Good lord, Emma thinks on her way up the path, he’s done it, got himself a daddy. She has a few guesses from the calm, understated, low-key, and incredibly expensive car that is still there blocking the driveway. This morning in the dark she crept past it sideways, trying not to set off any alarms. She’s pretty sure who, out of her short-list– a very short list– of approved men, won the prize. But she wonders if she is going to regret this, if her machinations will end up turning her out of Dance’s life. Moneyed men can be quite selfish, after all.
She opens the bathroom door quickly so as not to give it a chance to squeak. The room feels like a swamp, and through the pebbled glass door she can tell that Dance and the tall greying man Drin are getting along splendidly– The hint of entwined limbs through the pebbled glass is so damned hot, and she would like to see more. She lays the new toothbrush in its package on the counter, where he’ll be sure to find it.
A quick check of Dance’s room; the thoroughly rumpled little bed and the heavy and unmistakable scent of semen tell an eloquent story. Drin has a formal suit folded up there; not the thing for eating brekkie in. Emma rummages her drawers, and finds a more-or-less gender-free teeshirt, knowing exactly what Dance has in his sadly limited wardrobe. His gray sweats are all too small for a man the size of Drin. Who knew she wore so many bright colors? She tugs the knot out of the hem, lays it on Dance’s bed, and then finds the evidence of two seriously abused pairs of boxers. “Oh, god,” she finds herself muttering under her breath. Somewhere, she’s got something– ugly and really too big for him, but she can’t imagine Drin wanting to put those wet, smelly things back on.
She doesn’t want to leave the room. The big man wears some sort of faint cologne, it goes straight to her hindbrain and waves little flags. Shut up, she tells the flags.
She compromises by carrying soiled things out with her, to drop in the washer. There’s slime on her fingertips, and she brings them to her face. To smell. All right, to taste, and she promises herself that neither man will ever know she’s done that, invaded their privacy that way.
Well, it has been awhile, hasn’t it? that sardonic little voice in the back of her head remarks. The one that’s always getting her in trouble at boring meetings.
Then she barricades herself in her own room, which does lock, shucks her clothing, and thrusts her fingers into herself with singleminded intensity and a violence that would probably shock either man if they saw her, muffling her helpless gulping cries in a pillow. It takes her several minutes before her limbs return to her command and she can roll onto her back afterwards.
She hears the right kinds of noises from the kitchen, chopping sounds, Dance’s whistling. If she’s incredibly lucky, she thinks, she’ll hear these familiar sounds for a long time to come. The sounds of Dance cooking has come to mean home to her, and she’d hate to give it up. She gets her arse off the bed, and hunts down something else to wear– anything, dear heavens, that is not a business ensemble.
Sneakered and shorts-clad, she pads into the kitchen and finds Drin chopping onions and asparagus stems, dressed in wrinkly dress pants and a girl’s sleep-shirt and a rather dazed expression on his face. He’s listening to Dance whistling a cantata between his front teeth, doing all the twirls and harmonies, while cooking bacon.
“Hello, thanks for the loaner,” Drin says, and smiles at her. He puts down the knife, washes his hands, dries them, and turns back to her with his hand extended.
“Oh, love, you don’t need to be formal here,” she says, and throws both arms around him, and squeezes him tight. “My God, man, you’re an armful, and no mistake,” and then she realizes she’d better get her boobs off him before she has an orgasm just from the smell of him, and she hurries off to Dance, dropping a kiss on his cheek. “You’re a prince and I’ll gladly have your babies if you’ll feed me some of that.”
“I don’t want any babies by you,” Dance says right back, in her own accent. “They’d murder me in my sleep for letting you get knocked up. Very Greek.”
“Oh hush, you’re so rude,” she says, and smacks him on the butt. “Have you fed this man anything, or did you let him starve to death all this time?”
“Oh, we are chaining him up in the dungeon for learning all his wicked ways,” Dance says gravely, taking the bacon out of the pan. She steals a piece, dodging back and giggling, but he still smacks her on the wrist, as always. “Starving our Drin, of course, what do you think?”
“I think you’re looking particularly wet about the ears,” Emma says.
“Well, that’s because we are,” and he smacks her wrist again.
Oh God, she’s forgotten how effing blindingly blunt Dance is. Give him repartee, and he’ll run for the hills with it, laughing the whole way.
Drin holds out the bowl of chopped onions. He says, “Am I a prince too?”
“Oh no, love,” she says gravely, looking up at his crinkled eyes, “You’re a king, there’s no doubt about that, not when you’ve got a jawline that could stop a landtrain.”
“Flattery, ” Drin says, smiling at her as she takes the bowl. God, he must have secretaries dropping like flies behind him when he uses that rumbly deep tone of voice.
“Oh, we have quite a good product line of that, if you’d like,” she says, “I spent all morning trotting that out, like I was showing off some kind of livestock. Fund-raising, you know.”
“More like ugly clothes,” Dance says. “In strange colors.”
She puts on a silly voice, saying, “And over here, we have our spring line of ankle-breaking shoes with nine-inch heels for all your fetish needs–” She snorts and bangs the bowl down by Dance’s hand.
“You had fetishwear?” Drin says, plaintively. “You had ankle-breaking shoes and you never told us?”
Good lord, Emma notes to herself, it’s going mighty fast. ‘Us’, already? The rumpled sheets flash across her mind and she banishes it before he sees it too, right there in her face. She snorts again. “I don’t need to lose any more of the Symphony’s patrons by giving the ancient guys heart attacks, they wouldn’t thank me for that, love.”
“Or from broken legs on the rude tennis ladies,” Dance says dryly, and he gives a little shimmy with his hips. He has no idea how astonishing that looks. She knows that. An apprehensive look at Drin says he’s seen it. Damn, he’s fast. He knows Dance has no idea what that does to a person’s libido. “Very fast-moving, some of those ladies, when they want to grab a piece off your bottom.” He makes such a pained face it gets Drin laughing. “Watch out, our Drin. You know our Miss Jocelyn? Oh, she has the tennis hand, she is wicked fast.”
Drin holds up a stalk of celery and fences the air vigorously. “Back, woman! I say! Back! I shall battle you, I shall fight you for him on the beaches, on the roads, on the–” until Dance is giggling.
Emma rolls her eyes, and starts chewing on a stem of celery stolen from Drin’s chopping board. At one point she and Amalia got worried by negative remarks from the Ladies’ Senior Auxiliary ringleader, but something has certainly changed. Drin’s approval might be plenty. She props herself on the counter near him, trying to persuade herself to stay further away, and failing. She lists off events, trying to remind herself which particular set of patrons have to be dragged by the scruff to show up, listing off which ones have to be called by herself and which ones by Dance.
She tells herself it’s like doing multiplication tables, to calm down.
It’s not bloody working.
Not when Drin is gazing quizzically at her like that, with the knife whirring through the celery, and he isn’t even looking at it.
Dance is still whistling. He’s looking positively sleek, like he’s been… never mind what he’s been. He nods now and then as she speaks, shifting the asparagus into the hot pan, with sizzling noises. “The Simons said they’d be out of the country through March,” he says.
“God rot them for it. Anybody I forgot?” she asks.
Drin nods gravely, putting his knife down on the block.
“Well, who?” she demands, with her eyes very wide.
“Me.” He folds his arms. “I’m very demanding. Personal attention. I’m going to be hogging your Concertmaster like the egotist I am.” And he puts up that beard in the air and he gives a big, theatrical sniff.
Dance is staring at him, mouth open, and then both he and Emma are laughing, and Emma is smacking the man’s arm with her celery stick. She shakes it at him. “You’re shameless.”
Drin smiles wryly. “Probably a good thing, seeing how busy Dance is.”
Emma looks up at him, arms folded tight around herself, worried. Goddammit, he’s sharp enough to cut himself. No apologies, no embarrassment, no doubts. He knows how important she is to Dance, and he knows who he has to talk to about Dance.
Drin puts up his hand, palm flat. “I solemnly swear, I am not going to wreck his rehearsal schedules or his bookings or his–”
“Oh, he can do that without any help from us, just having our bloody second cellist wander in an hour late,” Emma says. She puts on a silly face. “Hey dooods, did I miiiissss anything?”
Drin looks at Dance, and starts snickering. Clearly, information has been passed about Robert, the Metro’s silly chook-headed second cellist.
Emma glares at Dance. “You gossipped, didn’t you?” she says. She sighs. “Of course you did. A cross to bear like Robert, who wouldn’t be yelling at the sky, saying, ‘My God, my Gaaawd, why hast Thou foresaaaaken me?'”
“I take it you know the gentleman rather well,” Drin says, plucking the last celery stick right out of her hand, as comfortable in this kitchen as if he already owns the place, and both of them with it, and he washes it under the tap. It’s sort of hot, in a maddening upper-class way. Assumptions. He’s careful with things, though. He’s not going to be a careless Squire, if anybody was wondering. “It sounds positively Biblical.”
Dance growls something about biblical-style punishments. He points at Drin. “Hey, here is our own Charlton Heston with the magic waving, can’t we do something with stone about the cheeky little brat? Do the lightning thing, crack-boom, all that?”
Ouch, Emma thinks, wincing. Don’t tell an older guy he looks like Heston. Bad form. Dance just isn’t used to honey-coating things for a sugar-daddy, and of course it shows.
But Drin smiles. He gets it. He bloody well absolutely knows that he’s got himself a total infant at all this, and he’s charmed. He doesn’t mind the odd thump or three from somebody who doesn’t even know they’re being clumsy. They have no right at all to be so lucky. Nobody else on her list would ever have got that. Nobody.
She can feel tears well up in her eyes. Emma draws in a deep, apprehensive breath, and feels a streak of pain shoot up her pelvis, light up her back like a hot coal. Well, dammit, she’s not getting any backrubs from Dance tonight. Not if she’s got anything to say about it. She presses her fists on the small of her back, and those bloody stupid loud noises come out of her spine. A little savagely, she growls, “You figure something out, you just let me know, I’ll be happy to arrange the venue for it.”
“I am not Charlton Heston,” Drin says, chopping celery, and putting on a silly pompous face. “I am not into monkeys, thank you. Or chariot races, either.”
Of course he’s doing Heston so clearly that it makes both of them crack up.
Dance nods at her to fetch a plate, and he flips the pan to roll out the first omelet, still chuckling. She hasn’t heard Dance laugh this much for months. Bloody hell, Emma thinks, if I’d known the man could be so funny, I’d have snapped him up for Dance a year ago. Well, maybe. Drin is choosy. She’s seen him watching Dance for awhile, observing, wandering through, the same as he watches a lot of the other performers.
He makes them laugh through breakfast. He actually gets her to sing him the verses he’s forgot to a couple different Gilbert and Sullivan outrages. And he bloody well gives the cat more than four shrimp, she knows that for sure.
More than once, she’s caught his measuring gaze on her, and each time he smiles directly into her eyes.
Good God of Mercy, he’s not just a nice bear of a sugar daddy looking for something pretty to bring him his slippers at night, she tells herself, blinking. He’s not adverse to letting her know she’s just as interesting as Dance. And he’s not just being polite. Those borrowed boxers make sure she knows that. But thinking about that is one way to head right back to drifting off with visions of those sheets in Dance’s room, and she’s not going to lose her grip in a conversation that moves as far and as fast as this one does.
“Swimming,” she says firmly. “Some easy workout in the pool and then you should soak in the hot tub, it really helps.” She meets his gaze, and then she looks at Dance, and then she looks at Drin again. She can almost see the smoke coming out of his ears, poor thing. Well, she knows what Dance looks like, swimming, and Drin seems to have quite a good imagination. It still won’t match the real thing. She can imagine it too. She smiles at Drin. While she’s putting the sheets in the washer.