Something was burning. At four in the morning, Lark was near to admitting it was time to join Alec in bed when he wrinkled his narrow nose. The blackened smell grew in the air, chasing away scents of paper, ink, and oxidized wine.
Lark tossed the report he’d been blearily reading for too long, didn’t bother buttoning his coat over his chest, and left his study with bare feet. He took the stairs surefooted and quiet. The foyer was dark, but a thick crack of light shown from under the kitchen door and stretched down the main hallway. Lark followed the light and smell to the clumsy clank and bustle moving behind the door.
Inside the kitchen, smoke wafted from the stove to fill the air and baked-on black covered piled pans and pots. A tall someone bent over a bowl, picking eggshells out of egg. Lark recognized the young villager whose name he’d never bothered to learn.
“What is happening?” Lark enunciated at the young man as very little in the kitchen seemed to be under anyone’s control.
“I’m trying to surprise Nora.” The stove interrupted them as it coughed a belch of smoke.
“By blighting her kitchen? Good job, she will be surprised.” Lark leaned back as the young man fanned at the spoiled air with his hands.
“No, with breakfast. She brings me breakfast all the time. I wanted to–” The youth trailed off as Lark eyed the ball of char that could have once been, if one used their imagination, a fruit pastry.
“Does she now, got it,” Lark said tightly, inviting as little acrid air into his mouth as possible. “Now that I know who to blame for all this, I am going to bed.” Lark left the kitchen quickly before stupidity became catching.
It was only a matter of time until the rest of the house roused at the smell or the villager killed them all slowly with smoke inhalation. Lark was not inclined to scrub charred dishes nor council a lovesick boy on the romantic art of restraint. He climbed the stairs, abandoning both the responsibility and his coat in favor of bed and Alec’s slumbering company.
I am a late thief again. The stolen first line comes from More Than 1/2 Mad and the Legal Theft Project.