What Amara had apparently meant by a break was to dash in and kiss him quite soundly while hugging hard enough Russel heard her arm creak. Then with another apology, to disappear around the corner. Russel blinked at the space she had briefly occupied.
I have no idea what I’m doing. Doing? He shook his head. I’m not doing anything. Amara’s doing everything. I’m just, sitting here. It didn’t seem right. Russel had no qualms with a girl- no, a lady- going after what she wanted, but he found himself decidedly uncomfortable with the present dynamic. Never mind why she’s interested in me of all people. Or the fact that she let me in on a huge massive secret right out the gate with her arm, not to mention the whole existence of magic and, monsters I guess? He could make an instant fortune publishing evidence of that living prosthetic. Which Jane had definitely thought of; Russel doubted Amara hadn’t. He wasn’t planning on it, but how could they know that?
What could he possibly do to change the dynamic? I’m not even on the same continent as anything or anyone I know now. His lack of useable currency was immaterial, having not earned enough money in his lifetime to affect the finances of Ayame Sunrise. Which leaves me… sitting on this couch. Russel had never felt so completely out of his depth since the first day of grade school.
When Amara passed the green room again, Russel couldn’t help a double-take. She was wearing a full-blown wedding gown. Two attendants even wrangled a long train in her wake as she headed back to the stage. She understandably didn’t bounce in with another kiss this time, throwing him a wink from under the gossamer veil. Nothing for it but to smile back. How in the world is she gonna dance in that? I suppose I’ll find out. As she continued out of sight, Russel sank into the couch with a sigh.
“Let’s work through it again.”
That he upgraded to talking to himself was not a good sign. Better than hearing the crowd and noise outside, maybe.
“She has a history of relationships gone sour, sure. But has Amara ever been one to be-” he flushed with the memory of her kisses as he tried to find a concise word for such attention, “-free with her affection?”
Russel couldn’t think of anything like that being said about her. The idea she was a serial cheater came up again with each new break-up, but he’d never heard of any actual evidence of such a thing.
“She definitely doesn’t go around kissing fans.”
He chuckled, mind supplying the look Abby might wear if Ayame Sunrise started doling kisses at a concert. Russ couldn’t decide whether horror or envy would win out. Maybe I should ask. That made him think of Abby’s reaction to where he was, and why he was asking. So never mind. I’m getting off-track again anyway.
He looked up at the monitor across from the couch, trained on Amara out on stage. She was seated on a prop, the train of her gown spilling artfully over the stage. As he watched, his ear picked up the strains of the soft ballad she was singing through the ceiling. She looked like an angel, stage lights making the veil sparkle like a halo around the darkness of her hair. No denying she’s pretty. Which was great, though it only fed Russel’s discomfort. One more reason to wonder why she’s bothering with me.
Russel believed it when Jane explained traveling with them was his safest choice for now. But he wouldn’t be in danger if Amara hadn’t asked him to dinner.
“You’ve already established you don’t know why, pal,” Russel chided himself. “The question is, how are you going to justify your presence?”
Not security, obviously not as financial support. Russel jumped a little as the music drifting in changed, trading the ballad for a more expected thumping beat.
“Definitely won’t be any help with any magic stuff.”
Which left… what?
He looked up at the monitor again, in time to see the train left behind as Amara bounced to her feet. The veil was already gone and the graceful curls put in her hair gained a feeling of coiled springs. Certainly not the look of someone in need of a companion. A mental scold in his mother’s voice reminded him that Amara had every right to want company. Apparently, my company.
Russel watched, and listened as Amara finished one song. Early in the next as her floor brushing hem ‘caught’ on something and with a few theatrical tugs, came free to pool on the floor, leaving a petticoat heavy miniskirt as Amara hopped away like she’d shed far more weight than just the circle of fabric. He almost wished he could understand her lyrics, to put the action in context. I guess I could ask her, after. What would she make of it, if I did?
As he watched her dancing in the newly shortened dress, Russel felt a twinge of jealousy at the audience out there watching her just as intently. How many of those guys are hoping to see something under that skirt? He shook his head as he realized what he was thinking. Guess that settles one question. Already feeling a bit proprietary over the lady.
No question Amara was fun to be around. Certainly it was more interesting than his usual nine-to-five. Russel deliberately ignored his lack of alternatives as, with a mental shrug, he determined to embrace his metaphorically sunk position. If she wanted companionship, he’d be the best company he could for as long as Amara wanted it. He could hardly call being on the receiving end of her affections a trial. Russel sat back once more, unconscious of his own smile as he watched the rest of Ayame Sunrise’ performance.
Even through the intervening structure, the roar of the crowd shook the couch as the concert finished. Russel had no idea what to expect, but it was mere minutes before he found himself pressed into the cushions as a bundle of pop star hit at speed, hugging his chest. Reminding himself of his resolution not long before, Russel put his own arms around her.
“What did you think of the show?”
“You really like being on stage, and it shows. I did wish I understood more of the songs.”
“Mmmmm.” Amara’s thoughtful hum vibrated his chest. “Father’s idea. Lyrics are printed in the program-”
“I imagine it’s a little easier to print a translation for wherever you are than it would be singing in every language.” Russel wasn’t sure what, if anything he was supposed to do so he maintained a loose hug and generally stayed put.
“I don’t sound as good in some of them anyway.”
Amara sat back enough Russel could see the face she made as she said it. Apparently tried it. Now I wish I could hear it.
“But it was a good show?” She looked up at him with over-wide puppy eyes.
“Very,” he nodded carefully as not to knock heads. “Maybe a little too good even.”
“Oh?” she drew out the word as one eyebrow lifted in curiosity. “Do tell.”
Why did I say that? Now I’m in for it. Russel swallowed back a sigh. It was frustration with himself, but she wouldn’t know that.
“Well. I might have,” he tried to affect casual disinterest, “just perhaps, felt a desire to punch every guy in the audience after you dropped, uh-“
Thinking of her abbreviated wardrobe, Russel was suddenly aware Amara had tucked herself up on his lap as to afford a generous view of her legs, modesty only preserved by the volume of petticoats pressed down by her folded pose. Feeling his face heat, Russel pinned his eyes on the open doorway. Jane was there, glaring. Not quite at him, but not excluding him either.
Amara’s response was to nuzzle his chest and hug tighter.
“Aw, you care!”
Jane cleared her throat. Loudly. With a kiss on his neck that sent shivers skittering up and down his spine, Amara unfolded herself to the floor. She managed a subdued bounce as she crossed the room to her manager. When did she put her hair up? Oblivious to the giddy grin on his face, Russel wondered once more just what he had gotten himself into.