For a minute I just sat in stunned shock. My girlfriend was a witch? There was a sorority for witches at my alma mater? I almost wanted to ask if she was making this up – but you can’t make this stuff up!
Except, of course, that if I’d started dating Emma three days ago then this was exactly the sort of thing that I’d be making up to freak out over so that no one would know I was actually freaked out that my girlfriend was one of those pretty, extroverted, popular, intimidating sorority girls. How the hell had that happened? No. Wait: she was pretty and extroverted, so obviously she was popular. Why wouldn’t she be in a sorority? The real question was: how the hell had she become my girlfriend?
“Abby?” Emma asked. “Are you okay?”
Right, I reminded myself. She’s your girlfriend because Mr. Salvatore broke her and she didn’t realize she could do better when you decided to pick up the pieces. Now get it together before you freak her out!
I didn’t know what to say, so I smiled and said “I’m fine! I just didn’t realize there’d been a sorority of witches on campus.” Weirdly, it was kind of a relief to let my verbal autopilot take over. I didn’t have to worry that I was going to blurt out something that would escalate the weirdness of the world. I mean, how could I trump ‘by the way, I belong to a semi-secret organization of popular people who all happen to be witches?’
I probably shouldn’t have wondered that.
“So how did you end up with Mr. Salvatore?” I asked. “Did you just not realize what he was soon enough?”
Emma blushed and looked away. “No,” she said. “I knew. I wasn’t very good with magic. Good enough to take care of myself, but not good enough to really help anyone else. And I wanted to do my part.” She hugged herself. “Everyone thinks of faeries as these cute little cherubs or children’s cartoon characters or Santa’s elves. But some of the things I learned about in Mrs. Fleischer’s books were terrifying. So when one of the sorority’s alums crashed a party and mentioned that she was looking for volunteers…”
Emma trailed off and shrugged. “I talked to Mrs. Fleischer about it. And my girlfriend. And I talked with Katie about it for weeks before I told her my decision. But I went into it with my eyes open. I figured that if the only way I could really help keep people safe from the fae was to support someone who actually could scare them off, then that was what I was going to do.”
Emma looked at me. Her expression was frightened and frail, but her voice was fierce. “I still think that was the right decision. I’d do it again. I know you got upset when I offered before, but… I’d do it again. You’re going to need more than Hans to feed you, and…”
I interrupted her. I knew that look of fear – I recognized that babble of excuses. She was afraid I’d be mad at her for bringing this up again. She thought I’d reject her for contradicting me. But she’d spoken her mind, and now she was too worried about how I’d react to stop talking because then she’d have to see how I reacted.
I’d been there, plenty of times. But where Emma was speaking her mind, I’d been spouting insanities. And while Emma was worried about the reaction of someone she’d decided to care about, I worried about the opinions of strangers. And – whatever.
I interrupted Emma. I did it by leaning forward, cupping her face between my palms, pulling her to me and crushing her words beneath a kiss. That was how my autopilot decided to escalate the weird. Because when have I ever been that forward?
When I let Emma go she stared at me in stunned silence. Whatever she’d been expecting, that hadn’t been it. I hoped I wasn’t blushing too hard. I hadn’t been expecting that either.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I didn’t realize at the time that you’d thought about all of this. I was worried you were selling yourself short; rebounding into a relationship that wouldn’t be healthy for you and trying to give too much of yourself too fast.” I still did, for that matter, even if Emma had other reasons too.
I let my hands fall and stared at them. Emma had opened up to me. She felt like she couldn’t do anything to help others except to help someone who could. I didn’t know what she thought I could do about the fae, but at least I could reciprocate her openness.
Kissing her helped. It reminded me that between Emma and I, I was the confident, take-charge one. At least when we were alone.
“I’m a needy person,” I said flatly. “I’m selfish and demanding and possessive, but I know those are bad things to be. So even though I can’t help getting wrapped up in my own head, I try not to take advantage of my friends’ generosity. And that’s especially true now, because I don’t know how badly or how easily I could hurt them. So I wasn’t mad at you this morning in the hospital. I was mad at Mr. Salvatore, because I thought he’d hurt you so much you were selling yourself short by offering yourself to me. And I was afraid I’d accept, and hurt you worse. And I was mad at myself for wanting to.”
I swallowed and looked up at Emma. Her eyes were wide as she looked back at me. “Oh,” she said softly.
I felt a brief surge of anger. Emma had been giving herself away without credit. She was stunned now because she’d expected to be used without care for how that might hurt her.
I blew out a deep breath. “So I’m sorry,” I said, “for thinking your decision this morning was too off the cuff to have been thought out, and for being too scared of hurting you to think about it. You’re right, of course. I am going to need more donors than Hans. But it’s not fair of me to ask anyone to sacrifice themselves just because I’m in this crazy situation. And I hate the idea of you ‘losing yourself for a day or two’ because I’ve been draining you. I’m crazy impressed by the confident, sexy Emma I met on the dance floor last night. And I’m always torn between protecting or pouncing on the sexy, vulnerable Emma you let me see when we’re alone. And that’s a good thing, because otherwise I know I’ll pounce too hard, and move too fast, and mess up everything. But I don’t want you to be afraid to tell me what you want, either. And I think it would be pretty egotistical of me to presume I know better. So I’m going to move slow. But if it’s too slow, I want you to tell me. And if I start preventing you from making your own decisions because I’m too scared of what might happen, I want you to call me on it. Okay?”
Emma nodded, and I felt a tension I hadn’t realized was knotting up flow out of me. Trying to be responsible for someone else’s sake was exhausting. And even though I was being the tough, confident one I felt like I was admitting to all of my vulnerabilities. Was this how Hans had felt when he’d told me he was relieved to be dating someone who knew he was a werewolf? Maybe the vulnerable, shy Emma I knew in private wasn’t as vulnerable as I thought. It took a crazy amount of self-assurance to open yourself up like that, especially if you were afraid of the reaction.
It was a good thing I had enough of the crazy to fake the self-assurance – but I still really wanted to go hide in a corner now.
“Okay,” I said with heartfelt relief. “Good. Wonderful.”
“Abby?” Emma asked hesitantly. The knots in my nerves re-wound themselves.
“The next time you feed on Hans, can I be there?” Emma hesitated. “If you drink from him first, you could take a taste from me without making me lose myself. You won’t have to take enough for that to happen. But I want you to know how I feel about this, and that should just take a nibble. I don’t want you to be too afraid to come to me when you are in need. Not if it’s because you’re worried for my sake.”
My throat felt dry. I didn’t know if I was ready for that. But I couldn’t very well turn her down after making such a big deal about wanting to respect her decisions and have her be a confident, self-actualized human being. “Okay,” I said.
Emma smiled. She threw her arms around me in a delighted hug. Then she kissed me. My self-conscious anxiety was delighted by the shift away from conversation. It was a simple exertion of vampire strength to throw her back so that she was stretched out on the couch. Then I escalated the crazy and pounced.
We were still making out when Hans came back down with the sandwiches.
I sat up with a reflexive gasp and looked over my shoulder when Hans backed into the room with lunch. I’d been so distracted I hadn’t heard him coming until he’d already reached the bottom of the stairs. Heck, I’d been so distracted I’d forgotten about breathing again.
I was going to have to be more careful of that. Or find out how Emma felt about autoerotic suffocation.
Emma was breathing heavily. I was highly aware of the rise and fall of her breasts because my palms were planted directly on top of them. Well, directly on top of her blouse, directly on top of them. But under her unbuttoned cardigan. Honestly, I wasn’t sure when that had happened.
Emma leaned up as much as she could with me holding her down. Which was basically just tilting her head. I doubted she could see much past me or the arm of the far end of the couch, but apparently she could see enough.
“Is that lunch?” Emma called breathily. “Hans, you are a life saver! I’m starving.”
Hans stopped trying to retreat and straightened. “Indeed,” he said. “Club sandwiches for all.”
I sat back on my heels and Emma propped herself up on her elbows. “Thanks, Hans,” I said grumpily.
Then I blushed really hard.
Emma laughed and squirmed out from under me. She left her cardigan on the couch and went to help Hans with his platter of food. Life was weird. Why was I blushing? Emma was practically bouncing with delight over having been caught in a compromising position. Hans didn’t seem put off, either.
“Thank you,” Hans said when Emma took some of the things from his platter. “I’m sorry to have interrupted your… nap,” he drawled teasingly. “It looked like a good one.”
Emma giggled. “It was,” she confirmed. “Lots of the best kinds of dreams,” she added. “If you ever get the chance to have an Abby blanket, I totally recommend it.”
Hans laughed and I blushed harder. But Emma’s cheerfulness was just too damn contagious for me to get stuck in embarrassment. Life was seriously weird. I was going to have to make sure Hans was really okay with it and then make out with Emma where he could catch us more often.
The thought brought my blush back. I was glad I wasn’t facing them. I did my best to ignore the conversation behind me. Then, when I had my cheeks under control, I got up to join them.
Sure, I was undead and probably didn’t really need to eat. But for some reason a sandwich sounded really good right now. Life was just weird like that.
So seriously weird.