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blood lust

by vampfire
Rated NC-17

Author's Note No plot here. Takes place back in what I sarcastically call Anita's "innocent" days, as in sometime after Killing Dance, but before the shit really hit the fan with her love life.
Disclaimer LKH takes good care of these characters. I'm just taking them out for a joyride and promise to have them back before dawn. (No copyright infringement intended; I'm not making any money off this.)

I'd stopped at home to take a shower. There are things only a shower can clean up. Chicken blood is a good example. I was done raising the dead for the night, but wasn't going to sleep yet. No rest for the wicked.

I parked my car and started walking towards Guilty Pleasures.

I was afraid of Jean-Claude. Not in the way I used to fear him back before I really knew him, but afraid of the way he made me feel. I loved him completely, with every inch of my mind, body, and soul, and it scared the hell out of me. Especially the soul part.

It was after midnight, but I walked through the District unafraid of the monsters in the shadows. The night air was cool, and I left my leather jacket open to let the breeze in. Yes, Jean-Claude had gotten me into leather, but it stopped with the jacket. Beneath it was the ordinary me: red polo shirt, dark blue jeans, Nikes, Browning Hi-Power, two blades, and the Firestar.

Even as late as midnight, there was a short line of people waiting to get into the club. Made you wonder what they'd been doing the rest of the night. I by-passed the line, to the disapproval of everyone standing in it. Buzz the bouncer let me in, grinning enough to show fang as I flicked off a particularly upset woman waiting to get in the club.

I grinned back at Buzz. I'd never seen him kill anyone or do anything illegal, so I liked him. I couldn't be mean to someone just because he was undead anymore. No, I was neck deep in monsters, and it was by choice. Sleeping with the chief bloodsucker of St. Louis took away any stones I would have thrown.

Said bloodsucker was leaning against the bar looking like the perfect ad for his strip club. I was sure he was posing for my benefit; didn't it take effort to effect a pose like that?

He wore a deep blue silk dress shirt. He turned his gaze to mine, and I inhaled sharply when I realized the shirt perfectly matched his eyes. Black leather pants tight enough to be skin stretched over his lean legs and tucked into knee-high leather boots.

I managed to walk to him with composure. I should get a million brownie points for that.

I stopped very close to him and leaned up for a kiss.

I lost myself in the feel of his lips and let my tongue snake between his fangs. French kissing a French vampire is even more fun than it sounds.

All too soon, he pulled away. I looked up into his blue, blue eyes and saw love. Not lust, though there was that, but real love.

I'd admitted to myself that Jean-Claude loves me, that I mean more to him than securing his power base. What I was trying not to admit was how much I love him back. I had enough issues lusting after his body without getting into how I could fall in love with a 400-year-old corpse.

His eyes held sadness like they sometimes held sex. He knew what I was thinking. Knew that even as I gave my body to him, I was holding back. And I felt guilty for it.

That guilt was my only excuse for not backing away from him after our hello kiss.

I leaned up against his body, my hands balanced against the slick smoothness of his deep blue shirt. I kissed him gently, then could no longer help myself. The kiss turned more passionate and I was swept up in it.

I let my body fall against his, then tentatively wrapped my arms around him. He held me and met my kisses with his own. I felt dizzy with desire. I sank into his embrace, feeling almost giddy with the knowledge that we were doing this in public.

I'm not much of an exhibitionist. The club was packed with too many people for us to draw attention, but still I felt everyone was watching. I moved closer to Jean-Claude and gasped when I found him pressing firmly into my stomach.

I drew back and met his eyes. All sadness was gone; there was nothing left but desire. He smiled down at me, utterly seductive. It made my skin tingle and places deep inside me tighten.

Jean-Claude is the most gorgeous man I've ever seen, undead or alive, and I know the unmentionable things his smile offers feel too good for words. The look on his face right then was too openly sexual for public. It said he knew what I tasted like and craved more.

I felt heat rush to my face and glanced around. No one seemed to be paying much attention to us. But I wasn't going any further in public. I leaned into Jean-Claude, feeling a rush of desire as I rubbed against his taut body. "I need you," I told him, my voice a low whisper.

His hands tightened around my back and his lips went to the hollow between my neck and shoulder. He held me very, very still. At first I thought he'd sensed some bad guy enter the club or something. Then I felt him tremble. He was trying to control himself.

He licked the big pulse in my neck in one quick stroke, then pulled away from me. He offered me his arm, as if his body wasn't ringing with desire.

I took it, and we walked out of the club and back to my car.


I got in the driver's side. Neither of us had said a word, but I began driving to the Circus of the Damned. Hey, it was closer than my place.

Jean-Claude had been sitting so still beside me that I'd let him fade into the darkness and let my mind fill with thoughts of what was to come. It hurt my pride and scared me shitless that I wanted him this much. I didn't want to wait the fifteen minutes it would take to drive to the Circus. I wanted him now.

Jean-Claude moved so suddenly that fear spiked through me and I reached for a gun. I calmed when I realized it was just him, then my pulse began to race again as I found him curled up in some impossible position on the floor boards of the jeep.

His deadly blue eyes looked up at me from my lap where he was resting his chin.

He unsnapped the button to my jeans. I started to say "Don't," but his hands were running over my body in ways that left me breathless.

I lifted up from the seat so he could pull my jeans down to my knees. I felt extremely vulnerable, but his hands splayed out on my naked thighs were soothing.

His tongue began at the bend of my knees and worked its way upward. I was dying with need. I kept my eyes glued to the road. Yes, he was a vampire and yes I was a human servant, but even if we couldn't die in a car accident, it wouldn't do us any good either.

Jean-Claude was slowly making me lose track of the world around me. We shouldn't be doing this. Fear clutched at me. My mother would still be alive if she'd been wearing a seat belt, so car safety has always been an obsession of mine. The feelings emanating from Jean-Claude's expert hands and tongue couldn't be helping me concentrate on the road.

Suddenly, Jean-Claude's wet tongue hit delicate areas. He'd moved aside more clothing without me realizing it. I groaned out loud. He continued, and I couldn't stop moaning. I pleaded with him, alternately to stop and to take me now.

We reached the Circus and his tongue disappeared. I dressed quickly, knowing we were close to being in his bed, where I could relieve this incredible tension. I met Jean-Claude's eyes as we were let into the back door of the Circus and saw his arousal clear on his face.

We kissed as we made our way down the stairs. I was aching for him, and I couldn't tear myself away. I had a passing thought that we were giving any werewolves that happened to be in our path a pretty good show, but there was no hiding it. Not from creatures that could sense your desire anyway.

I was too far gone to worry about decorum. I was practically hanging on Jean-Claude when we entered what used to be the throne room.

Jean-Claude laid me down on the nearest couch and sank over me so our bodies meshed in one long line. His lips met mine, and he kissed me until all brain function ceased. I would have stripped and let him have me right there if I hadn't caught movement to my left.

I turned my head while Jean-Claude's open lips caressed the column of my throat to find Asher heading for the door. He met my gaze and looked down quickly, muttering, "Excuse me..."

Jean-Claude heard him and sat up so quickly it seemed like magic. He was standing a moment later, and I could see the outline of him pressing hard against his leather pants. It was hard to miss; his groin was at my eye level.

I sat up, then stood beside my lover. "I'm sorry, Asher," I managed to say. My face felt feverish, and my body yearned for Jean-Claude's touch.

Asher was not four feet away. He'd stopped walking when I'd noticed him. This close, I could see a fine color to his pale face. It didn't seem to be embarrassment. The supernatural are seldom embarrassed, even in the most sexual situations.

I realized that he was aroused. Once I thought it, I couldn't help myself. My gaze dropped, and I literally watched as his pants stretched tighter. I knew that he knew where I was looking.

I moved my gaze and found the portrait above the mantle. It was only another reminder that Asher and Jean-Claude had once been lovers. I looked at Jean-Claude and found his eyes locked with Asher's, still shining with lust, if not love.

Asher looked away with an effort and murmured, "I'm sorry to interrupt." He walked to the door and was gone.

Jean-Claude's gaze was still on the door. I watched him for a moment, then touched his hand lightly. His luminous gaze fell on me and he looked guilty, as if I'd caught him doing more than just staring at Asher.

He moved in for a kiss so quickly I almost fell. He caught me against his body and held me tightly. If I'd thought he was hard before, now he was pure steel. He devoured my mouth, and I was flooded with desire.

I pulled back to breathe and rested my cheek against his chest. His heart was racing. He started to lead me towards the hall to his bedroom.

I suddenly had a very bad thought. "Jean-Claude," I breathed. "Will Asher be able to feel it when we make love?"

He grew still, and I looked up to see his face. "Oui," he said softly. "He will not feel it the way I could feel you through the marks, but he will sense our desire, feel our release and all of the power that we raise when we're together."

I swallowed hard and said the last thing I wanted to say. "We can't do this now."

Jean-Claude met my gaze steadily. I explained, "I can't do this to Asher. He still loves you, and I effectively took you from him. I can't have sex with you knowing he'll feel it."

Jean-Claude nodded, his face a mask. He slowly loosened his embrace and let me step away. "I'm sorry, Jean-Claude," I told him. "I can't trust myself to be near you and not... you know."

He nodded again and watched me walk to the stairs. "Je t'aime, ma petite," he said softly.

"I love you too." My last glance at Jean-Claude showed him standing where I'd left him, gazing at me through curls of dark hair as if he could drink me up with just his eyes. Walking away from that sexy invitation took more courage than I'd thought I had.


Standing outside the Circus was Asher. He looked shocked to see me. "Is something wrong, ma cherie?"

"No," I said. Now that all the lust had died down, embarrassment was catching up with me.

He met my eyes and said cautiously, "Remember, ma cherie, I can tell when you are lying. Did you have a fight with Jean-Claude?" Asher stepped closer to me, his expression concerned.

I let him stand in front of me close enough to touch and said softly, "No."

Surprise passed over his face. "You are afraid, I can taste it... Ma cherie, what are you so scared of? Certainly not me? I could never be angry at you for loving Jean-Claude."

I suddenly had to bite back tears. "I'm not afraid of you, Asher. I'm afraid of Jean-Claude." My voice sounded flat to my ears.

I wanted to shut up, but found myself confiding in him anyway. I felt as if I'd known Asher for ages, through Jean-Claude's memories, and it made me trust him implicitly. "I've never felt this way about anyone. I can't control how I feel about Jean-Claude, and I hate losing control."

Asher's hand went to my cheek and lay there lightly. "How could one as young as you be so afraid to love?" he asked, his eyes intent on my face.

"My fiancee in college left me because I wasn't white enough for his parents." I said it quickly like it didn't still hurt.

"You are not afraid Jean-Claude will leave you."

"No," I said quietly, "but I'm afraid he'll get killed." It sounded silly to say that, considering who I was talking about. "He's a vampire, for goodness' sake. He's supposed to be hard to kill. But I've watched him come close to death so many times I've lost count. Most of the time, it was my fault."

Asher's clear blue eyes met mine. "I would not have traded my time with Julianna for anything in the world, even knowing that she would die. Love is worth the pain."

Staring into his serious eyes, I swallowed hard. It meant a lot for Asher to say that. He'd spent two hundred years in grief, not to mention hatred of Jean-Claude, over Julianna's death.

I kept his gaze for a long time, then sighed, feeling tired. "I need to go home now."

He nodded and let me go. At least I'd avoided having to tell him the real reason I wasn't in Jean-Claude's bed right now. I think it would hurt Asher to know that he was the reason we were apart.



It had been a long night. I walked into my house, no longer disturbed by the fact that there were a handful of lycanthropes lounging around. I made a beeline for the kitchen and started making coffee. Yes, I was still planning on going to bed in twenty minutes. No, I wasn't making decaf.

After tonight's clients, I needed to calm down before I could consider sleeping. Coffee relaxes me. I could sleep after a whole pot, if it was late enough at night.

The clock read 4:16am. It was late enough.

Nathaniel walked into the kitchen, wearing nothing but bright red silk boxers.

He turned to greet me and I was done for.

The sweep of his auburn hair... it was unbraided and fell down nearly to his knees. His lavender eyes met mine, and the ardeur surged forward. It was like a great sleeping beast that I'd mistakenly disturbed. I had managed to trick myself into thinking the ardeur was gone. Boy, was I wrong. I had the vague thought that I had angered it by denying Jean-Claude the night before...

The ardeur settled on Nathaniel's nearly naked body and approved. I felt power and lust wash over me in a tidal wave.

It was like I was channeling someone. But the scary part was that I couldn't blame this on Raina. No, this was one hundred percent me. I hated that the ardeur could control me like this. But it didn't stop me from taking a step closer to the nearly nude man in front of me.

Nathaniel had felt the power. Hell, he was a wereleopard; he'd be able to taste my desire. He was walking to meet me, but I couldn't open my mouth to tell him to stop.

"I am here, my Nimir-ra," he said softly. "Please take me..." Did I mention it was Nathaniel's greatest wish for me to top him? To control him in every way...

I knew it hurt the leopards' feelings that I didn't take one of them to my bed. But, damn it, before this vampire lust crap, I wasn't into casual sex.

I let anger flow over me. Having a short temper was the only thing that allowed me to have any control over the ardeur. I was angry at it, at myself, and maybe just a little at Jean-Claude. It was my bond to him that gave me the ardeur, after all.

I found the strength of will to speak, and said, "No." I squeezed my eyes shut, but could still see all that naked flesh in my mind. "Please," I managed to add.

"She doesn't want to give into it, Nathaniel," Cherry said. "It's not personal; you know that. Please go back into the bedroom for a little while."

I didn't need my eyes open to see the hurt look on Nathaniel's face. He was like an abused puppy. Make that kitty.

I opened my eyes once I felt Nathaniel leave the room. My face was warm with both lust and embarrassment.

I thought maybe I'd defeated the ardeur until I saw Jason.

He was leaning against the far wall in the living room, dressed in the usual black leather outfit that made him look like he was on coffee break from starring in a porn flick.

He leaned back against the wall, posing suggestively. I scowled at him. I'd been posed at suggestively by the best.

The ardeur was apparently more impressed than I was. I did not want to admit that desire was ringing through my body at just the sight of male bodies. Granted, Nathaniel and Jason were pretty hot guys and wearing very little clothing to boot, but I was stronger than this.

Jason's hands smoothed up his chest and he combed his fingers through his short blond hair, spiking it. I think I gulped.

Distantly, I heard Cherry's voice. She was probably scolding Jason for teasing me. She didn't understand why I fought against the ardeur, but she respected my decision and was submissive to me, so she was trying to help me out.

I don't remember crossing the room to Jason. I was just suddenly inches from his face.

Jason is exactly my height. The implications of this have never escaped me. I leaned in and bit his lip. Hard.

His arms folded around me and pressed our bodies together. A wave of lust rushed over me, swallowing me. I couldn't breathe. I needed him so badly that I was in physical pain.

Damn it, it was still two hours before dawn; where was Jean-Claude? That thought gave me more control. The need was still present, but I'd found a better person to focus it on. Jean-Claude was, after all, my boyfriend.

I pushed away from Jason, but not before realizing how hard he was. I walked to the far side of the room and stood there hugging my arms to my stomach.

"Nathaniel..." I called. When he came out into the living room, my words wiped the eager look off his face. "I need you to all get out of here. Cherry, could you drive the boys to the Circus?"

Cherry's eyes were wide in surprise. I guess she'd been able to play along with the game, but didn't know how serious I was. The disappointed look on Jason's face was meant to tease me. The disappointment on Nathaniel's was real.

"No. I mean it. Until this goes away again, I want you all sleeping at the Circus. Hopefully, it will just be for tonight." They sort of stood there, wondering if I was joking. "Look, it is nearly dawn. I just want to go to sleep without the ardeur possessing me and turning me into Super Slut."

Zane, who had stayed out of the way earlier, was surprisingly the one to get everyone moving. He pushed Nathaniel towards Cherry, who took his hand and left.

Zane bared his pointy teeth at Jason, and Jason exited with a grin. Zane gave me a mock salute as he closed the door behind them.


I locked the door and leaned against it. I heard car doors slam, listened to them drive away, and sighed.

I went into my bedroom, but stopped at the threshold when I felt the distinct feeling of vampire. How hadn't I felt the vamp when I entered the house?

I entered with my gun drawn. I rolled on the floor and came up ready to shoot.

Asher turned his head towards me, away from the window he'd been gazing out. I stood up and put the gun on the bedside table. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I am to guard you until Jean-Claude returns."

"And where the hell is he?" I felt guilty that I'd been too busy tonight to have even gone to say hi to my boyfriend.

"Dealing with some business in Idaho. He was forced to go alone, but worried for your safety if things went badly."

I wanted to mouth "Idaho?" but didn't.

I held back my anger. I didn't have enough information yet to be angry. My voice was very calm as I asked, "Since when has he been in Idaho?"

Asher sighed, knowing my temper. "He left mere hours ago, ma cherie. It was an emergency. He has probably arrived at his hotel, where he will await the dawn. There is not much he can do until tomorrow."

I approached Asher, wondering how to goad him into giving me more information. He took a step towards me and his face fell into moonlight.

The image of him standing not a yard away, gleaming in the pale white light, took my breath away. The ardeur surged forward. Desire swamped me.

I might have been able to withstand the temptation with Nathaniel and Jason, but I was powerless against the need I felt now.

I craved Asher's touch like we were old lovers long denied. That was partially true. Jean-Claude and Asher were old lovers, and I retained enough of Jean-Claude's memories of Asher to feel like I'd known him intimately myself.

Surprise lit his face when he felt the desire suddenly pouring out of me. I didn't give him a chance to ask questions. I grabbed him without the pretense of being gentle. I brought him up against me and ground into him as I drew myself onto tip-toe to kiss his lips.

Asher moaned, and it was a quiet helpless sound. He met my lips in complete submission. I could feel his desire like a tangible thing surrounding us in the quiet room. I kissed him with one hand locked behind his head and one at his back, holding him solidly in my embrace.

I was shocked at the effect I had on Asher. He melted in my arms, and I barely managed to remain standing. My fingers combed through his hair and used it to pull his body completely against my own.

Asher groaned at the contact and kissed me as if his life depended on it. My hands drifted of their own volition down to cup his backside through the tight jeans he was wearing. I pulled him against me and knew he was very happy to be there.

His lips were at my neck, and I was paralyzed by the need pumping through my body. I felt just the hint of teeth, and then it was only lips. There was tension in the way his hands held my shoulders, and I knew what an effort it was for him to refrain from biting me.

"No blood," I whispered.

My hands crept around so they slid between us and unbuttoned his pants. There was no zipper, just four buttons. I popped the second one and felt my fingers brush him. Asher apparently shared Jean-Claude's opinion on the subject of underwear.

The second I thought of Jean-Claude, I could feel him, sense his shock to find me so aroused. The moment passed quickly, and I didn't know how to bring it back. I was again alone in my mind, hands undoing the two remaining buttons on Asher's jeans.

My fingers slipped completely around him, eliciting a groan from Asher. I stroked him firmly and knew no acid had touched him here. I peeled his jeans away, and his mouth left my neck to help me remove the offending clothing.

Our eyes met as I began on the tiny buttons of his white shirt. As my hands removed his clothing, I let them trail over supple skin. I spent equal time on scars and smoothness, and I never turned away from his eyes.

It was the first time I'd seen Asher's eyes go vampiric. They were a luminous electric blue, and his face seemed to glow with blue light.

He stood naked before me, and I hadn't dropped a stitch of clothing. Asher's hands went to cup my face, then moved slowly, almost tenderly, over my body to remove my shirt.

He brushed his hands over the revealed skin as if afraid I would stop him from touching me. My hands were on Asher's hips, but we kept space between our bodies.

His breath came quickly as his fingers trailed along the top of my jeans and slowly removed them. I met his eyes when he returned to standing in front of me, and the look I found on his face was terribly vulnerable.

He gently clasped my body to his and shuddered. I held myself still in his arms, even though my body was ringing with need. It took me a moment to realize Asher was crying.


I pulled back and gave him a questioning look.

His hoarse whisper shattered the darkness. "It has been so long, ma cherie. Centuries since I have done this."

The shock must have been too apparent on my face, because he chuckled through the tears and said, "I have been used for sex by other vampires often enough, but I have not had this... No one has come to my arms in love. No one has looked at me as you do now, without a trace of horror at what you see."

I took his face in both my hands, smoothing my fingers down each cheek, feeling the scars. "I've told you before, Asher, you are devastatingly handsome."

He met my sincere gaze and smiled. It wasn't something I'd often seen Asher do. It made me glad. I kissed his lips and was shocked at the passion he met me with.

Desire filled me to the brim and spilled out. I regained awareness of the world to find us on the bed, arms wrapped around each other tightly. I pulled away to breathe, then delved back into Asher's mouth as I tried to climb through his body.

I was on fire for him. I was aching with need, and it was suddenly all too much. I drew back from Asher, gasping. His mouth was open and his eyes partially closed. He loosened his grip on me and we lay staring into each other's eyes, thoroughly aroused.

Asher's fingers inched down my body, leaving burning trails on my skin. I suddenly realized I was entirely naked and couldn't remember when that had happened.

He moved down my body until his fingers traced the backs of my knees and his tongue caressed my stomach. Then he moved upwards, his fingers sliding where I most needed them, and his mouth sinking over one breast.

The sounds he drew from my throat hardly seemed to be coming from me. He attacked me and I writhed against him. He slid across my thigh, and I grabbed him and ran my hand over velvet hardness.

My sudden action made Asher lose control, and I felt a sharp sting as his fangs grazed my breast. He pulled back from me immediately, no longer touching me anywhere.

I saw two small beads of blood welling on my skin. "Lick it," I told him.

Asher fell on me. He didn't roll me with his mind, but he pushed against my mind hard enough that I was instantly aroused to the edge of absolute pleasure.

He abruptly quit licking the blood and rolled onto his back beside me, as if at the end of his control.

I was reeling from the pleasure. I began licking and caressing my way down his torso.

I moved slowly down his naked body. I let my long hair trail down his bare skin, brushing lightly over him. I stopped between his legs and curled strands of my hair around him, rubbing him through it. It was something both Jean-Claude and Julianna had once done to Asher, and it made him gasp.

The flash of Jean-Claude's memory opened me to him. I felt Jean-Claude in my mind like a brush of silk. He eased into me, and I was relaxed enough that I lowered my mental shields to let him in.

He was whispering in my head, wordlessly. I could feel his utter joy to find me in Asher's arms.

I wondered if he would be along for the whole ride. I certainly hadn't known Jean-Claude could do this. Tasting the food I ate was one thing. Being able to feel what I felt as I made love to someone was another.

I suddenly got an image of him, just for a second, but it was enough.

He was lying in a huge four-poster bed, eyes swollen completely midnight blue, something I knew for a fact meant that he was aroused.

But I didn't have to see the rest of his naked body to know how aroused he was. For just an instant, I shared his body. I could feel myself hard and aching. I felt every sensation as he arched his back, sliding smooth silk sheets down over his skin.

I was suddenly back in my own body, but I retained the connection with Jean-Claude. His pleasure was a mirror of my own. It felt different, yet the same. It was like another element of myself had become aroused, and it felt good.

It should have been disorienting to be both there with Asher and away with Jean-Claude, but it wasn't.

Asher was staring into my eyes. I'd missed a few moments, because Asher was now positioned above me, his body fully in contact with my own. I focused my eyes until I saw tears streaking down his beautiful face. He felt Jean-Claude with us.

I reached up to his face, so gently, more tenderly than I knew how, and whispered, "Mon chardonneret."

My hand turned to cradle Asher's cheek, and I let Jean-Claude drink his fill of Asher's beauty before taking control again.

This time when our lips met, there was no holding back. We melded into one, a tangle of limbs. Asher's cool flesh was warmed by mine, and he calmed some of my feverish heat. I coaxed him into me and let out a moan as he sank in.

Asher rode me and aroused every nerve in my body, inflaming me. His golden hair fell over me in waves, and his clear blue eyes filled my vision. I knew I wouldn't last long.

I flipped us and took control. Asher's arms hung on to my torso, but the rest of him went limp, his face slack with need. He was completely submissive. I knew I could do absolutely anything to him in that moment and he would not protest.

I could feel Jean-Claude, hard and needy and barely hanging on to his control as he plunged into the silken sheets, groaning with the intensity of what he felt from Asher and I.

In one moment, I could see both Asher and Jean-Claude beneath me. Then emotion took over and the world came apart. I came hard, pulling Asher with me. Jean-Claude exploded with us, and I felt the ardeur we shared soak it all in.

It wasn't until after we had untangled and rolled onto our backs to lie in exhaustion that I realized I'd heard not only Asher's voice, but Jean-Claude's, crying out in need. My connection with Jean-Claude was gone now. I felt empty without him.

I turned my head to see Asher. He rolled onto his side and smiled down at me. "Thank you, ma cherie."

I smiled back at him and let him pull me against him. His arms held me loosely and he spoke in French softly. Finally, in English, he told me to go ahead and fall asleep.

"Are you leaving?" I asked, realizing how much I didn't want to be alone right now.

"I said I was to guard you; I cannot do that if I leave. Fall asleep in my arms. I will seek shelter before the dawn."

I sighed and relaxed into Asher's embrace.

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