Chapter 64

86 14 22

As Sunzar walked, the loose silk of her dress hinted at the slim, graceful silhouette underneath.

She didn't take Rilien upstairs to the bedrooms, thank Veya. Instead, she guided him to the door through which the girls had arrived earlier. From there, they advanced briefly along a dim corridor, then made a turn and stepped into the kitchens.

In faint lamplight, Rilien saw large metallic basins and racks of clean dishes drying, counters with stowed cooking accessories, loaves of bread, glass jars with various condiments inside, and spice racks.

They went up a row of sleeping stoves. Comforting aromas of spices and good cooking lingered in the air. It was a relief being away from the scent of cigar smoke. The quiet also made for a welcome change.

"I hope it's all right," Sunzar said as she walked, without looking at him. "I don't much like going upstairs. But the employees' lounge is comfy, you'll see."

Past the stoves, Sunzar pushed a wooden door open with a well-manicured hand. Once inside this next room, she scooped up a small oil lamp from a wall shelf and switched it on. Rilien stepped inside after her, and closed the door behind himself.

She seemed to tense as he did so, but she didn't comment. She simply set down the lamp on a low table and smiled at him, joining her hands in front of her flat stomach, wringing her hands.

Rilien said, "Listen, I—"

But she didn't seem to hear, speaking at the same time, "It's one of my favorite places in the whole building," she said, somewhat nervously.

She started to pace around the room, and Rilien looked up at the shelves that ran across the walls. He realized this place also served as a sort of cellar. The wooden shelves held rows upon rows of wine bottles.

"There's a larger cellar in the basement," Sunzar explained as she paced. "But we have a mini one here. Please help yourself to anything, if you'd like."

Rilien raised a placating hand, stepping further inside the room.

"No, Sunzar, listen, I don't want to drink," he said.

The employees' lounge also comprised a round table and chairs. Sunzar paced next to it now, running her hand along the rough wood grain of the table. Her auburn hair veiled the side of her face.

"Right," she said without looking at him. And clearly her smile was forced when she added, "You want to cuddle."

"No, I don't," Rilien said firmly, and that got her attention, but not in the way he'd hoped.

She went still and stared at him, panic flaring in her eyes.

"Please," Rilien said, "just listen to me. I don't want to have sex with you. I won't do anything, I swear. I just want to talk," he insisted.

She slowly inclined her head, auburn locks shifting back from her dress. She seemed intrigued.

"Seriously?" she asked.

"Yes," Rilien said, "seriously. Let's just . . ." He sighed. "Do you want to sit down?"

"Sure," she said, looking somewhat puzzled. But also, maybe, relieved.

Sunzar drew back the closest wooden chair and sat with her spine very straight, adjusting the slim navy scarf around her neck. Rilien dropped in the seat facing her, with much less elegance, he was sure.

He leaned his arms forward on the table and joined his hands. Some of his necklace pendants dangled and brushed the table as he thought of the best way to explain what he'd come here to do.

Son of No CityWhere stories live. Discover now