I blinked a few times while I processed that. Then I tilted my head and gave Hans a hard stare. “You’re friends with a quisling?” I asked. If I’d known that, I wouldn’t have been half as worried about telling him about Megan! As I recalled, ‘quisling’ was John’s term for the human member of a pair of changelings. I shook my head in mild disbelief. “How did that happen?” I asked.
Hans shrugged awkwardly. “I’d lost my family. She had too, albeit in a different way. She approached me with her condolences, and John got me out of my head enough that he could point out she was dealing with a similar sort of grief.”
I nodded for Hans to continue and double checked that we had enough washcloths at the ready.
Hans shook his head at his recollections. “It wasn’t a good time for either of us. I think John helped us both more than we realized, back then. He kept arranging for us to spend time together, usually working, at first; then more casually. The three of us were somewhat outcast — Linda was considered a traitor, and had ended up losing the friends she’d protected when she betrayed her adoptive fae family. My pack was gone, and that loss was too raw for me to tolerate most people — or rather, for most people to be willing to tolerate me. And John… well, it’s prejudicial, but most people aren’t comfortable around ghouls.”
I started the shower going and tilted my head toward Hans. “Why?”
He snorted. “John never told you how ghouls feed, did he?”
I shook my head. “Only that it wasn’t quite the same as vampires.”
Hans sighed. “They don’t drink blood. They consume flesh. Dead flesh, preferably recently dead. It has to do with how they cheated death themselves, I think — they don’t need to consume new life, because their own lives never actually passed over to the other side, but they have to consume recent death because their souls know that death is the experience that they’ve somehow missed. I’m sorry, but that’s about as well as I can explain it: John was never terribly forthcoming about what it was like for him.” He shrugged again. “Anyway, there’s a reason people have historically called cannibals ‘ghouls.’ Animal flesh isn’t any more useful to them than animal blood is to you.”
I’d felt my jaw slowly dropping while Hans spoke, and clicked it shut with a swallow when he was done. I was suddenly glad I was thirsty for an entirely different reason: Sated Abby would have flipped out over hearing someone casually say she’d let a cannibal adopt her. As it was, I just shook my head. “Wow,” I said. “That sucks.”
Maybe I should invite him to lunch, too, I suddenly thought. If we actually ate at that Italian place with my folks, and it has the same mob owners, John could probably get something a little extra out of the red sauce. But, no: I really didn’t want to eat with my folks after ruining their plans to abduct me. “Hey, speaking of John — we should ask him to watch the house while we’re gone.” And Mr. Salvatore. We don’t want anyone trying to resurrect him while we’re gone, and I have no idea how many old donors he still has in town.
Hans nodded. “Good call,” he agreed. “Especially with the house ward broken — we don’t want to leave Salvatore helpless and unprotected.”
I nodded, even though my reasoning had been slightly different. Hans stood and stepped into the shower. I joined him. I was on a run for good ideas, apparently — but that was no surprise. I was thirsty. I was much more competent when I wasn’t my ‘normal’ self. And that was probably going to be depressing when I was capable of being depressed again.
Jets of water cascaded over Hans, but I wasn’t able to properly enjoy it. I didn’t think he could, either — he winced noticeably as he started scrubbing. I was mildly disappointed: I’d expected shower time shenanigans with Hans to be a lot more… fun. But between his pain and my thirst, it just was.
I frowned while that thought worked its way around my head. Then I snapped my gaze up to Hans’ face in startled realization: I was a moron.
Hans caught my surprise. He froze in the midst of soaping an arm. “What is it?” He asked.
“I’m a moron,” I told him. “Give me that.”
Hans offered me his washcloth. I grabbed his wrist, instead. Then I took the cloth with my other hand.
“Abigail?” Hans asked.
“You hurt, and I want to be horny,” I explained. “And if I feed, then I get what I want — and you get sympathetic vampire healing powers, for the win-win.”
Hans’ eyebrows rose. I wiped off his wrist with the washcloth and then tossed it aside. I held his arm in the spray of shower water to rinse it. Then I pulled it back, leaned in and bit.
My fangs punctured Hans’ skin effortlessly, plunging deep enough to scrape something in his wrist. I tasted the faint presence of soap, and water, and then blood as it welled up. Hans tensed, and I moaned into his wrist, leaving my fangs planted in his flesh. I bit harder as the rush of life hit me. I could taste Hans — not just physically, but something more. I was beginning to be able to differentiate between the taste of blood and skin and flesh, and the taste of life. And I could see how it would be addictive.
I drank deeply while the wolf rampaged through my vacant emotional landscape. It exulted. It was all about primal needs: to hunt, to kill, to rut. It was ecstatic about the recent death of one of its enemies; one of its rivals. And because of that, for the moment, its urges to hunt and kill were sated — which left its base desires and my base desires in accord.
I growled softly and let go of Hans’ wrist when my own hunger subsided. The shower water didn’t let the blood linger or dry: in seconds his unblemished wrist showed no sign of what I’d done to it. Somehow, I didn’t like that.
Hans was also holding himself differently — more relaxed; without the pain of earlier. I let my eyes wander up his nude body. My nostrils flared slightly. He glistened from the spray of the shower and was flushed from the heat — and more than half aroused as his own eyes wandered over me.
With another growl, I pounced. I wrapped my arms around his neck; the sudden collision and slick footing made him step back, against the shower wall. I pulled myself up so that my body dragged along his chest, so my thighs could straddle and hug his waist; so my lips had access to his. I kissed him with the wild abandon I’d learned from Emma. Hans growled in response, and his arms closed around me.
One slid under me and hefted me up slightly, supporting me, helping me into a better position — letting him fondle my ass. The other closed around my waist. His hand slid up along my spine, sending shivers through me — warm shivers that extended out from the caress until even my fingers tingled. That hand made its way up to cup my head and hold my mouth against his while we kissed — and then Hans’ fingers tangled in my hair. And just like that he had control of me.
He pulled my head back, just slightly. I whimpered and strained for his lips: I wanted to enjoy and do as much as I could before the wolf was subsumed and my anxiety came back, and just realizing that was my motivation meant it was going to happen far too soon. Hans held me tauntingly out of reach and tilted his head, then covered my mouth with his. He kissed me hard; deeply, and when he pulled away he caught my lower lip between his teeth and bit.
My fangs came back out a little.
I clung tighter to him. Hans slid his hand out of my hair and along my spine. I whimpered and nuzzled against his chest. Even though my head was free again, I was fine with letting him be in control; letting him be the alpha. As long as I was finally fucked silly.
He stroked down the nape of my neck; his other hand squeezed my ass again. Then he closed his eyes. I felt his chest expand against mine as he inhaled deeply — our bodies, slick from the shower, made little suction noises that would probably have been distracting if it weren’t for the passion of the moment. As it was, they made me bite his shoulder, leaving long scratches from my nub-like fangs when my mouth slid shut and my lips pressed against his skin in a kiss.
Then Hans exhaled softly. His head descended, over my shoulder, and I thought he was going to kiss me: nuzzle my neck, and kiss and nibble and tease like he had that first night. My guts twisted up in anticipation and fright — I clung to the anticipation; tried to cling to the wolf that was rapidly giving way to ‘living Abigail.’
But instead of tormenting me, Hans rested his head next to mine. “The condoms are in the bedroom,” he murmured. “Shall we relocate?”
The question jolted my consciousness. It demanded an answer, which the wolf couldn’t provide — and the last vestiges of it vanished from my psyche. Suddenly I was Abigail: just me; just myself, pretending to be more aggressive and passionate and capable than I was. I floundered for a response, and my auto pilot took over. “Don’t ruin the moment,” it commanded.
Hans’ lips twitched. “Very well,” he said, and I started to panic as he turned his head and began to kiss me, to nuzzle my neck — to kiss and nibble and tease my skin as I had desired so desperately just seconds before. My breath caught. My heart started pounding far faster than just having fed could justify. What was he going to do? What the hell was I doing?!
I tried to disentangle myself, and Hans let me, though he didn’t stop teasing me with his kisses until I got my legs back under myself. Then he straightened and let me slide back down to standing — his hands running over my sides as he let me slip down between them. Just back away, I thought once I was on my own feet again. It’ll be okay if you don’t make any sudden movements. Right? Or did that only work for bears and mountain lions? Maybe I should raise my hands up over my head to make myself look big or somethi…
My scrambling thoughts were interrupted by the fact that Hans hadn’t gotten my first mental memo. He moved way too fast — I didn’t even get to yelp until he’d already caught me about the waist, lifting just enough to turn me. He stepped forward as he did and pivoted in the limited space available in the shower’s tub. My yelp of surprise ended when I caught myself on my forearms against the shower’s other corner wall.
I was leaning into the wall. Hans was right behind me. One of his hands was tight around my waist. The other was higher: giving me support; letting him cup my breast. He was leaning over me; against me, trapping me in place.
I couldn’t back away: Hans was behind me. I couldn’t go to either side: His arms hemmed me in. I couldn’t go forward: there was a wall. And I couldn’t even move my arms, because I was leaning forward too much — if I stopped supporting myself, I would fall into the shower wall. I was terrified. I was exhilarated. My arms trembled. I was trapped. Trapped, naked, being fondled.
About to be ravished.
My breath caught — I stopped breathing, because the only other option was hyperventilating. Hans leaned against me, his solid body spooning mine while we stood. “Abigail,” his accent purred seductively in my ear, “Since I have been firmly instructed to ask you before doing anything new that I think you may enjoy… I would like to touch you, Abigail. Intimately.” His hand near my waist slid down; his fingertips brushing closer to the vee between my legs. His voice was low, patient, passionate. “May I?”
I wanted to scream: ‘Don’t you dare!’ To yell for him to let me go, now! My heart was pounding as fast as my panicked lungs wanted me to be breathing, and the words came out in a rush: “Don’t you dare let me go now,” I snapped. My eyes widened, but Hans couldn’t see that. Fuck me, I thought — that had been my ‘I am giving the orders’ voice. I snapped my mouth shut, afraid to say or think anything else, because I knew my verbal auto pilot would just blurt out anything that was in my mind, now.
“Fuck me,” I added — proving my point, at the same time as it confirmed that my verbal filters were down, my conversational autopilot was a sadistic bitch, and I was finally screwed. And yet: I was looking forward to it. The panicking, terrified part of me was still there, but it had gone into terror-overload. It was like the part of me that should by all rights be scared shitless had just given up and gone catatonic. Which made perfect sense. I was trapped in Hans’ arms, helpless: nothing that happened from this point on would be my fault.
There was a kind of relief in that. As long as there was nothing I could do about it, there was no point worrying about what I should be doing. And if it wasn’t my fault, then I didn’t have to feel guilty if I kind of accidentally sort of happened to possibly like it.
“Please,” my traitorous autopilot plead — though I couldn’t even begin to discern whether that plea was for him to take me or to free me, now.
And then my breath escaped in a moan as Hans’ fingertips finally slipped between my legs.