“He said people were saying I was friendly,” Laska says. “At first, I didn’t get it was meant as an insult, but then he said I was sleeping with alphas left and right. Why would he think that? I haven’t slept with anyone but Len DaSilva, and only that one time.”
“He knew he wasn’t saying the truth, Laska.” Yet again, I have to fight down a surge of red-hot anger. Hagen is gone; Laska’s safe from him, but there will be others.
I can’t let anybody hurt him. That’s all I really know. If only I could get a grip and start thinking clearly again.
I take his tea mug from him to refill it, then hand it back to him.
“Thank you,” he says. He’s sitting in the armchair in front of the fireplace, wrapped into a blanket. With the fire burning, my office is way warmer than my apartment, so this is where I’ve taken him. It feels safer, too. He’s recovering from an assault. There must be no trace of anything that might feel like a threat to him.
God, he looks so small in the big chair.
“Try not to think about him for now, Laska. He’s not a danger to you anymore.”
He takes a few sips from his mug, then lifts his head. “Can you come sit with me?”
I know he needs the body contact; I should have joined him and let him snuggle up to me right away when we came here, and I would have, if it hadn’t been for my darned feelings for him.
“Please?” he says like an afterthought. It’s typical for him to forget to say things like please and thank you. The thought that he believes I’m not helping him the way I should because he hasn’t been polite enough is intolerable.
Fuck, Toriên, man up.
Shoot, I’m supposed to be strong. I can do this.
Putting his mug to the side, I bend down to him and lift him up, then sit down in the armchair with him on my lap. Not hesitating for a second, he slings his arms around me and wriggles about to find the perfect position. With a sigh, he relaxes against my chest. Since he’s still wrapped into his blanket from neck to toe, all I feel of his body is his modest weight and his silky hair tickling my chin. Which leaves his scent as the main problem. It’s sweet, sweet temptation, and the fact there’s still a whiff of Hagen’s mixing into it sparks off a primal need to make him mine in my loins.
I fidget in my seat, trying to will my body to cut off the blood supply to my groin.
“Am I too heavy?” he asks. “I’m really sorry…”
Something bubbles up inside me. I’ve been prepared for all kinds of uncontrollable reactions he might trigger in me, but not for laughter. “No, you aren’t too heavy.” Another stifled laugh escapes me. “How much do you weigh, anyway? Like, one hundred twenty pounds?”
“One hundred forty,” he says forcefully. “I work out, you know.”
I bite back another chuckle. “Of course, you do. Wow, that’s actually quite a lot.”
He nods. “My target weight is one hundred fifty. I plan on getting there by Midwinter Moon.”
He gives a shuddering sigh. “Honestly, I wish I could have double that weight, like you. Then I could deal with people like Hagen on my own. I’d love to be able to do what you did tonight. It must feel so great to have someone nasty submit to you because they have no choice.” Again, he sighs. It sounds wistful.
“You’ll always have people watching out for you. Your pack, your friends. Me.”
It’s not enough, as tonight has been proof… It’s clear that the only thing that would keep him safe, that effectively would make molesters stay away from him, would be the official announcement that he found a mate.
“I’ve been thinking, Torie,” Laska says. “Maybe you could make me your consort.”
Has he really just said that? Has he really put my own thought into words?…
He traces the buttons of my shirt with two fingertips, almost as if he were about to open them, but that’s not what this is about. This is stimming.
“Hagen said people were considering me… up for grabs,” he says. “If I were your consort, they’d stop thinking that. They’d consider me yours.”
I stare down at his smooth brow.
“You’ve decided you don’t want a mate, and I have, too, but by being your consort, I could belong to you without marriage, right?” he says. “We’d both be able to keep our resolutions, yet people would leave me alone.” He raises his gaze to mine, blinking. “What do you think?”
“Erm, I don’t know. Are you serious? You want me to make you my consort?”
“In former times, it was quite common for people to get themselves an omega consort, right? I remember reading about it in your textbook. It says it was a widespread custom among alphas of wealthy families during the late Middle Ages.”
He looks at me expectantly, as if he were waiting for me to say, ‘Yes, exactly, so, let’s do this.’
I have to say something. “I’m not sure your brother would like that.”
“Yeah, but would you?”
“I’d have to think about it,” I say, floundering.
“Are you afraid of gossip? You’re the vice chancellor. Obviously, people will talk.”
“They’ve all watched me take you with me. I guess it’s a safe bet they’re talking already. It can hardly get worse.” …
“Are you saying yes, then?”
“Not really, is it? Claiming a consort is a pretty straightforward procedure.”
He’s right. All it would take is for me to wrap him in my scent every couple of days and to have him live here in my apartment as our shared territory. That would suffice to advertise his new status as my consort to the community.
He’s stopped fingering my buttons and bites his nails now instead. “Of course, you don’t have to do it. It’s not your responsibility to help keep nasty alphas away from me or anything, obviously—”
“It is. It is my responsibility. You wouldn’t be in this situation if I had done my job and kept you safe from Len DaSilva. I do want to help you; God, I do. Only, taking you as my consort would feel really wrong. An omega consort is considered property. You aren’t an object.”
He shrugs. “I wouldn’t mind. You wouldn’t treat me like one, so, no problem.”
I try to think of another argument.
He’s stopped biting his nails and is watching me. “There would be a couple of benefits for you, too, you know. I’d do your housekeeping—”
“You definitely won’t be doing any housekeeping.”
A small frown appears between his eyebrows. “I can do things. I know how to do the laundry, load the dishwasher, make an omelet, and a lot more things.”
“I’m sure you do. That’s not the point.”
“Why don’t you want me as your consort, then? You could fuck me anytime, too.”
Oh God. I could.
His way of making his points gives me whiplash. He spells things out with absolutely no filters, and it’s made all the worse by the fact he’s doing it from a place of utter innocence.
“I wouldn’t do that. I…”
“You wouldn’t fuck me? Why not? You’re having a reaction to me.”
I slip out from under him and get to my feet. “I’m not having a reaction.”
He glances up at me, looking completely confused. Somehow, it feels really bad to lie to him, knowing he has these troubles with seeing through people. It feels like the worst kind of gaslighting.
“Okay, I have a reaction to you. I like you.” That is the truth. Of course, it’s also a giant understatement, but there’s no need to be specific about the exact degree to which I like him, to be sure.
He smiles. There’s a remote hint of roguishness to that smile, and I find him sexier than ever, wrapped in his blanket up to his chin like he is.
“It’s all good, then, isn’t it?” he says.
“But… what about you?”
“Me? Oh, you mean if I like you, too? I do. I’ve always liked you.”
“You have?” I reply hoarsely.
“You are really nice. You’re good-looking, too. I like your hair and your eyes, and your scent, of course.”
“Okay,” I reply weakly.
“I’ve been thinking of you and me.” He blushes and grins past my shoulder into the distance. “I’m looking forward to having you fuck me.”
Oh, my goodness.
He cocks his head to the side. “It’s the most efficient way to change my scent, right? You have to change my scent to make things official. That’s how a consort is claimed.”
He nods. “So, are we going to do it tonight?”
He’s asking me to sleep with him. He’s asked me before, but he was in heat then, confused and in shock. This is different. This is for real.
He observes me. “Are you nervous? Can you do it? I mean, are you physically able to do it?”
He thinks this might be why I’m nervous. I guess I should be offended, but instead, I have to suppress the urge to break into laughter.
“I think I am.”
“You haven’t done it in a while, have you? Oh wait, are you a virgin?”
No laughing. He’s being serious; so you will be, too.
“As a matter of fact, I am not.”
He nods. There’s this spark of curiosity in his eyes I remember from class, a disconcertingly academic kind of curiosity. “How have you handled it? The omega club in Harbor Town?”
Yeah, he wants to get to the bottom of everything, and he doesn’t give a fuck about taboos—simply because he isn’t aware of them. Nobody else would bring up omega clubs like this. Those clubs are run by single omegas who’ve banded together to have a sex life with selected single alphas in a safe place. Omega clubs aren’t like bordellos; they’re about the trading of sexual services for everybody’s benefit. It’s still sex outside of mating bonds and considered debauched by many. For a long time, I used to find it ideal. I stopped visiting the club in Harbor Town four years ago, around the time Laska first appeared in my class. The day Laska first appeared in my class.
He’s still looking at me, waiting for my answer.
I clear my throat. “I did used to go there, yes, but I stopped a while ago. Quite a while ago.”
“I see. So, it’s just masturbating. Same as for me. Not that great, is it?”
I try to spot the sarcasm in his words, but I don’t get anything.
“No, it’s not, actually,” I reply.
“By being consorts, we’d be kind of our own club,” he observes. “So, do you want to do this?”
Oh my God, I guess I do.
Once he’s officially my consort, nobody’s going to dare to treat him wrong anymore. And he could still try to find a mate. It might even improve his chances. Those are the absurd hierarchy dynamics of the were world: as vice chancellor, I’m above most others in rank, meaning people will take me making Laska my consort as definite proof he’s not an outcast. Yes, this is going to help him with finding a mate; this is going to help securing his future.
My head spins. I’m going to say yes. I’m going to get to take care of him, and to sleep with him, all while trying to find someone else to replace me. …
He gets to his feet, dropping the blanket. Standing before me in his jeans and his hoodie, he looks very much the student he is. Very much out of bounds. I’m still struggling to come to terms with what’s happening when he pulls his zipper down and steps out of his jeans.
“Laska. Are you sure you want to do this right away? I mean, after everything that’s happened tonight?”
“It’ll help me forget Hagen.” A small shudder runs through him. “It’ll help, Torie.”
He loses the rest of his clothes, and as I look at him standing naked in my office, the deep carpet swallowing his bare feet and the shine of the fire playing across his exquisite body, I know this is the point of no return.
He steps up to me. “You have to give me a bath now.”
“To make sure there will be nothing but my scent and yours on me in the end.”
“There will be.”