Chapter 34

Pazi answered the door only a few seconds after Zap knocked. Her face seemed to bear a mix of relief and suppressed annoyance.

“There you are,” she said, sighing. “You’re pretty late.”

“Yeah, I’m sorry,” Zap said. He moved through the doorway and into Pazi’s room, and she closed the door behind him. “There was something unexpected that I had to take care of.”

“I guess I was just hoping to spend a little time with you before the concert,” Pazi said, disappointed.

“Well, I am still staying with you tonight, right?” Zap asked.

“Yeah,” Pazi said. “I just guess … I know things have been busy, but I feel like you could have found some time to spend with me, you know?”

Zap’s face fell a little bit and he nodded. “Yeah,” he said. “You’re right.”

“Oh sweetie,” Pazi said, moving to Zap and touching his face. “Please don’t feel guilty. I just want a little bit of attention.”

“You deserve it,” Zap said, putting his arms around Pazi’s waist. “I’ve been too easily distracted and haven’t given you the time you deserve. I want to make it up to you.”

“I’d like that,” Pazi said, tilting her head to kiss Zap’s jawline.

Zap put a hand on Pazi’s shoulder and stepped back, looking at his girlfriend. She was wearing a flattering corset emblazoned with spirit sigils and a long blue skirt. Judging by what Zap could see between the laces on her corset, she wore nothing underneath it.

“Wow,” he said.

“Do you like it?” Pazi said with an impish smile.

“It’s hot,” Zap said.

“I felt like representing,” Pazi said. “The corset is actually a ritual corset. It was my mother’s. I’m gonna wear her headband too, but I haven’t put it on yet because it’s sort of hard to avoid accidentally gouging stuff on the horn.”

“Okay,” Zap said. “Just be careful hugging me once it’s on, okay?”

Pazi giggled. “Okay,” she said.

“Are you going to summon a companion to bring?”

“Well, I have you,” Pazi said, “but yes, I was going to bring a spirit. Any requests?”

“That little mouse-fish is pretty cute.” Zap said with a grin.

To’mas and Violet sat together on Violet’s bed, watching Steve preen herself with the grace of a one-legged puppy.

“This is pretty much the cutest thing ever,” Violet murmured to To’mas.

“It really is,” To’mas replied sotto voce. “I’ve never seen her so cheerful.”

“It’s really great,” Violet said. She watched Steve’s ineffective toilette for a few more moments before standing. “But I can’t watch anymore. Steve, sweetie, please let me help you.”

Steve gave a nervous laugh. “I think I’m a lost cause,” she said.

“Don’t be stupid,” Violet said. “You’re very pretty, no matter how much you try to hide it. Millions of women would kill to have your hair, you know.”

“Mmm,” Steve said. “It’s a pain in the ass.”

“Convenience and beauty have never gone hand in hand, Steve,” Violet said, guiding Steve to the bathroom. “To’mas, babes, I’ll be back out soon.”

“Don’t fall in,” To’mas encouraged.

A few minutes later, Violet marched Steve back into the room. Steve’s face now had sparse makeup applied to it, emphasizing her hazel eyes and freckles. Steve’s auburn curls shone and hung in ringlets that framed her face prettily, held in place with a barrette.

“To’mas?” Violet asked.

“It’s good,” he said. “Very ‘girl next door’.”

“That’s what I was going for,” Violet said. “Glam wouldn’t look good on her. Now we need to dress you.” Violet pulled open the closet and surveyed Steve’s clothes.

“You really dress for utility, don’t you,” Violet said. Steve shrugged.

Violet pawed through the clothes and made noises to herself. After some deliberation, she picked a pair of Steve’s jeans, and then found a shirt of her own. She presented the completed outfit to Steve.

Steve balked, glancing over at To’mas. Violet made an irritated noise and marched Steve back to the bathroom. Several minutes later, the two emerged. Steve was now wearing a tightly fitted babydoll tee that said “Ultralove Ninja” on it and a pair of jeans.

“This shirt is tight,” Steve said, hesitant.

“So?” Violet said. “It makes your boobs look good. You never show them off.”

“I’ll look fat,” Steve objected.

“You’re not fat,” To’mas said, rolling his eyes.

“You look great,” Violet said, then turned Steve around. “Go get ’em, tiger.” She slapped Steve’s ass, and the latter scooted to the door.

“Thanks,” Steve said, smiling. She slipped out of the room.

Violet returned to the bed, where To’mas was waiting for her.

“You ready?” To’mas said.

“Your roommate is doomed,” Violet said. “Our powers combined, we are dead sexy.”

“To the hunt!” To’mas cried.

“To the hunt!” Violet echoed, grinning widely.