Here was the part, in the same old Earth vids Harry seemed to enjoy so much, where the hero-slash-heroine had jailed, killed, or gotten revenge against the villains, won the heart of the love interest, and the two lay in bed after a bout of satisfying (and carefully edited) sex, contemplating their future.
“So,” Ray said, facing Jessyn, practically nose to nose with her.
“So,” she said back, her eyes sparkling like a sunlit pool and her smile almost as foolish as his.
“That was—” he began.
“Fun,” she said, then laughed at his expression. “No, but truly it was. I especially liked the part where you used your—”
“Yes, right, fun.” He cut her off with a kiss. “Fun, and wow.”
“Wow,” she echoed the word, dancing her fingers over his heart. “Yes.” Her lips followed her fingers, and the tumble of her hair brushed his ribs, tickling him, which made him smile—which made him pause because he didn’t recall feeling this . . . relaxed? Happy? At home? In ever.
“Ray,” Jessyn murmured, nuzzling his ear, “you are thinking too loud.”
“Sorry.” He stroked a hand over her shoulder to soothe them both.
“You’ve no need for sorrow.” She eased back enough to curl up to her knees. “This?” Her gesture took them both in. “It is—well, it’s lovely, but it is also new and strange and—a change. But even beyond that, we are enjoying this, oh . . . What did my mother call it? Low time?”
He blinked. “Down time,” he said, catching on.
“Yes!” She bounced a bit on the bed, clearly pleased with the idiom. “We both live under obligations that do not allow for down time. For my part, such time has always been an illusion, a role I play for the benefit of House Szado and whatever partner they select for me. Never for myself . . . as myself. Do you understand?”
Too damn well did he understand. “Oh, yeah.”
“But now, with you, I am entirely myself.” Her head tilted. “I need not hide, and that is a wonderful thing. But it is also a frightening thing.”
Wonderful and frightening, Ray mused. That pretty much summed it up.
Although confusing was also a large part of it.
“Listen, I have to be honest,” he said, meeting her blue eyes straight on, “what you said before, in the Lady’s office, about this . . .”
“Sáttmáli,” Jessyn offered.
“Yeah. The bond between us.” Ray nodded. “The Lady’s approval aside, it’s still going to be a problem, isn’t it?”
“More than a problem. Given I am only half Rasalkan and you fully human, it is also something of a mystery. If not for the Lady’s care, we would likely be a case study inside a Rasalkan laboratory by now.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I’ll keep that in mind,” he said. “But beyond repressive governments and mad-scientist opinions, I also got, from what you said, it’s a kind of imperative, isn’t it? An obligation, and you’ve spent half your life corralled by obligations.”
“As have you,” she pointed out.
“Maybe, but I don’t think it’s the—”
“Raymond.” She met his eyes with a serious gaze far too like Harry’s for his comfort.
“Okay. Yes. Fine, my life isn’t mine, but—what I mean is I don’t want me—us—to be that to you. I don’t want to be another obligation.”
At that she smiled, and a wash of gratitude and appreciation, underscored by something he didn’t know the name for, swept over him. “You are correct,” she said, pulling her knees to her chest as she spoke. “And at first, I did resent losing control of my self—of my heart—and to be truthful, I feared as much for you. But perhaps we are crossing the bridge before the horse?”
“By worrying over what this means,” she said, resting her chin on her knees. “After all, as far as some theorists believe, the bond is nothing more than the vestigial remnant of the earliest Rasalkans’ procreative drive—a sub-psionic recognition between suitable mates—”
The last thing he’d expected was a scholarly lecture, and for reasons he couldn’t fathom, Ray found himself charmed.
“—but if procreation were the be-all and end-all, lovers of the same gender would be unable to achieve sáttmali, yet they do.” She stopped, looked down, and sighed. “And now it is my turn to be sorry,” she said, blowing a curl aside. “I doubt you were seeking a course in physio-psionic interactions.”
“I wasn’t.” The small smile broadened. “But you’re so sexy when you geek out like that.”
“Geek?” Jessyn looked down at him, one eyebrow cocked, her expression quizzical.
“I don’t think the textbook definition would be very flattering,” he said, idly running a finger from the top of one of her knee to the tip of her toe. “Let’s just say it’s someone who’s fluent in smart speak and leave it at that.”
“Ah.” Jessyn twitched both eyebrows, “Like gáfu . . . what some students at the Nhaiad Academy called me. Though the meanings are similar, it does not translate entirely from Rasalkan to Standard.”
Ray reached out and pulled her back, circling his arms around her small waist. “I got a newsflash for you.” He kissed her quickly. “You don’t entirely translate from Rasalkan to Standard. And that—is a good thing.”
He figured her laugh, and the delighted “Raymond” that followed told him he’d made his point, and then some.