Fortunately, John proved amenable to coming over. In fact, he seemed positively thrilled to be able to do his ‘little sister’ a favor two days in a row. I managed to keep the conversation short and sweet by not getting into the specifics. I figured I could let Hans tell John about Katherine and Megan and everything. It was bad enough that I was going to have to tell Emma. Besides, if I had kept talking to John I would have ended up asking how he felt about red sauce, or bacon, or bacon in red sauce — and there was no way that wouldn’t have gotten awkward. Mostly because I probably would’ve ended up blurting something about how I thought people taste great, too. Which, ironically, was sort of true: at least, if you were talking about their auras or souls or whatever. Blood and flesh, when I contemplated them by themselves, were just squicky.
Unfortunately, the downside of a short and sweet conversation was that I didn’t have a good escape on hand when Hans came down to the basement and caught me. Instead, I was sitting on the couch, pulling on a pair of socks. When I looked up, Hans was coming into the room. I bit my lip and looked away despite myself. He came over and sat down next to me.
“Linda is good with the plan,” he said easily. “She’ll meet us at the restaurant around one. That should give us plenty of time to talk to your folks.”
Despite myself I laughed weakly. I didn’t want plenty of time to talk to my folks. There was no way mom wasn’t going to see right through me. As soon as Hans and I walked into the Italian restaurant, she was going to take one look at us and just be: ‘I knew it.’ I was going to squirm under that glare until I fessed up. And, oh, god, Emma was going to be there too. Somehow I was going to have to convince my mom that Hans wasn’t trying to take advantage of me, despite the fact that I’d just sort of let him have some free reign in the shower — and I was taking advantage of our supposed chaperone.
“Hey,” Hans said. He reached down to catch my chin, but I ducked my head again. “Abigail, what’s wrong?” He asked.
“Nothing,” I blurted.
I could feel Hans’ disbelieving expression bore into my head. “You aren’t acting like nothing is wrong,” he noted. Somehow he managed to keep from sounding accusatory. I flushed a little harder despite myself. Dammit! I was undead: wasn’t one of the perks supposed to be that I couldn’t blush anymore?
Of course Hans noticed. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him frown, then grimace at himself. “I came on too strong again, didn’t I?”
Well, that was an easy solution. I didn’t want Hans to realize I was crazy — it was bad enough that Emma had a pretty good idea from our brief shared souls experience — and here he was wanting to take the blame for how I was acting. “Yeah,” I said… But how was that fair? Dammit! I’d backpedaled the last time he’d tried to let me blame him, too. “I mean no. I mean: have I told you I’m a relationships neophyte?”
Hans nodded. “Which is precisely why I should be taking things slower,” he concluded. I opened my mouth to agree, closed it; tried again, and blurted: “Don’t you dare!” I glared at him for exactly half a second before I realized what I’d actually said and looked away again. “I… just… you…” I sputtered. What am I doing?
I was trying to explain myself, I reminded myself. And doing a bad job: I was flustered, struggling with the words — and struggling harder with the idea of Hans realizing just how messed up I was on top of knowing I was a kinky slut. I mean: I liked it when he got a little rough, physically. I liked it when I got a little rough, physically. I had a girlfriend and a boyfriend! And I was apparently willing to let them take liberties with my body — or willing to take liberties with theirs, myself — after just a few days. What else could I be called? My attempts at explaining myself sputtered and died, overwhelmed by a mix of shame and despair.
I spun on Hans and gave him a glare. Now I really didn’t know what I was doing, but previous experience suggested that ‘shutting up’ would be too much to hope for. “This is your fault for being too damn sexy,” I declared. What?! “I mean: where do you get off, getting me off like that?”
Hans blinked in surprise and started to marshal a reply. I ran right over it.
“No, really,” I insisted. “Where in that whole scenario do you get off? I got off twice. You? Zero. How is that fair? And now I have to sit around feeling sated and greedy, because I didn’t reciprocate.” My ears tingled: I’m pretty sure the heat from my cheeks had extended through them. “Bad Hans,” I scolded.
The reply Hans had tried to make sputtered into laughter. I pulled myself up to as high as I could while sitting on a couch and shook my finger at him. The part of me that was consciously under my control was horrified that he’d caught me after I’d already put on my socks — at least if I weren’t wearing them, I’d have had the option to try stuffing them in my mouth to stem the tide of words. My conversational autopilot did something rude with the remnants of my verbal filters and kept on going
“Seriously,” I said with my arms crossed. “When are we going to take care of this, Hans? I mean, today’s just out, since we’re going to see my parents, and then your friend, and then I have a date with Emma — and then she’s going to be staying over, and I know I’m a kinky slut but the three-way should probably wait at least until after I’ve had a second date with both of you. Plus, if she got you off, that probably wouldn’t even count, would it?” I eyed Hans suspiciously. “Well, would it? You’re the one with the rulebook and scoring manual, Hans.”
Hans managed to quash his laughter by pressing his lips tightly together. When he parted them to reply, his breath escaped in something almost like a chuckle. “Rulebook?” he asked as though he wasn’t aware of the national pastime in his home country.
“Okay, maybe you don’t actually have a rulebook. I know how you sports fanatics know everything about your pastime off the tops of their heads,” I allowed. “But I don’t even know what the rules are, let alone how to deal with penalties, so you’re going to have to forgive the occasional ignorance on my part.”
Hans thought for a second, and then sat up straighter himself. “Hey!” He protested after he got where I was coming from. “I am not seducing you for sport!”
I thought about asking him how he could explain the man in the black and white checkerboard kilt I kept imagining was handing out red cards when I derailed things. Fortunately, my verbal autopilot only blurts out things I haven’t thought of saying. “No trying to avoid the question, mister,” I said — and went so far as to poke him in the chest. “What did you get out of that shower scene, if you aren’t up to something nefarious?”
Hans sputtered again — then caught my hand and brought it to his lips. The motion pulled me forward. I caught myself with my other hand, and Hans kissed my trapped fingertips. “I got,” he said between kisses, “the pleasure of hearing your moans while in a form that could appreciate that pleasure to its fullest — something I’ve wanted ever since shifting away from a wolf last night.”
My face started to heat up again. Partially because of his words, partially because of his kisses — partially because I was neurotic, and partially because my face was almost in his lap. “That still doesn’t sound very fair,” I mumbled. I didn’t know if I was more grateful that he couldn’t see I was blushing again, or mortified that my imagination kept insisting on editing my current pose — and Hans’ wardrobe — just enough to be really indecent and prevent further conversation.
Touche, inner slut, I conceded. I had been thinking that if I could just stuff something in my mouth it might stop the words from coming out. That admission helped neither my embarrassment nor my blushing.
Hans then caught hold of me and pulled me closer. To my surprise, he righted me, set me in his lap, and looped his arms around my waist. My imagination had been so sure he’d been about to set me on the floor so he could get out of his jeans!
“Abigail,” Hans said, “I know you’re inexperienced. You know I’m not. I consider myself a patient person, and I meant it when I said you could lead our relationship where you liked. The only ‘rules’ I’m following are the ones you’ve laid out. But you should trust that I won’t sit silent if you actually do step over some line I hadn’t realized was there.”
I bit my lip and hid my face against his chest. I couldn’t tell him what the real problem was — I just couldn’t! So instead I mumbled “I just don’t understand why someone as nice as you is willing to put up with someone as messed up as me.” I would have said ‘wants to be with,’ except he’d already explained that once. It still didn’t make sense, though.
Hans sighed softly and bent his head to kiss the top of mine. I kept my face burrowed against his chest. He was warm, and smelled nice, and even though I was very aware that I was trapped while his arms were around me, I kind of liked it. Even the being trapped. Dirty. Kinky. Slut.
“I like you, Abigail,” Hans said. He considered his words carefully, so I would know they weren’t just platitudes. “It’s not just that I find you attractive, or that I’m impressed by your strength in the face of adversity — though both of those are true, too. But I like the way you tease me. I enjoy the anticipation, and even the frustration. I appreciate the challenge of behaving with restraint despite the temptation you present. It… It confirms to me that whatever my desires may be, I am in control of myself. That I dictate who I am and how I choose to act, not my environment or circumstances or other people.”
That I’m not really a wolf, Hans didn’t say — but I heard it in his words regardless.
I wanted to protest that he hadn’t seemed very restrained in the shower — except that he had asked before acting, and I was certain if I’d ever managed to actually say ‘stop’ he would have. And at the same time, I wanted to protest that he wasn’t a wolf, and shouldn’t need any proof to know he was in control of himself, because he was more patient and understanding than I deserved by any stretch of even my imagination. There was no justice in this world if his curse made him doubt that.
So naturally, instead I tilted my head up and asked: “So… teasing is good?”
Hans chuckled. He ducked in to plant a quick kiss on my lips. “Very,” he confirmed.
I put my head back down on his shoulder. For a little while we just sat like that: Hans holding me; me cuddled up against his warm, masculine bulk. It was nice. My emotions were hopelessly jumbled, but even my fear of being alone with a man who was larger and stronger than me — of being trapped in the arms of such a man — didn’t detract from that. I knew there was no way I could untangle all the rest, so I just hung onto that niceness, and hung on to Hans, and listened for the doorbell that I knew would eventually interrupt us.
That was its own special sort of torture. I wasn’t even sure if it was because I dreaded the bell as an alarm that was silently winding to its conclusion, or if it was because I didn’t want to be forced by social niceties to stop sitting on Hans’ lap and laying against his chest. My stomach started to knot up, in either case.
When I heard the scuff of a footstep approaching the front door, I realized I’d become too focused on listening for it to be enjoying our cuddle, anyway. I pulled my attention back to Hans, and caught him watching me. My heart did a flip flop and I opened my mouth to tell Hans that someone had arrived.
I stretched forward and moaned softly in his ear, instead. I felt his muscles tense. Then my inner slut whispered: “Just checking,” before she had me nip at his bottom earlobe. I closed my lips around it and pulled away, letting it escape just as the doorbell rang.
I used the excuse of the doorbell to make my escape, too. Mortified by my brazen actions, I hastily slipped out of Hans’ grip and off the couch while he let out a good natured groan. Then I turned and, blushing head to toe, bolted for the stairs so I could greet our guest and see if Emma or John had shown up first.