Science had changed a lot since she was a girl; Manira, who had never been a brilliant student and had had a minimum of schooling in her previous incarnation, found herself struggling with Biology, the one subject she’d thought she’d do well at. After all, didn’t she know how a human body worked?
Apparently not. She finished up her notes, staring at the page in perplexity. She might have to get a tutor for this. Maybe Joff; he looked like a nice boy, and, cy’Linden or not, he was both gay and Kept and wouldn’t take it the wrong way.
She gathered up her books; she and the little pale-skinned girl Shahin were the only ones left in the classroom. She’d better hurry if she didn’t want to be late for her next class.
In her rush, she nearly collided with the boy entering the classroom, apparently an eager beaver from the next class. He wasn’t in any of her classes, and projected a dark, brooding image that she supposed the real Manira would have found intimidating. From her position of experience, it wasn’t a bad look on him.
“I’m sorry,” she stammered, letting the increasingly-present teenaged-girl in her take over while she studied him. “I didn’t see you.”
She remembered him when he spoke; the void-eyed boy from the arcade, the other day. Phelen. “That’s alright, Manira. How’re you doing today?”
Better now, she found herself thinking. He was looking awfully good today. “Oh,” she exclaimed, mentally kicking her teenaged self for being such a ninny. “I’m okay. How are you?”
“Looking forward to the weekend. Of course, I imagine you’ve got plans, being a Friday night,” he said with just a hint of question.
The suggestion sent a thrill through her, and the cold, logical voice in the back of the little girl’s head hoisted the red flag. This was more than the body’s adolescent infatuation.
She smiled up at the boy, maybe a little too coquettishly, wondering how he was doing it. He didn’t seem the sort to have that kind of power, no, he had the shadows… “Nothing exciting planned,” she admitted. Darn it, he was playing her and her stupid orders wouldn’t let her get around it.
“Really?” He did feign surprise well, at least. A natural-born swindler, and this body would’ve fallen for every word, especially with the feelings she was becoming increasingly certain were being externally induced. “Well, you should come over to my place tonight, then. There’ll be some people there, just a casual thing, nothing fancy.”
And, damn it, the true Manira would have been flattered, and never mind that… yes, it had to be the pretty pale-skinned girl over there, the one with the empty emotions, twisting her mind up… the girl she was pretending to be wouldn’t know that. “I’d love to,” she smiled, not even bothering to try to unWork the Working.
I’d love to do a lot more than that, she caught herself thinking, undressing him with her eyes. The goth girl was good, for being subtle about it and considering her experience.
“Great. Come on over around eight.”
“So, ah, where’s ‘over?’” And was his wingman – girl –going to be there?
“I’m in one of the suites - you know, why don’t I just pick you up to make it easy for you.” His smile was broad, charming, and completely disingenuous. “I’ll come to your room just before that.” And maybe we won’t leave at all. Wouldn’t that be nice.
They weren’t bad thoughts, she had to admit. He had a nice face, even if the shadows were a little creepy. “That sounds wonderful,” her inner teenager gushed. “I’m in Pod One, Room Seven. I’ll see you around…?”
“Seven-something,” he nodded.
Both parts of her were in agreement as she wrinkled her nose at him. “‘Seven-something.’” The giddy oh-gods-he-likes-me made her soften it with a playful smile. “Can’t wait.” Shit, she was in trouble.
This is a bad idea. Manira fiddled with her dress, changed her shoes, and looked around her room for anything remotely out of place. She couldn’t really pick it up any tidier; she’d reorganized three times while waiting for her punishment from Ambrus anyway.
Ambrus. She spent a moment cursing his name, even though she knew it was unfair. She’d panicked and attacked him; considering the angry protective rage that had poured out of Regine, she was lucky she was still alive. But to set her up to get owned by some creepy teenaged boy…
…though, to be fair, Phelen wasn’t all that bad. And he was rather attractive… And there he was, or at least, someone was knocking on her door. She swallowed her nerves, plastered on a smile, straightened her dress again, and opened the door.
There he was, looking, well, not exactly dashing, but handsome enough in a rakish way.
“May I come in?”
Nobody had told Manira-here-and-now about the thresholds. She smiled nervously and stepped out of the way. “Of course, come on in!”
He stepped in, shutting the door behind him. “You look lovely.”
The compliment sent a thrill through her young body; was she still suffering residual effects of the girl’s spell, or was that just him? She smiled prettily, looking down at her just-polished toenails. “Thank you. You look… very handsome yourself.”
“Thanks. We’re a bit early; we’ve got a few minutes to ourselves before we’ll want to head out.”
Or they could just stay in. She blinked at herself, no longer sure where the thoughts were coming from, and turned it into another coquettish blink up at Phelen. “What would you like to do?”
“I’m sure we’ll think of something.” His own intent was unmistakable from the slow smile he turned on her.
Well, this could be fun… and she didn’t have to pretend a shyness with men; there had been Ambrus, after all. And cy’Linden. Her own smile grew. “Could I get you something to drink?”
“That’d be great, yeah.” He shed his trenchcoat, folding it over his arm with practiced ease.
She headed for the kitchenette, putting a little sashay in her step. “Soda, wine, water…?”
“I wouldn’t have pegged you for a wine drinker; what have you got?”
“The Store has a nice selection; it surprised me. A couple nice Rieslings from California and a nice French Merlot?”
“A Riesling, I think. Something sweet to start the night.”
“I’m not sweet enough for you?” she teased, but she grabbed the sweeter of the two Rieslings and two glasses. There were advantages to a school that ignored the legal drinking age, yes there were…
“Well, I wouldn’t know. How sweet are you?” He sat on her bed; perhaps presumptuous, but she lacked sufficient furniture for any other arrangement, really. She poured the wine, wondering if she were throwing herself at him a little too hard.
“I’ve been called bittersweet,” she admitted, far more honestly than she’d intended.
“Bittersweet?” He took a glass, and then a sip, watching her with a lazy smile. “Surely more sweet than bitter.”
“I guess you’d have to taste to find out,” she smiled, sipping her own wine.
“Maybe I will, then.” He shifted closer to her, and she fought the urge to roll her eyes. She’d seen this trite schtick so many times. It was all new to little Manira, though, and for whatever reason, she felt like letting him succeed. If nothing else, he didn’t seem all that bad; there were a lot worse people who could prey on her.
“I might like that,” she admitted, studying him through lowered eyelashes. The eyes were a nice touch; they hid a lot of his expression in their shadows.
At last, he leaned down to kiss her, and if she was perhaps a bit more receptive to it than the little girl might have been, well, he had been working his so-called wiles on her. She was gratified to discover that he was better with his tongue when he wasn’t trying to talk with it; maybe she’d find other uses for it later.
She scooted closer for the second kiss, setting a hand on his shoulder with a show of hesitation. Maybe she needed more wine?
He read her admittedly-intentional signal like a book. Clearly, here was a man accustomed to plying a girl with a few drinks. Still, by local standards, she could do much worse. She smiled back at him as he took her glass and, with a friendly and not-all-that-smarmy smirk, filled it and returned it to her.
“Thank you,” she murmured, as if they both weren’t trying to get her a little bit tipsy. She sipped at the wine, wondering what his next move would be.
“You’re quite welcome. I’d feel bad if I drank all your wine, and it is good. Almost as sweet as you.”
Yowch. He was laying it on a little thick, wasn’t he? But it was nice, after a fashion. She giggled. “You’re the sweet one,” she countered. “You’re being awfully nice.”
“It’s not easy to adjust, the first few weeks. I remember. It’s important to have someone you can trust to help you.”
Oh-hoo. She let herself wear a goofy, hopeful grin. “Yeah? You’d help me? It’s all kind of weird around here, isn’t it?”
“It takes some getting used to,” he agreed. “And you may have noticed the official mentors aren’t all that forthcoming with some of this stuff. A few of the upperclassmen like to take new students under their wing, if they find someone they like.”
Is that what you call it? “And do you like me, then?”
“I really do, Manira. So, do you want to be mine?”
Oh, shit. He moved fast, didn’t he? But even as she thought it, her orders were goading her on. Damn the original Manira for being such a trusting soul! “I’d like that.” She managed to soften her agreement that much, though it was giving her an awful headache.
“Then you’re mine,” he said with a nod and a broad smile.
“Okay,” she giggled. Oh, departed gods, what had she gotten into?
Copyright © 2009-2011 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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