“Cool.” Sylviane slid down to the ground and landed, knees bent, before hopping up to grab the bar right in front of him. “You’re kind of fun.”
“I’m – I’m glad.” He was fun? Well, he looked at her thoughtfully. “Do I get to pretend to be drunk? That’s almost as fun as being drunk.”
She snorted, pleased. “As long as you don’t mind me slapping you if you get too carried away with the whole thing.”
“Heck, I might even like it.” Wait, what was he saying? Well, it was too late to take it back now.
“Oh, really?” She raised her eyebrows at him. “I think you’re going to be fun.”
“You said I already was fun.”
“Well, there’s fun, and then there’s fun.” She dropped down to the ground again. “Is this really what you want to do with your hour – no, sorry, I shouldn’t have asked that. You can do whatever you want, that’s the point.”
“Well, I think it’s a bit early to try out the slapping and other such things with you,” he joked, although part of his brain was definitely thinking about it. “But uh. Yeah. Fresh air. No chains. Just sort of… wandering. No purpose, the only orders I really have to worry about are keeping you in line of sight. This is, well. It’s nice.” He pulled himself up again and then dropped down to the ground near her. “I can’t remember the last time I really felt like this.”
“How did you- no, forget I asked that.”
Leander flinched, then realized, again, that it wasn’t an order, nothing more than a casual figure of speech. “Forgotten.” He gestured to the other side of the playground. “What’s over there?”
“Two more blocks like this, but if you go left, you end up in some sketchy places. Abandoned stores, that sort of thing.”
“Lovely. Some other time,” he decided. “I don’t want to have to bodyguard you my first day. Seems like a bad start.”
She snorted. “Once again, I can hold my own, you know. Whatever my father things, I’m not a helpless shrinking violet.”
“Look. I… Believe you. More or less. But I haven’t seen you fight, I haven’t seen you battle, my Working is still all sideways from – well. It’s all sideways. And I – uh. Look, you can think whatever you want of me for this, but it’s my first time stretching my legs like this in a long time. Would you want to risk pissing your father off, if you were me?”
“Okay, okay, you have a point.” She held up her hands. “I won’t push it. And I know. You don’t answer to me, you answer to him. So I won’t hassle you too much – I mean, I’ll try not to hassle you too much, but you might have to remind me once in a while.”
“Um. Thanks?” Leander wasn’t even sure what he was supposed to think about that one, much less say. “I, well.” He cleared his throat. “If you make my job easier, I’ll appreciate it. I really will.”
She patted his shoulder. “I’m beginning to get a feeling what your life was like before my dad… hired you. I mean, a guess, at least. It’s probably not a very good feeling. But uh. You don’t have to worry about me too much. I’m hard to offend, I already agreed to this via an unbreakable promise to my father, and, uh. I like you so far.”
This time Leander remembered not to be braced for the praise-feeling from a magical bond that wasn’t there, so he was a little confused when he found himself smiling dopily and feeling like he was floating on air. “So far,” he admitted, “I like you too. You’re not what I expected.”
“What did you-”
Sylviane tensed. “Oh. Well, here goes our social face being tested.” She smiled suddenly and what looked to Leander to be insincerely, as, from across the playground, someone called out again.
“Sylvie! Is that you?”
“Oh, Ellie! I thought someone was calling my name…” She caught Leander’s hand and squeezed it. He moved just a bit closer to her. “What are you doing over here?”
“Oh, my mother’s new boyfriend lives right over there, and it’s all really boring right now. Campus is a ghost town.” The girl was coming into sight, a willowy blonde with a wide mouth and a slightly nasally voice. “So I came ‘home’ for the weekend, I guess, but now there’s nothing to do here, either. And then I saw you and – hel-lo.” She looked Leander up and down. A predatory smile filled that wide mouth. “Who’s this?”
“Leander, this is Ellie. I was in the dorms with her first year, and we have a lot of classes together.”
“You can just say my friend, you know. He probably doesn’t need my resume. Unless he’s hiring…?”
“Ellie, this is Leander, my boyfriend. He’s going to be checking out the university with me, and he might come and take classes next semester.” She draped her arm around his waist in a clearly possessive manner.
“Where did you find him? Are there more of him?”
Yes, but only if you can afford to pay six figures or more and only if you have enough fae blood to hold an oath. Leander leaned in to Sylviane and said nothing.
“Believe it or not, my father introduced me. Speaking of my father, we’re going to miss dinner if we don’t hurry, Lee.”
“Oh, be a little late, it keeps them on their toes. Besides, you haven’t told me anything. Seriously, I don’t see you for a day and you have a boyfriend?”
“Ellie, if I tell you about them first, they end up being your boyfriends. So, well. I kept this one a secret.” Sylviane rolled her eyes. “Remember George? And Chris?”
“The one with the blue eyes or the one with the abs?”
“Either one! Anyway, this one happens to be my boyfriend, but I’ll ask my dad if he can tell me where to find you another one, if that’s what you’re into now. Mail-order boyfriends…?”
“I didn’t say that!” Ellie glared at both of them. “I didn’t even – well, I mean – I just meant he’s kind of good-looking.”
“Kind of?” Leander asked, because it seemed like he ought to.
“Very. Very good looking. Does she get cranky with you like this too? Because she will, you know.”
“I didn’t see her getting cranky at all.” Leander smiled. “I’ll ask, and see if there’s another one of me around somewhere. But Sylviane’s right. We need to get back before her father gets fussy.”
“Oh, well.” She thrust out her hand. “Nice to meet you.”
“And nice to meet you as well.” He shook her hand, not really sure what had just happened, and turned to Sylviane. “Shall we?”