Ctirad had no expectations as he followed Timaios down a very nice hallway. The art here was different, less bland, all of it of the skyline, of the city, but from many different eras. It had feeling, he thought, even if you could see the style evolving over the centuries.
Timaios nodded to a man with shoulders so broad he could probably carry Ctirad across them easily; the man nodded back. “Mr. Kaprinsky . Anything you need, sir?”
“No, thank you, Eddy. Ah. This is Ctirad. He’s with me, and is okay to enter without me as well.”
“Very good, sir.” The look Eddy gave Ctirad appeared to be scanning him, taking in everything from his height to his haircut. “Is this what you normally look like, sir?”
Ctirad did not blush, but only because he had very good control over his Mask. He cleared his throat. “The face, yes. You’ll have to ask Himself here about the rest.”
“The hair will probably be growing out, but the rest of him is as you see it, yes.” Timaios chuckled. “On the ball as usual, I see, Eddy.”
“That’s my job, sir. Go right on through.” He gestured at a door that was past and behind him to the left and the door swung open. “Sirs.”
It was weird, being called sir. Ctirad found his head lifted a little and his back got a little straighter.
“Thank you, Eddy,” Timaios repeated. He led Ctirad through the door; Ctirad was pleased that he didn’t jump when it closed behind them.
They were in another short hallway. “Layers of security,” Timaios murmured. “In theory, someone who isn’t supposed to be here shouldn’t be able to make it into the parking garage, into the elevator, or past Eddy. In theory.”
“Theory’s always a good place to start.” Ctirad matched Timaios’ tone and volume with his answer. “But it’s always good to have redundancies. Some people defy theories.”
“Some people do.” Timaios patted Ctirad’s back. “Through this door.” He pressed his thumb into a pad and murmured a series of words – a couple of them sounded to Ctirad’s ear like Words of magic – to a small speaker in the wall. Another door swung open.
They were standing in a large, wide, lounge-like room with three gatherings of chairs. The windows reached from floor to ceiling. Something about them made Ctirad think that, despite the perfect view, they were far thicker than they looked and offered no view in from the outside.
To the left, Niamh Handerson, Bad-Road, today with another piercing hooking a chain between nose and ear and short-cropped hair dyed fire-engine red, sat speaking with two youngish men that Ctirad didn’t recognize. He swallowed as he realized one of them – who was dressed in a very expensive suit – was wearing a very nice-looking silver collar just under the unbuttoned shirt collar.
On the other side of the room, Sara Florentia was sitting with another woman. This one was very tall, very blonde, and very familiar.
Ctirad swallowed and wished briefly that they’d gotten through all of Timaios’ photos. He wasn’t going to panic. He was not going to panic. He was-
“Oh, it’s Ermenrich’s pretty boy! Come here, pretty thing, and rub my feet, would you?”
Ctirad got one foot forward and then froze. Timaios had his hand on his shoulder, holding him in place – no, pushing him behind him. “Signy. Jae’Xanthus, I’m afraid you are mistaken. This is Ctirad, my boyfriend and bodyguard.”
Signy, who could not have missed seeing Timaios – he was more than a head taller than Ctirad – stood and bowed stiffly. “Timaios. Sir. I didn’t see you there. This pretty young man is – ah – is with you now?”
“He is, yes.” Timaios shifted until his arm was wrapped around Ctirad’s shoulders. With effort, Ctirad made himself relax into the hold. “And as such – as my bodyguard, he certainly has better things to do than rub other people’s feet. And as my boyfriend, well, I’m sure he doesn’t want to go rubbing strange women’s toes.”
Ctirad let a lazy smile cross his face and managed not to laugh. Strange woman’s toes. The look on Signy’s face was worth the momentary panic he’d felt.