Lapis sat at one end of the marble-topped table slathering thick slices of fresh bread with butter and mopping up the inside of his bowl with them. Phaedra stood on the other end of the table, delicately rolling cooled truffles in a mixture of cocoa powder and chili and setting them on a dish.
“The way you eat, one would think the Church doesn’t feed you at all.”
Lapis smiled. “They do. But Lox burns the bread.”
“Ah.” She turned away from him to wash her hands in a basin. “Care to test my newest batch?”
Lapis was on his feet instantly, looking the truffles over. It turned out the man was a dyed-in-the-wool chocolate fiend. He picked one up, examining it. “What did you do to them?”
“Nothing fatal, I promise. I’m still perfecting my Valentine’s recipe. It’s fast approaching.” She dried her hands on her apron, watching him.
“I assume you wouldn’t kill me before we went to bed.” He gave the truffle a hesitant sniff, holding it as one might hold particularly volatile ammunition.
“Certainly not. When the sun rises, as you know, quite a different story.”
Phaedra moved to his other side, so she stood between him and the door, just in case.
He popped it in his mouth and chewed it meditatively. His eyes rolled shut. He tilted his head back.
“That is…” he hesitated, looked at her for a long moment. Then looked around him. There was a peculiar clarity to his expression, a cruelty that Phaedra had only seen in his eyes once before. A look that was all too Ravilan. She took a step backward and he lunged like a cat at prey, seizing her by the throat and pinning her to the wall. “Witch,” he hissed.
He had a dagger in his hand and Phaedra cursed herself for not remembering to ask him to disarm when he entered the shop. He pressed the blade to her throat, his other hand sliding down her her throat, to her bodice. He stared into her eyes.
“Monster.” She replied through clenched teeth. He slipped the blade away, leaving a tingle of pain across her throat and kissed her, hard.
Phaedra panicked and shouted a word against his lips that snapped the air between them like glass and made her ears ring.
He let go, stumbling backward, lifting his hands to his ears in confusion. She ran for the door, dashing down the stairs. Behind her she could hear him giving chase, his boots hard on the wood.
She flung herself out the door and onto the slick cobbles and, half skidding, half running, dashed down the short alley. She hesitated at docks, jerking a look over her shoulder to make sure he was still pursuing her and she hadn’t lost him.
“Damn this town.” She shouted and leapt into the frigid, filthy harbor, the cold snapping around her like a coffin. She sank and then surged toward the surface. Not far from her Lapis came up with a hoarse cry, his arms beating the water as confusion set in.
“This way!” Phaedra called and kicked towards the low dock, hauling herself out of the water. Lapis dragged himself out next to her and they both got to their feet.
“You’re bleeding.” Lapis’s teeth were chattering hard.
“I don’t doubt it.” Phaedra said, starting clumsily back toward the chocolate shop. Lapis followed after her. As soon as they were both in the door Phaedra snapped the lock to and pulled the curtains. She tugged the strings on her apron and shed it on the floor and began the laborious process of unbuttoning her gown.
“What the hell did you put in those things?” Lapis had dropped his sword-belt to his feet and was hastily removing his own clothing.
“Wrong kind of passion. Damn Ravilans.” She caught sight of herself in a mirror and groaned, “Damn Babbage, too.” Her hair, even wet, had clearly lost a shade or two. It would take weeks to repair.
Lapis laughed. He shook water from his hair and reached for her, hooking a finger through her corset strings. “Why don’t I help you warm back up and we’ll see if I can’t sway your opinion of Ravilan men.”