Baxter threw the child up into the air as she squealed. He caught her, and holding her at arm’s length, made a silly face. Then he did the whole thing over again. Senta glided up behind them and wrapped a long white arm around his shoulder.
“I’m going to be jealous if you spend all the time with the child.”
“Children need attention if you don’t want them to grow up to be sociopaths,” he said, at last pulling baby Senta in and blowing on her neck.
“You say that like it’s a bad thing.”
“You don’t know how much a person can miss human companionship until you’re in that situation.” He placed the little girl on the floor and stood up. Turning around, he took the woman in his arms and kissed her deeply. “I suppose I should pay you some attention too. Why don’t I show you right now?”
“Now?” she pretended to be shocked. “Right here in the daylight? With the baby watching?”
“It won’t harm her to see two adults showing affection.”
“I meant that baby.” She pointed to the tiny coral-colored dragon balanced on the corner post of the bed.
“Gawp,” it said.
“Why don’t you put that damned animal back in its carrier?” he said, releasing her from his arms and stepping back, careful that the child was out from under his foot.
“Don’t be cross,” said Senta. “I’ll put her in the other room, then I’ll feed little Senta. She’ll fall right asleep and then we’ll have two or three hours all to ourselves.”
“Fine,” he said, only slightly mollified.
The sorceress ordered the dragon into the adjoining room, which was little more than a closet really. Even though they had the largest suite on the S.S. Windlass, which was the largest Brech dirigible—quite a bit bigger than the Frühlingshuhn—it was still only a collection of three very small rooms. Then she sat down with the baby and attempted to give her a bottle. She did take it, but fussed when her mother tried to burp her, until she was given over to Baxter, who completed the job and had her asleep inside of five minutes.
“Now where were we?” he asked, unbuttoning his shirt.
“I hate to spoil the mood,” she said, “but there is a man spying on us outside that door.”
“What kind of man?”
“A government wizard or a freelancer who’s out to get you?”
“Does it matter?” she asked.
“It does to me. King and country and all still means something to me.”
“Very well,” she sighed. “Uuthanum.” She waved a finger toward the door. “He’s from the Ministry of War.”
“All right.” Baxter went into the third room of the suite, the tiny parlor, and then out the door from there to the hall. Senta could hear a brief tussle in the hallway outside. Then Baxter entered through the bedroom door from the corridor. In his right fist he carried a man in pin stripes by the scruff of the neck. The man was clutching at his throat and fighting for breath.
“I doubt he’ll say any magic words for a minute or two. I don’t suppose he’ll be able to answer any questions either.”
“Oh, I don’t want to interrogate him. I just want him to go away.” She raised her hands above her head. “Rezesic edios uuthanum illiam vor.”
The man in the pin stripes disappeared with a pop.
“Where did he go?” asked Baxter, looking at his right hand.
“I was holding him.”
“Don’t worry. I don’t miss.”
“Did he make it back to Greater Brechalon?”
“Probably. If not, then somewhere between here and there.”
“We’re a hundred miles out to sea.”
“Then he picked an extremely poor time to spy at my door,” said Senta.
Once again she snaked her arms around his neck and moved her face very close to his. She breathed on his mouth, but waited for him to kiss her. He did. Then stepping away, he quickly undressed, but not before creating a little bed on the floor with two blankets and placing the sleeping baby there, safely out of the way. Senta snapped her fingers and seven layers of clothing seemed to just fall off of her and onto the floor. She was reclining naked on the bed when he joined her. They made love. She enjoyed the way that he made love to her. It was never the same way twice. Never the same touches. Never the same order. He must have had a lot of practice, she thought, though that didn’t bother her. As she lay bathing in the warm afterglow, just dozing off, it occurred to her that she might never get tired of this. She suddenly woke when he took her by her shoulder and thigh, flipped her onto her stomach, and pulled her to her knees. No, she might never get tired of this, she decided.
It was almost two hours later when she woke up. Baxter’s face was right in front of hers and he was awake, staring at her. She smiled.
“Satisfied?” he asked.
“What are you talking about? I don’t enjoy that. It’s horrible and I just put up with it because you’re a man and you have those horrible urges.”
“That wasn’t what it sounded like.”
“That was all for your benefit as well.”
Suddenly there was a crash and little Senta began crying. Both adults sat up to see that she had pulled a lamp off the occasional table along the wall and onto her head. The glass had shattered upon hitting the floor.
“Kafira damn it all!” shouted Baxter, jumping up, and in three quick steps scooping the baby into his arms.
With a wave of her index finger, the sorceress sent the pieces of the lamp back up onto the table where it reassembled itself.
“There. All better.”
“I wasn’t worried about the bloody lamp,” he said, examining the growing lump on the child’s head. “What if that thing had been lit?”
“Then we would have all died in a horrible conflagration. You know the lamps on airships don’t even have oil in them. Calm down.”