"Elective Affinities"


Elective Affinities
by Sarah T.


           Cool fingertips brushing lightly over his face and throat. A tenor with a timbre that his whole body thrilled to, rousing itself from whatever slumber had held it, and him. "Come, Klaus. 'One short sleep past, we wake eternally.' It is time for you to wake. Come to me, Klaus, and you will be at my side always." The chill of the stone under him, the smell of damp earth, the sudden feeling of utter terror as he realized that he was dead and lying in his own coffin. He sat up with a gasp, reaching blindly for the voice that had summoned him out of darkness, the voice that had promised to be with him—
           And there was no one there.

           Klaus's eyes snapped open. Although he could see everything in the darkened bedroom, it took him several moments before he could convince himself that he was not back in the Helsing family crypt, struggling to free himself from the death that had claimed him, if only temporarily. Remembering what Alexander had said about focus, he made himself stare at a single object—a half-glass of benedictine on the desk across the room—until his thoughts grew collected. No, he was not in the Helsing crypt, as he'd dreamed. But, he thought bitterly, he was alone.
           It was four-thirty in the morning. At that time of night, even Alexander would be asleep. Klaus could hear no sound in the apartment that they shared except the soft hum of electronic equipment. He swung his feet over the edge of the bed and pulled himself up. He didn't want to go back to sleep. He didn't want to have that nightmare again. Next time, he might not be able to break free of it. So what was he going to do? Go wake up Alexander and tell him he'd had a bad dream? He'd get thrown out of the apartment entirely. Alexander was just looking for an excuse to do it anyway. Klaus grimaced and reached for the book on his nightstand, Vanity Fair. He knew that it was one of Alexander's favorites, but if his master had noticed what he was reading, he hadn't said anything about it yet. He flipped it open and tried to concentrate.
           Just as he was beginning to relax and settle into the book, the phone rang. His hand shot out for it at once. He didn't have to worry about its waking Alexander, but he sensed an opportunity he wanted to pounce on immediately. For anyone to be calling at that time of night, it must have been a crisis. If it was something he could handle quickly and quietly, and mention casually over breakfast, that would be wonderful. Besides, there was always the chance that there might be a little blood in it for him...He felt his spirits lifting just slightly as he brought the phone to his ear, rolling over onto his back.
           "Hello?"
           "Alexander?" That woman's voice, low and tremulous. His black mood crashed back down on him instantly. "Alexander, is that you?"
           "No," he growled. "Alexander is asleep. As was I."
           "I'm—I'm terribly sorry. Is this...?"
           "Klaus. Klaus Helsing. Alexander's assistant. I live here. We've met, Miss Brooke." He warned himself that the words had to be absolutely unobjectionable. All the offense had to be in the tone.
           "Oh, yes, I'm sorry." There was a slight pause, but Klaus remained stonily silent. After a moment, she went on, hesitantly. "Do you think you could wake him up, Klaus?"
           "I'm not supposed to. He'll be up at eight, Miss Brooke."
           "Please, I need to speak with him..."
           "Call back at eight, then."
           "Klaus, he wants to hear from me."
           "He didn't tell me that." Again, a silence. "Do you have any idea, Miss Brooke, how little sleep he gets? He only went to bed an hour ago. He needs his rest undisturbed."
           Her voice grew formal, but he thought he could hear a twinge of hurt and offense in it. "All right, then, Klaus, I will call him at eight. I am very sorry to have woken you instead of him." The dial tone was in his ear abruptly. He rolled back over, unsure of whether to smile or to frown. He had bested her this time, but the sheer audacity of calling at that hour! He wants to hear from me. One of those silly lies women told, no doubt—he'd heard it before, from other women trying to make an approach to his master—but what if it were true? He growled in frustration and slammed the phone down, then picked the book up by a handful of pages and threw it across the room. He couldn't possibly spend another minute with a book that night.

           At first, before the trouble started, Klaus had thought that he liked New York the best of all the places he had been with Lucard. Half the time he hadn't understood how anyone could possibly care about the various cities they'd visited on their travels since Helsing had caught up with them in Vienna, though Alexander had never stopped dragging him around to various "points of interest." Boring old churches (seen only from the outside, of course—Alexander would look at them wistfully, but Klaus was grateful), even more boring old bridges and ruins and statues and paintings, and, worst of all, the most boring people—archaeologists and historians and art critics. He still winced every time he thought of their trip to Italy. New York had been completely different. During the day it was the various forms of money and power flourishing along Wall Street and elsewhere that Alexander had taken him to see. At night there were hundreds of things to do, almost as many as in Vienna, and certainly more than when they'd been moldering away in the Wallachian countryside. Alexander had gotten a box for them at the Met, and although his master attended only on particular occasions, Klaus went to almost every performance. He hadn't been able to do that anywhere since the Wiener Staatsoper. Then there was the Shakespeare. It was hard to find productions of any caliber on the continent, but the Americans, after all, spoke English and they all studied the plays in high school. Looking at the entertainment listings in one of the local papers, he had felt like a child in a candy store. But he had been a fool. He would give anything, now, to be back in Florence standing at Alexander's shoulder, looking wearily at some faded fresco, ignoring the cicerone's lecture on what the colors had once looked like, and wondering if they would catch an unwary tourist on the way home. That had been a good life. He should have appreciated it more.
           The snow whirled down in large flakes, landing lightly on their living room's large windows before crisping into nothing. Klaus had his forehead to a pane, which felt slightly cool against his skin. He stared intently down at the specks of humanity far below, knowing that he would not be able to spot Alexander, yet still hoping to see that face turned up above a dark collar and grey eyes meeting his even across that distance. When his master actually came through the door into the room, Klaus almost jumped. He braced himself for a reprimand, but Lucard did not even seem to notice.
           "Good evening, Klaus," he said airily. He set a small white shopping bag embossed with the crest of a jeweler on the nearest table and unwrapped a short coppery-red scarf from his throat. "I trust you had a pleasant day?" His tone was light, indifferent.
           Klaus set his teeth. "Yes. Fine. And you?"
           Lucard adroitly pinched the fingertips of his gloves, then slid them off. "Marvelous. I did some shopping." He nodded towards the bag. "I stopped at Aretino's and picked up a few necessities for you."
           He hung his coat up, crossed the room, and cast himself full-length onto the couch in front of the fireplace, propping himself jauntily on one elbow. Klaus glanced at the back of his head uncertainly and went to look into the bag, daring to feel a little hope. At least he hadn't forgotten him completely. He pulled out a small box, then another and another. Cufflinks: platinum and gold and ivory. Beautiful, of course—Alexander would not have bought anything was not beautiful, at least from his point of view—but utterly routine. He'd lost one last week (and hadn't even been chastised for it, as he'd expected). Naturally, it had to be replaced, and, naturally, Alexander had bought several instead of one. There was no thought involved in the purchase, just money. Alexander was not even looking at him to gauge his reaction, as he always used to, eyebrows raised, head tilted, a smile quirking up the corner of his mouth. Instead, he was staring into the fire, humming a tune that Klaus slowly recognized as one of Cherubino's arias from Figaro. And if there's no one to speak to of love, I speak of it to myself!
           A terrible thought suddenly occurred to him. "What were you doing at Aretino's?"
           "Hmm? I was contemplating a purchase." Lucard smiled, but to himself. He did not even look at Klaus.
           Klaus carefully snapped the boxes shut and took them to his room before returning to follow up his question. "What sort of a purchase?"
           "I think that will remain a mystery for now." Though that line had the right ring to it, it still wasn't normal; it had none of the playfulness or menace it should have had. His master sounded distracted.
           Klaus only nodded. "Are you eating here tonight?"
           "No, Miss Brooke and I will be going out. I've already informed the staff." He glanced at his watch. "In fact, I'd better change now. Call down for Edward, won't you?"
           "Why don't you let me help you?"
           "Edward is competent to do the job, Klaus, if only barely. You have more important work to do than acting as my valet."
           "Not tonight." He forced a smile. "I don't mind, Alexander."
           "Well, if you insist..." Lucard went into his bedroom, Klaus trailing a short distance behind. The older vampire had never lost the old habit of allowing himself to be dressed by another; since he could not see his own reflection, what had been an extravagance of various aristocracies he had moved among was for him entirely practical. He stood patiently, arms extended, as Klaus slid crisp, gleaming fabric across skin and bent his head absorbedly over buttons, scarcely seeming to notice as his protégé assembled his complicated evening wear on his slender frame with attentive fingers. Only when Klaus was almost finished did he come alert again, giving himself a narrow inspection and making a few microscopic adjustments.
           "And now, Klaus, that cologne over there. Just a little, if you please. I don't want to suffocate people, as you do."
           Klaus winced and dampened his fingers slightly with the fragrance, then touched Lucard's throat, rubbing the skin gently.
           "Hmm," his master sighed, then looked over his shoulder at him. "Klaus, I've been thinking about your education. We've been in America all this time and you haven't even been outside New York."
           "I like New York," Klaus said neutrally, taking Alexander's hand and applying the scent to his wrist.
           "But I think you should see more of the country. There are some people in Chicago and Los Angeles who might be useful to me. Their files are on my desk. You're experienced enough now to go negotiate with them."
           "If you want me to go, I'll go, of course. But is it really necessary?" He put the slightest bit of extra pressure into his touch on Alexander's other wrist.
           "Yes...yes, I think it's quite necessary." Lucard was examining his cuffs minutely. "You can leave the day after tomorrow."
           "So soon?"
           "Surely there's nothing here you cannot easily leave behind?"
           "I suppose not. How long do you think it will take?"
           "Several weeks. Long enough. Then we'll go back to Europe and put my plans into motion. It is time, Klaus."
           It certainly is. He stepped around Lucard and straightened his bow tie, then his jacket. "There."
           Lucard felt at his throat, double-, then triple-checking Klaus' work. "Thank you, Klaus." He went out into the living room and stood at the window for a moment, hands in his pockets, looking down and smiling, as Klaus took one of his several coats and scarves from the closet.
           Lucard turned slowly away from the window, saying, "You'll have quite a trek to Lincoln Center tonight in the snow. It's going to get worse. Miss Brooke almost wanted to cancel dinner this evening, but fortunately higher considerations prevailed." He raised his eyebrows as he saw that Klaus was standing there holding his coat, but let himself be helped into it without comment. When he was finished, Lucard glanced at the clock on the wall. "I'm off," he said, wrapping the scarf Klaus handed to him around his throat in a single dashing fling. "You needn't wait up for me this evening, Klaus."
           "All right."
           "Oh, and Klaus"—Lucard was already at the door—"if, in future, Miss Brooke should happen to call when I'm asleep, wake me up." This time, there was the slightest hint of menace in his smile.
           "Of course, Alexander." Klaus tried hard to sound innocent, and Lucard nodded and was gone.
           The silence after he left was intolerable. Klaus looked around at the deserted apartment and saw the white bag, now fallen on its side. He picked it up, crumpled it savagely, and threw it into the trash.

           His first opera! He could not tell where his excitement began and where it ended. It took in everything around him: the stately, classical grey building on the Ringstrasse and its ornate interior, the men and women decked in their most glittering finery for the opening night of "Der Rosenkavalier," the fine champagne in his hand which seemed to bubble over with his delight, and most of all, Alexander moving through the crowd next to him—Alexander, polished, elegant, handsome, utterly at his ease, and looking at him thoughtfully from time to time, as if Klaus's reaction to what he saw was more important to the older vampire than the mere Wiener Staatsoper itself. Then the music began, more rich and opulent than he had ever dreamed of, and he was no longer surrounded by splendor, he was washed away in it, drowning, hours on end. He came to himself slowly at the intermission to discover Alexander studying him again, this time with a strange gleam in his eyes. The other man glanced down slightly, and Klaus, following his gaze, saw that some time during the previous act, without realizing it, he had caught Alexander's hand, and was still pressing it tightly. Blushing, he moved to let him go, but Alexander tightened his own fingers for an instant, preventing him, and ran his thumb across the back of Klaus's hand. He smiled dazzlingly and murmured, very low, "One shouldn't be too greedy. I think you have enough pleasure for one night," then released him.
           When the music began again, it was almost unbearable.

           The opening notes of his favorite aria were sounding. Klaus leaned over the railing and tried to concentrate on that, instead of the other thoughts, other images, that kept returning, pressing in on his brain so that the tune seemed only a half-heard setting for his disturbed thoughts. But he knew it was hopeless.
           "Credo in un Dio crudel che m'ha creato similé a se, e che nell'iaro nomo..."
           Then we'll go back to Europe and put my plans into motion. It is time, Klaus.
           Back to Europe?

           Miss Brooke lived here, in New York. And she was not the sort of woman who would follow a lover across the Atlantic. No, in some ways she was very old-fashioned. Doubtless that was why Alexander liked her so—
           He clenched his hands on the railing and forced something down in his throat. No.
           "Son scellerato perché son uomo, e sento il fango originario in me."
           It was so hard to think clearly when you hated someone—and with the music surging diabolically around you... He took a deep breath, resettling himself in his seat. He had to have discipline. He was at the opera. People would notice if he lost control. He had to sit still, quiet, and composed, no matter what feelings were churning inside him, and think. Just as Alexander had always told him.
           Back to Europe?
           That could mean one of two things. Alexander might be planning to leave Miss Brooke. He had never had any compunctions about breaking hearts. In their earliest days together, Lucard's invariable attentions to one or more women in their circle, no matter where they were, had made Klaus uneasy. But he had quickly come to realize that his master looked at flirtations with pretty, clever women as an ordinary pleasure of civilized life, to be arranged for as regularly as the fine food on his table or the elegant clothing in his closet. The women themselves meant nothing to him, and he abandoned them as casually as he abandoned his tailor when they moved to a new city. Perhaps, though Klaus had long feared otherwise, that was all this...affair...was. Then, when they returned to Europe, everything would be all right again. He would never have loved her. He would only have been a little distracted. The two of them would soon be as they always had been. Or—
           "Credo con fermo cuor, sicco me crede la veddo vella al tempio..."
           Or Alexander could be planning to bring her with them.
           He shut his eyes and the blood rushed to his temples. It was true. Alexander was going to marry her. He couldn't deny it to himself any longer. Alexander might not make her a vampire, at least not right away, but he was going to bring her into their home, make her mistress of it. No more mornings of idle, drowsy amusement, no more afternoons of instruction and exploration, no more wild, sweet nights in pursuit of their nature.
           In fact, he'd be lucky if she let him stay. If she let him stay.
           "Credo che il giusto è un istrion beffardo e nel vioso e nel cuor, che tutto è in lui bugiardo, lagrima, bacio, sguardo, sacrificio ed onor..."
           A stepmother! It was intolerable. He would not let it happen. Why was he a vampire if he couldn't prevent a miserable human from ruining his life? Hadn't Alexander always taught him that no one could deny him anything, if only he had a plan, were quick, efficient, merciless? Yes, it was very clear. She had to be disposed of somehow. Otherwise...
           He saw Alexander at the high altar of St. Stephen's with Miss Brooke, gently turning back the bridal veil, bending to kiss her ardently, and suddenly he could not sit still any longer. Half-choking, he got up and stumbled out of the box, ignoring the stares which followed him, but still hearing the music, which urged him on, telling him he must not falter:
           "E poi? e poi? La Morte è il Nulla!"

           Klaus was still so distracted by his thoughts as he teleported into their living room that it took him several seconds to realize what was going on there. The record player was on, playing a grave, lovely pavan, and Lucard had Miss Brooke in his arms, evidently instructing her in the antique dance. Fortunately, her back was to Klaus, so she had missed his unorthodox entrance. He stared dumbly at the two for a moment. Lucard looked up and saw him over his partner's shoulder; all the pleasure went out of his face at once, and though his voice never lost its calmly encouraging tone as he guided Miss Brooke through the steps, his eyes narrowed and he glared at Klaus, jerking his head towards the door. Klaus gulped and hastily wrenched himself out into the hallway. He waited there for nearly a minute and a half, until his ears stopped ringing from the abrupt jump, before bringing out his keys and letting himself in in a more normal fashion.
           The pair stopped and looked at him, Lucard impassive, Miss Brooke curious. Klaus said quickly, meeting the other vampire's eyes, "I thought you were going to be out late tonight."
           "The snow," he said coolly. "I thought the same of you."
           "Oh, the performance wasn't—I didn't like it."
           "No?" Miss Brooke asked with interest, apparently oblivious to the tension. "It's been very well received. I had the tenor to dinner last week."
           "Otello was fine, I suppose. It was Iago who I didn't like," Klaus said uncertainly, glancing at Lucard, whose eyes were getting colder and colder.
           "Klaus is quite an expert on villains, Margo," his master said. "But I need a word with him on another matter. Will you excuse us for a moment, my dear?"
           Miss Brooke nodded. "Of course. Then perhaps you can tell me more, Klaus."
           "Perhaps," Lucard said over his shoulder as the two of them moved off into Klaus's room.
           Lucard shut the door behind him firmly, cutting off the music. He pointed at a chair, waiting silently until Klaus sat down. After Klaus had taken the seat, he leaned against the desk, arms folded. "Klaus, if you find that this life wearies you, you need only let me know. I will relieve you of it in a way that inconveniences me less than the manner in which you are trying to end it now," he said in German.
           Klaus was still sick from the sight that had greeted him, so much so that he could hardly feel much fear, even in response to Lucard's use of the language he employed only when furious with him. "You told me you weren't going to be here," he muttered sullenly, looking at the floor. "It was cold."
           "You have heard of taxis, I presume? After six years, you should have learned a little caution in the use of your powers. If Miss Brooke had been facing the other way..."
           "Then what?" Klaus's head jerked up. "Would you have killed her? Or would you have made an exception? She's very pretty, after all!"
           Lucard took in a sharp breath. His hand shot out and he seized Klaus's collar, then he stopped and glanced at the door, visibly calming himself. "Ahhh," he said, switching to French, his eyes beginning to gleam as he slowly uncurled his fingers from his grip, "is that why you've been moping about lately?"
           Klaus cursed himself. "No! It—I mean, I—"
           Lucard smiled frighteningly and moved behind the chair, bending down so that Klaus could feel his cool breath on his cheek, hear his voice very close, catch a whiff of the cologne he had put on hours before. "Poor Klaus. You're terribly jealous, aren't you?"
           He swallowed hard, not trusting himself to answer. Lying to Alexander was not easy under the best of circumstances, and these were hardly—
           "Yes..." Lucard murmured thoughtfully, as though to himself. "I believe you are. It drives you mad to think of me with her, doesn't it? Or to see me take her hand, dance with her, even simply look at her as I do..."
           Klaus was finding it hard to breathe. Even though he could hear the undertone of malice glittering in Alexander's voice, he felt himself succumbing to it, his eyes going closed, his head falling back. He could sense the exact position of Lucard's hand on the chair back behind him, near his face, as though his master were actually touching him.
           "Do you ever imagine what it must be like when I'm this close to her, Klaus? I think you do. I expect, in fact," the cool, burnished voice went on relentlessly, "you imagine all sorts of things, don't you? You cannot bear to picture them, but you cannot help yourself, either, can you? You lie awake night after night, don't you, Klaus, alone in your bed, and think of me...of us?" His mouth was at his ear now. "What is it you dream of when you finally fall asleep, Klaus? Is it the past—or the future? In those visions, do you see her take me away from you?"
           Klaus said in a strangled voice, "Alexander—"
           Lucard laughed coldly and straightened up. Feeling released, Klaus leaned forward, gasping for air. "So that is it. Well, you had better get used to the idea, Klaus." He went to the door. "I have spoiled you for years. It is time you learned to share my attention."
           Klaus whispered, staring off into space, "Yes, Alexander."
           "And you will be more careful with your powers from now on. You're fortunate I'm in such a good mood this evening that I'm letting you off with a warning. I ought to hang you out with the gargoyles as a lesson to my future creations."
           "Yes, Alexander."
           "Now, I believe you have quite a bit of work to do, if you're to make that trip. See if you can keep out of trouble for the rest of the evening. I'm going to take Miss Brooke home—"
           The phone rang. The older vampire frowned and picked it up. "Lucard." As he listened, his expression got darker and darker. He interjected a curt phrase here and there, then finally hung up sharply. He stood with his fingers still on the phone for a moment, then looked over at Klaus. "No, you're going to take her home. Courteously."
           "What's the matter?"
           "Frederickson has gotten the idea he can renege on our agreement."
           "Can't I stay and help? William can take her—"
           "Miss Brooke prefers to walk. I should be able to handle this without you, Klaus. As you know, he's a fool. It shouldn't be too hard to change his mind, but I don't want to encourage him by giving him time to preen himself on the daring of his decision."
           "Yes, Alexander."
           "Oh, don't sulk, Klaus. It's not becoming. You will not find a lovelier woman to have beside you anywhere in New York."
           Klaus shrugged. "All right, Alexander."

           The snow was falling thickly, and he soon found himself obliged to offer Miss Brooke his arm. He would have preferred to keep silent—he found the strange stillness that had fallen over the city with the bad weather soothing—but, of course, she insisted on chattering, and he had to respond.
           "I'm glad we got this chance to talk, Klaus. I've always thought it a little strange that I scarcely ever see you, since you live with Alexander."
           "I try to stay out of the way of his private life," he answered shortly.
           "Of course, but I see you so very rarely that I"—she laughed gently—"I was beginning to think you were avoiding me on purpose."
           He gritted his teeth. "No, of course not."
           "And then of course last night; I was upset, and when I couldn't speak to Alexander I'm afraid I was rather abrupt with you. He explained to me this morning that he'd asked you not to waken him for any reason, which is, of course, perfectly understandable. I'm sorry. I hope I didn't seem too impatient."
           "No."
           "Then perhaps you'll tell me why you didn't care for the tenor this evening?"
           Despite himself, he found himself trapped into a discussion of the principal singers at the Met that season. Also despite himself, he began to enjoy it. Miss Brooke, who had inherited considerable family wealth and devoted most of her time to the arts, served on one of the opera's boards, and she was quite well-informed. But he was struck more by her manner of conversation; she seemed far more interested in drawing out his opinions than expressing her own, offering possible objections and pointing out contradictions with such a sympathetic air that she made him feel as if she wanted him to be right. Yet she saw the objections, the contradictions; she had a serene knowledge of her own, which, though she never sought to display it, set her far beyond the usual idiot clinging to her male companion's opinions who so often pursued Alexander. Klaus knew how dangerous this made her, but it had been so long since anyone had seemed to care...
           The walk passed by more swiftly than he'd thought it would. They were soon standing on the sidewalk before her brownstone. "Do come in for a few minutes," she invited, the wind blowing her hair across her face. "Let me give you some coffee to warm you up."
           "I couldn't ask—"
           "Nonsense," she smiled. "You've walked me well over a mile in the middle of a snowstorm and provided me with the most interesting conversation, as well. It's the least I can do." Seeing him hesitate, she went on, "Besides, I made some Sachertorte yesterday, and it will go to waste unless someone else eats it..."
           The lure proved too much for him, and soon he was sitting at the little marble table in her kitchen with a cup of tolerably good coffee and a slice of torte—which was, surprisingly, delicious.
           Miss Brooke settled herself across from him with her own cup of coffee. "Now, Klaus, you've probably guessed: I had an ulterior motive in asking you up," she began, lowering her face to catch the fragrant steam rising from the coffee. Klaus noticed, irrelevantly, that she was, indeed, lovely, in a serious, highly finished way strange for a woman only a few years out of college. He would never have guessed her age. "You see, you're the only person I can talk to who knows Alexander from Europe. He tells me he's known you almost all your life, so the opposite must be true as well."
           Klaus stared at his own cup. Was this his opportunity? "Perhaps not strictly speaking."
           "But you have known him for a long time, haven't you? He's told me your father was a friend of his. He says that in many ways you are like a younger brother to him."
           It was only the story Alexander had decided they would tell the world long ago, of course. But it still made him flush with pleasure to hear it. He'd almost forgotten. "True."
           "Then won't you talk to me a little about him? It would give me such pleasure. What was he like as a boy? When I ask him, he laughs and says that was far too long ago for him to remember."
           "He would." He hesitated. Like a younger brother to him. Then he thought of their exchange in the bedroom that evening. He's lied to her about everything else, hasn't he? He looked up, about to speak, but she had caught his hesitation and reached across to touch his hand, smiling.
           "Oh, don't worry, Klaus. He's so dear to me, I think I would only be fonder of him if you told me he was the worst little boy in the history of Wallachia. And I don't think...I don't think he'd mind your telling me."
           There was nothing brash about the way she spoke—nothing vulgar, nothing boasting. But the very quietness, almost shyness, of her confidence, her certainty of their intimacy, affected him more badly than if she'd blazoned it in the skies above the city. He stopped cold and stared at her. How calmly she assumed she had the right to that tone, when it had such miserable consequences for him! Evenings alone in a half-darkened apartment. Empty seats next to him at the theater and the auditorium. Efforts to please unnoticed. Eyes absorbed in other things, smiles spent elsewhere, hands...How could she be so nice to him, invite him in, even offer him coffee and cake, and then sit there and speak to him in that way?
           He must have changed color, for she looked at him with concern. "Are you feeling all right, Klaus?" She touched his hand again. "Goodness, you're almost as cold as Alexander—would you like some more coffee?"
           "No." He withdrew his hand and got to his feet. He had to get out of there before he did something irrevocable. How dare she? As cold as Alexander? You're certainly the first person who has ever said that to me. But I suppose you'd know, wouldn't you? "I must be going home."
           She started to say something, then stopped. He could see her drawing herelf up and becoming an impersonal hostess. "Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that. Should I call you a taxi?"
           "No, don't bother. Good evening, Miss Brooke." He pulled on his coat and hurried out of her house and down the stoop, leaving her standing at the door, staring after him musingly. But he wasn't heading to the apartment, not right away. He had another stop to make first.

Concluded in "Elective Affinities," second half.


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