Title: Paradigm Shift
Author: Harper Kingsley
There was the sense that he was heading toward his execution and he knew his best course of action was to keep his head down and hope that he wasn't recognized. It had been a long time. He might get lucky.
The clothes Park had fitted him with were elegant and somehow ADULT, whereas anything from his old life had the feel of being somehow juvenile in fashion. The serious clothes he wore granted him a gravity he'd never experienced before.
Charcoal gray trousers with subtle blue pinstriping and the matching jacket. A white dress shirt with a solemn blue collar. And a yellow silk cravat.
Gregor had covered his fingers with rings, but he had forgone any other obvious wealth. It would be a regret if he had to flee back to poverty, but with the cravat and clothes he wore, anything more would be horribly gauche. And right now he was battling to appear as though he fit in.
He let himself be led into the dining room and was glad that Park's strong back was there to protect him from view. It seemed as though the entire Family was in attendance, hundreds of members filling the long tables. They were enjoying the first round of drinks as they waited for everyone to arrive so the food could be served.
Everyone but the children were here and Gregor was wishing he could escape to the Nursery to enjoy a quiet meal. There would be a lot less stress, which would be a relief. The raising of his heartbeat was increasing the flow of blood, which made him want to squeeze his legs together on his arousal.
Having an erection in public was the kind of embarrassment he'd dreaded as a teenager, yet here he was in his twenties. His body still dictating terms.
Gregor followed Park to the head table. There was that moment of strangeness when Park held his chair out for him, but Gregor was becoming used to that kind of thing. He was a Third. For the rest of his life people would be treating him as something precious. It was what it was.
Zero hadn't arrived yet, which was odd as he'd always been early. Every time Gregor had come for a meal, Zero had always been there waiting for him, smiling at him. There had been this uncomfortable sense of walking into some kind of spider trap.
So to not have Zero be there… The contrary part of Gregor was uneasy.
He'd always liked to know where his friends and enemies were hiding. Surprise was something he liked to spring on other people.
Gregor lifted his glass of sparkling water and took a sip. There had been a splash of lime added. He wished there had also been some gin.
"You're frowning," Park observed.
Gregor glanced at him out of the corner of his eye and smoothed his expression. "I'll try better in the future."
There was a hint of amusement in Park's eyes, though his expression was as blank as ever. "Don't do anything that causes you too much pain. I wouldn't want to see your face crack from the false smiles."
"Your worry is astoundingly comforting to me," Gregor said. "I feel better already."
The odd thing was that he did feel better. In some way having Park near was soothing, and not just because Gregor was desperate to jump his bones. But because Gregor honestly liked the guy.
It made him worried for the future. There was no way he could stay in this house with these people. Yet he wanted to keep Dylan Park, never mind that the man was a Magister, one of the long arms of State Law.