Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween, darlins, be safe out there!

Expect more of The Tower on All Saints Day.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Tower: Chapter Five, Part Two

Notes: FINALLY! And even on the day I intended, because my baby is being so good today. *knock on wood* It isn't the longest scene ever, but I hope you enjoy it.

Title: The Tower: Chapter Five, Part Two


Chapter Five, Part Two

It felt cruel—worse, unfair—for their moment to be derailed by something as simple as dinner. For an instant, Anton wondered if it were even worthwhile to pursue this man any further. Clearly God and the universe were determined to deny him. He rolled his eyes at his own melodramatic thoughts, but truly, he couldn’t remember feeling so frustrated so consistently by anything else in his life.

While Anton sat and stewed, Camille went to the door and retrieved their meal from its deliverer with a simple, “Thank you,” before shutting the door once again. It smelled good, hearty and filling, and Anton could almost resign himself to eating rather than enjoying more novel pursuits.

Then Camille set the covered tray aside, reached out to Anton, pulled him from his chair and pressed their mouths together in one swift motion. Anton flailed for a moment, startled, before his body caught up to Camille’s. He threw his arms around the taller man’s neck and leaned into the kiss like it was elemental to his very existence. At that moment, it might have been. No one, there had been no one else since that day on the train—and even before that, no one for a long time. The flame that had been smoldering ever since Anton laid eyes on Camille yesterday roared to an inferno, and he didn’t even realize his hands were fixed so tightly in Camille’s jacket they were close to tearing it until Camille pulled back just enough to breathe and murmured, “It’s all right, I’m not going anywhere.”

“I don’t believe it,” Anton muttered. “In another minute there will be a mysterious murder, or someone will attack us with an enchanted knife, or perhaps the sky will fall. Something will try to prevent me from touching you, and that’s intolerable.” Nevertheless, he let go of Camille long enough for him to unbutton his jacket, while quickly seeing to his own as well. He almost pulled a button off in his haste, but Anton couldn’t find it in himself to give a damn.

“Even if the sky did fall down, I would stay here with you.”

Anton smirked. “So I rank above natural disasters but below murders? That is good information to have.”

“It’s best to be honest with each other at this juncture, isn’t it?” Camille reeled him back in and Anton went, his breath hitching as those long arms wrapped around his waist and pulled him in tight. Tight enough that he could feel Camille’s interest, and God, if that wasn’t enough to set his heartbeat on a tear again. “But if it helps,” Camille said, trailing his lips over Anton’s cheek and down his jaw, “I would insist upon you joining me for a mysterious murder.”

“It-it definitely doesn’t—ah—doesn’t hurt.” Nothing hurt right now—his blood was hot and swift and coursed through his body like lightning, pleasure following in its path. “Can we—can we not—”

“Come here.” Camille sat down in his chair once more and drew Anton down onto his lap, legs straddling his thighs. It was a ridiculous position, not what Anton had had in mind at all, but once he was there he was immediately reluctant to shift again. Camille held him tight like a vise with one arm, the other sliding beneath the waist of his trousers and freeing his shirt. Anton fisted his hands in the lapels of Camille’s waistcoat and pressed back against the touch.

It had been so long. Too long, but every offer of company he had refused, every advance he had ignored in favor of work or solitude or even simply out of caution, it was all worth it to feel this way now, like he was going to shudder free of his own flesh from something as simple as fingertips tracing the knobs of his spine. He couldn’t move, just held on and breathed and tried to keep from flying apart. Camille pressed a kiss to his Adam’s apple, then began unbuttoning his shirt.

“Gorgeous,” he murmured as he slowly exposed more skin. The room wasn’t overly warm, not with its stone walls and lack of a fireplace, but Anton felt deliciously overheated in Camille’s lap. “I wanted to see you like this almost from the moment I met you.”

Anton chuckled, a raw, hungry sound. “You—you were considering killing me the moment you met me.”

“I did say almost.” He rocked Anton forward to kiss his bare chest, bringing their bodies flush together. Anton moaned and thrust down, sliding one hand behind Camille’s neck and using the other on the armrest to provide leverage. The contact tantalized, but it wasn’t enough.

“Let me up and I can undress more fully…” He didn’t want to pull away, but how else were they to continue?

“Mmm, no.” Camille moved his free hand to the front of Anton’s trousers. “No, I like you like this, just debauched enough that I can still picture you all buttoned up, stern and proper.” He undid the fastening, then slid his hand inside. Anton arched helplessly into the touch of his warm palm. “Just open enough to remind me how fortunate I am to get this far.” His fingertips gently grazed Anton’s erection, making him groan with need and frustration. “And just passionate enough that I could never forget who it is I’m with.”

“And desperate enough that I will wreck you if you don’t—” His words choked and stuttered in his throat as Camille gripped him at last, hand warm and tight around his member, and began to stroke. It was dry, but that didn’t matter, Anton wouldn’t last long enough to feel the burn of it. He glanced down once, then shut his eyes, almost overwhelmed by the sight of Camille’s hand gripping him so closely. His mind strained for control, for a bit of distance, but his body had other ideas and rocked in time to Camille’s rhythm.

“This is what you wanted.” The words were a blistering heat against his collarbone, followed by sharp, curiously gentle teeth. “This is what I wanted, to see you like this, to feel you open and wanting, even though you know exactly what I am. You’re brilliant, so brilliant, Anton. Come for me.” The words were part order, part entreaty, and Anton could no more disobey them than he could relinquish his magic. He gasped and let go, soaking the space between them and ruining Camille’s waistcoat without a second thought. Pleasure flared across his mind like a wildfire, burning fast and hot and fading into a sweet, satisfied glow as he caught his breath.

With his breath returned his reason, and Anton looked down, dismayed. “You haven’t—”

“Not yet.” Camille smiled wryly, and perhaps a bit jaggedly himself. “It won’t take much. Just—here.” He pulled Anton down more firmly and thrust up against his groin, hard and firm into the crease of Anton’s legs. Anton moaned, residual pleasure swamping him, and the sound echoed through Camille’s chest a few moments later as he found his own release.

They sat together a while longer, breath gradually slowing and hearts calming. Anton was reluctant to pull away from where he’d draped his head over Camille’s shoulder, afraid of what he’d see in the other man’s face now that the act was done. It would be awkward, there was no denying that, not with his cock laying limp and cool now between them and the smell of sex still lingering pungent in the air. Awkward he could handle, as long as there was no regret. Regret, he didn’t think he could bear.



A gentle hand guided his head back, but before Anton could force his eyes open, his mouth met Camille’s in a gentle kiss. His anxiety melted away, tension he hadn’t even recognized creeping into his shoulders vanishing just as fast as it had arrived. They kissed without the desperation and heat of earlier, but it was just as satisfying in its own way.

When Camille finally pulled back, his expression betrayed nothing but contentedness. “Dinner?”

Anton bit back the urge to break into laughter at such a simple question after what they’d just done together. “Yes, please.”

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Tower: Chapter Five, Part One

Notes: Okay, so don't kill me, I swear the cockblocking won't last. I swear! It's just how this one turned out!!!

Title: The Tower: Chapter Five, Part One


Chapter Five, Part One

One might expect that a lumière, one of the emperor’s cadre of elite investigators, a person imbued with more power and responsibility than any individual other than Napoleon III himself, would be staying at the best hotel in Zürich, not even contemplating anything less than that. One would be wrong. In fact, a little investigating of his own after the incident on the train had led Anton to the conclusion that the real value of a lumière came from his or her irreproachable reputation and devotion to the laws of the empire, and the power of the emperor. Nothing he could find, no news stories, no anecdotes even, could point at a lumière living a life of luxury. They were austere, serious in their dedication to the task at hand and unwilling to deal in petty local politics, which included refusing any signs of grandiosity.

He had wondered, idly, how many of them were like Camille—soulless, or at least unaffected by magic, ritually religious or otherwise. How many of them would have been excommunicated if not for the emperor intervening as he had with Camille, or finding some other lever with which to compel absolute loyalty. Part of him, the scientist in him, wanted to ask, to categorize and fit the group with the appropriate labels in his mind. The rest of him, the larger part, reminded himself not to be rude and to restrain his curiosity. The last thing he wanted to do was to make Camille think he was untrustworthy, digging for information like that.

Perhaps tonight would offer an opportunity to examine the issue further. Or perhaps it would lead them in an entirely different direction. Anton felt his face flush, and was grateful for the masking dark of twilight. He stopped in front of the Limmathof, a modest three-tiered place just a few blocks down from the train station, then squared his shoulders and walked inside.

The front entrance was a bit gloomy, the dark wood swallowing most of the light the lantern over the front desk provided, but the air smelled like hot roast and potatoes, and Anton’s mouth watered a bit despite himself. He stepped over to the desk and met the eye of the young man behind it. “Excuse me, could you tell me where I might find—” He faltered for a moment, unsure of how to introduce the very concept of Camille. Was he incognito? Would asking for the lumière give everything away?

“Ah, you are Herr Seiber?”

“Yes.” Of course Camille had foreseen this.

“Our guest has directed me to send you straight up to his room, number two-oh-four. Your dinner will be up shortly, sir.”

“Thank you.” He turned toward the stairs and headed up, keeping his steps brisk. There was no sense in letting his nerves get the better of him now. He got to Camille’s room, at the very end of the hall, and knocked twice. The door opened, and the warm glow inside cast Camille into a shadowy silhouette in front of Anton, dark and distant. For a moment he was stuck, immobile, before Camille laid a warm hand on his shoulder and broke the illusion.

“Anton.” He squeezed for a moment before letting go. “Please come inside.”

“Thank you,” Anton managed. He followed Camille into the room, tried not to let the quiet snick of the door closing affect his nerves. Alone at last…and Anton had no idea what to do with it, whether it meant anything beyond the business at hand. It was probably better not to presume. He sat where Camille directed him and cleared his throat. “So, you spoke with Doctor Grable?”

“I did.” Camille settled into the high-backed chair across from him and reached for the teapot on the side table, pouring a fresh cup. He handed it over to Anton, then continued. “He’s a rather intimidating man.”

“Yes, he is.” That, at least, they could agree on.

“I’ve met very few thaumaturges with combat abilities before. I wonder to what uses his might be put.”

Anton paused with the cup halfway to his lips. “Are you suggesting…that Doctor Grable might have—”

“Not seriously,” Camille said, but he sounded pensive. “Yet it’s suggestive, isn’t it? The only thaumaturge in a hundred miles that is an acknowledged master at manipulating the magic of others, and in such a position of power and responsibility. The good doctor is a man with many connections, not all of them clear enough for me to make out. I cannot know all of his motivations, and that makes me…questioning.”

He shook his head before Anton could press him on the point. “But his very expertise makes him less likely to be the murderer, because one assumes he could make those deaths look completely accidental, not so deliberately the work of a thaumaturge. Let us move on to the other candidates.” He picked up a sheaf of papers and glanced at the one on top, then handed it over to Anton. “These are his picks for potential killers among your ranks. Tell me your impressions of them.”

Anton set his tea aside unsipped, his attention wholly focused on the names in front of him now. Ten people, nine men and one woman, all students at the university with him. “Not Bella,” he said immediately.

“Why not? Because of her sex?”

“Oh no, that wouldn’t be an impediment for her. But she’s not…she’s…” How did he explain something like this? “She has far more pressing concerns than murdering for the Devoué.”

“Such as?”

“She is in competition to become the court thaumaturge in the canton. Her skills are by far the best, but the rest of the competitors are all men, from well-placed families, so she is working twice as hard for half as much recognition.” Anton pursed his lips. “She wants to become a part of the status quo, not fight against it.”

“An acceptable interpretation. And the others?”

“Hmm.” He scanned the list again. “The five who are underclassmen, I sincerely doubt have it in them for this. They are all powerful, in uniquely different ways, but again, they all come from locally influential families. They have little reason to disrupt their futures.”

“Little reason that you know of. There are few things more opaque than the aristocracy, and motives come from all quarters of the heart and mind.”

“Even if they wanted to work against their own best interests,” Anton persisted, “our younger students are monitored with far more rigor that our graduate students. I sincerely doubt they could have mustered the time away to effect one murder, much less four.”

“We’ll save them for later, if our early investigations don’t bear fruit,” Camille said.

Assuaged, Anton looked at the next name on the list. Lucardo Klein. His eyebrows raised without his permission. “Oh.”

“Oh what?”

“I should have—hmm. I didn’t even consider Lucardo.”

“Why not?”

“Well, he’s also studying forensic thaumaturgy,” Anton explained, feeling a bit on the spot. “But honestly, he’s got a long way to go before he’s ready for work in the field. I—I know because we take certain classes together, having the same specialty. He’s quite powerful, it’s true, but his power isn’t very…subtle.”

“He sounds like he would be better suited to another specialty then.”

“Try telling him that.” Anton hadn’t been brave enough to attempt it after listening to Lucardo eviscerate a professor who tried to steer him in a different direction at the beginning of the term. His vicious outburst led to a suspension and he’d been better behaved ever since, but apart from those times when being in his presence was unavoidable, Anton never sought the man out. The reverse wasn’t quite true; Lucardo knew Anton was further along in his studies and approached him several times for assistance, but with such an air of petulance that it was more of a chore than anything else to deal with him.

“He’s worth looking into,” Anton said. “But knowing what he does about our craft, I would have expected him to be more careful as well.”

“And the last three names?”

Anton looked down at them and burst out laughing. “Gerald Montgomery. Naturally.”

Camille leaned forward a bit. “You know him as well?”

“Not as well as he’d like me to know him, but somewhat.”

Now Camille’s eyebrow rose. “In what way is he interested in you?”

“I’m not entirely sure, but I’d rather not find out.” Anton sighed. “He’s a nobleman, with all the attendant inability to take ‘no’ for an answer. The world must bend to suit his wishes, or he becomes obsessed. I haven’t bent for him yet, and I don’t intend to.” He looked at the next two names. “Percival MacPherson and Harry Beaufort. Likely more aristocracy, of lesser rank if the way they cling to him is any indication.”

“Doctor Grable ranks their abilities highly.”

“He ranks their power highly,” Anton corrected. “The term is scarcely over, he hasn’t yet had ample opportunity to observe their abilities with any certainty. Gerald is powerful, I can attest to that. Possibly more so than any other student at the university, but it is an undirected force. He has great strength of will but little discernment of how to properly harness it.”

“And the other two?”

“I can’t say.” It grated on him, not being able to be of more use. “I should know, but I’ve spent more time evading these gentlemen than evaluating them. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be.” Camille stretched out a hand and Anton gave the paper back to him. “This is a good place to start. We’ll begin with your Lucardo tomorrow morning, and move on to the fractious aristocrats in the afternoon.”

“You want me with you for this?”

“If you have another of those disguises handy, yes. Having your insight into their powers will be invaluable assistance.”

Anton’s heart swelled with contentment. He was good, he was useful. “I’m well-prepared, I assure you.”

“Good. Now that that’s out of the way, then.” He fixed Anton with a stare that was blatantly heated. The power of it was so unexpected that Anton almost flinched, and that wasn’t the impression he wanted to give. “Perhaps we may speak of what occurred between us on the train moments before we parted. If that’s of interest to you.”

“Oh,” Anton breathed. “Yes. Absolutely.”

“Excellent. In that case—”

A rap on the door postponed whatever Camille was about to say, followed by a voice announcing, “Brought your dinner up, sirs!”

“Damn it,” Camille muttered.

Anton had to agree.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

A Necessary Delay

Sorry darlins, but I defy anyone to write a decent sex scene while their baby is crying inconsolably. It's been a rough day. I'll try to have more Tower out tomorrow, but at this point--we'll see.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Tower: Chapter Four, Part Two

Notes: This isn't what I had planned on writing, but plot and character intruded where I wanted something a little...sexier. It's also on the short side, but I had a surprise outing with Baby Girl and feel fortunate I got enough time to eat, much less write a thousand words. So please, enjoy, and rest assured that I'll do my best to give the next chapter a more satisfying conclusion.

Title: The Towe: Chapter Four, Part Two


Chapter Four, Part Two

Anton was never one to regret time spent in study, but even for a student as keen as himself, the day dragged. It didn’t help that he had no time to spend on his own work—he assisted in the first two classes, then narrowly evaded being dragged to a lunch he no doubt couldn’t afford by Montgomery and his companions by hiding—or rather, evading notice—in an empty classroom.

The increasing interest that the other man had in trying to monopolize Anton’s time was irritating, and put him in mind of a little boy who, upon being told no, promptly threw a tantrum. Probably at this point, the fastest way to get rid of the man would be to go and waste some time with him in a public setting, to make it clear that whatever game they were playing at, he had won. It would require nothing more than for Anton to swallow his pride, really. He ignored the uncomfortable squirming sensation in his stomach at the thought of being seen with peers of the realm, however removed they were from their homeland, and mentally shook his head. Perhaps when he had resolved things with Camille. For now, he had no time to waste on braggarts and buffoons.

After lunch Anton had office hours, which were interrupted halfway through by Doctor Grable himself. He shooed the underclassman out of the small room that had been set aside near his own, much larger office, shut the door, and turned his famous glare on Anton as he crossed his arms. 
Doctor Grable was a brilliant thaumaturge, one of the few researchers who Caroline spoke well of, as well as a reputation for prowess at using his gift in combat. Where he had learned such skills no one was exactly sure, and the dour, stern-faced doctor wasn’t saying, but everything about his demeanor, from his craggy face and stormy brow to his stark black robes, warned the wary to tread cautiously. The unwary rarely got far enough to annoy him before he removed them from his presence. And now he was here.

Anton gulped.

“I understand you’ve been in contact with one of our emperor’s lumières.”

Wait, what? Anton thought the whole reason Camille had gone without him to see Doctor Grable was to keep his involvement quiet. His mentor must have read something of his confusion in his face.

“After Lord Lumière informed me of the circumstances of the deaths, I offered him the use of my best forensic thaumaturge—you. He politely refused, which is not the action of a man who wishes to solve crimes. It didn’t take long to realize that he must have felt at liberty to refuse my offer because you had already given him assistance. This whole matter…does it have anything to do with that bloody business on the train?”

“No, sir.” Anton found his tongue at last. “No, not at all. That is merely where I made his acquaintance. There’s no connection, as far as I know.”

“But you are working with him.”

“He asked for my assistance and I gave it.”

“Then you know what—who—he’s looking for.”

“Broadly speaking,” Anton extemporized. Doctor Grable didn’t seem to appreciate it. He took two steps closer, the storminess of his thoughts darkening his eyes.

“If there is a murderer among our students, I want to know about it. It becomes my business, whether Lord Lumière wishes it or not, because I am responsible for them.” He held up a hand as Anton opened his mouth. “In the broadest sense, I am responsible for the actions of all the gifted who reside in this school. If one of them is misusing their gift in such a heinous way, then it falls on me to act. Not him. Me.” The passion in his voice spoke of violence, and Anton barely resisted the urge to shudder. When Doctor Grable took a step back, it was as though Anton could finally breathe again. “I trust you’ll tell him this when next you see him.”

“Oh, I—I don’t know if—”

“Don’t bother trying to deny it—he would be a fool not to make more use of you. You might be rather too narrowly focused in your studies at times, but where you make an effort, your results are always exemplary.” It was perhaps the first open and direct compliment Anton had ever had from the man, and he tried not to let the glow of accomplishment it lit within his chest shine too brightly on his face. “That said, if you don’t involve me in the prosecution of this matter, I am perfectly prepared to make your life quite difficult, Mr. Seiber. Quite difficult. Do you understand me?”

The glow was promptly snuffed out. “I do, Doctor.”

“Good. Carry on, then. Consider yourself relieved of your teaching duties until this mess is resolved.”

“I—thank you.”

“Thank me by catching the bastard responsible for this.” A moment later Doctor Grable let himself out, and Anton slumped back into his chair, winded without even having moved. He wasn’t intimidated by many people—annoyed by them, forced to be polite to them, reluctantly respectful to them yes, but intimidated? That honor was reserved for people he was attracted to and Doctor Grable, possibly not in that order.

Being relieved of his teaching duties was pleasant, but of course no one had thought to tell the students that, and Anton felt obliged to see the ones who had been waiting outside his office before leaving. By the time he was done with them all, the sun had vanished over the edge of the mountains, the time to meet with Camille was drawing near, and he had managed once again to eat nothing since breakfast. Anton stopped in the dormitory long enough to grab a cup of tea, constantly alert to evading notice, but he seemed to have weathered the worst of other peoples’ unwanted attentions at this point. He grabbed his holdall, not sure what might be required of him this evening but wanting to be prepared for anything, and headed to Camille’s inn.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Tower: Chapter Four, Part One

Notes: It's short but it's here! Two weeks in a row, booyah! Have some planning and preparation, and also some cake. Mmmm, cake.

Title: The Tower: Chapter Four, Part One


Chapter Four, Part One

It was not that Anton couldn’t see that Camille’s determination was logical. When working a crime that involved thaumaturges, especially ones capable of killing each other, it made sense to steer the investigation toward the highest density of magic users. In this case, though…

“You do realize there are over four hundred students, graduate students and professors at the university, don’t you?” Anton questioned over tea and tortes in a little café not far from his dormitory. Camille had insisted on buying him breakfast after their early morning, and Anton soon recovered enough of his appetite to make the idea of eating appealing. He added a bit of jam to his pastry and bit in, doing his best not to moan at the taste of it. He hadn’t eaten out in…well, perhaps since arriving and having a welcome dinner with Doctor Grable. The food provided in the dormitory cafeteria was simple and filling and, best of all, cheap, but it rarely came with jam.

“I realize that, yes.” Camille sipped at his cup of coffee, which Anton had to admit smelled good even if it tasted vile, then shrugged. “But the vast majority of them are easy to exclude.”

“How do you figure that?” Anton asked after a hasty swallow.

Camille waved a hand at him. “Consider what we know, and then tell me who we’re looking for.”

Anton frowned. “Are you trying to turn me into an investigator?”

“Simply trying to expand your already-impressive powers of deduction. You are a man of logic. Approach the problem logically, and you’ll soon see why a near-hopeless task becomes quite doable.”

“Fine.” Anton set his pastry down and thought about what they’d seen that morning. “It must be someone powerful. But, power is difficult to quantify, and in fact there are rules against trying to categorize ourselves, in order to keep down abuses of authority.”

“And yet, you are ranked as students,” Camille pointed out. “Thaumaturgy has never been about simple raw power. It is a combination of finesse, attention to detail, willpower and, only lastly, the inherent strength of one’s ability. Given what we know of our murderer, I believe that no one in less than the top tenth percentile of practitioners could do what has been done.”

“That still leaves you with forty people to consider, and that’s if it’s a student at all. It could be a local, or someone working here—after all, the men killed were workers, not students.”

“True, but one must start somewhere.” Camille dabbed at his lips with a linen napkin. “And I believe we can narrow it down even further.” He didn’t continue, just looked at Anton patiently.

“Because…you believe the killer is…” What had he insinuated before? “A fellow Englishman?”

“I think it entirely possible.”

“But the Devoué are not as well-established in England as they are on the continent. Doesn’t it make more sense for the killer to be one of them?”

“The Devoué are merely one branch of a larger movement, one that encompasses the British Isles as well as all of the mainland. And, as you say, they may not be well-established in England, but they’re not unheard of.”

It still seemed like an awful lot of guesswork to Anton. “So you think we’re looking for an English thaumaturge who is ranked in the top ten percent of students at the university?”

“It’s merely one possibility,” Camille said. “But a strong one, strong enough to begin with. The timing works, if we assume that it’s the palimpsest the killer is after. And that assumption isn’t one we can easily dismiss.”

“The Universität Zürich has a very large population of foreign students.” But among the best in his classes… “I think there are perhaps eleven or twelve of my fellows whom I would categorize both as adept enough to do this and of my own nationality.”

“Excellent. I shall confirm this with your Doctor Grable and begin my enquiries this afternoon.”

“I can meet you at his office by—”

“No.” Camille’s brisk headshake put an end to Anton’s brief hopes. “I don’t want to throw any more of a spotlight on you than I already have. We still don’t know the entirety of the killer’s criteria when it comes to choosing his victims, and I don’t want to make it any worse for you by singling you out.”

Was Camille going to push him away, now that he had utilized Anton’s particular expertise? “I can still help you.”

“You have already done so, most admirably.” Anton opened his mouth to object, and Camille raised a hand. “And you shall continue to do so after I’ve met with Doctor Grable and procured the information I need. But I will not be careless with your safety, Anton. Your disguises are no doubt excellent, but remember—there are no guarantees. What one can do, another can see through. Let me do this on my own, and we shall meet again this evening to begin narrowing down our search.”

Well, damnation. It was hard to argue with the man when he based his entire argument on protecting Anton’s life and livelihood. “You swear you will not cut me out?” he pressed.

“Absolutely.” Camille gave him a half-smile. “Anton, I came to you this time, not the other way around. I’m not planning on relinquishing your assistance before the murderer is caught, or before I am made to for some unavoidable reason. I promise.”

There was more to the heft of his words and the heat of Camille’s gaze than Anton was entirely comfortable staring down, but he didn’t look away. He had never been so infatuated with another human being in his life, and the very idea that his interest was still reciprocated, perhaps strongly enough to act on this time… “Where should we meet this evening, then?”

“My rooms are private enough, I believe, and I don’t want to give away my presence to the general populace at the university too soon.” He gave Anton the address. “Meet me there, discreetly, at half past seven. I’ll provide food and drink, you can provide me with your opinion on the people who make the cut.”

Anton swallowed. “I’ll be there.”

“I’m glad to hear it.” Camille paid the bill, then pressed to his feet. “Until this evening, then.”


He smiled and left the café, and Anton reached for his tea and swallowed the remnants down in one enormous gulp. Good lord, could he be any more awkward?

Then again, if awkwardness hadn’t put Camille off of him so far, it wasn’t likely to at this point. Feeling cheered, he finished his torte and stood up, heading out into the street. He carefully dismantled the spell obfuscating his appearance as he went, so that by the time he reached the university, he once again looked like himself. He had ten minutes left before his first class began.

Anton already knew that the day would drag, but at least he had something—someone—to look forward to at the end of it.