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entre vous

Anita's first date with Jean-Claude and the events leading up to it.  (Takes place before the end of "Lunatic Cafe")
Rated PG
Disclaimer: The Anitaverse belongs to author Laurell K. Hamilton.  I am just playing around in it to amuse myself.  This bit of fic is for entertainment purposes only.  No profit will be made from it ever. 


Jean-Claude was livid.

In a rare snit, he paced the hall in front of Anita's apartment, feeling the barrier of power around her door which she had just invoked having rescinded her invitation of entry to him.

Now he would not be able to cross her threshold, or enter her apartment by any other means until she welcomed him in again. And judging from the way she had treated him tonight, it did not appear as though that invitation would be forthcoming any time soon.

Jean-Claude's only consolation had been that Anita had also kicked Richard out. Or at least she had said she wanted him to leave too. He had yet to emerge from her apartment however, and it wouldn't surprise Jean-Claude if Richard would be allowed to linger a little longer now that they were both alone again. The idea galled the vampire.

He stopped pacing and approached the door once more. The power felt like an invisible stone wall. There was simply no way to breach it and no way to fight it. The damage had been done.

Jean-Claude glared at the door one final time before turning on his heel to leave. He stalked down the hall on his way to the complex exit, struggling with his composure.

He knew he had pushed Anita a little too far tonight, and tried her patience--what little there had been of it--to the very end. But Richard Zeeman's presence had made him act a bit irrational and overbearing. Still, she did not have to resort to something so cruel and insulting.

After all, Jean-Claude felt his behavior tonight was entirely justified after seeing how readily Anita threw herself into the werewolf's arms earlier. It pricked at his sense of fairness and it stung the vampire a little sharper than he would have liked to admit. Richard was given far more privileges and liberties with Anita than she would even consider granting him.

She had agreed to date Jean-Claude, (after a bit of coercion on his part) but how was he to properly court her if he couldn't even enter her apartment now? It was just one more humiliating inequity forced upon him. After all, Richard could still come and go there as he pleased. Richard got kissed and held and caressed.

One little kiss. That was all he had asked. It seemed only fair, but judging from Anita's reaction, you would have thought Jean-Claude had asked her to swallow curdled milk. He didn't understand her repulsion and admittedly, it hurt. It wasn't as if they hadn't kissed before. They had once, and Jean-Claude knew without a doubt Anita had enjoyed it. Shamefully, but nevertheless. He also knew if he had been allowed to kiss her tonight the way he had wanted to, Anita would surely rethink Richard's appeal.

Just before exiting the building, Jean-Claude stopped and peered over his shoulder, looking back, longingly. Things had gone badly tonight--not at all the way he had planned. He had set out to dazzle Anita--make Richard pale in comparison to what he had to offer her, but instead, he had only succeeded in blinding her.

No, that was not necessarily so. He had also come here tonight to insure nothing untowardly intimate would happen between Richard and Anita, and by angering Anita as much as he had, (with a little help from Monsieur Zeeman) he had managed to quell any libido Anita might have been harboring upon her arrival home this evening. At least that aspiration had succeeded.

On second thought, the more time Richard was allowed to be with Anita--now that Jean-Claude was gone--the more chance the shapeshifter had of making amends, and ruining all of Jean-Claude's best efforts.

How was it possible for that...werewolf to have achieved so much ground in so short a time? Jean-Claude had had his sights set on Anita Blake long before Richard Zeeman had entered the picture. Yet he was no closer to her now than he was a year ago, and frustratingly, it seemed as if the more effort he put into wooing her, the farther she backed away.

Probably because she found Jean-Claude insincere and pretentious. She believed his flattery of her was contrived. The few gifts he had offered her were unacceptable, and the flowers he sent her were often returned. In her opinion, his kindness always had a catch, his willingness to please her held some deviant ulterior motive, and his desire for her was somehow immoral and perverted.

But despite all that, and as unbelievable as it may seem, Jean-Claude had finally gotten Anita to admit she loved him. She already knew how smitten he was with her, and he went out of his way to let Anita know how absolutely desirable he found her. Yet instead of piquing her interest, their mutual attraction seemed to make her want to resist him that much more.

If the situation between Richard and Anita were not so desperate, Jean-Claude would consider distancing himself from Anita for a little while to mend what unseemly impressions he had unintentionally made on her thus far.

It was clear she wasn't happy with him. She did nothing but insult and rebuff him, glare and scowl at him tonight. She did none of those things to Richard. But then, she clearly adored Richard. So much in fact she was now engaged to be married to him.

With that ever at the forefront of his mind, Jean-Claude knew if he backed down even a little, Richard would only gain precious ground. Jean-Claude could not afford to stay away until Anita's temper cooled.

Slowly, dejectedly, the vampire finally turned and continued on to the exit.

It wasn't as if he wouldn't be with her again soon, he thought, trying to console himself. In fact, he and Anita had a date scheduled for next week, and Jean-Claude was determined to keep that appointment, no matter what. At least he and Anita would be alone together for a change, without Richard looming behind Anita, reminding her every chance he got what a wicked monster Jean-Claude was--despite the fact Richard was just as much a monster as the vampire was. Jean-Claude found it curious, and infuriating, that Anita still seemed willing to overlook Richard's inhumanity. Yes, Monsieur Zeeman was alive, but between dusk and dawn, Jean-Claude was alive as well, and more than capable of demonstrating just how alive he could be to Anita, should she ever feel so inclined.

Jean-Claude held onto the hope that if Anita would only let herself get to know him a little better and spent more time with him, she would eventually grow fond of him, and he wouldn't feel the need to be quite so aggressive in his pursuit of her. For now, desperate times called for desperate measures.

Once outside, Jean-Claude found a small pocket of shadows with which to conceal himself in beside the building at the end of the block. He could see Anita's apartment complex clearly and even the light in her bedroom window from his hidden vantage point. Here he would wait. All night if he had to.

Luckily he did not have to wait very long. Mere minutes, in fact. He had just settled himself on a stairwell railing when Richard Zeeman came out. He looked miserable and angry and that made Jean-Claude smile. So, Anita's ironclad willpower had withstood the werewolf's charms. How interesting. She may have had her fill of Jean-Claude tonight, but apparently she had also had her fill of Monsieur Zeeman too.

Watching Richard trudge forlornly down the street and around the corner, Jean-Claude's mood brightened considerably. He glanced upwards, fixing his eyes on Anita's bedroom window. After a short while, the light went out. Smiling, the vampire slid off of the railing he'd been perched on and stepped out of the shadows. He blew a kiss at the now darkened window and sighed.

"Bon nuit, ma petite," he whispered.


Jean-Claude could not resist calling Anita the night before their date to make certain she had not conveniently forgotten and was still able to come out with him. She sounded less than enthused by the prospect, but at least she was committed and agreed to uphold her end of their little arrangement.

Instead of letting Jean-Claude pick her up in a limousine, she told him she would rather drive, something about her car being less ostentatious. Jean-Claude agreed, but he couldn't help feeling 'inconspicuous' would have been a more honest term.

"What should I wear?" Anita asked, surprising Jean-Claude.

"Wear?" he asked back. "Are you inquiring about my preferences? If you seek to please me tomorrow night, you could come to the door in a lacy little chemise. Something black, or red. Then, should you invite me into your home again, I would most definitely prefer you entertain me without. Clothing, that is."

There was a slight pause on the other end of the line, then Anita emitted a long-suffering sigh.

"Jean-Claude, it's been a long day for me," she explained, her patience clearly teetering on the edge again. "Must you be so damn irritating? Can't you just answer one simple question without twisting it around your warped fantasies?"

Jean-Claude couldn't help laughing a little at her exasperation. He laughed to stem off his own frustration as well.

"My apologies," he murmured. "I am only seeking to be more open and honest with you considering we are beginning a bonafide relationship at last. Honesty is, after all, one of the highest valued aspects of any relationship."

"Oh for Christ's sake," Anita grumbled. "I should have just asked where in hell you're taking me tomorrow night, so I guess it's my fault I can't get a straight answer. Well, you know what? I'm going to wear whatever I want and you're just going to have to deal with it, comprende?"

"Now, ma petite," Jean-Claude said, clucking his tongue admonishingly. "Why would you say our date will be in hell? That kind of thing wounds me to the core."

"Why?" Anita fairly seethed. "Because I'm being forced to be with you. That's why it will be hell."

Jean-Claude winced. Now that really did hurt. "You promised to give me a chance, Anita," he said, the humor seeping out of his voice.

Anita sighed again. "Look, I'm sorry," she apologized. "I've had a rough couple of days and I'm bone tired. I'm just not in the mood for innuendo tonight, all right?"

"Perhaps if you were talking with Richard, you would feel differently," Jean-Claude replied, still smarting from her unrelenting attitude towards him. "I know that to be true."

"You don't know anything about me!" Anita snapped, raising her voice so sharply, Jean-Claude had to hold the phone away from his ear. "So don't presume what turns me on, got it?"

Jean-Claude sucked his lower lip in between his teeth and bit it hard. Replacing the phone to his ear, he closed his eyes momentarily before responding.

"I stand corrected," he said finally. "I am hoping the time we spend together will give me further insight about you so I will not make such blatantly erroneous assumptions in the future."

"You can pretend all you want, Jean-Claude," Anita countered. "The facts remain the same. I'm only going out with you to show you once and for all nothing is ever going to make me leave Richard for you, and you'll realize nothing is ever, ever going to happen between us. Then you promised to leave us alone and by damn, I'm holding you to that."

Jean-Claude shifted the phone to his other ear. He wondered what had put Anita in such a foul mood this evening. The vampire paused to take a deep, steadying breath. "You say such things now."

"Oh," Anita hissed, sounding frustrated. "I'll give you one thing, you are an optimist."

"But not a fool," Jean-Claude added. "If I truly believed your heart was out of my reach, Anita, I would not waste my time on one so...unyielding, as yourself."

There was a long drawn out silence on the other end of the line. Jean-Claude listened intently, but could not hear the slightest sound.


She spoke, but this time her voice was soft and very quiet. "What makes you so sure?"

Jean-Claude blinked in surprise at her sudden shift in mood. She sounded weary now, a little sad, and resigned. It made his pulse stir and he lowered his voice in kind.

"Because of the way you look at me sometimes," he said breathily. "The times you touch me when you don't mean to and the effect I know it has on you. Then there were the times you have defended me, fought beside me, and come to me when you needed my help--knowing I am at your disposal and always will be. You know you can rely on me when others fail you. You know I would do anything within my power for you. Anything."

Anita did not reply. A few moments passed, then, almost carefully, she hung up the phone.

Jean-Claude pulled the receiver away from his ear and stared at it for a long time before replacing it on the cradle. A quivering little smile tugged at the corners of his mouth as he rose to his feet.

Tomorrow night, he thought to himself and smiled more broadly. And one week before Christmas. It occurred to him if he was going to give Anita a gift, tomorrow night would be the perfect time to do so. He may not see her for awhile after tomorrow and it wouldn't do to present her with something after the holiday. Unfortunately, he had yet to procure anything for her. Clearly, the vampire had some shopping to do.

Crossing the room, Jean-Claude seized a floor length black trench coat--to keep himself dry more than warm--and headed above ground.


It was snowing fairly steadily, and the wind was picking up, keeping the majority of the Christmas shoppers at the malls or the larger chain department stores. The little novelty shops, which had taken up residence along the river front these past few years with the boom in the tourist and vampire business, were more towards Jean-Claude's liking and the fact they were all but deserted despite the early hour, only added to their appeal.

For a good hour, the vampire merely window shopped, keeping the hood of his coat over his long hair to keep the snow at bay as well as conceal his "vampireness" from the odd gregarious tourist.

He was hoping something perfect would simply jump out at him in terms of a present for Anita. He had an idea of what he wanted for her, but he couldn't really pin it down to anything specific.

Clothing would be considered too intimate, he was sure. Accessories were better, but truthfully, he never saw Anita carry a purse, wear jewelry or anything strictly for fashion, which was what most accessories were.

Jean-Claude passed a lingerie shop and peered into the window wistfully. No. Anything from here would simply be thrown back in his face.

There was a nice stationery store across the street with calendars and bookplates, but that kind of thing reeked of last minute desperation.

He wanted to give Anita something personal and unique. Maybe a little expensive, but not extravagantly so. Tasteful and thoughtful and pretty. Something of unmistakable quality. Something she would see throughout the coming years which would remind her of him.

The vampire found himself standing in front of a curio shop now. Its windows were full of shiny, fragile figurines. Many of them were collectibles, Jean-Claude knew, boasting firing dates and series numbers. It was a pretty little shop and before Jean-Claude realized it, he had drifted inside.

It appeared that Jean-Claude was the shop's only customer and had been for sometime. The only salesclerk on duty was a gray-haired middle-aged woman, impeccably, if not a little overly, dressed, with wide hips and very narrow shoulders. She looked up from the counter rather drowsily, pushing aside a book she had been reading and tried to summon a welcoming smile at the sound of the door bell.

"Hello, how are you this evening?" she greeted Jean-Claude. "Welcome to Fatima's. Is there anything I can help you find? Anything in particular you're looking for?"

Jean-Claude lowered his hood and glanced around. "I am well, thank you and yes, I am looking for something in particular, but I will only know what it is when I find it." His eyes flickered towards the woman and he offered her a small smile.

She smiled back, nodding in comprehension, her face taking on a particularly interested expression now that she had gotten a good look at the man standing in her store.

"Maybe I can suggest something?" she offered hopefully. "Who is it for?"

Jean-Claude studied a collection of pretty china cats on a shelf. He took a deep breath. "Girlfriend," he said, exhaling the word. He peered up at the clerk and then focused his attention on the contents of another shelf.

The clerk crossed her arms and adopted a thoughtful look. "Does she like cats?"

Jean-Claude realized much to his chagrin, he really didn't know if Anita liked cats or not. The clerk only suggested it probably because he was staring so fixedly at the little glass cat figurines in front of him. He shrugged, but tried not to make it too obvious.

"Does she collect anything? Lladros? Capodimontes? Casadres? Fentons?"

Jean-Claude frowned. The only thing he knew Anita had more than one of was stuffed penguins. Whether or not she actually collected them, he did not know. He sighed and turned away from the clerk, hiding his frustration. He was clearly in the wrong sort of shop. These little trinkets were lovely and sweet-looking, but nothing Anita would particularly care for. If he bought her something like those small china cats, it would only show how much he truly did not know her on that level. He had to make her gift more personal.

The clerk stepped closer to him, smiling for all she was worth. "What does she like?"

"She likes penguins," Jean-Claude said, edging towards the door. He was sure his voice betrayed the feeling of hopelessness weighing down on him now.

Much to his surprise, the salesclerk actually looked pleased to hear that.

"I have just the thing," she stated and disappeared down one of the aisles. "We got this in after Christmas last year and have had it ever since," she went on as she moved farther away from the intrigued vampire on her mission of salesmanship. "It was made by a rather obscure artist, not exactly sought after, I'm afraid. I was beginning to think we'd have to do a clearance on it after the holidays, but it's such a nice piece, I hate to do it an injustice."

She emerged again, cradling a clear glass sculpture in her arms of several penguins standing on what appeared to be a chunk of ice. The clerk placed it on the counter by the cash register so Jean-Claude could have a good look at it.

Jean-Claude peered at it closely, a smile brightening his face. He reached forward and ran his index finger caressingly over one of the bird's outstretched wings.

"What do you think? Think she'd like it?" the clerk asked hopefully.

Jean-Claude sighed and nodded. "Definitely," he breathed. "How much?"

The clerk's happy expression wavered slightly as if this was always the question that led to a loss in the sale. Almost reluctantly, she told him. "But it came direct to us from the artist's studio and it is a one of a kind."

Jean-Claude readily handed her the money and pried his attention off the sculpture long enough to address the clerk again.

"Do you gift wrap here?"

The salesclerk beamed back at him and scurried around the counter to ring the item up.

"Oh, we most certainly do!" she exclaimed. "I have all kinds of paper and bows. Do you have anything in particular in mind? I can show you my selection." She punched in the necessary information into her keyboard and started counting out the change.

Jean-Claude declined it with a wave of his hand. "White," he told her. "With silver ribbon."

The clerk nodded, clearing her throat and closing her register drawer. "Why thank you," she replied, looking slightly shocked by her good fortune, and gathered the sculpture into her arms again. "White paper with a silver bow, coming right up."


Clutching his elegantly wrapped prize, Jean-Claude swept into his living room beneath The Circus of the Damned, feeling more confident about tomorrow night than he had all week. He was so preoccupied in fact, he had taken off his snow-speckled coat, handed it to a waiting servant, and nearly crossed the length of the large room before noticing the two young men huddled on his couch.

The vampire stopped in mid-stride and turned his head slowly towards them.

One of the men was Stephan, a werewolf, a gift from Marcus, and Jean-Claude's part-time employee at Guilty Pleasures and part-time errand-boy. Next to him sat another werewolf, a handsome blonde with twinkling blue eyes and a crooked, rakish grin. He was small, slight, but appeared fit, if the span of his shoulders were any indication. He and Stephan both sat staring up at him now rather expectantly. Jean-Claude pivoted on his heel to face them fully.

"It's freezing in here, Master," Stephan stated quietly.

Jean-Claude narrowed his eyes at him. "I have been out most of the night. I had not noticed. Turn up the heat if you are uncomfortable."

Without hesitation, Stephan rose off the sofa and walked quickly towards the thermostat on the other side of the room.

Jean-Claude looked at the young blonde werewolf still sitting. "Who are you?"

The blonde immediately shot to his feet and inclined his head in a hurried half-bow.

"My name is Jason Schuyler," the werewolf introduced himself. "And you must be the great Jean-Claude."

The vampire frowned. "I hope for your sake, you were not being as sarcastic as you made that sound," he said slowly and very precisely.

Jason's jaw dropped and he seemed appropriately aghast. He shook his head, making his shaggy, thin mane of hair sashay around his face.

"No, Master," he gulped. "I wasn't being sarcastic at all. I've heard a lot about you. I think you are great. I admire you. Honest."

Jean-Claude continued to stare at the young shapeshifter warily, letting him know he was treading on shaky ground.

Stephan suddenly appeared at Jason's side. "This is a friend of mine, Master," he quickly informed Jean-Claude. "I told him about you. He came here of his own freewill. He would like to speak with you about staying here to serve you. And, he's also looking for a job. I know Robert's hiring right now. I thought maybe you could put in a good word for him."

Jean-Claude shifted his weight to one hip and turned his eyes back on Jason Schuyler. "Does Marcus know you are here?" The last thing he needed was to be accused of pilfering one of Marcus' pack members.

Jason nodded readily. "Oh, yes, Master. I come with his blessing, so to speak, since that whole deal with you having Richard Zeeman fell through. If you have the time, I would like to talk to you. In private, if I may." He glanced over at Stephan somewhat apologetically, but Stephan nodded encouragingly at his friend and stepped back.

Turning his attention back on the present he was holding, Jean-Claude plucked at the shredded, curled ribbon around the bow to re-fluff it.

"Stephan, if you would excuse us," Jean-Claude said without looking up.

"Of course," Stephan said and gave Jason a little nudge forward before making a hasty exit out of the room.

Jason stepped towards Jean-Claude, clearing his throat, and gesturing at the gift the vampire held. "Nice box. A Christmas present?"

Jean-Claude looked up from Anita's gift and then let his eyes travel slowly up and down the young werewolf. The boy was attempting to be casual and friendly, but Jean-Claude could feel his apprehension. An apprehension he was trying so very hard to hide.

The vampire suddenly grinned. "As a matter of fact, it is," he pronounced proudly.

"For you?" Jason asked.

Jean-Claude shook his head. "Non, I purchased it tonight for someone."

"Wow, that's cool," Jason said, appearing suitably impressed. "I guess I didn't realize vampires celebrated Christmas. Who's the lucky recipient?"

Turning away from the wolf but beckoning him to follow with a wave of his hand, Jean-Claude shook his head. "You would not know her."

Jason drew up beside the vampire, beaming ear to ear. "Well, I'm sure whoever she is, she'll be thrilled with...whatever it is."

Jean-Claude moved towards his bed chambers, the young werewolf following closely behind him.

"I am hoping she will," Jean-Claude told Jason casually. He opened the bedroom door, and motioned Jason inside. "Tell me, are you very modest, mon ami?"

The shapeshifter hesitated momentarily upon seeing the sprawling bed in front of him. He clasped his hands in front of him and bowed his head somewhat self-consciously.

"Um...modest? Me? Not at all, sir."

"Call me Jean-Claude," the vampire said, stashing the present carefully on a shelf in his enormous walk-in closet to the left of the bed. While he was there, he looked through his assortment of clothes and pulled out several shirts and pants. He emerged from the closet and laid them out over the bed. "If you can dance well," the vampire went on, "and do not mind taking your clothes off while you do, I can speak to the manager of Guilty Pleasures about you and set you up an appointment to audition for him."

Jason looked up, licking his lips. "That would be great. I'd appreciate it." He glanced over at the bed and then back at the vampire, clearly wondering what Jean-Claude's intentions were.

Jean-Claude pretended not to notice, and continued to peruse his selection of outfits with a critically discerning eye.

"I have a date tomorrow night," he began thoughtfully. "What do you think of this and that shirt?" He looked up at Jason and pursed his full lips.

Jason swallowed hard as if he believed this to be some sort of test. "It depends on where you're going, I guess. But I think whatever you wear, you'll look hot. You know, everything I've heard about you is true. You're very sexy."

Jean-Claude flashed Jason a surprised, but charmed, smile and inclined his head in a gesture of thanks. "Merci beaucoup, Jason." He stepped back from the bed, and looked the young werewolf over again. "Are you making a pass at me?"

Jason looked startled. "No Master. I was just..." He stopped himself abruptly and licked his lips apprehensively. "Well, actually, yeah, I was. I just want you to know I'm willing to do what you say, whatever you want. I..." He paused again, clearly having some difficulty completing his train of thought into words.

Intrigued, Jean-Claude raised his brow, but noticed Jason's hands were shaking. He sighed.

"You are very frightened right now, aren't you? Am I making you nervous?"

"A little," Jason confessed and savagely gnawed his lower lip. "I'm not really sure if I'm doing this right or not. I thought you brought me in here to..." He paused and his eyes flicked towards the bed. "I can't quite figure you out. In a lot of ways, you're nothing like I was expecting you to be. Stephan told me you can be a real bad-ass when you want to be, and I really don't want to piss you off, but truthfully, I'm more afraid of being sent back to the pack if you don't want me."

Jean-Claude raised his brow. "Are you in some sort of trouble?"

Jason looked down briefly. "No. But I'm kinda a wreck right now. I've been scared a lot these past few weeks. That's kind of what I wanted to speak to you about, Master. Why I've come here tonight."

Motioning Jason towards the bed, Jean-Claude pushed aside the clothes he'd laid out.

"You may address me as Jean-Claude," the vampire reminded Jason, and sat down on the edge of the bed. He patted the mattress beside him. "Come here. Sit."

Jason sat beside him, but the fear rolling off the young shapeshifter now was like a tangible living entity. Jean-Claude reached up and stroked the unruly hair from the side of Jason's face, making the werewolf flinch initially. Unfazed, Jean-Claude continued running his hand over Jason's cheek and hair soothingly. The young shapeshifter closed his eyes and struggled to relax.

"You are very handsome, Jason," the vampire whispered, and climbed onto the bed, positioning himself directly behind the werewolf, straddling his hips with his thighs. Slowly, carefully, he reached around him and unbuttoned Jason's shirt, then slipped it off his shoulders and tossed it aside.

Jason flinched again when Jean-Claude's hands passed over his bare chest.

"Be still," Jean-Claude admonished him, and continued stroking his sides. "I am not going to hurt you."

"I'm sorry, Master," Jason quickly apologized. "...Jean-Claude. I know I'm acting like a total virgin. It's just that your hands are cold, and I am a little nervous about this. I've never...done it with another guy before."

Jean-Claude smiled gently and leaned over to rest his chin on Jason's shoulder. "I hate to disappoint you, mon ami, but I've no intention of doing you," the vampire murmured, keeping his voice soft and level, using his power to calm the boy's fear. "I had hoped to soothe you with my touch, but if you find it distasteful, I will cease."

"No, no," Jason countered and leaned back into Jean-Claude's arms. "Don't stop. I don't mind, honest. It just takes some getting used to. I keep thinking how odd it is for someone like me to be actually enjoying another man's caresses...."

Jean-Claude smiled slightly. "Tell me. Why did you come to me tonight?"

"I seek your protection," Jason replied, his voice sounding breathy and thick. He tried to peer over at the vampire's face. "I was almost killed a few days ago. I was captured by hunters." He paused and bowed his head again, his fair skin reddening with shame. "I escaped that fate, but now I hardly feel safe anymore. Marcus wasn't able to protect me, and I don't even know if he tried. Then, I'm not very powerful, certainly not important, and I fear persecution from the elite members of my pack. Raina's gorgeous, and I like my ladies tough, but she scares the shit out me, and I know she's had her eye on me lately."

"Ah, yes," Jean-Claude said and languidly rubbed Jason's chest. "I can understand why one so young would be intimidated by a woman of her...experience."

"Marcus was looking for someone to replace Richard as your wolf, and I volunteered to serve you so I could achieve a certain status in the pack through you. I was hoping you would take me in and let me live with you."

Jean-Claude nodded in comprehension, and trailed his hand down Jason's arm.

"That is all well and good, but I do not offer that level of protection to the wolves who attend me," the vampire explained. "You are my animal to call, but I am not about to step on Marcus' toes at this point in time to exercise that authority over him. He is very powerful, Jason, and I need his support more than I want his subservience.

"Perhaps Stephan did not impress upon you the fact he and Richard are, and were, merely leant to me in good faith to assist me for the time being while I establish my power base and inner circle among my vampires. It is Marcus' duty to protect you as one of his own."

Jason shook his head. "But I want to be one of your own. I want to be more to you than just a servant." He turned his head to the side, brushing his cheek over the vampire's. It seemed intentional.

Jean-Claude sighed. "But I don't want a concubine."

"Actually, I wasn't talking about sex," Jason countered. "I was talking about blood. I know master vampires of your caliber often have one or two steady blood sources. A human servant or one of their animals, in your case, one of the wolves. You have neither. Just think for a minute, Jean-Claude. It would only benefit you to have your own blood source. Not just for the obvious reasons, but impression-wise and power-wise. It would be one more step up the ladder for you if you're seen with a--"

"Pomme de sang," the vampire murmured suddenly.

Jason raised his brow. "Excuse me?"

Jean-Claude smiled. "A pomme de sang. Literally translated as 'apple of blood'. It is a term used among vampires for their steady source of living blood. And you're quite right, my young wolf. It would definitely make a good impression had I my own pomme de sang, considering who I am."

Shifting around to face him, Jason smiled back at the vampire, his fear obviously rescinding, his hope clearly rising. "Then you accept my offer?"

Jean-Claude laughed lightly. "Have you ever been with a vampire before, Jason? Do you know what it is like?"

Jason shrugged. "I've heard a few things. Stephan told me you've fed off him a couple of times." The apprehension was seeping back into the young wolf's voice. "It's kind of like sex...isn't it?"

Jean-Claude pressed himself closer to Jason and pushed the hair off the side of his neck. "Because the sensation is often so closely like sex, Stephan tolerated it, but I know he never really enjoyed it. If you are to be my pomme de sang, Jason, it would make me feel less like a...rapist, if I knew you took pleasure in what I do." He leaned forward and nuzzled Jason's throat. "Allow me to demonstrate," he suggested softly, easing Jason onto his back across the bed. "Lie down."

To his credit, the young wolf did not resist, and turned to face Jean-Claude in anticipation as the vampire stretched out beside him.

"As my pomme de sang, I will expect you to obey me in everything, offer yourself to me whenever I so desire, or anyone else I choose to share you with."

The young wolf was trembling a little now, but reached up and caressed the back of Jean-Claude's head. "I know," he said, shakily.

Jean-Claude began nibbling Jason's ear, running his hand over the wolf's muscular thigh. "And this does not make you uncomfortable?"

"No," Jason breathed, but tensed slightly when Jean-Claude touched his groin. "It feels good, which is really starting to surprise me. You ah...know how to make a guy feel...appreciated."

The vampire laughed softly. "As my pomme de sang, I want you to feel comfortable with me. This is just a little something to get you into the mood, so to speak. What I am about to do to you is a very intimate thing for me. A very sensual, pleasurable thing."

"It's already pretty sensual and pleasurable, Jean-Claude," Jason quipped and moaned faintly as the vampire continued to caress him.

Running his lips over the big pulse in Jason's neck, Jean-Claude sighed raggedly in anticipation. He leaned over, reaching up and cradled the werewolf's face in his hands, drawing back from him just far enough to look into his eyes.

"Look at me," the vampire whispered, shifting his body on top of Jason's and curling himself around him comfortably. "That's right. Bon. Tres bon."

He could feel all the tension ebb from the werewolf as his power overtook him. Jason's hands trailed slowly up his back and he emitted another soft, breathy moan. Jean-Claude smiled, and nuzzled his throbbing neck once more, seeking out just the right spot to bite down on.

Just as Jason's arms encircled his back, Jean-Claude sank his fangs deeply into the young wolf's throat and took a long, savoring draught of his blood. Jason quivered and moaned again, tightening his grip on the vampire, pressing his body close.

Jean-Claude could feel Jason's pleasure in more ways than one as he fed from his neck. He even had to hold the wolf down with his legs to keep him from grinding against him. In a matter of minutes, Jason's moans grew deeper and longer, then his body spasmed intensely in ecstasy as he came.

Jean-Claude rose off of him, untangling his limbs from Jason's as he did, and stood back to give the young shapeshifter a moment to collect himself. The werewolf's blood immediately circulated heat throughout his body, warming his cool skin and giving a tinge of color to his pale complexion. Jason's power wasn't impressive, to say the least, but his blood did have that supernatural "kick" to it that was infinitely more fulfilling than any human's blood was. The vampire stood regarding his latest acquisition with favor, watching him closely.

Even when Jean-Claude's power over him subsided, Jason still panted and quivered slightly, but he opened his eyes and swallowed hard--then burst into a fit of laughter.

"Hot damn!" he exclaimed. "Is it like that all the time?"

Jean-Claude grinned. "It can be. Do you agree to my terms?"

Jason nodded readily. "Will you claim me as your pomme de sang then? Will I have your protection?"

Now it was Jean-Claude's turn to nod. "You may move your things in tomorrow. One of my servants will be on hand to assist you." He peered down at the orgasmically sapped werewolf with a mildly amused expression. "Would you like to go freshen up?"

Jason glanced down at himself and blushed attractively. "Yeah, I would. I think a change of clothes may be in order too. Maybe Stephan has something I can borrow."

"I have already called to him. He should be here shortly," Jean-Claude announced. "Next time, you might want to consider removing all your clothes if my power has that kind of effect on you. I can assure you, if you do, I will not 'come onto you', as it were. Your blood will be sufficient for me. I will not abuse you."

Jason grinned, but a strange look of regard came over his face as he peered up at Jean-Claude. "I understand," he said at last, struggling to his feet as a soft knock fell upon the closed bedroom door. He paused before opening it and turned to face the vampire, who was once more sorting through his clothes. "If you wouldn't mind, I'd like to come back and talk to you some more. I think the more we know about each other the closer we'll become. Sort of like a bonding process."

Jean-Claude peeked up from the armload of clothes he had retrieved from his closet.

"I completely agree," he said. That was the exact same philosophy he was clinging to as far as Anita Blake was concerned. He offered Jason a congenial smile. "Come back and you can help me decide what to wear tomorrow for my date."

Jason laughed. "Great! And I'll tell you all about my adventures this past week with the big bad werewolf hunters and the beautiful and infamous Anita Blake."

Jean-Claude nearly dropped the clothes he was holding. His mouth fell open in a very human expression of surprise.

"Anita Blake?"

Jason looked back at Jean-Claude with equal surprise. "Don't tell me you have never heard of her? She's that vampire executioner...." His voice trailed off and a look of sheer horror crossed his face as if he had suddenly realized he had said something very wrong. "Forget it, okay? That was a really stupid thing to say. I'm sorry...Master." Jason backed slowly towards the door.

Jean-Claude shook himself, and deposited his burden of clothes on the bed. He stalked over to Jason and peered at him intensely.

"No, I will not forget it," the vampire breathed. "In fact, I would very much like to hear more about your...'adventures.'"

Jason was rubbing the two puncture wounds on his neck nervously. "Then you do know of her? Anita Blake? Well, I can tell you this much, she's everything her reputation promises her to be. She's smart and beautiful and sexy and one of the coolest, most efficient killers I've ever run across."

Jean-Claude crossed his arms over his chest and sighed. "Go and get changed, then come straight back here. I want you to tell me everything you know about Anita Blake. I want all the wheres and whens of your acquaintance with her. Do not leave out even the slightest detail. If you do, I may not be so inclined to take your mind the next time I take your blood. In fact, I can make it most unpleasant, do you understand?"

Jason licked his lips anxiously and nodded. "Yes, Master." He started to turn away, then looked back at Jean-Claude rather sorrowfully. "You're not planning on killing her or anything, are you? 'Cause you know, she actually saved me. She saved my life from those hunters. I'd be dead and mounted on some sleazebag's wall right now if it weren't for her."

A small smile curled the corners of Jean-Claude's mouth. "Oh, there is no need for such concern on her behalf, mon ami. Clearly your friend, Stephan did not mention Anita's previous affiliation with me?"

Jason visibly paled. He shook his head.

Laughing, Jean-Claude reached out and dragged his knuckle down Jason's cheek.

"I can assure you, killing her is the very last thing I wish to do to her. Non, I have much more pleasant things in mind for Mademoiselle Blake, and tomorrow night, I hope to accomplish one or two, considering she is my date for the evening."

Jason's baby blue eyes grew as round as two saucers. "Your...date?" he asked incredulously, then blinked a couple of times.

The vampire nodded smugly. "Go with Stephan. Have him fill you in on all the juicy details. Then come back to me and you and I will have a nice long chat." He patted Jason's cheek. "We'll bond."

"Yeah," Jason said, turning on his heel and half-staggering to the door. "I mean, yes, Master. I mean, Jean-Claude."

Jean-Claude smiled, and turned his attention back to his choice of clothes.


Jason's harrowing tale from last night was replaying in Jean-Claude's mind as he walked down the hallway to Anita's apartment. No wonder she had been in such a touchy mood when he had called her the night before. Of course, he had not realized then all she had been through. Jean-Claude didn't want to think about all the times Anita had risked her life to save others. It depressed him. He prized her capability and courage, but sometimes, he wished she wasn't quite as courageous as she was.

As Jean-Claude approached Anita's door, the power barricading it prickled at his skin. He frowned, feeling the sting of that particular insult all over again. In one hand he held her gift, in the other a small bouquet of white poinsettias, ivy, and baby's breath. Jean-Claude had chosen these flowers carefully. They weren't particularly romantic, even though the bouquet was very pretty. He just hoped Anita would accept them in the spirit in which they were being offered tonight, and not throw them away.

Shifting the flowers on top of her present, Jean-Claude pressed the door bell, snatched up the bouquet again, and took a deep breath, trying not to think about it.

Anita threw open the door, then immediately turned away again before he could greet her, and strode towards a chair to retrieve her coat.

"Hang on a minute, okay?" she called over her shoulder and pulled on her coat while quickly crossing the room to attend to some unseen last minute details.

Jean-Claude sighed, taking in her casual attire, and noting as he did, she was also armed to the teeth. He fantasized indulgently about one day being able to strip her. The big Browning would come off first, then a wrist knife, then the Firestar, then another knife...

Anita suddenly turned towards the open door and stopped short. Her mouth fell open and her already big brown eyes got even bigger.

"My god," she exhaled, her gaze slowly descending down the length of the vampire standing patiently at her door.

Jean-Claude fought hard not to smile. "I will settle for being your lover," he teased. "There is no need for you to worship me."

Anita's eyes shot back up to his and she frowned, snapping out of the state of captivation she had openly fallen into. She tried to look stern.

"I was going to tell you how nice you look," Anita grumbled, "but since you're already being obnoxious, you lost out on that compliment."

Jean-Claude handed her the bouquet and inclined his head towards her graciously. "You've no need to voice such things," he replied smugly. "The look on your face when you first saw me told me everything I needed to know."

Anita accepted the flowers and studied them momentarily, licking her lips apprehensively.

"Thanks," she said quietly. "They're pretty." She cleared her throat softly and turned slightly, gesturing towards the kitchen. "I'll just go set them in some water. I'll be right back." With that, she turned and disappeared behind the door.

Jean-Claude sighed again. "Ma petite, are you going to leave me standing here in the hallway all night?"

Anita did not reply. Jean-Claude tried again.

"Aren't you going to at least kiss me hello?"

Appearing suddenly in front of the door, Anita scowled at the vampire admonishingly.

"Will you keep your voice down?" she scolded. "The last thing I want is for the neighbors to start peeking out."

Jean-Claude glanced around at the nearby doors. "Ask me in, then," he told her. "It is the polite thing to do."

Anita shook her head. "Uh uh. I don't trust you not to pull a stunt like you did last week. I don't want to come home late some night and find you comfortably parked on my sofa again. You want your invitation back, you earn it."

Jean-Claude tried to look indifferent. "You make it sound as if coming home to me would be unpleasant." He paused and fixed his gaze on her face, his eyes smoldering with desire. "I can assure you, it would be anything but." He couldn't help smiling at the fantasy the idea of doing such a thing conjured. "Mmm, let's try it one night, shall we?"

Dropping her eyes from his, Anita took a small step back and pressed her lips tightly together as if trying to prevent herself from saying what she really wanted to say. Finally she looked up again and gestured at the elegantly wrapped package the vampire brandished.

"Please don't tell me that's for me," she said with a heavy sigh.

Jean-Claude rolled his eyes. "Then, no, ma petite, it is not for you. Can't you see it is merely part of my festive attire?"

At that, Anita smiled, but her voice was edged with exasperation. "Oh, Jean-Claude, I wish you wouldn't have."

Extending the present towards her, Jean-Claude lowered his eyes. "Merry Christmas, Anita."

She took it from him, studying the intricacies of the bow. "It's lovely," she murmured.

Jean-Claude leaned towards her slightly. "It is not just a box. There is something inside."

Anita glanced up at him, blushing prettily. "Let me just put this on the table and we can go." She chewed her lower lip, her eyes drifting over Jean-Claude's clothes again, taking in his long white tuxedo jacket, silver vest, lace shirt, black pants and thigh high boots. "But I'm feeling a little underdressed compared to you. I wish you would have told me where you're taking me."

Jean-Claude looked her over. She looked lovely, even if a bit too modest. She was wearing a dark green cashmere sweater and brown slacks. The sweater looked luxuriously soft and made Jean-Claude itch to run his hands over it...especially since she was inside it.

"You look beautiful," the vampire said sincerely. "And I truly had no where specific in mind to take you tonight. Whatever you wish to do, ma petite. Wherever you want to go." He paused and took a deep breath. "What you are wearing is very nice, but if you wish to change into something more revealing, I'll be more than happy to wait for you."

Anita grinned and shook her head. "Sorry. This is as revealing as it gets on a first date. Besides, I told you I was wearing what I wanted and you'd just have to deal with it," she reminded him. "Just take me somewhere nice, but not extravagant. You be overdressed instead of me being underdressed, okay?"

Jean-Claude tugged at the lapels of his tuxedo. "Be overdressed? In this old thing? It was just something I pulled on at the last minute, but I'm happy to hear you admire it so."

"Last minute? Yeah, right," Anita spouted dubiously, stepping into the hall and turning around to lock the door behind her. "I know you, Jean-Claude. You've been planning that getup for a week."

Jean-Claude fought not to smile. If she only knew.

Anita stashed her keys into one of her deeper coat pockets, then turned to face Jean-Claude. "So...where are we going?"

Jean-Claude blinked back at her slowly as he walked beside her down the hall. "Have you eaten?"

"I had a sandwich earlier."

He made a face to let her know that hardly counted. "Then shall we begin with a restaurant? Something nice, but not too extravagant? What about Liluma on North Euclid?"

Anita looked appalled. "I'm not going to scarf down a whole meal while you just sit there and watch me!"

Jean-Claude raised his brow. "Would my watching you eat make you uncomfortable?"

Considering this, Anita took a deep breath. "Well, no. Not really. But it's just the whole idea of me eating food in front of you. It's rude."

Jean-Claude shrugged. "It is not rude. I would enjoy watching you eat. You can describe to me each taste and texture and if it will make you feel any better, I'll order a glass of wine."

At that Anita stopped walking and turned to face him fully.

"You can drink wine?"

Jean-Claude couldn't tell if she was impressed or dismayed. He nodded slowly.

"In very small amounts. A sip here, a sip there. I have to be extremely careful. It doesn't do a vampire any good to replace his existing blood supply with alcohol."

Anita fought not to smile. "You get drunk?"

"No. Sick. Very, very sick."

Now Anita laughed outright. "Oh, god, you tried it once, didn't you?"

Jean-Claude looked appropriately chagrined. "I was still very young at the time, and still quite full of the sense of invincibility all vampires have when newly turned. I adored wine as a man, and refused to deprive myself of it as a vampire."

Anita looked intrigued. "What happened?"

"Oh non, please. Let me spare you the gory details," Jean-Claude said and smiled, happy to be having such an unexpected rapport going with Anita so soon, even if it was due to his past misfortune. "Let's just say, I learned my lesson after that."

They started walking again, weaving their way through the halls towards the complex exit and out into the street. It was snowing lightly and the road in front of Anita's building was already dusted in a powdery white.

The wind felt like icy fingers running through his long hair, lifting it off his shoulders to wave it languidly in the air. Jean-Claude paused momentarily, looking up into the sky. Snowflakes fell softly on his face, lingering on his cool skin, clotting on his eyelashes and moistening his lips. He grinned at the pleasurable sensation before shaking his head and sending the tiny crystals back into the air.

He noticed Anita was watching him intently, and when he caught her eye, she quickly turned away and started across the street to where she had parked her car.

"Ma petite, will you not let me at least hold your hand while you cross the street?" Jean-Claude asked, starting after her. "I would feel terrible if you should slip and fall."

Anita whirled around to face him, stabbing her finger towards the middle of his chest.

"If I fall on my ass, it will be my own damned fault and you just better stay back and let me," she practically snarled. "You lay one finger on me tonight, Jean-Claude and the whole deal's off, you understand?"

The vampire frowned deeply. "I understand. Look, but don't touch." He stopped and put his hands on his hips with a petulant air. "You make it sound as if you let me so much as hold your hand, I'll ravish you."

"Won't you?" Anita shot back. "I know you're just waiting for that golden opportunity."

Jean-Claude peered at her curiously. "You call this an opportunity? Out in front of your apartment building in the middle of the street, in the snow and freezing cold?" As an afterthought, he added, "But then I will take whatever I can get."

Anita climbed into her car not bothering to reply. Resigned, Jean-Claude deposited himself into the seat on the passenger side.

"Buckle up," Anita ordered, turning the ignition. "I don't want you flying through the windshield in the case of an accident."

The vampire looked over at her and smiled. "Why, ma petite. Are you concerned for my safety?" He placed his hand over his heart and sighed. "I am touched." He obediently reached down and fastened his seat belt, just to please her, since any accident she was likely to get in to, he'd more than easily survive.

"Well, actually I just don't want my upholstery all messed up," she mumbled and pulled away from the curb.


They drove to the restaurant Jean-Claude had suggested in somewhat of an awkward silence. Anita kept her eyes determinedly on the road while Jean-Claude stared out the passenger window at the passing city lights, sitting on his hands to remind him to resist the temptation of running his palm over Anita's thigh.

Luckily the traffic was relatively cooperative and it made the trip to Liluma short, if not sweet. Anita pulled into the first parking spot she came to and was out of the car and down the street before Jean-Claude had even gotten his seat belt unsnapped.

He caught up with her inside the restaurant while she was waiting for a table and drew up beside her, purposefully bumping into her. She glared up at him, but he smiled down at her.

"Ma petite, if I didn't know any better, I would think you were trying to lose me."

Anita pursed her lips. "Would I do that?" she inquired, all innocence. "I was just cold, okay?"

Jean-Claude rubbed his arm against her shoulder. "I could warm you up...."

"Ah...no thanks," she replied and jerked away from him. "What did I tell you about touching me? Behave yourself."

Jean-Claude opened his mouth to reply, but just then the hostess came up to show them to their table.

Once seated across from each other, a young waitress came by with menus, glasses of water, and a promise of hot dinner rolls before departing again.

Anita picked up a menu, hunched down in her chair, and pried it open.

"Good god, everyone in here is looking at us," she grumbled, peering over the top of the menu at Jean-Claude.

The vampire shrugged and leaned back in his chair, draping his arm casually over the top of the chair next to him.

"Perhaps they've never seen a vampire before," he said quietly and glanced around the room with a quick sweep of his eyes. Anita was right, many of the restaurant's patrons were gaping at them outright.

"Oh right," Anita countered. "Even though vampires are a dime a dozen in this city. Maybe you're just so dazzling they can't help themselves, Jean-Claude. Maybe it's your star-quality." She shook her head.

Jean-Claude laughed lightly. "Nonsense. I'll prove it." With that, he pretended to yawn languidly, opening his mouth wide and curling his lips back to expose all four of his elongated canines.

Immediately a whispery murmur rose around them and a few people quickly got up to leave.

"Oh...super," Anita growled. "If they weren't looking before, they sure as hell are now."

"There, you see? I was right," the vampire gloated. "Though it pleases me to no end you believe I am that noteworthy on the merits of my appearance alone."

Anita frowned. "I was being sarcastic."

"If you say so, ma petite,"Jean-Claude said placatingly, then dismissed it all with a wave of his hand. "Ignore them. They will soon tire of looking at me and return to their meals." He plucked up the menu he was given from the table and opened it up, reading each and every item listed.

When he had finished, Jean-Claude looked up and caught Anita staring at him even more intensely than any of the tourists in the restaurant. Again, she quickly averted her eyes and focused her attention on the menu she was holding. He took a deep breath.

"What are you ordering, ma petite? Everything sounds delicious!"

"I don't know yet. You're right though. Everything looks good."

"The pasta with the portobellos sounds particularly appetizing," Jean-Claude told Anita, purposefully fastening his gaze on her and pouring his power into his voice. He leaned forward slightly, resting his arms on the table. "Can't you just taste that burst of hot buttery flavor when you bite into that succulent little mushroom and roll it around on your tongue?"

Anita froze momentarily and peered up at Jean-Claude, blushing prettily. "Stop that!" she admonished.

"Stop what?"

"Stop...using your voice like that! You're making the women around us swoon!"

Jean-Claude leaned back and pretended to pout. "I was only suggesting the mushrooms."

Anita flashed a smile. "It was suggestive, all right," she said and snapped the menu close. "Too late though, I've already made up my mind."

The vampire immediately brightened and scooted his chair closer to the table enthusiastically. "So what have you decided on?"

Anita actually laughed now. "It's not the portobello pasta, sorry."

Jean-Claude shrugged. "Pity. What about the tuna steak?"

Anita shook her head. "No. I'm going to order the grilled salmon and the mache salad."

The vampire made a face at her. "Mache salad? I suppose. You are the one who has to eat it."

Anita set her menu down. "Thank you for noticing." She took a sip from her water glass.

The waitress returned then with a little basket of steamy bread rolls and took Anita's order. Jean-Claude ordered a single glass of pinot noir. The waitress collected the menus, checked the water glasses and quickly departed once more.

Anita cleared her throat and picked out one of the rolls from the basket.

"For a vampire, you have a peculiar interest in food."

Jean-Claude smiled, leaning forward again to watch Anita more closely. "I miss the taste of it. The variety." He spared a thought of his newly acquired pomme de sang and his smile broadened. "Variety is the spice of life."

"Variety?" Anita slathered one side of the roll with butter and took a bite.

"Oui," the vampire acknowledged and licked his lips, watching Anita intensely.

"I'm surprised you still remember what food tastes like."

Jean-Claude sighed wistfully. "I don't, but I remember what I liked and why I liked it. I used to eat like a horse, if you can believe it."

Anita's brows drew together in a dubious expression. "With that waistline? No."

Smiling coyly, pleased Anita obviously had at one time studied the lines of his waist, Jean-Claude wished he had worn something a little more form-fitting tonight.

"I was an...energetic youth," he told her quietly.

At that, Anita grinned. "Oh, I can imagine. Chasing women can sure burn up the calories."

Jean-Claude smiled back at her. "Catching them can too."

"Running away from their jealous husbands probably helped."

Jean-Claude laughed. "My life in a nutshell."

Anita's food arrived along with Jean-Claude's glass of wine. The vampire swirled the dark liquid--so similar in appearance to blood, and smelled its bouquet. He took a sip, barely wetting his lips, then moaned softly at the taste.

"Ah, an excellent vintage," he commented, then peered over at Anita as he set the wineglass down.

Her mouth was full and her eyes were closed. She chewed as if her salmon was the best thing she had ever tasted.

Jean-Claude smiled. "Tell me about it," he urged her. "Describe it to me. I want to know how everything tastes and feels."

All Anita could manage for the time being was a series of whimpers and moans, a few odd hand gestures and eye rolling.

Enthralled, Jean-Claude folded his arms on top of the table and shifted in his chair to make himself more comfortable as he continued to sip his wine and watch her eat.

"Why, ma petite, watching you eat is even more fun than I could have imagined," he said breathily as she moaned once more.


Eventually, Anita was able to describe the tastes and textures of her meal to Jean-Claude. The vampire was fascinated by every bite she took, which Anita found amusing to no end. It seemed to set the congenial tone for their dinner together and kept their moods light.

Once Anita had finished all she could eat, Jean-Claude paid the bill, while Anita excused herself to visit the ladies room.

Feeling extremely happy and pleased with the way the evening had gone so far, Jean-Claude went to wait for Anita outside the restaurant. It was still snowing, but lighter than it had been. The temperature seemed to have dropped a few degrees with the progression of the night and it seemed more snow was on the way if the cloud-covered sky was any indication.

Anita stepped out of the restaurant and smiled at Jean-Claude, jiggling her keys.

"Shall we?" she suggested and moved to step off the curb.

In a moment of impulse, Jean-Claude grasped Anita's elbow and pulled her back to him.

"Wait," he whispered. "Listen."

Dutifully, Anita looked around, standing beside Jean-Claude and listening for all she was worth.

"What am I listening to?" Anita whispered as well.

Jean-Claude brushed his hand over her back. "The silence," he told her. "That peculiar winter silence that occurs when it snows. Even in the heart of the city, it is so heavy, you can feel it. It is so strong, you can hear it."

Anita looked up into the sky at the softly falling snow. "Yeah," she answered in a voice that told the vampire she knew exactly what he was talking about. "There's nothing else like it. I love it when it's like this. So peaceful. So beautiful."

Nodding, Jean-Claude peered down at her while she was still looking up and smiled at her, feeling one of those rare moments when their thoughts were completely in synch.

But then the moment changed, and instead of looking into the sky, Anita was looking into his eyes. The muted lights around them touched her face, softening her features as the snowflakes lightly kissed her skin. Her large brown eyes were like two dark pools of tranquil, beckoning warmth.

Jean-Claude found himself leaning towards her, parting his lips and closing his eyes, certain he'd finally be granted a kiss: the kiss he had been longing for ever since that first and last kiss they had shared years ago in the rain.

He could feel the warmth of her mouth, the silky brush of her moist lips. He reached out to take her in his arms, but the weight of her hand upon his chest suddenly stopped him, and then roughly pushed him away.

Shaken, Jean-Claude opened his eyes and saw Anita striding away from him towards her car. He knew then he had made a critical mistake.

He took a moment to collect himself, tamping down his anger at the unfairness of her rejection, his frustration, the deep disappointment, and that niggling little stabbing in his heart. Then he started after her.

Anita opened the driver's side door and simply stood there, as if waiting for him to approach her before getting inside.

Jean-Claude drew up to the car on the opposite side.

"I think you should go now," Anita told him, somberly, keeping her eyes steadfastly focused on the lighted interior of the car.



Jean-Claude closed his eyes briefly. "Anita...what did I do that was so very wrong?"

Anita sighed petulantly. "You know damned well what you did," she muttered. "Now if it's all the same to you, thank you for dinner...and goodnight."

"Let me see you home," the vampire suggested.

"Believe me. I don't need an escort home," Anita countered, shaking her head. "Why have me drive you all the way to my place just so you can turn around and come back? That's stupid."

Jean-Claude looked at her unblinkingly. "I will see you home," he repeated, more firmly this time. He was not about to take no for an answer.

As if suspecting as much, Anita got into the car, cursing under her breath the whole time. She jabbed the key into the ignition and turned it, punching the heater and defrost on, then flipped the windshield wipers up. As the car warmed up, Anita kept her eyes forward and clamped her lips together in a thin, grim line.

Slipping into the seat beside her, Jean-Claude was actually surprised Anita didn't pull a gun on him, or at the very least, protest more. He did notice she had failed to order him to use his seat belt however. Reaching for it, Jean-Claude stretched it across his torso and fastened it securely in place. He peered over at Anita to see if she would say anything. She didn't. Instead she turned the car into the street and drove off.

With a sigh of resignation, Jean-Claude settled himself back into the passenger seat and turned his face towards the window to look once more at the lights of the city passing by.


Anita didn't try to stop Jean-Claude from following her across the street to her apartment building, so he followed her inside as well, all the way to her door.

Encouraged, he stood beside her as she unlocked her door, and waited while she opened it and went inside. She had yet to say anything to him and that was making him a little apprehensive, however. Convinced now she was simply ignoring him, the tiny bubble of hope Jean-Claude had been harboring abruptly burst.

"Promise me something," he said quietly, but in an exacting tone.

Anita started as if she truly had not realized he was still with her.

"What?" she snapped, facing him at last.

Jean-Claude leaned towards her.

"Promise me you will not let Richard touch you anymore."

Anita's jaw dropped and for a moment, she looked too stunned to reply. Then she seemed to shake herself and frowned deeply.

"Look," she began. "We're going to have to talk this over, because this...arrangement isn't going to work. It's not fair. To me, or Richard--"

"Or me, perhaps?" Jean-Claude said tersely, cutting her off.

Anita sighed slowly. "Or you. This is too awkward. Too uncomfortable for me."

"Too confusing as well, I think," Jean-Claude added. Anita sounded as if she did not want to see him anymore. "You told me you loved me, yet you paint my heart the pariah in this picture, and will continue to see Richard."

Anita looked at him for a long time before answering. "I'm sorry, Jean-Claude."

Taking a carefully measured breath, Jean-Claude leaned against the door frame and crossed his arms over his chest.

"What is it that frightens you so?" he whispered, fastening his eyes on hers. "It is not me who scares you. It is not me whom you mistrust. I have no power over you. My allure merely intrigues you, it does not persuade you. I can only show you what assets I have to offer you, and then stand back, and let you decide whether or not to accept them. The choice is yours, Anita. Yours alone. So what are you afraid of?"

Anita dropped her eyes to the floor in front of her feet. "The only thing I'm afraid of is making a mistake. A big, irrevocable, mistake." She shook her head and looked up at the vampire again. "I want to be sure."

"Then give yourself options," Jean-Claude murmured, his deep voice full of a resonating warmth. "Then the choice will be clear. Then you can go forward, without doubt, or regrets. The only way to do this is to embrace your feelings, Anita. Experience them."

"I can't," Anita said suddenly, unexpectedly. "I'm not the kind of person who can just throw caution to the wind and act on impulse, blindly trusting my feelings. Especially when I'm feeling things I shouldn't, and it's leading me over a rickety bridge with a big hole in the middle. Well, I'm just not ready to take that leap to the other side yet. I need to stand on the edge for awhile and size it all up." Anita paused and chewed her lower lip thoughtfully. "In the end, it's me I'm afraid of. It's me I don't trust."

Jean-Claude raised his brow, his heart speeding up a bit. "I suspected as much," he told her in a placating tone. "I think I understand now why you have resisted me with such pluck." A slow, sexy smile lit the vampire's features. "...Why the mere touch of my hand makes you panic so."

Anita rolled her eyes. "Well, don't sell yourself short there, Jean-Claude. You're very persuasive. Too persuasive. You don't even have to try. Hell, I know you don't, because most of the time you go out of your way to be irritating."

"Irritating? Moi?"

Anita cracked a smile. "Yeah. Irritating. Obnoxious. Arrogant. Exasperating. Devious. Overbearing. Shall I go on?"

Jean-Claude turned his head and crooked his finger at her, beckoning her closer. "If that is the way you truly feel about me...whisper it in my ear."

Laughing self-consciously, Anita shook her head. "You'd like that wouldn't you?"

"Yes, I would."

Much to the vampire's surprise, Anita grasped his shoulder and stretched up on her toes in compliance. Jean-Claude readily bent down to meet her.

He felt the brush of her small warm hand on his cheek suddenly as she pushed his hair aside. His heart was fairly racing now. Must be the wolf's blood, Jean-Claude thought absently and placed his hand on his chest. That was the very last cognizant thought he had due to the sensation of Anita's soft lips grazing his ear.

"I had a nice time tonight, thank you. Goodnight, Jean-Claude," Anita whispered and lowered herself back on her heels. She smiled up at the awestruck vampire, and turned to go back into the apartment.

Jean-Claude was too overcome to move. He could still feel her sweet breath against his skin, making him tingle all the way down to his toes.

"And there's nothing wrong with your ass...sets," Anita mumbled.

The vampire wasn't quite sure he had heard her correctly. He snapped his head around to look at her.


Anita went to close the door. "You heard me."

Jean-Claude smiled. Yes, he had. "Goodnight, ma petite. And Merry Christmas. I hope you enjoy your gift."

Before she had closed it completely, Anita quickly pulled the door open again. "Oh, wait! That reminds me. Don't leave yet."

Jean-Claude settled himself back against the door frame. "Well, if you insist...."

Shrugging off her coat, Anita disappeared into the apartment, muttering something about how she had almost forgot.

Jean-Claude peered in after her, and caught sight of the bouquet he had brought her, sitting in a water-filled tumbler in the middle of her table. It warmed him because he had truly believed she had already thrown them away.

Anita suddenly reappeared before him, catching him off guard. The woman played havoc with his nerves.

"You kept them," he exclaimed, blinking at her in surprise.

Clearly, Anita had no clue as to what he was talking about. "Kept what?"

"The flowers," Jean-Claude explained, his voice catching slightly. "You didn't throw them away."

Anita looked ashamed suddenly, and Jean-Claude knew she had probably disposed of a lot of his bouquets that way.

"No, I didn't throw them out," she said quietly. She turned slightly, and looked back at the little bouquet on her table. "They're beautiful."

Jean-Claude tentatively reached up and touched a lock of Anita's long dark hair. "You are beautiful, ma petite." He lowered his hand and sighed wistfully.

Anita caught his hand and raised it again, placing a small flat box on his large palm. The tiny box was wrapped in red paper and tied with gold string.

"Here. This is for you," she said, then looked up into his eyes and offered him a tremulous smile. "Merry Christmas."

"From you?" Jean-Claude practically gasped since all the breath had left his body in a heated rush when she had grasped his hand. He could hardly believe his eyes. Anita had bought him a present. "May I open it now?"

Anita laughed. "It's not quite Christmas yet, but go ahead. It's no big deal really. Just something I saw that made me think of you. The vampire who has everything."

Jean-Claude reached up and chucked her under the chin. "Not yet," he said insinuatingly, and set about untying the gold string. He pulled it off and immediately stashed it in his vest pocket with the intent of keeping everything she gave him, right down to the string.

"Wait," Anita said, stopping him.

Jean-Claude peered down at her curiously.

First Anita closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Then she looked at Jean-Claude and shook her head. "If we're going to exchange gifts, let's do it right." She stepped back and opened the door wide. "How do you say 'you can come in' in French?"

A bolt of exhilaration shot through the vampire upon hearing Anita's request. He clutched the small box tightly in his hand and pressed it to his now thudding heart. Definitely the young wolf's blood.

"Vous pouvez entrer," Jean-Claude told her quickly.

Clearly Anita didn't catch it all. Her expression endearingly betrayed as much. But she made a grand sweeping gesture with her hand for him to enter, then babbled off what parts she did catch.

"Then...entre vous, Jean-Claude."

The vampire laughed and stepped forward. The barrier was gone. He glided over her threshold and into her living room completely uninhibited.

"Merci, ma petite," he said, turning to face her. "Merci beaucoup! You don't know what this means to me. And I promise you, you won't regret it," he quickly added. Now was the time for integrity. If he was to earn her trust and win her heart, there was no better time to begin than now. "I will be on my very best behavior while in your home. And I will not enter it against your wishes of my own accord. I give you my word."

Anita considered it. "Well, since I can take it back at any time, and I know you don't want that, I know you'll behave yourself from now on."

Jean-Claude nodded. He unclenched his hand and peered down at the little red box. "I understand." His eyes slowly drifted up to hers. "What made you change your mind?"

Anita shrugged. "Just that. Things change." For a long while, Anita stood gazing into Jean-Claude's eyes. What she was thinking, he hadn't a clue. Finally, she cleared her throat uneasily, and gestured at her sofa. "Have a seat, Jean-Claude. Make yourself at home."

And having said that, she closed the door.






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