“Dance with me.” He held out his hand. “Since we didn’t get to at the party.”
Leta stared at the open palm of his hand. Then her gaze lifted to stare at his face, and all she could mutter was, “You really think you’re something, huh?”
When he smirked uncertainly, her head tilted with sudden suspicion. “Wait. Are you trying to seduce me?
Fiearius laughed. “Does that affect your answer?”
After a contemplative pause, Leta admitted, “Not really,” and then tilted her champagne glass to her mouth, drank deeply and set it carefully on the counter at her side.
Then she hazarded toward him, her slightly shaking hand slipping into his calloused one. Her other hand came to rest at his shoulder and she set her bare feet steadily. A safe distance, she assured herself — though she nearly laughed at herself a second later. With him, there was no safe distance.
His hand came to her waist, gently drawing her closer.
“I’m out of practice,” she warned.
“I’ll go easy on you.”
He eased a half-step closer so her wrist rested on his shoulder. The music was low and bluesy, and it led to a gentle sway of their feet. Fiearius was light on his feet, undeniably a better dancer than she was, and she expected him to point it out any second, but when Leta looked up, Fiearius was watching her, thoughtful and bemused.
“Remember the last time we did this?”
“How could I forget? You were wearing a gigantic feathery bird mask.”
“Hey,” he defended, “I liked that thing. So did everyone else at that party. They were all staring in admiration.”
“That wasn’t admiration.”
He grinned and gripped her hand more tightly. “From you, it was.”
Leta opened her mouth to refute, but a smirk came to her face instead. Then he drew her closer with his palm at the small of her back, his chin against her temple, and a comfortable rhythm found them.
It was then that, abruptly, the music cut out. The speakers crackled noisily, and the bridge plunged into silence, and she and Fiearius were still holding one another without reason now.
“Ah, shit,” he muttered, unsurprised. “Go figure. I never asked Cyrus to upgrade the sound system.” He threw a sideways dirty look toward the speaker on the wall. Instead of moving away, however, he lowered his head toward the arch of her shoulder, turned his lips against her hair, and started to hum the song in her ear.
A shiver electrified Leta’s spine. Unthinkingly, as if she needed to hold herself to the ground, her fingers in his hand laced around his.
But lest this go too far — as it always did before — Leta made herself go still against him.
“Fiearius,” she demanded quietly. “What is this? What’re we doing? This. All of this.”
He glanced sideways at their intertwined hands, then down at her. “We’re dancing, aren’t we?”
After a moment, his hold relaxed and he eyed her seriously, more seriously than Leta could have ever anticipated, a furrow in his brow.
“Alright,” he exhaled sharply, as if preparing himself. “Here’s the thing. I’m really sorry about what happened the other week. It was inappropriate since you’re my crew and it was uncalled for and I’m just real sorry it happened like that. But — if I’m being perfectly honest? I’m really only sorry that I forgot to shut the door.”
Leta opened her mouth in surprise, but he kept going.
“I don’t mean that in the creepy way either,” he went on quickly. “I just mean that…well –” He lifted his eyebrows in earnest admission. “I don’t find you quite as awful as I pretend to. In fact, sometimes — not always, mind you — but times like today for instance, I genuinely enjoy your presence. I’m better with you around. And not just healthier, though thanks for that too. But when we’re together, I’m actually better.”
At first Leta could think of nothing to say; he’d never spoken to her like this before. She felt nearly gutted, cut open with shock.
“So to answer your question,” he finished, “that’s what we’re doing. That’s where I’m at. I don’t — presume to know what’s going on with you, especially considering the last few months, but I thought you should know. Know that if you wanted … I wouldn’t mind being together a bit more than we have been in the past.”
Several long, heavy seconds passed before Leta found her voice, which had buried somewhere in her chest.
“I wouldn’t mind that either,” she admitted softly.
A beat of expectation passed between them. His eyes danced over her face, then went to her lips. Just as his hand found the angle of her face and tilted her mouth toward his, she raised herself to tip-toe. Her mind was a fog, but even still, she registered how different of an embrace this truly was: less of a kiss, more of a brush. It wasn’t urgent, fervent. Certainly she never would have considered, not in any realm of possibility, that kissing Fiearius could ever be slow and soft. It certainly couldn’t ever be sweet. And yet…
Of all the ways the night could have gone, she thought in amazement, as their kiss deepened and grew heavy, his fingers slid up into the back of her hair, and his hand pressed against her back, pulling her in.