September 4, 2015 by Lyn
He was watching her expression carefully behind his casual mask. With all their talking about prodigies and rogue powers, Mike and Professor Solomon had said, over and over again, “a first-year student shouldn’t be able to do this, not even to Ambrus.”
His pride hadn’t been all that pricked. By their standards, he was still very young. And he was, after all, a lapdog, a professional pet, who had come to them entirely ignorant of what he was and, twenty years later, wasn’t that much better educated. (Regine, it seemed, preferred ignorance.) His curiosity, however, had been piqued.
And Manira… he wasn’t just watching her face, he was also tasting her emotions as she realized what he’d done to her.
Surprise. He’d expected surprise, no matter what she was. But there was a deep undercurrent of chagrin and embarrassment, not just from getting caught, but, like a neon sign: How could he catch me like that? Mike had looked and felt the same, the one time Ambrus had woven his trap around the Daeva.
“You were ensorcelling me,” she whispered.
“While you were weaving your trap around me. Yes. Let’s walk.” As if she were exactly what she looked like, he set his hand on her shoulders and steered her out into the hall.
“You wove a seduction around me,” she muttered, once they were in the quiet of the hall. Now she was really indignant. “Why?”
“I wanted you.” Because she’d been weaving her own seduction around him. Because his son was seducing the girl he’d really wanted.
“Cheating?” he asked gently. He wasn’t going to take her back to her room, or his, but he wanted a place away from prying eyes. The access stairway ought to be around here somewhere… there. He opened the masked door, and noticed her total lack of surprise, although she tried to cover it. She did innocent caught-doing-something-naughty very well. He should take notes.
“Cheating, yeah, I guess. But I wanted you to like me.” Truth, and yet embarrassing her. Hunh.
“I turned thirty-nine this year,” he told her quietly, as he steered her down the access stairwell towards the grotto. “I’m old enough to be the father of most of the students here. I am the father of at least a couple of them.”
She nodded. “I thought you might be,” she said, “older than me, I mean. Since you’re not a student here.” He waited a moment, then another. She blinked up at him, but the surprise was clearly feigned. “You’re thirty-nine? But you look… younger.”
“Yeah. I can still pass for nineteen.” Sixteen, even, but there wasn’t so much call for that anymore. “But out there,” he gestured upwards rather vaguely, “some people would think it was creepy, a man my age hitting on women half his age.” And impregnating them. Don’t think about that right now.
“Yeah, I guess so.” She shuddered a little bit, looking at him sidelong. “A little weird, at least.”
“So how much weirder is it for you?” he asked very gently.
“What?” She blinked up at him in so much obvious shock that, for a moment, he thought he’d guessed wrong. But then the shock turned into panic, and he knew for sure he’d hit his mark.
“How much older than me are you?” he pressed gently. “More than a couple decades. More than a couple centuries.”
She was turning pale, and leaking frank terror and shock. “I…” She shook her head, no, no, no. “I can’t tell you. I’m Manira. I’m seventeen. I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She wasn’t so much lying, it felt like, as trying to affirm complete untruths as the truth.
“And I’m a professor of science. We’ve gone past the lies,” he coaxed.
She swallowed hard, and shook her head. “I can’t tell you,” she repeated.
Ambrus recognized the tang of her emotions now. It was the sensation of running headfirst into a geas or oath; what she felt she ought to do and what she had to do were running into each other in her mind.
“Okay,” he said gently. “Don’t tell me. I won’t push it.”
“I really like you,” she whispered.
“You’re supposed to,” he answered dryly. “That’s my job.”
Her fear was slipping away, leaving behind a horrible resolve. “I wanted to be your lover. I wanted you to be mine.” He didn’t answer that. She already knew why that couldn’t be. “But you can’t know. No-one can know.”
He had time to panic as her will solidified into a needle of force, diving into his brain.