Senga was sitting between her friends, eating the same pizza they ater every week, soaking up the warmth of people who understood her – at least, who understood everything she had been that didn’t involve this house and –
“… Did Erramun go to talk to the cook in a towel?”
“Yes, yes he did.”
“Well. Do you think I should rescue him?”
“Senga, he’s an assassin, he’s older than you, and he’s a tough man. I’m sure he can take care of-”
“This is the Monmartin family staff, though,” Ezer cut in.
“-you should go rescue him.”
“Who are we rescuing?” Erramun’s voice popped into existence behind Senga’s left ear.
“How long have you been there?” She did not jump, she totally did not jump – his hand landed on her shoulder and she definitely jumped.
“I just came in. I had to go get some pants on.” He cleared his throat.
“…Well, then, I guess I don’t need to rescue you from the cook.”
“No, although it was touch and go for a few minutes there. I appreciate the concern.” His voice had no humor in it. Senga was not going to turn around to see what his face-
He was smirking at her. He was also shirtless. The tattoo stood out starkly against his skin. His muscles were very very obvious.
Senga cleared her throat. “Well.” She’d said that already. “Well.” This was not helping. “Have some pizza with us, mmm? It’s our favorite.”
“Is it?” He glanced at the food, glanced at Senga, glanced at the chairs, glanced at Senga.
She sat down and indicated the chair to her left – Chitter had politely left it open, which put Erramun between the two of them – and then dished three slices of pizza onto her plate and three onto his. “Wings?”
“Sure. Let’s see how this city mangles them. Everyone does, after all.”
She dragged over one of the styrofoam packages just as Mrs. Collier bustled in with – was that- Senga giggled. It was a large bowl full of what had to be homemade bleu cheese dressing, soda in crystal glasses, and an entire stack of napkins. Linen.
“Well.” Senga patted Erramun’s leg. “Negotiated a compromise?”
“Something of the sort. You’re also doing a formal sit-down dinner on Friday, with all of your team. And you will appreciate it – I promised her.”
“You promised her?”
“She was irritated. And it was that or drop my towel, and I, ah.” He cleared his throat.
Senga took a large bite of pizza and tried not to think too hard about that. He looked away and, when she said nothing, took a chicken wing and started eating it.
“So,” Ezer leaned in, breaking the awkward quiet. “We have this new job on the table.”
“And someone killed my great-aunt,” Senga added.
“And someone killed Senga’s great-aunt, whose memory we thank for giving Senga back her familial house and, ah. For blackmailing Erramun here into living with us.” Exer lifted his glass of soda in toast. “May her memory keep us warm.”
They all lifted their glasses in the weirdest toast ever, including Erramun, who looked like he was either going to shout or start laughing.
“May her memory keep us moving,” he murmured, a moment later, and drank form his own glass. Senga considered that and nodded.
“So, Senga, your cover is set. Chitter and Allyne are ready.”
Senga blinked and shifted gears mental. “All right. When do we go in?”
She raised her eyebrows at Ezer. “Not tonight?”
“No, we have a few things we need to move into place. Tomorrow. Around 6 p.m. Is your bodyguard ready?”
“Of course I am.” Erramun’s voice dripped disdain. “Are you?”
“I’m already doing my job, mountain-of-muscle. So far all you’ve done is wander around in not enough clothing and irritate the staff.”
This, this was going to be a problem. “Ezer.” She waited until he was looking at her. “Ezer, I’m ready. Get me the wardrobe and role details after dinner. Dinner is not business time, remember?”
“Right.” Ever bit violently into a piece of pizza. “So, Chitter, what happened with your imaginary boyfriend?”