Upon leading Claire to her quarters, the tiny Spanish beauty turned her back to Claire and lifted her hair away from the laces that held her corset in place “Mind helping me out of this?” Anastasia asked Claire sweetly.
“Pardon?” Claire asked, a bit startled by being immediately asked to undress the other woman only a moment after the door closed behind them.
“You need my measurements don’t you?” Anastasia returned with a small laugh.
“Yes, of course” Claire answered, sure she would be blushing if she still could.
Upon unlacing Anastasia’s gown with slightly shaking fingers, the petite beauty moved to slide it down off of her body, dropping it to the floor carelessly. She then turned back to Claire, wearing only her dressing gown that was so sheer that it left no part of her body to the imagination.
“Think you can manage to make me beautiful?” she asked Claire with another sweet smile.
“I doubt that will be very difficult” Claire managed as Anastasia allowed another flirtatious laugh before moving to a small wooden stand she had already had her servants set out before she had led Claire to the room with her.
Claire took another moment wherein she did have to pull her eyes from the young woman’s overly exposed body. She then forced her feet to follow after her, fumbling to find her measuring tape in the large bag she had brought from her shop that night.
After a few awkwardly silent moments of the contact needed to take those measurements, Claire finally had finished writing them down and sliding the tape back into her bag “So, what style did you have in…” she began, only to have Anastasia reach for her wrist and pull her close again.
“We’ve got three days to figure that out” Anastasia whispered once she had pulled Claire close enough that their faces were nearly touching.
Claire swallowed hard at the newly closed distance between she and the beauty who looked to have been barely twenty when she was embraced almost eighty-five years earlier “Depending on the style you wanted, it may take…”
Again, Claire’s words were cut off by Anastasia moving to cover her lips with her own, pulling Claire even closer to her barely covered body. It took several moments of that kiss, that Claire somehow found herself returning, before she managed to get a grasp on her wits again. Claire then broke it off, while still remaining close enough to feel Anastasia’s breasts pressing against her own.
“Not that I don’t think you’re beautiful” Claire whispered “but there’s something I should try to explain.”
Anastasia simply smiled as she relinquished her hold on Claire, though remained standing close “You really only want to talk about the gown?” she teased.
“That’s not it” Claire looked down slightly as she tried to find any place at all to begin her explanation “it’s obvious that you and your husband seem interested in becoming lovers of mine and Sean’s” she began, though her nervousness was apparent.
“Yes, that would be accurate” Anastasia returned with another small laugh as she stepped down from the stand and gestured for Claire to follow her to a seat on a richly upholstered sofa nearby.
Claire swallowed again as she glanced back at the door before allowing her feet to carry her after the other woman and take the offered seat “but you need to understand that, even though Sean and I have taken other lovers besides each other…I’ve always had difficulty…” she shook her head.
“Difficulty?” Anastasia raised her brow at that as Claire nervously sat “You can’t possibly mean difficulty achieving…that final moment of pleasure. I’ve seen you achieve it onstage with Sean, after all” she told her with a knowing smile.
“No, that’s not what I meant” Claire shook her head; once again sure she would be blushing if she had still been mortal.
“Then what do you have this difficulty with, darling?” Anastasia asked curiously.
“I mean that even though we’ve had other lovers, it’s still always been very difficult for me to trust any lover” she then shook her head at her own inability to explain herself “I mean, any lover who I didn’t already know for sure that I could trust completely” she attempted to clarify.
“And who can anyone trust completely?” was Anastasia’s question “Though I’d think our abilities do make it a bit easier to know who to trust. Don’t they?” she pointed out.
“Well, if the person you’re trying to trust is someone who you can even read” Claire agreed “and that’s not always the case with other Kindred” she added more quietly.
“I’m sure our husbands both can read each of us very easily. They are our sires after all” she added sweetly.
Claire was a little caught by that, as it was honestly true that Daniel and Sean would both be able to easily read either of the two women “maybe that’s why Sean has an easier time trusting others” Claire stated quietly “he is much stronger than me. There’s way less lovers who could even hurt him” she allowed herself to admit quietly.
“So that’s the real problem” Anastasia began though held her smile “you’re really afraid of ever opening yourself up to someone who may be stronger than you, or even your equal” she added pointedly.
Claire swallowed again at having that truth spoken by another “I’m just afraid of being hurt I guess” she admitted as she looked back at where Anastasia raised an eyebrow at that “emotionally I mean” Claire added, remembering what this woman had witnessed being done to her body at the club all those years ago which technically fell into the category of ‘hurting’ Claire. Though Claire had never considered physical pain anywhere near as devastating as the emotional sort she had struggled with for nearly two centuries now.
After another slight pause, Anastasia spoke again “doesn’t Sean fall into the category of stronger than you, though? And you’ve been his lover for nearly two centuries, haven’t you?’
Claire looked down at that “Sean and I have been bound to each other for most of that time though” she admitted.
“I thought you were with him before your embrace” Anastasia reminded.
“Well yes, but…”
“And most of the time, but not all the time?” Anastasia continued.
“We had a few years where we weren’t fully bound to one another, I suppose” Claire admitted.
“So, you have been with a stronger lover who was not always bound to you. And he has been your most constant lover” she stated pointedly “so maybe your standards are a little more flexible than you think after all” she smiled again.
Claire just allowed a nervous chuckle “Sean is most likely the only exception to my rules” she decided.
“Proving that exceptions can exist” Anastasia returned wryly.
“But it’s so rare that that’s why it’s called an exception” Claire insisted, though weakly.
“Then tell me about your other lovers” Anastasia stated plainly as she leaned attentively closer.
“My other lovers?” Claire repeated, mainly out of further nervousness.
“Yes, tell me about all these paragons of trust that you’ve allowed…in” she finished, placing an extra bit of sultriness behind her last word.
“You really want to hear a list of my lovers?” she looked at her with a wary smile.
“It may help you figure out where exactly your line is” Anastasia offered gently.
“The line that you will or will not cross” Anastasia told her plainly as she squeezed Claire’s hand reassuringly.
Claire just shook her head, but decided that maybe it would be worth it to figure out why her trust issues were so much more prevalent than Sean’s, at least when it came to physical intimacy “well the first was Sean, obviously” Claire began.
“Yes, I think I knew that one” Anastasia allowed another gentle laugh “and that was back when you were mortal, and a virgin, and you made that final surrender to trusting him” she pointed out “that seems to have worked out” she couldn’t help adding.
“Like I said, the exception” Claire reminded her with another slight smile before continuing “and the second was actually” a slight pause “Sean’s half-sister, Chantarell” she stated, though quietly.
Anastasia’s eyes lit up more than a bit at that “and she was mortal then?” she had to ask.
“Technically she was a ghoul” Claire informed.
“And she was bound to you?”
“No, she was actually bound to Sean’s sire” Claire admitted quietly.
“So, she wasn’t bound to you, but you still trusted her. Is that what you just confirmed?” Anastasia returned with a teasing grin.
“I knew her even before Sean. She was my best friend” Claire defended, though weakly.
“And not bound to you” Anastasia repeated with another smile “seems we’ve found another exception” Claire just shook her head, unable to offer any argument just then. Anastasia then continued with another small giggle “next?”
Claire just allowed another nervous scoff “that would have been my very first servant, or ghoul, Ash, who was bound to me” Claire stressed.
“So, two unbound, one bound? Continue, please” Anastasia encouraged with a slight smirk.
“I suppose after that was Aidan, back when he was still mortal” Claire quickly added.
“And was he bound to you?”
“Not at first, no” Claire admitted as she looked down again.
“So I guess we’ll put him in both columns” Anastasia teased “So if we put he and Sean each in both columns, just to be fair; that means we have four lovers so far, and only one of which was bound to you before ever becoming your lover. Continue please” she teased.
Claire just shook her head and bit her lip “After that I guess would be James.”
“King James II?” Anastasia couldn’t help clarifying.
Claire just looked down with another smile “Technically, he wasn’t king when we became his lovers” she then quickly added “but he was bound to me before I ever let him make love to me.”
“So, only three out of five unbound then?” Anastasia smirked “Next?”
That was when Claire paused a moment in thought “I think that was the last one.”
“You’re not sure?” Anastasia smiled in surprise.
“Well, there was about ten years I can’t recall quite that easily” Claire admitted shamefully, her voice dropping lower “Avan and I may have been lovers, and he probably wasn’t bound to me. But I honestly can’t remember” she added, her voice breaking slightly.
“I have a feeling I’m missing a vital chapter to your story” Anastasia stated softly as she moved to place a gentle hand over Claire’s shoulder in response to the older woman’s obvious upset.
“Well Aidan doesn’t even really know about that chapter. If you really wanted to know what happened during those ten years of my life, you’d probably have to ask Sean, honestly” she stated as she bit back more emotion “and I somehow doubt he’d really want to talk about it either. It was…not a good time” she finished in a whisper.
When Sean and Claire arrived back at their own modest home above Claire’s shop late that night, Claire was finally the one to break the silence after they stepped back through their own door “so that was an odd visit” she attempted as Sean simply smiled down at her as he hung up her bag of sewing materials for her.
“Interesting at least” he smiled at her as the clock struck three.
“Interesting?” Claire repeated as they slowly moved to the sofa together.
“Well definitely not boring” he smiled again as the two took their seats.
Claire sighed slightly in thought “so we’re going to do the music and the gown for the ball they’re having this week?”
“I thought that’s what we agreed to” Sean confirmed.
“Even with the… other reasons they had for wanting to meet us?” Claire dared as she looked back at him, wishing again that she could read Sean as easily as he could read her.
“Well, with our particular magnetism, we can’t really hold it against others who may have an attraction to us, can we?” Sean smiled slightly, then added “and I don’t recall us giving them an official answer on those suggestions yet, anyway” Sean smiled down at her again as he placed a kiss over her black locks.
“Do you actually want to take them up on those suggestions?” Claire asked him plainly.
“I think we definitely have quite a bit in common with them; and I saw no malice in either of their auras” Sean began, then quickly added “but of course, I would only agree to anything like that if it were something you were comfortable with as well, of course” he assured her.
“But you would?” she repeated.
“Again, only if…”
Though Claire interrupted his assertion “do you think I’m being silly, or paranoid, or hypocritical, or all of the above?” she asked sadly.
“I don’t recall ever saying any of those things. Did Anastasia?” Sean returned worriedly.
“No” Claire sighed again “she just pointed out that I haven’t quite lived up to the standards I espouse at all times” she admitted with a look down.
“Again, I can only tell you what I’ve seen in their auras and…” he stopped himself from mentioning their thoughts, as he knew how adamantly opposed Claire had been to him ever training his mind to do that “and it’s really up to you how far you’d be willing to trust them when it comes to getting that close to us” Sean assured again.
“So, I’m outnumbered” she stated softly.
“I’d say that if you’re not comfortable becoming that close to them, it would be a tie. Remember, yours is the side I always pick. Just ask Haven and Awsha” he reminded her softly. Though his words still did not do all that much to comfort all of Claire’s self-doubt at that point.