Hans paused in his cleaning and even Emma seemed to be abruptly paying more attention to me. I waved my hands hastily as though that could clear the air of any heightened worries.
“I’m not hungry,” I explained. “Just getting there. In fact, this sort of feels like a ‘sweet spot.’ I’m peckish enough to not be a nervous wreck, but not so hungry I’m a psychopath. I would like to feed soon-ish, though. I don’t really like the idea of going dormant at sunrise and then waking up with a major craving.”
“Oh,” said Emma. She sidled a little closer. “Well, if you want…”
“Not from you,” I interrupted firmly. “I don’t know how long it would take you to recover, so I don’t know if you’re ready yet. John explained that since my first blood was Hans’ my curse has adapted to expect that potent of an aura to feed from. And since he’s an out-and-out supernatural, but you’re a regular human with a little witchery, I probably take a lot more out of you than Mr. Salvatore did. In fact, that’s why I got a mindful of your old, dealt with issues last time.” I hoped they were really dealt with, anyway. Even though I knew Emma still had problems with self-worth, the absolute certainty of abandonment I’d taken from her aura had been hellish. “Apparently I was taking much more deeply from your aura in order to match what I could get through Hans’ blood.”
Emma frowned unhappily. “Oh,” she said.
I put my hand on her wrist. “I’m not saying I won’t feed from you,” I reassured her – and how weird was it that she wanted reassuring about something like that? Well, to each their own. “Just that I won’t right now. And it’s not just because I don’t know if your aura has recovered from last night – it’s also because we have a date tonight, and I want to make sure you’re recovered for that.” I smiled at her. “I like you a lot, Em. And when we go out I’d like to go out with you. Not with the still recovering shell of what I’ve selfishly hollowed out.” I frowned. “And that didn’t come out as flattering as it was in my head,” I told her.
Emma grinned at me. “It’s okay,” she said. “I get what you mean and I appreciate it.”
“Well, now I’m wounded,” Hans teased. “You don’t seem to have that concern with me.”
I stuck my tongue out at him. “You don’t even feel it when I feed on you,” I countered. “So I’m not quite so worried about what I’m taking out.”
Hans stacked the dishes he’d collected on the bar. Then he came back over to the table. “Fair enough,” he replied. Then his tone turned more serious. “But while we’re on the topic, do you want to feed now? Or would you rather feed after sunrise and be awake for the day?”
Although I’d considered spending the day dormant, I didn’t hesitate to answer otherwise. “After,” I said. “If feeding will pull me out of dormancy, I’d like to do it after sunrise. I have a lot to think about, and I’m not that comfortable with the idea of being passed out all day.” I shrugged – but didn’t see a reason to hold back on the other reason I had for waiting. “Plus, I kind of like the emotional equilibrium I have going on right now… and I’d really like to show you my appreciation for everything you’ve done in the last few days, Hans.” I fixed my gaze firmly on his. “Preferably before I’m capable of the kind of anxiety that will make me freak out and leave you frustrated.”
Hans gazed back and the serious set to his lips slipped into a roguish grin. “I see,” he said.
Emma sputtered a laugh that made me glance at her. Why…?
It clicked before I could even think the question. Emma was laughing because of last night. When Emma’s emotions had been turning into mine she would have gotten a sense of what they were becoming – just like I’d sensed the difference between Mr. Salvatore’s obsession with Megan and my own dedication to my friend.
Emma was laughing because she’d gotten a glimpse of how my mind usually works, and she didn’t think Hans ‘saw’ the severity of alive-Abby’s issues at all.
I was probably going to be extremely self-conscious of that once I was fully fed again. Oh dear. Yes, I would definitely be freaking out about her level of insight when we were on our date.
For now, though, I gave her a quelling glare. It wasn’t mean – I just didn’t want Hans to feel like he was being laughed at. Emma managed to choke back her chortles, and for just a second my glare turned into a shared glance of bemusement. Either Hans would figure me out or he wouldn’t, but I didn’t really want to disillusion him before I had to.
Then Emma shook her head and stood. “Well,” she said, “I suppose that’s my cue to let you two have some pre-nibbles privacy.” Amusement still glinted in her eye as she smiled at Hans. “Thank you for breakfast,” she told him. “And Abby, should I just swing by after sunset to pick you up?”
“Yes please,” I answered. I knew I would be relieved about that later: I didn’t even know where the ice cream parlor we were supposed to go to was.
“Alright,” Emma said. “Then I’m going to go ahead and leave my overnight bag here and head home to do some nice aura-restoring activities until dinner. You two have fun.”
Hans started to offer to see her out, but Emma shook her head. “Please,” she snorted. “It’s almost sunup. Spend your time with Abby before she gets sleepy.” She pointed Hans at me and turned herself toward the stairs. She paused at the basement door to give us both a cheerful wave and then disappeared upstairs. Hans raised his eyebrows, bemused by her insistence, and sat down opposite me.
“So,” he asked as though he couldn’t make an educated guess, “What do you have in mind for a display of gratitude?”
I twitched. I’d had several ideas and one or two detailed fantasies since breakfast had started, but now nervous energy was propelling me to my feet instead of in pursuit of them. I started to pace but made myself stop. It wasn’t Hans that had me wound up. It was the approaching sunrise. I turned to face him. “I think you’ve guessed,” I said dryly.
Hans grinned wider and lifted his hand. He crooked a finger to wave me closer and I let the gesture reel me in. I felt a warmth stir in me, distracting me from the encroachment of day.
The feeling didn’t have the intensity of terror behind it. I liked it anyway. Hans was sexy in all sorts of ways, and I liked being able to appreciate them without panic overshadowing enjoyment. The warmth grew. I felt my cheeks flush – but then again, my whole body felt a little warm. Was this what it was like to be aroused without being ashamed or scared?
I decided I liked it.
Hans caught me about the waist and pulled me close. I squeaked and stumbled into him, catching myself against his chest. I grinned and curled my fingers into his shirt; then started tugging the fabric up. In short order the tee shirt was discarded and I was nestled in Hans’ lap, pressed up against his bare chest.
I listened to the steady beat of Hans’ heart and luxuriated in the warmth of his skin – but only for a moment. Despite our early breakfast we only had so long until sunrise and I didn’t want to let this opportunity go to waste. Or, even worse: to ruin the moment by going dormant mid-deed. I could only imagine how mortifying that would be once I’d fed enough to feel mortification again!
I pulled away from Hans just enough to start pulling my shirt over my head. Hans growled low in appreciation and helped. He tossed the garment aside and pulled me close again. His large hands cupped my waist and slid up the small of my back, sending shivers along my spine.
I fumbled behind my back to help Hans with the clasp on my bra. He probably didn’t need help, but I wanted to feel all of my flesh pressed bare against his; wanted him to fondle and tease me again. I wanted to experience everything he’d done to me yesterday morning – but without the paranoia and anxiety overshadowing everything.
Yes, the fears I normally felt around Hans had their own thrill. And yes, they stoked my desires – but their absence didn’t mean I didn’t want Hans still. My progression from attraction to arousal to lust was slower now, but there was no denying that I was thoroughly turned on and getting needier by the second. Plus, there was no panic urging me to freak out and ruin everything.
My bra came off. I let it fall beside me and returned my hands to Hans’ bare flesh. I ran my fingers up his abs and over his pecs – finally wrapping my arms around his neck and pulling myself up to kiss him again. My body dragged along his. He scooped me up – hands squeezing my ass through my jeans – and returned the kiss in full.
When our lips parted I moaned appreciatively. “Oh, fuck me,” I whispered to myself. Then, commanding, I addressed Hans. “Fuck. Me.”
Hans growled. His fingers tightened on my ass. I clung to him as he stood and carried me to the couch – but then, instead of throwing me down onto it and letting me scramble out of my pants while he hastily undid his, he hesitated.
It was just for a moment, but I felt Hans’ body tense from some internal conflict. My eyes widened in alarm – at least, as much alarm as I could feel without being alive enough to be terrified. It was enough to get my lust under control and pushed aside, anyway.
“Hans?” I asked. “What’s wrong?”
Hans muttered a short curse in a foreign tongue. Then he hastily put me down on the couch. I didn’t scramble out of my pants, though – it was clear that from Hans perspective sexy times were inexplicably over. He turned away. I tried to figure out exactly how I’d managed to screw things up without being a nutcase.
When I couldn’t figure it out, I went with the direct approach. “Hey,” I said hesitantly. “Did I do something wrong?”
Hans let out a breath. “Gods no, Abigail,” he said fervently. He started to turn back to me, but stopped himself. “I’m sorry – this is wholly my fault. I want you, Abigail. Fiercely. And I am so sorry. Even though you told us that any demands you made while under the effects of your hunger were to be verified with you when you were fed – even though I know you’re not wholly yourself right now – I very nearly let my selfish desires lead me to take advantage of you.”
I opened my mouth in unvoiced protest. I wanted to protest, but I couldn’t deny that I had told him that. And I could sort of see his point: I wasn’t my normal, fully alive self. But dammit, I still wanted to get laid!
Hans’ fist clenched at his side. “I’m sorry,” he said again. “I want you badly, and I know you want me as well. But neither of those things excuses taking advantage of your hunger-clouded perceptions to escalate our physical intimacy.”
I sat up and blinked at Hans’ back. A part of me was trying to wrap my head around the situation still – was this actually happening? Was my boyfriend – whom I’d been teasing mercilessly for days – turning me down?
I smiled slowly. Was it weird that seeing Hans lock down his own desires in order to respect my autonomy made me want him more? He was a genuinely good guy, more concerned with being moral than getting laid… and fuck me, but that was attractive.
“Alright,” I said. “You don’t need to apologize, though. I get what you’re saying. Except, you know, this isn’t a now or never thing, right? I want you too, but I am glad you’re not taking advantage of me. And I want you to ask me about this after I feed, so it isn’t a concern next time, okay?”
I saw Hans relax. “Okay,” he agreed.
“Good,” I said. “Now, I also told you that you didn’t have to ask me before doing anything I’d been okay with in the past.” I’d told him that our first morning together, when he’d had me pinned to my bed. I hadn’t even been turned into a vampire then, so that command wouldn’t need to be verified. “So if you don’t mind: I do want you, and would rather spend the time before sunrise being kissed and fondled and pinned to the couch than just sitting here awkwardly.”
I smiled wider when Hans whipped around to face me. “No escalation of physical intimacy without my fully-fed consent,” I promised. “Just the usual: merciless teasing, making out, and highly aggressive snuggling.”