Christ, he’d fucked up.  He could practically hear Pierrepoint’s low, deadpan voice in his head: There are rules for a reason, Emil.  Ministers and Peers must never fraternize with each other.  The potential damage is just too great.

He hadn’t listened.  He’d never listened.  Why?  Stubbornness?  Pride?  That profound something he wasn’t brave enough to name surged in his chest, closed his throat.  Emil tried to swallow it down.

His throat stuck.

“I was wondering where you’d run off to.”

Emil jumped, whirled.  Misha stood propped against the door frame, arms crossed.  Emil’s stomach hollowed at the sight of him.  He looked away.  “Fuck off, Puzzle.  I don’t need you to babysit me down here.”

Misha didn’t answer.  Emil held out for as long as he could, then finally sneaked a peek at him again.  Misha hadn’t moved.  He stared past Emil, and mused out loud.  “I wonder what she looks like underneath all those clothes.”

Emil balked.  “Excuse me?”

“Our librarian.” Misha straightened, then leaned against the other side of the door.  “I mean, sure she dresses like a nun, but you can’t hide a body like that.”

Emil stiffened.  “Don’t be crude.  She’s—”

“—Delicious.  I know.” Misha trapped Emil’s gaze in his.  “You wouldn’t believe how good she smells.”

Emil pushed away from the table.  “Whatever.”  He debated making a break for it, but Misha was still blocking the door.  Instead he retreated further into the room, made a show of studying the shelves.

Misha’s taunting laugh followed him.  “What’s this?  Is the Professor jealous?”

Emil clenched his teeth, but didn’t turn.  “Fuck you.”

“Been there, done that, got the brochure.” Misha’s voice was moving closer.  “No, I need a woman under me.  Maybe that’s my problem.”

Emil could barely breathe.  He forced himself not to clench his hands.  “What are you talking about?”

“Women.” Misha’s voice was right behind him.  “It’s been so long since I had good pussy, I’ve started settling for inferior replacements.”

Emil’s lips peeled back in a snarl.  He whirled before he realized what he was doing.  His fist arced towards Misha’s smug face.

Misha caught it just before impact.  His touch made Emil see red.  He lashed out with his other fist.  Misha caught it, too, and twisted his arm behind his back.  Emil gasped.

Misha’s face was so close he could taste him.  Emil struggled in his grasp.  Sweat beaded on his forehead as Misha twisted his arm still further.  The other man’s face was cool, contemplative, but his eyes blazed hot.  “Do you know how easy it would be to break you right now?”

Emil didn’t answer.  Misha tweaked his arm again, and he grimaced.  “So do it, then.”

Misha’s eyes burned into his.  “What?” His voice was quiet.

Emil didn’t look away.  “Do it.  See if you feel better.”

It shocked him how much he suddenly wanted Misha to hurt him.  When had he gotten so fucked up?  He didn’t know.  Didn’t care.  He’d made a mistake.  They both had.  The least Misha could do was punish him for it.

Emil leaned forward without breaking eye contact.  Tendons wrenched in his elbow.  “Do.  It.”

He barely registered when Misha released his other wrist.  Then a warm, rough hand clasped the back of his neck.  Emil caught his breath, suspended between agony and bliss.  Misha’s eyes dropped to his lips.  “Rasputnitsa,” he whispered, “what are we doing to each other?”

◊ ◊ ◊

Find Ptolemy’s Tablet at these online retailers:


Barnes & Noble



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