Emma’s lips pressed over mine in a brief, fierce kiss. She pulled away almost immediately. Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment.
I was willing to bet my unlife that two years ago she wouldn’t have had a knee-jerk bout of embarrassment over taking the initiative like that. I felt again a surge of protectiveness that was almost stunning on its own. Maybe my obsession with keeping Megan safe from Mr. Salvatore had grown to just protecting everyone from his deprivations.
Or maybe it was just that Emma was my friend now. I’m usually too scared of strangers to meet them. So I’ve always been hyper protective of the few friends I have. And I was starting to seriously hate Mr. Salvatore.
Whatever the reason, Emma must’ve seen my reaction on my face. “I’m sorry,” she hastily apologized.
If anything, the apology made me madder. I stood up. I was too tense to sit still. “You should be,” I said crossly. I turned to face Emma, who had recoiled into the arm of the couch. The blood had drained from her face. I scowled at Mr. Salvatore, even though I was looking at Emma. “That was not making out,” I told her.
And then, because I always go all out when I go crazy, I straddled Emma’s lap, tangled my fingers in her hair, tilted my mouth over hers, and proceeded to demonstrate the difference.
I’ll admit it probably wasn’t the best make out session Emma’d ever had. For one, I’d only done this about four times in my life, all of which had been in the past two days. For another, I was reasonably sure I wasn’t as deft with my tongue as Emma had been with hers last night. But practice makes perfect, and I was enthusiastic.
I was also undead and didn’t need air. At some point I ran out of breath. So I stopped breathing and continued kissing. When I belatedly realized Emma couldn’t do the same I sat up and pulled away.
Emma gasped in and took several more heaving breaths while I watched to make sure she was okay. I was very careful to keep my eyes on her face. She looked back at me with wide eyes and parted lips.
“See the difference?” I asked when Emma’s breathing slowed to normal. Her heart was still pounding.
Emma swallowed and nodded. She started to lean in for another kiss, but I slipped a hand free from her hair and held her back. “The shower just stopped,” I told her. My super vampire senses seemed to key in on changes or I wouldn’t have noticed. And it was probably just as well or I’d be going crazy from all the ambient city noise.
Emma smiled shyly. “I really won’t mind if he comes down and catches us,” she said. But I’m pretty sure she meant: ‘I’m an exhibitionist and I’d love it if he came in and watched us get nasty. Oh! Why don’t we ask if he has a video camera so we can post it all somewhere on the internet?’
I was not ready for that. “I don’t think it would be fair to Hans,” I said instead.
Emma sighed. “I guess. The three of us really need to sit down and talk out our privacy limits,” she said. “And maybe work out your schedule.”
I blinked at her. “Privacy limits? Schedule?”
Emma nodded. “I’m not going to have a problem if you two get cuddly while I’m around. Especially if I’m allowed to join in. But if I’m not, I need to know that so I don’t mess up the mood by trying. Or if either of you don’t want me around during anything like that. Or vice-versa. I mean, I wouldn’t mind if Hans watches us fool around, but I’d probably get a little uncomfortable if he wanted to participate before I knew him better. And he needs to know that. And both he and I need to know how you feel about that.”
Then Emma shrugged. “And we’re going to want to get your schedule figured out because I’m willing to bet that Hans will want at least some guaranteed alone time with you. I know I will. And we should make sure to have some time set aside for all three of us to touch base and regularly discuss these things in case how someone feels about any of it changes. Or so if anyone is feeling jealous or left out or whatever it can be brought up and worked out.”
Emma said it with the practical matter-of-factness you get when someone is stating the obvious. I was speechless. I hadn’t even thought about any of that, unless you counted my brief fantasy of a three-way involving all of us turning into a two-way between Hans and Emma. And what was I doing fantasizing about three-ways? I hadn’t even had a two-way with either of them!
Although, given how I kept panicking whenever things got too heated, maybe I needed to stop trying for a two-way and add a vibrator to my list of necessities. Except… how would I explain that one to Hans when he took me shopping later? It had taken all the guts I had to buy the first one. And that had been with Megan and Fumiko egging me on after they’d made an unexpected (by me) detour to an adult store. And even then I’d only been able to go through with it because my one little purchase had looked so innocuous next to Megan’s bevy of toys and Fumiko’s alarming choices in accessories.
I mean, I get that someone who enjoys sex as often as Megan does probably needs to occasionally spice things up. And Fumiko was probably just getting things for one of her cosplay outfits. But at the time I’d been seriously uncomfortable with what my imagination did with the knowledge that they owned stuff like that.
But now? Even if I could explain myself to Hans there was no way I’d be able to face the cashier. It didn’t matter how small my purchase was. If I bought something dirty while Hans was there anyone who saw me would assume I was the most voracious slut ever. Because if Hans wasn’t enough for me, what other conclusion could be drawn?
“How did you get so smart about all this?” I asked. It was really unfair – I was pretty sure Emma was still a student in college. But here I was, after being graduated two years, and I was just now figuring out basic things. Like: not only were women attractive, but they could be fun to kiss, too.
Emma chuckled. “My dad is a divorce lawyer,” she said. “But he always wanted to be a hippie. So whenever he had a particularly bad day at work he would come home bemoaning the fact that people couldn’t differentiate between love and sex, or going on about how much happier the world would be if people could just be honest about their emotions and relationships instead of feeling pressured to deny them, hide them, or cheat.”
Emma shrugged. “I always rather agreed with him, although I did go through a brief rebellious phase in middle school. I used to deny it, but it never made sense to me that people could get so bent out of shape about loving relationships. I mean: love is a good thing, right? And it’s not like loving someone new means you have to love someone else less.” She shook her head in exasperation. “Love is an emotional, mental, social thing. It is not a finite resource.”
I continued to stare. I was tempted to ask what Emma’s mom thought about all that, but didn’t ask. Partly because asking about her parents’ opinions of each other seemed way too personal. But mostly because I knew perfectly well what my mom would have to say about someone who claimed to be in love with more than one person at the same time, and it wasn’t flattering. I shied away from that thought. I liked Emma and I liked Hans, but it was way too soon to be bandying about words like love. If it did come down to that, I could freak out about my mom finding out later.
Emma looked up at me and laughed. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I can get going on this topic if you let me. I guess I’ve just had too many people not get it, you know?” She sighed. “No matter how hard I tried to explain, my last girlfriend never saw ‘poly’ as more than a politically correct way of saying ‘swinger.’ And that sort of worked for a while because I was in love with her, and I wasn’t in love with anyone else, and I didn’t have a problem with messing around for fun – and she had a definite kink for three-or-more-somes.”
Emma shook her head. “Anyway,” she said, “when I tried to tell her I thought I was falling for Salvatore, Carol totally flipped out. I tried to explain that I still loved her, too, but she just said it was too late for me to come crawling back – even though as far as I was concerned I hadn’t left her to begin with.”
Emma took another deep breath and let it out. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This isn’t any better is it?” She snorted. “Talking about my exes. What a mood kill. But I guess what I’m trying to get at is that it’s kind of a relief that you’re with me and someone else. I feel like you’ll get how I feel, and… I’d really like that. I mean, I’m trying to be extra careful because I know I’ve got baggage from before. And to a certain extent I can’t help but be worried that I’m going to get hurt again. But all I want to do right now is lay everything on the table and get lost in ‘new relationship bliss.’ You know?”
She looked up enough to catch my gaze, and I belatedly realized that I’d been staring at her this whole time. If she’d been me, then all of that would’ve been a rambled babble of nerves – but she wasn’t, so what she’d said had been coherent and insightful and left my thoughts reeling as I tried to process it all.
I’d been blaming Emma’s intermittent insecurity wholly on Mr. Salvatore. It had never occurred to me that Emma’s previous relationship might’ve contributed, too. But it sounded like this ‘Carol’ was a royal bitch to match Mr. Salvatore’s consummate bastard.
“Okay,” I said. I’d meant what I’d said earlier about leaning on Emma so I could become the kind of girlfriend she deserved. “Here’s the deal, then.” It was weird, but I felt like I was cribbing from Hans. Between Hans and I, I was the one who got scared of him – but he was the one who took his cues from me. So, since Emma was afraid of me – for different reasons, afraid I’d abandon her – I was going to take my cues from her. It felt totally counter-intuitive given the power dynamic between us, but… Hell, it worked for Hans when he’d been after me, hadn’t it?
“If you want to talk about anything, at any time,” I said, “Then that’s what we’ll do. In fact, if you have any uncertainties or worries then I insist that you lay them out upfront – or whenever they come up – so we can address them. Frankly, I’m glad someone’s thought about this stuff. None of it has ever occurred to me before. So I promise to listen. And you might have to push me a little because I tend to clam up and spaz out if I think what I’m thinking is weird – which it usually is – but you can ask me anything, too. I’ll do my best to answer coherently, so you can either assure yourself that I do get it or tell me that I need to think about it more. Because…”
What could I say? Because she was my girlfriend and I wanted to take care of her? Because I was perhaps hyper-protective of her, and didn’t want to hurt her over a misunderstanding? Because I didn’t have a clue what I was doing in a relationship, let alone two, and I needed to cheat off someone with more sense than me?
“Because the next time we make out,” I found myself saying, “I want you to be at least as enthusiastic as you were when you thought I was just a one night stand and weren’t worrying about if you’d see me again. Got it?”
Emma was blushing – hard – but she was smiling, too. She wrapped her arms around me and pulled herself forward for a long, serious kiss. When our lips parted she held herself there, leaning her forehead and nose against mine, with her lips almost brushing mine again.
“Deal,” she said.