While Harry fell into his own subconscious, Ray followed Jessyn into an elevator, standing quiet as they ascended to the club’s top floor, and then out into a low-lit, high-ceilinged space in which a smattering of tables of various size were separated by lattice barriers.
Almost the second Jessyn exited the lift, the duty host swooped up with a smile and an actual bow.
“Domina Jessyn,” the tanti—because if Ray wasn’t mistaken, this Eiolan was one of the species’ third gender—greeted. “How may I serve you this evening?”
“Erbin.” Jessyn offered a smile and the same hand-over-the-heart gesture she’d given Ray earlier. “My guest and I would like a table.”
“Of course,” Erbin said, bowing again as le turned and led the way through the dining area, pausing to open a screens to display a table for two next to a floor to ceiling window that overlooked the Nuph River, already gleaming in the light of the rising moons. “I hope this will suit, Domina.”
“It is perfect,” Jessyn assured lem, taking the chair Erbin pulled out for her.
“And what is your pleasure this evening?” the host asked as le stepped back.
“The house tea, please, and the citrus mousse.” Jessyn looked across the table, to where Ray was taking his seat. “Two spoons.”
“Excellent choice,” Erbin enthused before, for the first time, looking at Ray. “And for sir?”
At that, Ray cocked an eyebrow in her direction, his way of asking, Do we have time for this?
Her own eyebrow rose, which he took to mean, Trust me.
“Sir will have coffee,” Ray told Erbin. “Black.”
“Very good, sir,” Erbin responded before taking lemself off.
“Is it just me,” Ray asked, “or does Erbin have a bug up ler derrière about Humans?”
“It is nothing so specific,” she said with a smile. “Erbin believes the worse le treats the guests, the more the guests will appreciate their experience.” She eased back as a server arrived with their order.
Even as the server backed away to close the screen, the odors of rich coffee, flowery tea, and the tropical dessert filled Ray’s senses. With the moons shining outside, the river flowing below, and the strains of the upper-level dance floor seeping into the restaurant, Ray might have considered himself on vacation—if he weren’t preoccupied by concern for one Marshal Harry Finn.
And yet he stayed where he was, sitting at the table with the coffee, the dessert, and the woman.
As he questioned his own lack of action, Jessyn handed him one of the long handled spoons that had been delivered with the mousse.
“Shall we?” With the second spoon in her left hand she met his gaze. “On three?”
And like kids sharing a treat at a picnic, they dug in, but the second Jessyn’s spoon touched her tongue she let out a that prompted an unexpected and startlingly graphic flash in Ray’s mind of the two of them, naked and entwined.
Jesus, Ray, you’re working. Get a grip.
Shaking his head, he ate his spoonful, and at the sudden burst of bright, tart, and sweet, felt his own mood shoot up a few notches.
He looked at Jessyn, who was smiling in a way that said she’d not only expected that reaction to the mousse, but had been counting on it. The smile deepened as she leaned forward, head tilted, shoulders angled and lips slightly open.
Playing the flirt, he thought, but playing the flirt in such a way he knew she was playing.
It made him want to peer through the screens surrounding them—to see who might be peering through the screen’s delicate scrollwork—but looking would, haha, look suspicious.
“Now,” Jessyn said, “we may talk, but it must be quick.” Her chin dipped down to the dessert she was dipping into, again. “Before we eat the rest of our cover.”
“Cover?” he asked.
In answer, she reached over and touched the back of his hand, where it rested by his coffee cup.
What came next was a rippling surge of pure citrus-scented pleasure, coursing from her skin to his, and shooting through his system with a rush as bright as the mousse sitting between them.
“Endorphins,” she clarified over the shimmer of their physical contact. “Any other Rasalkans nearby will be as overwhelmed by the experience as we are. Which means,” she added, taking another tiny bite, “they won’t know what we are discussing.”
Rasalkans, he thought, drawing his hand back and letting out a shaky breath. They had to be Rasalkans. “I guess that explains why I’ve had trouble keeping my mind on business—hell, I’ve been having trouble keeping myself from tearing you out of that dress—since you first spoke.”
“My sorrows for your discomfort,” she began, but already he was thinking back to what she’d said about other Rasalkans paying attention.
“How many Rasalkans are working here?” he asked.
“All of the hostesses, most of upper management, almost half of security,” she replied, taking another bite of mousse. “Most of us are sworn to House Szado, but not all.”
This time, even though she wasn’t touching him, he felt the shudder of her pleasure all the way to his core.
“Okay,” he said, taking a bite himself as he tried to stay on point, “so you’re one of a bunch of Rasalkans on the property. Why bother with the questions? Why don’t you just?” He tapped the side of his head.
“First, because I am an empath, not a telepath. Second, even if I were, sapient thought is not linear. Very few telephs have the ability to hone in on even a single line of thought.” She swirled the spoon through the mousse as she continued. “In a way, what I sense is more accurate, as it is difficult for emotions to lie. Which leads to another truth,” she admitted, setting down the spoon. “What you yearn for right now? It is not only you.”
A statement that did nothing to ease his suffering.
“Sad to say,” she continued, “I am not my own mistress, nor able to…choose for myself.”
“And if you were?” Jesus, had he just said that?
“If I were?” Jessyn met his gaze and saliva pooled in his mouth as she said, “If I were, you would not need to tear this dress away. It would be on the floor already.”
Ray his coffee and downed it in a gulp. Holy Mother.
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