Kit Thompson, empath and Bow Street Preternatural Division constable, is looking forward to Midwinter. His lover Harry, Viscount Sommersby, is visiting, and Kit has plans to show Harry his London ... and plans for Harry in his bedroom.
But Kit’s Chief Magistrate needs him. And the case is important. Personal. Taking up Kit’s time.
Even worse, Harry wants to help. And Kit could use Harry’s magical talents. But that means endangering Harry ... something Kit’s sworn never to do.
Kit kissed him again for that. Took off his coat -- shirtsleeves, here at home, and comfortable. Accepted tea, warming his hands. “New novel?” His library wasn’t large, though he’d been building it, and tended to run to histories, biographies, satire. He didn’t mind novels, though. He’d decided that most novelists knew nothing about crime, plots, magical limitations, or the female constitution – he would’ve liked to introduce some of them to young Junior Constable Alice and her particular skills -- but he appreciated the entertainment factor of the improbable.
“There’re ghosts. And demonic voices. And a haunted suit of armor.”
“I’m fairly sure ghosts aren’t real. And demons are mostly myths. And they’ve got better things to do.”
“I think the gloomy Sir Baleford murdered his first wife. At least the author wants me to think so.”
“Can the ghosts help prove it in a court of law?” He let the fire, and Harry’s happiness, warm his bones. The room was theirs, snug and protected, an oasis of crimson walls and thick rugs and overstuffed furniture. The Midwinter holiday hovered on the horizon like joy.
“Well,” Harry said, “you take empathic evidence, don’t you? And kinetic impressions. From sworn constables and experts, anyway. So ghosts should count.”
“I’m not seeing the logic, but I’ll let you and the novelists have that one.” Harry brewed tea hot and strong and dark, the exact way Kit himself liked it. That felt good: one more way they fit together.
They’d spent the first two days in bed. Kit had had plans. Many. And then they’d spent the next four days showing Harry London, at least what there was of London at Midwinter, and what Kit was familiar with. Bookshops, of course. The British Museum, full of curiosities and delights. A stroll in Hyde Park -- Kit did not ride, though he knew Harry did; he’d tried not to feel inadequate about that one -- and a visit to the theatre, because although most troupes were taking some time off, a few pantomimes and Midwinter plays were on, entertaining the Society that’d chosen to stay in Town.
Harry’d loved the sparkling confection of Columbine and the Water-Fairy, especially with those little touches of leaping aquatic magic from their stage dresser. Kit had watched him watching, and had thought about magic.
Harry said now, “What did Sam want your help with?” and devoured another piece of gingerbread, happily.
Kit gazed down into his tea. Dark and quiet, it held no answers, only warmth. “Art theft, more or less. Though I think it’s personal. Which worries me, honestly.” And then he ended up explaining, at least the little he knew. Harry listened, nodded, and said, “Do you think he knows someone involved?”
“That’d be my guess.”
“Well, of course we’ll help. Have I been introduced to Lady Carness?”
“Not yet. But you might’ve seen her, at the theatre.” That thought nudged the edges of the unformed one from earlier; looking at Harry -- young, beautiful, eager Harry -- he said, “Did you want to go out, tonight? Or tomorrow afternoon? We’ve got invitations ... somewhere. There’s some sort of card-party at the Morelands’. And possibly ice-skating.”
Harry looked at him right back. Harry was in fact taller; normally this was not an annoyance, and Kit rather liked the satisfaction of putting large glorious sunshine on his knees with Kit’s hand in his hair, or having him in Kit’s lap, begging.
At the moment Harry, being irritatingly insightful, asked, “Are you trying to entertain me?”
“You’ve only been here a few days, and now I have to work.”
“You don’t like card-parties, and I’m not sure you know how to skate.”
“No. But you do. Frozen ponds and rivers and whatever else you’ve got in the country.”
“You don’t really answer invitations,” Harry said. “Even though you get them.”
“I could. If you wanted.”
Harry put a hand on Kit’s arm, far too understandingly. “Tell me?”
“Do you want to do the skating-party?”
“That depends on how you feel about it.”
“You take care of everyone,” Kit said. “You’re taking care of me.”
Harry shrugged a shoulder, mostly smiling, wry.
“I want you to be happy,” Kit said. The fire was too hot, all at once. He felt his grip tighten on the teacup. “I want this to be -- everything you want, good enough for you, and I don’t like Society because they all just want me to be their entertainment, their Bow Street hero, something to be a centerpiece at a party -- but I’m not one of them, not like you, and you deserve to have everything -- the theatre, skating-parties, fancy balls, masquerades, waltzes -- and Sam wasn’t wrong about that, when he said -- oh, hells. Never mind.”
He knew he hadn’t meant to say it all, not entirely. He knew that was partly his empathic talents colliding with Harry’s gift, which opened up and healed the world and did what was needed, like drawing poison from a wound.
He knew, the way he’d known months ago, that Harry Arden was dangerous, not malicious but a walking peril: a young man who changed the world, who changed people, simply by touching them.