“He smiled at that, and then his gaze shifted to a spot over my shoulder and it faded. 'These doubts wouldn’t have anything to do with the company you’re keeping of late, would they?'
I didn’t get a chance to answer before the shop door was thrown open and a furious war mage stomped in. Pritkin spotted me and his eyes narrowed.
'You shaved my legs?!'
Mircea looked at me and folded his arms across his chest. I looked from one unhappy face to the other and suddenly remembered that I had somewhere else to be.”
“And I just couldn't take it anymore. I closed the distance between us, slammed him back against the chair and kissed him, holding his head still with both my hands buried in that stupid, stupid hair. I half expected more resistance, because Pritkin had never met an argument he didn't like. So it was a shock when he ran his hands down my sides, cupped my hips and slid us both to the floor.
"I'm going straight to hell for this," he muttered.
"At least you'll know a lot of people," I said breathlessly. ”
“No, Miss Palmer. What is bizarre is that I currently have a vagina.”
“I’m beginning to sense a theme,” Mircea said, tossing his suit coat over a buckskin-covered chair. A moose head with huge, outspread antlers loomed over it, its bright glass eyes looking oddly lifelike in the low light. Mircea took in the room, his expression slightly repulsed yet fascinated. “I believe there is only one thing to say at this point.”
Yee haw,” he said gravely, and took me down like a rodeo calf.”
“Then you must be willing to fight," Mircea responded. "Life is not a gift, Raphael; it's a challenge. Rise to it!”
“I looked up to see the sailing ship above me, the prow dipped low and Mircea hanging off the end of the wooden figurehead. His fist was knotted in my waistband, which explained why I couldn’t breathe. Considering the alternative, I really didn’t mind so much.
Even so, I was surprised his reflexes had been good enough to catch me. He looked kind of shocked himself. For a second, the reserved demeanor cracked open on something wild and fierce and compelling. Then he dragged me up, put a hand on either side of my face and kissed me full on the lips. From somewhere above, I heard Pritkin swear.”
“I stared at him, unable to believe this was happening. That he could just
disappear, along with everything rich and strange he’d brought into my life.
Vanished, like magic.”
“This isn't sex."
I blinked. "Oh. Then what is it?"
I started to argue and then thought twice about it. Considering what Mircea would do to Pritkin if he ever found out about this...Yeah. Emergency sounded good.”
“My tried-and-true philosophy of keeping people at a distance was taking a beating lately. It wasn't working so well with Mircea, and Pritkin had somehow bulldozed past every defense I had before I'd even noticed. I still wasn't sure how he'd done it.
He wasn't that good-looking, he had the social skills of a wet cat and the patience of a caffeinated hummingbird. In between crazy stunts and, okay, saving my life, he was just really annoying. When we'd started working together, I'd assumed it would be a question of putting up with Pritkin; then suddenly the stupid hair was making me smile, and the sporadic heroics were making my heart jump and the constant bitching had me wanting to kiss him quiet. And now I cared more than was good for me.”
“Don't give me some stupid lecture about war when the person we're talking about losing is you!" I said, surprised by the savagery in my tone. At least my voice didn't shake.
His face blurred and I tasted salt on my lips. It was warm, warm like Pritkin's hands coming up and framing my face, his thumbs brushing over my eyelids, soft as his fingers in my hair. "One person is not so important in the scheme of things", he said, and his voice was gentle, gentle when it never was, and that almost broke me.
But you are important, I thought. And yet he couldn't see that. In Pritkin's mind, he was an experiment gone wrong, a child cast out, a man valued by his peers only for his ability to kill the things they feared. Just once, I wished he could see what I did.
"Then neither is this", I said, leaning in and pressing my mouth to his, the kiss lightened by desperation and weighted down by everything he meant to me.”
“I bent over him and, before I could say anything, he grabbed me by the back of my head, dragged my mouth down and kissed me. Kissed me, with no drama and no explanation, like it was just something we did.
Knowing in a half-forgotten way that he kissed like a demon was one thing; experiencing it all over again was quite another. There was no refined seduction- Pritkin kissed openmouthed, hard and hungry, until I could hear nothing over the pounding of my heart, until I could taste my blood on his lips as his tongue thrust into me.”
“I have a theory about war mages,” I said. “The more powerful they are, the worse the hair.”
“When we’d started working together, I’d assumed it would be a question of putting up with Pritkin; then suddenly the stupid hair was making me smile, and the sporadic heroics were making my heart jump and the constant bitching had me wanting to kiss him quiet.”
“I’m trying to remember all the reasons you are indispensable and can’t be killed slowly and painfully.”
“I didn’t know how men managed with something taking up so much room down there. And what the hell kind of design left a person’s privates dangling loose in the air and changing sizes all the time?”
“It didn’t matter what my heart said, I reminded myself. My heart told me stupid stuff all the time. My heart should just shut the hell up.”
“A courteous war mage. The world really was coming to an end.
And then Pritkin ran back around the corner followed by half a dozen groggy people. He glanced at the cells that still had to be emptied. “You aren’t done yet?” he demanded.
The world righted itself.”
“There was a time when you trusted me with your life!”
“And there was a time when you used your brain instead of blindly following orders,”
“We were obviously going to have to have a talk about the difference between “maintaining security” and “being a dick.”
“That didn’t reassure me much; Alphonse’s idea of good manners consisted of remembering to bury all the bodies.”
“Giving him the distinction of being the only human to be literally kicked out of hell.”
“I shifted back onto the plane, fuming, and a ghost popped in. That wouldn’t normally require comment, as it happens to me all the time—one of the annoyances of being clairvoyant. But this was a little different since this ghost I knew.”
“No es fantástica, por supuesto, salvo para la gente importante en su vida, pero puesto que estas personas son las únicas que le preocupan, no pasa nada.”
“To be so lovely and so lost. To be all answerful with all that knowing trapped inside. To be beautiful and broken.”
“Buy a Bible!Your guide to eternal life!”
“No, but I've never been one for wise ideas," he says. "I believe in irrational, fleeting decisions that keep life interesting. And life needs to be interesting because we've got only one of them to live.”
“Everyone who loves pro basketball assumes it's a little fixed. We all think the annual draft lottery is probably rigged, we all accept that the league aggressively wants big market teams to advance deep into the playoffs, and we all concede that certain marquee players are going to get preferential treatment for no valid reason. The outcomes of games aren't predeteremined or scripted but there are definitely dark forces who play with our reality. There are faceless puppet masters who pull strings and manipulate the purity of justice. It's not necessarily a full-on conspiracy, but it's certainly not fair. And that's why the NBA remains the only game that matters: Pro basketball is exactly like life.”
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