South Harper

Paradigm Shift 11 (ch 4)


There was a knock at the door precisely at nine o'clock. He knew because he glanced at the wall clock before going to answer.

Park and a tiny woman in a wildly patterned skirt were waiting.

"What's the password?" Gregor asked, then let them in anyway.

"I've brought the tailor, Blessed Tierney," Park said, and Gregor had to hide a wince at the formal address. Everyone else did it to him, but Park had always treated him as just another person. He had liked being able to pretend he was still normal.

"Thank you," Gregor said.

He allowed himself to be arranged by the tailor. She barely spoke to him, her eyes remaining carefully downcast. It wasn't hard for him to figure out she was a True Believer, those that were certain the Thirds had been sent by higher powers and should be worshipped as minor deities.

He didn't feel too awful about not talking to her. True Believers kind of freaked him out.

He always got this creeping sensation that it was only a matter of time before he became a skinsuit or something, and he had never even been the complete focus of all that raw *faith* before. He wasn't enjoying it.

He kept his attention on Park to keep from losing his cool. The man had control to spare, his face showing nothing but quiet interest as he watched Gregor be fitted in a tuxedo.

It probably should have been awkward, posed on a stool in his underclothes while he was measured and various fabrics were held against him while Park sat on the couch watching. Instead, Gregor was glad not to be alone with the tailor.

She seemed like she wanted to eat him alive. Something he was very not interested in.

He glanced over and saw that Park had pulled out a mini-ePad and was using a stylus to do something. With his eyes turned down and focused on his task, Gregor didn't feel an ounce of shame in staring at him. There was just something fascinating about that hard face, it looked etched out of granite.

High cheekbones, a straight blade of a nose, deep-set gray eyes, and surprisingly plump lips. Gregor couldn't help focusing on those beckoning lips, tracing over the hard line Park held his mouth as, even as the lower lip insisted on pouting out, refusing to be tamed.

Gregor wondered what those lips would feel like under his own. How would it be to peel Park out of his neatly tailored suit and press his mouth against all that hidden skin?

A warm flush went through him and Gregor felt his stomach sink.

Moving subtly, he raised his hand to rest his fingers over the pulse point at his neck. His heart was racing and he had no doubt that his temperature was rising. There was a tightening in his groin that he shifted to try and relieve without ending up with a full erection.

His suppressants were wearing off. He only had a few more days before he was clawing the walls like a cat in heat, yowling and rubbing himself off against the furniture.

Gregor forced himself to stand still and ignore the tailor's constant fluttering presence.

He was more than his biology. He was.

* * *

After the tailor's visit, Gregor let Park take him for lunch in the garden. He needed some fresh air and a chance to dump some of his rising panic before he started screaming and just didn't stop. Plus, the whole hormone rush thing was making him hungry enough to eat the fancy ceramic plates and the silverware.

The garden was a beautiful green wonderland of topiaries and statues. There were benches with spindly metal legs that curled and bent in fanciful shapes and beckoned for someone to stop and sit a while. The garden was the perfect place to sit and read a book and enjoy the weather.

In the middle of a ring of brightly colored flowers there was a picnic table set up with a feast of sandwiches, pasta salad, cut fruit, and two slices of chocolate cake.

"This is nice," Gregor said, picking up one of the sandwiches and taking a quick bite. "Oh, this has got to be the best sandwich I've ever had. To be honest, I've never eaten so well in my life."

Park calmly began to fill the two plates with food, incidentally giving Gregor the largest portion. "Life in the Family means you will never have to worry about going hungry."

Gregor sat down, eating a big bite of his sandwich. "I'm not objecting, but why are you giving me so much food?" He used his fork to spear a cherry tomato from the salad, popping it between his teeth.

"As a Third, you require a higher number of calories compared to a male Two of your size," Park said. He was so matter-of-fact about it that Gregor couldn't even be upset.

"But you're a First," Gregor said. "You should be eating more than me."

A faint smile lifted the corners of Park's lips. "That may be so, but I was forced to enjoy a breakfast with my grandmother. It was either eat large or carry on a conversation."

"So you gorged yourself on Gram-Gram's cooking?" Gregor laughed, picturing blank-faced Park filling his cheeks chipmunk-fashion to throw off having a conversation with a little old lady.

"It wasn't quite like that." Park sat, spreading his napkin across his knee. "My grandmother is known as the Dragon of the Duadenora. She has been known to verbally eviscerate her enemies."

"Now you're making me scared to meet her." Gregor was only half-joking.

"That's smart of you," Park said, taking a bite of pasta. "It's usually the ones that meet her unprepared that find themselves being eaten alive."

"Honestly, I don't want to be eaten at all," Gregor said, then couldn't resist adding, "not by an old lady anyway." He winced and filled his mouth with three big chunks of honeydew melon.

He was that guy that just made a sexual comment about someone's grandmother. There was a special place waiting for him in hell.