Anita woke and shifted on the bed, instinctively seeking out Jean-Claude. She had no idea what time it was, but she had requested he remain in the bed last night. He had protested not believing she was ready to wake up next to his sleeping form beside her. She assured him she was ready and would not panic when she woke to find him sleeping the sleep of the undead.
She sat up slowly, visions of a relaxing bath in the huge tub of his until she remembered her stitches. "Damn stitches always get in the way of my having some fun," she murmured under her breath. Clutching the sheet unnecessarily in front of her, given it was just she and Jean-Claude in the room, she took a moment to appraise him.
He did, in fact, look dead. There was no movement of his chest, as he did not breathe. There was no expulsion of breath from his mouth either, again because he did not breathe. His eyes did not move beneath his eyelids because he did not dream. It was difficult to see him like this, but she liked having him here better than lying in a coffin in another room.
She padded into his bathroom to relieve herself, sponged off with a washcloth, brushed her teeth, and brushed her hair before returning to the sleeping chamber to dress. She would not be leaving the Circus until Edward claimed it was safe, so she slid on a pair of sweatpants and a T-shirt with a picture of penguin on it.
As presentable as she was going to get she left Jean-Claude's room to see about coffee and breakfast. A woman, one of Jean-Claude's employees Anita assumed, was there apparently waiting for her because the woman offered Anita a smile once she realized Anita was in the main room.
"You must be Anita," she said in perfect, unaccented English. The woman was human, at least none of Anita's preternatural warnings were going off around her.
"I am Anita," she said simply. She did not know this woman, which was not surprising given she had been away from Jean-Claude for almost six months now.
"I'm Sheryl. I'm here to keep you company and get you anything you might need from outside."
"Do you work for Jean-Claude?" Anita asked, a twinge of jealousy at the thought of this woman working so closely with him that he trusted her to look after Anita while he rested.
"I am Asher's," she said simply.
"Asher's what? His human servant?" Anita asked confused. Asher should not have been able to have a human servant given his lack of master status.
"No, I," she blushed deeply.
"Oh," Anita said with a slight nod, realization dawning on her. Asher had found himself a human to be his source of sustenance, something she had never allowed Jean-Claude to do with her. Hopefully, the girl did not have delusions of Asher falling in love and taking her as his woman. As much as Anita would love to see Asher with someone, Anita knew he was still too vulnerable to do that. And she did not think that Asher would love someone who let him feed off of her. Perhaps she was overestimating him, she did not really know. "Well, I really just want some coffee and some breakfast right now. Would you care to join me?"
"Sure," she said. She turned and walked in the direction of the kitchen and Anita followed, assessing the woman before her. She was older than Anita was, in her thirties, and was attractive in a librarian sort of way. Her auburn hair was pinned back in a bun and she wore glasses, which did not take away from her bright green eyes. "Asher hasn't told me much of anything other than I am to see to your needs as if you were he while he rested."
"Uh, that's great and I appreciate it, but if you have things to do don't let me stop you."
"No, I don't really," she said as if she expected Anita to confide in her. As if, Anita was not even sure she would call Ronnie right now and confide in her. Ronnie would not be pleased that Edward had left Anita in Jean-Claude's care.
"Just so long as I'm not keeping you from a job or anything."
"I work at Guilty Pleasures."
"Oh?" Anita said, her voice rising in question at the statement. "I thought you were human."
"I am," she said simply. "I just serve drinks."
"Ah," Anita said simply, though she still had to wonder how she got the job. Then again, Jean-Claude did not discriminate and the woman was attractive, perhaps she helped business. Jean-Claude would probably find it amusing in a twisted sort of way to keep the Guilty Pleasures clientele guessing as to who was human and who was not.
Overall, the day was dull. Sheryl was nice, but after a while Anita made her way back to Jean-Claude's chamber and laid down next to him for a nap. It was a little disconcerting to go to sleep next to what was essentially a corpse, but she had told him she could handle it and wanted to prove to him she could.
Sunset came and Anita woke from her nap to Jean-Claude nuzzling her neck, kissing her pulse point causing her heart to race. He chuckled lightly and she sighed, extremely peeved that he knew what her reaction to him was. "Good evening, ma petite. You did not sleep the day away, did you?"
"No," she said sleepily. She had, against her better judgment, taken one of the painkillers the doctor had prescribed for her because her back had begun to itch like mad. Hopefully, she had not rubbed her back raw while she slept. "I was up for a while, had breakfast and lunch with Sheryl."
"Ah yes, you met, I should have introduced you last night but it slipped my mind due to my concern for you."
"You took care of me," she said softly, offering him a smile.
"Of course I did, ma petite, did you doubt I would?"
"No," she said with a shake of her head, her eyes wide from watching him, taking in his appearance. Six months had been too long and yet at the same time not long enough. He was still by far the most stunning person she had ever had the pleasure of knowing.
As if sensing her thoughts, or perhaps it was because her gaze had drifted to and stopped at his lips, he kissed her. Her heart hammered violently against her ribs as she eagerly, too eagerly, returned his kiss. A hand slid to her hair, his fingers ran through it before resting his fingers against her scalp, his palm against her cheek. "I would take care of you all of the time if you would but allow me, ma petite."
"I know," she whispered. It had been far too long since she had been on the receiving end of a Jean Claude kiss. She hated that he ended it so soon, hated even more that she wanted him to kiss her again.
"What did you do with your day, ma petite?"
"Nothing besides go a little stir crazy," she admitted wryly and he laughed, his blue eyes softening.
"Yes, I can imagine this is going to be a difficult time for you. I took it upon myself to hire a cook to prepare your evening meals while you are here, ma petite."
"You did, huh? I have a feeling you have selfish motives there."
"You know me too well. I don't particularly care to share Big Mac's and French fries with you."
"So then, what's on the menu for tonight," she said unable to resist taking some of his hair in between her fingertips. She wrapped the strands around her index finger, unable to get over the softness of his hair or how beautiful it was. This man had hair that most women would get jealous about. There were some things about Jean-Claude that were just too unfair. His beauty was one of them.
"I do not know, I gave him a list of some of my favorites as well as yours and left it to his discretion."
"Does he know it's me that's actually going to be doing the eating?"
"You are asking if he knows I am not human and do not eat. The answer is yes, he knows, ma petite. I would not invite someone in here to cook for you that I did not trust."
"Right," she said feeling stupid for not having thought of that. "Of course you wouldn't."
His thumb stroked the pulse point at the right side of her neck and her eyes drifted closed almost automatically in response to his gentle touch. "Did you want to get dressed and join the living then, ma petite? Or did you have more private activities in mind for the evening?" he queried in his honey sweet voice that could seduce a bug right into a spider's web.
She was here because it was safe not to have sex with him she reminded herself. "Private is good," she found herself saying despite her mind's cautionary reminder. She heard Obsidian's words in the back of her mind and hated to think she might be the cause of this man being weak. If there was one thing she had learned from her dealings with Jean-Claude and his Council and others it was that others already saw him as weak and would forever challenge his status.
"Are you sure, ma petite? It is not the painkillers talking is it?"
She took a deep breath, thankful that he was giving her a chance to back out. She shook her head accompanied with a soft, "I can't guarantee with the stitches and all how much of a participant I'll be."
"Then we will wait, ma petite. I do not want anything to stand in our way."
"Sorry," she said softly.
"Do not apologize to me, Anita. The fact that you are here and did not say no is enough to give me hope. Have you let Monsieur Zeeman know you are back in town?"
"No," she said simply and knew that admission pleased him. "Edward thought it best I tell as few as possible that I'm back. I don't know that he trusts Richard to keep a secret under pressure, like where I'm hiding out."
"And he trusts me?"
"I trust you, Jean-Claude," she whispered. "You have a club full of people here who would stop Olaf if he tried to hurt you."
"And you don't think Richard's pack would do the same for him?"
"I honestly don't know. Some, like Jason, would, of course, but others I suspect might think the pack is better off with Richard gone and a new alpha in place."
"You are an astute woman, ma petite, even if you do not understand exactly how the pack works."
"Thanks," she said, not sure if he was talking down to her or being sincere.
"Are you ready to get dressed then and see about dinner? I do not know what else you care to do with your evening, ma petite, but if it is in my power to give it to you I will."
"I'm kind of hoping Edward will come by and let me know he found Olaf and I can go home."
"Is staying with me such a bother, ma petite?"
"No, Jean-Claude, that's not what I meant, but I've been gone for a while and I'd like to see my house, my bed, my leopards."
"Ah yes, Nathaniel, Gregory, and Cherry have missed you terribly and have been worried for you. When I told Jason I was able to connect with you last week they were glad but then not so glad when they still did not hear from you."
"Thank you for telling them," she said sincerely, hating that so many people were worrying about her. She was not used to having so many people care about her, Ronnie until she became involved with Richard had been the extent of Anita's friends. Bert cared, but only if it meant decreasing profits for Animators, Inc.
"You are welcome, ma petite. They are loyal to you, you are their leader, their savior."
"That's a tall order," she said sitting up once he had moved from the bed.
"But one I know you can handle, Anita. You will be reunited with your leopards soon enough, ma petite. I am confident Edward will let them know you are all right and that he will bring them here to see you if he feels it's safe to do so."
He walked to the closet that had been set aside as hers months ago and opened the closet doors. "You will indulge me this evening since we do not have to go anywhere." There was no hint of question or doubt in his voice, it was a statement of fact, an expectation he had for her.
"As long as I can wear my knives and hide my gun I'll indulge you, Jean-Claude."
He shook his head, obviously exasperated at her unwillingness to go unarmed even around his compound beneath the well-guarded Circus. But Jean-Claude knew that Anita was able to work her way into the Circus despite the security. He pulled out a floor length formal gown, ivory in color, obviously silk even from where she stood with some lace accenting the neckline and the slit along the left leg. "This should do nicely."
As much as she balked against the idea of Jean-Claude dressing her like a doll she had to admit the dress was beautiful and she had missed wearing the nice clothes he had a penchant for. She walked toward him and discarded the sweat pants and T-shirt she currently wore and changed her underwear to a pair of ivory bikinis that matched the color of the gown. She was not wearing a bra as the strap irritated her back too much. She then lifted her arms as high as she could without the stitches pulling to the point of pain and allowed him to slide the gown in place. The plunging décolleté was tame compared to the back of the gown, which was two thin straps of material criss crossing across her upper back leaving the rest of her back bare. Had she worn normal underwear instead of bikinis the tops of her panties might have been visible the gown left so much of her back exposed. "Did you have a taller woman in mind when you bought this dress?" she queried as she glanced at herself in the mirror.
"What?" he asked an almost violent edge to his voice.
"It was a joke, Jean-Claude. It's just that if I were an inch taller I'd be exposed."
"Well, that's the wonderful thing about knowing you and your measurements so intimately, ma petite."
"You had this made for me?" she asked incredulously as she glanced at herself in the mirror.
"Of course, ma petite," he said stepping up behind her. It was still strange to be looking in a mirror, knowing he was right there behind her but only seeing her own reflection. He kissed her left shoulder and then her right before placing both of his hands on the spots he had kissed.
"What are you wearing?" she queried, glancing over a shoulder at him.
"Do you really want to know? Or can I surprise you?"
"If I didn't know better I'd think you have something planned for us this evening. Are you taking us somewhere?"
"Nay, ma petite, but I am not a man to refuse an opportunity such as this one."
"And what kind of opportunity is that?"
"I have you back and I plan to do what I can to ensure that once this cretin is caught you will not run from me."
"You do, huh?"
"I have missed you, Anita," he whispered, the words felt against her ear more than heard.
"I've missed you, too," she admitted, her eyes drifting closed. She hated admitting such a thing, hated that she did in fact miss him.
"And Richard?" he asked the back of his hand sliding a light, shiver eliciting path along the length of her arm to her side and hip.
"No," she whispered, watching his hand trace a path along the silk gown.
"No?" he asked, sounding truly surprised.
She thought for a moment, her answer a moment ago had been automatic but she had to think about why she felt that way. And she did feel that way. She missed Richard, sure, but in a different way than she missed Jean-Claude. She missed Richard like she missed a friend, she missed their outings together, but there was something missing. She did not know what it was, but whatever it was it kept her coming to Jean-Claude and yet when she was with Jean-Claude she did not seem to miss anything.
"Not in the same way," she said simply. "I consider Richard a friend and would like to be his friend, but don't think it's possible for us to do. And when he finds out I came back to town to you without even telling him the possibility of friendship will diminish greatly."
"Does that bother you, ma petite?"
"I don't know, in a way. Ronnie and I are becoming distant, too."
"Ah, yes, Mademoiselle Simms, she prefers Richard to me, yes?"
"Yes," Anita admitted begrudgingly. She would never have said that to Jean-Claude outright like this, but he asked the question.
"And it has caused a rift between you two?"
"Well, yeah, and I've just been busy working out my stuff," she shrugged. "And I realized she was not going to be unbiased in her views."
"My Anita, all alone these past months. But Monsieur Edward I'm sure was there to comfort you."
"He offered me some distraction when he called me down there, but beyond that I don't know what you're suggesting, Jean-Claude. Edward and I are not like that."
"Violence is a comfort to you, Anita. Where some people might overeat or overimbibe or whatever else, you take to violence."
"You make me sound like a sociopath, Jean-Claude."
"You protect the innocent, ma petite, that is hardly the behavior of a sociopath." He walked to his set of closets and proceeded to change without giving her warning. Not that she did minded looking at his body, quite the contrary. He dressed in a pair of black trousers and an ivory shirt so sheer that only his cuffs and collar stood in the way from his upper body being completely exposed. She took in his pale skin visible beneath the shirt and caught her breath audibly. He smiled in appreciation at her outright appraisal of him. "Are you ready to eat then, ma petite?" he asked, a wolfish, rakish grin on his face. If Anita did not know better she would think she was on tonight's menu.
Story ©Susan Matthews/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com