fell apart."
He sighed. "You always have to be so strong."
I nodded. "Yeah, I do."
He slipped off the bed to stand beside it, gazing at me. I didn't want him standing there looking scrumptious. I wanted to be angry, and I always had trouble being angry when he looked cute. Hell, I had trouble keeping any fight going with any of the men in my life; all they had to do was strip, and they usually won. It was true, and that pissed me off, too.
"Anger is a luxury, Anita."
I screamed, full-throated, deep and loud. I screamed until it echoed off the walls. I screamed until the door opened and more guards poured in. I yelled at them, "Get out, get the f**k out!"
They turned in a black-shirted mass to Remus. He motioned them out, but he kept two of them, so I was back to four guards. I guess I couldn't blame him.
"Tell Jean-Claude, and send Requiem to me." My voice sounded deeper, thicker.
"If you comfort me, I'm going to lose it." I looked up at him. "Please, Micah, please, just do what I ask."
"I'll talk to Jean-Claude, but are you sure about Requiem?"
"You mean am I sure I want to feed the ardeur on him?"
"No, I'm absolutely sure I don't want to feed on him, but Jean-Claude and I talked. If I feed on Requiem and he's mind-fucked again, then I'm too dangerous for the other pomme de sang candidates. I need to feed on Requiem before Auggie rises for the day. Because, if I truly freed Requiem's mind from the ardeur, then we may be able to use the same technique to free Auggie of us."
"A lot of ifs and maybes," he said.
"And maybe I can heal Requiem while I feed. I seem to heal during metaphysical sex, with or without intercourse, sometimes. Meng Die's little temper tantrum is not going to impress the visiting masters, and we can't hide it if he's as hurt as he is now."
"You could feed off someone else, someone who's already one of your sweeties."
"You mean, I don't need another shock for the day," I said, and I started to laugh, but it ended in a sob that I bit my lip to keep inside. Panic was eating at me, eating holes in all my bones and organs, so that I was getting more and more fragile, and when I needed it most, there'd be nothing there to use; there'd be nothing but the fear.
I whispered, because I didn't trust my voice any louder. I was either going to start screaming again, or crying. I didn't want to do either. "Jean-Claude thinks Requiem's power can overcome my reluctance. I have to feed the ardeur, and I so don't want to. If Requiem's power can make me want him, then send him, because right now, I don't want anyone. I just want to be left the f**k alone."