“What do you think of Quinn, Isabel?”
Isabel was sitting cross-legged on the edge of the bed. Her scissors flashed in her hand as she repeated a nightly ritual she had performed for years, transforming her shoulder length raven hair into a shortened bob. The style changed slightly with her moods, but it always served to make her look even more childlike, belying the insights and experience she had gained over a century of life.
She appeared to contemplate the question for a moment, although her scissors never ceased their rapid, practiced movement. Wisps of hair floated to the floor where Peter lay between the two beds. His face twitched in sleep as the fine hairs drifted onto his skin. A thin scattering already covered his shirtfront. Imoen eyed the scene warily.
“He is different than Toby. More . . .” Isabel frowned and seemed to search for a word.
“Cerebral?” Imoen offered.
Isabel nodded. Her scissors whirred. More hair joined the growing collection on Peter.
Imoen’s keen eyes noted that some of the earlier cuttings were already fainter, beginning to degrade into dust. Within half an hour there would be no trace. “He seems more forthcoming than I expected, from my experience with the Vigiliae.”
“He is,” Isabel agreed. “But they are not all the same. Only in some ways.”
“I sometimes wonder if our people had placed their trust in Toby, as Gavin has in Quinn, whether a lot of things might have been avoided.” She winced as another snipped feathering of hair settled lightly across Peter’s forehead.
“Trust is a gift of faith in the beginning.” Isabel set aside the scissors and ran her fingers through her hair, shaking loose what remained. “Only afterward can it be regretted or earned.”
Peter stirred. His mouth opened in a wide yawn just as a large lock of raven hair fell into it. He sputtered and jolted up, wiping hard at his eyes and nose as a fine rain of hair continued to fall around him.
He glared at Isabel. He started to say something, and went into a coughing spasm instead.
Imoen helpfully thumped him on the back. “Pretend it’s a hairball,” she suggested.
He made a strangled sound, and his body shook from another round of coughs. “If I was a cat that would make sense,” he managed between coughs. He grabbed a bottle of water from the nightstand and upended it into his mouth. Water streamed around his lips as his throat worked, trying to clear the irritant.
Isabel, unconcerned, picked up her hairbrush and walked into the bathroom. The click of the door lock sounded behind her.
Peter crushed the plastic bottle and hurled it at the closed bathroom door. He wiped his face again. He scowled as he rubbed together more dark hairs between his fingers.
“Where’s Ben?” He stripped off his clothes and shoved them into one end of his duffle bag.
“He went to pick up dinner for the two of you.” She didn’t blanch at his nakedness. During the past year living with Ben’s clan, she had managed to mostly get past that point, and it barely fazed her anymore.
Peter grimaced and rubbed his tongue. He held up another long hair. He walked to the bathroom and banged on the door. “Hurry up.”
“Not until you put clothes on,” Isabel called back.
He looked in annoyance at Imoen. “Hasn’t she ever seen a male body before?”
Imoen was amused. “Not ones she’s not interested in. Better do what she says. She can be far more patient than you.”
He grunted in annoyance. He stalked over to his bag and began to fish through it.
Copyright © 2011 Matthew Lee Adams
All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced without the written consent of the author.