Jesse decided to take the stairs up to her apartment instead of waiting for the elevator. She jogged up them, letting a little of her frustration out in the physical activity. Though she was breathing only a little harder, she felt better when she reached her apartment door and unlocked it.
She closed it behind her and froze as she saw someone on the couch.
For half a second she thought it was Shelby, and her heart thudded painfully in fear. Then the person raised her head, and Jesse recognized her visitor as Dayle.
"How the hell did you get in?"
"Easy. I picked the lock." Dayle stretched out on the couch. "Nice place. I didn't get to see much of it the other night."
Jesse sighed. "What do you want, Dayle?"
"Then why are you here?" Jesse moved further in, taking off her jacket and hanging it on a peg next to the closet door. "Seems to me you should have been the one to see Kruise home."
"Nah, I knew you'd take care of it for me. Besides, she knew I had something to do."
"Yeah? And what was that? Breaking and entering?"
Dayle laughed. "No breaking. Entering, maybe, but no breaking."
Jesse folded her arms and glared. "Tell me what you want or get out."
"Jess, I'm hurt. I thought we were friends."
"We are. I'm tired. Talk or leave."
"Is that how you treat a friend?"
"Yeah. If you weren't one I'd already have sent you head first down the staircase."
Dayle laughed again, then leaned forward and picked up an envelope from the coffee table. "Here. This is for you."
"What's this?" Jesse took the envelope and turned it over. Her name was printed on it in red ink. "This from you?"
"Nope. It's from Nix."
The dark head snapped up and Jesse's black eyes glared into Dayle's. "Yeah? So why didn't she deliver it herself?"
"She had -- something else in mind." Dayle stood and slipped her coat on. "Listen, Jess. I don't know exactly how you're feeling about Nix, but I know she cares a great deal about you. If you don't feel the same, you better let her know that, so she can get on with her life."
Jesse looked back down at the envelope in her hand. "And if I do?"
"Then be careful. And don't be afraid to tell her that." Dayle walked toward the door, letting one had rest momentarily on Jesse's shoulder as she passed. "Think about it, Jesse. And don't hurt her."
Then she was gone, closing the door softly behind her.
Jesse let out a breath and ripped into the envelope. There was only a small piece of paper, folded around a hard object. Unfolding the note, Jesse found only the words, "I love you. Let me show you how much." The object the note was wrapped around was a small silver key, of a type Jesse was intimately familiar with.
She swallowed, hard, and shook her head. With a light chuckle, she slipped the key in her pocket and headed for her bedroom. Flipping on the light showed her what her gift from Nix was.
The blonde vampire was kneeling in the middle of Jesse's king size bed, wearing a blind fold and handcuffs. Other than that, she was totally naked.
After recovering from the shock of seeing the vampire there, Jesse sat down on the chair by the bedside. Nix didn't move, though she obviously knew Jesse was there.
Leaning back, the dark woman began contemplating her options.
It was nice to be next to someone again, I thought.
After pulling off my jeans and my bra, I'd slipped into bed beside Cam, wearing just a t-shirt and my underwear. She was in similar dress, and the feel of her legs against mine was warm and sensual. Her soft hair tickled my neck, and I sighed happily as I let my hand gently stroke her back in a circular motion.
I knew she was still awake, her hand resting on my stomach. Every once in a while she'd shift position, and her hand would move the material of my shirt against my stomach, awakening sensations that I hadn't felt in months. At first I tried to ignore it, but when her hand shifted my shirt up, and then landed on my bare skin, I jumped slightly.
"Are you all right?"
I nodded in answer to her whispered question, then realized that she probably couldn't see that in the dark. "I'm fine. You?"
She chuckled softly. "I'm good. This is really nice."
"Yeah." I cleared my throat, trying to tell my libido to go jump in a lake.
"Are you uncomfortable?"
"No." I lied. Her hand was now stroking my stomach, and I was getting more uncomfortable every moment. It wasn't that I didn't like what she was doing. It was that I liked it way too much.
I realized then how long it had been since Jace left, and how many weeks before that we'd gone without sex.
"If you're not uncomfortable, why are you so tense?"
"Me?" I faked a laugh. "I'm not tense."
She poked a finger at my stomach. "Then why are all these muscles tightened? You're stiff as a board."
I had to admit that I was, and I fought to get myself to relax.
Cam maneuvered up onto her elbow, looking down at me in the dark. "Would you rather go back to the couch?"
"No, I like this. Really."
"Are--" She stopped, and even though I couldn't see her face, it was obvious she was frowning. "Are you afraid of me?"
"Afraid? No. Why would I be afraid of you?"
"Are you worried I might try to bite you?"
I chuckled. "No. I'm not. It's all right, Cam, really. I'm not afraid."
"Then why are you so tense?"
There was a real concern in her voice, and I pulled myself onto my own elbow to face her. "I'm not afraid -- well, at least not of you."
"Then of what?"
I hesitated. Since we'd found her, I'd heard no one speak of Tess, at all. I didn't know if anyone had said the name to Cam, and I sure as hell didn't want to be the first, but I also didn't want to step into her territory, so to speak. I took a deep breath and finally answered.
"I'm kind of afraid of what I want to do. How I'm feeling now."
"How are you feeling?"
"Like I did that night at the Shadowbox." There was no need to tell her which one.
Even in the dark, I could see her head nodding up and down. "Do you want me to bite you?"
"No. No, that's not what I mean."
"Then -- what do you want?"
"I --" I bit my lip, and closed my eyes. "I want you to touch me. I want to touch you."
There was silence in the room and I cursed myself in my mind. It was too much too soon, and now she'd be angry, or upset or --"
"I'd like that."
My eyes opened in pure shock. "You would?"
"Yes. But, Trey -- I don't know what I can give you. I don't know what will happen in the next few days, and I don't want to hurt you." She paused. "Do you understand?"
"You mean, you don't know if you can give me anything more than just this night, and if you can't, you don't want me to be disappointed."
I heard her sigh. "That's right."
I eased myself back to the bed to think for a minute.
Would that be enough? Was it just the physical that I wanted? I'd never been really good at one night stands, and the one night I tried it, I ended up crying to Kruise for weeks afterward.
But Cam was my friend, and I could be happy with that, even if nothing else was involved.
"Yes. I understand, and yes, I accept that this might be all there is. As long as you can tell me we'll still be friends, if nothing else, then yes. I can handle that."
I could almost see the smile on her face. Slowly, she leaned down and kissed me. "Then touch me."
And I did.
Nix was sweating, and her knees were beginning to ache. She'd heard Jesse come into the room, had heard and felt the light turn on, but nothing had happened since. Having expected some kind of reaction, Nix was partly disappointed and partly frightened when nothing happened. She could feel Jesse's eyes on her body, but there was no other movement, no sound except for the dark woman's breathing.
Jesse on the other hand, was thinking. She had to admit that the sight of Nix's body had made her blood heat up, and the fact that the vampire was in an obvious position of submission had started warming up other parts of her body. But she forced herself to think, not rush into anything.
In most of their encounters, Nix had been the dominant one. Once Jesse had tasted the vampire's blood, she'd been as submissive as she had ever been in her life, and while she enjoyed it at the time, she had to admit that Trey had been right. She was afraid of that feeling.
Giving in to Shelby, she acknowledged, had been like a slow form of suicide. She'd stopped caring, stopped wanting to live; all that she wanted was for the pain inside to end. If Shelby could give that to her, that was fine, and if she ended up dying along the way, that was great too.
Nix's arrival in the club, and her subsequent takedown of Shelby had forced Jesse to face life again. She'd spent that night staring out the window of a hotel room, watching the wind whip the litter about in the streets. She'd considered just ending it, but the image of Nix offering her throat had kept her from actually doing it. Jesse had let herself hope that maybe there could be something between them after all, but knew she needed time before she'd be ready for that.
When the vampire had thrown her out of the car, she'd been depressed. She'd wanted so much to be there for the vampire, to have Nix turn to her, and being rejected had punched a hole in her carefully reconstructed armor. After that, she'd decided to let Nix make the first move, and when she didn't do so at Cam's hearing before the council, she'd been sad, convinced the vampire wanted nothing more to do with her.
And yet -- here she was.
The offer, obviously, was for Jesse to dominate her. And Jesse had to admit, she wanted to. The question in her mind was -- how serious about this was the vampire? Could she set aside her own need for domination and let another person take her? Could Nix, after having topped Jesse, now obey her?
Jesse didn't know, but she knew she wanted to find out. Her mind made up, she reached to the bed, shifted Nix around, and used the key from the note to undo the handcuffs.
Nix bit her lip, wondering what Jesse was doing. When the blindfold came off she felt crushed, thinking that Jesse was going to reject her offering. Her eyes already stinging with tears, she looked up as the dark woman stepped in front of her.
Jesse's eyes were even darker in the harsh overhead light, and her eyebrows were drawn together in a serious expression.
"Are you serious?"
Nix nodded. "Yes."
For a moment, Nix was taken aback. She shrugged, and said, "Very."
"No, Nix, I mean it. How serious about this are you? How far are you willing to go?"
The vampire raised her chin defiantly. "As far as you want me to."
Jesse almost smiled, but she caught herself. "Are you willing to take anything? Do anything? Let me do anything to you?"
"Use your voice. I want to hear it."
"Yes. You can do anything."
Jesse nodded. She tossed the handcuffs onto the bed but pocketed the key. "Get dressed. Shirt, pants and shoes only. No underwear."
Nix nodded. "Why?"
This time Jesse did smile. "We're going for a ride." Then she left the bedroom to make a phone call while Nix hurriedly slipped into her clothes.
I didn't have the slightest clue what I was doing.
Cam's touch was like fire. Sex with her was rough, yet tender as well. She'd nip me with her fangs, only to sooth the small pain away with her tongue. It didn't take her long to have me begging for her, pleading with her to fuck me. She smiled and kissed me, making eye contact as she entered me. I gasped, forgetting everything but this night, this moment, this need. She drove me quickly, then slowed, and slowed yet again.
When I came, it was -- exquisite.
She held me for several minutes, just whispering to me. I could feel wetness on my face, but whether it was from sweat or tears, I didn't know. My throat felt raw, as if I'd been shouting, though I didn't remember that either.
I could barely remember my name.
"Trey? You all right?"
I nodded. "Great." My voice was hoarse, and Cam reached for a bottle of water on the nightstand.
"Here. You sound like you need this."
After several gulps, I leaned back on the pillows and grinned. "Wow. If that's what it's like to be with a vampire, sign me up."
Cam chuckled and touched my face. "It was okay then, I take it?"
"Oh, yeah." I leaned up and kissed her. "Better than okay. It was -- great."
"Good." She slid down next to me, her head propped up on her hand. "I don't know if that's what it's like with all vampires. But I'm glad you found it -- stimulating." Her grin told me she was playing with me. "So, when you write about this you'll say the half-vamp did a good job?"
I nodded as I drank more water. "Mhmm. Let's see, I'll probably put in terms like 'falling over the edge', or 'wonderful ministrations' and of course, 'turgid flesh'."
"Ick. I hate those terms."
"Me, too. Never use them. I don't know why writers think they're so great. I mean, ministrations? Sounds like you're making soup, not having sex."
She laughed with me, and I handed the bottle back to her. "Actually, in all seriousness, I'd probably be very minimalistic and say, 'it was the best sex I'd had in a long time'."
Cam finished her own swallows, then looked at me. "Best since Jace?"
I shrugged. "Only, since Jace."
"Ah, so I'm better than doing it yourself. That's comforting."
Blushing, I grinned. "Hey, I'm rather proficient at it, you know."
She smiled at my feeble joke, but then turned serious. "How long were you with Jace?"
I sighed. "Not quite a year. Our anniversary would have been November 19th, but she left at the beginning of November, and we broke up on the twelfth."
"Did she give you a reason she wanted to break up?"
"Not really. I think it was just that she really wanted to be in Los Angeles, and I really wanted to be in New York." I shrugged. "It was always the one area we weren't compatible in. I like snow, she doesn't."
Cam nodded. "Do you think you'd have eventually moved out there if she hadn't broken it off?"
I had to think about that. "I'm not sure. Maybe. But I kind of doubt it. New York is where I've always wanted to be, and -- well, okay, my career isn't what I thought it would be, but I'm still working on it. You know?"
"I know. How is the career? Honestly."
Another sigh. "Slow. I've got articles selling, and a few short stories, but -- no one really wants my longer fiction. I don't know why."
"Do you have an agent?"
"No. I got a letter from one saying he'd be glad to represent me, but only for twenty-five percent, and a thousand cash up front."
"What did you tell him?"
"To stuff it. I can't afford that."
She was quiet for a moment. "There are good agents out there. And lots of smaller companies to send your manuscript to."
I nodded. "I know. I'm not giving up. I'm just . . ."
"A little burnt out."
We were both silent for a few minutes, sharing the last of the bottle of water.
"Are you expecting Tess to come back?"
She sighed and turned away, slipping down to lie on her back. "I don't know. She was so angry when she left. I don't know if she'll come back or not."
"Do you want her to?"
Cam nodded. "Yeah. I do. I'm sorry, Trey, that probably hurts you, but I want her back. She's been my partner for over two hundred years, and -- I feel a little lost without her."
"You're not, you know. There are lots of things you can do without her."
"I know. I can go back to doing online stuff, webwork, start earning my own money. I can call you, or Dayle, or Nix if I want to go out. I can try to get my life back to something resembling normal."
"No, I don't think any of you do normal really well, Cam."
We both laughed.
"You're right, we don't. But you know what I mean; get my life back to where it used to be."
"But it wouldn't feel right without Tess." She sighed. "Waking up this morning without her was -- an agony. I miss her so much."
I swallowed. "Will you go look for her?"
She shook her head. "No. I don't have any idea where she might have gone. She had a ticket for Heathrow, but other than that, she didn't tell me where she was off to. I just knew she didn't plan on staying in England."
"Well, Nix left a message with a friend of hers, so if Tess checks in, she'll get the message that she's needed at home."
Cam gave a bitter laugh. "Trey, England is home. New York is just where we've been living for twenty years."
We watched the shadows on the walls as they moved with each car that passed on the street below.
I turned my head to look at her and saw her biting her lip.
"If Tess comes back -- you and I will still be friends, won't we?"
I rolled up onto my elbow and brushed the hair away from her face. "Absolutely."
"So -- tonight is just -- tonight. Right?"
"Sure. And tomorrow is just tomorrow. I understand, Cam." I took a deep breath. "I won't deny that it's going to hurt if she comes back. I really like you. But -- I'll deal. And we'll still be friends. All right?"
Cam nodded, smiling. "I'm glad. I like you too, Trey."
Gently I kissed her. "You're not tired yet, are you?"
She shook her head. "No. Why?"
"'Cause. I'm not as burnt out as I thought." And I kissed her again.
End Part Fourteen
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