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Jesse stood slightly aside and watched, disoriented, as Sylvie held a bag of frozen peas to Lau’s face. Lau tried to shove it away at first but then relented.
“What the hell is wrong with you,” Sylvie muttered. “We would have gotten away with a warning… I mean… you did not really, seriously… did you?”
Lau shook his head. “Nah. I was just screwing with him.”
Sylvie clicked her tongue. “You’re insane.”
The party pretty much dissipated from that point on. People hurriedly started to leave, and Jesse caught snippets of conversations that made him cringe, but he stayed behind until he and Lau and Sylvie were the only people in the loft. Throwing meaningful glances in their direction, she made a show of gathering empty beer bottles and ashtrays. Only then did Jesse allow himself to squat next to Lau, who was touching his fingertips to his swollen lip, seeming totally unfazed.
“What was that all about?” Jesse asked in a half whisper.
Lau smiled and winced at the pain in his lip, which started bleeding again. “You know. Baiting. I like it.”
“Yeah, I can tell.”
“Oh, what?” said Lau with mock exasperation. “Are you angry at me now?”
“No,” said Jesse. A cold kind of fury was starting to seethe within him. At Lau, at the stupid shit he did, and at himself, for still being madly attracted to him in spite of it. “I just want to know what happened.”
Lau frowned. “What?”
“What happened to you,” said Jesse, a little more sharply than he intended, “that made you… like this.”
He expected any reaction, or no reaction at all, but not what he saw in Lau’s face when he said those words.
He could only describe it as a mask falling away. Something passed just behind the surface of Lau’s amber eyes, a cold shadow that made Jesse’s heart skip a beat. The smile vanished, the slant of his eyebrows changed in some way—Jesse could not quite grasp what it meant, but it was not the Lau he had seen up to this point.
It lasted all of a fraction of a second, and then the arrogant bastard was back.
“Oh, you know what? Get lost.”
A sharp pang of regret hit Jesse at once. Lau looked away like Jesse was not even there anymore.
“I’ll keep in touch,” Jesse murmured.
Lau only shrugged with indifference, feigned or real Jesse could not tell.