when you don't see me: where is the edge: his damnable integrity

Naomi Bradleigh's Journal, 15 February 2111

I had hoped from the way his eyes smoldered as he sipped the drink I had tasted that he might pounce on me once we were alone in the elevator. To my disappointment, he behaved himself, though this might have been for the best since the lift kept stopping to take on more passengers. By the time we had reached his floor, we had to gently shoulder our way out from the back of the lift. It was fortunate Christabel was not with us; we were in Paris and she refused to speak a word of any language but English even when our tours brought us to cities where only hotel staff spoke it as a courtesy to guests whose command of that language exceeded that of the local tongue.

I hope my father found Christabel's obstinacy in linguistic matters charming, for it annoyed me to have to speak for her and I rather suspected it irked Morgan as well--though in fairness we often spoke for one another if one of us was better with a particular language than the other.

Still, if Morgan had not pressed me against the wall and kissed me breathless in the lift, I had retained some hope he might do it in the hallway, or even press me against the door to his hotel room before opening it and carrying me over the threshold so that he might throw me onto the bed.

Perhaps I had not been sufficiently direct, but I found myself reluctant to force the issue; he had surely had enough of that for one night at the hotel bar. Nonetheless, it seemed somebody had to say something, and I was unlikely to get what I wanted if I kept quiet. "Now that we're alone, let's speak plainly."

"Should I get you a drink, first?"

Clever man, trying to delay me. But I had wasted enough time. "I've had my drink for the night. There was a reason I texted you earlier. Shall I tell you what it was?"

Morgan indicated one of the armchairs, and took the other. "I'm listening."

"I was in bed with Renfield. We have--or had--an informal arrangement. If we were in the same city we'd meet for dinner or a drink. And if neither of us was otherwise engaged, we'd sleep together."

"That seems reasonable," said Morgan. "But where do I enter into this?"

"You never stopped being in love with me, did you?"

He had gone crimson all over. This was no mere blush, and it occurred to me that for somebody who so obviously prided themselves on their restraint, to stand accused of still being infatuated with their first youthful crush might be just a little humiliating.

"Was I that obvious?" His question came out in a barely audible whisper. One suspects he did not realize he had even spoken.

"Not at first. After a while I began to notice little things. In fairness, it seems to me that you had gotten over me, and when we got to know each other as part of Crowley's Thoth you started to fall for me again."

His color had settled a bit; surely that was a good sign. "You're right. I had, but I tried to be discreet about it. After all, I'm with Christabel, and you've how many bands break up around you because one of the other members decided they just had to have you, or because their partners got jealous of you?"

"Entirely too many, and I did appreciate your restraint as well as your respect for your relationship with Christabel."

"It's too bad Christabel herself doesn't respect it," said Morgan, letting the bitterness show. "Besides, aren't you still with Renfield?"

One supposes he had not noticed my use of the past tense when explaining my old arrangement. "That's over. I ended it tonight."

"Why would you do that? Was it not a situation that suited you?"

"It did until it didn't," Perhaps it might seem strange that he had a better understanding of his feelings than I had of mine since emotion remains the province of women in the minds of too many who should bloody well know better. However, it did not surprise me. As an einherjar determined to pass for human, Morgan seemed to monitor and analyze his emotional state as if his survival depended on it. It might even have done so if too many people remembered that he was not human and took exception.

But what excuse did I have? Inexperience, I suppose, which at my age seems flimsy even to me. "Would you be shocked if I told you that I had never been in love, and that I did not understand how I felt until tonight?"

His eyes were so grave as he studied me. "Are you saying that you were in bed with Renfield after having sex with the man and realized he wasn't the one you wanted?"

"Exactly. Yes, I've told him. He actually encouraged me to lie to you and tell you I was freshly showered because I had just finished at the gym."

"We're both adults here, Nims. Of course you were going to have relationships. It's just that we both have lousy timing."

That's certainly the Devil's own truth. "Look. Maybe I shouldn't have flirted with you in the bar, and maybe I shouldn't even be here, but I wanted to tell you that I don't want you to stay in a shitty relationship for my sake. I don't need Crowley's Thoth any more than you do. You know we're good together on stage. We've got chemistry that Christabel can't touch, and she knows it too. That's one reason she keeps hurting you. If you quit the band, I'll follow, because when I claimed you as my own to get that slag Janice away from you I meant it."

It was the barest brush of his lips against mine, a kiss so chaste it barely qualified as one. It tasted like revenge for the way I had first kissed him so long ago. "I want to be yours, but I can't let myself be the one to end it. That's not the kind of man I want to be."

Damn it. I was afraid he'd say that. It hurt worse than an outright rejection. "I don't want to sleep alone tonight."

"Neither do I." Morgan looked at the two queen-sized beds. "Which would you prefer?"