Emma’s eyes went wide in immediate understanding of what I’d really meant. That should have been enough to get her on her feet and bolting out of the waiting room, but she didn’t run. Instead, Emma leaned in close again.
“Can you hold out until we get somewhere more private?” she asked in a hushed whisper. It didn’t escape my notice that if the answer was no I’d be able to sink my teeth into her neck and it would look like we were just hugging again.
I had a flare of suspicion that Emma knew it, too, and that was why she’d leaned in again to begin with.
“I… I…” I stammered. I shouldn’t have been surprised. I knew Emma had signed up to be Mr. Salvatore’s chew toy – and that it had devastated her when he’d up and disappeared last year without telling anyone. She had to have a serious kink for being bit, and when I remembered the eager abandon with which she’d kissed me last night I knew she was someone who needed to give. Or be needed. Or find her worth in someone else’s pleasure. So why was I surprised that she hadn’t done the sane, self-preserving thing and run when I’d threatened to suck her soul out?!
But she wasn’t a juice box. Or a chew toy. Emma was a person, and it was sick and wrong of me to think of her in those terms. Just like it would have been wrong of me to take advantage of her last night if she’d actually been drunk – only about a hundred times worse. That had just been making out. This? This was life and undeath and potentially lethal.
I pulled away. It was surprisingly hard to do. But the fact that I was worried about the morality of the situation was a pretty big clue that I wasn’t actually starving. Maybe my vampire curse was hungry, or maybe I was just having a Pavlovian response to Emma’s proximity. In either case, while I could resist I would. I had to. Emma didn’t deserve to be treated like a snack – especially after she’d spent the last year pulling herself back together from the mess the last vampire who’d decided to use her had left of her.
“No,” I said, and Emma’s face crumpled as she heard the adamant rejection in my voice. “No,” I protested at her crushed expression. I grabbed her shoulders.
What was I doing?
I pulled Emma close. After the hell of last night I couldn’t bear to see anyone hurting. But I didn’t hug her.
I kissed her. Hard. Full on the lips. In public.
I was probably going to freak out about that later.
For now, though, I was out of control on autopilot and kissing an astonished Emma very fiercely. I realized what I was doing and let go of her. I was supernaturally strong now. I really hoped my grasp hadn’t bruised her. I also sort of hoped it had.
Apparently, I’m the possessive type and have a bit of a thing for marking people as mine. I was definitely going to freak out about that, later.
I looked Emma in the eye and scowled at her for trying to sell herself short – no, for trying to just give herself away! “I am not going to take advantage of you,” I told her firmly. It was part of my New Year’s resolution. Be a better friend. “And I’m not going to drink from anyone who thinks they’re just a snack to me.” I wasn’t Mr. Salvatore, dammit. “I’m not going to treat people like that,” I added fiercely, “and I’m going to be upset if people I care about treat themselves like that, too.” I glared. “Understand?”
Emma’s lips were parted in shock. She didn’t say anything. She nodded jerkily, though.
“Good,” I said. I was on a roll, now. “Because I told you I’m possessive, and we’ve made out twice now, and I’ll be especially upset if my girlfriend thinks I think that little of her.” Oh god, I was on a roll and out of control. I scowled again, this time at myself. I wasn’t even being internally consistent in my illogic. Hans had done more than make out with me before I’d made him my boyfriend. “Although,” I said, “Hans and I made out twice and went on a date before I claimed him.”
I looked back up at Emma. Her mouth had closed, but she was still staring at me in somewhat stunned disbelief.
“Okay,” I told her. “We’re going on a date. I’m taking you out for…” I drew a momentary blank. Taking her out for dinner was a bad idea, given my current definition of hunger. “…for ice cream,” I said. She’d mentioned last night that there was an ice cream shop near campus that she’d wanted to go to before Mr. Salvatore had screwed up her life.
Was Emma a student? Crap, I knew less about my girlfriend than I knew about my boyfriend, and all I really knew about Hans was that he was a badass Viking werewolf from some country where endurance sex was the national pastime – and that he wasn’t afraid to push boundaries or take orders in the bedroom.
I took a deep breath. Emma was smiling – a broad, unfeigned, unconscious and unrepentant smile. She still wasn’t saying anything, though, and inertia compelled me to fill in the gap. Inertia and relief that she hadn’t gotten upset with me for being so damn presumptuous.
“Just… call me,” I said. If she had to wait for me to call, I would totally chicken out. “We’ll figure out where and when.” I was going to want a shower first. And decent clothes. And sleep. Did I even sleep anymore? “And don’t let me bite you on the first date,” I added to my utter mortification. “I’m going to want to, but you shouldn’t let anyone pressure you into something before you’re ready.” God, I felt like one of the boys Dad always warned me about, except that I was warning Emma about myself. I looked about desperately for an escape before I could climb the verbal ladder to an even more awkward branch of the conversation.
Fortunately, I found one.
“Hans!” I called as he came back into the waiting room. I stood up and waved him over. I left my hand on Emma’s shoulder and she stayed in her seat. “Hans,” I said when he joined us, “This is my girlfriend, Emma. Emma, this is my boyfriend, Hans.” I pointed at my abandoned chair. “Hans? Sit down.” He did, and I looked back and forth between them. “Okay,” I said at last. “Now I’m going to go sit over there and freak out by myself for a little bit. So you two just… get along.” I glared at them both as though the force of my command would be enough to make that happen, then turned and stalked off wobbly. Damn high heels.
I may as well have just stayed next to them, anyway. I sat down at the far end of the room, but I was also a vampire. I wasn’t just supernaturally strong – I was also able to hear everything just as well as if I hadn’t moved at all. Maybe I was getting peckish. A vampire’s supernatural powers were supposed to grow in proportion with thirst.
“Hello,” Hans rumbled to Emma. “It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he added. I was relieved that he sounded sincere.
“Uh…. You, too,” Emma managed to stammer. I risked a glance and had to smile. I’d seen Emma’s expression on other women before. It was the look of someone who’d suddenly found themselves talking to an avatar of masculine virility and who then had to take conscious care not to start physically drooling.
Maybe this would work out after all. If they got along well enough they’d probably dump me for each other. Then I could stop worrying about dating on top of being dead. I still couldn’t picture either of them with me, anyway. But with each other…?
Yeah, that was hot. In a ‘porn wishes it could be this good’ kind of way. Plus, Hans was a genuinely caring and considerate guy – which Emma could really use, given her previous relationship with Mr. Salvatore. And Emma had a thing for being bit, which I happened to know Hans liked to do. Except that Hans’ nibbles wouldn’t tear out chunks of Emma’s soul.
Well, as long as it wasn’t a full moon night.
“So,” Emma asked, “How long have you known Abby?”
Hans chuckled. “A couple of days,” he admitted ruefully. “Yourself?”
Emma laughed. “Since last night,” she said. “She sure moves fast, huh?”
I gawked in outrage. Emma had come on to me! For that matter, so had Hans! If anything, I was taking it slow and keeping my options open by not committing wholly to either of them.
“She certainly does,” Hans agreed. The traitor. “But I appreciate a woman who isn’t afraid to state what she wants and go after it.”
I snapped my jaw shut. Who the hell did he think he was dating? That sure wasn’t me.
“Oh, yeah,” Emma agreed. “The way she looked at me last night…” She hesitated, then asked: “So… you’re really okay with sharing?”
Hans chuckled again. “Abigail isn’t mine to begin with,” he said. “That she chooses to share herself with me is something I greatly appreciate, but it doesn’t give me the right to control whom else she extends that privilege to.”
Emma had started nodding before Hans had finished speaking. “Cool,” she said. “So are you poly? I am.”
Hans arched his eyebrows and shook his head. “No,” he admitted cheerfully, “But I’ve been around long enough to not hold it against the people who are, or to expect them to be monogamous just because I am.”
Emma grinned. “I like you, Hans. So I’ve gotta ask: Supernatural?”
Hans laughed. “Werewolf,” he confirmed.
Emma’s mouth made a little ‘o.’ “I haven’t met a werewolf before. Do you only shift on the full moon? What’s that like? Is there a whole pack of you?” She grinned. “Do you have any brothers who are poly?” she asked slyly.
Hans snorted and shook his head. “Sorry to disappoint, but I’m a loner these days. I can shift at will, though,” he hastily added. “If Abigail invites you over sometime I can show you, if you like.”
Emma’s eyes widened. “Coooool,” she said again – drawing it out with feeling, this time. She glanced at me, then twisted around in her seat to more fully face Hans. “So, since we both have Abby in common, want to talk about her some more?”
Hans’ eyes flickered to me, then back to Emma. “That seems like a reasonable subject,” he said. As if I were ever reasonable. Ever!
“Great!” Emma exclaimed. “Abby asked me out on a date, but I haven’t been on a real one in years. She said you’d taken her on one, so… any pointers?”
What? No! The first rule I’d given Hans was that what happens in private stays in private. I’d insisted.
“Hm,” Hans considered. “She’s uncomfortable with crowds and new places,” he said, “and she doesn’t always say exactly what she means. It can be hard to keep up with her in a conversation, but I have found that if you do get lost, taking her exactly at her word can be enjoyably rewarding.”
I glared harder. They were supposed to be getting along with each other, not sharing ‘how to date Abby’ advice. Didn’t they realize I could hear them?
My eyes narrowed. Hans and Emma were both old hands when it came to vampires. They probably did realize. Were they teasing me? That was so unfair! I did not need my boyfriend and my girlfriend ganging up on me!
Well, that led to an interesting mental image.
“Alright,” Emma said. “But I meant… Flowers? Chocolates? Midnight serenades?”
They were teasing me!
“Oh, I don’t know about all of that,” Hans admitted. “But I can say that if you’re not sure about something, just ask her. Abigail will let you know how she feels about it – even if that means trying it first.” I felt like my ears had to be scarlet from blushing so hard.
This conversation needed to stop.
I got back up and practically ran back to Emma and Hans. In fact, I moved so fast that nothing else did before I got there. Nothing. Not even the automatic doors that had started opening for an elderly man with a walker, or the second hand on the analog clock on the wall.
It got harder to move as I got closer to Hans and Emma. When I stopped they looked up at me in surprise. The rest of the world started moving again, too.
Wow. So that was how Mr. Salvatore always managed to just appear from nowhere. It was like… time dilation, or something.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “But I totally mean to interrupt. Hans and I should get going,” I babbled, “and you should check on Megan and Katherine.” I grabbed Hans and pulled him out of the chair. “Lots to do,” I explained to Emma. “I need a change of clothes and a shower and a coffin and a nap and… call me later,” I said as I pulled Hans toward the exit.
I didn’t miss the amused grin he shared with Emma as I hustled him away. I turned and waved goodbye to Emma from the door. She waved back. Then I turned again, pushed Hans outside, and followed him into the sunlight.