Interlude: Manira and AmbrusDiscuss
Ambrus was by far not her biggest problem. What this body was doing to her, why she couldn’t access all of her Words, why she felt on the cusp of another Becoming – those were bigger problems. The conversation Professor VanderLinden was going to force on Monday, and how she could get around his far-too-perceptive insistence on the whole truth without becoming foresworn – that was her biggest problem.
But as she stepped into the Hall, Ambrus was the only thing on her mind. She could have released her enchantment at any time, but she wanted to see his face when she did it. She wanted a chance to talk to him; if she could do that, she wouldn’t need an enchantment to hold him. If her non-Working skills hadn’t gone the way of her magic.
She needed him to be at the dance. He’d been scarce since Wednesday, presumably held to his dry-toast mistress’ side, and she needed to see him. She had to release her hold on him; she was going to have a hard enough time dealing with VanderLinden without that still hanging between them. But if she didn’t do it right, she’d loose all chance at him, and that was unacceptable. Maybe if she told him what she was going through…
The thought pulled her up short as she scanned the hall. Tell him? She couldn’t tell him! If she didn’t know how she was going to tell another Daeva, she certainly shouldn’t be trying to tell the half-breed pet of a Grigori anything!
But she wanted him to understand, to see she hadn’t been trying to hurt him!
She shook her head, trying to clear out the insistent voice of a long-dead half-breed girl. She was going to end up foresworn and in trouble with her Mentor, as well as possibly with her Mother, if she didn’t get herself straightened out.
“Right,” she muttered. Oath to Manira be damned, if she didn’t remember who she really was, they were both going to be in trouble. She shook herself, remembered her tail and her horns, and sashayed into the hall, holding herself like a woman proud of herself, like a Daeva on the prowl.
She brushed past a man radiating a delicious combination of lust and guilt over that lust, and stopped to give him a once-over. He smelled, not only of lust/guilt/love, but of Ellehemaei, but he looked human, without even the extra-human perfection of the Grigori. Regine’s mongrels were a weird sort – but so very scrumptious.
“Hello,” she purred, relishing the spike in his guilty embarrassment. Even after all these centuries, men didn’t like to get caught looking. She offered him her hand, palm down. “I’m Manira.”
“Finn,” he coughed, bending politely over her hand. He was too well-groomed, but not bad looking. He’d be fun to play with. “Pleased to meet you. But, ah, I see my girlfriend coming.”
Of course he did. She let the lie stand; her heart wasn’t in the hunt. “Nice to meet you, Finn. I’ll see you around.” There was a way you could say that – purr it really – that made it half a promise and half a threat; she followed the taste of his chagrined need across the hall, watching him flee.
The dance was like a buffet laid out before her, and she could have tasted where she wanted, sating herself without ever dipping deeply enough to be noticed. But the taste was still off, tainted and drained. And the pleasure of the dinner was falling to ash in her mouth. She didn’t want to be feeding from strangers.
She tasted his anxiety from across the room, and followed it like a tether through the crowd to him. There was stress and unhappiness running through the room like blood in the water, but his, his was special.
It spiked when he saw her, too. “Hi,” he said, none of his usual charm in evidence. He was wearing a collar tonight, a torque of metal she’d only seen on him when he was with her. Was Regine trying to make a statement? Was Ambrus?
“Hi,” she answered shyly, all of her poise and determination gone. If he was already this short with her, before she’d untwisted the enchantment, how could she ever hold him, afterwards? “I…”
“Please don’t.” His eyes showed the strain, even if nothing else in him did. “I Belong to her, Manira. I have since before you were born.”
Unlikely. She admired his strength of will, even as she wanted to curse it. How had she failed to notice him fighting her spell before?
She wanted to say something about that, to explain. Instead, she found herself complaining, like a schoolgirl, “But she doesn’t love you like I do.”
“Of course not,” he answered gently. “She’s Grigori, Manira, and loves me like… like a Grigori. And I love her.”
“How can you love her when you Belong to her?”
“How can I love you when you’ve ensorcelled me?”
“You weren’t supposed to know,” she muttered. Somewhere, deep inside her, the voice of rationality screamed in objection, but she ignored it. She turned so only he could see her hands, leaning forward until her forehead almost touched his chin to further obscure her, and worked the untying-gestures that would free him.
As the last knot of her Working came undone, a horrible thought occurred to her. She glanced up at his face, so carefully impartial. “You…?” Her hands fell to her sides.
He nodded slowly, a faint smile crossing his lips, looking sad rather than pleased with himself. “Yes.”
Copyright © 2009-2010 Lyn Thorne-Alder & Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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