I got up and continued to pace while I waited for the washer to finish. I might’ve gone back into the utility room to watch for it to spin down, but that just wasn’t necessary: I wasn’t anxious about the built in timer going off and I could hear the machine from where I was. In fact, I could even hear Hans and Emma moving around upstairs. If I concentrated, I could almost make out their conversation.
That seemed to bear out my theory that I was getting thirsty again. My vamp-enhanced senses were definitely sharper than usual. I didn’t push them, though, because I didn’t want to hasten things further. Now that I knew what the issue was I couldn’t ignore the urge to feed – and I knew that if I pushed my powers then my restraint would be one of the things my thirst consumed while it waited for blood.
Fortunately, my conversation with mom hadn’t just seemed to take forever – either that or Mr. Salvatore’s washer was really efficient. In either case, I heard it spin down before I started to worry about my hunger getting out of control.
I hurried to get my new pajamas and throw them – and just them – into the dryer. I ran it on high for fifteen minutes before popping it open and pulling them out, then throwing the rest of my laundry in and setting it for a normal drying cycle. The thought of changing into something that was definitively mine – and deliciously warm – couldn’t be denied. I almost went ahead and changed right there in the utility room. It also couldn’t be denied that my usual paranoia was absent. But even so, the presence of Mr. Salvatore was just too creepy. I didn’t know if he was still conscious in there, or if he even had any sort of awareness if he was still cognizant – and I didn’t care. I was not going to strip in the same room as a corpse.
I hastily changed clothes in the basement parlor instead, and then went to find Emma and Hans. I was going to need to drink soon: the pleasure I’d anticipated over changing into my own clothes had failed to manifest. Instead my thoughts were persistently turning to how much nicer a swallow of blood would have felt coursing down my throat had I sought that out instead. Or how pleasant it would be to tear flesh with my teeth.
I licked my lips. My bare feet padded silently up the stairs.
I found Hans and Emma in the guest room on the second floor. It didn’t take much of a search: I was drawn straight there by the steady cadence of their heart beats.
Emma had left on a light. She was in bed already, but awake. She had one of the shelf’s romance novels out and opened somewhere midway through it. Hans, in wolf form, sat on the loveseat. From there he watched over Emma, and under the bed, and then glanced toward the door.
Hans did a double take and sat up when he saw me. Apparently he hadn’t heard me coming down the hall – but then, how could he have? My heart wasn’t beating.
I smiled at Hans and stepped into the room. “Are we secure?” I asked from the doorway – more to announce my presence to Emma before I scared her than because I was particularly worried about Mr. Salvatore’s defenses against the fae.
Emma jumped anyway. She sat up and put her book aside. She had been mostly under the covers, but they slipped down to her waist as she straightened. She was wearing a tank top with spaghetti string sleeves that left her arms and shoulders and collar and cleavage bare and begging to be bit.
I reined that urge in sharply. I was aware that whatever I might want, a person’s clothes did not constitute an invitation. I was having trouble with why I should worry about Emma’s consent, though – even though I knew that was the sort of callousness I would despise in myself once I was sated. But that was the problem with everything I might want to do. Alive Abby was far too emotional and generally either irrational or stupid or both.
I smiled at Emma, but I made it a closed-lip smile so she wouldn’t be spooked by my fangs before I decided what to do about her. Her clothes might not constitute an invitation, but her invitations did. She had already offered herself up to me more than once today. Would that be enough justification to keep me from feeling guilty if I drained her dry? Or would my stupid, over-emotional side do something stupid and emotional like trying to get myself locked up before I could hurt anyone else?
Hmph. Like anyone else even mattered.
“We’re as safe as I can make us,” Emma said. “There’s already iron in all the door and window frames, and I sprinkled fresh salt across the thresholds of the exterior doors. I would need to look up some stuff to do anything more potent… I really wasn’t very good at incantations and rituals. But I did see some pretty intricate hexes over the front and back doors, and etched in the window panes. They looked like the ones at Katherine’s place, so I bet she placed them here as well. And I know she knows her stuff.”
I nodded. I wasn’t really paying attention, though. I’d decided that once I’d become insensibly emotional again I probably wouldn’t accept Emma’s earlier invitations as enough of a permission to rip her throat out now. I sighed mentally. I would have to ask her again, to ‘make sure’ it was still okay. And I’d probably react poorly later if I permanently hurt her, so I’d have to take it easy. As much as I wanted to gorge, I’d have to feed slowly and make sure I stopped before Emma’s life was snuffed out entirely. Otherwise I knew the guilt would make Alive Abby do something I would find horrendously inconvenient when I got thirsty again. It sucked that I was my own worst enemy like that. Unlife would be so much easier if I could just be sensibly sociopathic all the time.
Well, at least I hadn’t put off feeding to the point that it was all consuming. If I’d let it go too much longer or used too much more of my powers, I doubted I’d be bothered to give a rat’s ass about how stupid I’d potentially be after a kill.
“That’s good,” I said. “Thank you for looking over our defenses. Now, I know you must be tired, but if you could I would appreciate it if you’d do me another favor.”
Emma leaned forward. “Of course,” she said. She wasn’t wearing a bra, and the thin tank top stretched across her breasts, just barely high enough for modesty’s sake. “What is it?”
I tried to bring my gaze back up to her eyes but didn’t get further than the pulse in her neck. “I’m thirsty,” I said calmly. “And I want you. If you’re still willing.”
Emma’s breath caught and her pulse quickened. Hans sat up straighter. He growled softly.
I shot him a glance. The fur along his hackles was raised and he stared back at me intently. I rolled my eyes. “I’m not going to hurt her,” I told him dryly. “If I were so far gone as to be out of control I wouldn’t be bothering to ask for permission, now would I?”
Hans ducked his head, chastised. He didn’t relax, exactly, but the growl did stop and his teeth weren’t bared – which was good enough for me. I turned back to Emma.
“Okay,” she said breathlessly.
I was almost surprised. I’d been bracing myself for the internal struggle that would have ensued had she said no, and wasn’t prepared for her to say yes.
“Okay,” Emma said again. “You’re in control and you’re not going to hurt me… so you can take me. I’ll let you. I’m willing.”
I didn’t need more invitation than that – but I had enough restraint to remember I had to go slow. I wanted to stop time so I could leap across the room and sink my fangs into her throat that much faster. I didn’t, though. For all I knew, freezing time like that might end up consuming my capacity for restraint – and then I’d end up with full veins and a dead girlfriend and a pissed off werewolf and a stupidly bereft conscience.
I approached Emma slowly. Slow even by mortal standards: I took one measured step after another to close the distance between us. My eyes wandered over Emma’s exposed skin – pale, smooth, soft – trying to decide where to bite first. Emma’s pulse jumped, racing like a rabbit that realizes it’s being stalked.
It occurred to me that ‘taking things slow’ might have its silver linings. The predator in me exulted in Emma’s reaction. She was prey, and we both knew it.
I climbed onto the foot of the bed and stalked toward Emma on my hands and knees. She stared at me in wide-eyed anticipation; I didn’t let her eyes escape my gaze. I knew she could see my thirst. I enjoyed the fact that it frightened her. I felt powerful and in control – and viciously pleased that she was uncontestedly mine, to do with as I pleased, and fuck everyone else.
Emma unconsciously leaned back as I neared, but I was already over her. My knees straddled her legs, keeping them trapped under the covers. The headboard was behind her, bracing her partially upright and preventing further escape. I wriggled forward, kneeling over her lap, my legs still straddling hers so I could sit up and free my hands instead of continuing to crawl.
I ran my palms over Emma’s waist, up her sides. The fabric of her top crumpled up under my fingers, but I let it slip back down as my hands rose along her ribs; my palms brushing the sides of her breasts. Prey. Emma was prey, and I thirsted – but the thing was: in my mind ‘prey’ always carried some very specific connotations.
Connotations that didn’t have a damn thing to do with eating in a conventional sense. At least, not until after the fact.
I wasn’t even conflicted about it. My usual anxieties were already absent from my thirst-influenced psyche, and I’d even warned Emma. It wasn’t my fault if she hadn’t grasped all the desires implied behind my request. There were so many ways ‘I want you’ could be interpreted. At least as many as Emma’s freely offered ‘take me.’ I would have been shocked if Emma hadn’t at least considered the double meaning in my request and her reply.
I moved one of my hands to Emma’s arm. I didn’t break our gazes. Instead, I found my way up by touch, caressing her skin; following the curve over her shoulder. I stopped at the raised band of her spaghetti strap sleeve. Emma’s skin was just as smooth as it looked and as I remembered from last night. She’d offered herself to me then, too, but I’d been too neurotic to properly accept.
Not so, tonight.
I slipped the strappy sleeve down her shoulder. I pulled it down her arm, down to her elbow. I didn’t look to see how much that tugged her neckline down – how much it exposed her. I kept her transfixed with my gaze.
I knew she had a thing for being the subject of a hungry stare. She’d said as much, last night. I drew my fingers back along her shoulder, tracing a circle on Emma’s skin where I’d decided to place my first bite. I smiled, and this time I didn’t conceal my teeth or fangs. I felt her tremble under my fingers. Felt goose bumps rise on her skin as I slid my hand back down along her arm… one final caress before I tightened my grip just above her elbow, holding her fast.
“Last chance to change your mind,” I warned her – but I wasn’t sure that was true. I didn’t know if I had the wherewithal to push her aside and avail myself of Hans if Emma tried to back out now.
Emma didn’t make me find out. She nodded in hasty, almost needful agreement. “I’m yours,” she said brazenly. Her cheeks and lips were flushed with arousal. Her heartbeat was a siren’s song to my thirst.
I tilted my head and smiled at her again to show my approval. Emma had confessed last night that she rather enjoyed the attention of the possessive type. I, I was discovering, rather enjoyed doing the possessing.
I let my gaze wander down Emma’s neck; along her shoulder. The curve of her bare breast tempted my eyes to descend further. I tightened my grip on her arm and side as need struggled with want within me. Emma gasped in pain. Need won.
With no further foreplay I struck: lunging forward and sinking my fangs into Emma’s shoulder, just before the curve of her neck.