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Blood and Bourbon

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Story Thirteen, Genevieve I, Sterling I

“I’m going to make you the luckiest ghoul in New Orleans. If you’ll let me.”
The Man With The Silver Smile


Wednesday, 13 February 2013, AM

Sterling: It’s a nice place.

It’s nicer, than anywhere her last owner could have stayed. Would have stayed? Doesn’t matter. That monster liked to squat, didn’t see much use for finer things.

This monster has finer things to give away. The apartment in Marigny doesn’t look heavily lived in. It has all the trappings of modern life, all the nice things an apartment is supposed to have; a big, expensive-looking television, what looks like a painting on the far side, sleek hardwood floors, stairs leading to an upstairs loft in the corner, and even one of those sculptures in the corner; the ones that exist contorted into an untenable, unending state.

Just like her.

“Welcome to your new home,” the monster says after giving her a moment to take it in.

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“I just bought it. Don’t recall how much it cost. Actually, I don’t think I asked. People make such a fuss about the price, but I saw it and had a feeling I would have a use for it soon. So I said, ‘I want it.’ And then I saw your face, and I knew why. You can decorate it however you like, of course. You’ll be the one staying her, most of the time. And it’s right near my other place, or one of them, so we’ll never be too far.”

He strolls in, brandishing the silver-headed cane he carries about the place. He talks with his hands, vividly, almost ceaselessly, his movements flowing like molten steel that’s been poured into the checker-patterned suit he wears, a contiguous, ceaseless ripple of motion that might spill at any moment and scald. Every once in a while, the foot of his cane strikes the hardwood floors softly, a dull thump that punctuates his more emotive exclamations.

When he reaches the center of the room, he pivots to face her, and smiles the smile that she wasn’t sure she had seen right the first time. It’s a smile too crooked to stay on a face, a smile that glints with cursed silver but hides the teeth she knows his kind keep in their mouths.

The smile is all she knows of him. The man with the silver smile has not given her a name yet, but he knows hers. He asked her owner.

“What do you think, Genevieve? Will it suit you?”

Genevieve: She is more akin to the statue in the corner than she will ever be to this… thing, all smiles and grand motions, incessant movement, ceaseless chatter. She is still. Her movements are minimal. She does not gawk at this new place, all wide eyed and craning necks, but looks instead with a flicker of her eyes.

They’re the only thing that give her away, those eyes, the only color in a field of white. Blue, gray, who can tell. Something soft or stormy. They dart around the room, taking it in, categorizing things into little columns to keep them straight. Her brain does it all without her noticing.

Its attention, though, is on the monster in the middle of the room. The tap, tap, tapping of his cane. Trouble, it says. Danger. Every alarm bell inside her head goes off at that smile.

It’s survival strategy, that stillness, brought on by years of experience. Not just with their kind but the ordinary people as well, the people with color in their skin and hair, the people who point, laugh, stare. It keeps her safe, lets her size them up, figure them out. Who can be mad at a marble carving?

A home. He’s giving her a home. A nicer apartment than she could have afforded before, even with two salaries. This has to be a trick. A joke. Any moment now he’ll laugh at her for thinking this is real.

“Yes.” Sir? Master? Lord on High? What sort of obsequious title does this creature demand?

It’s a yes that tells him to get it over with, to finish laughing, to ask how she could be so foolish as to think she deserved anything so nice as her own abode. Perhaps he’ll put her in a closet somewhere. Or throw a pillow over the softest spot of the hardwood floor.

Sterling: He clucks. “Good, good. If you decide it isn’t, we can always get you another.”

He is very quickly close to her—not blurring like quicksilver but simply too quick to step away from gracefully. Up close, she can look him in the eyes, eyes the color of dollar bills and snakeskins. He doesn’t look so cold as her last. His skin might be greyish, but he breathes in rushed little puffs, and blinks regularly.

He snaps his fingers in front of her eyes, breaking-glass loud and heart-attack quick.

Genevieve: She doesn’t do anything so mundane as stumble. She is too nimble for that, though not so immune to their—his—tricks that she does not react. She flinches. The heels of her feet leave the floor, weight shifting forward. Her shoulders lift a fraction of an inch, though her hands remain at her sides.

She tells herself she was just blinking, but her heart hammers away at her ribcage. Thump-thump. He can see the spot on her neck bounce, racing. It gives her away.

Sterling: “Oh, lovely,” he says simply, that smile returning. He’s positively giddy. “Brilliant. You’re strong. I suppose you must be, if you’ve survived a brute like him for so long.”

He whirls about and before she can regain her breath he’s reclining on the couch, fingers laced behind his head and the cane leaning against his leg.

“Hope it’s okay if I sit,” he says jovially. “You can, of course, join me. It’s your place, after all.”

Genevieve: If it’s her place, can she ask him to leave?

There’s a moment where she considers running. The door is right there. The thought is dismissed as soon as it occurs. She hesitates, eyeing the couch, considering his placement. Sit too close and it’s an open invitation, too far away and it’s a snub. Maybe the couch itself is a test and he’ll want to know what scum like her thinks she’s doing sitting on the furniture. It’s a game.

She hates games. The rules haven’t been explained; she’s off balance and she doesn’t like it.

Five short steps take her across the room to the couch and she sinks onto it as if she hadn’t just been debating the merits of where to place herself. Her feet stay flat on the ground, hands on her knees, back straight. She doesn’t want to look at him so her eyes stare straight ahead instead. She can’t help but think about the changes she would make if this were her place. Swap out the art. Find the support beams to add a hook, then a bar or rings. Pad the floor beneath it…

Dreaming is dangerous. She stops.

She should, she reflects, ask what he wants. What to call him. She opens her mouth to do so.

Sterling: “You could run,” the man with the silver smile says as she opens her mouth. “It would force me to do things I don’t want to do, and which you would enjoy even less. Please don’t. And I think padding the floor is a great idea. And maybe a rug, too. If you need encouragement.”

His voice is different. Before it was garrulous and gay, the voice of a socialite. Now it’s dryer, raspier, the voice of a smoker who started young and kept on smoking as he got older. There’s warmth in that voice, but also amusement.

Genevieve: He’s in her head.

The realization slams into her. She shouldn’t be surprised. He had done it too. Watched her dreams. Found out what would make her break, who he could threaten—her thoughts spin away from her before she can think his name or picture his face.

Her pulse jumps up. She swallows, the sound audible in the otherwise silent room.

“I wasn’t going to run.” She moves on, drowning out the lie with a question. “What do you want with me?”

Sterling: “There’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” he says in that same wizened voice. “I’d think about running, too, if I were you. But then, I’ve always had an appetite for risk.” Those money-colored eyes twinkle. “As for you—I daresay I’ve already done what I want to you. I’ve rescued you.”

Genevieve: Rescued. As if he hadn’t just stuck her into another cage.

“A gilded cage is still a cage. ‘Rescued’ implies freedom.” She looks pointedly at the door.

Sterling: The giggle that greets her words is several octaves too high, and it ricochets about her ears impossibly. The man raises an eyebrow. “And what do you think freedom means for you now, in this city? Tell me, doesn’t a part of you long to seek out your abuser, even now? Long to be fed, even if that feeding is followed by a beating? I can smell sin, Gen—shall I call you Gen? I think I shall— and pain, and you have the reek of an addict. I could no more set you free than I could save a dope fiend from themselves.There is no such thing as freedom for a ghoul in New Orleans, or anywhere else my kind hunt. Not really.”

The dry, scraped voice turns somber. “Your boldness does you credit, though. You really were a prize worth winning.”

Genevieve: A prize. A rescue. That’s what she is now. Something to be won, bartered, traded. Bought and sold to the highest bidder, and she has no say in it.

Slave. That’s all the word ghoul means. A pretty way to say slave, another term for punching bag.

Fetch my meal. Carve it up. There’s a sweetheart.

She wants to deny his addict accusation, but his words ring true. How often had she debased herself for a drop of it? Even now she’s thinking about it. Running back to him. His eyes float in front of her, mocking.

She turns her head to finally look directly at this new one, sizing him up. He’s fast, but is he strong? Cane implies weakness. Assisted walking. Had he used it to walk, or is it just a prop?

“That’s what rehab is for.”

Sterling: He didn’t seem to be leaning on it, earlier. “Do you think you can find a rehab for the wayward slaves of vampires? Besides, I am a monster myself, and I have duties to my kind, tedious as I might find them. My old man would have a fit if he learned I had turned a renfield loose so cavalierly. No, Gen, I would much rather employ you generously myself. I think if you really took the time to think about it, you’d prefer that too.”

Genevieve: Her lips curl. “Employ?”

“Is that what you’re calling it these days?”

Sterling: “Such moxie,” the vampire sighs. “Such honesty. Yes, I am another domitor. But I am a gentler and more generous one. Cruelty for cruelty’s sake bores me terribly. I would much rather pamper you and reward you for loyal, faithful service. And though I am a beast, I am also a man. Better a servant rescued from a cruel master than one enslaved for no good but my own whims, hmm? It wears rather lighter on my conscience, inasmuch as I bother to carry one.”

Genevieve: He’d rescued her to feel good about himself. Her nose twitches in withheld amusement. She stays silent, considering. Then, “you meant it about this being my place. That wasn’t a game?” How far does generous go? Actual meals? Days off? Familial—no.

Sterling: “Oh, it’s all a game,” he croons. "But it’s one you’re meant to have fun in. This is your home, now, for as long as you serve me or grow tired of it. And how far generous goes… " he smiles slightly. “If you ask, many things might be given. I’ll tell you what. If you come sit on my lap, I’ll pretend to be Santa and we’ll call it Christmas. I like saying yes. It’s rather a thrill.”

“Or you could stay where you are. There’s no game without choice, after all.”

Genevieve: Any warmth in her eyes dies at the thought of touching him. She turns her face away, chin jerking toward the door.

“If it’s my home, I’d like you to leave.”

Say yes to that, deadman.

Sterling: He laughs. “Cute. So cute. How about we play a game, instead?”

There’s a blur of checkers, and then there’s a glass in his hand. A glass filled with red, syrupy, coppery sweetness. The smell is intoxicating.

The man who is no mere man smiles knowingly at her as he daintily licks his wrist clean. "I bet that you can’t walk me to the door without trying to take a sip. If you win, I’ll go. If you lose… " he tilts his head. “Well. If you lose, let’s just say there’s more where that came from, hmm?”

Genevieve: She’s not listening. Her eyes are on the glass in his hand. Her mouth is dry, so dry, and that will quench it. That will make everything better. That will fix the dull ache inside her chest, the one that started when she’d been told she belonged to someone else now.

If he goes, will he leave the glass? The door can’t be that far. She tears her eyes away from him to find it. When had the room gotten so big? It’s zooming away from her, like something out of a horror movie.

She thinks he moved, too. Gotten closer. Because she can smell it, can almost taste it. That’s not fair. That’s not fair, he cheated—but, no, it’s just her who’s leaning forward, reaching.

She rights herself. Shakes her head. If she’s on his lap she can pin him down. Drink until she’s full. Is the gamble worth it? Is touching him worth it?

She stands.

“Door,” she says tightly, pointing.

Sterling: He smiles, silver teeth flashing, and rises too, proffering his arm—the same arm that holds the glass. “If you’ll walk me.”

Genevieve: She can touch his arm. Arms are fine. Arms aren’t laps. Right? She takes his arm in her hands. So close to the cup, to that sweet red. A sip wouldn’t hurt. Just a taste. He’s quick, though. Is he going to snatch it away? No, he wants her to reach for it.

She tells her feet to move but they won’t. They’re stuck. Heavy. Her eyes close and that makes it worse, because now she’s picturing it, can see herself lifting the glass to her lips. It’s heavy in her hand, warmed by the blood. It will slide so smoothly down her throat…

She doesn’t know when she moved, when her hands closed around the glass, but now she isn’t imagining it in her hands, now her fingers are curling around it and she’s tugging to get it away from him.

Sterling: He lets her take it. A part of him feels bad for her, but better she find out this way than another.

She cannot be free from herself.

The taste is phenomenal, and distinct from her usual “drinks.” His blood makes her hear dice rolling, tastes like all the icons in a slot machine aligning. It tastes like victory, like a kiss from lady luck, like everything is going to be alright.

She lost the bet. But she feels like a winner.

He regards her patiently when the last sip is gone, her lips streaked with his vitae. “Well, now. It seems I’ll be staying a while longer.”

He takes her hands in his and leads her to the couch.

“I’m going to make you the luckiest ghoul in New Orleans,” he clucks softly. “If you’ll let me.”

Genevieve: It’s like that first sip of water after being lost in a desert for months. Divine. It doesn’t linger long on her lips once the glass is empty; she licks them clean, following along with him to the couch. She hadn’t gotten far. One step? Two? She doesn’t pull away, sits when and where he tells her to.

“You said more,” she reminds him.

Sterling: “More?” he asks teasingly, pulling her over his lap, bouncing his knee under her. He taps a finger against her nose, like he might a beloved dog. “What more? Is Gen suddenly thirsty, even in her gilded cage?”

His voice grows deeper, warmer, more rumbling.

Like a belly full of jelly.

“What would you like for Christmas, little Gen?” asks Santa’s voice.

Genevieve: It’s not fair. She wants more. Will her teeth break his skin?

“401k, paid vacation, no holidays, dental and vision included?” Her tone is dry. She arches one white-blonde eyebrow at him. “Should I ask for a pony instead?”

Maybe she can try it. Just bite down. She’s already on his lap. She leans in.

Sterling: He laughs.

“HO HO HO!”

He bounces her closer as she leans in, so that she’s right next to his cold neck. She can even feel an uneven, but definite pulse there. “Hard to give a 401k to an immortal, little Gen. And that’s what you’ll be. Paid vacation, sure. Pony, what breed? Ask me for something real, Gen. Something precious.”

He runs his fingers through her hair fondly.

Genevieve: “Diamonds, gold, a yacht. A rocket ship.” Nothing she wants. Just a distraction, something to keep him busy. His neck is right there. Isn’t that the place to bite? Her flat teeth touch down on his cold flesh. Only she doesn’t have anything to break the skin. She doesn’t have fangs. She’s just a ghoul on the lap of a vampire who can read her mind.

Her mouth closes.

She wants to forget the past few years ever happened. She wants to be happy and healthy. She wants her husband, and she wants him to be left alone. She wants the child she had promised him seven years ago. She wants a lock on her bedroom door that this one can’t get through.

She doesn’t say any of that. She doesn’t know how.

She nips at his neck instead.

Sterling: She nips. She can feel his laughter, a low rumble, but it fades quickly. His fingers don’t stop, but they start to caress her cheeks, her forehead. “You want to see your husband? Want him provided for and safe?”

He slips a finger to her lips, almost hushing her. “The neck has tougher flesh than a finger, you know.”

Genevieve: She’s brought back to that time, months ago, it was her finger against his lips. She’d had a dream he didn’t like. He’d heard her crying, hadn’t liked it. He’d—

She yanks away. There’s nothing graceful about it.

Sterling: He lets her, regards her sadly. “Oh, Gen. I’m not going to hurt you.”

Genevieve: Her laugh is nothing more than a disbelieving rasp. “You will. Of course you will. That’s what I’m here for. That’s all I am.” She backpedals. The ground is hard beneath her. Her shoulder hits the coffee table and she winces, rising, edging around it. The door is close. She can get outside. Scream. He was fond of telling her she had a nice set of lungs.

Sterling: “Oh, bother.” He’s past her quickly, between her and the door. “Remain still and silent,” He tells her, and she finds that she does.

“Bother, bother,” the man hums. “Don’t overexert yourself. You’ve had enough for one night, and I have other places to be anyways. I won’t chase you from your new home.”

He carries her. He’s a bit of a scrawny man—more than a bit, a stiff wind ought to bruise him—but he isn’t weak, and he carries her up the stairs to a nicer bedroom than she’s been in in years. He tucks her in, saying soothing things, and then he leans over her. She feels the bite, two pinpricks on her neck, and then the pleasure of his steady, soft pulling from her veins.

When he stops, she’s exhausted, and her eyes are fighting to remain open. “The command will desist with the sun,” she heats him say from a great distance. “I’ll be back tomorrow night, and we’ll play something innocent. I’ll give you time. You’ll adjust. I promise.”

He bends over her again, his lips brushing her forehead. “Try to sleep, Genevieve. And here’s a little apology.”

She can’t see what he does, but when he presses his wrist to her lips, she can drink of the same heady brew he shared earlier.

But this time, when it’s over, his smile swims before her eyes, and it seems rather more charming, marginally less sinister.

“Sleep, little pet. Little Gen. There are a great many clouds in your life, I know.” His voice retreats to the far side of the room. “But I hope in time, you’ll see me as what I am; the silver lining.”

The door shuts behind him. She’s left alone, in the dark, with a comfortable bed.

She’s left alone, in the gilded cage.


Wednesday, 13 February 2013, PM

Genevieve: She’s waiting for him the next evening.

She’s seated on the couch, her eyes on the door, waiting. It’s locked, but there’s no part of it that doesn’t think that he doesn’t have a key or another way in. So she sits, and she waits, and she doesn’t dread his arrival.

She has changed since last night. Her hair is still wet from her shower, her skin still pink from the heat of it. That’s the excuse she’ll use for her red eyes, too, if he asks, though she doesn’t think that he will. The clothes are the right size for her; she’d found them upstairs in the closet, and she wondered how he knew. They’re comfortable. Let her put her bare feet on the couch. The TV is black, but music plays from the radio in the corner, nothing she’s familiar with. She keeps hearing songs she doesn’t recognize.

There’s a piece of paper and a pen in front of her, words scribbled across the page in handwriting that can only be described as “rough.” It’s the list he asked for yesterday, the things she wants. She doesn’t know if the offer is still on the table.

Maybe he’ll know that she tried to run. Maybe he’ll look into her mind and see Michael with the other woman, the beautiful woman, with her tan skin and her dark hair and her eyes that aren’t too far apart, her shoulders that aren’t too broad. Maybe he’ll see the child they share, the one she couldn’t give him.

Maybe she won’t have to explain her broken heart.

Sterling: She’s right that he has a key. He blinks when he walks in.

“And here I was expecting you’d have run. Glad I checked.”

He strolls in, but doesn’t make himself comfortable. He regards her, maybe reading her mind or maybe just watching.

“You seem calmer,” he says finally. “How have you found this place? Will it suit you?”

Genevieve: She gestures vaguely toward the couch. He might as well have a seat; it’s silly to pretend that he doesn’t own this place, that he couldn’t just take it back from her on a whim. She knows what she is.

“I had a home in the city once. It wasn’t this nice.” Her eyes dart toward the statue, the art on the walls. None of it is to her taste. “Is redecorating still on the table?”

Sterling: “Of course.” He rummages in a pocket and suddenly holds a sleek, silver card between his fingers, which he offers to her. “I took the liberty of setting you up with an expenses account. I expect two hundred ought to do for the year, but let me know if you need more.”

Genevieve: Two hundred might replace her wardrobe. If she’s thrifty. There’s a secondhand store down the street she can visit. She takes the card from him, setting it on the table next to her list. A second later she crosses spending money off her list.

“Do I have a job to do? Fetching dinner?”

Sterling: He snorts. “What, hunting? Only if I’m particularly lazy. No, I see you in more of an… assistant capacity. You’ll manage some of the things I’m too bored to, help clean up when things get messy, and perhaps carry the occasional message. More than that… what are your skills? Talents?” He waves a hand that glitters with rings. “I could delve through your mind, of course, but I rather prefer to have a conversation.”

He comes closer and eyes the list. “Why’d you cross that off? Does two hundred grand go a shorter way than it used to?”

Genevieve: “…you said two hundred.”

Sterling: He looks offended. “What am I, a coal miner?”

Genevieve: “You’re giving me a card. With a limit of two hundred thousand?”

He’s insane.

Sterling: "Like I said, if you need more… " He shrugs. “Like I was saying last night, you people get so worked up about price. It all comes around, in the end. That’s just a week or two’s winnings, honestly. Besides, you’ll probably be in charge of managing my finances soon enough if you’re adept at that sort of thing. I’d rather pay you the money than encourage you to embezzle it.”

Genevieve: He has to be kidding. This is a joke. There’s no way that he’s just handing over that much money, that much responsibility. He doesn’t even know her. She could clear out the account, buy a plane ticket, be halfway around the country before he even knows.

“Winnings.” He’d won her, too. “You gamble?”

Sterling: He smiles at her roguishly. There’s some charm in it, now that she’s tasted him. “I play, yes. And I’ve made quite a career out of it.”

The man takes a seat next to her, leaning forward on his cane. “I don’t need to poke my fingers in your mind to know what you’re thinking. But money itself means next to nothing to me. And besides, if you were going to run, you would have already. I’m confident that you’ll stick around long enough to appreciate your new situation.”

Genevieve: Her eyes close. She takes a breath. It’s deep, in through the nose, out through the mouth. She has to tell him. Be honest. Otherwise he’ll find out, then it’ll be worse. She opens her eyes again but doesn’t look at him. She’s staring down at her list. How silly it seems now.

“I did run.”

Sterling: “Oh? Where to?”

Genevieve: “I can’t tell you.”

Sterling: He rolls his eyes. “Won’t, you mean.”

Genevieve: Her lips press together. She nods.

Sterling: “Look, Gen, I don’t know how much you know about my kind. Especially living among the Sabbat. But I’m sure I don’t have to point out that I’ve been exceedingly genteel with you. Yes?”

Genevieve: “Yes.” Her voice is tight. Her muscles are already tensing in anticipation.

Sterling: “And there you go. There’s no other shoe that you haven’t seen waiting to drop. No chopper coming to chop off your head. You might think I rescued you from my less cultured cousin for my own moral vanity, and you’d be right. I’m a monster, and I’m not pretending not to be. But what you don’t seem to appreciate is how I have absolutely no desire to threaten you into obedience. There are a thousand and one ways I could have done so already. Tell me, if you think I was interested in tormenting you, there is anything at all you could reasonably do to stop me?”

Genevieve: “No.” That’s the truth. He’s a vampire. She’s a human. Ghoul. Slave, whatever. He’s in charge. Stronger, faster, smarter. Immortal. She’s breakable, frail. He can read her mind. She can… do a back bend. She bets he can’t do a back bend. But that isn’t the purpose of this.

“I spent years with them. Everything I did was wrong. Every word was wrong, every action was wrong, every apology was wrong. I was—am—dirt. Less than. A literal punching bag. You bring me here. Expect me to accept that you’re not going to think of a new, creative way to break me.”

Sterling: “Oh, darling Gen. Why should I break you? You’ve been broken.”

Genevieve: “And you’re the superglue to his hammer?”

Sterling: “So much more fun to put you back together, isn’t it? I enjoy a challenge.”

Genevieve: “And what about when you get bored of that? Dissemble again? I’m not real to you people.”

Sterling: “Oh, who knows what the future holds? Well, some licks, probably, but I’m not one. I rather enjoy not knowing. Yes, there is a chance I will, for reasons inexplicable to myself now, decide to shatter you like an old toy. But now you are new, and shiny, and oh-so-fascinating. Live in the present, Gen. That’s all you have when you live forever.”

Genevieve: She doesn’t appreciate his cavalier attitude about shattering her. But that’s rule number one, then. Don’t let him get bored.

“I don’t live forever,” she points out. She’d seen enough of her kind come and go to know there is a very, very brief life expectancy.

Sterling: “You can,” he replies.

“If you don’t die, of course. But I’m rather invested in ensuring that you don’t.”

Genevieve: “I was married. Before this. I went to see him.”

“He moved on.”

“That’s where I went.”

Sterling: He stares into the middle distance for a moment.

“I’m sorry,” he says, in his real voice, the smoker’s rasp. “Sometimes our loved ones forget us. It hurts. I know.”

Genevieve: “I kept thinking if I got out he’d be waiting. We could go somewhere.” Her face doesn’t change, her voice doesn’t crack. There’s nothing to give away what she’s feeling inside. “But it doesn’t matter. He’s not.”

“I don’t want to run. I don’t have anywhere to go. It won’t happen again.”

Sterling: “I’m glad,” he says. “We’ll have more fun without you trying to make a break for it, anyways.”

Genevieve: “Who did you lose?” It’s none of her business. She asks anyway.

Sterling: “My wife. She didn’t handle what happened to me very well.”

“She’s in an institution, now.”

Genevieve: “Oh.” She hadn’t expected that. “I thought you weren’t supposed to tell people.”

Sterling: “We’re not,” he says quietly.

He grips his cane. “How much do you know of the Camarilla?”

Genevieve: “Stuck up. Better than everyone. Rules, rules, rules. Prince Yahoo and the Endless Titles.”

Sterling: “That is the big picture, yes,” he agrees. “I’ll take some time over the next few nights to teach you some of the finer points. If you embarrass me in public, I’m afraid I’ll have to punish you. So don’t.”

Genevieve: Rule number two, then. Her chin jerks downward in a nod.

“I don’t know your name.”

Sterling: The ghost of a smile haunts his face. “I have many, many names.”

“Among those I trust more than not, I go by Sterling.”

Genevieve: “Sterling.” She taps a finger against her lips. There’s no metal in her mouth, but she’d seen his. “Mister Sterling?”

Sterling: “If you like. Now, then. Tell me about that list of yours.”


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