First: Purchased: Negotiation
Sylviane patted Leander’s shoulder and smiled brightly at him. He hoped he didn’t look as nervous as she was acting like he did. “We’re going. I’m driving, if that’s fine with you.”
“Yeah, that’s fine. I’m gonna need practice to be back into driving again – I mean.” He blinked and shut up, staring at her, waiting for the anger.
She snaked an arm around his waist and hip-bumped him. “Hey. I asked if you minded. If it was fine with you.”
“I -” He looked down at her. “Yeah. Yes, you did, ma’am.”
“Leander, you’re going to have to relax a little bit if you’re going to pretend to be my boyfriend.” She squeezed him gently. “I am not going to punish you for having opinions. Ever. Ever. Okay? Nor am I going to try to get you punished or acting like a person, or for wanting something, or for knowing what your abilities are, or for filling the role you’ve been given – any of the three, four of them.”
“Four?” He furrowed his brow.
“My father’s Kept.” She held up one finger on her free hand.
“My bodyguard.” Second finger.
“My pretend boyfriend.” Third finger.
“And my constant companion, which is enough of a pain in the ass I’m counting it as a separate thing.” Last finger. “So. You’ve got a lot going on, I get that, and Iam not going to get mad at you for doing any of those things that we’ve lumped on you. Nor am I going to punish you — i mean, okay, not my job, not something I can do, but I’m not going to try to get my Dad to punish you — for any of that.”
“Then for what?” he asked, before he could stop himself. “I mean, obviously, you know it’s an option. A potential.”
She put her hand over her face. Leander took a cautious step back, kicking himself. That was stupid.
He was half certain she was going to say for being a pain in the ass and asking stupid questions and then, at least, he’d finally know where her line was and what she’d do to get him in trouble.
But she huffed quietly instead. “Thirteen Departed Gods alone know. I might get mad at you about a perceived nothing, about something really small, but that’s, uh, that’s not the same as trying to get you punished. Only thing I can think of for the latter is, uh, either getting me into a situation where I did get hurt, or, far more likely, getting yourself hurt unnecessarily.”
“More likely?” He couldn’t help challenging that one. “I’m not an idiot.”
“No. But — hrrm, if it’s not more likely, I apologize, but I find it more believable that you’d get yourself hurt than that you’d let me get hurt.”
“When you put it like that…” he huffed quietly. “You’d try to get me punished for that?”
“Maybe. I don’t know. I don’t want you getting hurt—” she gestured vaguely. “Hopefully, the reasonable happens and it never ever comes up.”
“That — that would make a boring life for me, but in a good way.” Leander worked his way around that one slowly. “Take classes, follow you around, then — follow you around what you did after that? What’s it called, grad school?”
She chuckled. “And then whatever’s after that. I mean, at a certain point I would probably point out to my father that keeping you Kept was cruel and unusual, but — we’ll see. Let’s get through the first day of classes, first.”
Leander thought back to what Mr. MacDiarmad had said that first day. There is a storm coming. I am going to buy you to protect my daughter from its ravages…. the good seers all agree that some sort of shitstorm is coming. I’m not going to survive it. I want my daughter safe no matter what.
He had a feeling that he was not going to get to the point where Sylviane tried to get her father to free him. He had a feeling whatever was coming — well, he probably would end up getting hurt protecting her at some point.
But right now, all he had to do was survive college.