Karish was a total bastard who could burn in hell forever. He stood there beside my cot, holding up my blanket like a trophy. As if that would accomplish anything. It was summer. Who needed blankets? I buried my head under my pillow.
“Get up, Lee.”
“Get lost, Karish.”
“It’s past midday.”
“This is not a holiday.”
“You have to find a place to live.”
“Which has absolutely nothing to do with you.”
“Miho asked me to move the slug that’s taking up half her living room.”
“Ogawa can join you in the ring of eternal flame.”
I heard him drop the blanket. He was giving up. Smart man. “You could get up,” he suggested silkily. “Or I could come down.”
Oh, aye. I was buying that. “You have no interest in bedding me, remember?”
“Aye, but it has been three weeks.”
“Fine. Whatever.” I could sleep through just about anything when I was tired enough, and I was definitely tired enough.
“Miho’s made breakfast.”
I thought about that, and as soon as I did my stomach growled. Perhaps it was time to get up. And really, I wouldn’t be getting any more sleep anyway. Once I had to do anything more complicated than rolling over, I was irretrievably awake.
And it would be good, I supposed, to do something productive. Festivals were fun, but day after day of wandering around eating and watching spectacles could wear thin after a while. It was time to start arranging a normal life for myself. And while Ogawa had been exceptionally kind to let me stay with her so long, I knew she would be thrilled to have her own place to herself again. I knew I would be.
I pushed the pillow off my face. “I’m awake. You can go.”
He picked up the blanket and folded it, apparently unaware that I was watching him in astonishment. “I’ll wait. Wendall’s offered to show us around, help us find a place to live.” He looked at me then, and my face must have registered my lack of comprehension, for he added drily, “Van Staal.”
“Oh.” His personal name was Wendall? No wonder he was so gorgeous. He needed the looks to make up for the name. Perhaps that was one way life had of evening things out, making sure he didn’t have too many advantages. Though if life worked that way it should have paid more attention to Karish.
“Now don’t start drooling.”
“I do not drool,” I informed him loftily. “I salivate. Get out. I need to change.”
He placed the blanket on the foot of the cot and bowed. “As my lady wishes,” he said sarcastically. He went to the kitchen, where I heard him say something to Ogawa, and they both laughed. I stiffened, because of course they were laughing about me. A million things in the world he could have spoken about but he must have been talking about me.
I rolled my eyes. I could be really stupid, sometimes.
Ogawa redeemed herself for her nonexistent crime by providing me with good coffee and sinful cinnamon rolls. I thanked her for them most politely. Karish and I headed out soon after.
We met Van Staal at In-Stat and began our tour of High Scape. I was disappointed to find that Van Staal looked slightly less beautiful to me. Maybe the novelty was wearing off. Maybe it was the name.
High Scape was a huge, rambling city. Trade routes ran smack through the center, where hotels and shops lined the streets. That was the only predictable feature about the place. Beyond that, the city was a mess, with no particular order to the residential or commercial areas. There was no baker street, no wheelwright street, no financial section. Everything was sprinkled throughout the city so if a disaster struck no whole vital area was wiped out. That was the theory. In practice, it was damned confusing. And inconvenient.
“Best place to live is the north quad,” Van Staal told us. “A lot of the wealth has drifted up there, so you’ve got your larger flats and houses, more Runners, cleaner streets,
that sort of thing. But of course it’s also the hardest quad to find a place. Everyone who can afford it wants to live there. I’m sure every flat’s got a waiting list as long as a mayor’s speech. But you,” he tilted his head at Karish, “might get put at the top of the list.” He looked at me. “Want to take a look?”
“Might as well,” I said. “I might have to hunt him up some day, so I should know where he lives.”
“You’re not going to try for a flat in the north quad yourself?”
I laughed. “No one’s ever put me on the top of any list,” I said. “I’ll do fine in a more modest environment. I’ve never slept on satin sheets.”
“Implying that I have?” Karish asked sharply.
He ignored the question, which was an answer in the affirmative as far as I was concerned. “Are you claiming your family wouldn’t sleep on satin sheets if they could afford to?”
For all I knew my family were sleeping on satin sheets. The business had grown exponentially over the past fifteen years. “All I’m saying is that you are used to the finer things and I am not. That’s just an observation, not a criticism.”
“The hell it isn’t,” he snapped. “No one slept on satin sheets in the academy.” He flicked his hair off his shoulder, a rather feminine gesture of irritation. “I’ve had enough of this attitude of yours, Lee. I’m going to call you on these jabs from now on.”
“It wasn’t a jab.”
“It was and you know it.”
I shrugged. I knew it wasn’t worth arguing about. “Do you want to check the north quad?”
“Yes,” and his look dared me to make something more of it. I didn’t bother.