She shook her head, the confines of the mask impeding her peripheral vision a bit. “No, I think I got the gist of it.”
“All right, then.” He lifted his weapon. “Greaves, you’re refereeing. Make sure she doesn’t demolish me.”
The rook smiled. “Very good, sir.”
They took their opening stances.
“Come at me, Tessa, and I’ll show you how to cease parry and circular parry.”
“Okay.” She tentatively stuck the foil toward him.
“Oh now, you can put more effort into it than that. Come at me. Like you’re angry.”
She hesitated, cocking her head to the side. “But I’m not.” And she didn’t want to be.
“Pretend I’ve changed my mind about giving you the job.”
“I don’t know…”
“And that while you were out, I got fed up with Duncan and took him to the pound.”
“You wouldn’t dare.” A surge of anger filled her and she lunged the way he’d demonstrated, going straight for his chest.
He swept his blade around, spinning hers away. “Very good! That was a circular parry.”
She straightened and let her blade hang at her side as she took a deep, calming breath. “I don’t want to—”
“What’s going on in here?” Evangeline walked in, finally wearing street clothes instead of lingerie. Not that her street clothes were that much more modest. Skintight jeans, a low-cut black lace shirt embellished with small crystals and knee-high black leather boots. She looked like a very modern vampire, sleek and dangerous and, Tessa admitted reluctantly, sexy.
Sebastian pulled his mask off. “Fencing. Did it look like something different?”
Tessa pulled off her mask too. “I thought you were watching movies.”
“The last one just ended and I’m tired of sitting. Plus this looks like more fun.” She put her hands on her hips. The burned one was completely healed. “I want to play.”
“We were just finishing.” Tessa shook her hair out. She was happy to be done. She wasn’t keen on the way fencing made her feel. Evangeline’s interruption gave her the perfect excuse to take a breather. She held her foil toward the woman. “Here you go.”
Evangeline didn’t take it, sticking out her lip instead. “And here I thought we’d get a chance to fight for our man.” She looked directly at Tessa, her eyes sparking with challenge. “Unless you don’t think he’s worth defending.”
“Of course he is.” A frisson of valkyrie ire traveled through Tessa with the speed of light, sending a fresh bolt of energy down her spine. The jolt startled her, but the anger wasn’t misplaced. Evangeline was a real pain in the keister whose only real skill seemed to be wearing tight clothes and pushing people’s buttons. As much as Tessa hated to fight, this was the perfect controlled opportunity to put the woman in her place, something that should have already been done.
But Tessa wasn’t going to be the one to do it. Not if her freshly hatched plan went off like she thought it would. She pulled her mask back on. “One fast bout.”
Sebastian’s brows lifted but he nodded at Greaves. “Get Evangeline in a jacket.”
“I don’t know about this.” Sebastian had not expected Tessa to agree to Evangeline’s provocative request, and while he was flattered that she had, he couldn’t help but sense some tension in her. He didn’t want her doing something with which she was uncomfortable.
“Afraid I’m going to hurt your fiancée?” Evangeline cooed.
“Frankly, yes. I don’t trust you.”
She put a hand to her throat. “I’m wounded.”
Tessa snorted. “Not yet you’re not. Let’s do this.”
Sebastian shot Tessa a look. “You’re sure?”
She nodded but with her mask on, it was impossible to read her eyes.
If she was afraid of Evangeline, she wasn’t showing it. He doubted Evangeline would do anything to Tessa in his presence, but that didn’t mean she was harmless. If Tessa was worried, it would be understandable. Evangeline had a rather intimidating personality.
But considering how he’d had to prod Tessa to get her to attack him, he wondered if there was something more that made her hesitant to be the provocateur. Based on their conversation in his office, he’d say it was something from her past.
Something to do with that scar she was always running her fingers across.
He’d never been well acquainted with a valkyrie before but she was nothing like what he’d expected. Certainly nothing like what he knew of her sister, the deputy. Tessa wasn’t eager to fight, not quick to anger, and certainly not a fan of confrontation.
Suddenly, Tessa seemed very much like a woman who chose control as a method of self-preservation rather than because she was just naturally a pacifist. What had happened to her that she deemed it necessary to rein in her life this way?
Greaves finished helping Evangeline into a jacket and gloves and was handing her a mask.
Sebastian got his attention with a nod. “Greaves, we’ll both referee this one.”
Greaves nodded back, clearly understanding this wasn’t just an ordinary bout. There was no chance he wasn’t keenly aware this was another of Evangeline’s games, but Sebastian wasn’t about to tell Tessa what to do and he certainly wasn’t about to forbid her to do anything.