09.04.3013: To Great Escapes
Summary: Garus visits Jane at her apartment for their first legitimate date.
Date: 2 September 2013
Related: Her Damask Cheek
Garus Jane 


Jane's Apartment - Phylon
Various room descriptions are scattered throughout the log.
4 September 3013

The time on the spiraling metal arms of the unusual clock in Jane's kitchen shows that it is yet a quarter to six in the evening. The red-head is bustling back and forth, putting on the final touches to the meal that is, lamentably, not a home-cooked affair. However, the gourmet cuisine of Mare Maris has been arranged rather prettily on green glass platters, the last of which she carefully carries to the dining area adjacent to the kitchen. A dark, wood table has been set with classic white dishware and two ornate, silver holders bearing ivory candles that have just been lit.

Jane is going for a relaxed but intimate ambianace, and she steps away from the table with a flutter of nerves. The rich folds of her newest dress rustle with her nervous movements, and her gaze darts repeatedly to the clock. Running her palms down over the very snug fit of her dress, she paces toward the sitting area to perch on the edge of a couch before reaching forward to peel away the seal on a bottle of wine and begin the ridiculous struggle of trying to remove the cork.

From the streetside, Garus Leonnida and his guard make their way through the secured checkpoint quietly, without much fanfare or attention. It's just the way the man wants things as he steps into the building and chats quietly with the bearded man. They'll later be caught on a number of security cameras as the two quietly laugh with their private, murmured joke all of the way into the elevator. When the door eventually opens, Garus steps free and stops before a mirror in the hallway to give himself a look over. His hair has been styled, swept back over the top of his head save for a small lock or two that dare to tease near his eyes. He turns to get a look at his profile, his hands brushing down the front of the forest green button-up shirt in silks that he's switched into. It's just tight enough to show off the strength in his arms and shoulders, but flows just enough to look carefree and suspiciously informal as it's been left untucked. He checks over the snug-fitting black trousers and the belt he's threaded through them, and only once he's sure that he looks the way he's designed does he start to move again.

His guard hands him a small, blue-wrapped package with gold ribbon. The cylinder-shaped weight in his hands is switch from hand-to-hand as Garus comes to a stop before the door. He looks over to the guard, he returns a quiet nod as he lowers himself to a chair beside the door with a pat of his sword's scabbard. Garus will, as it seems, be safe from the outside. Stretching his arms before him, he reaches to the door…hesitates…and then rings the doorbell.

The cork is being ridiculously stubborn, and Jane groans as she gives a vicious tug on the corkscrew. It barely budges, leaving the girl panting with the effort. She slumps momentarily in her seat and sets the bottle back on the table with an irritated *thunk* before flopping back into the couch cushions. The tantrum she wishes to throw is held in check by the time the doorbell sounds, and the jarring hum of musical notes announcing the arrival of a visitor is enough to give her a heart attack.

"Shit!" Jane curses loudly, jumping up from her seat and spinning about to stare at the door. With one hand pressed against her chest above her heart, she glides quickly toward the entrance and peers through the peephole. The sight of Garus is enough to set her nerves on edge, and the fluttering in her belly threatens to overwhelm her as she grips the knob and carefully pulls the door open.

In the handful of seconds between opening the door and meeting Garus face-to-face, Jane has managed to master her expression and plaster a warm, nearly sultry, smile on her face. Her head is tilted downward a couple of degrees, foring her to look up to him from beneath her lashes. "Sir Garus, my but I feel as if we have only just been together," she jests, moving backward and gesturing for him to enter her humble abode. "Please, come in. I hope you did not have trouble finding the place."

Enlightened as the door swoops open, Garus is completely oblivious to the sudden transformation. With Jane being the talented actress she is, or the man is simply oblivious to the changing tones of nervousness, he smiles quietly to her and holds up the heavy gift. The soft inner layer of tissue paper crinkles against his hand as he takes a step forward, leaving the poor guard in the hallway with no idea just how long he'll be kept waiting. Suddenly, the guard shoots up and offers the book to Garus, who reaches out blindly to take it like a hand-off. Nevermind what she sees. He didn't almost forget the book. "I know, Jane? It's been only a few hours hasn't it? It hasn't stopped either of us from changing. You look just as stunning as you did before." Leading in with a compliment, he carries the gift in his hands as he passes her, eyes lifting to scan over the immediate area in her apartment. It's larger, much larger, than expected.

"I didn't have any trouble finding the place, no." He adds, turning to face her as he lets her run the show, the closing of the door, the directing of him as to where to go. Those awkward first moments as a guest in a new home really do leave the hostess on her own. "I hope I'm not late, either. I made a point to try to be here exactly on time, it seemed like the way things should be." Garus looks to the watch around his wrist and then back to her, offering the gift-wrapped cylinder to her. "This is for you, Jane."

Pleased with herself for mastering her silliness so quickly, Jane cannot help but glance down to admire the view of Garus' backside as he brushed past her and she closes the door with a click. Turning around, she presses herself against the door briefly before following Garus further into the apartment and gesturing toward the sitting area off to the right; one is required to ascend a couple of steps to the beige couches circling a low, espresso-stained coffee table inset with stained glass. The furniture is arranged to face a fireplace where ceiling-mounted lights shine down upon an original piece of abstract artwork hanging above the mantel.

Jane follows close on Garus' heels, and she inhales sharply as she pulls up short when he turns back to offer her the gift. Batting her lashes in surprise, she reaches up to accept it carefully, holding the item gingerly as if she might break it by accident. "Is it an open it now or open it later gift?" she inquires, lips curving upward into a sly smile while she lifts her chin to signal him to take a seat.

And the joke from earlier comes around full circle. Looking rather pleased about it, Garus takes a step back to the sofa near the fireplace and motions to the package in her hands. "It's an open it now gift. I hope you like it, it took a while to put together and you might enjoy it." He offers, giving her one more glance over as he lowers himself to his seat. His fingertips pinch the knees of his trousers and smooth them into place, making those casual little adjustments to make sure that he's remaining just as well-dressed as he planned. It's not enough to hide that he isn't entirely sure that she'll like it. First time gifts are hard, and the one she's given him is going to be a hard one to beat.

Jane laughs quietly as she recalls the conversation from earlier that morning, waiting until Garus has seated himself before perching on a chair beside him. She waves a hand toward the wine bottle with the corkscrew still tightly wound into the cork, blushing faintly at her girly inability to get it open. "Would you mind trying to open that? I swear they glued it into place. It wouldn't budge for me. I'm sorry it hasn't had time to breathe." Exhaling quietly, she turns her attention to the gift, fiddling with the bow for a moment and admiring the pretty packaging.

"You know, blue is one of my favorite colors," the actress offers conversationally, tugging more forcefully on the bow and setting the gold ribbon aside. Using one manicured fingernail, she slides it beneath the seam of the paper and carefully pries it open, trying not to tear it too much as she goes. "I had forgotten to ask you what food you enjoy best, my lord, so I hope you will be pleased with seafood. I had something brought in fresh from Mare Maris. I do so enjoy their cuisine. Have you been there before?"

"I like to shop around when it comes to food, Jane, it smells wonderful, really. Anything that isn't the food from the gala or food from the field. I've been on rations so off and on, trust me. I'll love it." Leave it to a man to want to make himself useful with strength is required. Like a proud lion stepping up to a stone to pull a sword out of it, Garus smiles to the bottle and reaches out for it. Bracing the bottle against his knee so that he can get his hands around the corkscrew, he looks up to her as the gift is revealed to be a candle. With wrapped honeycomb-like wax dotted with little stains of gold and brown with a heavy wick slipping out of the center of it, it smells of honey, of the forest, and of a number of sights and smells from the Roar.

Giving her a moment to look the candle over, which has been stamped with the seal of a local, expensive candle-maker, he turns his eyes to her face for her reaction. "It's many things, but it smells like home. It's no Wilkinson tome, Jane, but since you're living here in Phylon I thought it'd be something for you to remember our conversation on the lookout by." His teeth bare to her with a grunt as his arms turn, pressed tightly against the sides of the silk shirt as he works at the cork. With a sudden lurch and a loud, comical pop, the cork frees from the neck of the bottle and he pulls it free. "It's a wonder how they get the bloody things in there to begin with, aye?" He laughs, setting the bottle and cork back down. "So, your thoughts? Do you like it?"

Painstakingly, Jane removes the paper wrapper, using one hand to smooth the paper against her thigh, fold it into a square, and set it aside neatly. After a moment of breathless anticipation, she turns her gaze to the object and blinks in surprise at finding a candle. The craftsmanship is beautiful enough to earn an adoring smile, and in silence she runs her fingertips over the waxy surface before bringing it up to her nose to inhale the fragrance. This part is the unexpected one, the sudden scent of home hitting her like a fist in the gut, and her eyes fly open wide to look to Garus. Indeed, the gift is quite a welcome surprise.

Shaking off childhood memories like so many cobwebs, Jane inhales the scent once more and exhales in a sigh of longing. "This is by far the most thoughtful gift that anyone has ever given me," she murmurs, finding the force of Garus' gaze too overwhelming to continue to meet it. She looks away, swallows, and then rolls the candle through her fingers while rising up from her seat. "I will think of many things when I light this," Jane continues quietly, placing it in a shallow crystal dish atop the mantel. The rustling of her satiny skirt follows her movements as she backs away to admire its position in comparison to the rest of her simple decor.

The pop of the cork jolts her from her reverie, and blushing she turns back to face Garus. "Ah, good, you got it open. Bring it to the table, would you? The glasses are there, and we can start on dinner. I am starved; all I've had today is that coffee." Passing by the couch, Jane pauses and reaches out to place her fingertips on Garus' shoulder, looking down along the line of her arm to his face. "Really, my lord, it is a beautiful gift, and I will cherish it."

Reaching for her hand on his shoulder, Garus' strong, steady hand rests atop hers and curls slightly to envelop her fingers. He tilts his head to look up to her, his light blue eyes blinking. When someone looks up, nomatter from what height, the face always contorts and pulls in a way that makes it look hopeful. As a relieved smile crosses over the man's lips, he lets go of her hand and rises to his feet. "I'm relieved, then. I don't shop very often, half of the people told me dress, one person told me purse? I don't — couldn't begin to question fashion. Most men are clueless, aye?" He smirks playfully to her as he leans past her with a brush of his hip against hers. Forearm muscles coiling, he grips the bottle by the neck and turns away from her to lead the way towards the table.

"I can see why you live here, though." He glances back to her, eyes alight with a lack of reserve that he normally carries in front of the nobles. Lordly and resolute still, something he can never break free of, he's slipped into letting his guard down for the evening. "All of your work would be here. Back home, there's plenty of space, all of those fields and forests, but those don't do you much good with HAG and all of the other work you want to do. I don't know how much you miss home, Jane, but," He pauses at the side of the table to set the wine down, reaching for her glass. "In some way I think I hoped that you did. I'd miss it every day."

Jane shivers, although that could be attributed to the fact that the air conditioning unit has just kicked on and they are both standing right beneath a register. Her fingers tighten on his shoulder for just a moment before he moves away, and she drops her hand to her side to watch him lead the way. Oh look, there's that tight ass again. Blushing furiously, she turns her head away just at the right moment that makes it look like she's admiring the candle instead of his backside when he glances back toward her. "Hmm? Oh, yes, well," Jane scrambles to catch up to the conversation, following him at a much more sedate pace than usual.

Her gaze falls to the platters artfully arranged on the table bearing various seafood dishes - grilled, steamed fish, boiled lobster, and a colorful array of sushi and sashimi. "I miss home more than I have cared to admit to anyone, Sir Garus." Inadvertently, Jane is admitting that she has finally told him a secret. She pulls out her chair and rests her hand atop the wooden back, waiting for the wine to be poured and her guest to be seated before she, too, will sit. "Ten years ago I could not wait to escape it, and I would never have believed anybody if they told me I'd be longing for home. I wish I had a reason to stay there longer than a weekend."

"Please, just Garus. At least in private." Garus suddenly replies. With the accent to the man's voice and the deep, baritone that sometimes comes with it, it's hard to not sound as if he's giving orders. "There are times where I have to be Garus the Lord or Garus the Knight and here, at dinner, I'd prefer to not be either of them. I'm supposed to take the time to enjoy the finer things in life." Garus smiles to himself as he leans across the table to set her glass of wine down in front of the plate that he assumes is hers. "A friend of mine told me that once."

Careful of the candles, he pulls his silken arm back to the bottle of wine and pours from himself. Briefly looking up to her, his features soften at her admission, but his gaze cannot stay long to spare her poor tablecloth. Wine poured and everything set, he pulls out his chair and tucks his body against the table and waits for her to serve herself first. "You have a home there, right?" Garus lowers his voice, the contours of his face glowing in the flickering candlelight. "Perhaps you should take some time off before your next big push. Visit whatever family you've there, come to my home and we could continue to meet for dinner like this. If you ride, Jane, I could take you for a tour to show you what you've missed since you've been gone."

Settling onto her chair, Jane plucks her skirt at her knees and smoothes it down with her palms. Her cloth napkin flutters as she fans it out over her lap and watches as the wine spills into her goblet. "Thank you," she murmurs, reaching out to take her drink as he moves to pour for himself. "Garus." The word is tested lightly, feeling the weight of it on her tongue before washing it down with wine. A flash of amusement mingled with pleasure lights her eyes, and she looks toward him as he seats himself. "Did they? Then you have a very wise friend. Did they offer any recommendations for how to enjoy these finer things? Otherwise it would be such a vague directive."

Suppressing the urge to giggle, Jane reaches out to scoop a filet of salmon onto her plate, followed by a bit of salad and several pieces of sushi. If there is one thing she is not afraid to do in front of anyone - wildly attractive man or not - it would be eating. She samples the sushi, chewing thoughtfully and watching Garus while he serves himself. Her movements slow to a standstill with his offer, her fork hovering above her plate as she considers it. Red lips part to offer a breathless "I ride" before she reaches for her wine. "I've worked nearly every day for the past three years, you know. Sometimes I am terrible at taking my own advice. It would feel admittedly strange to go on vacation."

The smile on Garus' lips reads victory as she tests his name out without the Sir. It is going to be a long dinner, or longer with that extra syllable. "Well this friend, this — attractive actress friend of mine you probably would not know her, gave me the impression that like you, all of this work without any break might just turn me into this thing of stone. Now —" Garus tilts his head as he reaches for the serving tools, helping himself to a large cut of salmon, some salad, and a small mound of lobster to arrange on his plate in an organized manner. "I could never forget my work and never be in a place where I can't get back to it if I'm needed, but most of my time is spent enjoying small things in between all of it. It's never really the break it should be. It's important to be able to shut off once in a while."

Taking up his fork and knife, Garus cuts into the salmon so square aside a few bites for himself before he balances the knife on the edge of the plate with a soft clink. Forearms resting on the table's edge, he raises his light blue eyes to hers and eases out of the sideways manner of speaking about her. "If you can't take your own advice, Jane, take mine. I don't know how frequent I can offer my company, and I know I don't have jurisdiction here in Phylon, but you should take a break. Come back to the Roar and if you don't have a horse I could provide one. Consider it more of a break than anything before the next big push forward in life. Ride the fields, swim in the streams, surround yourself with the things the candle cannot."

With a certain degree of amusement, Jane takes another bite of her fish and listens intently to Garus. When he mentions the 'attractive actress' with whom she must not be acquainted, she lets a little girlish giggle slip and looks away. "You are right, of course, Garus," she replies slowly, swirling her wine around her glass before taking a sip. "It's very important to be able to step away from the daily slog and take a breath. Up until now, I hadn't possessed any good reason to do so, though."

She watches as Garus cuts up his dinner in a very precise, almost militaristic manner. His deliberate movements draw another laugh from her, light and quiet, and she rests her elbows on the table in the most faux pas fashion to rest her chin on her left hand while maintaining the wine glass in her right. "I have a horse at my parents' place. She might not recognize me as long as it has been since I've gone home." Her gaze flickers away briefly with the admission, but the draw of the conversation reels her back in a few seconds later. "Maybe…maybe I can get Willow to rearrange my schedule and take next week for myself. Who knows when we'll have another opportunity for free time."

Not only does Garus cut up his food like a soldier, but he eats like one, too. Each cut of the fish is quickly devoured, like a footman trying to get his food in before some noble forces him to take it on the road. With each bite, however, there's a soft lidding of his eyes, as despite the speed that he eats he isn't losing the experience of it. With half of the filet already gone, he sets his fork down and reaches for his napkin, dabbing gently at the corner of his mouth. "I'm sure your parents would agree. If it's been so long maybe they'd appreciate you being home. Just imagine the looks on their faces when myself and my guard ride up to their stables for a days ride, aye?" He motions to her gently as he reaches for his wine glass, washing down the food with a sip. "It sounds like you've already made your decision. Maybe this is easier with me and command structure, but we all have lieutenants for a reason. Let Willow do what she does best, and then when you return gift her with a vacation for her troubles."

Jane is willing to take the meal at a slower pace, although she fills up quickly nonetheless. While watching Garus from the corner of her eye with some trace of amusement, she finishes the majority of her salmon and all of her sushi before lifting her napkin to wipe her mouth clean. Bundling up the cloth, she drops it on her plate and pushes the whole thing back away from her as a signal that she has finished for the evening. On a sudden, silly whim, she half-rises from her chair and leans forward, reaching over Garus' plate to pluck up the bottle of wine. The dark liquid splashes into his cup as she refills his and then hers before resuming her seat.

"Willow is an amazing assistant. Starry-eyed, incredibly naive, and destined for heartbreak, but she is the best I've ever had. I will happily give her a vacation. Thank you for the idea." Tilting her head back, Jane downs half of the glass of wine in one go before setting it carefully on the table. "I think my parents would act like I receive lordly visitors all the time - outwardly. Inside, my mother would be doing cartwheels and my father would be looking for his blaster."

Spooning some of the lobster over onto his fork as she leans in closer, Garus looks up to her and locks into eye contact. Not knowing quite what she's up to yet, it all makes less awkward sense as she reaches for the wine bottle. Oh. With a small, demure smile he nods to her in thanks and turns lowers his eyes to his fork. The last few bites are finished quickly until it is his time to place his napkin on the plate as well. "Thank you," He reaches for the wine, taking the goblet into an underhand grip as he settles back into his chair, turning to face her and ignore the food for better company. "So your father would be looking for his blaster, eh? Simply tell the man you've made a friend in me and that it's going to result in you seeing them more often. Whatever isn't comfortable there should smooth over, I'm assuming? I don't know these people." He laughs quietly, reaching out with his goblet to offer to tap it against hers. "Then it's settled. To great escapes?"

"Oh, you know them. Well, my mother you may not, and I will let it slide because as we have established - men know nothing about fashion." Jane laughs lightly and finishes the rest of her wine before leaning back in her seat. Her hands remain on the table, arms stretched, and she fiddles with the hem of her napkin. "My father is an actor, Blakely Wyre. His popular 'vids are before your time, though, Garus." She offers this slight prod at his age with a semi-apologetic smile before shaking her head quickly. "Anyway, I was being silly. My parents will be delighted but guarded as they always are. I can never tell what they're thinking."

When Garus raises his goblet for a toast, Jane takes a second to knock a little more wine into hers before raising it. The glasses clink gently, and she smiles before taking a sip. "To great escapes."

With the toast locked firmly into place, Garus drinks heartily to swallow down more of the wine than is truly necessary. His eyes follow her over the rim of the goblet while he drinks, and once finished he sets the glass down and rises to his feet. Without asking, he reaches for his plate and hers, and steps past her in the direction of her kitchen. "I've heard of your parents, but I've never met them personally. I believe my father has, he's mentioned your father a few times and his work, but I've never seen too much of it." Not too proud to help her clean up, he sets the plates beside her sink and returns to the table, reaching over her to take up his glass.

What isn't expected is the way he brushes his hand over her shoulder as he turns to look back to the kitchen, trying to decide what's right. Does he help her clean up all of the way, or is this something that they save for later? Things are going rather well, and housework is a poor break to a dinner date. So instead, he moves to where she can see him and won't miss it this time, and offers his hand to her. "With as stressed as you seem to have been, are you sure you don't want to book a massage for the same time tomorrow? At least I'd know I've a friend in earshot if your girl sprouts claws and tries to take my soul?"

Lips part with a slight gasp of surprise as Garus rises up and begins to clear plates away from the table, and she turns hurriedly in her seat to watch him set them beside the sink. Well, that's acceptable, but she hasn't invited her guest here to play the maid, she half-rises from her seat in protest. "Really, we can get those later…" Thump. She drops back into her chair as he approaches, glancing down to pick up her wine glass. Her hand pauses in mid-air as his fingers brush the bare skin of her shoulder, serving as an effectively albeit rather temporary paralytic.

Eyelids flutter, momentarily shuttering the wide, blue eyes as Jane takes in a deep, slow breath. "Hmm?" She turns a smile up to him, failing to drop her mask into place before meeting his gaze and allowing just the briefest glimpse at how unsettled she is beneath the surface. Her hand slips into his and she rises from her seat. "She's not Awakened. The worst she can do is take away some tension. Would you really want me there?"

Holding her hand as she rises, Garus neglects to let go of it as she reaches her full height before him. His brows lower, ever so slightly at the sight of her discomfort. He doesn't fear, fear isn't an emotion often equated with the man, made prevalent by the way that he holds her gaze in silence and brushes a thumb over her knuckles to calm her. Once again, the scar that lines his neck throbs as his pulse kicks up a few few beats, directing the signs of his own being moved to other, less noticeable places. "It might take away some of the tension," Garus replies, his fingers squeezing hers as their hands lower to hang like a slacked rope between the two of them. "For both of us. If you'd like to, then please, make the arrangement. It might be a good time." He winks, playing out his ever-cool as he lets go of her fingers and moves to the side.

With his hand brushing out towards the small of her back, he nudges his head towards the fireplace and the couch in the distance where he's set the book aside for them to read. The move is a release on a pressure valve, taking another break for a gasp of air from the dueling intensity that's started to build. "You're going to have a few days back at the Roar, and I'm going to have a few days here at Phylon. I'm your guest. Show me what I need to see, Jane."

On a good day dealing with smarmy playboys and rabid fanboys, Jane is the picture of a cool, calm, collected and slightly cruel celebrity. Now, though, she has been effectively 'put off her game' by some bedroom eyes and a hot ass, and for a moment a flicker of anger alights on Jane's features. She smoothes it away with a slow exhalation, shaking her head slightly in response to her own thoughts. Her fingers tighten on Garus' before he releases her, propelling her with his hand at her back to move forward toward the sitting area.

The touch is akin to fire, and her skin prickles with goosebumps as she attempts to move as gracefully and nonchalantly as possible. Lifting the hem of her dress, she quietly approaches the couch and drops onto a seat, shifting to the side to make room for Garus. Her eyes are on the book, but her thoughts dwell in a far, far different place. "Was it The Merchants of Detritus you had mentioned reading?"

His fingertips leave the bare tattooed skin of her back as she turns to sit down, leaving his skin crackling with energy as he watches the synthetic fibers pull against her sides. Swallowing, he busies himself with another sip of wine before he lowers himself to sit down beside her. Sitting a little too close for friendship's sake, his hip rests against hers leaving a sensation of connection that isn't normally there; it's something foreign and exciting to him as he reaches out for the book. Trading wine for scripture, he balances an arm behind her shoulders on the back of the sofa and peels the book open to a section that's already been ribboned for him. "I noticed the book was already tagged, Jane. I haven't read it, but A Woman Lost?" He looks to her, eyes softening as he begins to wonder whether or not the ribbon was placed on accident. "Shylock's a little too tragic for tonight, isn't he?" He laughs softly, his breath passing over her shoulder. "Would you like to start?"

Jane glances to Garus from beneath her lashes as he settles in beside her, leaning close. The sound of the synthetic of her dress brushing against that of his pants is ever so loud and echoes in her ears, nearly overwhelming whatever it is he is trying to say. She squints, reading his lips until the whooshing of blood subsides and she can hear again. How many times on how many 'vids has she done this - this little dance, the making of eyes, the exchanging of veiled observations as the tension mounts? But reading from a script is far different from this situation, and Jane is having to draw on her ad lib skills heavily.

The actress leans in a little bit closer, smelling faintly of jasmine and with a faint, woody undertone. "I like A Woman Lost, and all of Wilkinson is a little bit tragic if you consider it. Do you want to start reading here? It's in the middle of act two at Duke Resslin's palace." And she begins reciting:

"Too well what love women to men may owe:
In faith, they are as true of heart as we.
My father had a daughter loved a man,
As it might be, perhaps, were I a woman,
I should, your lordship."

"And what's her history?"

"A blank, my lord. She never told her love,
But let concealment like a worm i' the bud,
Feed on her damask cheek: she pined in thought,
And with a green and yellow melancholy
She sat like patience on a monument,
Smiling at grief. Was not this love indeed?
We men say more, swear more: but indeed
Our shows are more than will; for we still prove
Much in our vows, but little in our love."

To share the book, only one thing can be done. Turning his hip against her side, Garus' hand peels from the back of her couch to rest around her hip as the book is balanced on his knees. Holding it open from his side, he lowers his eyes to the page as the intoxicating scent of her perfume mixes with the wine. The page, separated down the middle of its gold-dipped edges by a Leonnidan-blue ribbon, isn't at the start of the chapter. It's at this one particular chapter, and the words that come from Jane's soft voice carry between them as he leans closer. He smells like a soldier; he smells of leather and steel, the wine on his breath, and the scent of his woodland colonge with a hint of ashen leaves, and with her shoulder resting against the inside of his arm, he cannot hide the hitch to his breathing as her words take flight. When she finishes, he begins to read to her in turn…

"But died thy sister of her love, my boy?

I am all the daughters of my father's house,
And all the brothers too-and yet I know not.
Sir, shall I to this lady?"

Before he knows it, his head has lowered, resting against the side of hers as he starts to turn. Speaking of romance is one thing, but reading it, as close as they are, is a drug that takes a life of his own. The tangible wave of his breathing starts to turn, directing down the plane of her jaw as he starts to recite the words from memory, breathy on his tongue as he offers his mouth to hers.

"Ay, that's the theme.
To her in haste. Give her this jewel. Say
My love can give no place, bide no denay…"

Jane's pale fingers trace lightly down the page from which she is reading, and her thumb brushes over the ribbon as she passes. Spots of color appear on her cheeks as she recites the passage, pausing between the exchanges between the Duke and the still-disguised Violetta. The idea of a woman hiding out among men, attempting to fit in among them, is an enchanting one, and for a moment she is absorbed in the reading. Her voice wavers briefly as she finishes Violetta's 'story' and glances toward Garus to see if he will wind up the scene.

Her lips curve upward into a fond smile as she studies his profile while he reads the passage, but before long her gaze is drawn down to the elaborate handwriting on the page. Only then does she hear the change in his voice as he turns to look down at her, feel the touch of his breath on her cheek. The hand resting at her side on the sofa curls into a fist and she ever so slowly turns her mouth up to meet his. For a split second she hesitates, perhaps hoping to draw out the anticipation just that little bit longer before her lips brush gently over his in a feather-light touch. "You forgot to say exeunt," she whispers.

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