When I woke up I was alone. That was just as well, because at some point in my tossing and turning under the covers the belt to Emma’s robe had come loose. When I sat up and threw off the blankets I was far more exposed than I would have been comfortable with if Hans had still been in the room.
Although, I had noticed that I had more fun provoking him when I wasn’t comfortable enough to feel safe – when that glint in his eye made me shiver instead of blush. So maybe it was too bad he was missing out.
I shook my head to wake myself up more… and to get rid of that idea. I was not going to purposefully entice Hans to lose control. That was crazy! That was so not me!
Well, except maybe the being crazy bit.
I slipped out of bed and readjusted Emma’s robe. Once it was re-secured, I wandered toward the door. I could hear Emma’s voice coming from downstairs. I shook my head again. These heightened vampire senses were going to take some getting used to.
Or was super-hearing a sign that I was getting hungry again? Hans had told me before that a vampire’s powers became more pronounced as it became more hungry. I checked my teeth with my tongue and exhaled in relief. No fangs. They were still as straight and smooth as growing up with braces could manage.
I checked my robe again before going down the hall, down the stairs, and along the downstairs hall to the front room. As I approached, Emma’s voice became clearer.
“That is so cool,” Emma was saying. “And you really remember everything?”
Hans must have turned into a wolf at some point because the answering bark wasn’t human. It was also higher pitched than I would have expected from a big canine – more an abbreviated howl than a bark. It meant yes.
One bark for yes. Two barks for no.
“So, okay,” Emma said, “I’m sorry if I’m out of place asking, but if I ever stay over and want to go for a jog in the morning, would you mind coming with? I mean, the park has leash laws and I totally get if that’s beneath your dignity or whatever, but I remember some of the guys who used to hang out in the mornings to ogle the joggers being really creepy.”
Two barks. No, he didn’t mind.
“Score!” Emma exclaimed. “Oh, and of course you could come as human, if you preferred. I doubt anyone would dare be too creeptastic if either one of your forms was around.”
I pictured Hans in running shorts – and nothing else except his human form. And maybe some sneakers. I had to admit: While Emma’s taste in women might be suspect, her taste in men, ex-boyfriend vampires aside, was fantastic. The image was decidedly yum.
But no, Hans barked twice and Emma laughed.
“No?” She asked. “Any excuse to stretch all four legs in the city, huh?”
Hans made an amused wuffle of agreement, and then I reached the door at the end of the downstairs hall. I poked my head into the front room.
Emma and Hans were sitting at the little corner table. Emma had her elbows on the table and her chin propped in her palms while she looked at Hans. Hans was in wolf mode, sitting up in the opposite chair. His ears perked and his head swiveled toward me as soon as I peeked in the room.
Emma followed Hans’ gaze and waved at me. Since I was already found out, I came the rest of the way into the room.
“Hi,” I said. “Uh, you two getting along?”
One bark from Hans and a thumbs up from Emma. “We were just chatting,” she said. “Your boyfriend is pretty cool. I approve.”
Hans barked once, but if he was reciprocating the sentiment or just agreeing that he was cool, I couldn’t tell.
“Uh, thanks,” I said. “I like him too.”
Hans’ tail started wagging and he gave me a big, wolfy grin. Then he flowed out of his seat with lupine grace and gave me a wuffly bark. Then he turned and nudged the chair with his muzzle.
“Oh, yeah,” Emma said. “Come have a seat. How are you feeling? Did you sleep well?”
I came over. “I’m feeling better,” I said. “A little less stressed.” I sat down and tried to ignore the fact that Hans was laying on the floor under the table. He’d told me once that while he was in wolf form he kept his human mind and memories, but took on a wolf’s instincts. So I didn’t have to worry about him trying to peek up my bathrobe.
At least… I’m pretty sure I didn’t.
I sat down with my legs crossed and tugged the hem of the robe tight around them.
“Cool,” said Emma. “I mean: that’s good to hear. Any plans for later?”
I frowned at Hans. He was laying with his head on his paws and his eyes closed. So that was okay. I leaned down and scratched behind his ears. It was just too damn hard not to.
“Just hiding from the sun until it goes down,” I told Emma. “Then trying to pick up some necessities from wherever’s open.” It was only after I’d just essentially said ‘no plans’ that I realized Emma might have been wondering about our date. My mouth suddenly went dry. I am not good at subtle.
Fortunately, Emma wasn’t being shy. “My evening is pretty open, too,” she said. “Katie insisted on accompanying Megan for the day, so I was just bumming around at home alone. If you want I can hang out. I mean, I don’t want to be a third wheel or anything, but I think I’ve done enough sitting around at home for the last year, you know?”
I did not. Sitting around at home, alone, was pretty much my definition of a good evening. Except that usually Megan was hanging out, too, so I guess I wasn’t usually really alone. But that wasn’t going to be happening anymore, was it?
“Totally,” I agreed despite myself. So much for verbal control. Or honesty. Who did I think I was going to impress, anyway? And why did Emma have to be so pretty? She’d changed out of her party clothes and was wearing jeans, a cream spaghetti-strap tank top with lace trim around the neckline, and a powder blue cardigan. “I’d like that,” I said. I was dimly aware that I’d started paying more attention to how good Emma looked and how nervous that made me than I was to what I was saying. “And you won’t be a third wheel,” I said. “Hans and I weren’t getting up to anything. He didn’t have condoms.”
My eyes went really wide. Emma choked on a giggle. Hans raised his head and gave me a reproachful look. I scrambled for a change of topic. “I am so sorry,” I blurted to Emma. “That just came out. That was so inappropriate. Don’t you give me that look, Hans! It’s true. And it’s not like you’ve never been inappropriate. I mean, you’ve been sitting around naked in front of my girlfriend! You are so lucky I’m not the jealous type!”
Emma’s giggle gave way to full on laughter, but that just made it worse. Hans sat up and gave me the most hangdog look ever, but it was spoiled by his tail wagging in amusement. “Oh no,” I said. “Puppy dog eyes won’t cut it mister. Bad Hans.” I pointed up and through the walls toward his room. “You go change and come back and apologize.”
I paused as a thought hit me. “No, wait,” I said. “Where did you change, Hans?” I quickly looked around. Emma had her lips bit together, but I noticed she was looking behind me. Hans’ jeans were folded over the back of my chair.
“Oh my god!” I squawked. “Hans did you strip in front of Emma?” I felt one part horrified to one part mortified, but I knew he had. As far as I could tell, Hans had absolutely zero body shyness. Which was all well and good as long as he was only making me uncomfortable, but still: surely there were boundaries!
Of course, given how Emma had comported herself on the dance floor last night, I was pretty sure she was an exhibitionist. So maybe Hans hadn’t crossed hers. I had a brief mental flash of what would happen if she decided to one-up him instead of being uncomfortable and it made me blush to the tips of my ears.
Hans howl-barked once and scrabbled for the hallway. I didn’t notice because I was too busy thinking about him lounging around naked while Emma lounged around naked. Then they started making out in my head and oh my God it was so much hotter than anything I’d ever done with either of them.
I turned to Emma. It was a mistake because I was still wide-eyed and out of control. “I am so sorry,” I babbled. In reality, Emma was looking at me with an expression I was too nerve wracked to decipher. In my head, she was sprawled across the table and moaning while Hans – in man mode – nibbled at her breasts and fingered her clit. Even more mortifyingly, I realized that the mental images were making my fangs come in. I guess they weren’t just symptomatic of hunger – they were symptomatic of all survival instincts. And isn’t arousal a survival instinct up on the species level?
“So sorry,” I blurted out. “I don’t know why I said any of that,” I confessed in a rush. I was way too used to Megan and Fumiko, both of whom knew me and could take my oddities in stride, no explanations needed. But Emma didn’t know me, and I didn’t want her to think I was some kind of a freak with verbal diarrhea.
“I must have verbal diarrhea,” I explained. Craaaaaap. “When I get nervous I just start rambling and it turns into a train wreck but I can’t stop myself because I’m too nervous and now I won’t even stop when I run out of breath because I don’t even need to breathe but…”
Emma leaned across the table, cupped my head with one hand, pulled me forward, and shut me up with a kiss. I was stunned. I was gawking. I was mid-word, and Emma’s tongue flicked between my lips for just a second before she let me go and slipped back into her seat.
“Better?” Emma asked.
I nodded mutely. Now as long as she didn’t ask what I’d been nervous about, maybe I could salvage some dignity. I mean, it wasn’t like I could just tell her I’d panicked because I’d never had a girlfriend before and I didn’t want to mess things up, but she looked really pretty and I couldn’t stop having inappropriate thoughts and was way too aware that I wasn’t wearing underwear, could I? Except I know myself, and now that I’d thought it I was guaranteed to blurt it all out. Double crap!
I was saved by Hans derailing the conversation.
He poked his head, his shoulder, and about a fifth of his bare chest around the hallway door. “Pardon me, ladies, but I thought as long as I was getting changed I’d grab a shower of my own. Is there anything either of you needs before I make myself scarce? Are you feeling hungry yet, Abigail?”
Emma glanced at me and waited for my reply.
I ran my tongue along my teeth. The fang tips had receded. “I think I’m okay,” I announced.
Emma grinned. “Enjoy your shower!” she called to Hans. “And don’t worry about us. We’ll just sit around and make out until you’re done.”
Hans gasped and staggered as though the mental image was overwhelming. Then he straightened enough to look at us. “In that case, I’ll make it a cold one,” he teased back.
Emma laughed and blew him a raspberry. Hans chuckled and, with a jaunty wave, disappeared around the corner. I was back to blushing as deeply as possible.
I was fully confident that Hans had carried out that conversation while stark naked behind the hallway wall. But even more awkward: my boyfriend and my girlfriend were already comfortable enough to tease each other about sexual things. And that meant I was waaaaay out of my league.
And also… I wasn’t at all confident that Emma had been joking. My eyes slewed over to look at her. She grinned brightly at me. I swallowed. Way out of my league, indeed.