Dimitri didn’t let up until he’d cast a passable concealment spell. My stomach embarrassed me, rumbling loudly enough that Dimitri stopped his next attempt. Hunger crept little by little while we practiced. I enjoyed Dimitri’s enthusiasm so much that I pushed it down and kept brainstorming instead of speaking up. I didn’t want to leave, but if I stayed much longer, my body’s revolt would only grow louder. Dimitri looked at his watch and got flustered.
“I’m so sorry. You must be starving,” he babbled. “Here I am fixated on a spell, and you’re too nice to tell me you want to leave.”
“Not at all. I’m having fun,” I reassured him.
“You don’t have to say that. I know I can get a little intense about magic,” he said.
“No, I mean it. I like how excited you get.”
“Still, we should stop. Do you want to go to dinner?” I asked. “With me, I mean. My treat. It’s the least I can do to repay you for today.”
“You don’t have to repay me.” Why did I say that? I wanted to spend more time with him, and he gave me the perfect excuse. But did he offer out of obligation?
“Come on, if it weren’t for you, I might still be bleeding in that alley. And then you answered all my questions. Please let me take you out,” he said. I hesitated. “Plus, it would be nice not to eat alone.”
“All right, sure. Let’s go,” I agreed. Even if he looked at it as repaying a debt, I couldn’t argue. I didn’t want to eat alone when I could be with him.
“Where would you like to go?” he asked.
“Are there any good Prasinish restaurants near here?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah,” he said with a big smile. “There’s one just a block over.”
He grabbed a new jacket from his bedroom. The blood stain came out of the one he wore earlier, but it still sat sopping in the sink. After putting food down for his cat, he led us out of the apartment. I saw him pull out his pocket watch briefly when he locked the door. The Thief’s Gambit had a spell for unlocking doors. I wondered if he’d made a counterspell for his pocket watch. I couldn’t blame him for the extra caution, considering he’d been attacked on his way home. Greg probably wouldn’t make another attempt the same day, but Dimitri wouldn’t be over it so quickly.
The weather cooled off significantly with the sun down. I’d dressed for a breezy day, and my outfit didn’t stand up to the chilly wind. Dimitri shivered, and I almost suggested we go back and get a thicker coat for him. My stomach growled at me, and I dropped the idea. Instead, I cast a warming spell. A comforting heat surrounded us. Dimitri looked at me and smiled. Unless I’d imagined it, he stepped closer to me as we walked. My hand accidentally brushed against his wrist, and our magic sparked another tingle. I’d begun to like the sensation. It felt good enough that I considered repeating the touch. Did he enjoy the experience, though?
“You’ll have to teach me this spell sometime,” he said. I smiled at the idea of him wanting to spend more time together.
“This one is pretty easy. I just think about the sun on my face,” I told him.
“That’s a good association,” he commented. “Maybe I can try it on the way back to my place.”
Had he just invited me home with him? Maybe he didn’t want to walk home alone.
“Yeah. I bet you’ll pick it up quickly,” I said.
“Here we are.” Dimitri gestured to a restaurant with a steaming pie painted on its window.
I dropped the warming spell as soon as we walked in. The smell of traditional Prasinish meat pies filled the restaurant. We seated ourselves at a table close to the back. Other patrons filled half the tables, but the room felt cozy instead of crowded. A young musician sat in the corner, playing the piano and singing for everyone. I’d never heard the song, but he had a pleasant voice. Dimitri hummed along to the music and tapped his foot. A server came to the table with glasses of water before the end of the first song.
“Dimitri, who’s your young man?” she asked. He must have come here often if they knew his name. Even the restaurants I frequented most didn’t greet me so warmly. “It’s so nice to see him out with a man. I’m always telling him he needs someone in his life.”
“This is Jim. Jim, this is Molly,” Dimitri said. He hadn’t corrected her implication that we’d come here for a date.
“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance,” I said, doing my best to adopt the warm, polite persona I’d seen Daniel use when he wanted someone to let their guard down.
“No need to be so formal. We’re a family place. I’ll give you some time to look over the menus,” she said.
“Molly, could you bring a couple of mini pies to start?” Dimitri asked. “We missed lunch.”
“Sure thing, love,” she said, leaving in a hurry.
“Sorry, she’s a bit over personal. I come here a lot,” he said.
“She seems nice,” I assured him. “You don’t have to apologize. This whole place seems great.”
“Sorry,” he said reflexively. “Oops.”
We both laughed.
Molly returned to the table with a selection of pies that could fit in the palm of my hand and a couple of glasses of wine.
“Wow,” I said. We wouldn’t need to order anything else with how many pies she brought us.
“This is too much, Molly,” Dimitri said.
“You shouldn’t have sat close enough for Leon to hear you,” she retorted affectionately but not without sass. “You better eat it all. He can’t stand the thought of you missing meals.
“Thank you, Leon,” Dimitri said as he picked up one of the pies.
“You’re welcome,” a man said, popping his head out the door that Molly just came through.
“We don’t need wine,” Dimitri said.
“Oh, hush. It’s a cold night out; a couple of drinks will keep you warm on your walk home,” Molly said, swatting his shoulder gently.
“Thank you,” I said, lifting my wineglass to her. The man had already returned to what he’d been doing in the kitchen.
Molly brought two more glasses of wine each as we ate our pies. Dimitri argued at the first refill, but he couldn’t assuage her. We ate every bite and finished all three glasses of wine. We mostly talked about the shop he wanted to open. It pleased me that he peppered in stories about his friends at work. He hoped he could convince them to join him once the shop made enough money to support hiring more staff. If Daniel got his way and they maintained a business relationship, that time would come sooner than he thought. The people Daniel invested in always seemed to do well and rise quickly.
When the bill came, it only listed two mini pies. Dimitri tried to argue, but Leon leaned out of the kitchen again and ended the protest. I saw Dimitri leave a very generous tip as we got up. He hurried out the door as if we were ditching the bill. I couldn’t help laughing as we stepped outside. Molly hadn’t lied. I didn’t feel cold despite a stronger breeze blowing. We walked back slowly, and Dimitri tried to cast the warming spell. He struggled a bit; I suspected because of the wine, but a little past the halfway point, I felt the air around us warm. Our hands brushed a couple of times on the way. Each time I smiled at our magic interacting.
“I’d like to try something,” Dimitri said when we reached his door.
“Okay,” I said.
He held his hand up, and I pressed mine to his. The tingling intensified. It felt like fingers tracing gentle circles up my arm. I wanted to lean in and kiss him, but I didn’t want him to think I’d just done it because we drank too much wine. I broke the connection and stepped back. The circling sensation kept going, even though we weren’t touching anymore. It made me want to put my hands back on him. If pressing my palm to his felt that good, what would it feel like to press my lips to his?
“I should go,” I forced myself to say. “Thank you for tonight. It was the most fun I’ve had in a while.”
“Yeah, me too.”
I turned and walked away before I could change my mind. I didn’t feel sure that I wouldn’t turn back until I heard his door close. The night felt colder without him by my side.