Jasper was still laughing. Mélanie was staring at him with something between horror and worry. Had she broken him? Was he going a little mad? Was this what happened right before he finally got angry with her?
“Easy, easy,” Jasper managed through a chuckle. “Oh, my dear, easy. Telling me that you think I’m doing something wrong. Being a little difficult? I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have laughed at you.” He draped his arm around her shoulders and pulled her close to him. “I do apologize. I know you were serious. And I take it seriously — I do! — that you feel strongly enough about this that you’d tell me you thought I was doing something wrong. I know that’s hard for you.” He squeezed her a little more firmly. “It’s just that if that’s what it takes to get you to give me your opinions more often, it’s tempting to go find the nicest little old couple I can find and bilk them out of their life savings.”
“Don’t do that!” Mélanie twisted in his hold to stare at him. “No, don’t — please, I mean —”Continue reading →
The tension in the van was slowly receding. Ezer looked pleased with himself.
“Chitter, good job as always on getting into their systems, and your little bugs are the shit,” he kept on. “Love ‘em. Allayne – you patched Erramun up so fast, I didn’t even get a chance to see the hole. Thanks. And Senga and Erramun, you guys definitely held their attention and kept to your roles the whole time.” He looked back in the mirror at them. “Try not to get so bloody next time, all right? It makes me techy.”
Without a word, Chitter passed him a candy bar. Ezer snorted. “Fine, fine, it makes me bitchy. I don’t know, Chitter, anything out of that security guard?”
“Allayne triggered something, not an alarm, some sort of tertiary back-up. Yes, I know I should have caught it, yes, I feel like an idiot for not catching it, but it was really well hidden. It was – look, here, see?”
Once again, Mélanie was in the wagon, this time back in the front. Once again, she was leaving the House behind. She waved as they left; two of the shutters on the second floor clacked back at her in what she was going to assume was a wave.
The horses seemed to like the trip to town. Their ears were pointed forward and their clip-clopping hooves seemed happy, like they were going someplace they knew and liked.
Jasper caught Mélanie looking more than once. “You can still talk to them if you want,” he encouraged her, the third time he’d smiled at her as she’d turned away blushing. “They like the apples the carter in town feeds them, I think, but I don’t really talk well to them.”
“I can?” She leaned forward happily and muttered a Working, slipping into their contented minds. They liked going this way. This way came with happy places. They was way easy, and the Human was happy when he left here.
She chuckled. “Aw. They like you, I think. They like you being happy.”
The ride back was tense. Nobody spoke a whole lot, except Allayne, murmuring quietly over the wound in Erramun’s back, pulling out the bullet and healing the muscle and sinew and skin. Ezer muttered at traffic, Chitter muttered at her cameras – including the tiny button camera and mic Senga had planted in the desk, including the one Erramun had planted on a pillar, including the clever little skimmer they’d managed to get on the guards’ computer. Erramun was silent as his name.
Senga was steaming with anger and twitching with worry and said nothing at all. She held Erramun’s hand, even though he obviously didn’t need it, and the way that his fingers traced over the back of hers told her that he knew, too, that she needed it.
“There,” Allayne breathed. They were nearly to the garage. “All better. Damn, are you telling me you don’t have a Man of Steel Working in your repertoire?”Continue reading →
“I don’t like people getting in my business. I don’t people assuming things that aren’t true,” Erramun-as-Eddy snarled. Senga sort of wanted to be down, because the tension in the guards’ voices sounded like it was ratcheting up and she couldn’t see their faces.
“We’re not getting in your business. We’re just gonna call a taxi for the girl, okay?”
Guilt washed over Mélanie in waves. She dropped down to her knees from the chair and dropped her head to the floor but none of it helped. She’d yelled at her master. She’d yelled at him, and, and, and she’d made him feel horrible, and he’d apologized, which was not what was supposed to happen, and everything was cockeyed in the world and it was all her fault. “I’m sorry,” she gasped. She felt as like even that was too much speaking, as if she should simply melt into the floor. Would the House let her do that? Would it open up and accept her? And why hadn’t it interfered? “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have—”
“Oh, shit.” Jasper hit the ground next to her. Mélanie tried to curl up more on herself. No, no, he wasn’t supposed to kneel, that was wrong. “Mélanie, please. Ow, hey. Mélanie… look at me.”
“I like this dress.” Senga ran her hands over the fabric and tested the range of movement. “I want to go clubbing in it sometime.”
“Good. Try to keep it in one piece, then.”
Ezer’s voice was clear in her mind, which meant their “comm” system was working. Good. Erramun was next to her, dressed in – well dressed like he’d escorted his girlfriend to clubs against his will and now was trying to handle her when she was a little too drunk and very belligerent.