Azar set Kleitos Leonidas’ water – with its precise double helix of lemon and orange peel twined around four cubes of ice – on the small table between their two chaises. “I gotta say, boss, this is a great place.” He clambered into his own chair with an umbrella-topped Mai Tai. “I thought we were going to blow this Popsicle stand as soon as you nabbed me back from Moru, and good riddance. But,” he ratcheted the chaise back a notch and spread stick-like arms to soak up the August heat, “a body could get used to this. I almost feel dried out again.”
The morning after his courting of Sylvie, Kleitos Leonidas rose before dawn began to pink the eastern sky, turned off the lights she habitually left blazing all night to annoy her neighbors and threaded his way through the oaks to the lake’s edge. The moon had gone down some hours before and had anyone been up to observe they might have wondered how he managed to move so easily by only the weak illumination of the stars.
He tamped tobacco into his pipe, lit it, and stood gazing into the water for some minutes. During the night frost had crept from the shore to the lake shallows, and the same observer might wonder how Kleitos could stand unmoving, barefoot and bare-chested, apparently unperturbed by the chill morning air. Because of course in this world of science and reason, there are no such things as magicians or merfolk. Or other older, darker beings.
Sylvie should have been terrified at a strange man strolling uninvited into her house. But since she moved she’d suffered a scourge of frogs and a storm of owls, and he was handsome, and smiling in a manner a touch haughty but not at all malicious, and she found it hard to believe that a robber or rapist would arrive bearing a bottle of Red Car Pinot Noir from the magical vintage of 1997. He set the wine down on her white marble island and held out his hand. “Kleitos Leonidas.”
It felt strong and rough and dry as sandpaper as she took it in her own. A working man’s hands, although nothing else about him – jacket and trousers too exquisitely tailored to be anything but bespoke, Italian calf leather boots, the wood and bergamot scent of Clive Christian cologne – breathed of manual labor. (Yes breathe. And let go of his hand). “How very…Greek. Does it mean something?”
Sylvie poured Kat more chardonnay and resumed her casual lean on the wrought iron fence rail. The lake – Sylvie’s lake now – stretched out before them, dark and still except for the glittering, gaudy reflection of the house – Sylvie’s house – in the water. Shortly after Kat arrived from Studio City Sylvie had stilled the buzzing water pump that kept the small lake full. Left to its own devices the lake – an oversized pond, really – would naturally evaporate over the course of the hot summer. Now only a symphony of frogs burbled and boomed around them. “Go on,” Sylvie said. “Tell me this isn’t perfect.”
“You have owl shit on your patio.” Kat grinned as Sylvie bristled. “But aside from that, yes, it’s pretty perfect.”
“I made that owl a star.” Sylvie waved her glass at the old oak to their left. Its gnarled, illuminated arms reached into the darkness, fingers cradling the resident birds and squirrels in what remained of the night. “And this is the thanks I get.”