It was mid-afternoon the following day when Cherry and Edward returned to St. Louis in Jean-Claude's plane. Anita had met them at the airport and transported them home, needing to see for herself that Edward was in fact alive. He was, but Anita had never seen him look worse. She had to wonder how bad Olaf had looked when it was over if Edward looked this bad and had survived.
The sun had set by now and Anita knew that she should call Jean-Claude, but felt guilty for leaving Edward's side. She had made up a room for him at her house so he could recuperate. She was about to get up and place a call to Jean-Claude when she felt Edward's grip on her hand tighten. He looked so much older than he normally did, and Anita was reminded by the fact that Edward was mortal like she was. One day he would die, Death's reign on the preternatural world would end. There would be no pomp and circumstance when he passed, chances were he would die in circumstances similar to his encounter with Olaf where the only witnesses to the actual fight would be dead, too.
"Are you okay?"
"Me?" she asked incredulously.
"Good," he said simply. "I feel like hell."
"As you should, considering you look like hell. Care to tell me what happened?"
"No," he said with a slight shake of his head. "It's taken care of, that's all you need to know of it."
"I owe you one."
"We're even now, Anita," he said quickly. He brought her hand to his mouth and kissed the back of it. "Thanks for the bed."
"You can stay here as long as you need to, you know that."
"I'm going to let you rest now, I need to call Jean-Claude and then I'll bring you something to eat."
"All right," he said simply and his eyes drifted closed. Anita stood from the bed and left the bedroom, pausing outside the door. She had never seen Edward like this, almost helpless and very human seeming. He had been battered and bruised almost beyond recognition. Cherry did not tell Anita the extent of his injuries, simply saying there were a lot of them and that he had lost a lot of blood. He had refused to see a doctor, some of his injuries would have to be reported and Anita knew as well as Edward did that Dolph already had enough questions in his mind about Ted Forrester it was best to avoid bringing more attention on him.
"How's our patient?" Cherry asked once Anita entered the living room.
"Fine, still weak, but he looks better, less pale."
"I'm not sure you should be the one to judge what is less and more pale, Anita," Nathaniel said with a low laugh.
Anita rolled her eyes and left the room without another word, going to the kitchen to see about something to eat for Edward and to call Jean-Claude.
"Hi," she said when he answered the phone. She was one of a few select people who had his personal number that led straight to his bedroom.
"Ma petite?" he queried.
"Were you expecting someone else?"
"No, I'm just surprised is all as I did not expect to hear from you so soon." Anita sort of cringed at his words, but knew that she deserved them.
"I wanted you to know Edward and Cherry made it back, and he will be fine."
"I was aware of their return and I am pleased for your sake, ma petite."
"I know, and while I don't expect you to act enthused about it I wanted you to know."
"Thank you." He paused and Anita did not know what to say. There were things she wanted to say, but she was not sure if she was ready to extend herself just yet. "Is that it then, Anita?" Uh oh, he was irritated with her.
"I," she shrugged and took a deep breath. "Would you like to come over?"
"I would like that," he said after an insufferable amount of silence. She hoped he was not going to punish her now, not that she did not deserve it particularly if what Obsidian told her was true.
"Okay, I know you have things to tend to, so I'll just look for you when you get here."
"For you, ma petite, and such an invitation, I will be there by eight o'clock. Is that early enough?"
"I think so, yes."
"Will we be joined by your friends?"
"Cherry will be here, but I'm sure I can convince the others to get out of here. Elizabeth left as soon as she saw Edward was back and in such bad shape."
"I guess they had a bit of a run in the other day."
"Why does that not surprise me?"
"Cherry said that Edward does not think she's loyal to me."
"Edward is an observant man, ma petite. I have cautioned you regarding her in the past and will say nothing further on the subject as I know you want to believe in all of your furry critters."
"I know and you're both right, but I still can't tell her to leave."
"Perhaps she has saved you the trouble of having to ask or tell, ma petite."
"Perhaps," she said.
"I will see you at eight o'clock. Are we going out or staying in?"
"I sort of had staying at home in mind. Is that okay?"
"For my or for Monsieur Edward's benefit, ma petite?"
"For you, Jean-Claude, he's in good hands with Cherry here."
"I look forward to seeing you later this evening then."
"Me, too," she said.
Anita hung up the phone after they had said their good byes. She knew a call to Richard was in order, but was not ready to make it just yet. Somehow over the past couple of days she had made her decision and he deserved to know what that decision was. She would deal with that later, because tonight she had enough on her mind with Edward recovering here.
Jean-Claude was coming over with the expectation of intimacy with her. It certainly was not a disturbing though, the thought of having him in her bed once again sent tingles of the good variety along her spine and other parts of her body. She still had coffins for Jean-Claude and Asher in the basement, so he would not have to leave before sunrise unless he wanted to.
"I'll bring that in to him," Cherry said bringing Anita out of her thoughts of Jean-Claude in her bed.
"Are you sure?" Anita asked.
"I don't mind. He's actually one of the better patients I've had. He seems to understand that he's not god and he does in fact need to heal."
"I don't know that he likes being helpless, but I think he likes having women to wait on him," Anita said. "Let me clarify that, women who know who he really is. I'm going to go shower, Jean-Claude's coming over later."
"Oh okay," Cherry said.
"Can you guys take off for the evening without getting into trouble?" Anita asked of the others in the living room when she walked from the kitchen to head to her room.
"Uh yeah, sure," Nathaniel said with a hopeful gleam in his eye.
"No trouble," Anita reminded, feeling like she was talking to a child rather than a twenty year old man who happened to also be a lycanthrope. Nathaniel just smirked and Anita shook her head slightly before making her way upstairs to her room.
Jean-Claude came bearing a bouquet of flowers, the assortment not what she would have expected from him normally. It was certainly less flamboyant than a dozen roses, but in some ways it was more effective and personal, which might have been the point. He actually took the time to pick something out.
Cherry had remained in the room with Edward for the most part, coming out on occasion but she was obviously trying to make herself scarce.
"I wonder if your friend will fall under the spell of a lycanthrope woman," Jean-Claude asked, giving voice to the thought that had been playing at the back of Anita's mind all day.
"I don't know, I wouldn't think so."
"Just as no one would have thought you would involve yourself with not one but two of those you hunt, ma petite."
"That's a little different, I'm not paid to hunt you. Besides he's got a girlfriend, a fiancée with children."
"Ted does," she said unable to hide his disdain.
"You've met this woman I take it?"
"Yes, and I don't like her. She doesn't seem to worry about her kids too much, their father was killed."
"Exactly, and she doesn't seem to recognize that. And she's totally clueless that Ted is not a good guy."
He kissed the side of her head lightly, grazing her temple and hairline with his lips briefly. She did not talk to him often about her feelings, about what it was like to grow up without her parents but he knew why it bothered her so much to see children pushed aside and forgotten about. "Ted can be very convincing when he wants to be, ma petite. Your police friends aside, they're trained to be suspicious."
"I know," she said, knowing she probably sounded petty. She grew quiet then, not sure what else to say.
"Is there something else on your mind, ma petite? Besides Edward's love life?"
"You're the one who brought it up," she said, tracing a fingertip over the back of his hand. His fingers were long and slender and as with everything about him, graceful looking. "I've made a decision," she said then.
"I'm ready to choose."
"Well, don't leave me in suspense, ma petite. Do tell."
"Well, you're here, I thought that would be sort of obvious. I'm also ready to be a part of the triumverate, to do my part, so long as I have assurances from you and from Richard that my privacy will not be violated."
"I can abide by that condition, ma petite. I never purposely invaded your thoughts, your privacy."
"I know you didn't, but if I'm going to drop the blocks I've worked so hard over the past six months to put up I want assurances."
"And if Richard will not?"
"I don't know, we'll have to see if we can find a way to convince him."
"He is not going to take losing you easily, Anita. You do realize this?"
"I do, and hopefully with time he'll come around and realize that he's a part of us regardless. I hate hurting him, but my connection with you is stronger."
"I don't want you to choose me based on that, ma petite."
"No, it's not just that. You felt there was something wrong and you contacted me, he did not. You care for me no matter what, and I know you would not get all moody and vengeful if I was to choose him instead of you. Okay, other than making me date both of you."
"It worked in my favor, did it not?"
"Yes, I suppose it did. I'd be married to him by now if it weren't for that."
"Is this what you want, ma petite? To be married to a man that you cannot fully trust? I realize you're attracted to him, he is a virile gentleman after all, but he does not have control over his beast."
"You're telling me nothing I don't know already, Jean-Claude, which is why I'm choosing you. I also don't want to weaken you anymore and I can't stand the thought of you being with anyone else. While it hurt to see Richard trying to find another lupa, I don't get the same feeling I get when I think of you being with someone else."
"You flatter me, ma petite, and underestimate yourself if you believe I could replace you in the fashion Monsieur Zeeman was looking to replace you. Were I in his shoes I might seek out another woman but I would never seek out another lupa."
"I wouldn't, you are a benefit to his pack, your human status aside, and he should stand by you. He's only weakening himself and the pack's view of him."
"Yes," she said unable to disagree with him there. These are all things she was aware of, things she had tried to subtly tell Richard but her words fell on deaf ears.
"I must say I am pleased with your choice, ma petite. More pleased now that you have accepted your status as my human servant and the triumverate is in place."
"Why's that?" she asked curious.
"I am not sure that I could bare to part with you, ma petite. If you had accepted me as your lover, allowed me to take you as my mate without the marks and the triumverate in place, you would die eventually and I am unsure I would want to allow my feelings for you to grow further only to lose you in a few years."
"Seventy or one, ma petite, when you've lived as long as I have the number only amounts to a few."
"I see your point," she said, still unsure if she had grasped the idea of living forever without being undead. "I will tell Richard soon, I have left you both hanging for too long."
"You are worth the wait, ma petite, if you were not neither of us would have waited."
"You say the sweetest things," she said with a roll of her eyes.
"I speak the truth."
She stood from the couch and put out the fire in the fireplace, it was barely smoldering this late into the night but she still was not going to take any chances. "Are you ready for bed?"
"It is not sunrise yet, ma petite."
"No, I was sort of thinking of working on building your strength back up before sunrise."
"An enchanting offer."
"One you care to accept?"
"I'd be delighted, please lead the way," he said taking Anita's offered hand before walking with her upstairs and into her room.
Story ©Susan Falk/APCKRFAN/PhantomRoses.com