"You guys been barhopping?"
"Yup," said Hugh with pride. "You - both of you - could have joined us."
"Fortunately, the night is still young," declared Bastien. He strolled around the living room, arching an appalled eyebrow at the Scrabble board. "When you didn't answer, we decided to come issue an invitation in person."
"We're going to go shoot pool," explained Cody happily. "Over at that place in Belltown. You guys should come along." He gave Seth a conspiratorial grin. "Georgina's a wicked pool player."
"Thetis is good at everything," Seth murmured automatically. I could tell by his body language he wasn't comfortable with a bunch of drunken immortals in the room. I also knew he didn't want to go out.
"Sorry, guys," I told them. "We've already been out. We're staying in."
This earned snide remarks and groans of disapproval.
"Oh come on," begged Hugh, trying to get Aubrey's attention with a cat toy on a string. She didn't fall for it and hissed at him instead. "We always get better service when you go with us."
"Besides," said Bastien nastily. "It doesn't look you're doing anything else exciting. You should be grateful we came along. We're giving you something. Something you couldn't otherwise get."
I remained calm, but I think the others picked up on the sudden tension in the air. "Sorry," I repeated. "We're staying in. You guys can hang out for a little bit, but then I've got to kick you out. We're doing our own thing. "
"I wasn't aware you guys did anything at all," muttered Bastien in a voice only I heard. Maybe the vampires too, with their superhuman hearing.
"You got anything to drink?" asked Peter, gently nudging me toward being a good hostess.
I was still locked in a battle of wills and eye contact with the incubus. "Yeah, I just bought a six-pack of Smirnoff Ice."
"Oh," said Cody. "Score."
He and Hugh raided my refrigerator, passing out bottles of prissy malted beverage to everyone except Seth and me. We abstained. Lounging around, conversation on silly topics soon ensued, although Bastien, Seth, and I did not participate. Seth stayed quiet because he always stayed quiet in such settings. Bastien and I stayed quiet because we were pissed off at each other.
I excused myself for the restroom and found Bastien waiting outside the door for me when I finished.
"Alcohol runs right through you, huh?" I asked, pushing past him.
He blocked my way, backing me up against the wall.
"What the hell's wrong with you?" he demanded in a low voice.
"Nothing. Let me go."
"Bullshit. I left you like a hundred messages. You're avoiding me."
"So? It's my prerogative. Just like that song."
He snorted. "Let me guess. You're having some sort of melodramatic moral crisis over what happened last night. That's so typical of you lately."
"Don't talk to me about last night. You shouldn't have done what you did."
"Is houldn't have? My God, Fleur ,don't act like you're the victim here. Nobody forced you. You more than consented. In fact, I daresay you enjoyed it."
"It was a mistake."
"And so avoiding me is going to fix it? Don't delude yourself. It wasn't a mistake. It was good for you. I helped you. I gave you something you would have never gotten otherwise. You'll remember it for the rest of your life."
"Gee," I said, dripping sarcasm. "How kind of you. Because that's really all there was to it, wasn't there? You only did it to help me. Nothing more. You certainly didn't do it just because you could. Because I was 'beautiful and I was wonderful and you wanted me.' "
"Listen to me - "
"No. You listen to me. If I want to avoid you, let me avoid you. Don't show up at my house drunk and try to force your way into a dialogue. It makes you more of an ass**le than you'd be otherwise. I don't want to talk to you. Not anytime soon. Maybe not ever."
"Forever's a long time." He leaned closer, one hand on my arm. "Don't you think you're overreacting to one f**k? Besides, you can't cut me off. You've got to help me with Dana."
"No," I declared icily. "I do not. You're on your own with that. And if you get sent to Guam, then it's your own f**king fault. Maybe it'll give you some time to think about your relations with women outside of business."
"Damn it - "
We both turned and saw Seth standing in the hallway. Bastien and I were close - too close - but not romantically close. Anyone with half a brain could tell we were locked in a dispute. Our postures radiated it, as did our expressions. The grip Bastien held on my arm was not friendly.
"Are you okay?" Seth asked carefully. His words came out low and measured, but I saw something unfamiliar in his expression. Not anger, but something else kindling in his eyes. He had told me once he chose his battles carefully, and I wondered then what he would do if he thought the incubus was a real threat to me.
"We're fine," I said. I broke from Bastien's grasp, and he didn't fight it.
"Yes," he agreed with a cold smile. "We're fine."
He walked past me but stopped when he was even with Seth.
"You should be flattered," Bastien told him. "Most women invoke God during sex, but Fleur yells your name. One would have thought you were a deity, considering how many times she paid homage to you last night."
He continued on to the living room, and I didn't even stick around to see Seth's reaction. I stormed after Bastien.
"Get out," I told him. I looked over at the other immortals. "All of you, get out now."
Peter, Cody, and Hugh stared at me in astonishment. I'd kicked them out a number of times, but none of them had ever heard me use this voice on them. Consequently, they heeded it. They scrambled out the door in under a minute, Bastien shooting me a dark glance as he left.
When they were gone, I took a deep breath and turned to Seth. Anger and despair boiled inside of me.
"Let me guess. You want to know what he meant."
His face was unreadable. "Honestly, I don't know." He suddenly sounded tired. "I don't know if I want to."
"Yeah, well, I'll tell you anyway."
The words tore at me while coming out, but I really didn't want to hold onto the secret anymore. Not only because Bastien had given it away but also because I knew I wasn't going to be able to stand having it fester inside of me. It hurt too much. Talking to the incubus had made me realize that.
So while I didn't mention the pictures, I told Seth everything else. Everything.
When I finished, he didn't say anything. He stared at some nonexistent spot in the air, face blank once more. After a couple of minutes of aching silence, he finally turned back to me.
"So. How was I?"
"That's not funny," I said.
"Seems like a reasonable question."
I looked at him and then wrapped my arms around myself. "Is that all you're going to say?"
"I...I don't really know what else to say."
"This is the part where you yell at me."
His eyebrows rose. "Oh, I see. I didn't know this was already scripted out. "
"That's not what...look. I slept with someone else. And not just slept. I didn't have to do it...not the way I have to with humans. You get that, right?"
"Yes," he said, still dead calm.
"And I wasn't drunk or anything. Tipsy maybe, but still in control of my senses."
"So aren't you mad?"
"Stunned is the dominant emotion at the moment. Finding out someone impersonated you is almost more troubling than the sex part."
"He didn't impersonate you, perse...I mean, I knew it was him."
"I know. But it's still weird."
When he fell silent again, I could only stare with incredulity. He caught my look and retuned it.
"What do you want?" This time he did sound annoyed, almost angry. "Do you want me to be mad? Will that like...punish you or something? Is that what you want?"
I said nothing and realized that was exactly what I wanted. I had read a book once where a guy accidentally killed a girl while driving drunk. His powerful family had managed to keep him out of jail, and he'd hated it. He'd wanted the cleansing catharsis of real punishment, of paying for his crimes. Right now, I needed the same thing.