Chapter 52

I SAT ON the white couch with its brand-new bullet hole. Micah sat down beside me, and since he was naked, that was ... interesting. Uncomfortable, and sort of titillating all at the same time. He kept insisting on trying to talk to me, and I found it hard to keep eye contact, and that was embarrassing.

Bobby Lee and Cris stayed near me, hovering behind and to one side, because I made them move from right behind me. I just don't like armed people at my back, not unless I know them really well. The wererats were there to protect me. I believed they'd do the job, because Rafael told them to, but I still didn't want them standing armed at my back. Merle lounged near the fireplace, keeping an eye on Micah and the other bodyguards. Gil was actually hiding in the corner, or nearly--not a stable guy--the others milled around the room. Except for Asher.

He sat in the chair opposite the couch and watched us. He had shaken that glorious hair over his face so that only the perfect side was visible, and only one pale blue eye looked at us. His face showed nothing, but I could still feel the weight of his gaze, like a hand pushing. His face may have shown nothing, but he was giving us way too much attention.

I might have asked why, but Jean-Claude walked back through the gap in the drapes. I had to check my watch. Only twenty minutes had passed. I'd dated him off and on for nearly three years; a twenty-minute cleanup was nothing short of miraculous. Of course, his black hair was still wet and heavy; he hadn't taken time to blow-dry it. He was wearing one of my favorite robes, the black one with the black furred edging. The fur outlined a wonderful expanse of pale perfect chest. The robe was open enough that the cross-shaped burn scar showed, and as he glided into the room you caught glimpses of his upper stomach through the fur. The robe was very loosely tied, not at all the way he usually wore it.

He had that smile on his face that said he knew he looked wonderful, and he knew just what effect he had on me, then his gaze slid to Micah. I was close enough to see Micah's pulse speed up, jumping under the skin of his neck. He tried to meet Jean-Claude's eyes, but finally had to look down, and he blushed.

His reaction made my pulse speed up. I looked back at Jean-Claude gliding towards us, catching a glimpse of his pale feet under the black robe, against the white carpet. The look on his face was all for Micah. It made me go up on one knee, my butt against the arm of the couch. I felt oddly possessive, almost jealous, as if I should be defending Micah's honor. I'd never felt like this with Richard and Jean-Claude, but then, Jean-Claude had never looked at Richard in quite that way. Because Richard would have hurt him.

Micah had nearly killed Jean-Claude over an insult that Richard would not have fought back over, yet here he sat blushing, uncomfortable, but not angry.

Jean-Claude was standing in front of us, so close that the furred hem of the robe brushed Micah's bare leg. "Have you changed your mind, mon minet?"

Micah shook his head, then raised his face up to look at the vampire. There was both vulnerability and warning in that look. "I haven't changed my mind."

"Bon." Jean-Claude went to his knees in front of him. "You are powerful in your own right, and you are not my animal to call. I may not be able to cloud your mind and make this tasting a pleasure. You may be able to keep me out of your mind."

Micah nodded, thick hair falling around his face. "I understand."

"Do you have a preference on where the blood is taken from?"

"The neck hurts less," Micah said.

Jean-Claude raised an eyebrow. "You've done this before?"

Micah gave a smile that managed not to be happy. "I've done a lot of things before."

Jean-Claude raised both eyebrows at that and looked at me. I shrugged.

"Very well, mon minet." He stood in one graceful movement, swinging the robe around him like a dress, giving the slightest glimpse of bare legs as he stalked behind the couch. He stopped just behind Micah, putting a hand on either of his shoulders. He didn't caress, or squeeze, just rested his hands on that smooth, warm flesh for a moment.

"Get on with it," Merle said.

Micah turned his head to look at the other wereleopard. "Merle." One word, but it made the big man lean back harder on the fireplace, arms crossed over his chest, face sullen, a very unhappy bodyguard. But he did what he was told.

Jean-Claude slid one arm around the front of Micah's shoulders, across his very upper chest. He used his free hand to smooth Micah's hair back, exposing the side of his face and the long clean line of his throat. Micah moved his head a little to the side, giving Jean-Claude a better angle. The small movement was like a woman coming to her tiptoes for a kiss, a helpful movement.

"Maybe we could have a little privacy," I said, and it made both men look at me.

"As you like, ma petite." Everyone left except Merle, Bobby Lee, and Asher. They were the minimum that might be needed to keep us from killing each other. After what had just happened, I really couldn't work up a good argument for leaving us completely alone. When everyone had settled down, Jean-Claude turned back to Micah.

Jean-Claude's fingers stroked Micah's hair so that it fell behind his ear, exposing the entire side of his face, the shape of his ear. He pressed the back of Micah's head gently against his chest, drawing the exposed neck in an even longer line. Micah was utterly passive, eyes closed, face peaceful; only the pulse in his neck beating like a trapped thing gave lie to all that calmness.

Jean-Claude bent over him, mouth open, lips going back, but even this close I got only the barest glimpse of teeth. He bit down, sharp, sudden. Micah gasped, breath catching in his throat. Jean-Claude's grip tightened at Micah's head, his shoulders, pressing him in against his body. I could see the muscles in Jean-Claude's jaws working, his throat swallowing convulsively. One of them was making small noises low in his throat, and I wasn't sure who it was.

Jean-Claude reared back, bringing Micah with him, drawing him half over the couch. Micah cried out, his hands going to Jean-Claude's arm, holding on, as the vampire rocked his body backwards. Jean-Claude moved his hand from Micah's face to his waist, as if he knew the other man wouldn't move away now. He held Micah, arms across his chest and waist, Micah's hands on Jean-Claude's arm. He stretched Micah's body backwards as he'd lengthened the man's neck earlier, so that Micah's body showed in a long, clean line, back curved against Jean-Claude's body, so that both of them were bowed backwards.

I was left kneeling on the couch, staring up the line of Micah's nude body, seeing without doubt that what was happening was making his body happy. His face was slack with need, pleasure. His hands convulsed over Jean-Claude's arm, and he half-screamed, half-shouted, "God!"

Jean-Claude's body began to straighten up, slowly. He eased Micah back over the couch. He raised his mouth from Micah's neck; his eyes were drowning blue, sightless, inhuman. His lips were full, red, but not with spilled blood, red like someone who's been kissing too much. He released Micah slowly, letting his body slide against the back of the couch, until the wereleopard half-collapsed on his side. His head spilled into my lap, and I jumped. Micah raised his head, slowly, heavy. He propped himself up on one arm and turned unfocused eyes to me. His pupils were enormous, drowning black in the circle of his green-yellow eyes. I watched his pupils spiral downward to small dots so that the color almost overwhelmed them, like a vampire's eyes. I could feel him staring at me, the weight of his gaze like something pushing against me. He leaned in towards me, slowly, lips half-parted.

I stayed where I was, frozen, unsure what to do. It wasn't that he was any less lovely than he had been. It was just ... oh, hell, I didn't know what to do. I didn't even know what I wanted to do.

"Didn't you need to get Damian out of his coffin?" Asher's voice came dry, making me draw back from Micah.

Jean-Claude snarled at him, looking more inhuman than the entire time he was feeding.

Asher stood in one smooth motion, like a puppet pulled up by strings. "Fine, but if you are going to have sex, then I don't have to watch."

I stood, Micah's hands sliding down my body as I moved away from the couch. I faced Asher. "Look, I am so far over my comfort zone right now that I can't think, but I'll tell you one thing. I am not going to salve your male ego while the little voice in my brain is still screaming, run away, run away. So, put the attitude on ice, Asher, I can't deal with it right now."

He was suddenly vibrating with anger, his eyes like icy blue pools. "So sorry that my discomfort annoys you."

"Fuck you, Asher."

He was suddenly moving forward in a blur of speed. I backed up so fast that I fell against the couch. Micah caught me, or I'd have fallen to the floor. I had time to draw a gun, or a knife, but I didn't even try. Asher wasn't trying to hurt my body, just my feelings. He bent at the waist, looming over me and Micah, though I think that part was accidental. He put a hand on either side of us and leaned into my face, so close that I had to pull back to focus on those chilling blue eyes. "Don't offer things you're not willing to do, ma cherie, because that is annoying."

He stood up abruptly and stalked from the room.

Micah's voice was soft. "What was all that about?" His hands were still on my arms, half-holding me, protective.

I shook my head. "Ask Jean-Claude." I pushed to my feet. "I'm going to go get Damian."

"I will accompany you, ma petite."

"Fine." I started walking. I could feel them following me, feel them both behind me. I almost turned around to see if they were holding hands, but if they were, I wasn't ready to see it.

Bobby Lee trailed behind without a word. Smart man.

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