I don’t know if Hans realized how big a deal it was for me to ask him that. Can I go home with you? I’d only known him for a few days but in those few days he’d managed to get me out on a date, turn my world upside down, spend the night at my place without ravishing me against my will, stood between me and a starving vampire, ran into a burning building to pull Megan and I out, and made out with me. Twice. Other than the making out part, he really seemed like someone I could trust myself to be around. And even then he’d always stopped with the kissing and caressing and fondling when I started to freak out and told him to.
I was still really nervous, though. I mean, I trusted him – now. But I hadn’t been sure he wasn’t just playing wingman for Mr. Salvatore before last night. And even though I’d already started telling people he was my boyfriend, did he really want to hang around someone who’d gotten him stabbed, barbequed his mentor, and was far more likely to freak out than put out?
“Of course,” Hans answered me. Seeing the worry in my eyes, he lifted my hand to his lips and kissed my fingertips. I shivered. The last time he’d done that it had led to nibbles on my palm. Hans smiled at me, perhaps in shared memory. “I wouldn’t have it any other way,” he added gallantly. “I did promise you breakfast in bed this morning, after all.”
I sputtered with laughter despite myself. He had, back when he’d been trying to seduce me into a second date. Or at least a second night at my place. He’d even offered to stop and buy more toaster pancakes if I said yes.
Hans’ smile grew with my laughter, and some of the worry left his eyes. He bowed his head and kissed my fingertips again. “I’m going to find somewhere private to make the rest of these calls while you wait,” he said. “I won’t be long, though.” He stood and started to step away, but I clutched his hand in an attack of conscience.
“Hans, wait,” I said. He did, and I tried to pull myself together. It was a struggle. My New Year’s resolution had been to be a better friend. I’d meant to be a better friend to Megan, but there was no reason the resolution shouldn’t extend to being a better girlfriend to Hans, too. Plus, could I really live with myself if I took advantage of our relationship and he took me in when he didn’t know I’d already maybe cheated on him once?
“So, um… this is kind of a non sequitur,” I said. “But, um… Lesbians. You’re a guy so you think that’s hot, right?”
Hans looked at me like he wasn’t sure how to reply. Which I suppose was fair – it certainly seemed like a landmine question on the surface. And I had forced him to admit that our waitress was prettier than me on our date the other night. I frowned. Well, I’d tried. He hadn’t actually done it.
“Look,” I said. “I kind of made out with a girl last night. But you’re still my boyfriend, except I understand if you don’t want to be because I cheated.”
Hans’ lips twitched slightly. Just enough to be swallowing a chuckle. Abruptly my fear that he’d go into a jealous werewolf rage turned into anger. I’d been genuinely afraid of how he’d react, but still trying to do right by him. How dare he make light of it?!
I scowled. “It happened,” I said. “I’m not making this up, and I have the pictures to prove it. So you’ll just have to deal with it, got it?”
“Oh, I believe you,” Hans hastily assured me. “I wondered, last night, but there was never a good time to ask – and it wasn’t really my place to, anyway.”
I gaped at him. I wasn’t sure if I was shocked, mollified, or didn’t believe him. Hans grinned at me and tapped the side of his nose with one finger. “Someone was sitting in your lap about an hour before you called me for a ride last night, and she was rather turned on,” he explained.
Shock and anger turned to immediate, mortified embarrassment. I’d forgotten how good Hans’ nose was. If he hadn’t been set on me as Mr. Salvatore’s wingman then I was pretty sure he’d only zeroed in on me because of the cloud of pheromones I had to be giving off every time his accent plucked my libido.
Hans knelt down in front of me and took my other hand. Holding them both, he caught my gaze with his. “I told you I wasn’t looking for anyone else,” he reminded me. “But I never asked the same of you.” His voice was serious, but his eyes were smiling. “Nor will I. We’ve known each other only very briefly. But I know myself well enough to know that I do not care to split my attention between more than one romantic partner. And I know people well enough to know that not everyone has the same preference as I. So as long as I can keep your attention – and I hope your affection – in those times that I have you to myself, I will be content. And I promise not to begrudge you your other dalliances and relationships, and to keep any jealousy in check.”
I stared at him. Other dalliances? Other relationships?! Did he think I was one of those girls that my mom had always warned me not to be?
….Then again, given my track record for the past two days, was I?
“Do you understand?” Hans asked.
“Yeah,” I said. “I think.” But hey! He still hadn’t answered my question. Although, why did that matter anymore? Did I really want to know any more about his inner kinks?
“Good,” Hans said with a smile. He chuckled. “Look, supernaturals tend to live long, complicated lives. I had a wild youth of my own, and for some people it’s not unusual to feel attraction for multiple people. For that matter, I expect you’ll have a fair circle of donors, eventually, and I don’t want you to feel like you can’t be close to them – emotionally or physically – because of me.” He frowned. “I’m not even sure that would work,” Hans admitted. “I’m not a vampire expert, and normally you’d have your maker to guide you through that sort of thing, but I expect there should be something more than a casual relationship between you and anyone whose blood you share.” He gave my hands a squeeze. “In any case, don’t borrow any worries, and we’ll see how things work out.”
I swallowed and nodded. Don’t borrow worries? I hadn’t even thought about finding blood donors yet. I had exactly two friends, and I’d already put both of them on the ‘stay the hell away for their own protection’ list. I was still stuck on what I was going to do for pajamas if Hans got serious about that breakfast in bed offer! I was not up for coping with borrowed worries!
“Alright,” Hans said. “Good. Now, I’ll be back in a little bit – and hopefully I can get a hold of someone who can help you sort out how to go forward.” He let go of my hands and stood. I didn’t try to stop him this time.
I was too busy running down a mental list of everyone I knew to see if there was anyone I wouldn’t mind treating like a juice box. It was a short list.
The answer was no.
And so I was in the middle of that minor panic attack when Katherine descended on me.
Katherine swept into the ER waiting room and stormed toward me like a Spartan chasing down a Persian. I didn’t know where she’d been all night, but it obviously hadn’t been home to change. She was still wearing enough leather and steel and lace – and not enough of anything else – to star in a Gothic bondage porn, and she still wasn’t wearing shoes. She was scowling, but her eyes were red behind her spectacles and there were deep, dark bags beneath them. Wherever she’d been, it hadn’t been asleep, either.
Emma followed behind Katherine. Emma looked like she hadn’t changed either – but Emma also didn’t look as tired as Katherine. I chalked it up to Emma’s being younger.
Before Katherine could tear into me I held up my hand. “Megan’s fine,” I hastily told her. “The doctors and a witch concur.” I couldn’t believe I’d said that like it was normal. I wondered who on the hospital staff the witch was. Did he have to hold a cover job, like ‘consulting physician’ or ‘janitor?’ “They moved her up to the second floor. You can go see her. Someone should stay with her. Not me.” I swallowed. “I thought it should be you.”
Katherine stared at me. “I agree,” she finally said, and stalked toward the stairs. I just about collapsed from relief. I’d expected a verbal beheading.
“I’ll be here,” Emma called after Katherine, and my internal anxietometer wound up again. I couldn’t bring myself to look at Emma – everything about her was just too confusing. Emma hesitated, then sat down a few seats away from me when I still refused to look at her.
For a moment we sat silently while I contemplated escape routes. Unfortunately, there weren’t any good ones. If I bolted outside, the sun would sap the strength I’d taken from Hans and I’d just need to feed again sooner. And it wasn’t like inside of a hospital is the kind of place where people would let you run around and hide.
Then Emma got up and moved next to me. “Hey,” she said hesitantly.
“Hi,” I mumbled with equal reluctance. I wasn’t sure how to deal with Emma. On the one hand, she knew about the supernatural world and had actually been a vampire’s blood donor. There was probably a lot I could learn from her.
But on the other hand, that vampire had been her ex-boyfriend. And now he was a barbequed chunk of charcoal wrapped up in my mom’s quilt in the back of Hans’ car, because I’d killed him. So that might be awkward when she found out.
And also, I knew from personal experience that she was a really good kisser – which was already awkward all on its own. Especially since making out with Emma had been the catalyst for Megan running out on Katherine, which had led to Katherine ripping a verbal chunk out of me – which was how I’d found out that Megan, my best friend, had been secretly crushing on me for years.
Plus, I was pretty sure I was supposed to be straight. I had a boyfriend! So I really shouldn’t have been making out with another woman and I still didn’t get why Hans hadn’t gotten either angry or pervy when he’d found out. I really hoped he wasn’t just bottling things up until he blew like a pressure cooker and killed everyone involved in some sort of jealous, werewolf-berserker rage. That would probably be more than just awkward.
But maybe it wouldn’t be that bad. Maybe I wouldn’t have to tell her how Mr. Salvatore had died. Or how I had died. Or that my boyfriend was apparently totally okay with me making out with other people, and not even in a pervy, self-serving sort of way.
Emma leaned toward me. “So,” she asked in a hushed whisper, “What happened?”