The Invisible Library

Page 30

Kai finally remembered to get up and open the bottle. He splashed a bare quarter-inch into a battered china cup, and offered it to her.

‘Thank you,’ Irene said, and knocked it back in one gulp, then offered the cup for a refill. ‘A bit more this time, please.’

Kai stared at her. ‘Are you sure you’re all right?’

‘It’s been a busy evening,’ Irene said. ‘And I’m going to be sitting up for the next few hours studying the local Language listings that Dominic gave us. You can get some sleep.’

‘But we ought to tell Dominic at once! After all, if Alberich’s here, it proves how important the book is! And we should warn Dominic—’

‘How?’ Irene enquired. She’d decided a while back that Socratic questioning was a good idea, because (a) it got students thinking for themselves, (b) sometimes they came up with ideas she hadn’t thought of, and (c) it gave her more time to think while they were trying to find answers.

‘We can go to the British Library – oh, wait. It won’t be open at this time of night.’

‘It won’t,’ Irene agreed, ‘which is going to be annoying if we need to sneak back in there at some point to get back to the Library. And he didn’t give us a home address.’ It should have been in those papers he’d given them. It wasn’t. Which, a niggling voice at the back of her mind pointed out, had been careless of Dominic. Almost to the point of outright dereliction of duty in such a dangerous location. She might have needed his help urgently.

‘We can use the Language to contact him,’ Kai said triumphantly.

Irene considered that. ‘I can make a construct and send it to warn him, but it will need to travel and find him.’

‘Magic,’ Kai said.

‘Not my field,’ Irene replied. ‘Are you any good at it?’

‘I can command some spirits,’ Kai said modestly. ‘But I haven’t had time to introduce myself to any local ones. I wouldn’t want to try that unless we have no other choice.’

Irene nodded. ‘And Dominic did say they could be dangerous. So we’ll go to the British Library in the morning and talk to Dominic in person, then. The Library will have updated him in any case, just as they did me. It’s not as if we’re leaving him in danger. This isn’t a bad horror film.’ She smiled, hopefully reassuringly.

‘Oh,’ Kai said. He glanced at the small case by the door with the documents in it. ‘So,’ he said, with a little too much casualness, ‘can you show me some of the Language words in there?’

‘I could, but it wouldn’t do you any good.’ Irene put down the cup. ‘It won’t be any different from how it is inside the Library. It still won’t look like anything other than normal speech to you.’

‘Did it hurt?’

Irene blinked at the change of subject. ‘Did what hurt?’

‘Getting the Library mark.’ Kai threw himself back down on the bed. It creaked under him. ‘If that’s the only way to understand the Language.’

‘Yes, and yes.’ Since Kai evidently wasn’t going to bring it over to her, Irene got up and walked across to fetch the case. ‘Look, you should get some sleep. There’s no point us both staying up all night.’

Kai rolled onto his front, resting his chin on his hands, and looked up at her. ‘Irene,’ he said, and there was something low and stroking in his voice. ‘When you say sleep, do you really mean just sleep?’

Irene looked at him, the case in her hands, and raised her eyebrows pointedly. ‘Yes. I do really mean just sleep.’

‘But you, me – we’re sharing rather a small space, don’t you think?’ He stretched, and she noticed his trousers clung appealingly tightly. ‘You’re not feeling some kind of loco parentis responsibility towards a novice, are you? Is that what it is?’

‘No,’ Irene said briefly. ‘But it’s irrelevant in any case.’

‘But . . .’

‘Look,’ she cut him off, before he got any ideas about standing up and taking her in his arms or anything like that. ‘Kai, I like you, you’re extremely handsome, and I hope we’ll stay good friends, but you are not my type.’

‘Oh,’ he said.

She walked back, sat down, and opened the case, starting to thumb through the papers inside.

‘What is your type?’ Kai asked hopefully.

Irene looked up to see that he’d removed his cravat, unbuttoned his shirt, and was showing a triangle of muscular, smooth, pale chest. She could imagine what he would feel like under her fingers.

She swallowed. ‘Do we really have to do this?’

‘I’m not just trying to flatter you,’ Kai said. There was a thread of annoyance in his voice now. ‘But I like you, I think you’re clever and witty and charming and I have a lot of respect for you. And believe me when I say I am marvellous in bed.’

‘I do believe you,’ Irene said, looking for a way out of this. ‘I’m sure that we would spend a very nice evening. But I wouldn’t get any study done then.’

‘After the study,’ Kai said hopefully.

Irene rubbed her forehead with the back of one hand. She was getting a headache. ‘Look, I appreciate you being polite about this, I appreciate you being absolutely charming, and I wish I could be more polite about turning you down. But it’s been a long day, and I still have work to do, and you’re not really my type. And before this goes any further, my type is darkly dangerous and fascinating, of dubious morality. And yes, this caused the whole problem in the cat burglar scandal that was mentioned earlier. Which was deeply embarrassing at the time. And still is. Also, let me make myself perfectly clear that if you repeat this I will skin you alive. Right?’

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