The Killing Dance (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter #6) - Chapter 39


Jean-Claude opened the bedroom door and stepped inside, ushering me through with a sweep of graceful hands. The bed stopped me. There'd been a change of bedding. Red sheets covered the bed. Crimson drapes formed a half canopy over the nearly black wood. There were still a dozen pillows on the bed and they were all screaming, brilliant red. Even after the night I'd had, it was eye-catching.

"I like the new decor, I guess."

"The linens needed to be changed. You are always complaining that I should use more color."

I stared at the bed. "I'll stop complaining."

"I will run your bath." He went into the bathroom without a single joke or risque comment. It was almost unnerving.

Whoever had changed the sheets had also removed the chairs that Edward and Harley had used. I didn't want to sit on the clean sheets still covered in whatever the hell I was covered in. I sat down on the white carpet and tried not to think. Not thinking is a lot harder than it sounds. My thoughts kept chasing each other, like a werewolf chasing its tail. The image tore a laugh from my throat, and on the end of it a sound like a sob or a moan. I put the back of my hand against my mouth. I didn't like that sound coming out of me. It sounded hopeless, beaten.

I was not beaten, dammit, but I was hurt. If what I felt had been an actual wound, I'd have been bleeding to death.

The bathroom door opened at long last. A puff of warm, moist air flowed around Jean-Claude. He had taken off his shirt, and the cross-shaped burn scar marred the perfection of his chest. He held his boots in one hand, a towel as scarlet as the sheets in the other.

"I washed up in the sink while the tub filled." He walked barefoot across the white carpeting. "I'm afraid I used the last clean towel. I will fetch you more."

I took my hand away from my mouth and nodded. I finally managed to say, "Fine."

I stood before he could offer to help me up. I didn't need any help.

Jean-Claude moved to one side. His black hair lay in nearly tight curls across his pale shoulders, curled from the humidity of the bathroom. I ignored him as much as it was humanly possible and walked inside.

The room was warm and misty, the black marble tub full of bubbles. He offered me a black lacquer tray from the vanity top. Shampoos, soap, bath crystals, and what looked like oils were grouped on the tray.

"Get out so I can undress."

"It took two people to dress you tonight, ma petite. Won't you need help getting undressed?" His voice was utterly bland. His face so still, his eyes so innocent, it made me smile.

I sighed. "If you get the two straps in back, I think I can manage the rest. But no monkey business." I held my hands over the bra because one strap would loosen it. The other strap, as far as I could tell, was the pivot point for the rest of the outfit.

His fingers moved to the top strap. I watched him in the fogged mirror. The strap came unbuckled, and the leather gave with a small sigh. He moved to the second strap without so much as an extra caress. He undid it and took a step back. "No monkey business, ma petite." He backed out of the room, and I watched him go like a phantom in the mist-covered mirrors. When the door was shut, I started on the rest of the straps. It was like peeling myself to get the goo-soaked leather off.

I put the tray of bath accessories on the tub edge and slipped into the water. The water was hot, just this side of too hot. I sank into it up to my chin, but I couldn't relax. The gunk clung to my body in patches. I had to get it off me. I sat up in the tub and started scrubbing. The soap smelled like gardenia. The shampoos smelled like herbs. Trust Jean-Claude not to buy a name brand from the grocery store.

I washed my hair twice, sinking under the water and coming up for air. I was scrubbed and virtuous, or at least clean. The mirrors had cleared and I had only myself to stare at. I'd washed off all the careful makeup. I smoothed my thick, black hair back from my face. My eyes were enormous and nearly black. My skin so pale, it was almost white. I looked shocked, ethereal, unreal.

There was a soft knock on the door. "Ma petite, may I come in?"

I glanced down at myself. The bubbles were still holding. I drew a pile of them a little closer to my chest and said, "Come in." It took a lot of effort not to hunch down in the water. I sat up straight, trusting in the bubbles. Besides, I would not huddle. So I was naked in a tub of bubble bath. So what. No one can embarrass you unless you let them.

Jean-Claude came in with two thick, red towels. He closed the door behind him with a small smile. "We wouldn't want to let the hot air out."

I narrowed my eyes but said, "I guess not."

"Where do you want the towels? Here?" He started to lay them on the vanity.

"I can't reach them there," I said.

"Here?" He laid them on top of the stool. He stood there, staring down at me, still wearing nothing but the black jeans. His feet were startlingly pale against the black carpet.

"Still too far away."

He sat down on the edge of the tub, placing the towels on the floor. He stared down at me as if he could will the bubbles away. "Is this close enough?"

"Maybe a little too close," I said.

He trailed fingertips over the bubbles at the edge of the tub. "Do you feel better now, ma petite?"

"I said no sexual innuendo, remember."

"As I remember, you said no sexual innuendo until after you were clean." He smiled at me. "You're clean."

I sighed. "Trust you to be literal."

He trailed his fingers in the water. He turned his shoulder enough that I could see the whip scars on his back. They were slick and white, and I suddenly had an urge to trace them with my fingers.

He turned back to face me. He wiped his wet fingers across his chest, trailing shining lines of moisture across the flat slickness of the burn scar, down along his belly. His fingers played with the line of dark hair that vanished into his pants.

I closed my eyes and let out a sigh.

"What is the matter, ma petite?" I felt him leaning over me. "Are you faint?"

I opened my eyes. He had leaned his entire upper body across the tub, right arm on the far rim, the left near my shoulder. His hip was so far over the water that if I'd touched his chest, he'd have fallen in.

"I don't faint," I said.

His face leaned down over mine. "So glad to hear it." He kissed me lightly, a brush of lips, but even that small movement made my stomach jerk.

I gasped and pushed him away. He fell into the tub, going completely under, only his feet sticking out. He landed on my naked body, and I screamed.

He came up for air, his long, black hair streaming around his face, across his shoulders. He looked as surprised as I'd ever seen him. He crawled off me, mainly because I was shoving at him. He struggled to his feet. Water streamed down his body. He stared down at me. I was huddled against the side, staring up at him, pissed.

He shook his head and laughed. The sound filled the room, played along my skin like a hand. "I have been a lady's man for nearly three hundred years, Anita. Why is it only with you that I am awkward?"

"Maybe it's a hint," I said.


I stared up at him. He stood there, knee deep in bubble bath. He was soaking wet and should have been ridiculous, but he wasn't. He was beautiful.

"How can you be so damn beautiful when I know what you are?"

He knelt in the water. The bubbles covered his waist, so he looked naked. Water trailed down his chest in fine beads. I wanted to run my hands over him. I wanted to lick the water off his skin. I drew my legs to my chest and locked my arms around them, not trusting myself.

He moved towards me. The water sloshed and curled around my naked body. He stayed kneeling, so close that his jeans brushed my huddled legs. The feel of him in the water, that close, made me hide my face against my knees. The pounding of my heart gave me away. I knew he could taste my need on the air.

"Tell me to go, ma petite, and I will go." I felt him lean over me, his face just above my wet hair.

Slowly, I raised my face.

He placed a hand on the tub edge, one arm on either side of me, bringing his chest dangerously close to my face. I watched the water bead on his skin, the way that he sometimes watched blood on mine: a need almost too overwhelming to deny, an urge so complete that I didn't want to say no.

I unclenched my arms from my knees and leaned forward. I whispered, "Don't go." I touched hands to his waist, tentative, as if it should burn, but his skin was cool under the slickness of water. Cool and smooth to the touch. I glanced up at his face and knew that there was something close to fear on my own face.

His face was lovely, and uncertain, as if he didn't know what to do next. It was a look I never thought to see on Jean-Claude's face when I was naked in his arms.

I kept my eyes on his face as I moved my mouth towards his stomach. I ran my tongue over his skin, a quick, tentative movement.

He sighed, eyes fluttering shut, body almost sagging. I pressed my mouth against his skin, drinking the water off of him. I couldn't reach his chest. I moved to my knees, hands steadying me against his slender waist.

The air was cool against my naked breasts. Kneeling had bared them. I froze, suddenly unsure. I wanted desperately to see his face and was afraid to look up.

His fingertips brushed my shoulders, sliding down the wet skin. I shivered and glanced up. The look on his face caught my breath in my throat. Tenderness, need, amazement.

"You are so beautiful, ma petite." He put his fingertips to my lips before I could protest. "You are beautiful. On this I do not lie."

His fingers moved across my lips, down my chin. He slid his hands to my shoulders, down my back, in slow, teasing lines. His hands stopped on either side of my waist, mirroring my hands on his own waist.

"Now what?" My voice was a little breathless.

"Whatever you like, ma petite."

I massaged my hands against his waist, feeling the flesh underneath, feeling him under my hands. I spread my hands wide, splaying my fingers tense against his skin, dragging my hands up his ribs.

He kneaded his fingers into my waist, pressing his hands against my ribs. He inched his hands upward along my sides. Strong fingers pressed into my skin just enough to make me sigh. He stopped with his thumbs below my breasts. His touch was feather light, almost not touching at all. But that one small brush of his skin against my breasts made my body react, tightening, nipples hardening. My body wanted him. Wanted him so badly that my skin felt large and aching with the thought of it.

My own hands were pressed against his chest. I realized that he was still mirroring me, waiting for me to move.

I stared up into his face. I searched that beauty, those dark eyes. There was no pull to them, no power, except the thick black line of his lashes, and the rich color like the sky just before darkness swallows the world when you think all is black, but there in the west is a shade of blue, dark and rich as ink. Beauty had its own power.

I slid my hands up his chest, fingers brushing across his nipples. I stared at his face while I did it, heart pounding in my throat, breath coming too fast.

His hands slid upward, cupping my breasts. The touch of his hands made me gasp. He scooted lower in the water, still touching me. He bent over my breasts and laid a gentle kiss on them. He licked the water off my skin, lips working gently.

I shuddered and had to steady myself on his bare shoulders. All I could see was his long, dark hair bent over me. I caught sight of us in the mirrors. I watched his mouth close over my breast, felt him take me into his mouth as far as he could. Fangs pressed against my breast. For a second I thought they would sink into my flesh, draw blood in a fine hot line, but he drew back. He dropped to all fours in the water, which made me taller, allowed me to look down into his face.

There was no uncertainty in his face now. His eyes were still lovely, still human, but there was a knowledge in them now, a growing darkness. Sex, for want of a better word, but that look in a man's eyes is too primitive for vocabulary. It's the darkness we all have inside of us, peeking out. That part of us that we trap in our dreams and deny in daylight hours. He stayed crouched in the water with that feral light in his eyes, and I went to him.

I kissed him, light, a brush of lips. I flicked my tongue along his lips and he opened his mouth for me. I cupped his face between my hands and kissed him, tasted him, explored him.

He came up out of the water with a sound between a moan and a cry. His arms locked behind my back and he rolled us in the water like a shark. We came up gasping. He pushed away from me to lean against the far edge of the tub. I was breathing so hard I was trembling. My pulse thudded at the back of my throat. I could taste it on my tongue, almost roll the beating pulse in my mouth like candy. I realized it wasn't just my heart I was hearing. It was Jean-Claude's.

I could see the pulse in his neck like something alive and separate, but it wasn't only my eyes that could see it. I could feel it like it was my own. I had never been so aware of the blood coursing through my body. The pulsing warmth of my own skin. The thick pumping of my heart. My life thundering inside me. Jean-Claude's body pulsed in time to mine. It was like he was riding my pulse, my blood. I felt his need, and it wasn't just sex, but for the first rime, I understood it wasn't just the blood, either. It was all of me. He wanted to warm himself in my body, like holding hands to a flame, gathering my warmth, my life, to him. I felt his stillness, a depth of quiet that nothing living could touch, like a still pool of water hidden away in the dark. In one crystalline moment, I realized that, for me, this was part of the attraction: I wanted to plunge my hands into his stillness, into that quiet place of death. I wanted to embrace it, confront it, conquer it. I wanted to fill him up with a burning wash of life, and I knew in that moment that I could do it, but only at the price of drinking in some of that still, dark water.

"My deepest apologies, ma petite, you have almost undone me." He sank into the water, leaning against the edge of the tub. "I did not come here to feed, ma petite. I am sorry."

I felt his heartbeat going away from me, pulling away from me. My pulse slowed. The only heart thudding in my ears was my own.

He stood, water dripping down his body. "I will go, ma petite." He sighed. "You rob me of my hard-won control. Only you can do that to me, only you."

I crawled through the water towards him and let the darkness fill my eyes. "Don't go," I said.

He watched me with a look that was part amazement, part amusement, part fear, as if he didn't trust me--or didn't trust himself.

I knelt at his feet, running my hands up the soaked cloth of his jeans. I dug my nails lightly into the cloth over his thighs and stared up at him. My face was dangerously close to places I had never touched before, not even with my hands. This close, I couldn't help noticing that he was stretched hard and firm under the tight, heavy cloth. I had a terrible urge to lay my cheek over his groin. I ran my hand lightly over him, barely touching. That small touch brought a soft groan from him.

He stared down at me like a drowning man.

I met his eyes. "No teeth, no blood."

He nodded slowly. He tried twice before he found his voice. "As my lady wishes."

I laid my cheek across him, feeling him firm and large against my skin. I felt his whole body tense. I rubbed my face against him like a cat. A small sound escaped him. I looked up. His eyes were closed, his head thrown back.

I grabbed the waistband of his jeans and used it to pull myself to my feet. Water ran down my body, suds clung to my skin.

His hands encircled my waist, but his eyes went lower. He met my gaze and smiled. It was the smile he always had. That smile that said he was thinking wicked little thoughts, things you'd only do in the dark on a dare. For the first time, I wanted everything that smile promised.

I tugged at his jeans. "Off."

He unsnapped the jeans carefully. He peeled the wet cloth away from his body. If there'd been underwear, I never saw it. The jeans ended up on the carpet. He was somehow suddenly nude.

He was like carved alabaster, every muscle, every curve of his body pale and perfect. Telling him he was beautiful was redundant. Saying golly gee whiz seemed too uncool. Giggling was out. My voice came small and strangled, hoarse with all the words I couldn't find. "You're not circumcised."

"No, ma petite. Is that a problem?"

I did what I'd wanted to do since I first saw him. I wrapped my fingers around him, squeezing gently. He closed his eyes, shuddering, steadying his hands on my shoulders. "Not a problem," I said.

He pulled me against him suddenly, pressing our naked bodies together. The feel of him hard and firm against my stomach was almost overwhelming. I dug fingers into his back to keep my suddenly weak knees from giving out.

I kissed his chest. I rose on tiptoe and kissed his shoulders, his neck. I ran my tongue along his skin and tasted him, rolling the scent of him, the feel of him in my mouth. We kissed, a nearly innocent brush of lips. I locked my hands behind his neck, arching my body against him. He made a small sound low in his throat.

He slid down my body, arms locked behind my back, holding me against him as he left my arms and left me standing, staring down at him.

He licked my stomach with quick, wet flicks of his tongue. His hands played along my buttocks, teasing. He licked back and forth where stomach ended

and lower things began. His fingers slid between my legs.

I gasped. "What are you doing?"

He rolled his eyes upward, mouth still pressed low on my stomach. He raised his face just enough to speak. "You may have three guesses, ma petite," he whispered. He put a hand on each of my thighs and spread my legs wider. His hand slid over me, exploring me.

My mouth was suddenly dry. I licked my lips and said, "I don't think my legs will hold."

He ran his tongue down my hip. "When the time comes, ma petite, I will hold you." He kissed his way down my thigh. His finger slid inside of me. My breath fell outward in a sigh.

He kissed the inside of my thighs, running his tongue, his lips along my skin. The feel of his fingers between my legs tightened my body, and I could feel the beginnings of something large and overwhelming.

He stood, hand still between my legs. He bent and kissed me, long and slow. The movement of his hand matched his mouth. Slow and lingering, teasing along my body. When his fingers plunged inside me, I cried out, shuddering against him.

He left me standing in the water, alone and shivering, but not from cold. I couldn't even think enough to ask where'd he gone. He appeared in front of me with a condom in his hand like he'd plucked it from the air. He traced the foil down my body.

I touched him while he unwrapped it. I held him in my hands and felt the velvet smoothness of him. The skin was unbelievably soft. He drew himself gently out of my hands with a shaking laugh.

When he was ready, he picked me up, hands on the backs of my thighs. He pressed himself against me without entering, rubbing himself where his hand had touched. I whispered, "Please." He spread my legs and eased inside of me. Slowly, so slowly as if he were afraid he'd hurt me, but it didn't hurt.

When he was sheathed inside me, he looked at me. The look on his face was haunting. Emotions flowed over his face. Tenderness, triumph, need. "I have wanted this for so long, ma petite, so very long." He eased in and out, slowly, almost tentatively. I watched his face until the play of emotions was too much, too honest. There was something like pain in his eyes, something that I didn't even come close to understanding.

The movements of his hips were still slow, careful. It was amazing, but I wanted more. I brought my mouth up to his and said, "I won't break." I pressed my mouth to his hard enough to feel the press of fangs.

He went to his knees in the water, pressing me against the side of the tub. His mouth fed at mine, and there was a small, sharp pain. Sweet copper blood filled my mouth, filled his mouth, and he plunged inside of me, hard and fast. I watched him in the mirrors. Watched his body coming in and out of mine. I gathered him in my arms, in my legs. I held him to me, feeling his body plunging inside of mine. Felt his need.

Someone was making a high moaning sound, and it was me. I wrapped my legs around his waist. The muscles in my lower abdomen spasmed, tightened.

I pressed my body against Jean-Claude as if I would climb through him, into him. I grabbed a handful of his long hair and watched his face from inches away. Watched his face while his body pumped into mine. The emotions were gone. His face was almost slack with need. Blood spilled down the corner of my mouth, and he licked it away, his body tightening against me.

He slowed the rhythm of his body. I felt the effort strain through his arms and back. He slowed. Every time he thrust into me, it was like I could feel it into the middle of my chest. As if he'd grown impossibly large within me. My body spasmed around him, tightened like a hand. He cried out, and his body lost its rhythm. He plunged inside me faster, harder, as if he would meld our bodies together, weld us into one flesh, one body. A wave of pleasure burst over me in a skin-tingling, body-sweeping rush. It burst over me like a rush of cool flame, and still he was not done. Every thrust of his body reached inside of me and caressed things that should never have been able to be touched. It was as if his body could reach the places his voice could touch, as if it were more than his body that plunged inside of me. The world became for a moment a shining whiteness, a melting thing. I dug fingers into Jean-Claude's back. Noises fell from my mouth that were too primitive for screams. When I realized I was drawing blood on his back, I scratched my own arms. I hadn't asked what he thought about pain.

I cuddled around him, letting him hold the full weight of my body. He climbed up the edge of the tub, lifting me out of the water. He crawled on all fours to the raised area around the tub with me hanging onto him. He lowered his body and I moved away from him. He slid out of me and was still as hard and ready as when he had started.

I looked at him. "You didn't come."

"I have not waited this long to end it so quickly." He lowered himself in a sort of push-up and ran his tongue down one of the scratches on my arm. He rolled his tongue around his lips. "If you did this for my benefit, I appreciate it. If you did it to keep from damaging me, it was not necessary. I do not mind a little pain."

"Me, either."

He slid his body across mine. "I noticed that." He kissed me slowly. He lay beside me, then scooted until he was lying on his back and I was almost back in the tub."I want to watch you move, ma petite. I want you above me."

I straddled his waist and slid slowly over him. It was deeper from this angle, sharper somehow. His hands moved up my body, over my breasts. He lay back underneath me. His long, curling, black hair was almost completely dry. It fanned out around his face in a thick, soft wave. This was what I wanted. Seeing him like this. Feeling him inside me.

"Move for me, Anita."

I moved for him. I rode his body. He tightened inside me, and I gasped. I watched us in the mirrors. Watched my hips swaying above him.

"Ma petite," he whispered, "look into my eyes. Let it be between us as it always could have been."

I stared into his dark blue eyes. They were lovely, but they were just eyes. I shook my head. "I can't."

"You must let me inside your mind, as you let me inside your body." He spasmed inside of me, and it was hard to think.

"I don't know how," I said.

"Love me, Anita, love me."

I stared down at him and did. "I do love you."

"Then let me in, ma petite. Let me love you."

I felt it like a drape being pulled away. I felt his eyes, and they were suddenly drowning deep, an endless midnight blue ocean that somehow managed to burn. I was aware of my body. I could feel Jean-Claude inside my body. I could feel him like a brush of silk inside my mind.

The orgasm hit me unexpectedly, opened my mind to him more than I'd planned. Flung me wide open and falling into his eyes. He cried out underneath me, and I realized I could still feel my body, feel my hands on his chest, feel my pelvis riding him. I opened my eyes and for a dizzying second I saw his face go slack, that moment of total abandon.

I collapsed on top of him, trailing my hands down his arms, feeling his heart pound against my chest. We lay quietly for a few moments, resting, holding each other, then I slid off him, curling beside him.

"You can't hold me with your eyes anymore. Even if I let you, I can still break the hold at any time."

"Yes, ma petite."

"Does that bother you?"

He lifted a lock of my hair, running it between his fingers. "Let us say it does not bother me as much as it might have a few hours ago."

I raised up on one elbow so I could see his face. "Meaning what? That now that I've had sex with you, I'm not dangerous?"

He stared up at me. I couldn't read his eyes. "You will always be dangerous, ma petite." He raised upward, bending at the waist, bringing his lips against mine in a gentle kiss. He moved back from me just enough to speak, propping himself on one arm. "There was a time when you would have taken my heart with stake or gun." He took my hand in his and raised it towards his mouth. "Now you have taken it with these delicate hands and the scent of your body." He kissed the back of my hand ever so gently. He lay back, drawing me with him. "Come, ma petite, enjoy your conquest."

I held my face back, avoiding a kiss. "You aren't conquered," I said.

"Nor, ma petite, are you." He ran his hands up my back. "I am beginning to realize that you will never be conquered, and that is the greatest aphrodisiac of all."

"A challenge forever," I said.

"For all eternity," he whispered. I let him draw me down into a kiss, and part of me was still not sure if I'd done a good thing or a bad thing. But just for tonight, I didn't care.