HE DIDNT MOVE, buTHE said, Do you wake all your lovers up at gunpoint? His voice seemed deeper than it had last night. He coughed to clear his throat. It made me jump, not good when holding a gun. I fought to calm my body. If I shot him, I wanted it to be on purpose, not because I flinched. But I was afraid to take my finger off the trigger, because he was a lycanthrope, and they were just that bloody fast.
I remember you fighting with Jason and me, I said, gun still pointed at him.
He frowned. Yeah, but the fight with your wolf was about you, being your mate. There was plenty of you to go around last night.
Thanks for the phrasing, I said.
He smiled. Sorry, I didnt mean to offend a woman holding a gun on me. But my point is that theres no reason to fight when you share yourself so well. Besides, I got to go first. The smile filled his eyes with a dark light. Not otherworldly, just a man looking at a naked woman whom hes fucked. That possessive, sure-well-get-to-do-it-again look. Crispin hadnt earned that look, not yet.
My wounded arm was beginning to try to twitch. I fought to keep my aim steady. How badly was I hurt?
If youre not going to shoot me, may I get up and use the bathroom?
You dont believe Ill shoot you, do you?
I dont remember everything from last night, which means Ive been rolled. You rolled my mind just like any other vampire. Not that Im complaining, the sex was mind-blowing, but you did mind fuck me. Legally, its rape. You raped me, not the other way around, Anita. I mean, I would have said yes, but a man likes to be asked. I should be the angry one, not you.
I wanted to argue with his logic, but couldnt. I did the one thing I could do: I lowered the gun. My arm was going to make me do it soon anyway.
Does this mean its safe to go to the bathroom? he asked.
Yes, I said.
Great. He got up, and it was interesting to see him moving a little stiffly, too. When the sex has been rough enough for the lycanthropes to be sore, us humans are going to be hurt.
There were scratches on his back, and they didnt look like claw marks. Had I done that? And if I had, why hadnt they healed when he shifted back? Only damage by silver or another lycanthrope could survive the shift of forms for the most part. So why would my nail marks still be on his body?
I pushed the thought away. Id worry about it later. I had way more immediate problems to worry about. What had Crispin said? That Id mind-fucked him just like any other vampire. Had I done that? Had the ardeur done that?
Water started running in the bathroom.
I needed Jean-Claude. I reached out to him down that long metaphysical cord that bound us and foundnothing. I could not sense him. It was like some huge, white blankness where he should have been for me.
Fear came back in a rush of near panic. I started shivering and couldnt stop. I fought the urge to scream at Jason to wake up and tell me if he could sense Jean-Claude. Was it just me, or was something wrong with Jean-Claude? I had a cell phone once. Where was it? When metaphysics fails, you can always try technology.
I started digging through the ruined clothes with the one empty hand I had. Where the hell would the cell phone be? Had I had it with me last night? Or was it in the luggage still? I couldnt remember. Damn it, what was wrong with me?
The water stopped running in the bathroom. Crispin opened the door and came out. Did you lose something?
Just my mind, I thought. Out loud I said, My cell phone.
He frowned, thinking. I remember weapons, but not a phone.
I thought you didnt remember last night.
I remember parts, so youre right, maybe there was a phone. Ill help you look for it. He came to kneel by me. It was too close after last night, and we were both too nude for comfort, but I needed the help. Was it silly not to want to be this close to him naked? Silly or not, it made me uncomfortable. Did he really think Id rolled him on purpose? Did he really think Id done the equivalent of metaphysical rape? Hed said it, buTHE didnt seem that upset by it. Id threatened to kill people for less; hell, I had killed people for less.
You know, you could look more effectively if you had both hands free, Crispin said.
The gun makes me feel better, I said.
And the cross in the same hand? he asked.
The chain broke.
He stopped rummaging through the clothes to look thoughtful again. You jerked it off and threw it away.
I wouldnt do that.
He shrugged, then winced. You did it. Then he looked at me a little harder. Those strange blue eyes studied me. You dont remember everything, do you?
I debated on what to admit, but finally went for the truth. I remember it breaking, but not who did it.
You did it, and that charm of yours, too.
Charm, I said, what charm?
He looked at my face like he was trying to see through me, then finally said, This charm. He held his left arm out to me. At first I didnt understand, and then I saw the burn in his arm. It was a circle with an animal in the middle of it, done a little soft the way brands get most of the time. I peered at it, getting closer to the skin of his arm. I thought at first it was Cerberus, the dog that guarded Hades in Greek myth, but the animal had five heads. Cerberus only had three. Then I saw, or thought I saw, stripes on the animal. It was a tiger, a tiger with five heads.
Hed said it was my charm that had done it. I stared at the mark on his arm and didnt know whaTHE was talking about. I reached out toward the brand, stopping just short of touching it. Something stirred in my mind. Was it a memory? Was he right? Had I done this?
I tried to remember. Tried to bring that nebulous thought to the front of my head, but it was like this darkness. There was nothing there to remember. Crispin was a stranger to me. Was he lying? I needed Jason to wake up. I needed someone I knew and trusted. Shit. Something was wrong with me. That much I knew. But I didnt know what was wrong, or why I couldnt figure anything out. It waswrong, too. The fact that I couldnt figure out what was wrong. That was a clue. I knew it was, but it was as if my brain wouldnt, or couldnt, make sense of it.
Crispin growled low in his bare chest. I smell wolves.
A second later I felt the energy of them coming down the hallway, but I knew the taste of this energy. I reached out, and could suddenly smell forest, the rich earth of leaves, and the comfort of pine. I had a tactile moment of paws on the leaves and earth of the forest floor. I smelled the harsh, sweet musk of wolf, so thick that it tightened things low in my body, in a good way. Only one werewolf could make me react like that. But it couldnt be him. He would never have risked coming here with other wolves. He would never have risked this much potential media. He was in deep cover, our Ulfric, and coming here like this was not the way to stay hidden.
But impossibly, I felt him out there in the hall, felt him move closer, and knew that there were at least two other wolves with him. Our wolves, our pack.
Crispin was on his feet, his otherworldly energy swirling off of him like invisible fire. It was way more power than hed had last night. Had he hidden it? Was I that bad at tiger energy? Shit.
I stood up, a little slower, gun in hand. Its my Ulfric and my pack.
What are they doing here? he growled from human lips. Once Id thought growling voices from human mouths was strange. Now it was so low on my weird list, I didnt blink.
I dont know. I think they came for me. I was already going for the door. Did we still have guards out there? What would they do about Richard and his men?
I had a moment to realize I was naked, covered in blood and other things, along with wounds. I might have tried to throw something on, but I heard male voices by our door. Stop right there.
I took a deep breath and went for the door. Maybe I could hide to the side, and not flash the entire hallway. I had a memory of doing this last night. The red tiger had come and the guards had stopped him. Id opened the door nude and let him in. Id told the guards that I knew him and had asked him to stop by, or something like that. I could remember his human form now. Tall, short hair the dark red of his own fur, and his eyes. Id looked into his eyes and been disappointed. Theyd been brown, just brown. Id known that was wrong, very wrong. I had a glimpse of him with human eyes that were dark rich golden yellow, with edges around the iris of orange, red. Hed had to take out his contacts that hid his tiger eyes before Id let him touch me. Why was that important? Why had that mattered to me? Hell, for that matter, why had I let in a stranger at all?
I heard deep voices, and the guards repeating, Back off, now.
I was out of time to get clothes. The returning memories had distracted me. I took a deep breath and opened the door.