Page 9 of Lucid Harmony

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“I’m not surprised,” Arin said. “Well, if the price doesn’t matter, that makes my job a whole lot easier. Let me make some enquiries. How long do I have?”

“Half a day. If this supplier has the right products, I’ll don a human-appearing disguise and go inspect the items myself. I’ll need to speak with her.”

“You’regoing to go down there and negotiate with a regular old human?” Rykal’s pale eyebrows lifted in surprise. “You,the mighty, mysterious, and aloof lord of the Silent Ones?”

Arin slapped Rykal lightly on his forearm. “Oi. You. Don’t be rude. Ash is doing a wonderful thing, and there’s no such thing as aregular old human.”

In the past, Ashrael would have been irritated, but now he simply snorted. He was starting to understand this thing; thisdry humorthat seemed to have infected them from the humans.

“The things they make us do,”he repeated in Kordolian, and it was true, because he wanted nothing more than to witness the look of surprise and pleasure on his mate’s face when she put her hands on the finest of instruments.

“Well, Arin’s expertise doesn’t go for free,” Rykal said, staving off his mate’s protest with a squeeze of her shoulder. “You should at least offer her a favor in return.”

“Rykal,that’s completely unnecessary. I already told Ash. I’mmorethan happy to help.”

Ashrael bowed, concealing his mild irritation. He’d been planning to offer her a favor, anyway. The Impatient One had just stepped ahead of the cannon. “Rykal’s suggestion is entirely appropriate. In fact, the thought was in my mind already. I’m more than happy to offer you any of my services. Whether it’s a tome from my library, or perhaps there’s an enemy you’d like to have eliminated…”

Arin raised her hands. “That won’t be necessary. But there is something you could do for us in the meantime. Actually, this is all Abbey’s fault. She told me she has a craving for Jamaican jerk chicken, and now I do, too.”

“Jerk chicken?”Ashrael snorted. He knew of thischickencreature; in fact, he’d tasted its meat and found it somewhat delectable. But he’d never heard ofJamaican jerk chickenbefore.

“The best place to buy it is from a chain restaurant calledSunset Dreams.I think they’ve opened up a new outlet in the orbital mall, but I’m too busy to get there today, and one can’t just… you know, order delivery toSilence.So, if you wouldn’t mind, could you summon the Kordolian powers that be and send someone to pick up an order? I’ll make you a list. Do you like spicy food, Ash?”

Ashrael frowned. He knew humans liked to heavily season their food with all kinds of noxious plant by-products, but he hadn’t had much experience with strong flavors. “I don’t know.”

“Well, I think you’ll love this. If you’re free, we can have dinner afterwards.” She looked up at Rykal. “The two of us, you, Noa, Abbey, and maybe even Tarak, if he’s around. I’ll order extra chicken.”

Ashrael and Rykal shared thelookyet again.

The things they make us do.

And none of them seemed to mind at all.

It wasn’t much of a favor, though. He’d expected her to take better advantage of his largesse. After all, it was vanishingly rare that he would freely offer his services to anyone.

But humans were strange like that. Appearing simple on the surface, but complicated underneath, it was hard to predict their reactions.

He nodded toward Rykal. “Why can’thego and retrieve the food?”

Arin smiled. “Well, he could, but you’re both insisting I call in afavor, so this is it. You know what? Maybe the two of you can go together. Get some experience blending in amongst our people. And I’m sure you’ll keep each other out of trouble.”

“No,” Ashrael said flatly. He’d heard some terrible things about this so-calledorbital mall.It sounded like the kind of place that would drive him insane. “I’ll arrange it.”

He’d get one of the juniors to do it. The younger ones were better at adapting to human ways and mimicking their mannerisms, and some of them genuinely enjoyed blending in amongst the locals on Earth. They weren’t directly under his command, but any of the Darkstar employees would heed his orders.

It was what it was.

“Well, whatever works for you.” Arin glanced at the link-band around her wrist. “I’ll get to work right away and let you know how I go. If you decide to go down to Earth to look at a particular piano, I can accompany you. You know, just in case.”

Ashrael snorted. It was as if she were afraid of what he might do if left to his own devices.

“You have no need to fear,” he said mildly. “I’ll play along.”

“So,” Rykal had started to radiate a certain kind of pent-up tension. “About that sparring session…”

“Now,” Ashrael snapped. He felt it too. The urge to fight. And it was always highly enjoyable to go up against an opponent whose skills were equally matched to his.

But Rykal was looking at his mate with a certain expression on his face. “Wait. Just a fewsivs. And leave us,” he said in Kordolian.

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