Part 5

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“Buy you a drink?”

Caleb’s smile – that boyish, damnably convincing smile – was getting on my nerves. He leaned over the mega-sized bar right next to me, his dark eyes shadowed by his similarly dark hair. The other muses from the conference were aflutter behind us, chatting about all manner of things. They’d taken up a long table behind a clouded glass divider made specifically for Fae patrons. I had slipped away unnoticed to order my drink, or so I thought. Instead he pursued me. The man had the persistence of an ox.

Between Dy’s rumor about Caleb being sympathetic to terrorists and his recent lackluster behavior, I was not inclined to give him any leeway. I didn’t want to believe Dy at the outset, but his behavior was so… odd. I approached him from a position of cautious intrigue – to get anything else from me he’d need to prove himself.

“I already ordered,” I huffed, my gaze averted. If I looked at him he’d continue to try that charm thing. Even though other Fae were generally immune to the influence of muses, I didn’t want to risk it.

“Then I don’t suppose I can ask what you’re having.”

“Tequila, thank you.”

“The conference wasn’t that bad.”

I so wanted to give him my best sour face, one that would convey every ounce of frustration he’d caused me. Instead I smiled and thanked the mega-sized bartender for my mini-sized drink. This bar, whimsically named Pixie’s, was a regular hangout spot for the IFA members and Fae who wandered out into Portland from the glade. The music was soft and ethereal, perfect for having actual conversations. They carried tiny shot glasses, which was good. Fae were already lightweights when it came to alcohol – it had some… interesting… effects on us. Tiny shots were fine, but just a little extra and we were seeing flashes of near earth and dancing with starlight.

I could do with some starlight, though. It would be more fun than the prospect of making friends with all the muses. I knew it would come to this, of course, but I pretended it wasn’t going to happen. I made friends just fine out in regular public – people I sought out myself. I didn’t prefer this artificial friend-making process.

“Conference was fine,” I finally replied, taking my shot and quickly sucking on the tiny lime slice attached to it. The glass clicked down against the bartop, the colors swirling from the light below the stylish counter making the loveliest patterns on the rim of the cup. The bar looked like a block of glowing LED ice – a rather nice effect. “I just like tequila.”

Caleb chuckled, his wings shivering audibly behind him. “Sure you do.”

Cheeky one. “You can stop with the disingenuousness any time, you know.”

“Is ‘disingenuousness’ actually a word, Ms. Fletcher?” He was following me back to the gathering of the other bridgers at the appropriate-sized table. He had a legitimate reason to travel in the same direction, much as it vexed me.

“I thought that you muses were all about making things up,” I said, quirking an eyebrow in his direction.

I suppose I had finally come up with a decent comeback; his only response to that was a wry smile. Inside I sighed.  Maybe it was the smile that made people like him so much – it surely couldn’t be his overall personality.

“Ah, I miss those days!” Alex was apparently in the middle of some story when I sat down. Cally moved aside to make room for me,  her body a shield between Caleb and I.

I plucked one of the fried zucchini from the appetizer plate and listened, hoping I would eventually catch on to the topic at hand.

Alex’s dark brown-and-fuchsia wings fluttered playfully when he continued. “I haven’t been able to have that kind of fun in years, not with a job like this one. I wasn’t even that good at it back when I had the chance.”

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