“I’ve taken an interest in Brother Lapis.” Phaedra said as Kate settled herself onto the sofa with a glass of wine.
“Bad idea.” Kate warned. “I know his type. He hasn’t raised a hand yet, but he will put one of my girls in the ground.”
Phaedra smiled. “I’m willing to take that risk.”
Kate tilted her head to one side, considering. “You haven’t asked about him since summer. I thought maybe you’d come to your senses.”
Phaedra shrugged. “I lost interest. I also imagine he’s been too busy playing toady to Moonwall to be worth my time.”
Kate pursed her lips and reached for a slice of loganberry cake. She and Phae were friendly enough to have these few minutes before the other girls arrived for poker night, but not of the sort of friendship where Kate would play mother. “What’s brought him back to your interest?”
Phaedra smiled. She could remember too clearly the evening before when he’d walked her home on some gentlemanly pretence. He’d reached for her hand and she’d expected the sort of powerplay he’d pulled when they’d had their first encounter alone and she had told his fortune. She’d been caught off-guard when he, rather than tugging her off balance, or squeezing her hand a touch too hard for just a second too long, instead bent over her hand, murmured something, and then kissed the inside of her wrist.
It had been a long time since she’d been so completely surprised. “We had a glass of wine yesterday evening.” She replied at last. “The conversation was excellent.”
“Well, he’s clean, so far as I know. No opium, or anything, either.” Kate ventured. Not entirely sure how to respond. Or where, exactly, Phaedra was taking this conversation.
Phaedra let the silence draw out. Taking her time in pouring another glass of wine for herself, and glancing at the cuckoo clock, scratching Missy’s ears. At last she spoke. “It’s a pity he’s so often distracted in the evening.”
Kate appeared puzzled for a moment and then a little look of surprise flickered across her face. “On that matter, you only have to speak the word.”
Phaedra smiled warmly. “How lovely to hear.”
The creaky hinge on the atrium door sang out and Missy skittered to the door, barking. Njal pushed into the room and took a mock-swipe at the growling dog with her booted foot. Nonny appeared behind her.
“Are we late?” Njal asked in that particular tone which meant she could have cared less if she was.
“It’s Njal’s fault if we are. She just wouldn’t lay off my customers.” Nonny grumbled, dropping into the nearest chair and pouring herself a drink
“Not at all. We can hardly start before we have four players. Kate and I were just waiting.” Phaedra took up the deck of cards and started to shuffle.
Kate seemed to see an opportunity. “Phaedra has taken a fancy to Brother Lapis.”
Nonny snorted. “Why the hell would you do that? I thought you had someone in your back pocket.”
“I was telling her it’s stupid. The man is an unstable jerk.” Kate intoned.
“Dom isn’t a jerk.” Njal piped up, a touch too defensively.
Nonny shook her head. “He isn’t a jerk all the time. He can be kind of sweet, actually,” She blushed briefly. “when he was in the right mood. Brought me flowers on my birthday, once. But then I found out he was seeing someone else. More than just one someone,” she finished, giving Kate a measured stare.
Njal narrowed her eyes suspiciously. “He brought you flowers? He never brought me flowers.”
“Of course he didn’t. Girls like us don’t get flowers.” Kate smiled.
Phaedra dealt the cards out. “Stupidity aside, I still have an interest.”
“He’s all yours, so far as I’m concerned.” Nonny scooped up her cards and started arranging them in her hand.
Njal pouted at her own cards. “Never bought me any damn flowers.”
Phaedra smiled and tossed a quatloo into the pot.
Kate saw and raised.