Leander would have been content to stay quiet when they left Mr. MacDiarmad’s office. Considering the way the last few hours had gone, he might have been content to stay quiet forever.
If he was quiet, he reasoned, he couldn’t put his foot in it any deeper. If he was quiet, he wouldn’t end up with Sylviane dragging him back to her father, and maybe he could avoid her treating him too much like a broken doll.
He was still a little surprised when Sylviane slid her hand into his and squeezed. He looked down at her — she wasn’t all that short, really, it was just somehow that he was still looking down at her — and raised his eyebrows, hoping that, at least, was safe.
Her smile in response didn’t suggest that anything was going to be safe around her. It was wry, if he had to put a word to it, maybe a little amused at herself, and a little apologetic, too, maybe, although how she crammed all of that into a single smile, Leander had no idea. Maybe it was her innate power. He hadn’t figured that one out yet, after all.
“I’ve got two things, “she told him, which left him just about ready to panic, because he had no idea how the hell you answered something like that.
She held up a finger. “Two things I I think we ought to prioritize.”
That, he could handle. He relaxed and waited for her to tell them tell him what they were.
“First, food. Has anyone fed you yet?”
Leander felt an urge to growl and didn’t bother to cover it, because at some point he was going to find the limit on that, and he would rather know sooner rather than later, private rather than public.
This time, she snorted at the growl. “Look, if you’re going to complain about being referred to kind of like a pet—”
Which, he had to admit, was what he’d been growling about
“—then maybe you shouldn’t do it by growling like a wild animal. I mean,” she trailed off, a blush starting to rise to her cheeks. “I mean. Have you eaten or, since we all have eaten at some point, when was the last time you’ve eaten?”
Leander thought about it. “Breakfast,” he decided. It hadn’t been much or appetizing, but they hadn’t been trying to starve him, just keep him… placid. Not that he had a placid setting, but you couldn’t really blame them for trying. Well, no, he could sure as hell blame them for trying. Assholes. He was growling again.
Sophie grinned at him. He didn’t know if that was a good thing, a bad thing, or her laughing at him, which was probably bad.
“Okay, okay.” She held up both of her hands, which meant that his left hand came jerking up with her right. “Okay. If I get you some food, good food, will you promise not to bite my hand off?”
The smile and the little chuckle she ended the question with let Leander start relaxing, and he found himself chuckling back in return.
“Miss,” he nodded his head at her, mostly hiding his smile. “I didn’t think it was your hand you wanted in my mouth. “
She snickered back at him, bounced up onto her toes, and, much to his surprise, brushed a kiss over his cheek.
“Later,” she whispered. “Later, when you’re not too likely to take a bite out of me because you’re hungry.”
For a second, Leander was somewhere else entirely. He closed his eyes, trying to not picture himself fighting, not to see the way he’d, the way he’d –
She squeezed his hand, hard enough that it actually hurt a little. “Hey. HEY!”
He squeezed back, not nearly as hard, and blinked. “Miss.” He stared at her, waiting for an order.
She wrinkled her nose and kissed his other cheek. “You okay?”
He cleared his throat. “Yeah – yeah. Yeah, I’m okay. You were saying something about priorities.”
“I was saying we were going to get food. How do you feel about restaurants?”
Not more feelings, fuck- “I know how to eat with a fork and knife.”
She snorted. “You eat pizza with a fork and a knife, I’m pretty sure they’ll kick you out of the place I have in mind. Not this neighborhood. Not so far we can’t walk, though. Food first, then we talk about school. Or maybe food, sleep, school. I don’t know when you last slept, either.”
“I’m supposed to be taking care of you,” he muttered.
“Nah, you’re supposed to be guarding me. I can take care of you if I want to.”
“Oh, fuck, I’m screwed,” he sighed.
“Yeah, probably,” she admitted, her smile fading a little. She touched his cheek lightly. “But I’ll try to be gentle.”
Leander sputtered through a cough that was more embarrassing than anything else that’d happened to him in this entire ridiculous day. “Miss!”
“Come on,”she offered, taking his hand again. “I’ll try hard not to tease you while we’re out. No promises — but I’ll try.”