Chapter 45

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When his friends walked in the café one after the other, Teshin was busy at work.

He was the perfect portrait of a dutiful student, pencil in his left hand, staring intently at the page. Except, he was doing something five-year-olds usually did, tracing A and B and C, and so on.

Leithan explained it three times, first to Rami, then to Shay, and finally to Rilien.

"What? He wants to learn our language. You've got to start somewhere, right?" Leithan summarized as Rilien sat next to Rami, who was next to Teshin.

Shay sat beside Leithan, wet umbrella discarded next to her. She ran her hands through her frizzing hair as though trying to smooth it down. Which wasn't really working.

"Hey, I never got a chance to ask you about your date with Quin," Leithan said.

"Oh, it wasn't a date," she said quickly.

"Are you sure?" Leithan replied, to tease her.

Rilien leaned both bracelet-adorned arms across the table, staring at Shay. "You and my sister? Seriously?"

"Is it just me," Leithan asked, "or did Quin hide her game so well?"

Rami had been looking at Teshin as he traced his letters. Now, Rami glanced up at Shay, and said, "I thought you hated Quin."

Shay frowned, defensive. "I didn't hate her. And that was before I knew she had such lovely taste in books."

Leithan snickered, and Shay nudged him with her elbow. "Stop being an ass," she said. "We're just friends, okay? We talked and . . . we may have had a couple drinks."

"Did you know," Leithan asked Rilien. "That Quin was into women?"

Rilien shook his head. "I mean, there was this one time, she admitted having fantasies about girls sometimes, but she told me she'd never act on it."

Rami was still staring at Shay. "Looks like you made her change her mind." Arching an impressed eyebrow, Rami said, "Good for you."

"Guys, stop," Shay whispered. "Nothing happened, okay?"

"Why are you whispering?" Rilien asked.

Shay looked up and smiled gratefully when Jia stopped by their table to take their orders.

Once that was taken care of, Rilien changed the subject, addressing Leithan.

"So, I thought about what you said on Sunday night." A smile quirked the corner of Rilien's mouth, and his narrow brown eyes held a determined air.

"And?" Leithan said, hopeful.

He noticed that Teshin seemed to suddenly pay more attention, pencil paused near the page, his face tilted ever so slightly toward Rilien.

Nothing gets past him, does it?

"And," Rilien said, "I told Jem I'd go to the Cascadia with him Friday night, after the Fool's Bet game. I'm gonna do it," he said, splaying his hands on the table. "At least, I'm gonna try. I'm not making any promises, you know that."

"I know," Leithan said, and smiled at his friend. "But still, thank you. I know you really don't want to go there."

Rilien shrugged. "I can survive one night of booze and cigars and prancing pampered pricks. Wow," he said, "that was a bit of a tongue twister."

Shaylan shot him a glare. "That's my dad you're talking about."

"And my dad," Rami pointed out, but with less conviction.

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