Amber made her way to the dinner car through a series of compartments that were (thankfully) mostly empty. In one, three youths were stretched out, snoring, on the seats. In another, two people were having a quiet conversation, heads close together. They didn’t even look up as she tip-toed past.
The rails sang and the train swayed. Amber peeked under a window-shade; darkness rushed by them. Late night. She’d been passed out for several hours.
I have to stop keeping these late hours.
She wrestled a door into opening, stumbled into the next car, man-handled the door closed again.
“Woo! You beat that door into submission.” Kael waved something fried and breaded and definitely meat into the air. He was the only one in the car.
“Yeah, I sure showed it who’s boss,” said Amber wryly. She marched up to Kael, and stuck her hand out toward him. “Hi, I’m Amber. It’s nice to finally properly meet you.”
He grinned, shook her hand, gestured to the stool next to him. “Likewise. Amber, huh?”
She saw him thinking. Any moment now…
“That’s kind of like Blond—”
“Don’t say it,” Amber warned him. “Just don’t go there, all right?”
They sat for a moment in silence.
“Have something to eat?” Kael offered.
“What’s with you always pushing food on me?”
“You look half-starved.” Kael dipped shrimp into a some kind of greenish sauce. “You’re a mage, you need to keep up your strength. Here, try this. It’s good.”
She looked at the offering, then up at his peculiar golden eyes, narrowed with a determination to get some kind of sustenance into her.
Well, he did save my life—and it’s twice I’ve refused food from him… “Thanks.” She nibbled politely at the shrimp. “Oh, hey, this is really good.” That piquant sauce complemented the shrimp.
“Have some more.”
Together they ate through the entire plateful. Amber dabbed at her lips with a napkin. “I did want to say thanks. For saving me back there. From those goons.”
“No problem.” He shrugged. “Small fry lowlife.”
“Had you been tracking them?”
“Oh.” Amber cast around for another topic of conversation. Now there was no food, this was getting awkward.
“Your stuff’s in the girls’ sleeping car, by the way.”
“Your things from your room. The one you rented?” He raised his eyebrows. “Back in Hopeswell?”
“I told you I tracked you. Your scent was all over the place. You sure get around.”
“You’re a sun mage! Is that part of your power?” That sounds more like runic or pattern magic. Sun mages are usually only powerhouses.
He shrugged. “I guess so.” It didn’t bother him at all that Amber was having a hard time fitting him into a neat box in her head.
He got my things. He went to my room and got all my things. Amber thought of the closet, the drawers, all those folded tunics and hung-up skirts and neat piles of under—
“Kael, when you said ‘your stuff’, does that mean everything?”
“Sure does,” he confirmed cheerfully. “I checked every drawer and behind all the furniture and under the bed. You can be sure that I left nothing behind. Though, I’m not much good at packing.”
Some guy went through my drawers. That makes it the fourth violation. Amber closed her eyes. She was rather eccentric about her stuff and her space. She even washed all her own laundry—had done it for years, even at home.
But there was Kael looking at her, secure in the knowledge he’d done everything right.
“That’s really thoughtful of you,” she managed.
“Anything to help out a fellow schoolmate.”
Amber froze. “I don’t know what you’ve heard, but I haven’t committed to anything yet. I’m only going to check out the place.”
“Oh, you’ll be joining us. I know it.” Kael winked at her.
Amber resisted sticking her tongue out at him and settled for a politely skeptical smile instead. Oh, you do, do you? Then I look forward to proving you wrong.
Author’s Note: Don’t you just hate it when people think they know what you’re going to do? I get Amber, I really do.
I’m taking a short break to figure out how to break up the next arc. What do you think of this so far?