6 – Nightlife

Kate considered her reflection in the mirror of Damon’s guest room, turning back and forth in place so the skirt of the white dress Damon had bought her​—​and asked her to wear to go out tonight​—​swirled around her legs. He was right, it really did flatter her wonderfully. The wide low neck simply begged for a necklace; instead, she picked up the blood-red scarf, doubled it, and slipped the ends through the loop to hold it in place around her neck. Against her skin, somewhat pale from countless hours indoors, chestnut hair and light-beige sandals and white dress, it was extremely eye-catching. She hesitated, unsure whether she really wanted to be noticed… but the first one to notice would be Damon, and that was worth it. She brushed her hair out loose, and drew back the very front to keep it out of her eyes.

Realistically, she had little to bring, and was leaving herself entirely in Damon’s hands: he was driving, they were coming back to his apartment, he was paying… she needed only her ID, and since she lacked pockets, Damon had it with his own.

She smoothed her dress down a bit nervously, and left the guest room.

Damon was in his usual spot at his computer, but he spun around when he heard her. Dark eyes swept down her body and back up, appreciatively, and he stood up, holding out a hand to her. Kate crossed the room and slid her hand into his, let him draw her nearer still for a kiss while he ran both hands down her sides.

“You look positively irresistible,” he murmured, with a kiss just in front of her ear, then one on her throat just above the scarf.

Kate felt her breathing quicken, but retorted, “I could say the same, you know.” Brightside black leather jeans, this time, with his Darkside boots, a peasant’s shirt of soft cotton in a dark maroon red, and a black velvet vest open over it. A silver ankh hung from a black velvet choker, and a heavy silver dragon circled one wrist, its jewelled eyes glinting red.

Against one hip, a flat rectangular bag of black velvet rested, just large enough for his phone in its case, his wallet, and his keys; the velvet strap crossed his body to the opposite shoulder. That sort of thing was very common on Darkside, which tended not to have built-in pockets. This one had a rose with a thorny stem embroidered on it in dark shiny red and black and silver.

“Oh, I hope so.” That smile sent a shiver along her spine that ended between her legs, but she had to answer it. “All right, being logical isn’t quite in the spirit of the mood, but probably better now than later.”

“About what?”

“Making sure you understand that tenebran instincts wire sex, dominance, and hunting all into more or less the same thing. Literally. This isn’t something non-tenebrans can always get their heads around. I gather when there are only tenebrans around, generally it’s a constant scramble for social status, based on hunting skills among other things. Those of us who live around other people find ways to cope.”

“Am I supposed to be worried?”

“No, that’s exactly the opposite of what I’m hoping to do, here. I wouldn’t know how to hunt an animal even if I were starving to death, but the instincts are still there, and trying to pretend they aren’t is, well, not a healthy option. So I make sure that absolutely everyone involved consents, knowing what’s going on, and can withdraw consent under any conditions with no ambiguity. Do whatever you like, whatever mood you’re in, whatever feels natural. But if you say stop, that could be teasing or it could be for real, and I can’t promise to tell the difference. So. Red, yellow, green. Say red and no more messing around, absolutely serious. Say yellow if I’m doing or edging towards anything that makes you uncomfortable. And if I check with you, green for all’s well. Okay? That way neither of us has to wonder if we’re mis-reading signals.”

“Red, yellow, green,” she repeated. “Got it.” That made sense, although she did wonder what he expected to happen that it might be necessary. Well, making sure that there was a safety system in place, just in case, struck her as quite consistent with everything she’d seen.

“Good. Because as incredibly tempting as you are, the last thing I want is to ever go past your boundaries.” He half-bowed, and gestured towards the door with a flourish. “After you, milady.”

“Can I ask yet where we’re going?” Kate asked, once they were in the car and on their way.

Damon glanced at her. “I told you, just a nightclub I go to sometimes.”

“You realize I’m going to be in trouble in any non-bothsider social situation, since I’m six years behind?”

“You’ll be fine. I promise. Trust me, okay?”

“I do.”

“Then relax.”

He parked the car in a lot on a quiet back street, and circled around to open her door for her. A low dark building across the street had a sign above heavy-looking double-doors, the word Absinthe in ornate black script with a painted image of an oddly shaped glass with a small amount of deep green liquid inside.

Just inside was a sort of antechamber, with what was probably a coat check in the winter; perched on a stool waited a very young woman, all in black. Kate let her gaze scan quickly upwards: ankle boots, fishnets, short flounced skirt, brocade corset, fingerless gloves, dramatic dark makeup, and wild hair.

Damon paid cover for both of them, and the girl stamped the back of his hand; Kate, bemused, offered her own for the red pentagram. A goth club? She didn’t belong in a goth nightclub!

Damon didn’t let her stop; he caught her hand and drew her past the second door, towards the source of the thumping bass.

“Damon! I….”

Damon pulled her aside, where they couldn’t be hit by the door, and kissed her gently. “Trust me,” he repeated, close to her ear, and raised his head to meet her eyes, one hand smoothing an errant strand of hair back from her face. “Please, Kate.”

Kate swallowed any further protest, though she could think of quite a few, and nodded.

The crowd around them definitely trended towards goth, but as they made their way to the bar, she saw exceptions. Most wore black or dark colours, but not all​—​although she didn’t see anyone in all white.

“Heya, Damon,” the bartender greeted him, a woman in shiny black of some sort, with multiple visible piercings and black-and-blue hair. She nodded to Kate with a smile. “What’ll you have?”

“Ice, for two,” Damon said, and traded a ten dollar bill for two opened bottles. He handed one to Kate, and urged her towards a set of booths, each with a low table in the centre, along the wall farthest from the stage. They settled down in an empty one, and Damon slipped an arm around her shoulders to keep her close; she leaned against him, enjoying the warmth and his scent. He was, very obviously, right at home here, and despite her apprehension, she truly did trust him. She took a tentative sip from the bottle, then a larger swallow.

“That isn’t bad.”

“It’s what I usually get. I’m not all that fond of beer.”

“Neither am I.” She snuggled close, watching the crowd around them​—​at tables, on the dance floor, at the bar. The music was unfamiliar, but the powerful beat resonated through the building and right through her body like an external heartbeat. Damon’s arm tightened around her, and he pressed a kiss to her forehead.

By the time she finished her drink, she was feeling much less uncomfortable; she didn’t even resist much when Damon coaxed her out to the dance floor. Being in the middle of a crowd of people who were, for the most part, energetic and apparently completely uninhibited reminded her painfully of how much time she’d spent lately in the company of only books.

Damon caught her hands and drew her close for another kiss. “Forget everyone else.” She wasn’t quite sure how he managed, in one move, to be against her back with her arms crossed and pinned against her body; he nipped gently at the side of her throat, his breath warm on her skin, and purred in her ear, “Dance with me, angel.”

Kate felt herself moan, almost inaudibly, as the speed of her heart jumped, and something inside tightened with a surge of heat and wetness. How did he keep doing that to her, anyway? And did he know he was, and was it deliberate?

He kissed her throat and said, “That’s better,” with more than a hint of laughter in his voice.

Well, that answered part of her question…

Whatever her mind might be thinking, her body was aware only of Damon right now, and how good it felt to move with him once he released her, how much she wanted him and how much she wanted him to know that and how much she hoped it went both ways. Every time self-consciousness crept in, all it took was a touch or a look or a kiss to stir that longing again, and drive any thought of anyone else away. Once, a man in black pants with countless straps and black-and-red striped fingerless gloves past his elbows edged towards them, angling to get close to Kate; Damon moved between and gave the interloper a distinctly savage warning look that sent him ducking away behind other dancers and out of sight.

“Possessive, aren’t you,” Kate teased, pressing against Damon, moving with him.

“You… are… mine,” Damon growled. In the dance floor lights, his eyes were very dark, and the shadows gave him a feral look.

Kate just smiled flirtatiously, and slowly unwound the red scarf, baring her neck a little at a time. Damon watched, captivated, his tongue sweeping along his lips repeatedly.

All it would take was for her to object, to show any true unwillingness or fear, and the predator would be back on its leash; she had no doubt about that, and it made her more daring than she might otherwise have been.

Playfully, she toyed with the scarf while she danced, twining it around her wrists and lower arms, red coils like streaks of blood across her skin.

Damon moved, fast as a striking snake, one hand flashing out to seize the scarf and twist it so she couldn’t free her hands. Kate squeaked in surprise as he pulled her roughly against him, in much the same position he’d had her in earlier. She squirmed halfheartedly but when he let her go, the scarf was tied and her wrists were bound with no more than eight inches between them. She tugged at it, found it secure; she could maybe have untied the knots, but probably not easily. She looked up, into his eyes, sure that her own were wide and startled; he only smiled, and used her bound hands to bring her close for a long hungry kiss, his free hand curved around the back of her neck to hold her still.

Kate closed her eyes, trembling​—​right then, she wouldn’t have stopped him no matter what he chose to do, not with her body howling at her with her own long-buried hunger. She wasn’t the only one breathing fast, either, Damon’s breath on her skin as he wandered along her jaw and down was rapid and shallow, his heart under her hands pounding as much as hers was. Teeth grazed her throat, and she was certain that two of them were longer and sharper than the rest.

Damon took a step backwards; Kate opened her eyes, blinking and confused. Quite visibly, as she watched, Damon forced his own hunting instincts back under his control.

She closed the short gap, laid a hand against his cheek​—​the other hand jerked along with it​—​and said his name, probably too softly for him to hear over the music but he saw it at least.

“Not here, not like this,” he said flatly. “Sit down for a bit? Do you want another drink?” He laid a hand on the scarf, clearly intending to untie it, but Kate moved it out of his reach​—​not entirely sure why, other than a certain pleasure simply in the feel of it and in the small exhibitionism of being tied in public, though no one particularly seemed to notice or care.

“Yes, and whatever you’re having,” she said, letting her hands fall in front of her. Damon kept one arm around her as far as the bar, but it was less dense past there, and she left him to get drinks while she checked to see if their previous seat was still free. As luck would have it, it was; she sat down, bracing her feet against the edge of the low table with her hands in her lap, unable to resist experimenting to see whether it was possible to escape without undoing the knots.

A pale man with long blonde hair, in ruffles and lace and heavy silver jewellery and rather extreme black eyeliner, slid uninvited into the booth with her. “Hi. I haven’t seen you here before.”

“True, you haven’t,” Kate agreed. “You probably don’t want to be here when my friend gets back.”

“What, the vamp wannabe? Here, give me your hands and I’ll untie you.”

“What makes you think I want you to?”

Damon leaned past her to set two glasses on the table, and laid a hand on her shoulder. She couldn’t see his expression when he growled, “Leave,” but something in the tone reached way down deep into ancient human instinct, into the pathetic certainty that a campfire and a few pointy stones tied to sticks were scant help against the hunters out there in the dark, and made it whimper, danger, predator. Whatever the blonde saw, it made him turn even more white under the pale makeup and scramble out of the booth. Damon settled himself beside Kate, one arm around her, and calmly handed her a glass.

“You probably didn’t have to scare him into wetting himself to make him go away,” Kate pointed out mildly, wrapping both hands around her glass and taking a sip while she waited for him to pick up his own, then leaning comfortably against him. Straight cola, the glass turned out to hold.

“Probably,” Damon said. “But I’m currently feeling possessive enough that he’s safer if he’s too scared to come back and challenge me or lay a hand on you.”

Kate glanced up at him mischievously. “Not willing to share your prey?”

“Here and now, not for anything in the world short of you telling me to back off.” He chuckled; she felt it more than heard it. “For real, not the help oh help please don’t wriggling you were doing when I was tying your hands.”

“Well, you don’t expect your prey to just stand there and let itself be captured, do you?”

“Of course not. Where’s the fun in that?”

He sounded extremely rational for a tenebran who had just been only the thickness of her skin from sinking his teeth into her throat and had just terrified a Lestat-wannabe. She could feel both his heartbeat and his breathing, both returning to something like normal, as her own were.

“Do you have any idea how turned on I am right now?”

“It’s in your blood. I can smell it.”

She didn’t need to ask whether it was mutual. “Then why are we still here?”

“Because playing along the edge, in a place where you can’t quite let yourself go over it, has power and pleasure of its own, if you let it. Why rush into anything when you can enjoy the anticipation?”

She had to concede that he had a point.

Eventually, drinks done and both somewhat cooler, they decided to venture back to the dance floor.

“Give me your hands,” Damon said.

“No.”

“I won’t untie it completely, I promise. I just want to give you more freedom to move for dancing.”

She sighed and held out her hands, letting him re-tie the scarf so she had most of its length between her wrists except a twice-wrapped cuff and knot on each side. More freedom, but not complete, she was still going to get reminders of it.

It also turned out to be an easy way for Damon to catch hold of her, by twining the scarf around his hand. Even without physical contact, though, the intense connection linked them, reducing everything else in the world to background.

She didn’t know how long it took, before she finally stopped​—​breathless and sweating, not only from exertion​—​and pushed her escaping hair back from her face. Damon grabbed the scarf and twisted it to shorten it, used it to drag her close so he could kiss her, his other hand sliding up the back of her neck and catching​—​though not pulling​—​a handful of hair; the sudden aggression, his ragged breathing, said clearer than words that he was in much the same state she was. Once he raised his head, she rocked forward on her toes so she could kiss his throat and say, “Home? Please?”

After only a brief pause, he nodded.

The air outside felt shockingly cold, after the warmth within; Kate took a deep breath, letting it cool her enough to take the edge off the fierce heat and let her clear her mind somewhat, although Damon’s hand interlaced with hers was fuel enough to keep it from dying entirely.

Damon unlocked and opened the passenger door for her, then flattened both hands against the top of the car, head bowed between them.

“Damon?”

“Wait.” After what felt like a rather long moment, he let his hands fall and circled the car to his own side. Kate sat down in her seat and closed her door, but watched him worriedly.

He flashed her a smile, and ran a hand gently down the side of her face. “I’m all right. It’s not such a good idea to drive if I can’t keep my attention on what I’m doing. You are entirely too bewitching.”

“Bewitching?” Kate echoed, archly. “Or appetizing?”

That made him laugh. “That too. Try not to distract me into ruining the night with a car accident, hm?”

“Um. I’ll try to be good. You spend a lot of time there.”

“When I’m in the mood to be around people, yes. There’s something absurd as hell about fitting in better with that group of humans the more I let myself act tenebran. Well, mostly humans, there are a few bothsiders that go there, including a full tenebran and another halfbreed. It’s sort of oddly relaxing, though, since I don’t have to be quite so careful to keep control.” He laughed again. “If I snarl at someone, all anyone notices is that I have a better dentist and more money to play with, there’s nothing terribly unusual about the behaviour.”

“And if you decide to bring tonight’s prey, all innocent and wearing white, it’s all part of the game?”

“Of course it is​—​and I wasn’t the only one wanting to take you home. Obviously not much bothers anyone, although if you’d objected to anything and I refused to stop, I can guarantee at least half a dozen people would have stepped in before the bouncers could even get there.”

“So how often have you showed up there with prey, hm?”

He glanced sideways at her. “Never. But then, in the year and a half I’ve been going there, I’ve never had any particular interest in anyone.”

Kate blinked. How had they missed that while talking? “You’ve been by yourself for a year and a half?”

“No, I’ve been alone for something like four years. Maybe five. I got excessively tired of lovers who either had read too many freakin’ vampire romance novels and refused to get past that, or were so anxious they took everything too seriously to have fun and spent all their time second-guessing. Either way, not worth it.”

“I’m neither,” Kate said softly. How could anyone see only his tenebran instincts and nothing else? There was so much more there. Obviously, since otherwise, those instincts would not be so firmly controlled.

Damon closed one hand over hers, lacing his fingers into hers. “I know.” He flashed her a grin. “You know, I really cannot see you reading a romance novel, vampire or otherwise.”

“Once, to win a bet. Never again. I’ll read a lot of things, but there are limits.”

“I’m going to have to get you online to a couple of my favourite erotic story sites. I have a feeling you’d really enjoy some of them.”

“What about Clea’s? She said she writes. She said to ask you about that and the photos.”

“That’s easy. The print versions are in my room. The digital version, with all the pictures, is on my computer.”

Luckily, home wasn’t all that far away, because trying to talk about anything that wouldn’t distract Damon from driving was hard when that was all she could really think about herself.

The elevator gave them time only for a rather wild kiss; it felt like a long way from there to Damon’s apartment. He turned the deadbolt, and pinned her against the closed door for another kiss, wrapping one hand into the red scarf to shorten the distance between her wrists. She was out of breath when he raised his head, though she followed him unresisting to the bedroom.

It was just as well Damon’s bedroom wasn’t far from the door.

She hadn’t been in here before, but right now, her attention was largely on the big old four-poster bed she could see in the dim light cast by streetlights outside. Damon, still holding the scarf around her wrists, was very much in control; she felt the edge of the bed hit the back of her knees, and sat down more suddenly than she meant to, but he only cupped his other hand around the back of her neck, holding her for another kiss​—​at the end of which, she found herself flat on her back. He nipped at her ear, and murmured, “Get up on the bed properly.” He let her go in order to strip off her sandals and then, while she wriggled up onto the bed all the way, pulled off his own boots.

Kate felt her heart start thumping hard and fast when he straddled her, smooth leather against her bare legs where her skirt had bunched up. He leaned down to nuzzle her throat, his weight braced on one hand. His free hand caught the scarf again, and she felt it tug; that hand ran from the hollow of her throat downwards, but she still couldn’t move her hands down below the level of her head. She twisted to look above her, and found that the scarf vanished between the mattress and the headboard and resisted any attempts to pull it free.

“Gotcha,” Damon purred, laughter in his voice. “All mine to play with.”

“Um… what’s my line here again? Oh, right. Help, oh help, whatever shall I do? Oh the horror, I’m completely at your mercy with no one to save me.”

“You’d better believe it, pretty angel.” He slid both hands up her arms, checking the scarf around her wrists. “That’s good, can’t have it tightening and hurting you if you pull too hard on it.”

“Just how hard do you think I’m going to be pulling?”

“We’ll see.” One button at a time, he started at the neck of her dress and worked his way down, slowly baring her white bra. He moved back, still over her, and leaned down to nuzzle between her breasts, his hands stroking her sides; Kate’s breath caught hard, and she squirmed, not really trying to escape while he undid the front clasp of her bra to free her breasts. Gently, his tongue circled one nipple, toying with it, and only after it was tight and firm did his teeth graze over it; all the while, a fingertip, and then a nail, mirrored it on the other nipple. He was clearly in no rush to do anything else now he had her​—​he lingered there, teasing with hands and mouth, until she was writhing for real in a mingling of arousal and frustration.

Kate moaned his name, yanking at the scarf in vain.

“What’s the hurry?” he asked, sitting back to look at her. At least, she assumed he was looking at her, since he could see in this level of light, even though she could make out only vague shapes. “Do you have somewhere else you need to be, or something?”

“You’re an evil tease, and you’re going to drive me crazy!”

“I’ve hardly begun to drive you crazy. Why else do you think I made sure you can’t stop me?” He planted a kiss in the hollow of her throat, the first of a trail of them that led down to where the buttons of her dress were still fastened. He undid more, and took time to stroke and kiss from her lower ribs to her waist, always gentle​—​except for the nails that dug into her skin to hold her when she wriggled too much, and that wasn’t exactly pain; it only added more fuel to the fire, she was certain her panties were absolutely soaked by now after hours of high desire.

More buttons, baring her white panties, but he didn’t stop there, he unfastened all the buttons, right down to the very bottom. Both hands under her dress, parting it, letting it fall to either side.

She protested, more loudly than she meant to, when he moved away and got off the bed.

“I’m still dressed,” he pointed out, though she could see him shrug off the vest and pull off the shirt, leaving both across something at the foot of the bed. “And that’s becoming a tad uncomfortable.” She heard leather, and a moment later he rejoined her on the bed, skin on skin where he was touching her. “Hmm, now, where was I. I was investigating a really wonderful scent, that’s it.” He nudged her legs apart and knelt between them; Kate whimpered softly as light fingertips stroked her through her underwear. “Oh my. I think you’re enjoying yourself, my angel.”

“What was your first clue?” Kate retorted, though she felt distinctly short of breath, those wandering fingers felt so good even though the thin fabric. She tended to keep her pubic hair trimmed close to her skin, and the cloth tickling over it added another level of pleasant sensation. She could just imagine how wet that particular area was.

Damon ran his hands up her outer legs to her hips, down along her inner thighs, then reversed it before he leaned down and, carefully, bit the soft flesh of her mound​—​not enough to hurt, but enough to make Kate whimper again. A little lower, and she felt pressure, still through fabric… teeth, but tongue as well, exploring and teasing while Kate writhed and moaned.

“Okay, I’m not that patient, with that scent that close,” Damon said, and slid her panties off, down over her feet. He slid both arms under her upper legs to steady her, and ran his tongue slowly up between her labia. Kate gasped and shuddered, wrapping both hands around the scarf; Damon chuckled. “Mm, I knew you’d taste wonderful. I wonder just how worked up I can get you, so you stay nice and wet…”

“Don’t you dare!”

He laughed, and licked at the opening of her vagina, circling it and pressing against it until Kate was whimpering and yanking at the scarf again. She felt his mouth move upwards, exploring, and moaned deep in her throat when he found her clit. His tongue flicked across it lightly, drawing a higher-pitched sound from her, and she dug her heels into the bed, trying to get closer and get more stimulation.

“Kate?” He waited a moment, then repeated her name; Kate made some kind of affirmative noise. “Everyone is different. You need to let me know what works and what doesn’t. No right or wrong, just whatever feels good. Or not. Okay? Hot and cold, if you can’t concentrate on anything else.”

“Mmkay.”

She was sure he wasn’t going only on what she said, that he was using her reactions and for all she knew her scent and other things to judge; squirming and moaning in pleasure that felt too strong to be real, she had enough presence of mind to suspect that he was experimenting, mapping out her responses in some way of his own. Not that it mattered. She could have told him to let her go, and knew he would, but it would completely spoil the moment; besides, she’d be lying to herself if she tried to deny that being bound and giving up control to Damon was adding considerably to her arousal. Given that, about all she could do was try to give him the answers he was looking for, and get lost in the feeling, and wonder a bit at her own uncommonly vocal reactions.

Wait, there was something wrong with this… oh, right.

“I might not actually climax no matter what,” she panted. “I generally don’t. Except by myself.”

“Then whoever you’ve been with wasn’t paying attention to what reaches right down deep and gets you truly turned on, instead of what they thought you should like.” Fingers stroked her thigh and her sex, while Damon went back to licking​—​and he found the right place, he’d definitely been listening, and close enough to the right pressure and speed, and she was so desperately overstimulated in mind and body both, and then she felt those teasing fingers tracing circles around the opening of her vagina, pressing inside without the rhythm ever changing…

Every muscle tightened all at once, her breath catching hard as even her diaphragm muscles clenched; pleasure surged along every nerve from an epicenter between her legs, she felt her back arch as her nails dug into her own palms around the scarf, and thought she made a breathless sound that was somewhere between a moan and a gasp.

Damon slowly withdrew his fingers, then raised his head and sat up; Kate went limp, panting for breath, still quivering with the intensity, feeling pelvic muscles pulsing in a gradually slowing rhythm.

Damon shifted position so he could stretch out beside her, still licking his fingers meticulously clean. “Like that,” he said in satisfaction. When he kissed her, she tasted herself on his lips.

Unlike playing by herself, orgasm didn’t make her lose interest in anything further; she only wanted more, more contact, more of Damon’s touch, a way to make Damon feel even half so good, though she doubted she’d orgasm again. One was miracle enough.

“Want… want you, in me, now.” She tried to reach for him, came up short against the scarf.

Damon stroked between her legs again, probing, testing; she thrust her hips towards his hand, to what extent she could.

She tried to stop him when he shifted position to reach the small table beside the bed. “It’s okay.”

“You’re sure? I don’t think disease is an issue, in either direction, but I’m pretty sure little quarter-tenebrans don’t fit anyone’s plans right now.”

“I’m sure. No chance. I promise.” It would take a Darkside healer’s intervention to undo what she’d asked another healer to do, sealing off the tubes from ovaries to uterus.

Damon settled himself carefully between her legs, and she heard her own sound, a moan trailing into a deep happy sigh, as he eased inside her without difficulty. Normally, she didn’t particularly care for the missionary position, but right now, it got her what she wanted without the necessity of being untied or too much rearranging. With one hand snugged up short against the headboard, she had enough leeway for the other to reach around the back of his neck and pull him down to kiss her. He wasn’t uncommonly large or small; he fit wonderfully inside her, and every time she tightened her muscles around him, her body sent quivers of pleasure through her in response to the feeling of fullness.

“You feel so good,” Damon said softly; she could feel him trembling against her, as he pressed a kiss to the side of her throat.

Kate pulled her feet up enough to get some leverage against the bed, and arched upwards encouragingly. “Good,” she echoed.

He rocked back, withdrawing partially, then forward again, and she heard his breath catch and turn ragged. “I think… I’m just about out of self-control.”

“You don’t need it. Let it go.”

“Might get a bit rough.”

“It’s all right.” She ran her relatively free hand through his hair, feeling sweat and tangles. She couldn’t count how many times tonight, or over the last couple of days, he’d yanked his predatory side back, even while letting it halfway free to play; she had no idea what each time cost him, but it had to be tiring. “Honestly, it is. I do know what I’m saying, and I’m not afraid of you. Let it go.”

It was hard to really comprehend how fast he could be; he pinned her sort-of-free hand to the bed, pulled the other down to trap it in the mirror position, and lowered his head to her throat. His breath, fast and shallow, was hot against her skin, as he nuzzled and nipped​—​sometimes enough to hurt, though not drawing blood. His hips shoved against hers, hard, and she spread her legs as far as she could, knees up and feet braced, so he could get deeper, though each thrust had enough force to halfway knock the breath out of her. A growl so deep she almost couldn’t hear it, only feel it, might have been a warning to prey about any attempt to resist, or to other predators about challenging, but either way, it had a threatening edge to it.

At least in the privacy of her own mind, she had to admit that she was still wildly aroused, and the unleashed aggression was more erotic than frightening. She was, at the moment, absolutely his, absolutely unable to escape, which was enough to get her wet all by itself.

Damon had been as worked up as she had, for just as long; within moments, his thrusts were faster and shorter, the bites at her throat more fierce, and she could feel his nails digging into her arms where he was holding her down. Impulsively, she squirmed and tugged, making a halfhearted effort to get free or at least protect her vulnerable throat; catlike, the more she struggled the more he tightened his grasp on her, and the harder she could feel his heart thumping. She felt her own hunger rising again, heat/wetness between her legs, muscles clenching around him reflexively without any thought on her part, and moaned softly, arching towards him, forgetting she was supposed to be fighting.

With a couple of particularly emphatic thrusts, he growled more loudly; she gasped as those two needle-sharp teeth extended fully and broke the skin, a flash of pain at the same instant she felt him convulse against her as he climaxed. The fleeting discomfort vanished in an entirely new experience, a mingling of localized pressure and pain and pleasure, a far more generalized euphoria, the purely mental awareness and awesome intimacy… which was enough to push her over the edge into a second orgasm, this time with a cry as much of surprise as bliss. Somehow, he knew the same instant she did, and one hand released her arm snake-quick to grab the back of her neck, so even when her body spasmed, she couldn’t jerk away from him.

The worst of the shuddering​—​on both sides​—​subsided after a moment; slowly, the pressure at her throat eased, and the euphoria faded. He licked the spot he’d bitten, then released her, rested his forehead on her shoulder for a couple of heartbeats before letting himself sprawl sideways next to her. One-handed, he unhooked whatever held the scarf to the headboard of the bed so she could adjust herself more comfortably against him, legs tangled, his arms wrapped around her. Half-sobbing and still trembling with the sheer overload, aware of tears on her cheeks, Kate buried her face in his shoulder. There was no way she could find her voice right then to explain, could only hope that he wouldn’t think she was upset, but then, he might have understood: he just cuddled her close, stroking her damp tangled hair reassuringly, with no trace of impatience. Neither spoke, as sweat began to dry on skin and hearts slowed gradually towards a calmer pace.

“Damon?” Kate said finally.

“Hm?”

“I think I’m staying in this area even if I have to get a job in a convenience store or something.”

That made him laugh and hug her tight, then sit up partway so he could undo the knots on the red scarf. “I’m sure we can do better than that. You have a place to live, though.”

“Good. Because I really, really don’t want to leave.”

“I don’t want you to.”

“Except that I have to go to the bathroom.”

He let go, but stole a kiss first; faintly, she could taste not only her own lubrication, but the copper-and-iron tang of blood. “I’ll find us something to drink.”

Being apart felt wrong, right now; Kate finished as quickly as she could in the bathroom and returned to the bedroom.

“Stop or you’ll trip,” Damon said from inside the bedroom; a few seconds later, he added, “Watch your eyes,” and turned on a lamp next to the bed, illuminating the room with a soft blue glow. “Sorry, I’ll start remembering to turn lights on eventually.”

The hazard directly in her path was a comforter piled on the floor, which she assumed was the one that had been on the bed; the closet door was open, and Damon was just flipping another comforter so it spread across the bed.

“We made that much of a mess, did we?”

“Not of anything below the comforter, and it can go in the laundry tomorrow.” He folded the sheet and comforter back, and rearranged the pillows so they could lean against the solid wood headboard. “C’mere, gorgeous.”

Damon had brought a large glass of ice water, but didn’t have much himself; she saw him hold his first sip in his mouth and run his tongue over his teeth before swallowing, maybe cleaning the last traces of blood away. Kate, on the other hand, drank gratefully, and once she was satisfied for the moment, Damon set it on the table.

Inquisitively, she ran her fingers along her throat, found two small wounds, hardly more than from having blood taken. “That’s not over any major vessel,” she observed.

“And you think that’s a mistake? I’d much rather take my time, enjoy the moment, and make absolutely certain you don’t end up with so much as a bruise afterwards.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Besides, the less blood you lose, the less strain it is on your body, so the more I can keep looking for the things that turn you on, down below what anyone says is acceptable and below what you ever tell anyone. Maybe even yourself, but I think you know at least some of them, and you aren’t telling. Bad reactions telling before, maybe? I’ll find them.” He chuckled. “I know you like being tied up.”

Kate felt herself blush a bit​—​he was uncomfortably accurate​—​but tried to shrug it off. “It’s fun being your prey.”

“Uh-huh.” He didn’t sound like he believed her. “Think about it. What made you cry? So. How would you feel about some sleep? It’s been a rather energetic sort of night.”

“Sounds wonderful.”

She dozed off with Damon’s arm over her, loving the feel of him against her​—​but the question lingered. After a lifetime of sporadic and generally unfulfilling sexual contact, what made tonight so very different?

Continued in Brightside 7, which involves chains, Clea’s work, and checking in with Magda. Damon has a new hobby, and Kate is motivated to learn a few very basic computer skills. Damon’s kinky surprise for Kate had to get bumped to Brightside 8 for length reasons, but stay tuned!

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