Now all she needed to do was kick Ranjit out of her thoughts for good, and she’d be sorted.
The long weekend that Patrick had spent in Istanbul seemed to fly by – before Cassie knew it, she’d been seeing him off at the airport. Great as it was to see him, Cassie was oddly pleased to fully re-immerse herself back into Academy life. As she walked through the courtyard, just the trickling splash of water in the fountain made her feel cooler in the summer heat. She paused, books in her arms, smiling up at the statue of Leda and her swan against the open sky. She got fonder and fonder of the poor girl, seduced by that savage beautiful bird. Cassie knew exactly how she felt …
Nah, she told herself firmly. Leda should have dumped that swan. Or better still, wrung its scrawny neck.
She’d like to wring Ranjit’s, that was for sure. Funny how, for all his grandiose declarations, she’d seen barely hide nor hair of him in the past few days. His new devotion to her obviously wasn’t interfering with his old habit of skipping half his classes. Maybe he was off like Indiana Jones, finding the solution to all their problems. Yeah, right.
She turned and was surprised by the genuine feeling of happiness she felt when she saw who was coming towards her. Richard’s insolent grin was infectious, and she couldn’t help but return it as he sauntered across the courtyard. When he reached her, he aimed a kiss at Cassie’s cheek and seemed a little surprised when she let it connect.
‘You looked like you were struggling a bit in there,’ she joked, gesturing back towards Herr Stolz’s classroom.
‘Bloody hell, you’re telling me,’ he said, making a show of trying to get air down his collar. ‘Maths was purgatory today, Bell, I don’t know how you do it.’
She raised an eyebrow. ‘Wouldn’t have been such a struggle if you’d done the prep, mate.’
‘Agreed. Might have stopped Stolz getting his lederhosen in a twist. Anyway, that’s enough about the daily grind,’ he said, looking up at the gleaming marble figures. ‘How about these statues, eh? Don’t you think Io would be more appropriate here instead of Leda? I don’t know if you know the story, but that naughty Zeus has a lot to answer for here in Istanbul—’
‘I do know, as it happens,’ Cassie interjected, smiling smugly. ‘The old bugger Zeus seduced Io, but his missus got wind of it, so he turned the poor girl into a cow to hide her. But Mrs Z wasn’t fooled, she sent a bee to sting the heifer in her rear. And Io bolted and paddled as fast as her hooves could carry her across the strait – hence, the Bosphorus, meaning “passage of the cow”. Hah!’
Richard pushed his hair out of his eye sheepishly. ‘Right, you obviously do do your homework! Beautiful, and intelligent too.’
Cassie flushed unexpectedly at the compliment. ‘Well, uh, I swatted up cos I wanted to be the one making sinister remarks about pagan deities this year,’ she joked, recovering. He chuckled, and Cassie noticed he had dimples. Had she noticed those before? Keep talking, Cassie, she thought. ‘Anyway, don’t you think there’s a bit of a god-obsession round here? I’m sure it’s what makes the Few so …’
‘Up ourselves?’ finished Richard.
Cassie grinned; couldn’t help it. ‘Yeah.’
Thinking about Isabella’s shameless matchmaking, she studied him again as he fiddled absent-mindedly with the trailing tendrils of a black orchid on the stone of the pool. There was no point denying it. Richard was bloody good-looking, and a charmer, and he had those green eyes and that sexy mouth …
But no. It would be crazy to fall for someone so flaky. And sometimes Cassie wasn’t sure if his ‘anything goes’ attitude might not work in her favour. Who knows, she thought, he might be more into guys? What if girls were just a change of scene for him? An occasional holiday? Not that she was thinking of being his weekend break. Not seriously anyway … Flaky! she reminded herself. Unreliable, changeable, flippant … But then again, there were those cheekbones, as defined as his arm muscles … Oh, stop it, Cassie!
Richard glanced up at her through his dark lashes. ‘Hey, Cassie?’ He hesitated. ‘I appreciate it, you know.’
‘You forgiving me.’
‘Well, now I didn’t say I’d forgiven you.’ She cocked an eyebrow. ‘It’s just with Isabella still a little down in the dumps, if I don’t talk to you then I might end up missing out on some of the school gossip.’
He grinned rakishly. ‘Well by all means, let me share some. What are you doing with your free afternoon? Want to come to Beyoglu? I know this—’
‘Perfect little café?’ she mimicked dryly, recalling his fateful words from her first term at the Academy. ‘Uh-huh. No thanks. Besides, I was thinking something cultural. The Blue Mosque, maybe.’
He looked injured. ‘Hey, I can do culture, Ms Bell. I could show you the— uh-oh.’ At the sound of footsteps clicking on the tiles he’d glanced past her, shooting a nervous look over her shoulder. Returning his attention to her, Richard winked. ‘I think it’s time for my cocoa. See you later though, Cassie.’
Staring at him quizzically, she glanced over her shoulder.
Sir Alric Darke.
He was still the same: tall, imposing, with a devilish smile and a scarily intelligent, all-knowing glint in his grey-granite eyes. But she wasn’t scared, despite the fact that he was heading their way. He nodded, seeming vaguely amused at Richard’s disappearing act.