Interlude: Ambrus and ManiraDiscuss
“Go with it,” Reid had said. “Don’t fight her anymore, it’s just making you sick. So until we can figure out how she’s this powerful this young – and if she knows if she’s doing it or not – just go with the flow.”
He’d tried to protest that Regine would object; Reid had ridden over his objections with a surprising amount of strength. “When has she ever complained about you taking pretty young things to bed? Isn’t that what she bought you for?”
Ambrus liked the way he managed to say “bought” like it meant “hired;” even when he called Ambrus “kid” or “son” he still treated him like a human being, like a colleague. No-one else quite managed that.
“And if she has an issue,” Reid had continued, “let me handle her. Let me handle all of them – you focus on yourself and your 4-H girl.”
So he took her to dinner as he’d offered, a candle-lit meal at the small café up in the Village, and enjoyed her wide-eyed awe at the “magic” doorway and the “adorable” tiny village, and enjoyed even more the sensual way in which she ate, as if she was making love with every bite.
He made small talk as they ate, dodging questions about himself adroitly and gently trying to draw her out. The glass of sweet red wine had been intended to relax her, but she was far more relaxed already than he’d been expecting, and in the dance of keeping the conversation where he wanted it – light, fluffy, and not in any way revealing – he’d drank more of it than he’d intended, himself. As he talked, and as they drank, he wound the tendrils of his power through her, feeling her nascent hunger, young and bright, and encouraging it.
The wine was fortified, sweet, and rich, and it burned through Manira’s veins, waking her, kindling from mere sparks into a roaring fire the hunger that defined her, Named her. She struggled to keep her arousal under control, but the food was so rich and delicious, and the man sitting across the table from her, refusing to be known, refusing to give in to her power, refusing to lay down and let her devour him.
Down girl. She licked the tines of her fork slowly, letting the sharp points poke into her tongue a little, using the pain to focus. She had a role to play. She needed to play it properly, and entirely. She needed to play it believably.
She needed to take this man, right here, and tie him to a bed and fuck him into next week. She needed to get laid. It had been decades, and her patience was wearing thin, and this lovely halfbreed in front of her was licking his lips in the most tantalizing, tempting manner.
She took another long sip of her port. How could she do this? He’d been such the gentleman, gentle, considerate, and never daring to do more than kiss her, even when they were alone, even when she was dialing up her charm – both mundane and supernatural – to a point that should have even Daeva on their knees. And even today, as he wined and dined her while pouring on his own not-inconsiderable charm, he was chatting casually while he ought to be squirming in his seat, unable to think of anything besides fucking her.
And instead, here she was…
…barely able to focus on him as he spoke. Ambrus allowed himself a little smile. The minx was good, but this was an area in which he’d had motivation to learn to shine. He finished his glass, noted that she’d finished her dinner and was down to licking the fork, and stood, smoothly if abruptly, and offered her his hand.
“It’s a lovely little village,” he offered. The combination of curiosity and frustration running through her was interesting; if she hadn’t been messing with his mind for weeks now, he might try to soothe it. Instead, feeling a little sadistic, he looked for ways to fuel both emotions.
“It was designed, of course,” he said blithely, as he led her out to Main Street as if he couldn’t tell that she’d rather explore the rooms upstairs. “I’m told there was nothing here but cornfield when they built this place.” Keep it vague. He didn’t want to think about his mistress too much tonight. He didn’t want Manira thinking about her at all.
“So they built the whole place from the ground up?” She knew how to pick up a conversational cue, but it seemed this actually interested her as well. “It seems so genuine.”
“Well, all the buildings are real.” He smiled at her, squeezing her hand a little bit. “I understand the town center was modeled after a few different towns across the country.”
“To make it feel more homey?”
“I suppose so.” It had always felt too remote, too quiet, to be homey to him, but she had grown up far more rural than he had.
“It’s kind of adorable, isn’t it?”
He chuckled, the sound one he’d borrowed from Luke, earthy and masculine. “It’s not the only…
“…adorable thing here.”
It was a cheesy line, and adorable wasn’t what she wanted him to think of her. Children were adorable, and kittens, and baby ducks. But he was trying to charm her, so she rewarded him with a blush and a smile a notch above shy and a notch below coy. “You’re sweet.” So there. If I’m adorable, you can be sweet.
He seemed un-offended, leering genteelly at her. “I’ve been told that I’m sweet,” he agreed. Would you like to find out? hung unspoken in the air but, unasked, she couldn’t answer it.
And he seemed disinclined to follow up; instead, he pointed out interesting landmarks, walking her casually down the uncrowded streets. She was a little interested, despite herself – it seemed quite a lot of work to go to for the pretense of normalcy, here where a green-skinned woman raised no eyebrows as she stepped into the General Store.
“A lot of the people here grew up human, just like the students,” he told her, with an inflection that suggested he hadn’t. “Well, I guess most Ellehemaei grow up in human society.” He kept talking, but he’d dropped back into small talk, his body language and tone saying far more than his words did. His hand, slipping around her waist, suggested a kind of good, clean affection, like a football player and the homecoming queen in some pristine TV 1950’s world. His tattoos, swirling against his white skin, seemed to tell a story of conflict; they couldn’t stay still, crawling up and down his sternum like gremlins. And his eyes suggested hunger, barely restrained by the most amazing force of will she’d ever seen in a half-breed.
They weren’t on Main Street anymore; the storefronts had given way to a park.
He kept the pace casual as he led her through the park. It was safe, of course; in that, Regine has seen no need to imitate a real human town. The flickering gaslights lent a sweet, gentle glow to the path, the perfect romantic walk. There was a place, just behind a stand of well-trimmed boxwood shrubs, where the light was filtered, the grass soft, and no-one could see you from the path. He wouldn’t take her there. Not tonight. Tonight, conniving minx or not, she deserved a real bed.
Her curiosity was growing; so was her need. It battered against his defenses, wave after wave striking against bulwarks that, until he’d met her, he thought were indestructible. He wasn’t going to be able to resist forever. If he had an outlet for this need, maybe, that wasn’t her, but…
…but what he wanted to do to piano-lessons-and-4H-Manira was more animal than anything he’d ever wanted, more wild and unplanned, uncontrolled than anything he’d been allowed to do, allowed to be. And there was no-one else in the whole world with whom he could just let go.
She made a soft noise, possibly a question, and he realized he’d sped up while his thoughts wandered. He paused at the edge of the park, letting loose some of the hunger he was feeling, sending it washing back over her. Her eyes widened, and she licked her lips lightly.
“I have a cottage out here,” he told her, noticing that his voice sounded deeper than it normally did, a rumbled catch in it that startled him and seemed to intrigue her. “I don’t stay there very often… but it’s open.” He gestured across the street, where the light burned faintly inside of his cottage, and then glanced back to her face.
A cottage. She licked her lips again, tasting his need and the deep, rich, cinnamon hunger that trickled from him, taunting her with tiny little tantalizing tidbits of flavor with no substance. She wanted more. She needed more. She could no more have said no to him than she could have told him her real Name.
“I’d love to see your cottage,” she told him, her voice trembling just a little.
“I’ll give you the whole tour,” he promised huskily. The cinnamon oil flavor was overwhelming now; all she could do was nod.
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