Ezer cleared his throat. “How likely is this to interfere with our business?”
“I think,” Senga admitted quietly, “that it’s already doing so. I think that whatever happened with that job the other day, it was probably family-related – my family. I mean, unless you or Allayne have come up with enemies lately that you haven’t told me about.”
“What about Chitter?” Erramun looked between the two of them, ignoring the staff for the moment.
Ezer snorted. “She just makes online enemies. They’d hack the house – one of them made the icemaker spew ice all over the kitchen once – but they don’t generally sink to attempted murder. They think it’s messy and sort of below them, I think.”
It took them another fifteen minutes to calm Chitter down that time, during which the tea and coffee – and Chitter’s soda – arrived. The maid bringing the drinks made things either better or much worse by looking Chitter in the eye and apologizing for being late. “I had to feed the moat creature, you see.”
“Moat creature! Moat Creature! Wait…”
Five minutes later, Senga had managed to convince Chitter that there was no invisible moat and no moat creature. Five minutes after that, with Candavish’s amused help, they’d managed to calm her down.
“Honestly. You could have just told me that you were kidding,” she huffed.
Mélanie caught her breath as the two horses provided the distraction she so badly needed. Bless these beasts. She spat out the Workings she needed as quietly as she had ever managed to speak and as quickly as she’d ever strung words together, the sounds of the two brutes shouting at the horses and the sounds of the jangling harness covering over not one but five Workings.
She leaned against the side of the horse nearer her, hoping that he wouldn’t get annoyed and push her off. Her light-footed Working was starting to fail her. She had to get back into the wagon or be left behind. And her invisibility Working was probably in need of some touching up, too. Continue reading →
It took half an hour to get everyone settled down. When Senga managed to get Candavish and Erramun to stop sizing each other up, got Allayne to stop fussing over the staff’s uniforms, which, it appeared, had a fashion of their own, got Ezer to stop whining and acting like his head was going to explode, and got Chitter to stop looking for trap doors from which the staff could have arrived – all of this while trying to ignore her own pounding heart and the confused twist in her chest – she sat down with a thump in the Casual Lounge.
“I… Okay. Candavish, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Collier, please come sit with us. Could, ah, someone get me some coffee? Coffee, everyone?”
Her crew were looking at her like she’d grown a second head. “Okay, Allayne will have black tea with a hint of mint, if we have it. Ezer drinks his coffee with enough cream and sugar to bring it to beige caramel. I drink mine black with one ice cube. Chitter likes soda; if you don’t have that, she’ll have water. Erramun?”
He looked surprised she was asking his opinion. “Black tea,” he managed.
The poor horses were sad. Mélanie couldn’t really blame them.
She patted the horse on the nose, reassuring it, and it turned back to the road before the two buffoons noticed what it was doing. She had just a moment to time this right. The horse seemed to stumble, tripping on thin air, slowing the wagon down to a near-stop.
Mélanie mentally promised the horse all the apples she could find for it, and sugar cubes, and the best currying of its life, all as she hopped up into the wagon. There was Jasper – drugged, from the looks of it, his eyes open but not tracking – well, not that she could tell if he was tracking her, anyway; she was still invisible – his hands tied behind his back, a heavy canvas gag over his mouth, his feet bound. Continue reading →
Ctirad was almost letting himself relax when Signy bowed her head – just a little, but it was a bow – at him. At him. “I apologize.” She seemed to be thinking about what to say next, but decided on a smile that was unlike the predatory expression he’d seen on her at other times and sat back down.
Ctirad turned to Timaios, hoping his expression successfully conveyed enough what the fuck that his owner understood without relaying that message to the rest of the room.
Timaois pulled Ctirad into a one-armed hug. “Let us go sit and talk with Sara, shall we? There’s some issues I want to bring up with her. And, as it turns out, with Signy. I hadn’t expected her to be in town today. You’ve been out for a while, haven’t you, Jae’Xanthus?”
“Yes, sa’Slingshot, for several months. But I flew in just the day before yesterday.” Something about her demeanor had changed completely. “And since sa’Single-Blossom wanted to talk to me,” she tilted her head at Sara Florentia, “here I am. I didn’t realize that I would be disrupting plans,” she added, sweetly but with an edge to it.
Ctirad was still reeling from the apology, but he sat where Timaios indicated – at his Owner’s feet, which was a very nice place, as long as Signy didn’t want her feet rubbed – and leaned against Timaios’ legs. Continue reading →
It would have been nice to sit there with Erramun for a while — perhaps forever, and certainly at least for a few minutes. Senga knew she was feeling a little raw about the whole mess and she imagined that Erramun was not feeling particularly better. The way he kept on reaching up to touch his neck, the way that he would look sidelong at her as if expecting something — what, she hadn’t figured out yet. Orders? Complaints? — the way he’d reacted when she’d shown him his room…
She couldn’t afford to baby him any more than she could afford to be afraid of him. But still… She waited until he had dropped his hand again and then brushed her fingertips over the marks around his neck. “I think it goes well with you. It looks like you looked the first time I met you—”Continue reading →
Sometimes, Cya thought her power had a sense of humor.
She’d learned how to craft specific Find requests, because, if she wasn’t looking for something or someone specific (“nearest unbroken Bleach DVD;” “Leo”), her power had a bad habit of leading her on wild goose chases.
Like today. Like “nearest cache of intact, unclaimed books in an accessible-by-me location, with at least two times the number of unique, intact books as the hours I drive to get there.”
Almost every one of those clauses, she’d added on after learning the hard way that her power could be painfully literal.
Today… today she was staring down at a 45-degree incline that had once been the floor of this library. From the looks of things, it had been tolerably sheltered from weather – this area wasn’t as cold or as wet as Cloverleaf, but it still did get precipitation – and peering down and over, she was pretty sure she’d be able to get more than the required 16 books out of here.
But first, she had to get down there, gather the books, and get back up.Continue reading →
Mélanie knew, in a sense, that a Kept could tell where, loosely, their Keeper was. That is: they could usually get a sense of “how far away” and “in what direction?”
She herself had used that ability to steal a few minutes of rest when her previous owners had left her alone, but it had never been a very strong connection. Once, in a peaceful moment when they hadn’t been ordered to silence, another Kept – an older one, and one that had worn thin with years of bad Owners – had told her that the stronger the connection between the Keeper and the Kept, the less the Kept fought the bond and the orders, the more that they would be able to tell where their Keeper was.
Jasper had only Owned her for a day and a half. He had been kind to her, yes, friendly and considerate, but that couldn’t had formed that strong of a Bond yet. She closed her eyes and hoped it would be enough.
The trick was to not be thinking of anything except your Keeper. That required not thinking about what had happened to him, or that she was out on her own for the first time in a very long time, or-
She shook herself. Jasper. The crooked smile he got when he talked about his previous Kept. The way he was careful to introduce her to the house. The way that it felt when he gave her an order. The way it felt when he was happy with her, or when he touched her. The way it felt when he’d left for the day. Continue reading →