Connal ignored the resentment simmering in the silence and enjoyed his drink. Whatever else he may think of Fen, the man had exceptional taste in wine. He relaxed into the armchair and looked into the mirror. His reflection wore anger in the tight clench of his jaw rather than the droll smile Connal knew played about his lips. He lifted his will and gave Fen permission to speak.
“You are an utter ass.” Fen enunciated each word with precise contempt.
Connal rolled his wine glass in his fingers. “You’re just upset that I can play you that well.”
Fen’s eyes flashed. “You’re not a mind reader, Connal.”
“And you have never learned to hide your intent, Fen.” Connal sipped his drink. “I don’t need any special ability to read you.” He smiled at his reflection.
“You can’t watch me constantly-“
“It would be a waste of energy.”
“So what’s to stop me from telling him, the second you leave?”
Connal chuckled. “You really are enraged. You usually have a clearer view of reality, Fen.”
“You know why.” Fen grated out.
Connal steepled his fingers and leaned his head slightly to one side. “Do I? There is an odd possibility, but I know you’ve sworn off that particular poison.”
Fen said nothing so Connal went on. “Charming, witty, the looks of a romantic era scoundrel,” Connal caught and held Fen’s gaze, “And just as completely doomed. You do seem to have a soft spot for doomed men. I believe, Fen, that you must enjoy being miserable.”
“Fate seems to think I do, since she introduced me to you.”
The struggle Connal endured not to laugh, did not show on his face. “Fate had nothing to do with it. Your own desires brought you to me.”
“And you took advantage of them. You knew what I was willing to do.”
“I still do. Which is why I know I won’t have to keep you on a choke chain after this little chat.”
Despite Connal’s relaxed posture, his reflection had been pacing, and now stopped and eyed him warily.
“Aren’t my natural inclinations what got me in trouble tonight?” Fen asked.
Connal sighed. “Of course, but that was only because you didn’t think it through. What happens if you tell him about me?”
“He…” Fen started in automatic defense, then trailed off as he thought about it. Leon had a cat’s curiosity and Fen’s own attitude toward consequences. If he warned Leon, he might have taken his sister and run, but it was just as likely that he would search Connal out and make some sort of disastrous deal.
“Precisely,” Connal said. “I’m holding all the cards, Fen. Even if he took your warning to heart, all I would have to do is make him a better offer.” It disturbed Fen how sinister Connal’s smile made him appear. “The only choice you have, is how involved you want to be. I don’t have to let you be involved at all, but I’m feeling generous.”
“Meaning you’ll have to work with me longer and you hate when I’m depressed.” But the first hint of resignation showed in the slouch of Fen’s shoulders.
“You can keep him out of trouble. Run with the stories I told, and bring me what I want. Or, I offer him what I offered you. People always undervalue themselves, don’t they?”
For the first time the man and his reflection both held similar poses. Leaned back in the chair and contemplating the view of themselves.
“What you want,” Fen stated. “What exactly do you want, Connal?”
“I want the threat his sister represents nullified. Whether that is making me immune to her powers, or preventing her from ever using them against me I don’t actually care, but it must be proven effective and permanent.”
Fen dropped his head into his hands. As the silence dragged on, Connal finished his wine and set the glass on the coffee table. Fen finally raised his head. “I’ll stay with him.”
Connal nodded. “Don’t disappoint me.” He released his hold on Fen’s body and disappeared.
Fen looked down at his hands and then at his unremarkable reflection in the mirror. When all the choices were bad, you had to pick the one you could live with. Or in this case, live without.
Curses! A ring of thieves stole the first line of this fiction to write their own stories, see what they did with them here.