Hans left his seat and came to my side. He knelt beside me. Then he offered me his arm.
My awareness of his heartbeat – and Emma’s – had been growing by the second. Now his pulse pounded in my ears. It demanded my attention to the exclusion of almost everything else. Almost, but not all. Behind the steady, metronome pumping of the blood in Hans’ veins I could still hear the patter of Emma’s heart. It seemed far too distant compared to the demanding proximity of Hans’ heartbeat – but it was still there, in the background.
For all that I had resolved not to kill Emma, I still wanted to taste her. I wanted to sink my teeth into her and I wanted her blood on my lips – and those desires were all that kept me from flinging myself at Hans the instant he was close enough to be bitten.
Hans… Hans was strong. A predator. So was I, but Hans had experience. He was in firm control of his second nature, and that made him stronger than me.
Emma, on the other hand, was an innocent bunny hopping about in the woods. And on this matter my dead-ish instincts and alive-ish convictions agreed: any bunny foolish enough to play around with monsters would find itself torn to shreds.
I kept my eyes on Hans, but I spoke to Emma. “Emma,” I said, “I told Hans about your suggestion. About you wanting me to bite you after I sate myself on him, so I can know how you feel about being my donor.” I raised a hand and – still without looking at her – gestured for her to join us.
“I want you to understand that after I feed on him I will be more aggressive than normal.” I knew that from experience. “It should pass quickly as his instincts devolve into mine, but if you become frightened or want me to stop I’ll need you to tell Hans. I can’t guarantee how much control I’ll have over myself before the life I take from him becomes mine. Understand? And Hans, if I seem to be out of control you are to stop me, distract me; keep me away from Emma until I am myself again.”
I took a moment to look at Emma. Her heart was beating quickly in my ears – like a mouse’s. I could see the excitement and fear and anticipation on her face.
“If you change your mind or want to back out,” I told her, “just keep Hans between us.”
Then I turned away from her. I did my best to ignore her. I took Hans’ hand and raised his wrist to my lips. The thrum of his pulse eclipsed everything else. It was like a primitive drum: a rhythmic pounding to announce impending sacrifice. Demanding blood be spilt.
I’d held out for as long as I could. I bit. My fangs tore into Hans’ flesh, and this time I wasn’t squicked out at all. I was hungrier than I had been this morning. Too hungry. I exulted in the tearing of flesh. His blood splashed across my tongue to the beat of his heart and I swooned in ecstasy – but I didn’t let go. I bit again, shredding flesh and freeing more blood to flow.
The rush of being alive swept over me with all the primal glory I remembered from this morning. My heartbeat joined Hans’ and Emma’s. My skin flushed and I was suffused with warmth – I hadn’t even realized how cold I’d been when I was dead. But the physical exhilaration of being alive was nothing compared to the desires. How had I not realized how empty and heartless my thoughts had been when I was dead? I’d thought I felt hungry. I’d thought I needed sustenance.
But now I could actually feel, and the primitive desires of a cursed wolf raged inside of me.
Fuck. Kill. Eat.
No. Hans was one of mine. I wouldn’t kill him. Now, if Katherine were in front of me I’d strangle her with her own intestines. That thought made me growl happily, but it was impractical at the moment. Another time, then. Right now I was being driven by an undeniable immediacy, and I only had one desire that could be instantly gratified. Fuck.
I let go of Hans’ arm. The wound was already closing, but I didn’t care. I stopped time so I could pounce on him faster. He was on the ground and I was straddling him before time could start again.
I tangled my fingers in Hans’ hair and bent over him, bulling my mouth close to his. Unlike this morning, whatever fraction of my normal self might have been watching was too small and too overwhelmed to contribute an opinion to my actions – and I was just fine with that. “Fuck me,” I ordered Hans. Then I crushed my mouth down on his.
I kissed Hans with violent fervor. He responded with appropriate enthusiasm. Hans seized my shoulders. His mouth opened. His tongue explored mine; tasted his blood from my lips. I moaned as his kisses turned to nibbles, his teeth biting and scraping my lip.
Then Hans shifted his weight. He surged sideways and suddenly my back slammed against the floor. The breath was knocked out of me. Hans grabbed a fistful of my hair and pulled my head back, forcing my mouth to surrender its assault on his. His grip tightened, pulling painfully; my neck arched as he pulled back harder on my hair.
I closed my eyes and whimpered. Fuck yes. Hans nipped at my neck, then bit my collar hard. My eyes flew open and I cried out. I didn’t even know if it was pain or pleasure and I didn’t care because Hans was my alpha – when I wasn’t his – and when he asserted himself it was fucking hot.
Hans sat up. I let go of him so he could. He kept one hand on me and with the other he beckoned to Emma.
Emma. She was one of mine, too. Was Hans going to assert himself with her? I squirmed at the thought. Hot.
“It’s okay,” Hans said to Emma. “I have her under control.” His lips quirked in amusement. I didn’t take offense. His skin was flushed like mine. He was in control, but that didn’t mean he didn’t want me just as much as I wanted him.
He’s treating you like a beta, a tiny part of me pointed out.
So what? I snarled back mentally.
He’s preying on wolfy instincts to turn you into an obedient slut, the paranoid part clamored.
Good. It’s working. Shut up and let the man take me. Or take Emma. Or take both of us. God, that would be amazing.
I whimpered and wriggled under Hans. I was not enjoying not being kissed. Emma came closer and knelt down beside me, catching my attention. She had a little pocket knife in one hand. She used it to make a shallow cut across the tip of her left index finger.
Blood. Abruptly I forgot about Hans.
Fuck. Kill. Eat.
I surged toward Emma and Hans shoved me back against the floor, hard.
Right. Hans is in charge.
I stared at Emma with my mouth open – lips just slightly parted – unable to move because my alpha had made it perfectly clear that he intended for me to be still. Emma brought her fingertip to me and slid it between my lips. I didn’t know if she meant for it to be sensual, but it was. I closed my eyes and ran my tongue over the shallow cut.
Megan’s blood had been delicious in a way I still couldn’t describe. Feeding from Hans was like chugging a caffeinated aphrodisiac. Emma was different. Refreshing. Exciting, excited; with all the enthusiasm and uncertainty of youth – and the fractured confidence I’d seen in her so often before.
I only got a taste, but it was enough for me to recognize it as her.
Fuck, Kill, Eat was the mantra of Hans’ wolf. Please, I’ll do anything, was Emma’s. Love me, want me, need me, use me. Just don’t throw me away!
The part of my feelings that I recognized as mine recoiled. I let Emma pull her finger free despite the urging of Hans’ wolf. The wolf wanted to gorge. But Emma’s emotions were more complex than the wolf’s. The surge of desperation had just been what she’d felt in the instant that she’d given me her blood; now they were a jumble of conflicts. She was turned on. She was jealous. She was afraid. She wanted me to make her mine and she wanted to run away before I could reject her, and all of her conflicting desires just served to confuse the part of me that was Hans’ wolf and the part of me that was myself.
I blinked at Emma. My finger hurt. No, Emma’s finger hurt. I forced myself to sort out my thoughts. It didn’t really work. I was enough of a jumbled mess when my thoughts were just my own – I didn’t stand a chance with Hans’ and Emma’s mixed in.
So I gave up trying to figure out what to do and just did whatever felt right.
“Hans,” I said, “let me up.” Hans was my alpha – except when I was his. He slid off of me and I sat up.
I looked at Emma. She’d been jealous. I’d felt it. Now she was nervous. Still turned on, too. I twisted back toward Hans and kissed him hard.
The wolf approved. Emma was jealous and trying not to be. Jealous of Hans and jealous of me. I filed that away for later. Emma thought Hans was attractive. And she did not enjoy not being kissed, either.
I glared at Hans as sternly as I could. “Hans!” I exclaimed. “Stop being greedy. It’s Emma’s turn.”
Hans chuckled and held his hands up in surrender. Then he reached aside and pulled Emma into his place as he shifted back.
I felt a brief thrill as Hans’ hands closed around Emma’s upper arms – no, she did. It was replaced with a surge of anticipation.
Emma was an exhibitionist. She wasn’t just okay with making out in front of an audience – no, she really liked the idea. And since I had the benefit of her point of view, I could feel the appeal, too.
Wolfy me, Emma me, and horny me preemptively told prudish me to shut up and freak out later. I grabbed Emma and pulled myself against her. She wrapped her arms around me.
We kissed. A lot. With tongue.
I’m not sure how long Emma and I spent kissing. I lost myself in that little bit of her that was in my head – I didn’t just feel how incredible Emma’s lips felt on mine. I could feel how mine felt on hers. I felt the rush that made her breath catch when I bit and tugged her lower lip. I felt how badly she wanted to make me moan in pleasure, and the fierce satisfaction she felt when I did.
I didn’t get self-conscious like I had last night because I knew that Emma liked it when I was assertive just like I liked it when Hans was assertive – only without the paranoia and fear. And, because of feeling what Emma felt, knowing Hans was watching us was just a delicious bonus.
I was jarred out of the cycle of feedback by a knock at the door. Hans answered it, and it turned out to be the pizza Emma had ordered. While Hans dealt with that I turned my attention back to Emma. The actual person Emma, and not the sliver of what she was feeling that I could feel too.
“So,” I said awkwardly, “is it always like this?”
Emma shook her head. “I’m not feeling anything that you are,” she said. “If you fed from me first, then the sharing of emotion and sensation would be mutual.”
“Oh,” I said. I was somewhat relieved. I was going to have to remember that or Emma was going to find out exactly how weird I could be. “Okay.” I made myself smile. “You must be hungry,” I said.
Actually, I knew she was. I could feel it. I also knew that she was perfectly willing to skip dinner and keep making out.
Emma giggled. “A little bit,” she admitted. I wondered if she could sense that I could still feel what she was feeling, or if she had no way of knowing what parts of her emotions I was peeking in on. How long was this supposed to last, anyway?
“You should eat,” I said. I got up and helped her to her feet. “I’ll, uh, just go get the drinks from downstairs.”
“Okay,” Emma agreed. Behind her Hans had already sat down and helped himself to a slice. He was still watching us. Emma was practically glowing. I….
I was mortified. Hans’ wolfiness was gone, replaced with good old fashioned Abby mortification. Mortification that I had ignored by focusing on Emma’s feelings instead of my own. Mortification that had been building up and up and up while I’d ignored it. But now that I’d thought about it I couldn’t ignore it anymore.
I forced my smile to stay in place. Emma had no clue it was forced. I knew because her feelings were still there, on display in little corner of my mind. If ‘on display’ sufficed to describe the experience. Really, it was more like they were a pool in the corner of my mind and I was lounging in them; feeling them. I wasn’t just watching Emma’s emotions, I was experiencing them. “Well, okay then,” I said. “I’ll be right back.”
And then I fled.