The breeze lifts my hair, blowing it round my shoulders but does nothing to cool my skin. The air is so warm and heavy it feels almost tangible. My cheeks burn further at his words, try as I might I cannot think of a retort, I cannot summon any wit, any flirtatious comeback. My entire vocabulary has deserted me. What am I doing? What possessed me to think that I was experienced enough to manage these situations? How do I escape from this without seeming like the ridiculous, inexperienced woman I am? Do I even want to escape...? My stomach flips again as I realise just how deserted the streets are and the potential consequences of my actions. These will not be good consequences... I bite my lip, trying to ignore the adrenaline that is beginning to filter into my blood, fizzing, lighting me up, inwardly cursing my baser instincts, the part of me I keep hidden, keep locked away, tiny fists beating on the walls of my subconscious mind, hammering, trying to break free, wanting release, however fleeting. I try to breathe evenly, but I know that my chest rises and falls faster than it usually would, I know that he will be aware of this, his eyes continue to burn into me, my skin flares with heat where his gaze touches me. As I try to convince myself to do something, anything, to look back at him, to let my eyes reflect what I am feeling, to grab this chance and let myself be overcome, I feel a tap on my shoulder. My heart surges with expectation, the decision has been made, and I haven't been the one to make it, and my eyes flick upwards, expecting the pool of light to be empty but, no he is still there looking over my shoulder.
"Excuse me..." the voice comes from behind me. I turn around slowly, I recognise that voice, but can't quite place it. "Evening Miss, imagine running into you again after last night." He bows deeply before me, "Not meaning Miss... That might have sounded... Excuse me, Miss." He finally stops talking.
"Yes, indeed." Now I remember him. Last night I had chanced upon a friend of mine, or rather she had chanced upon me, as I relaxed on one of the golden benches by the fountain. I feel she may have mis-interpreted the situation somewhat; when she found me I had a Forsaken, poor unfortunate, examining my bare feet in fascination. My friend, whilst a delight to those she holds dear, takes against strangers with little or no provocation, and has a deep seated loathing for the Forsaken, so was utterly appalled by one being within touching distance of me. In some ways however, he was curiously endearing, his fascination and desire for servitude obvious, his apparent, intense pleasure in the simple act of reaching out cautiously and touching the tip of my toe with his cold finger a refreshing change from my arrogant kin... But my friend was not happy, disbelief that I would allow myself to be 'defiled' in this way written all over her haughty features and continued to glare down at the poor unfortunate, who tried his best to ignore her cold stare... Into this slightly odd situation strode the man before me now. I try to recall his name, something vaguely comedic sounding, I was unsure when he first introduced himself, as I am now, whether he was mocking me. Oh, what was it now? No first name, I recall that... Mr Dawnwood, that was it. He seemed to have been laughing gently at the three of us, openly scorning the Forsaken and his fixation, speaking to my friend in a manner which , on many nights, would have resulted in him having a painful (and possibly permanent) hex cast upon him... She must have been in a good mood, either that or was more concerned with the Forsaken than with a fellow Sin'Dorei, but I recall him shrugging off her thinly veiled threats in a very casual manner. Interesting, more so that I had not considered this before now. Either foolhardy or brave, I cannot decide which...
His voice interrupts my thoughts, "And who may this... gentleman... in black be then? If you don't mind me asking?"
I turn round to face the stranger, my face calm again, "We have not yet been formally introduced." I am pleased with how steady my voice sounds. My pulse has slowed again. I have regained my composure at last.
He raises an eyebrow at me, again, I feel like he is laughing at some private joke. "Alright, well allow me then." He turns to the stranger, "Mr Dawnwood - nice to meet you Mister." He bows deeply, too deeply, mocking the stranger with his obeisance.
"Poet." The stranger replies shortly, "At your service, of course."
"Poet?" the inflection in his voice is unmissable, the disbelief he does not bother to hide, "Really...?"
The stranger turns slightly, drawing himself up, the eyes above the mask hardening, "Oh yes. Really."
"Your attire would suggest otherwise... poet." Again the sarcastic inflection, the knowing smile.
I sigh inwardly and try to smile, to break the tension a little, "He certainly has a way with words..."
His eyes fall on me, "Yes, and we all know how you react to... words." Now it is my turn to feel the bite in his tone, the contempt, as I suspected, his words veil his distaste for the situation.
The stranger raises an eyebrow at him, "Really? And what, in your view, should a poet wear then?"
Again, I try to diffuse the growing tension, "Well, he certainly has the requisite mysteriousness, and you continue to have me at a disadvantage, I can hardly address you as poet..."
"Oh, I don't know," Mr Dawnwood's words cut across mine, "Something a little more bard looking, I had imagined. Silly feather in a hat, maybe a lute, that kind of thing. Not quite so... rogue. But I guess it's the 'words' that are important, not the 'look'... He smirks at me, "But I have interrupted you two, would you rather I left you alone or...?"
My eyes return to the stranger, whose name I still do not know. I have an escape route... but yet, a part of me I can barely admit to, wants him to reach for me, to make his intentions clear, for this not to end. Under the mask I can see him smile. "Oh no, I shall leave you. I have already achieved my...aim. " I look away, uncertainty about what he might be about to say rising inside me.
"Is that so?" Mr Dawnwood grins once more.
"Yes, to make a beautiful girl blush. Such a wondrous and... enjoyable conquest." He spins around quickly, running his hands through his hair, melding once again into the shadows as he leaves.
"Then I bid you farewell, stranger," I call to his retreating back, hating the tremor in my voice.
"Farewell, for now at least." His voice floats through the air, though he is now nowhere to be seen.
"Well, he seemed like a... 'nice guy'." Mr Dawnwood stands before me still, indifferent or maybe just uncaring, unaware of what he had interrupted. That can't be it surely? Surely he will return?
"A poet," With effort I make my voice return, for the moment at least, to it's normal clipped drawl, "Who would have thought it?" My voice trails off, the shadows are still now, no sign of movement anywhere. Where has he gone...?
Again, he raises a sarcastic eyebrow, "I suspect that poetry is a tool of his, a way to achieve.. other... aims...rather than an occupation of his."
"You suspect a great deal, it seems. So cynical..." I match my tone to his.
He bows before me, "As always. Now should we find somewhere more comfortable?" My eyes widen, surely he does not think that I am for hire, that the stranger he has just ousted was a potential client? At last the mocking smile leaves his face briefly as he realises how his words sounded, "I did not mean... umm... foot out of my mouth. I meant shall we find somewhere more comfortable to sit..?"
I sigh quietly. Maybe I should be grateful, maybe I have been rescued from a situation that was becoming a long way out of my control. And much as I hate to admit it, given the still shadows, the stranger by now long gone, the tiny beating fists lessening their pounding, aware that their time has again passed unfulfilled, this man interests me. His disregard for convention and his lack of compunction is intriguing, and I am far too awake to even be able to consider retiring; sleep, I suspect will be hard to give into tonight. Gathering myself once again I look at him, "Yes, of course. Lead on then."