“I admit, it was a kneejerk reaction,” John shivered. We were both nearly naked and dripping wet. The dive I took into the frozen lake was an accident, and John did his best to rescue me. He had a conscience after all. It was his fault that I broke in, in the first place. So he pulled me out, brought me back to the mansion. The blanket I had on my shoulders started itching. I hoped his itched as well.

He gave me a crystal whiskey glass, liquid amber filling it two inches high. He smirked as I sniffed it. Bourbon. John shrugged. “Suit yourself,” he opened his hands to a broad gesture towards the library and the bar in front of him.

His blanket slit to the floor, exposing naked skin. His pale back showed marks and bruises, in different stages of healing. Green and yellow spots accompanied the new purple ones I had caused. Lines zigzagged across his shoulders, nape and lower back. So many scars…

I took a gulp. Warmth started to spread in my stomach. The smell of sulfur, smoke, polished wood and the bourbon mixed to a vivid impression of a gentleman’s salon night. “It smells of fire,” I told him.

He turned to me. “Yeah, it does. It’s the books. They are refugees.” Smiling at my confusion, he continued. “I saved them from burning piles.” Our eyes locked, my mouth went dry. I had the feeling of something pressing building up behind John’s eyes, like a question, that unhinges your world. His throaty laugh filled the room.

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