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Jason (Anita Blake, Vampire Hunter 23) Laurell K. Hamilton 2022/8/5 16:58:21

"Don't be sorry, Anita; you're doing your best for Jade, for all of us." She seemed to think more on it, face very serious, eyes showing the level of concentration.

"I let them tie me up; Jade seems to like that," Nathaniel said.

"Nope," Jason said, "don't even ask. I don't bottom to submissives either, and I especially don't let myself get tied up with women who have serious issues with men."

"Jade's never hurt anyone," I said.

"No, but who knows what might send her into a flashback? Anita, she may seem all gentle with you, but when she's working out in the gym she's wicked fast and stronger than that body looks; if she could get over the issues her old master beat into her she would be one of the most efficient killing machines I've ever seen."

I blinked at him. "Jade?"

"She doesn't work out in front of you to the best of her ability, Anita. I think that goes back to her old master not liking that maybe she was faster or better at some of the fighting skills than he was; I think she doesn't want to show you up."

"She's a weretiger, Jason; she's supposed to be faster and stronger than I am."

"You know that, but she sure as hell isn't comfortable with you seeing her in the gym. Haven't you noticed that she never works out when you're there unless forced?"

I thought about it, and then said, "Is that why she sucks at hand to hand and most weapons practice, because I'm always there?"

"I think so, because when you're not in the weight room, or the track, or . . . she works a heavy bag over like she'd make a person into so much meat, real quick."

you seen her do that?" I asked Nathaniel.

"Yes, but only when you and Nicky aren't with me. She's different without the two of you in the gym."

"Okay, I sort of understand her having issues with showing me up, but why does she care about Nicky?"

"I think she doesn't want anyone she considers a threat to see how good she is," Jason said.

"Nicky hasn't threatened her, has he?" I asked.

"No, he hasn't hurt her; he's just really big, really physical, and really good at fighting."

"Well, crap," I said.

"I wouldn't let anyone tie me down and put me at her mercy; just call me cautious, but there's a look in her eyes sometimes that I do not want aimed at me when I can't fight back," Jason said.

"You're not a fighter," I said.

"I'm not a bodyguard, but I'm a werewolf, and that means you have to fight to keep your place in the pack. All wereanimals can fight, Anita, but I also know I'm a small guy. That limits me."

"Micah is smaller than you and he's an alpha."

"Yeah, but he's way more ruthless than I am. He's more like you. You'll both just kill people if they threaten you or your people. I won't go for the kill unless I have to; that makes me not a threat."

J.J. looked from one to the other of us. "Are you serious about the killing part?"

Jason and I exchanged a look. I don't know what we would have said, because Nathaniel said, "I think that look in Jade's eyes is why I liked being tied up with her in the bed."

That made us all look at him, which was probably what he'd planned. He was distracting J.J. from the fact that she could know most of our sex secrets, but the violence part . . . she was too much a civilian to know that part.

"You know that Jade is dangerous, so it gives you a kick to be tied up and at her mercy?" I asked.

He nodded. "Asher thinks she's the perfect victim and would love to have her in the dungeon, but I think he's wrong. I think that under the right circumstances, Jade would be incredibly dangerous." He gave a little cuddling shiver, and I felt his body begin to react where it had been pressed inert against the back of my body. The thought of how dangerous she might be excited him. I loved Nathaniel more than almost anyone, but there were moments, like this, when I didn't understand him. I liked the pretend of danger in bondage with people I trusted utterly; yes, I pushed the edge, but not like Nathaniel did. He liked real danger when he could get it, and thanks to being a wereleopard, he healed almost anything, emphasis on the "almost."

"And you like that?" Jason said.

"You know I do," Nathaniel said.

Jason shook his head. "Raina cured me of ever letting another wereanimal tie me down and have their way with me."

I felt stupid and slow; I'd forgotten how Jason became a werewolf. Raina, the now-dead alpha female of the local pack, their lupa, had tied him up, had sex with him, and shifted to wolf-woman form on top of him, and he'd been fine with that, but then she'd used claws and teeth on him. I'd shared that memory thanks to Raina's ghost, and I knew that she hadn't cared if Jason lived or died. It had all been about her pleasure in that moment. She'd been a true sexual sadist, and where she had no conscience a pure sociopath, but like most sociopaths I knew, there were places where she cared; she just never seemed to give a damn for her lovers.

"Raina went farther than even I wanted to go," Nathaniel said, and he held me closer. I remembered him telling me that she'd done what would have amounted to a snuff film if he'd been human. He'd agreed to what she did, but hadn't understood that some fantasies are never, ever meant to be real--not if you want to live and stay sane.

"I'm sorry, Jason, I forgot how you became a werewolf. Will watching Nathaniel be tied up while Jade plays with him be like a triggering event for the memory?" I asked.

J.J. hugged his arms tighter around her. "I still can't believe that she did that to you. She was like a serial killer."

I gave points to both of them that Jason had shared the story with J.J. and that she had been sympathetic and not blamed the victim for the kinky sex.

Jason looked at Nathaniel. "Doesn't it bother you to be tied up and at the mercy of another female wereanimal, after what I know she did to you, too?"

"I enjoyed most of what she did more than you did. I still miss Gabriel and her sometimes."

Jason shuddered and held J.J. tighter. "I don't miss either of them."

If J.J. hadn't been in the room I would have said, And I don't regret killing either of them, but I didn't want to bring up the killing thing again. The police actually knew that I'd killed them in self-defense after they'd kidnapped me and tried to make me star in one of Raina's real-life snuff films. They'd also tried to kill Jean-Claude and Richard off camera. No, I had no regrets about their deaths, nope, none. My conscience was so clean on that one that it was shiny.

"I like being tied up for Anita and Jade, and it's helping her gain more confidence," Nathaniel said.

"Would you let Jade tie you up, just you and her?" Jason asked.

"She wouldn't want that, to be alone with just me, but no, I wouldn't."

"You think she'd really hurt you if I wasn't there?" I asked.

"I don't believe that Jade would ever hurt me, not really, but the men she sees as a threat, if they stepped over the line, she might kill first and ask your forgiveness later."

"Agreed," Jason said.

I looked from one to the other of them. "How did I miss this?"

"Jade wanted you to miss it," Jason said.

"Is she dangerous to me?" J.J. asked.

He hugged and kissed her. "No, if I thought she was I wouldn't have brought you here."

"I'd still rather have you in the room with us, just in case," she said.

"Who gets to negotiate with Jade about extra men in the room?" I asked.

Everyone looked at me. "Why me?" I said, and even to me it sounded whiny.

"You're her master," Jason said.

"You rescued her from hundreds of years of torment; it makes her trust you above everyone," Nathaniel said.

Both excellent points, so I went off to negotiate with a beautiful weretiger about bringing another woman into our bed for a girly three-way, and oh, by the way, I was throwing in Nathaniel, Jason, and honestly if I could manage it, Domino. I wasn't sure how J.J. would feel about that last addition, but I'd try for it, for my own comfort level. I wasn't homophobic, but I was confused about women. I'd always thought being a lesbian must be easier, because you were a girl dating girls, so you had a leg up on understanding each other. Nope, didn't work that way, not at all. Dating a woman wasn't that much different from dating men, except I sort of understood how to date men. Women confused me, or this woman did. She was like a field of emotional land mines that I didn't know how to avoid. Were all women like this? Was this how my men felt about me? God, I hoped not.

JADE WANTED TO try oral sex with J.J. and me, but she didn't see the need for any men joining us. I stood firm. She cried, told me I didn't love her. I let the emotional storm wash over. When I didn't give in, she did. So I would spend J.J.'s second night in St. Louis with the most women I'd ever voluntarily allowed in a bed with me. Jinkies.

Jean-Claude gave us permission to use the big bed in his bedroom. We'd coined the term "orgy-sized" for the custom-made bed. It was a heavy four-poster with attachment points here and there for chains and rope. It was really the only bed big enough to hold everybody, if by some miracle J.J. and Jade both got comfortable enough to allow everyone on the bed. That was a big if, but I planned my sex like I planned my vampire hunts. Plan for every eventuality: It keeps you alive when chasing rogue vampires, and it keeps your relationships alive after the big bondage sex scene.

The bedspread, bed drapes, and pillows all changed periodically. Today the bedspread was white with black and red pillows piled at the headboard, and curtains of red and black with white gauze in between. There was even a coverlet at the foot of the bed in red and

black with a center flower of white. I'd thought it was a dogwood blossom when I first saw it, but it was a stylized rose, I was told. It was beautiful, whatever it was supposed to be.

I sat in the mounded pillows with Jade curled beside me. We were sitting above the ropes that held Nathaniel spread-eagled on the bed. Yes, the bed was that big, so that there was still room between the ropes that held his arms for the two of us to sit together and not touch the bindings, or Nathaniel's arms. When he'd been tied in place, I'd watched his eyes, saw the peacefulness that filled them just by being bound, "helpless." The rope was woven hemp dyed black, very stark against the white bedspread. He was the only one who was nude yet, that beautiful body spread and held on the bed, waiting for what we'd negotiated. We'd undone his ankle-length auburn hair and spread it out like a silken pool underneath and around his body like a red and chestnut halo; it looked more red than normal against the white of the cover. We probably should have taken the bedspread off and gotten to sheets before we tied him in place, because the chances were good we'd ruin the white cover before the night was over; some things even a good dry cleaner can't clean off.

Jade was wearing a red silk nightie that was almost identical to the second blue one that J.J. was wearing. Apparently she liked blue lingerie. I'd changed to a black one myself; the teddy had been a little too see-through for the night as planned. I'd agreed to have sex, so the lingerie would be disappearing at some point and there'd be a lot of naked going on, so it seemed a little silly to not want to wear something sheer to start with, but sometimes it's not about logic, it's about feeling comfortable in the moment. I needed all the comfort I could get tonight.

Jade's hair fell to her waist like shining black water, startling against the scarlet of her lingerie. It clung over her small, tight breasts and the cool air made the nipples stand out starkly against the cloth. She was already holding my hand. Her nail polish was black, mine was red; we both had lipstick as red as the silk on her and in the pillows behind us, so that we looked like we'd matched everything on purpose. Her large, uptilted eyes were the color of orange and yellow fire. It was the mark of the black tiger clan to have flame-colored eyes. The red of the silk brought out the red hidden in her eyes, so that they looked utterly inhuman and amazing with the eyeliner like a black frame around all that color. I admit that I tried to see that look in her eyes that Jason and Nathaniel had talked about, which frightened one of them and excited the other, but she looked as she always looked to me, like a beautiful victim.