Alec had thought that he would read - he had brought a supply of fine beeswax candles from his house on the Hill, stuffing them into his leather satchel - but then when he got back to the Riverside house he realized that he'd been so busy ransacking the library for candlesticks to go with the candles that he had forgotten to bring any books.
He had the three up there on the mantlepiece, the same three he'd always had, as long as he'd been in Riverside, but there really wasn't anything that Fayerweather could tell him, David Alexander Tielman Campion, about the nature of matter, and The True Chronicle of the Wizards and their Deeds always bored him to tears with its archaic gobbledygook. So instead he just lay back on the chaise, staring at the fire, until the grey cat hopped up next to him.
She butted her head up under his hands until he began scratching behind her ears, then she stretched out, kneading his chest with her paws, both of them utterly lost in the pleasure of the moment. Then she snagged one of her claws in his silk shirt, stopped and glared at him with wide yellow eyes, jumped down, and stalked away. Fickle, just like a woman, he thought, wondering for a moment if it were a woman who had set up tonight's job, or if it were being fought over a woman, or where, exactly, a woman was involved in the whole thing, because there was usually one there somewhere, even if it were ostensibly about politics or business.
Alec chewed on a hangnail and pondered the fickleness of women for some time, his grandmother and mother and sister and the girl he had thought himself in love with for two weeks when he was thirteen. The attraction had quickly faded once he actually attempted to engage her in conversation. That girl had soft dark hair and deep blue eyes, almost violet colored, really, such an unusual color, like Richard's. He felt he could drown in those eyes, sometimes; drown in Richard's elegance, his soft voice and powerful hands and supple, muscled body. Alec spent a few moments lost in pleasant reverie, thinking of that body, those hands, then shook his head, wondering how long it should take to kill someone with a sword when you were the best swordsman in the city. Surely Richard would be just about finished by now, and on his way home.
If Richard didn't come home, well, Alec supposed he could stay here in Riverside. He had already begun planning the improvements to the house; that is, Marie had, finding roofers and glaziers and a chimney-sweep. It would be a waste of money not to live here, at least for a little while. He would have to hire a bodyguard, of course, with Richard gone; probably whoever it was who had killed Richard, since he would now be the new best swordsman in the city. Alec didn't really like the idea of having Richard's killer around him, day and night. It would be convenient to take him as a lover, if he were going to have to be around anyway, but - well, no. Alec didn't want to think about Richard being gone, and as for another lover to take his place - preposterous. As if anyone ever could.
At that point Alec decided he might as well go to bed rather than staying up fretting. Such a waste of time.
It was cold in the bedroom, though; he had forgotten to build up the fire. Hurriedly slipping out of his clothes, he jumped into the huge oaken bed, feeling like the sole survivor of a shipwreck, alone in this splendid lifeboat. He pulled the covers up over his head. The cold linen sheets smelt sour; mildew and dried sweat and their mingled seed, and it occurred to him that he could also arrange with Marie to actually gather and launder the sheets, oh, once, even twice a month.
Now, that was a good thing about being duke, that he and Richard wouldn't have to scrimp like paupers any more. Clean sheets, beeswax candles, plenty of wood, and a chimney that drew correctly - he could live right here in these rooms, and not give a fig for anything on the Hill, as long as the ducal monies kept rolling in. And as long as Richard was here, too. It certainly was a comfortable bed, even when the sheets smelled bad; of course, they smelled mostly of what he and Richard did there; a comforting smell, in its own way, he thought drowsily.
If Richard wasn't going to be here, though, he could always go back to the Hill, and be duke, and pretty miserable about it too, for what fun would having money be without someone fun to help him spend it? Of course he could always find ways to get rid of it that would annoy other people on the Hill, which would be entertaining. He could organize dwarf-tossing tournaments with huge prize purses, or endow a chair at the university in some arcane field, to study the philosophical implications of the cross-breeding of snakes and monkeys, something useless that the Natural Scientists would all scramble madly to study, just for the money. He could hear them, hissing and chattering, the scholars after a time even beginning to resemble the animals they were studying, until finally it would seem as though they were monkeys dressed in long black robes, leading scholars on braided leather leashes, leaving them tied up outside the dank taverns of the University district. Come in, let us buy you drink, the monkeys would say, you've made this all possible, as the snakes hissed their approbation.
Alec rolled over, the bedframe squeaking as he huddled himself into a ball; his feet were just too cold at the end of the bed, a disadvantage of being so tall. When he got tired of being a frivolous duke, well, there was always the river. He could simply walk into the river, and keep walking, using his long arms and legs like oars to propel himself past bloated, floating bodies, boats and ice floes, and until, finally, the river becomes the sea, and he begins to sink. Fronds of sea kelp wave in rhythm to the music he can hear in his head. Schools of shimmering fish dart away in terror at his approach. No, fish, wait, I like you, he tries to say, but only streams of bubbles rise from his mouth. Then there are dark shapes around him, sleek and muscular, gliding and dipping as graceful as swallows in the evening sky. Selkies, he thinks, remembering childhood tales, and then one of the selkies slides up against him from behind. Ooh, you're warm, the selkie says, in Richard's voice, and Alec drifts against him with a soft sigh.