Coffee Break Read – Encounter

Just for a moment Durban ran a check over the whole event and was pleased to see that all was running smoothly. He was careful not to disturb Jaz but eavesdropped, briefly, on the security channel. So far there was nothing untoward and despite all Jaz’s very pertinent concerns, it seemed the glitterati of the ‘City were content to party at Voltz without wanting to cut each other’s throats for one evening.
Satisfied that all was being arranged as well as it could be, Durban returned his focus to his immediate guests. He singled out those he most wanted to impress or influence, as he was circulating amongst them. There were one or two here he might never get another chance to meet in the flesh — such as the syndicate leaders or whichever senior representative they had delegated to attend. These he needed to hive off from the main gathering, one at a time, and take them into the room he had filled with examples of Temsevaran art so as to offer the perfect excuse for quiet conversation. 
It was just as he rejoined the main room after one of the last such excursions that he found himself robbed of both breath and rational thought. He stared, against his will. Then reminded himself first to breathe, then to move and finally to remember that he was not the only clever bastard who could play people. But the damage was done and he wasn’t surprised when a few moments later he was presented to the young man who had come on behalf of Eritch Dragure. The vivid blue eyes held a hunger and a question. Durban smiled politely and passed the guest off to one of the handful of escorts he had employed, hoping the impact he had made wasn’t too visible.
He should have known it was never going to be enough. The next time he had a gap between conversations, there was a presence beside him and turning, the blue eyes met and held his own. They were set in a face of beautiful proportions beneath a sweep of blue-black hair. This time Durban looked and had to control his breathing.
“Vor Chola?”
“I normally wear a name tag, but I thought tonight I’d manage without,” he said lightly. “You come with a ‘property of’ label though. How is Eritch? I’m so sorry he was unable to be here.”
The blue eyes registered amusement and the beautiful face smiled.
“Vor Dragure is well, I believe, and I am sure regrets he is unable to attend tonight. But yes, he asked me to be his ambassador. To offer you what good will I may on his behalf.”
“I wouldn’t have thought he had the taste or the imagination.”
He could feel the heat of this other man’s body so close they almost touched. He could feel his own body’s response to it, urgent and uncontrollable and had to make a conscious effort to keep his breathing steady.
“I’m not sure he has.”
“You have a name?”
“I do. Does that surprise you?” The smile was there again, with a silent laughter. Durban found his own smile responding.
“I’m Durban. Vor Chola is for my staff.”
“I’m Roeul. Vor Ritsun to my staff.”
“You have staff? I thought — you were — “
“Working for Eritch Dragure? No. I’m not his employee. Just returning the loan of a favour by accepting the grim and arduous task of attending this event on his behalf.”
Durban knew he should excuse himself and go back with the rest of his guests, where he had work to do. But instead, he asked:
“So you are ‘City?”
“That’s right.”
The blue eyes lit up with humour at Durban’s obvious discomfiture. There was no fear or calculation there, just a silent laughter. Durban smiled and shook his head.
“It has been a pleasure to meet you, but you must excuse me.”
“For now, of course. Maybe you’ll be in touch, I’d like that.”
Durban didn’t reply and pushed himself physically away, using the few moments it took him to rejoin the main swirl of his guests to fight his emotions and perceptions back into some kind of controlled order. And because, of a sudden, he didn’t trust himself at all, he decided that he must link out to Jaz at the earliest opportunity and ask for a full security check on one Roeul Ritsun.

From Haruspex Trilogy Edge of Doom a Fortune’s Fools book by E.M. Swift-Hook.

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