NATHANIEL IN BLUE
The song, "Sex Type Thing" by Stone Temple Pilots was banging over the sound system, but Nathaniel could hardly hear it
above the audience's excited cheers and clamoring. He had just stripped off the last piece of his costume, and was now clad
only in the tiniest of g-strings and a powdery dusting of gold glitter.
Now this, was more like it, the young wereleopard mused, taking in the near hysteria he was causing.
Until now, he had been having the rottenest day. It had started first thing this morning when Anita had scolded him like
an errant child in front of everybody for coming home late the night before, and not calling. Then he had gotten in a stupid
argument with Zane over the household chores which had made Cherry angry at him. Later, he found out he would not be able
to use Anita's jeep tonight, which meant he either had to walk everywhere or take cabs. Then he kept dropping things, or losing
things. Nothing had been going right, and he had slipped into a bit of a depression earlier that he hadn't been able to shake.
Being on-stage helped, and he was really getting into it tonight. Here the outside world and all its little pitfalls simply
didn't exist. And the fact hoards of women were practically throwing themselves at his feet in worshipful adoration, didn't
hurt any either. To them, he was a man. Exciting, virile, and sexy, and there to play a role in all their wildest fantasies
no matter how simple, no matter how bizarre. Knowing he could turn them on by simply rotating his hips, or rolling his shoulders,
was empowering beyond words.
Brazenly, Nathaniel danced to the very edge of the stage, shimmying down to the floor just out of reach of the outstretched
hands vying for his attention. The women in the front row were practically begging him to come closer so they could touch
him, screaming at him in frustration, but Nathaniel preferred to tease them. He extended his arms towards them, taunting them
by crooking his fingers at them, then dancing away again. Some of the women held up money, waving it in the air in hopes of
bribing him with it. He grinned and shook his head, making his long red hair ripple around him like a satin veil in the wind.
The song had a fast, unrelenting tempo, but it was also short. The last stanza was pounding out of the speakers now and
the wereleopard launched into a complicated series of steps that would take him back towards the curtains. This was the kind
of music he liked for his act. Others used long, drawn out songs with alternating beats, but he liked to come on-stage in
an explosion of movement and whip the audience into an immediate frenzy. Everything happened so fast, no one ever ordered
drinks or talked among themselves when he was on-stage. All eyes were on him from beginning to end and Nathaniel didn't want
it any other way.
Looking out into the crowd just before the last of the song played out, the wereleopard's violet-colored eyes were immediately
drawn to a woman a few rows back--namely because she was the only one in the mass of shrieking, gyrating females who wasn't
moving or yelling at him. It was Jessica Arnet, the policewoman he had met when he and Anita had gone to get Jean-Claude out
of jail. She was simply standing there, her gaze fixed on his face, and the smallest of smiles on her lips. Her familiar presence
was so unexpected, it made the wereleopard lose his concentration momentarily, and he tripped.
It wasn't a very obvious mistake, and he recovered from it nicely, but he had still screwed up. Facing his audience as
a whole once more, Nathaniel tried to smile again when the song ended, but he knew it wasn't very genuine, and his departing
bow felt stiff and awkward. Turning, he swore under his breath, and hurried backstage, snatching up a towel from the pile
of linens kept on the shelving just inside the curtain.
Blotting the sweat from his face, the wereleopard headed for the dressing room, but stopped short, spying Jean-Claude at
the far side of the backstage area. The wereleopard studied him momentarily, wondering if he had noticed the misstep, but
decided he hadn't. The vampire was standing there like a misplaced statue someone had deposited backstage, unmoving, unseeing,
unbreathing. Leaning against the doorframe, Jean-Claude's eyes were turned in the direction of the stage, but his expression
was blank, and his gaze was distant--as if he was too deeply submerged in thought to be aware of anything that was going on
Hurrying past him, Nathaniel tried to adopt a casual air, rubbing the towel briskly over his hair, determinedly tamping
down his apprehension. Not wanting to rouse the vampire from whatever undead zone he'd put himself in, the wereleopard purposefully
didn't acknowledge him as he walked by. Even if Jean-Claude hadn't noticed Nathaniel's mistake, he decided he would rather
not speak to him anyway because he knew where any conversation of theirs would eventually lead, and the wereleopard would
rather not discuss such things tonight.
"Nathaniel," the vampire said suddenly, in the quietest of voices that seemed to ring out like a bell.
The shapeshifter stopped, cursing to himself again, and slowly turned around.
The vampire's power shifted and he stirred, morphing out of his statue-like state and fixing his eyes on the retreating
"Come here, please," he said, his voice still soft and breathy.
With a sigh of resignation, Nathaniel inched back to where the vampire stood and draped the towel he was holding over his
Jean-Claude looked him over slowly. "Are you well?"
Shit, Nathaniel thought. Jean-Claude had noticed the mistake, and was clearly attributing it to the illness Nathaniel had
suffered awhile back when he'd actually collapsed on-stage during his act one night.
"I'm fine," the wereleopard replied quickly, summoning a thin, reassuring smile.
"What happened then?" Jean-Claude pressed. "You almost fell at the end of your routine."
Nathaniel sighed again. "Yeah. I just lost my place for a moment. The choreography gets a little tricky at the end. It's
still pretty new to me. I've only been doing these steps for a few days and I guess I need to practice more. It won't happen
again. I promise."
Jean-Claude reached up and placed his hand on the side of Nathaniel's flushed face. The wereleopard flinched at the coldness
of the vampire's touch, but tried not to pull away. He felt Jean-Claude's power move around him then, pushing against his
own as if testing its strength.
"See," Nathaniel said with a forced grin. "I'm fine."
Lowering his hand, the vampire gave the young wereleopard a rather dubious look, then smiled slightly.
"Of course," Jean-Claude agreed. "It is just that, Anita would not forgive me if I let anything happen to you. I was merely
concerned when I noticed you faltered."
Nathaniel lowered his eyes. "I know. But it was just a little mistake, that's all. Don't pull me from the billing, please.
I'm fine. Really."
"Then..." the vampire whispered. "What happened?"
The wereleopard's eyes shot up to the vampire's. He licked his lips nervously and shifted his weight to one leg, placing
his hands on his hips.
"There's a girl out there," he began. "Someone I know. I spotted her and it kinda threw me off, okay? I...wasn't expecting
to see her here, of all places. I wouldn't have thought this was the kind of establishment she'd go to on a Saturday night,
'cause she's a cop." Nathaniel paused, his mind racing through a number of unlikely possibilities. "Either that, or she came
here to see me. I don't remember telling her I worked here though."
Jean-Claude smiled, flashing his impeccably straight white teeth. "Ah, now that I believe," he told the wereleopard. "The
fond gaze of a woman often wreaks havoc on a man's concentration. Yet, you were fascinating any number of women out there.
I must say, I find it rather strange how this particular one's adoration effected you like no other's had."
Nathaniel felt heat rising in his face that had nothing to do with his exertion on-stage. He bowed his head and shrugged.
"I think she likes me," he confessed. "I've talked to her a few times and she seems really nice. She's pretty and smart
and...different. I've been wanting to ask her out, but I don't know. I'm not sure if I should. I don't think she'd understand
this whole situation with me and Anita. And then, I don't really think I'm her type either."
The vampire was staring back at the wereleopard now in such a way, it made Nathaniel wonder what on earth had possessed
him to tell Jean-Claude all that. Regretting his candidness, Nathaniel tried to shrug it all off and play it down.
"Anyway, that was my last set for the night, so I'm going to hit the showers and go home," he said. "I'll see you around."
Jean-Claude did not reply. Instead, he stared unblinkingly at the wereleopard for the longest time until Nathaniel fidgeted
under the intensity of his gaze. Finally, the vampire shrugged and placed his hand on Nathaniel's shoulder in a brotherly-type
"Let me give you a little piece of advice, mon ami."
The wereleopard fought the urge to roll his eyes. Instead, he nodded and tried not to frown too deeply.
The vampire grinned. "Just remember. Sometimes, opposites do attract." With that, Jean-Claude nodded for emphasis, lowered
his hand, and glided quietly away, disappearing into the shadows.
Nathaniel stood staring after him, somewhat dumbfounded. He had been expecting something long-winded, impractical, and
passé from someone like Jean-Claude, but the vampire had taken him by surprise, and actually offered him advice that was short
and cliché, but nevertheless, sage.
Yeah, Jessica Arnet wasn't exactly the type of woman Nathaniel usually went out with, but the wereleopard didn't really
know her well enough to label her his opposite. Then, Nathaniel knew Jessica was already attracted to him.
Anita was his polar opposite, however and inadvertantly, Jean-Claude's advice made Nathaniel think of his relationship
with her more than Jessica Arnet.
But the chances Anita would ever be attracted to him were slim and none. He shared her house, her bed, and her life, but
as demonstrated this morning, she still didn't recognize him for the man he was. Nathaniel had always hoped that one day,
she would look at him and see him in a different light, the way the women in the audience saw him.
He longed to truly make love to her--feel her warm, firm body wrapped tightly around him as he moved inside her, worshipping
her, loving her, fulfilling her every desire, and submitting himself wholly to her every sexual whim.
Maybe, if he went to her tonight and took things very slowly, he could get her to respond to him. He'd lay off the kink,
keep it vanilla, and straight. He would touch her softly, but suggestively, hold her close and kiss her. Surely if he let
her know how very much he wanted her, she would give in to him.
Nathaniel sighed, turning to look in the direction Jean-Claude had gone, and chided himself for such foolish fantasies.
Anita would never look at him the way she looked at Jean-Claude, or Asher, or Micah for that matter. Having even one of them
for a lover would fulfill a woman completely, yet Anita bedded all three. Nathaniel had to admit, it made the chance of Anita
ever adding him to that prestigious roster null and void. He was way out of his league and he knew it.
At least Jessica Arnet's perception of him was clearly more to Nathaniel's liking. Maybe he should ask her out. It said
a lot that she had come to see him perform on-stage. Anita never had, and didn't even like to acknowledge the fact he did.
Heading for the dressing room to shower, Nathaniel tried to console himself with the fact Anita had chosen him as her pomme
de sang. Feeding her ardeur allowed him an intimacy with her he would normally not have achieved on his own. And he knew she
loved him, even if it was in a somewhat left-handed, obligated sort of way.
There was no denying her devotion to him, however. Time and again she had risked her life, as well as others she cared
for, to save him--from himself more than anything. Maybe, if he hadn't caused so much trouble in the past, Anita's perception
of him would be different. If he could prove himself to be more help to her than a hindrance. More of a man, than a boy. If
only he was more suave and sophisticated. If only he were older. If only....
After a set, most of the staff at Guilty Pleasures used the "cast" exit to avoid the club's patrons. Nathaniel was no exception.
He had been detained too many times by well-meaning, but usually intoxicated "fans" in the past whenever he had used the front.
And tonight, he wasn't in the mood to mingle. He just wanted to get home.
The cast exit was well concealed and spilled staff members into a back alley which wound around the block into a main thoroughfare.
It made it easy to slip out unnoticed by the patrons, mainly because the alley was so dark and secluded, few women dared loiter
So when Nathaniel burst through the door and looked up, the sight of the woman standing at the bottom of the steps startled
him. Scared him, in fact. His heart stopped momentarily, then raced, pumping his blood as if he'd just run a quarter mile
dash. He calmed as soon as he got a good look at her. It was Jessica. The policewoman. No wonder she wasn't afraid of the
Nathaniel's heart raced for a different reason now. He swallowed down the thickness building in his throat and started
slowly down the steps towards her.
"Jessica Arnet, isn't it?" Nathaniel asked her, despite the fact he was more than aware of who she was.
She smiled broadly, clearly pleased he had remembered her name after so long. "Yes. I'm impressed. You must have a good
head for names," she said quietly. "I wasn't sure if you recognized me when you saw me in the club. I thought you had looked
right at me, but then I'll bet good money every woman watching you would say the same thing."
Nathaniel drew up in front of her and offered her a small smile. "No. I did look at you. And I recognized you too. It kind
of threw me, I don't know if you noticed or not. But then, that's just the way my whole day's been going." His voice became
fainter the more he spoke.
Jessica shook her head however. Maybe she was just being polite. "I didn't see anything amiss," she said and laughed lightly,
her eyes taking on a somewhat smoky, seductive haze. "I thought you danced...rather well."
Nathaniel grinned genuinely this time. "Well? That's it? I danced well?" He shook his head. "I could tell you weren't really
getting into it."
"Oh, I was!" Jessica quickly amended. "Believe me. I just wasn't three sheets to the wind like the rest of the audience.
I'm not really into making a total fool of myself in public that way. Besides, it's not a good idea for an armed officer of
the law to get shit-faced, even off-duty."
Nathaniel crossed his arms over his chest and raised his brow. "Armed? Are you armed now?"
"Yeah, of course," Jessica told him. "I always carry my weapon with me." She paused and looked around her into the dark
alley. "I sure as hell wouldn't be standing out here alone if I wasn't."
"Why are you standing out here?"
Jessica shrugged and let her eyes wander down the length of the wereleopard's body. "I was hoping you would come talk to
me after your performance, but when you didn't, I figured I'd wait here for you to come out. I hope you don't mind. They wouldn't
let me backstage. The badge didn't impress your security people much."
Nathaniel blinked back at her, surprised. "So you did come here to see me? How did you know I worked here?"
Smiling up at him, Jessica said, "I'm a cop, remember. And you told me you worked as a stripper in a club on the riverfront.
Simple process of elimination. This is the only all-male strip joint on this side of town."
"Ah, yes, I suppose that made it easy for you."
Jessica fixed her gaze on Nathaniel's face and licked her lips slowly. "You probably think this is a little forward of
me, but I had been thinking about you since we last met. A lot. Probably more than I should have, and just decided I wanted
to see you again. I looked up your address in our database, but I thought showing up at your front door one night might be
a little much. I didn't want you to think I was stalking you or anything. Coming here seemed a bit more appropriate. Especially
since you put yourself on public display here."
Nathaniel laughed. "And the idea of seeing me nearly naked didn't hurt any either, did it?"
Jessica grinned. "Yeah, getting to see you strip, that's what really decided it for me." She paused and looked Nathaniel
slowly up and down again. "Then I met up with Blake recently and asked after you."
Nathaniel bristled at that. "You did?"
Jessica nodded. "I was trying to feel her out. See if you two were still just friends."
"Yeah, we're friends," Nathaniel said curtly. "Just friends."
Jessica nodded thoughtfully. "I figured. I know she's still with the Master of the City."
Among others, Nathaniel added in his mind. He put his hands on his hips and leaned away from her slightly, sighing somewhat
"You know, I didn't want to step on anyone's toes," Jessica continued.
Nathaniel nodded. "I understand."
Jessica frowned. "I haven't, have I?"
"It's just that all of a sudden, you seem a little uptight."
Nathaniel exhaled forcefully through his nose. "I'm not. Honest. Like I said, I'm just not having a very good day. I'm
tired and I want to go home to bed."
The sudden stiffening of Jessica's posture told Nathaniel he had been a little too abrupt just now. He was taking his own
feelings of inadequacy with Anita out on her, and he hadn't meant to. She wasn't making him feel inadequate. In fact, she
had gone out of her way to let him know how interested in him she was.
Nathaniel opened his mouth to apologize for his tone, but Jessica stepped away from him.
"Of course," she whispered. "I won't keep you. I just wanted to say 'hi' and let you know I really enjoyed your act." She
turned away from him, and started walking along the side of the building.
Nathaniel felt like kicking himself. She hadn't come all this way and waited outside the stage exit in the middle of the
night just to say hello. It was obvious she was hedging for a date with him, but his mind was so fixated on Anita, he'd blown
it. Now Jessica was walking away and probably already putting him out of her mind.
Watching her go, Nathaniel realized he didn't want that. He liked the way she made him feel. The way she kept looking him
over, checking him out, when she spoke to him, told him she probably wouldn't be adverse to the idea of sleeping with him.
Nathaniel decided he wanted to sleep with her too. He wanted to go out with her, and get to know her better.
"Jessica, wait, a minute," the wereleopard called, jogging after her. He drew up beside her and reached out to touch her
Jessica turned to face him with a hopeful look in her eyes.
Nathaniel smiled down at her and shook his head. "I'm such an asshole. Don't go. You're the first thing that's gone right
for me tonight."
At that, Jessica's mouth turned up in a somewhat coy smile. "Okay."
"Here," Nathaniel went on, fishing through his jacket pockets for something to write on. He found a convenience store receipt
and quickly unfolded it. "Why don't you give me your phone number and I'll give you a call. We'll get together then. If you
want. Do you have a pen?"
Now Jessica plundered her own pockets. After searching the third one, she produced a small stub of a pencil. "How's this?"
Nathaniel smiled and listened while she recited her phone number. He wrote it on the slip of paper and tucked it back in
his pocket. "I'll call you, and I promise to be in a better mood when I do. Okay?"
Jessica nodded, seemingly placated. "I'd like that."
Nathaniel looked around, trying to think of some way to delay her departure. "Do you want me to walk you to your car or
Laughing lightly, Jessica shrugged. "I think I'll be all right, but you can, if you want to. I'm parked right out in front."
"Yeah," Nathaniel said, placing his hand on her shoulder. "There's a lot of creeps lurking around this place sometimes."
Jessica laughed again. She had a pretty laugh. "Well, in that case, do you want a lift to your car?"
Nathaniel frowned. "I don't have a car. I was just going to walk...."
"No, come on," Jessica said, shaking her head. "I'll give you a ride home." She looped her arm through Nathaniel's and
pulled him against her.
Nathaniel had to admit, he wasn't thrilled with the idea of walking all the way to Anita's house and would probably hire
a cab to take him part of the way. If he accepted Jessica's offer, he'd save the cab fare, and get to spend a little more
time with her too. Time enough, maybe, to let her know he was interested in her as well.
He nodded. "That'd be great, if you really don't mind."
Jessica shook her head again. "No, of course I don't mind. I like the idea. It would give us more chance to...talk." She
grinned, obviously pleased.
That settled, the pair made their way down the alley, around the block to the front of Guilty Pleasures.
Their route to Jessica's vehicle took them directly past the club's entrance and belatedly, Nathaniel realized it would
have been quicker to just cut back through Guilty Pleasures. Subconsciously however, Nathaniel hadn't wanted to run into Jean-Claude
with Jessica on his arm. He knew it would get back to Anita if he did.
It was bad enough that the vampire doorman on duty saw them. He raised his brow at Nathaniel as they passed and chuckled
deeply, gesturing at Jessica.
"Nice piece," he told him. "Gonna get some tonight, Nathaniel?"
The wereleopard was hoping to, but he didn't like his intentions broadcasted so crudely in front of his intented before
he had even gotten a chance to make his move. He scowled at the vampire and flipped him off, then hurried Jessica across the
street to her car.
"I'm sorry about that," Nathaniel apologized to her once inside the car. "That's one of the creeps I was telling you about.
He's a real lech."
Jessica started the car and eased it away from the curb. "Well, to be honest, I can see how what we are doing could be
misconstrued. Let him think you picked me up for the night. I don't mind." She peered over at Nathaniel and smiled.
Good, Nathaniel mused and raised his brow. "I don't really mind either, but he could have kept his assumptions to himself
and not been so crass in front of a lady."
Jessica grinned. "So you think I'm a lady, do you? Well, I think you're quite the gentleman, Nathaniel for being offended
in my honor." She shook her head. "Maybe I should warn you though. I was a tomboy when I was a little girl. I was a jock as
a teenager, and now I'm a cop. I don't think anyone's ever mistaken me for a lady before. I'm too aggressive and ambitious
and competitive. Tough. Overbearing. Independent. Nothing really soft and sweet about me. What you see is what you get." She
gestured at the clothes she was wearing and inclined her head towards him in a little bow.
Nathaniel looked over at her, taking in the jeans and novelty sweatshirt she was wearing beneath her denim jacket. Her
hair was pulled back in a loose ponytail in a very no-nonsense style. The only makeup she was wearing was a little mascara
and lip gloss. He could tell just from that, Jessica Arnet wasn't exactly the demure, feminine-type. But that didn't bother
him in the least. In fact, she was exactly the kind of woman he seemed to gravitate towards. Strong. Up front. On top. Domineering.
The wereleopard licked his lips and leaned towards her slightly. He reached out and touched her ponytail.
"Oh, I bet beneath those clothes and that tough-girl exterior, I could find lots of soft, sweet parts of you," he murmured
with an insinuating smile, flirting to feel her out.
Jessica glanced over at him and started to laugh. "I...bet you could too," she replied and swallowed visibly, trying to
keep her gaze forward on the road ahead of her.
"But don't get me wrong," Nathaniel went on, trailing his fingers down the side of her face. "I like a woman who is tough.
Someone who can take care of herself and doesn't take any bullshit from anybody."
"Mmm. That so?"
Nathaniel nodded. "Oh yes. I prefer women who are...in control."
Jessica laughed again, a little apprehensively this time. "You know. For someone who was so tired and anxious to get home,
you're coming on to me pretty strong."
Nathaniel lowered his hand and sat back. "I am tired. I'm just flirting though. I get a little uninhibited sometimes when
I'm very tired. I can't seem to help myself. Especially when I'm all alone in the dark with a pretty girl."
"Well, you're making it very hard for me to keep my eyes on the road," Jessica replied, licking her lips.
Nathaniel grinned. "Why? Am I making you nervous?"
Peering over at him, Jessica shook her head. "No. You're turning me on. And I'm a cop, remember? You try anything dastardly,
and you'll find yourself in a choke hold with a pair of handcuffs slapped around your wrists so fast, you won't know what
Nathaniel laughed lightly and leaned towards her, turning up the seduction in his voice a notch.
"Ooo, that's tempting. I think I like the idea of you forcing yourself on me and binding my wrists so I can't get away."
He furrowed his brow, looking around the front of the car. "I don't see any handcuffs though. I think you're pulling my leg."
"In the glove box," Jessica told him breathily. "I like to be prepared."
The wereleopard opened the glove compartment and rifled through it until he spotted a glint of silver. He smiled ear to
ear and withdrew the handcuffs, holding them up to the dim light of the dashboard.
"Oh god, I love cops," he purred, closing the glove box, but keeping the handcuffs out. "They have the neatest little toys."
Jessica grinned. "You know, I would have never figured you for that type. Not with that sweet angelic face of yours. But
then, you do have the devil's own body."
"Do I now?" the wereleopard asked softly. "I must be tempting you then."
Distractedly, Jessica reached up and pushed back a few wisps of hair from her eyes that had escaped her ponytail. "Oh yeah.
You're tempting all right. I know you said you were tired and just flirting, but you're making me want to take advantage of
you, and that wouldn't be very nice now, would it?"
Nathaniel laughed. "You can take advantage of me. I actually fuck better when I'm this tired."
Jessica looked over at him, her eyes widening. The car began to drift towards the side of the road and hit a rough patch
on the shoulder. Jessica jerked the car straight again and swore under her breath.
"Did you just say what I think you said?" she asked as if she were holding her breath in anticipation of his answer.
Nathaniel reached over and ran his fingers down her arm. "Depends. What did you think I said?"
Jessica glanced over at him quickly this time. "That you want to hook up with me."
With the moment of truth at hand, it didn't take Nathaniel very long to reach a decision about what it was he wanted to
"Yeah," he answered her with a nod. "All this talk about handcuffs and choke holds and how tough you are, is making me
really horny. Let's go someplace and hook up."
Determinedly fixing her gaze back on the road, Jessica gnawed her lower lip, her hands tightening slightly on the steering
wheel. She took a deep breath.
"Uh, there's a turn off onto a gravel road about a mile down. It winds around a wooded backlot past one of those new developments."
She paused and glanced over at Nathaniel. "We could...park there for awhile, if you want."
Slowly, Nathaniel nodded, keeping his eyes locked on Jessica's.
"Yeah. I want," he whispered.
His heart was already pounding inside his chest and his palms were getting moist with anticipation. It had been a long
time since he had done this sort of thing with a woman on a whim, and it made him wonder why he had decided to go through
with it now. Twenty minutes ago, all he could think of was getting home to bed to be with Anita. Maybe it was because of the
fantasy he had had earlier about her had turned him on more than he realized. Maybe it was knowing in the back of his mind
that nothing of the sort awaited him at home. Maybe it was the need he felt to demonstrate his virility. If not to Anita,
then to Jessica. At least Jessica was willing.
Jessica had chosen a spot to park just off the gravel lane heavily shadowed by two giant oak trees. After an initial fifteen
minutes of hot and heavy foreplay in which she and Nathaniel partially undressed each other, the two moved to the backseat
of her car and spent the next hour going at it with all the enthusiasm and finesse of two teenagers.
Nathaniel persuaded Jessica to handcuff him to the car door, and get on top of him. He encouraged her to use him, spurring
her on by directing her to go faster and harder until she had the right rhythm. He begged her to punish him by pulling his
hair, biting his lips, or pinching his skin. She did so reluctantly at first, but started getting into it more when she saw
how much it turned him on.
And he was turned on. The pleasurable sensation of her tight warmth sliding up and down on him interspersed with the small
shocks of pain she inflicted on him, was quickly pushing him over the edge. Jessica grasped him tightly with her thighs and
moved on him relentlessly, driving him deeply into her with a blind and consuming need of her own. Nathaniel urged her on
audibly, rocking his hips beneath her as best he could in the stuffy, steamy confines of the car, wanting to satisfy her above
When she did come, Nathaniel could not stave off his release any longer and came right after her, his body shuddering and
spasming against Jessica's, his mind plunging into the sweetest void.
For a few blissful moments, he reveled in that void--that sexual high in which the rest of the world was simply blinked
away and ceased to exist. Then Jessica collapsed heavily against Nathaniel's chest, quivering, and all but gasping for air,
making him aware of his surroundings once more.
"God, that was intense," she breathed.
Nathaniel nodded in agreement. "Yeah. That was pretty hot."
Laughing lightly, Jessica scooped up her jeans from the floor mat and fished out the key to the handcuffs. She unlocked
them and leaned down to kiss him quickly before sliding off of him.
Nathaniel sat up and rubbed his bruised wrists. He examined the marks Jessica had made on him with a deepening satisfaction.
Damn, she had got him good. No wonder he had come so fast. He shifted his position, then struggled to pull up his pants. He
leaned back into the seat, fixing his eyes on Jessica and smiled again.
"I haven't been laid like that in...years," he confessed, moistening his lips with the tip of his tongue. "You felt so
good. I was so hard."
Contentedly, Jessica curled herself around Nathaniel and placed her head on his shoulder. "Oh yeah, you felt great. You're
so sexy, Nathaniel. It's been a while for me too. I mean, I haven't done anything like this since I was seventeen, but you
made me so hot for you." Jessica squirmed slightly against him, absently stroking the exposed skin of his lower abdomen. "I
just hope you don't think I do this all the time."
Nathaniel frowned, embarrassingly aware of the fact he had been seventeen just three scant years ago.
"You make it sound like it's a bad thing even though we had a good time and enjoyed each other. What's wrong with that?"
Jessica sighed. "I just don't want you to think badly of me. I just don't pick up men, drive them out into the middle of
nowhere and then fuck them in my car."
"So what if you do?" Nathaniel went on, indignantly. "I'm not anyone to pass judgment on something like that. I don't care
who you've been with before or what you've done in the past. I only know, you came here with me tonight."
Jessica sat up and looked Nathaniel in the eye. "That should make you feel special then," she told him with a slightly
wary look. "Why are you getting so defensive?"
Nathaniel realized then he was getting defensive. He tried to shake it off, but couldn't. He suddenly had the feeling if
Jessica truly knew who and what he was, all the people he had slept with before, and the things he'd done in his past, she'd
never want to have sex with him again. God, if she only knew. She probably wouldn't have even let him touch her.
"Well, what if I told you I do pick up girls all the time and get it whenever and however I can. Would you think badly
Jessica sat up and stared at Nathaniel as if trying to determine if he were telling her the truth or not. "Do you?" she
finally asked him, unable to reach any telltale conclusion from his expression.
"Christ," Nathaniel muttered and reached for the car door handle. "Well, that just answered my question." He shook his
head and climbed out of the backseat, zipping his pants as he did, then pulling on his jacket, and readjusting the rest of
Clearly shocked, Jessica scrambled out of the car and hurried after him. "Wait! Where are you going?"
"I think it's time for me to go," he told her in a soft, battle-weary voice. He stalked around the car, heading down the
dark, gravel lane. "Don't worry. I can walk the rest of the way home. It's not far, really."
Jessica stopped where she was and clenched her fists at her sides. "Nathaniel! I didn't mean to upset you. Don't go. I
don't care if you pick up girls. I really don't. It just surprised me 'cause you were being so blasé about it. I'm sorry,
Nathaniel turned towards her. "Look. It's not that. I'm just really, really tired. If I'm lucky, I'll get a couple of hours
sleep before I have to get up." He felt bad leaving Jessica this way, but now, more than anything, he just wanted to get home.
Home to Anita--the one woman who knew him better than anyone and loved him anyway. Kind of. It made him even more determined
to approach her tonight and let her know exactly how he felt about her. He would be a man for her and she would finally be
forced to see him in that different light.
Nathaniel suddenly became aware of the fact Jessica was still staring after him, looking stricken and hurt. He sighed heavily,
"Look, I'll call you later, okay?" he continued, hoping to placate her. He produced the tiny slip of paper on which he'd
written her number from his pocket and held it up for her inspection. "I've still got your phone number, see?"
It worked. Jessica's confused, concerned expression softened and her hands opened up at her sides.
"You promise?" she called after him. "'Cause I'd really like to see you again."
"I promise," Nathaniel called back, then turned and resolutely walked away, tossing the tiny slip of paper into the leaves
at the side of the road as soon as the shadows had swallowed him up and he knew she could no longer see him.
Using his key on the front door lock, Nathaniel slipped inside the darkened house and quietly closed the door behind him.
He pulled off his jacket and tossed it aside, not really caring where it landed. He continued undressing on his way to the
big back bedroom which he shared with Micah and Anita, glancing at the clock on the wall as he did. It was already after four.
No wonder he was so tired.
But he didn't want to sleep. All he wanted to do now was take off his clothes, crawl into bed and snuggle up to Anita,
losing himself in the feel of her beautiful body so close to his. He longed to touch her and kiss her and hold her. He wanted
to make love to her tonight and take pleasure in her while she took pleasure in him.
But the door to the bedroom was closed, and the soft sounds coming from beyond its heavy wooden frame told Nathaniel he
would not be welcomed in Anita's bed now. She was with Micah, and the fact they had closed the bedroom door on him, was a
sign they wanted to be left alone.
His heart sinking, Nathaniel leaned his head against the door and listened to the two of them together for a moment. He
could hear their quiet moans, their deep, drawn out breaths, and the rhythmic creaking of the bed. Their combined power filled
the room and touched Nathaniel's own meager power with a spine-tingling clarity.
Any other night, he would have reveled in that power, but tonight he drew away from the room with a curse and stalked back
into the living room. Grabbing a throw pillow off one of the chairs, he tossed it onto the couch and flopped down on top of
it, snatching the afghan off the back and pulling it over his shoulders.
His throat tightened and his eyes watered as he succumbed to his abject misery. Of all the nights to be banished to the
couch, why did it have to be tonight? The night he truly needed to be beside Anita--smell her familiar scent on the sheets,
feel the comforting warmth of her body next to him, and know, despite everything else, she needed him and he belonged to her--was
the one night she chose to get it on with her Nimir-Raj.
The lock on the front door rattled and Nathaniel looked up expectantly. Damian, Anita's vampire servant, suddenly glided
in, going through the same motions of closing and re-locking the door that Nathaniel had just fifteen minutes ago. He stopped
short upon seeing the young wereleopard on the couch and put his hands on his hips, cocking his head in a somewhat childish
gesture of wonderment.
"What are you doing out here?" Damian asked in a low voice. He looked up towards the master bedroom, listening for a few
moments, then he nodded, having answered his own question. "Oh. She's with Micah."
"Yeah," Nathaniel replied curtly. "Micah. And then tomorrow night it'll probably be Jean-Claude and Asher. Then maybe Jason.
Then back to Micah. Or somebody else. She seems to prefer everyone and anyone to me." He paused and took a deep, breath. "I
need her. She's the only woman I can really make love to, Damian. I don't want to just fuck them anymore. I want to make love,
but she won't let me."
Damian narrowed his eyes at the wereleopard and the corners of his mouth turned down in a slight frown. "It's hard, I know,
having her so close all the time and yet so unaccessible." He glanced towards the bedroom again and shrugged. "Count your
blessings, Nathaniel. At least she comes to you to satisfy her ardeur. I don't even merit that."
Nathaniel felt his face flush with shame. Damian was the last person he should be complaining about this to. Damian longed
to be with Anita as well, but she kept him at a careful distance as if she didn't even want to consider him as a lover. But
despite that, Nathaniel still felt Damian had more of a chance with her than he did. He was more her type. He was everything
Nathaniel longed to be. He was dashingly handsome and mysterious, sultry, and sophisticated. And there was no doubt in Nathaniel's
mind that Anita perceived him any other way.
"I don't know what to do anymore," Nathaniel continued softly. "I know as soon as she overcomes this ardeur, she'll send
me packing. I have to become more to her than a pomme de sang otherwise I'll lose her."
"That's nonsense," Damian chided. "You are important already in Anita's eyes. You may not be romantically involved with
her the way you want to be, but your relationship with her is hardly platonic, and the feelings she has for you run deep.
You meant a great deal to her, even before she was afflicted with the ardeur. You are not just her pomme de sang, my
friend. You never were. She doesn't want to lose you either, you know that."
It was true. Nathaniel had to admit it. He peered up at the vampire and nodded slowly.
Damian continued. "Anita may never whisper 'I love you' in my ear, but I know she would do anything, risk anything, to
keep me safe and well. That is as potent a demonstration of her love for me as surrendering her body to me would be. Maybe
even more so. I tell myself this whenever I start feeling melancholy about her, the way you are feeling now, and it helps."
Nathaniel raised his brow. "I didn't know you felt sad sometimes," the wereleopard said softly, his heart going out to
his friend. "She does love you. I know she does."
Damian shrugged. "For which I am grateful. I just have to keep telling myself she gives me what she can. There's only so
much of her to go around."
At that, Nathaniel cringed. "All right. Maybe I am being a little selfish and demanding, but I want more from her than
that. I want to be loved. Sometimes I think, she's the only chance I'll ever have for love. She knows me. She knows about
the prostitution, the porn-films, the BDSM. Christ, no other woman will ever want me with my past."
Damian put his hands on his hips and shook his head admonishingly. "To say, at your tender age, that no woman will ever
love you is foolish," the vampire went on. Clearly he was on a roll. "Your past is just that. Past. And you shouldn't dwell
on the mistakes you've made, but put them behind you and start fresh. Make a new life for yourself. You'll find the world
is full of women willing to forgive a man his past if you have moved forward, and women more than willing to hand you their
heart in exchange for your love. Everyone wants to be loved, Nathaniel, and not everyone worthy of being loved, qualifies
as a candidate for sainthood."
The vampire paused and turned to the window knowingly. He faced Nathaniel again with an apologetic frown.
"I'd like nothing more than to continue waxing the philosophics of love with you, my friend, but dawn is drawing near and
I must get below."
Nathaniel nodded, understanding. "Go on. And thanks, Damian. I mean that."
Damian offered the wereleopard a little departing bow and glided through the room down the hall which led to the basement
where he slept.
Nathaniel huddled into the couch cushions and sighed heavily, closing his eyes. He lay there unmoving for the longest time,
then shifted his position, then shifted his position again. As tired as he was, sleep evaded him. He couldn't stop thinking
about what Damian had said.
Considering Damian's own past, the fact he wasn't totally cynical about love gave his philosophy on the matter that much
Nathaniel couldn't help thinking about Jessica too, and considered the possibility she wasn't being as judgmental as he
had believed she was. She had said she wanted to see him again. Maybe he would call her after all. He could always look up
her number in the phone book and ask her out. No more parking, however. If they did decide to have sex again, he'd insist
on going back to her place and spend the night and have breakfast with her in the morning like a real man would. He had to
admit, doing it in the back seat of a car was somewhat juvenile and degrading. Even if it was pretty hot.
Nathaniel sighed. Yeah, he still thought it was hot. Maybe he wasn't as sophisticated and mature as he liked to think he
was. He knew without a doubt Anita never screwed Jean-Claude in the back of a car. Maybe, Nathaniel decided, he wasn't exactly
ready for candelabras and silk sheets yet. Maybe he should just listen to Damian and accept the demonstrations of love Anita
reserved for him and him alone. So what if they weren't actually lovers? She still came to him and touched him and used him.
The vampire was right. He should count his blessings.
With that thought wafting through his weary mind, Nathaniel settled back onto the couch and pulled the afghan tightly over
his shoulders with a contented sigh. In moments, the young wereleopard was fast asleep.
Nathaniel stirred. Someone was tugging on his arm.
Prying one grit-filled eye open, Nathaniel tried to focus on whomever was assaulting him and shoo them away. It felt as
though he had only gotten twenty minutes of sleep.
"What?" he murmured. "Leave me alone...."
"Nathaniel, wake up." It was Anita. She dropped his hand and it hit the floor heavily. Now she was pulling the afghan off
The wereleopard moaned. "Please let me sleep, Anita," he grumbled, grasping the afghan. He jerked it out of her hands and
covered up with it again.
"Where were you last night?" she went on, throwing the afghan aside once more.
Oh Christ, Nathaniel thought. Not this again.
"Look, Anita," he began, sitting up slightly, forcing both eyes open. "I know I came in late and I apologize for not calling,
but please, give me a break this time, all right? I didn't get out of Guilty Pleasures until after two and I just didn't have
the chance to call. I'm sorry."
Rubbing his eyes with his hand, Nathaniel realized it had to be mid-morning. The sun was blazing in through the living
room curtains, and the house was too quiet. Everyone had already gone about their business for the day and apparently he had
slept through all that early morning bustle.
"God, what time is it?" Nathaniel asked, sitting up completely. He felt a little more rested now, knowing how late it was.
"Nathaniel, please," Anita practically begged. Her voice had grown soft and slightly husky. "Don't be angry. Come to bed."
She picked up his hand again and practically pulled him off the couch.
Nathaniel clutched the afghan to his body to keep it from slipping off and exposing his nudity. He knew Anita didn't like
him to sleep completely nude because she claimed it stirred her ardeur.
Ardeur. Had she said something about coming to bed? Wide awake now, Nathaniel peered over at her, studying her closely.
"Are you okay?" he questioned.
Anita tugged at his arm again. "No. I need you," she whispered, looking as though she was about to cry.
"Oh, Anita, I'm sorry," the young wereleopard apologized, rising to his feet. He didn't care if she saw him naked now.
She'd probably want him naked for this anyway. "Here, come here." He squeezed her hand and drew her closer.
She all but jumped into his arms, hopping up, and wrapping her legs around his waist, encircling his neck with her arms.
She pressed her lips to the side of his face with a heartfelt sigh and molded her body around him.
"Don't apologize," Anita murmured. "Just take care of me."
Nathaniel smiled at that. Strange words coming from the lady who took care of them all so proficiently. But here she was,
clinging to him, like a small child in his arms, vulnerable and in need. He gathered her up to him and walked with her across
the living room.
"I will," Nathaniel assured her, carrying her into the bedroom. He carefully sat down on the edge of the bed and lay back,
so she was on top of him. Letting his arms slid off her, he stretched out to give her total access to whatever part of his
body she wanted.
Basically, that was all he did to help her. He normally did not touch her and only moved or changed positions if she directed
him to. He simply let her feed off him, literally, sometimes. It wasn't unusual for her to bite him and draw blood. After
all, she bore the mark of a master werewolf and was afflicted with a vampire's ardeur.
But Nathaniel didn't mind. He submitted himself to whatever she wanted and needed, not only because he oddly enjoyed such
use, but he knew it helped her; and after all she had done for him, it seemed a small thing to do in return. Then, her attention
was intimate, even though they never actually had sex.
As it was, she hadn't undressed. She was still wearing her oversized nightshirt and panties. But she was running her hands
down his sides in long, languid strokes, and gnawing voraciously on his nipple. He felt her teeth graze his skin and squeezed
his eyes shut, emitting a breathy moan. Her power moved over him, drawing from his own and flaring around him in a surge of
force. That in itself was incredibly stimulating in a metaphysically erotic way. He was already getting hard and the urge
to touch her was overwhelming, but not being allowed to was a kind of sweet torture all its own.
Nathaniel grasped the sheets beneath him in his outstretched hands, and tried to focus his mind on the sensation of the
soft material in his fists, and not the feel of her bare thigh pressing against his groin. He fought hard not to move his
hips. God, this was torture.
Anita arched her back, dragging her mouth over his ribs to the softer flesh of his abdomen and nipped him, pinching him
with her teeth.
Nathaniel jerked slightly at the sharp pain, digging his fingers into the wad of sheets. Sometimes he came when Anita fed
off him, and the way he was feeling now, led him to believe this would probably be one of those times.
Anita bit him again just above his navel and drew blood this time. Her tongue slithered over the small droplet of blood
pooling on the surface of his skin and she lapped it up until it stopped. Her saliva was hot and stung the wound slightly,
but Nathaniel groaned with pleasure. Before he could stop himself, or think what he was doing, he reached up and caressed
her breast, squeezing it gently.
Belatedly, he realized just what he had done when he felt Anita's body tense on top of him. She drew away from his hand,
sitting up completely, straddling his hips, forcing his erection directly under her. The slightly damp, heated softness of
her satin underwear rubbing against him made his body clench with the first tremor of his impending satisfaction.
Nathaniel opened his eyes and swallowed hard, forcing himself to look into her eyes. She peered back at him with a slightly
wild-eyed, but curious expression.
Slowly, Nathaniel lowered his hand and opened his mouth to apologize, but Anita dropped down on top of him again and seized
his hand in hers.
"Touch me," she whispered. "I want you to touch me." She stretched up and kissed his chin, then gnawed down the line of
Nathaniel was so startled by her request, for a moment he did not comply with her wishes. Her small hand still held his,
but she hadn't told him where she wanted him to touch her, or how exactly. And from the way her mouth was currently occupied,
he didn't anticipate any further direction from her anytime soon.
Hesitantly, he placed his hand on the back of her head and stroked her hair.
But Anita shook him off and made a soft whimper of protest.
"No," she said simply and resumed chewing on his jaw.
"How then?" Nathaniel whispered, his voice pleading.
Instead of telling him, Anita squeezed his hand and all but slapped it on her side impatiently. Using his hand, she dragged
it down to her hip and pulled up her nightshirt, then pressed his palm to her bare skin. She eased her grip and stroked the
back of his hand soothingly, then slid it down to the lacey waistband of her panties. She shifted her body slightly off him,
raising her hips to give his hand more room to maneuver between her legs.
"Yes," she breathed against his skin, encouragingly, releasing his hand once she'd wedged his fingers inside the waistband.
She placed her own hand on his side and ran it slowly up and down the shallow curve of his hip.
Nathaniel fought the tension gripping his body and tried to let his desire take control. He wanted to touch her this way,
yet he still couldn't bring himself to believe she wanted him to touch her like this. Slowly, he slid his hand between the
soft satin material and the even softer warmth of her skin and delved his fingers through the luxuriously downy curls between
her legs. He closed his eyes again at the sheer bliss of such a sensation and breathed a long, drawn out sigh.
Anita sighed too and pushed her hips against his hand, urging him on. She nibbled and kissed her way down his neck and
sank her teeth into his shoulder, sucking and caressing it with her mouth.
Oh God, Nathaniel thought, his body spasming again. He ran his fingers gently along the folds of her labia, reveling in
the warm slickness of her skin.
Her body quivered and she moaned, scraping her teeth back up his throat.
"Yes," she urged, tilting her head to nip his earlobe. "Please." She bit down on him harder, then kissed his ear, exhaling
Tiny, exhilarating tingles coursed through Nathaniel as she breathed into his ear. He squirmed slightly and tentatively
wrapped his other arm around her back, holding her to his chest. She didn't protest or pull away. Instead she dragged her
mouth to the hard muscle at the base of his neck and plunged her teeth into it.
Nathaniel winced slightly as he felt his skin tear, but the pain was exquisite and served to unleash his carefully controlled
passion. He tightened his arm around her back and boldly caressed her now, stroking her sensuously before penetrating her
with his middle finger. He used the heel of his palm to rub against her and was delighted to hear her groan passionately in
response while feasting at his throat.
Anita was grinding her hips against his hand now, moving her body over him with a determined urgency. Her hand slid up
to his chest and she pinched his nipple, softly at first, then with more force. She seemed to want to please him this time
as much as he wanted to please her.
Nathaniel hissed through his teeth in ecstasy, encouraging her, his mind clouding with desire. He felt his power being
drawn from him along with his blood, but her power was filling him in exchange with a rush of intensity. His breaths were
coming in deep, short gasps now and his whole body was ablaze with passion. He could feel Anita tremble on top of him, quivering
around his hand as he pleasured her. He thought he had never experienced anything so euphoric before and surrendered himself
completely to her need when she climaxed, throwing her head back as she screamed her satisfaction.
The heady mixture of sensation suddenly seized Nathaniel. He felt as though his mind was exploding in rapture--his body
all but paralyzed with pleasure as he came. It seemed like minutes passed before he could breathe again, before his heart
started beating again, and his consciousness settled back into his brain. His body continued to spasm slightly as the afterglow
flowed over him and the tension of his orgasm slowly ebbed away.
Anita slumped on top of him, drawing in deep breaths, the heat of her ardeur cooling with her gratification. She lay her
head down on his shoulder and sighed heavily.
Nathaniel tried to ease his fingers out of her, but she seemed to clench her legs around his hand.
"No, not yet," she whispered, snuggling against him. "Stay inside me for a little while. I like it."
Nathaniel relaxed and bent forward to softly kiss the top of her head.
Raising herself slightly, Anita peered down at Nathaniel and reached up to stroke the side of his face with a strangely
apologetic look in her eyes.
"God, you really are gorgeous," she whispered and smiled at him, but it was a sad sort of smile. "Have I ever told you
Nathaniel shook his head.
Anita's smile brightened a little. "Well, you are. And I'm damn lucky to have someone like you."
"Oh?" Nathaniel whispered. "I think I'm the lucky one, having a friend like you."
Anita shook her head. "I meant as a lover."
Nathaniel blinked back at her in surprise. "But...we're not lovers."
Narrowing her eyes, Anita cocked her head and folded her arms over his chest. "I think we are. And we have been for some
time now. I was just too stubborn to admit it. But I'm beginning to come to terms with it. We've had sex lots of times. We
just had sex now."
Nathaniel moistened his suddenly dry lips with the tip of his tongue. He took a deep breath and let it out slowly.
"Anita, please. You don't have to say I'm your lover 'cause I'm not really. I never will be."
Anita ran her hand over his hair, pushing back a few stray locks from his face. "Well, you're my lover whether you like
the idea of not," she went on.
The wereleopard frowned. "I'm not your lover like...Jean-Claude is your lover. You don't come to me because you really
want to. You come to me because...I'm handy. But that's all right, really. I know I'll never be able to compete with your
real lovers. With Jean-Claude. I'll never be like him." Nathaniel paused and drew his hand away from her slowly and plopped
it down on the bed at his side.
"That's bullshit," Anita snapped. "Yeah, you're handy, but I come to you mostly because I can trust you to take care of
me. Because you know what I need and you give it to me so unselfishly and without any demands. It's always unconditional with
you and sometimes, I need that more than anything. I can feed my ardeur off anybody, including Jean-Claude, but every once
in awhile, I want the kind of lovemaking I can only get with you."
Nathaniel felt a wave of guilt wash over him and looked away from Anita. He knew he had almost changed all that last night.
He could have ruined everything between them had he put the moves on her the way he had wanted to when he had finally gotten
Anita reached up and grasped Nathaniel's chin in her hand, turning his head back around to face her.
"I don't want you to be like Jean-Claude," she said in a firm, but quiet voice. "Good God, one Jean-Claude is more than
enough. I love him to pieces, but you have to know, I love you too. Just the way you are. Don't try to be anyone else for
me. When I'm with you, I just want you to be...you. I count on that, Nathaniel." She stretched up then and dropped a quick
kiss on his lips, then shifted off of him and curled herself around his side. "Now let's get some sleep."
Nathaniel smiled to himself, his heart warming with the love he felt from her. He gathered her close to him and leaned
his cheek against the top of her head.
"I love you too," he whispered softly and smiled broadly, very aware of the fact today was definitely going to be a better
day than yesterday was. It was already off to a very good start.