“It’s nothing special. We won’t be here long. Good songs on the stereo, but I insist on that. Lots of good liquor.”
“It feels ridiculous to drink at 9am.”
“You’re a fecking duchess on the lam from the law. Do whatever you fecking want.”
It was hard for Liliyet to argue with that logic.
“I have a confession to make,” said Ariana.
“I’m not in the business of offering solace for bad acts.”
“I don’t usually hit on my rescues,” Ariana continued in an accent that Liliyet couldn’t quite place, “But damn, you’re cute.”
“Thank you. My little sister is the real beauty, though.”
“I suspect you’re just being modest.”
“No, truly. She’s sixteen and utterly breathtaking, making me look like I belong in a stable.”
“Well, I love horses, too.”
Liliyet poured herself a strong scotch. She was practically raised on the stuff, and something of the peaty taste reminded her of home and simpler times when her father and grandfather were still alive.
She needed a drink now. And a nap. Or something better than a nap.
She looked sideways at her saviour: long blond hair that framed two beautiful blue eyes and very kissable lips. Something about being thrust into a situation like this was exciting and arousing for Liliyet, and she couldn’t deny her saviour’s attractive qualities. Liliyet considered herself flexible regarding her attractions—a definite bonus for a con artist—and a trait she’d put to work on more than a few occasions. Using sex in her cons made them more effective, she was sure. She took another long glance at Ariana and drank her in.
She shook the thought aside. She needed to focus on figuring out her situation. No more thoughts of home. No more thoughts of slamming Ariana against a wall and kissing her hard.
Back on track, Liliyet, she thought to herself.
“Those agents that were looking for me. You know about them?”
“Brightmorning is a dark legend in the underworld.”
“What do you mean?”
“There are stories. People say she’s indestructible. She was once in a firefight with members of a cartel from the Union, real professionals. Rumour is they worked for the President of the Union himself. They swore, and be damned, they shot her a half dozen times, and she just kept going. Another story is about an arsonist who was setting fires in the Wharves. They were closing in on him, and he set himself on fire rather than be caught. They say she walked into the blaze and carried him out unconscious but alive. He was so badly burnt they didn’t think he’d live, but he did, and now he has to drink his meals through a straw. She came out without a scratch. People say she’s a Paralux robot or an alien from Plot 27.”
“Is that what you think?”
“I think she’s something worse: a true believer.”
“A true believer in what?”
“In Cascadia. I think the stories are embellished, but she goes to extraordinary lengths to protect Cascadia from what she sees as an unavoidable byproduct of an open society. Part of me admires her for it.”
“And the other part.”
“Stears clear whenever possible.”
“How’d you get away in the bar?”
“Well, there’s a little bit of history there. I used to date Isadora.”
“You used to date her?”
“A long time ago when I was a very different person.”
“How’d you end up on opposite sides of the law?”
“That’s a long story, but maybe one day, over a few drinks, I’ll tell it to you.”
Suddenly there was a ring from Ariana’s comm. Ariana looked down at her device and grew a bemused look.
“What’s it they say… speak of the devil, and he shall appear? Isadora is calling me.”