Eduardo growled. The sound was not loud, but Maggiormente knew what it meant. "Signora, I think I had better clear up this mess." He struggled to extricate himself from her surprisingly powerful grasp.
"Oh, monsieur! You must persuade me," Mme. Gabor purred. "Do try. I am certain we could come to some kind of, ah, arrangement…"
"Good heavens, look at that smoldering wood!" The alchemist pointed somewhat nervously at the table as he tugged away from vise of her fingers.
"Forget the experiment, monsieur!" Mme. Gabor batted her not inconsiderable lashes at him.
"Eh, I—what?" Maggiormente looked to Eduardo for help, but the lion merely continued to glare and growl under his breath while flexing his wings.
"Forget the experiment! Come down to my flat and we can talk over some very good cheese from Normandy and a fine bottle of Bordeaux that my cousine gave me."
"Oh, erm, I—that's, ah…" The alchemist stumbled over his thoughts as she tightened her grip on his arm.
"Monsieur," the concierge murmured, laying her rouged cheek once more upon his arm. "You are a man."
"Indeed." Maggiormente's eyebrows furrowed as he pondered this seemingly obvious statement.
"And I am a woman."
"Also true." He heard Eduardo's growl deepen slightly.
Mme. Gabor looked up at him and smiled. "Must I draw a diagram for you, monsieur?"
"That might be helpful indeed," Maggiormente said, his gratefulness evident in the explosion of breath behind it.
She blinked at him and then burst out laughing. The alchemist blinked at her in return with a vague and uncertain smile on his lips. He found himself relieved that she let go of his arm to cover her own face as she guffawed helplessly.
"Oh monsieur, you are like a babe in the woods!"
"Erm, yes, I suppose so," Maggiormente said uncertainly. "But I really must clean up this mess now, madame, or we might be in for a fire." It certainly seemed the safest route to pursue, he sensed. A danger to the house might outweigh her other mad obsession.
Mme. Gabor frowned at the table which indeed still smoldered. "I suppose you could be right, monsieur."
"Of course he is," Eduardo said with a snap of his jaws at the end for emphasis. Then he turned sulkily toward the window, considering whether to wake up the nightingale. No one should have to suffer this alone.
"Well, yes, it would be for the best…"
"I must go retrieve more sand," the alchemist blurted, grabbing for his hat and scarf and tromping toward the open door.
"Of course, monsieur," Mme. Gabor called after him, "But I expect once you have completed these various safety measures to come to my flat. We have so much to discuss."
Only inches from a clean escape, Maggiormente reflected as he paused in the doorway. "D'accord, madame." He squashed the hat down on his head and wrapped the scarf around his neck as if a condemned man. "Au revoir."
Mme. Gabor watched him go with a very catlike grin upon her face. Eduardo regarded with suspicion from his perch by the window. Things were not at all going according to his liking.
"I don't suppose you have any cakes," Eduardo said morosely.
"I don't normally allow pets, you know," she said apropos of nothing.
"Buon giorno, signora," the lion said with all the coldness he could muster.
She turned to regard him, still smiling but there was a return of his coldness. "Tout à l'heure, Monsieur Lion." Mme. Gabor laughed again and walked out the door, closing it behind her.
Eduardo lay down with his chin on his paws. There must be many other flats to let in Paris, even for an alchemist and his Venetian lion. They rented to painters after all, surely alchemists were tame in comparison.
"This will not end well," Eduardo said to no one in particular, though perhaps the nightingale had awakened. "He cannot dodge her forever. Of course we could simply blow the building up before that happens." He decided to reflect happily on that thought.