"What are you talking about, Kane?"
"Categories are vampires, lycanthropes, and love; pick one."
I narrowed my eyes at him, but said, "I'm not playing games with you, Kane; tell me, or don't."
"Not for you, no, and I really don't have time for this shit today." I went into the locker room. There was no one else in there, but the towels were scattered everywhere. There was even a pair of jogging shoes left forlornly on their sides as if people had left too quick to double-check their gear. Why would everyone run like that? What the hell was going on? Why was Kane so smug? Shit, I needed to know. I almost went back into the showers, but Kane saved me the trouble. He came out soaking wet, as if he hadn't even bothered with a towel.
"What is one of the most sacred things a vampire can do for a shapeshifter?" he asked.
"I don't know," I said.
"Oh come on, what's the phrase for a lycanthrope attached to a vampire?"
"Just tell me, Kane, the foreplay is getting freaking tedious."
"What is something that a vampire does for love and power?"
I was frowning, too, now. "Makes someone a human servant."
"And if they're not human to begin with?"
I looked into those dark eyes of his, the smug look on his handsome face. "Oh shit, Asher made you his hyena to call."
"Ding-ding-ding, you win!"
"Fuck, Kane, Narcissus has been after Asher to make him his hyena to call for almost two years. You're not even one of the most powerful hyenas in your group. You've gained a hell of a lot of power, but Asher hasn't gained nearly as much from you."
"Yeah, so freaking what? Narcissus could kill you and him for this."
"He wouldn't dare harm me now, because that could kill Asher, and everyone knows that Jean-Claude would kill to protect his vampire lover."
"Why was everyone scared of you in the showers just now?"
I didn't think he could look any more pleased with himself, but I was wrong. He positively glowed with self-congratulations. "I'm working out with the guards now."
"You started working out with the guards when you saw how much Asher appreciated all the muscles and gym work."
"I have muscles, and every hyena works out, or you don't survive unscarred."
"Yeah, yeah, you and the werelions are all macho and shit, but you've never worked out to the level we hold our guards to; you still don't."
The anger was back, full and rich and . . . more. In fact, the anger had a familiar flavor to it. I laughed.
"Did Asher tell you that when you bind yourself to a vampire, you and he exchange some personality, or quirk?"
He frowned, water still beading down his face. "What are you talking about?"
"You taste of some of Asher's anger added to your own, which means he got something of yours, too. I can't wait to find out what, since you are such a shit."
Anger went to rage, his hands in fists at his side. My weapons were still in the locker, and it was just the two of us. He wasn't as well trained, but he had me in reach, size, strength, and speed, and he had some training. I didn't want this to get out of hand, or did I?
"Why were the other guards that practiced with you this morning afraid of you?"
"For the same reason that Narcissus won't hurt me, because that would piss off King Jean-Claude."
"Why would you getting your ass handed to you in practice piss off Jean-Claude?"
"Because if you hurt me, it could hurt Asher, and Jean-Claude doesn't let anyone hurt his golden-haired vampire boy." There was anger when he said it, fueled by a very serious case of green-eyed jealousy.
I realized that with a little bit of prodding, I could make more food for myself. One thing I'd noticed is that anger never seemed to be "full." Lust could be satisfied, at least temporarily, but my ability to absorb anger didn't act like a full stomach, or a content libido. I could always be angry. "No matter what you do, or how much Asher says he loves you, you'll always know that the man he wants most in his arms and in his coffin isn't you."
"Oh yeah, he loves you enough to be incredibly stupid."
"Narcissus is free to discipline his hyenas in the way that works for him. We don't dictate that."
"Because hyena isn't one of Jean-Claude's beasts to call, but they answer to Asher, to my master."
"Up to a point, yeah, but this . . . Narcissus will make an exception for this."
"You're just jealous."
"Of what, of you? Of you and Asher? I'm still having sex and bondage with Asher, because you're vanilla. You're a fucking freak emotionally, but in the bedroom you're the gay male equivalent of missionary position with the lights off."
"Asher didn't say that about me."
"If you weren't too tame in bed for him, Kane, he wouldn't still be fucking me and Nathaniel, and Jean-Claude."
"Shut up," and his voice held an edge of growl. His beast was thick in his anger, as if they were even more entwined than before.
"If you didn't bore Asher out of his mind in the bedroom, he wouldn't still be letting Richard chain him up and press his body against his; you know Asher would let Richard fuck him in a heartbeat."
I let him see my version of a pleased, unpleasant smile, and said, "It is, you know it is."
He screamed and tried to hit me, but I moved just enough for him to smash his hand into the lockers behind me, and I touched his bare chest. I fed on his anger, the way I'd fed on Ricky earlier.
Kane dropped to the floor, and I rode him down, keeping my hands on him, draining all that delicious rage. I fed until I felt my eyes go all vampire, and I knew when I looked down at him he saw them like cognac diamonds with the sun shining through them, as if brown could be the color of fire.
I felt Asher down that long cord that bound them together now, more surely than the wedding ring he'd denied Kane, and far more permanent. But Asher was still hours dead and couldn't give extra power to his beast to call, so I could feel the tie between them, but the vampire couldn't help him.
I took my hands back from Kane, forced myself to stop feeding from him, so he could look up at me and still hear and understand what I was about to say to him. I could have fed him into unconsciousness and he'd have woken not even remembering why he was so tired.
"If I find out you hurt one of the guards, because you made them afraid to hurt you first, I will make certain that you step into the practice ring with them again, and they get to kick your ass. Narcissus is going to want you and Asher dead for this amazing insult to him. He is the Oba of your entire clan, one of the most powerful groups in this territory, and you just superseded him as Asher's beast to call. He will not forgive, hell, in hyena society, he can't forgive and forget this, because it would make him appear so fucking weak that his own people will turn on him. You and Asher have left Narcissus with no choice but to punish you. If Asher had told him first, discussed it with him, but he didn't, did he? Just like he didn't mention it to Jean-Claude first."
Kane managed to say, "No."
"No, what, Kane? No, he didn't discuss it with Jean-Claude first? No, you didn't talk to your Oba first? No, no, no isn't going to save you from whatever Narcissus is going to do to you."
"Jean-Claude . . . will save . . . Asher."
He couldn't quite make his eyes focus, as if he were struggling to stay conscious; maybe I'd taken a little too much energy from him?
"No, Kane, not this time. I won't let Jean-Claude endanger us all because Asher lets his fucking heart overrule his head again and again." My towel was loose; I didn't try to keep myself covered but took the towel off and sat across his waist as naked as he was. The only thing that made it not a preamble to sex was that I was a few inches too high.
I put my glowing eyes just above his, and he still couldn't move enough to do anything to stop me. "I haven't made anyone my hyena to call yet, Kane, did you remember that? One of the things I learned from the Mother of All Darkness was how to break the bonds between vampires and their servants. I could just take you from Asher, bind you to me, and thanks to the ardeur I would be your exception, Kane. You'd fuck me, because you'd crave me like a drug."
"Oh, I'm not lying. Why tell a lie when the truth is so much more terrible?"
"Oh, Kane, you can do better than that."
"He'll never . . . top you . . . again if you hurt me."
"Narcissus is going to kill Asher if he can, so he won't be topping, or fucking, anyone."
"You know, I think he does, but Asher never loves the people who love him the most; he always chases the ones who don't want him, haven't you figured that out yet?"
"He loves me enough to . . . do this."
I nodded. "Yes, he does, because in you he's finally found someone more problematic, more jealous, more of a shit, than he is--it's only taken him six, seven hundred years to find someone who exemplifies his own worst traits. He'll keep you close, Kane, I don't know why, but he sees something in you he wants."
Kane swallowed, and his eyes were able to look at mine again. I got up still nude and left him lying on the floor with my towel curled up beside him. "You and Asher deserve each other, Kane, you really do."
"Thank you," he said.
"It wasn't a compliment," I said. I got my weapons out of the locker and since I'd totally forgotten fresh clothes I carried all of them, mostly in one arm, because the other hand was for my Browning BDM naked in my hand. I left Kane lying on the floor to recover, or pass out. I didn't shoot him, not even to wound. And people say I have no sense of humor.
I LEFT THE showers nearly vibrating with energy, but the combination of being buck naked and juggling all my holsters, guns, knives, and ammo pouches because they had nothing to attach to was just awkward, and then I started seeing the early-morning shift of the guards coming and going. Have you ever tried nodding good morning to people while naked and holding a small arsenal of weapons? It was a first for me, too, and I didn't care for it. Though they were almost all lycanthropes, which means technically they don't give a damn about nudity, they kept doing the little eye flicks. It may have been the guns and stuff, but I was self-conscious enough to want to start snarling, What are you looking at?