Dana just stared at me, biting her lip again as she held my challenging gaze. She looked like she might snap back but instead simply pursed those lips together in a hard, straight line. Without another word, she left the dressing room, door banging loudly behind her.
Jody stood there uncertainly for a moment. "It looks great," she reiterated before following Dana out.
By myself, I decided I might as well use the alone time to shape-shift and try on the lingerie in the body they'd been intended for. As expected, they looked pretty hot, so I bought them all. I figured I deserved to salvage something from this disaster.
"So how'd it go?" asked Bastien when Jody and Dana dropped me off at his place later on.
"Fine," I said, having already stuffed the illicit purchases in my car, lest they raise questions from him. "Just fine. Well...sort of."
I told him about Dana's interrogation and my theory that she might suspect us of something insidious, even if it wasn't what we actually planned. His face grew grimmer and grimmer as I spoke, and I knew he thought I had a point. When I finished, I leaned my head against his shoulder, hating to see him so miserable.
"Hey, don't worry. We'll get through this. I mean, look on the bright side: Dana and I did a lot of bonding today. I think we had a real...breakthrough."
I knew doubts still plagued him, but he had cheered up by the time we - no longer as Mitch and Tabitha - arrived back in Seattle later that day. We picked up Seth on the way to Peter's apartment, promptly ensuring that neither man spoke to me for the rest of the car ride.
Once again, Jerome chose not to grace us with his presence, but everyone else had turned out for more good food and poker: Peter, Cody, Hugh, and Carter. Carter seemed quietly intrigued by Seth's presence while the others greeted him like a long-lost brother. Considering how often he came up in conversation among us, I think the other immortals regarded him as one of our inner circle already.
He stuck close to me for most of the night, but turned out to be a pretty damned good poker player. I think his quiet, placid nature fooled others into forgetting he was there. Amusingly, he seemed pretty pleased about his winnings too, albeit in a mild, Seth sort of way. It made me happy to see this side of him, happier still to know he was enjoying himself with my friends.
I didn't really know what side of me he saw that night. My friends sure didn't pull any punches when it came to teasing me about my various idiosyncrasies, and Bastien seemed to think it was Memory Lane Night. He kept telling all sorts of stones from my past, trying to lure me into inside jokes no one else knew about. I stayed away from that path as much as possible without offending him. My priority was still making things work with Seth, and as I held his hand all night and only gave polite smiles to Bastien, I think it became clear to the incubus where my loyalties lay. He didn't seem too thrilled.
Halfway through the game, I received a joint call from Mei and Grace.
"Hello, Georgina," said Grace.
"It's us," said Mei.
"Did you find out anything?"
"No matches," Mei told me.
"Oh." So much for that avenue.
"But that may not mean much," said Grace. "We always miss some."
"And it doesn't really matter," said Mei. "They're not a problem if they don't meddle in our affairs."
"And most don't?" I had run into countless immortals over the years, from all sorts of cultures and powers, but I had not paid much attention to how they operated with each other in a political sense. I had always been content to worry about my job and my job alone, safe in the knowledge that the authorities I answered to wielded enough power to deal with anyone else.
"Most don't," the demonesses agreed in unison.
The poker players regarded me curiously when I hung up.
"Who was that?" asked Peter.
"Grace and Mei."
Hugh made a face. "Ack. The crazy-bitch-dyke twins."
"Hey, that's uncalled for. They've been very helpful."
"Yeah? Well, just wait," he warned. "Next thing you know, they'll be wanting to cut your hair and dress you in black too. "
Cody smiled at my outrage. "Why do I get the feeling there's another illicit Georgina investigation afoot?"
"It's not so illicit."
"Illicit enough," remarked Bastien with a yawn. "You and your mortals."
He pocketed the money he had left, downed his bourbon, and thanked Peter again for another fabulous evening.
"Leaving so soon?" I asked.
"Off to find fairer company. No offense to you, Fleur ."He leaned down to me and brushed a kiss over my lips that lingered a breath too long for friendship. "Good night."
His departure spurred a new round of the Bastien Fan Club as they all speculated what sexual escapade he was about to embark on now.
"How does he do it?" asked Peter.
"I wish I was that good," added Cody.
"Hey," I complained, "pursuing women isn't any harder than men. Sometimes it's easier. "
"That guy's amazing." Hugh acted like I hadn't even spoken. " Going after a new one tonight when he's still sporting a glow that can't even be a day old. I wish I got lucky that often."
Seth didn't like to speak much with this group - or any group for that matter - but like my other friends, he was in awe of the incubus. Hugh's comment especially piqued his interest.
"What do you mean by 'glow?' Like an afterglow?"
Hugh grinned at him. "Sort of...you must know what I'm talking about. The post-sex thing? The glamour?"
"Whose deal is it?" I asked sharply, not liking the conversation's new direction.
Seth turned thoughtful. "Well, then it is like an afterglow. I mean, everyone sort of has something like that after sex."
"Yes, but it's different for an incubus or a succubus," explained Peter professorially. Unless I was mistaken, he was starting to pick up a British accent. Too much exposure to Bastien. "In their case, it's more of a literal glow - to other immortals at least. When they've had sex, they take that person's life. Life force is alluring. To an immortal, a just-laid incubus or succubus will almost - "
"Glitter," suggested Cody. "Or sparkle. And yet...not. It's kind of hard to explain. Hasn't Georgina told you all this?"
"Not this," said Seth. "So I...er, mortals don't see it?"
"Are we playing or not?" I asked impatiently, raising my voice. Carter caught my eye.
"Not like we do," continued Peter. "But they - you - feel it. Or maybe 'sense' is a better word. It pulls you in. It's very attractive. "
I sunk lower into my seat, trying to decide if anyone would notice if I suddenly turned invisible. I might as well have been since no one was listening to my protests anyway.
"You must have noticed it," pointed out Hugh, taking a swig of whiskey. "There must be days when you see Georgina and practically can't control yourself because of how hot she is. You can only stare. Of course, it's probably hard to tell the difference since she's always so hot, huh?"
Everyone except Carter, Seth, and I laughed. I knew the imp had meant that last part as a compliment, but I wanted to throw my gimlet glass at him nonetheless. The hilarity soon died down, and we returned to cards. But the damage was done. Seth and I hardly spoke for the rest of the night, not that anyone - save Carter, I suspected - even noticed.
When Seth and I left, I knew something bad was coming. I dropped him off at his place, and he invited me inside to eat Rocky Road ice cream. He was a big ice cream fan. I should have just turned around and left, but Rocky Road has supernatural powers. Plus, I remembered what Seth and I had discussed after the recent make-out session in bed - how we had to communicate about issues, rather than ignore them. I still believed that to be true, but theory and practice were two completely different things.
He made up two bowls for us, and we ate the ice cream in silence for a while. When he finished, Seth played with his spoon, not looking at me.
"So," he asked, "is it true?"
"Is what true?" Like I didn't know.
"Come on, don't make me spell it out," he said gently. "I just want to hear your version, that's all."
I opened my mouth to speak, to find some way to neutralize all this, but my tongue felt thick and useless. No coherent words formed.
"Is it true?" repeated Seth. When I still didn't answer, he continued, "When I see you sometimes...when I see you - like that one night - and can barely even breathe because you are so beautiful...so beautiful that I can do nothing but act like an idiot, does that mean that you've just...slept with someone? But, of course, I don't actually mean, um, 'sleep'..."