Six weeks passed with few outstanding events. Sanctus’s back healed from the stitches, leaving behind itchy scabs that drove him up the wall. He went daily to see Medicus after we dropped Sam and Abby off at Argenti’s together. Within a week and a half of our conversation about his embroidery, he joined with Vestitor to produce clothing in the afternoons before picking up the Accendium if I had Caeruleum work that interfered. Vestitor had been eager to put Sanctus’s skills to work with the coming New Year celebration and The Feast of Hades overloading his regular schedule.
Sam and Abby had decided on their Aliases and had talked to Mater about them. I was amused and pleased with their choices. They would be presented to the whole of Caeruleum with their Aliases on New Years.
Forceps had taken me under her wing to teach me how to care for Sam and Abby’s hair. Twists and braids were an entirely new beast in my book compared to my pin-straight black. I had thought they would get a haircut, and that would fix everything. I was deeply delusional and mistaken, as Forceps was want to let me know. Weekly sessions slipped by too quickly and left me questioning my competency every time her door closed behind me.
Sanctus and I had formed the habit, in the evenings, of me sitting on my bed while he sat at my feet to let me practice my braiding on him while he told me about his day and worked on his letters. He had a better pain tolerance for my screw-ups. The silky strands did not hold together in the same way as Sam and Abby’s, but it meant I could figure out how to draw a straight line without kids with energy to burn fidgeting under my fingers.
The three were settling into the Caeruleum way of life. They had figured out Archimagirus’s dining schedule and never missed a meal. Both Sanctus and Sam put on a few pounds to my relief. Abby might be cursed to remain a pixie forever, and not for a lack of trying. She ate more than the rest of us. Being a restless, fearless ball of energy burned it all off.
My heartburn-level worry that Mercurius would send a delegation after Sam and Abby was short-lived. A delegation did show up a week into the Accendium living with us. Mercurius’s people, however, never mentioned Sam and Abby. They had come asking for Clavis’s help in building the components for their silos and broken mill, stating it would be a lucrative move between the two groups. They did not have an individual competent in machining. If they did not address the silo and mill before the next harvest for their winter wheat, their territory was looking at famine.
I sent Mercator and a pair of our engineers back with them to survey their operation and determine a profitable trade contract. Mater left our men with orders to get Sparkle written into the contract as an item that would negate our help. The pharmacum had passed into our territory a couple of times in the last three years since its creation. It had a nasty propensity toward allergic reactions and easy overdose.
I had made the mistake of taking Medicus his lunch once, about a year back, when Hyacinths was busy. He had been in the morgue working on an autopsy for a pair of overdose victims. The unbelievable smell of sickly vanilla and necrosis had left me unable to go near Archimagirus’s kitchens during baking day for a month. I’d never forget it. Medicus told me later that he had only faintly caught what I was going on about. That was a long, drawn-out day of experimentation and exploration of my olfactory senses and how my hollow fangs contributed to that increased sense. He was intrigued. I had a raging headache and sinus allergies for a week. That blew. The roots of my fangs felt like they were swelling and splitting my jawbone open. I avoid sick people at all costs to avoid that sensation.
Those who didn’t die on Sparkle lost their capacity to focus and became volatility paranoid, not to mention the physiologic damage to organs, teeth, and eyes after even short exposure time. Paranoid pyros are a danger and a menace. I had been told the pharmacum provided fantastic hallucinations that lasted for ten to fifteen hours and that was it’s selling power. Being able to escape the reality of their situation, I understood that desire. I did not understand the draw with the egregious laundry list of side effects.
Mercator would know if taking on the job for Aurantiaco would be worth our time. We did not want to part with our mechanic for three months to build machines for another territory while Rubrum was seiging unless it would provide all in the party with valuable resources. Clavis was putting together a new tank that would breach the lines. I wanted to see him finish it before leaving the transport fleet for the upcoming spring to help keep Aurantiaco’s people fed. I did not want a couple thousand people starving to death on my watch.
“What are you doing up there?” Sanctus asked. I looked down at him through a swath of fake pine needles. Sam and Abby were with him as usual. I thought they were supposed to be with Argenti for school. I checked my watch. She had sent them home for the end of the day. I was three stories up in the rafters of the shop. He had drawn the attention of several other people working around the floor. His voice was a clear softness that was impossible to ignore.
“New Years!” I called down as I pinned the next massive garland into the hooks hanging from the beamworks running the breadth of the structure.
“It’s all sparkly!” I heard Abby chirp to Sam as they poked around in the boxes near my ladder. I smiled at her exuberance while I fought with a sharp aluminium crescent moon someone had forgotten to detach from the garland before storing last year. I had thought I’d be able to deal with the massive decoration when I was up in the rafters. It was proving me wrong with a pointy vengeance.
“You decorate for it?” Sanctus asked. Mater, Cortex, Conscribo and a few other teams were also up on ladders hanging swaths of garland and massive aluminium stars and moons. I finished pinning the end of my garland and slid down the ladder to meet him on the shop floor in the midst of boxes of constellations. Sam was decorating Abby with long threads of tinsel who was subsequently squealing about being an ice princess.
“Wanna help?” I asked him with my best charming smile. I desperately wanted help. The rest of the teams had organized themselves the week before and forgot to warn me. It was my own fault for putting off convincing someone to join me, and all of my usual cohorts had split off to form their own teams. He, like the Accendium, was entranced with the gold, silver, and green everywhere.
“Uhm?” he looked around at the groups around the floor all pulling together.
“I need help sorting through the boxes down here; that way I can get the garland up faster. Whoever packed it last year didn’t take the decorations out of it properly.” I dislodged another massive rope of green plastic pine needles from its crate, scattering bobbles across my working area.
“You got a helper there, boss?” Cortex called from the middle of the floor where he and a couple others were working on their boxes.
“What say we run a bet and see who gets done with it the fastest?” he goaded.
“I want in on it!” Mater chimed in.
“What are we betting for?” Conscribo asked.
Cortex pondered for a minute as he shuffled boxes around.
“Come on man, you call for a bet, and then you run out of ideas?” Mater chortled.
“Well, what’s worth it to you, Maria Mater?” he asked.
“Hah, I’ve got it!” Conscribo interrupted as he walked over to Cortex’s spot.
Mater crossed her arms as the twenty of us waited. “You gonna share with the rest of us?”
“My team and I are playing this evening for the festival. So, I’m not playing for bets. How about the rest of the teams, whoever comes in last has to dance with their teammate?” he smiled, giving my co-leader and her teammate an evil smile. Mater flicked a raised eyebrow to Scriba, who had turned a fascinating shade of scarlet. Cortex glanced at Tempestatis, who shrugged and shook his head. The rest turned to their partners. A total of ten groups. Conscribo had already pulled his group out, so nine groups playing for keeps.
“Conscribo! What about the winner? We’ve gotta have something that makes this fast,” Cortex pointed out. Tempestatis was glaring at him with a seething burn that said if Cortex lost, he might be a dancing bonfire this evening.
“All right, all right, fine. Whoever wins, we all chip in to buy them drinks for the whole evening,” Conscribo suggested. I raised an eyebrow at him.
Mater stuck her hand out, shaking his to seal the deal. “You’re on.” Her smile could have peeled paint.
Our singer shook her hand and pulled out a pouch, and we all tossed in a couple chips for the winner. “Think about your favourite song.” He whistled a ballad on his way back to the group.
“What about those drinks!” Mater retorted.
“Or drinks, whatever gets the job done.” He waved the question off.
“You heard the singer!” I motioned for us all to return back to our ladders.
“You don’t drink, Nigrae Lunam!” Tempestatis protested.
“Hey, he didn’t say beer.” I smiled broadly, showing my fangs, just to watch the blood drain from his face as I gave him a once-over.
“Oye, we aren’t for sale!” Cortex protested.
I shrugged as I walked back to my ladder. “A buffet’s a buffet.”
Mater snorted as Cortex groaned.
“Don’t give boss a reason to burn between now and family ties, guys! I am dancing those lines with a gorgeous girl rather than sitting on my pretty ass for the whole party,” Cortex yelled to the teams. That was convenient. I suddenly had a stream of people who came and went, checking on anything I’d possibly need heat to mend with the large metal decorations.
“Family ties?” Sanctus asked as the other people went through our boxes. It made it inconvenient to get up and down the ladder. I suspected they were helping not only to keep me from using my Catalyst but also to keep us from winning first. I was okay with that. I pulled my brass and blue lacquered necklace out from beneath my shirt collar. “Family ties.”
“You showed me that back at Requies’s. Cortex has a blue knot bracelet. A lot of people do around here. Maria Mater has a necklace too.” Sanctus studied the people working around him.
“It’s how we designate that we are part of Caeruleum,” Praesepe explained. He wore his as a woven headband. He pulled it off and handed it to Sanctus to look over. A myriad of shades of blue were woven together to create an intricate pattern. “I have a lot of family ties. I’m fourth generation Imperium, and we’ve always lived on this side, so when Caeruleum was formed, I ended up with a lot of automatic ties,” he explained.
“I don’t think I understand?” Sanctus told him, looking over the band. He was more relaxed with Praesepe than I had expected. Maybe because the boy felt like me.
“We claim family ties when we want to designate someone as chosen family, or biologic family. It’s so that if we end up with people from Aurantiaco or Rubrum, sometimes people dropped in from Angelus and Nympha that get brought into Caeruleum, they are taken care of and don’t end up being ostracized. Also means someone is there to watch out for Caeruleum to make sure the newcomer doesn’t cause problems. If someone isn’t claimed, they don’t join Caeruleum. Doesn’t happen too often, but it keeps jerks out most of the time. If they’ve lost their family ties, motions are held to see if someone else wants to claim them. It’s not uncommon for family ties to be broken and new ones formed. Maria Mater keeps the genealogy book for us. Her sister is co-leader in Thalassium, so she also claims ties with them.” I pointed up to indicate the ceiling of the dome where ramps and catwalks floated several hundred feet up. I couldn’t fathom living up there. The few times I had gone up had been a lightheaded, nauseating experience.
Sanctus reached for my necklace. I held still at the sudden contact as he studied it. His eyebrows wiggled with a thousand questions. “Why is yours inlaid in brass?” He pointed out the one difference from the rest of the bracelets around.
“Most people don’t usually push out their fire from every pore in their body all at once, so they can get away with not burning their family ties.”
“Who are you related to, sir?” Sam asked as he and Abby peeked around Sanctus’s fingers. Sanctus let go, his ears going red.
“I claim ties with Cortex as brother and Mater as sister. I also claim Medicus as brother. Hyacinthus and Mercator are my in-laws. They’re married to Medicus. Together they have Iocus, my nephew. Ambulatio – Mater’s sister and Praetemptura, her wife in Thalssius, just had a son a couple months ago, so I have a nephew on her side.” I knelt down to show them the different shaded blue and green knots wrapped around a main turquoise blue thread.
“But Mater and you are Mommy and Daddy for all of Caeruleum. Why aren’t your ties bigger?” Abby asked, loud enough to draw the attention of the rest of the people helping with the decorations.
“Mommy and Daddy? Maria Mater and Nigrae Lunam?” Cortex asked from over at his ladder. That got everyone else involved. He descended before he laughed himself off the high point.
“You are, right?” Abby asked, shoving her thumb in her mouth nervously. She looked guilty like she had asked something liable to get her in trouble.
“Those two?” Cortex snorted. Tempestatis elbowed him before Abby could start crying. I picked her up while I death-glared my shield.
“We’re co-leaders. Persephone and Hades. Also known as Prosperina and Pluto. Each of the heads is a co-lead pair, or were. Seems we’re last to hold the tradition proper, save for your sister and sister-in-law, Mater. Sort of like parents to Caeruleum I guess, Abby. Maria Mater handles the brainy side of things, and I handle the brawny side of things. She talks people down; I make sure they don’t retaliate against us,” I tried to explain.
“You are Mommy and Daddy then,” she reiterated stubbornly.
“We aren’t bond-tied like that, Abs,” I explained.
“Bond tied, sir?” Sam asked.
“Eh…the people you lived with, the lady wear a ring on her finger?” I asked Sam.
“On her left hand, a little gold band from her great-grandmother, sir.” Sam nodded.
“They were what is considered married in Angelus. We call that bond tied here in Imperium,” I tried to explain. “Here though, it’s usually not the couple that comes out and says they want to get married. The community here recognizes the pair, or multiple relationship group, like Medicus with Hyacinthus and Mercator, as a bond and will tie them together. They recognize the importance of that closeness and that it’s different from platonic family. The family ties come together with the people in question and determine if the bond tie will be honored; that way there isn’t bad blood between families.”
“You don’t have to be married to be a mommy and daddy,” Abby pointed out.
“Accurate, Abs. Some people can have children and not be together. Some people here have kids and never bond tie,” I agreed with her.
“He’s conceded! Maria Mater and Nigrae Lunam are now Mommy and Daddy of Caeruleum!” Cortex chortled. Conceded my butt. I didn’t remember ever conceding. Qualified, maybe, not conceded. He ducked at a thunk to the back of the head. He looked up to find Mater having lobbed a white cotton yarn ball at his head. “Oye!” he yelled up at her.
“I’ve got more of those, son!” she called down, indicating the bucket on her ladder.
“If you’re mommy and daddy, I’m the uncle; we’re all family tied!” he protested.
“Weird uncle!” She threw another ball.
“Weird uncle!” Abby pointed at Cortex. The name was going to stick for the rest of the day. I wasn’t sure how my ego was going to take having the rest of the crew call me daddy, but the garland and the decorations were unboxed and hung for the celebrations in a timely manner. Even with all of my ‘helpers’ my little team did end up last.
Boxes stowed for the week, I led Sanctus and the Accendium back up to our rooms so that we could get ready for the celebrations. “Fancy clothes, guys,” I directed Sam and Abby at their door and opened my own, letting Sanctus in first.
“I can wear my new dress?” Abby asked, her eyes glittering with excitement.
“Brush your teeth too, young lady. I’ll be in to help twist your hair after I get dressed. Help your brother with his,” I reminded her as I stepped inside my door. Abby had taken up helping Sam pick his hair into a twisted puff with gleeful abandon. She was beside herself every time I took her into Forceps for another lesson. I had a feeling she’d be apprenticing with the lady when she came of age.
“Can I wear the blue beads Ms. Force gave me?” She rocked back and forth on her feet and gave me her best puppy dog eyes.
“Only if you make sure I have time to get them in. Find them and set them aside, and don’t dawdle getting dressed. Got it?”
“Got it!” She skittered into her room, squealing. I waited to hear Sam telling her to calm down before closing my door.
Sanctus went to his tidy pile of clothing and rifled through it, holding up a white button-up and a pair of dark trousers. “This going to be enough?” he asked, holding the material to his waif-like body.
“Not many of us here have the means for fancy clothes like what you and I remember from Angelus. That’ll be just fine.” I turned to my own mound of clothing, giving him privacy to change. Relaxed jeans, a leather belt, soft black t-shirt. I switched my black hair tie for a silver clasp. My outfit was easy enough. That, and it was the least wrinkled of everything I had. I pulled my watch off and tossed it on the counter, and pulled on a stack of leather bracelets. “There.” I turned to Sanctus, pleased with myself. I had actually put in some effort to turn myself out as presentable.
My heart stuck to the back of my throat. I’d need to talk to Vestitor about not giving Sanctus trousers that were liable to torture me. I had thought they were dark canvas. Skin-tight leather. I dry swallowed. His shirt was cut to fit, and the top button was lower than I expected. He had pulled his ginger hair out of his bun and let the soft curls wave over his shoulder. Bare feet. I usually didn’t pay much attention to what people wore or what they looked like. It was their smell that I identified with. Sanctus though. He was different. I saw him, all of him, and damn it, I was thirsty.
“Is it okay?” he asked, trying to press out imagined wrinkles along his obliques, and I couldn’t peel my mind away from dark corners and soft sheets. “Lunam?” he asked again.
I snapped to and nodded. “Yep, good. You look good.” I turned back to my pile of clothes and tossed my laundry in the basket if only to have something to do with my hands and to pull myself out of inappropriate corners.
“Lunam?” his voice had gone nervous quiet.
I shifted things around, moving dry laundry from my hanging rack to the bins I kept sorted clothes in. “Hmm?”
“Did I do something wrong?” he asked.
I blinked, looking up at him. I wasn’t sure where this was coming from. “No?” I asked him back.
He shifted uncomfortably. “I…just.” His cheeks mottled red a moment before returning to their paleness.
“You look good, Sanctus. I don’t remember them, but they look nice on you. Not wearing shoes?” I asked. He didn’t tend to. He found them uncomfortable after years without.
“Do I need to?” He wrinkled his nose at the offending impediments.
“Might want to if you’re going to dance; that way you don’t get your toes tread on.” I gave him the option not to if he desired.
“Vestitor had spare cloth. He traded for some work. He had orders piling up for tonight’s dance.” Sanctus picked up his shoes and went to sit on his palette.
“It’s been a while since I worked leather. It’s a textile I enjoy working in more than a lot of others.” He brushed his pant leg of a bit of lint. He pulled on a pair of thin socks and his shoes. I wouldn’t be talking to Vestitor about torturous clothing.
“You made those? I thought you only did embroidery?” I sat down on the end of my bed to also put my shoes on. At least that would distract me from long legs and a tight shirt for a heartbeat or two.
“We all learned to through my mother. She didn’t like when I did it, because, and this is what the foreman told me, I was better at it than her. She thought I’d steal her job if she let me. So, to keep the peace, I took up the embroidery work. Deft hand and good eyesight made for tiny details that the Electi’s liked.” He rose, testing his shoes. He grimaced at the texture.
“It’s been a long time since I saw those kinds of clothes. The detail is splendid,” I reassured. Now that I was closer, I could admire the small details he had taken time to incorporate into the white shirt. Though keeping my focus from drifting back to cream skin between the flyaway lapels was like telling Praesepe to never gamble again.
Dinner was an open buffet. Archimagirus had outdone himself. The Accendium and Sanctus tried a little of everything, eventually finding the dessert table and almost wiping it clean with Mater and the rest of the Caeruleum Accendium.
“You still have a bet, Lunam.” Conscribo sidled up to me with a grin as dinner wrapped up. Cortex was hanging out with him, sharing a similar all-knowing smile over his tankard. He had won and was more than apt to be smashed this evening.
“You know these types of functions make Sanctus nervous,” I whispered at Cortex.
Cortex put up a calming hand. “You don’t have to if you don’t want to, Lunam. It was just a bit of fun.”
“Go get your music going, Conscribo. The meal’s over, and it looks like we’ve got a crowd starting up for it.” I nodded towards the set of couples taking up spots near the stage.
“Right, right, boss!” Conscribo waved as he sauntered over to his band.
He ran through a pair of songs as the crowd slowly grew. Archimagirus and his apprentices cleared the buffet away from the floor. I wandered to join Sanctus and the Accendium who were off to a corner watching the dancers. Sam pointed out a couple dancers and asked Sanctus a question as Abby used Sanctus’s hand to spin under. Iodine and rubbing alcohol broke up the smell of food.
“He’s doing good tonight, Lunam,” Medicus admired at my side.
“Evening, Medicus. Didn’t think you’d come out of the clinic.”
“And disappoint Hyacinthus and Iocus? Without Mercator here, I have to show up and keep those two happy.” He clapped me on the back. Hyacinthus did enjoy dancing, and Iocus had recently taken up with a girl he was soft on. Medicus tended to rely heavily on Mercator to take care of social functions. I was glad to see him participating in this side of their lives.
“That reminds me, Medicus?” I asked.
“Yeah?” He pulled at his suspenders in irritation. He had one of the straps twisted.
“Think Iocus would mind talking to Sam? He may need someone to help him as he gets older, and Vestitor told me he can help with some clothes,” I asked, motioning for him to unclip the strap. He turned to let me help him out of his predicament.
“Ah. Sam’s F.T.M.?” Medicus asked, studying Sam.
“Yeah.” I got the twist out and clapped him on the back.
“Iocus’d probably be more than happy to talk to Sam and help him out with some tips as he gets older. I can talk to him later tonight or sometime tomorrow about it,” he offered.
“I don’t really know about timelines, so I don’t know if it’s an immediate thing or what.”
“Don’t worry too much about it for the evening. He seems more than happy right now, so enjoy that. Sanctus’s good with the Accendium, see,” he pointed out as an old reel burst out from the band, and Sanctus showed them a couple simple steps to it. Conscribo put words to it that I could have sworn he was making up on the fly. It sure wasn’t what I remembered it being, but he had a tendency of doing this regardless if he knew the real words or not. I watched Sanctus show Sam and Abby how to dance the traditional steps for the reel off in their own little corner. He was easy and slow about the steps, eliciting giggles and goofy reactions from the pair. His smile. I wished I could keep it forever burned in my memory.
An idea sprang up as I watched the rest of the group flow down the chain, and Medicus left to join. I slipped away, trusting Sanctus to keep Sam and Abby occupied. I snagged a tankard from one of the barrels. It took a bit of dodging people dancing around the edges of the main chain to get over to Conscribo. I arrived in time for him to come to the end of his song. I waved him the drink, which pulled him from the band.
“What can I do for you? You here for your song finally, Daddy?” Conscribo asked as I handed him the beer.
“You knew Rose under the Window,” I started out, naming the song for what I knew it as.
“Yep. Good ol’ song. You like it?” He leaned on his guitar to watch the floor of people catching their breath.
“I did. I’ve got another one I wanted to see if you knew?” I asked him.
“Shoot.” He put the cup to his lips and ended up with a mustache of foam.
“Do you guys know Your Life as a Star? With the original lyrics?”
“Jeez, you’re old, boss,” Conscribo teased as he downed the rest of his cup and set it on the stage. Conscribo was one to talk. He was eight years older than me.
“You’re not Angelus, so had to ask,” I pointed out.
“Terra taught us,” he pointed out their drummer. Right. I had forgotten. Her father was originally from Angelus.
“Mind giving it a run?”
“It’s not a chaining reel, but I think I can swing an old fox trot request for you. It’s a bit fast, and you’ll clear the floor with it, you sure?”
“You’re the one who set up the bet,” I pointed out.
“I’ll make it worth it,” he promised.
“You’re the man.” I left him and headed back to the corner with Sanctus and the Accendium. Sanctus was looking for me with concern. I waved a reassurance as I made my way back through the crowd. He looked like he wanted to ask me a question. Conscribo was giving the dancers another moment to cool off before starting up his next song. I heard Cortex in the back of the crowd getting Mater’s attention after Conscribo signaled him. Our singer was going to put us on the spot.
I could have backed us both out of this. Not like I had to go along with the bet. I was being selfish though. Something about skin tight leather pants. “Hey, do you know how to shift lead?” I asked Sanctus when I was finally close enough to not need to shout over the noise of the crowd.
“When I taught my siblings how to dance, I did.” He flicked a questioning glance between me and the band. Conscribo took back up his guitar to the raucous applause of the group.
I offered Sanctus my hand with a slight bow at the waist. “Dance a round with me,” I smiled, willing him to take me up on the offer.
He glanced at the group who was already preparing for another chain.“This from Conscribo’s bet?” he stuttered.
“It’s going to be a one-on-one fox trot, so no partner switching,” I reassured him. The drum kicked in on the count and a pluck of strings struck up a different chorus from the crowd. The grouping scuttled for room as couples took up their positions.
“We don’t have to go anywhere other than this corner if that’s what you want,” I tried. He wanted to dance; that much was obvious by how much fun he was having with Sam and Abby. Nervous energy ran up his shoulders. He slipped his hand into mine, and I directed him into a closed position, my hand going to cup his left shoulder blade as his left hand found the top of my arm. “Do you want to shift lead with me, or would you prefer one of us leads and one of us follows dominantly?” I asked with our first turnout.
“You lead. I know how to follow with this, and you’re bigger than me,” he pointed out. A left outside and a right outside. It was nice to hear him being confident in a reply. He followed, and the dance floor fell away as I enjoyed the feel of him in my arms for this one heartbeat in time. I took advantage of the dance to trace his lines.
“You dance well. Who taught you?” I asked between a whisk and a promenade.
“I did a private commission on trade for a dance instructor. I wanted to learn, and I didn’t want my money taken from me from my mom’s boyfriend at the time. The instructor agreed to teach me in the evenings after work ended while I did his coat. I taught my siblings when I could.” He went with my lean back. “Common for the military to train in dancing?” he asked.
“Amazingly enough. It was encouraged. They thought it would help most of us from turning into drunks as we got older,” I explained.
“Uh, no, not at all. Those who were going to turn into drunks, turned into drunks, regardless of if they were on the floor or not.”
“You dance well…” he went to say, his expression fluttering around my shoulders and chest, afraid to meet my eyes.
“But?” I asked after the questioning note in his throat.
“For dancing with another guy?”
“Meh. I dance with who I want to if they’ll have me.” I shrugged, dipping him low.
“Anyone?” He held into the dip phenomenally well. I had my own reasons for enjoying that position.
“Sure?” I returned him upright and stepped out to another promenade for four steps before switching sides to return back to our initial position.
“Women?” A turnout and spin.
“Yep.” A low cape and another spin.
“M-men?” he gulped. A high cape and another dip.
“Yep.” I might have held that dip a couple stops longer than was absolutely necessary for that song. I’m not apologizing.
“Anyone else?” He drew in a breath as I pulled him back up to an open promenade.
“If they can dance, they know the moves or are willing to learn, and say yes, I don’t discriminate against who I dance with,” I shifted his weight for a twist. His cheeks were going a deep pink. I raised an eyebrow when it reached his ear tips. As he was turning fascinating shades, my collar was feeling a bit warmer than I would have liked.
“Just dance?” he swallowed. I followed the drop of his Adam’s apple, and my fangs were wanting to come out to play.
“Do you want an honest answer?” Saliva was something else to contend with when I was already trying to focus on leading and carrying on a conversation. I got his blush to burn him a cherry red. That was worth the question, though it did render him mute.
The music came to an end, and we pulled ourselves away from the dance, ending with a flourish. Clapping drew us from our glittering moment. I paled. Somehow I had ended up with us in the middle of the dance floor. Leader my butt, I couldn’t even keep us off in the corner I knew would keep him feeling comfortable. His fingers tightened in mine as he looked around at the audience we had ended up with. “To answer your question,” I leaned into his ear with all the clapping. “Not just dancing.” He shivered under my breath, and the power I had been absorbing off the spot where our hands met was like falling down a waterfall. I turned him from the dance floor and led him back to the corner where Sam and Abby had been watching us.
“That was really pretty!” Abby chirped as she spun around with excitement. Sanctus tried to hide his smile.
“Can you teach me how to do that, sir?” Sam asked me.
“I think you should ask Sanctus for instructions; he’s better than me at this.”
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