Chapter 5 Part 2 | Lovers and Beloveds | IHGK Book One
The lanky Heir raised several eyebrows as he hurried through the crowd to the cloak room. "Didn't take long for His Highness to sniff out Allis Obby," smirked the Duke of Corland.
"Jealousy is unbecoming, Borney," smiled Lord Litta. "Make an appointment."
"An appointment?" Corland barked with laughter, shaking his chins. "I don't think so. Too complicated, those Lovers. Fennows tells me the Prince is a virgin."
Litta frowned, puckering the saber slash through his left brow. "A virgin, at his age? Is he a lover of men?"
"Damned if I know. Only been here a few days. He'll find his fancy, or have one thrust upon him. Thrust! Ha!"
"I'm not sure it's a joking matter, Corland," said Litta, eyes following Temmin through the ballroom.
"Eh, I'm not much for prophecies. Encouraging Fennows to get the boy laid as quickly as possible, all the same."
When Temmin returned with her shawl, Allis said, "There is a small but lovely garden here. I thought perhaps we could show it to you. Issak has disappeared somewhere to bring us all some wine, but he'll catch up. My, but the terrace is crowded. It's a warm night, isn't it? And I'm surprised they have the garden lanterns lit, the moon is bright tonight," she murmured as she guided him down stairs and pathways to the arbor, where fragrant, drooping wisteria glowed pale among wrought iron trellises and marble classical columns. "Come, sit," she said.
Temmin cleared his throat, groping for an opening gambit, but Allis spared him. "Shall we speak freely, Your Highness?"
"You may always speak freely to me, Holy One," said Temmin.
"Please, call me Allis."
"It would feel strange, then, to have you call me anything but Temmin," he smiled.
"Tell me, then, Temmin, do you observe people?"
"I beg your pardon? I'm not sure what you mean."
"I mean, can you learn something about who people are by watching them?"
Temmin started. Had his staring been so very much? He searched her face for signs of displeasure, but her luminous green eyes showed nothing but an absorbing interest in him. "I suppose so," he said. "I've never really thought about it. I don't do it of a purpose, I can tell you that much."
"Are your eyes used to the lower light yet? Very well. Do you see the man strolling with the young woman in the pathway toward the rose garden? They've stopped below a lantern. You should be able to see them clearly now. Tell me, what is happening between them?"
"I don't know. I can't hear them."
"No, I want you to tell me based solely on observation."
"Is that possible? They're not touching or anything."
"All right, I'll try," he said doubtfully. He shifted on the bench as the couple sauntered down the path. "Well, the man's lying to her, I can see that much."
Allis inclined her head toward him. "How do you know?"
"He looks just like the horse traders trying to slip one over on you at a fair," said Temmin, nodding. "See how he strokes his cheek? Dead giveaway, though he's trying to hide it."
"And the girl?"
Temmin frowned, concentrating. "No," he said. "I can't tell a thing. I just don't know many girls."
"You have two sisters," said Allis.
"I can tell you what they'd be thinking, but I have no idea what she's thinking!"
"Pretend she's one of your sisters. Or your mother."
"Oh," he said. He examined the woman anew, doing his best to ignore the warmth of Allis's arm in his. "As it happens, she's acting just like my mother does around Sister Ibbit."
"Well, watch. She's facing him. He's not looking at her, but she's looking at him. She has her hands clasped, low, in front of her. Mama does it all the time around Ibbit."
"What does it mean, do you think?"
Temmin shook his head. "That he's teaching her something? Or at least she thinks he's teaching her something? I don't know, I don't pay any attention to Sister Ibbit if I can help it. He's lying, though. I do know that."
"Reasonable, for a beginner," said Issak from behind them, his sudden appearance nearly unseating the Prince. Issak handed round three empty glasses and filled them from a bottle he'd tucked under his arm. "Do you want to know what she's thinking? She desperately wants to believe him. Her hands are clasped before her--she wants reassuring. And she's watching his face for signs she can believe him. She's going to fool herself into believing him, whatever it is he's telling her."
"You can see all that?" said Temmin.
The twins nodded. "And a great deal more," said Allis.
"I hate to think what you see when you look at me!" said Temmin, taking a light-hearted sip of his wine. He looked up from the glass at their silence; their faces were both amused and grave. "Do you see things when you look at me?"
"Of course," they said, almost in unison. "Lovers' Temple training teaches us a great deal about someone just from the way they hold their heads, let alone the rest of their bodies," continued Allis; self-conscious, Temmin brought his head up high and stiff on his neck. "All Lovers and Beloveds know it, to some degree," she continued. "We look for those who have natural talent."
"You show signs of having it, Temmin," said Issak.
"You're very observant, when you wish to be, which I think is not very often. That's hardly damning--most young men your age don't wish to be, either," said Issak.
"Oh, come now!" said Temmin. "Talking like an old man--you can't be more than two or three years older than me!"
"We turn twenty-one in Summer's Ending," said Allis, "but we've been training for our positions informally since birth, formally since age ten--not in the Temple, to be sure, we didn't come to live in the Temple until we turned eighteen. But we've been studying people since we could stand."
"So--why...why would you be interested in seeing this talent in me?" said Temmin rather nervously. "I certainly can't become a Lover."
"No, Your Highness," smiled Allis. "Most certainly not."
"The dancing will resume shortly," said Issak. "We should go back in soon."
"Oh, well, if you want to go in," hastened Temmin, "please do, Issak! I should like to stay out a little longer." He gave Allis a hopeful smile.
"If you want to kiss her, kiss her," said Issak, adding gently, "and if you want to kiss me as well, kiss me."