I fed eagerly from Reid’s wrist, and with his blood came life — and a wave of insight into Reid’s emotions. Weirdly, he was happy. Apparently he’d followed my orders and reconnected with whomever it was that Archarel had been keeping him separate from, and the reunion had gone well.
I didn’t care.
I bit down harder, keeping the wound open, and drank deeper. Faerie blood was pure bliss to consume: it was what my curse had adapted to require, after all, and the only blood that could truly sate me.
I felt a part of Reid turn uncertain as I growled into his arm; felt a sliver of fear that I would go too far. And I might have — but two other trolls seized me and pulled me off of him. I snarled in protest, but another faerie’s wrist replaced Reid’s before I could lash out. My snarl ended in a bite; my fangs sank into fae flesh and my angry snarl was muted into a mewl of pleasure.
This faerie’s ‘uncertainty’ bordered on panic, but he was keeping himself from feeling it somehow. Discipline, I guessed: I didn’t really care any more than I had about Reid’s personal affairs. All that really mattered was that his blood was coursing down my throat. I didn’t care at all about what he had to go through to make himself stand there while I took it.
All too soon that arm was wrestled away from me as well. I twisted about in protest and bit the one of the trolls that had manhandled me away from my meal. I felt his shock as life started draining into me, his fear that he might have pissed off the vampire who destroyed Archarel — and his confidence that someone would pull me off of him as well. I snarled and bit harder, making that confidence waver. At the same time, though, I knew it was a superfluous gesture: I was rapidly becoming sated and did not know if I would even need blood from a fourth troll.
When they pulled me off of this last victim, my thirst was comfortably slaked. When I was pulled free I ignored the arm that was offered to me and gasped for air instead: my body was, as it often seemed to do when I had just fed, insisting that it was alive. My heart started pumping of its own accord, and I closed my eyes so I could focus on sorting out the trolls’ emotions from my own and partitioning them off until they could be consumed by my curse and become solely mine.
That might have been a mistake.
My heart shifted from pumping to pounding as my senses kicked into supernatural overdrive. I could hear the breathing of the trolls that surrounded me, feel the warmth and roughness of their hands on my arms. I was suddenly intimately aware of the fact that no matter which way I turned there would be someone large and male and quite possibly evil looming behind me — that I was already being manhandled by an entire pack of massive men who might feel the desire to get something back for the blood I’d taken from them.
I started to hyperventilate.
Oh god. I was even already in a bed.
My eyes snapped open and I scrambled backward, ripping free of the trolls’ grasp and putting my back against the wall at the head of the bed. I stared at the four trolls Reid had brought with him, my eyes jumping from one to another in a blind panic. They looked back at me: the two trolls I had not fed from had blank expressions on their faces, while those who shared their emotions with me — and who had an insight into my emotions — reacted differently. The last one I’d bitten looked shocked, while the one whose wrist had replaced Reid’s leered back at me. Reid reached out and casually smacked him upside the back of the head, and his leer vanished as he turned and scowled at Reid — then seemed to shrink and duck his head under the force of the glare Reid threw back at him.
“Out,” I managed to stammer. I felt flushed from the rush of all the life I had consumed, and now that it seemed evident that Reid wasn’t going to let any of his men cross a line with me, my overactive imagination had stopped torturing me with the thought of what they might have done to me and started fantasizing about what they might have done with me. My stomach was doing flips and my heart was back to racing. I did not need them picking up on the shift of tone my treacherous imagination had foisted on me: it might make Reid decide not to stop them, and then I’d be back to panicking. Not that I wasn’t panicking about that. My voice came out in a broken squeak as I reiterated: “Everybody out.”
The goblins who had been watching — oh god, an audience? — were the first to file out. Reid’s trolls followed. Reid himself waited until they were gone. Fortunately for my shattered sense of security I could tell from Reid’s emotions — as they were slowly being fed into my curse — that he wasn’t interested in wrestling me to the bed and tearing off the tattered remains of my real clothing.
“Is everything well?” he asked, and he sounded genuinely concerned.
I nodded jerkily. It was even true, to a certain extent: my body was alive again, and my soul was largely intact. Although I couldn’t see the stitched net I’d put over the largest tear in my soul, it still seemed to be holding. I was still losing aura through the other two, but they were narrow enough of rips that the aura just sort of oozed out of them, rather than pouring. The only thing that wasn’t alright was my twisted imagination, which was currently teasing me with the thought of being pinned down against Emma’s bed — Emma’s bed, for god’s sake! — and…
Fortunately I managed to squelch those thoughts before they had a chance to bleed over where Reid might pick them up. “Everything’s fine,” I forced myself to blurt. “I just don’t do well with crowds. In strange places. Or being restrained. By trolls.” I was starting to hyperventilate again. “I’m not that kinky!” I protested.
Reid opened his big, jagged-toothed mouth to reply, but Derrick stepped in to save me.
“You heard the lady,” Derrick said as he stepped forward from the side of the room. “She wants everyone out.” He gestured sharply with his rifle, and followed a bemused Reid to the bedroom door. After Reid ducked out, Derrick turned back to me. “If you need anything,” he said — oblivious to the fact that I’d forgotten he was there and had nearly had a heart attack when he suddenly spoke up — “I’ll be right outside.”
I nodded mutely. I didn’t trust my auto pilot not to make Derrick an indecent offer in expression of my gratitude for his rescue. I was also getting wound tighter as each individual left, because obviously being trapped alone in a bedroom with a fierce carnalvore was much more dangerous than being trapped with a crowd of them. Especially when my clothes were hanging off of me in tatters that probably showed off way more of what I didn’t have than I wanted to contemplate. And it didn’t help that I was still caught up in the rush of feeling alive — the post-feeding haze of vitality. Even though the trolls hadn’t hit me the way Hans’ wolf did, I still felt torn by the desire to do all sorts of living things — only those desires were mine, this time, instead of some primal beast’s.
I wished Hans was here. I was mostly okay with the idea of being trapped alone with him. Plus, while I wasn’t being overwhelmed by the mantra of kill, eat, fuck, I did feel a powerful urge to slaughter and devour a plate of bacon and pancakes and sausages, and maybe make out with the chef afterward.
No! Bad Abby! I couldn’t make out with Hans right before I broke up with him so he could be happy with Fumiko. That would so be sending mixed signals, and mixed signals were how I’d somehow started dating him to begin with!
Crap! Was Hans even okay? I hadn’t seen him since jumping out of the car he was driving to Megan’s. But he had to be okay. He was big and strong and tough. He’d saved me from Mr. Salvatore! Sort of. He also was under a geas, a cruel part of me reminded myself. And his soul was so torn up that his aura and his wolf were bleeding together.
My stomach roiled, but this time it had nothing to do with panic. This time it was all guilt. I choked back the urge to gag: faerie blood wasn’t real and I didn’t have anything to throw up. If anything happened to Hans, it’s completely my fault.
I took everything I’d figured I had to do while I was dormant and threw it out. Dad could hold on for a… okay, I needed to check up on Dad. But I didn’t need to meet with the third scion — she was probably dormant right now, anyway — and I’d managed to patch up my soul, so I didn’t need to ask a faerie to look at it for me.
I shivered. I didn’t want a faerie to look at the damage to my soul for me. Who knew what kind of advantage a faerie would be able to take of such an invitation? Besides: I was freaked out enough by what I’d found when I’d looked at it, even if I’d managed to distract myself from it so far.
But now, dammit, I couldn’t. The trolls were gone, I was by myself — unless some of them are lurking around invisibly, my paranoia taunted me — and I couldn’t shove aside what I’d discovered while I was dormant. Now that I’d thought about it again it was right there: Somewhere in my past, my soul was ripped open. And a faerie stitched it back together.
My heart was hammering in my ears — the sound of it eclipsed everything else. I was sufficiently fed that I actually had control over what my supernatural senses focused on, and since I was so thoroughly focused inward at the moment they were too. I needed a phone. Mine had been destroyed, so I needed a new one. I needed to be able to call Dad, and Hans, and make sure they were okay. I needed to see if Dad remembered anything — anything! — that might let me know what had happened to me. What would a torn-open soul look like to someone who didn’t believe in magic? Maybe everyone had thought I was sick, or something? I couldn’t remember ever being really sick, though. I mean, not when it wasn’t something obviously a real sickness, like chicken pox or when I’d broken my arm. Which was an injury, anyway, and not being sick.
I bit my lip and tore my thoughts away from the erratic tangents they’d started down. I was just trying to distract myself from freaking out about the fact that faeries had fucked with my soul in the past. It seemed like maybe I wasn’t just a nutcase. Maybe I had been being fed on. Maybe that was why I was such a freak. Maybe…
Okay. I yanked myself away from those speculations, too. I need a phone. I need to get Hans’ number from John. I can get John’s number from Kallaher. I need to make sure Hans is okay. I need to make sure Dad is okay. I need to get Reid to arrange for on-call donors. I need to… Shit, it was Saturday morning. The weekend. I need to get my shit together before Fumiko decides we should be over at her place, I realized. I was going to need a shower and new clothes. Prioritize, I scolded myself. Phone first. Then call people. Then clothes. Then freak out about Fumiko’s get-together and Megan and Emma and…
And then my wound-up thoughts were interrupted by a knock at the bedroom door.