“You like scary kisses,” Tej declared. “Like Ivan.”
Ekaterin burst out laughing. “Ivan doesn’t like scary!” Ekaterin squinted at the glass in her hand. “I think this glass is shrinking.”
“Look at my family. Look how we met and he wasn’t scared off. He likes the scary and no one would marry someone like Miles, if they didn’t like the scary too.”
“Miles isn’t scary,” Ekaterin said sounding hurt.
Tej shook her head, arms going out to balance herself. “Woah. What was I saying?”
“He’s a kitten,” Ekaterin said, toasting her empty glass, pouring herself some more wine and devouring more cake. “Not a scary kitten. With claws. Maybe a cat –a kitteny, clawy cat.”
“Not scary scary, you know – not –“ Tej gestured as if she was smoothing the air with her palms – “plain, calm. You like the choppy scary. Calm would bore you. Ivan is the same but he thinks he’s not the same. Oh! I want a cat now.”
“S’not true,” Ekaterin said, taking another bite of the chocolate cake. “Maybe Miles is more tiger.”
Laisa giggled. “You said snot. These cakes are amazing! I told you my cousins were great cooks. Idiots but great cooks.”
Imperial Hotel – Vorbarr Sultana
“Selina, I think you left Laisa the wrong cakes.”
“Damn it! I was looking forward to those. Do you know how hard it was finding a dealer on Barrayar? It’s not legal here like it is on Komarr.”
“Don’t you think we should warn her? Look how she overreacted to what happened at her wedding.”
They looked at the time. “I bet she’s eaten them by now.”
“She’ll kill us! Again.”
“Let’s leave. We can leave a message when we’re through the wormhole.”
“A women army?” Laisa asked lying down at the floor and staring at the ceiling and Tej was drawing patterns on Laisa’s bare stomach. She’d undone her blouse buttons because she was hot. “Because Ivan won’t hit women?”
“Even if they hit him first he said it’s not the done thing,” she mimicked Ivan so well, they all laughed hysterically for a long time. “I bet a lot of them are like that. The Cetas should’ve brought an all women Ceta army and in those boots you Barrayarans like, and I bet all the men would be like: oooh we can’t hit you you’re women –and – and – to make sure they’d all have sex with them!”
“Who’s having sex?” Ekaterin asked.
“The Ceta sex soldiers,” Laisa said. “Tej said that’s how they’ll conquer Barrayar.”
“And while they’re having orgasms, the women kill ‘em,” Tej said.
“Well that’s not very nice is it,” Ekaterin declared. “Coming all that way and behaving like that!”
“Maybe not Ivan,” Tej said thoughtfully. “I bet they’d keep Ivan as a sex slave.” She grinned. “Yeah a sex slave.”
“Well Miles wouldn’t stand for it,” Ekaterin said. “He’d hit them with his stick.”
“Alright maybe a few men wouldn’t fall for it,” Tej conceded. “Like…four men?”
Laisa sat up and swayed. “Yeah, maybe four.”
Ekaterin nodded. “Four at least.”
“What about the men who don’t like women?”
“They’ll bring some for them too,” Tej said. “They’d know exactly how to do it!”
“Gregor wouldn’t fall for those evil Ceta whores,” Laisa said. “Oh my God. I should tell him! Got to make preps!” Laisa pointed to herself. “Emperor’s consort, you know.”
“Look there’s Ivan!” Tej said pointing across the room to the mantel where a frame with various portraits was on rotation. “When did he get here?”
“He looks very small,” Laisa said.
Ekaterin squinted. “He’s just far away.”
“Ivan! Come here! Oh he’s gone. That looks like Nikki but he’s in – oh he’s gone.”
“I think they’re playing a game,” Ekaterin said.
“I need to call Gregor,” Laisa said, staggering to the comconsole. “Got to tell him about the Ceta sex soldier spies. Got to make plans.”
Gregor left the meeting and took the call in his private office. He answered and stared. “Laisa?”
Her hair was dishevelled, her eyes shining but the main thing he noticed was her clothing.
“I have to tell you about the Ceta sex army,” Laisa whispered.
“Where are your clothes?”
Tej appeared waving Laisa’s blouse. “The blouse was hot so we rescued it. What are you going to do about the sex soldiers?”
“I’ve not told him yet,” Laisa said. “Gregor, are you listening?”
“Listening and recording my love,” Gregor said, “I have a feeling this is going to get me out of lot of dog houses.”
But he also got on to Miles and Ivan and sent them a terse message to get to Vorkosigan House before any of their wives contacted anyone else. Whatever they’re drinking it’s gone to their head like I’ve never seen before.
“Not a dog,” Ekaterin said her face pushing into the frame. “A tiger. We’ll fight. The men may be doing naughty things but the women will rise up! Not the Ceta women, the non-Ceta women and the four men not having – oh, Tej! You’ve eaten all the cake!”
“I’m so hungry! Oh the buffet! I forgot – more cake!”
“Wait for me.”
Laisa stared at Gregor. “I’ll be right back. Don’t eat it all! I want some!”
“Good morning!” Gregor said brightly. “I made sure to put you in the brightest room.”
“Can hardly open my eyes,” Laisa said staggering to the breakfast table, hand over her eyes.
“Let’s see if we can get those eyes open. Good night last night?”
Laisa swallowed down her coffee and tried to remember but there wasn’t any part of her head that wasn’t trying to kill her.
“Here, painkillers and hangover soother all in one,” Gregor said handing her the pills.
“Hangover?” Laisa asked. “Why would I have a hangover? I don’t get hangovers.”
Gregor sipped his coffee. “Perhaps ask the Ceta sex army. Ah, there’s those eyes I love so much. Also, I’m curious why it says ‘Tej Was Here’ on your stomach and a drawing of what I’m assuming is supposed to be some kind of sex organ?”
Laisa buried her face in her folded arms on the table and let out a moan “I didn’t even drink that much!”
“Well combined with what your thoughtful cousins baked in those cakes it was an interesting cocktail.”
“WHAT? Ow. How bad?”
“No one knows except a few people and it won’t go further than them. This time you got lucky but it wasn’t your fault.”
“I shouldn’t have trusted those idiot cousins of mine. Why aren’t you more upset?” Laisa asked. “This could’ve been a major security breach.”
“But it wasn’t,” Gregor said. “You can’t control everything, Laisa. Even I know that. I’ve made mistakes too in the past. I told you about some of them.”
“Thank you for being so understanding.”
“Well I love you and also there’s a vid I want to show you of last night.”
Laisa froze. “A vid?”
“I knew I could get those eyes wider.”
“Who am I again?” Ivan asked, naked on the bed, as Tej tied his wrists to the bed.
“You’re a Barrayaran officer.”
“But I am a Barrayaran officer. How is this any different?”
“A captive one. You tried to fight me but you were overwhelmed by me being a woman and a sexy one at that.”
“Again, how is this any different?”
She giggled. “No, I’m a Ceta Sex Soldier. That’s why I’m wearing this.”
“They wear black basques? I don’t remember this on my Cetagandan jaunt.”
“Yes and I’m going to kill you when you’re in the throes of ecstasy. That’s my plan but I enjoy it so much that I keep you. What do you think?”
Ivan let his body respond to that question.
Miles brought out his plans on how to conquer the Ceta Sex Army with four men and army of Barrayaran women. “I could do it.” Then he leaned down and whispered. “Tiger, eh?”
Ekaterin pulled the pillow over her head. “I am going to have serious words with Laisa. Oh no. Oh God.” She sat up, hand to her mouth.
“What is it?”
“I think we called General Allegre.”