Startled, Corydalis caught her in his lap, one arm behind her shoulders. His other hand crossed over her chest catch her arm against her side and ensure she didn't slide off. "Er. Master Smoke?"
She cracked open one eye, as if spying surreptitiously. "My hero! You'll protect me, won't you?" Smoke gave him a little mischevious smile and added, "All right, maybe not that alarming. But I admit it is disconcerting. How do I keep out of all these machinations?"
He chuckled. "In fairness, until you came into my office this morning, actual sabotage or circumvention of the wards had not struck me as at all probable. If Pouring Magic was willing to to conduct sabotage, the wards would have been the place to start, not something they'd attempt two years after the accusation. Moreover, nothing in the investigation indicated P.M. had engaged in any wrongdoing. There wasn't just insufficient proof: there was no evidence. The two companies have an acrimonious rivalry, but that's a far cry from criminal conduct or tortious interference," he answered, gazing down at her. Her slight frame felt beguilingly comfortable against his lap. This is not professional behavior,he told himself. Laugh at her joke and help her sit up. Instead, he found himself shifting his legs to provide better support for her back.
"So you don't think they've done anything unethical." As Smoke started to sit up, the floater turned up a steep slope and gravity tipped her against his chest. She paused, her cheek snuggled against his lapel.
"Eh." Corydalis raised one hand enough to waggle the fingers. "Unethical is a much broader term." Encompassing things like cuddling up to one's contractors, he reminded himself, and then countered with, oh, lighten up. Holding her for thirty seconds is nothing like sexual intercourse, and it's not like she's throwing herself at me to get the contract. She already has the contract. He cleared his throat and continued, "I judged W. E. guilty of avoiding work, a tendency exacerbated by a bad personal relationship with Courthall employees. And P.M. guilty of nothing worse than pursuing the contract with uncommon vigor, exacerbated by a vindictive streak. Neither company has stirred up rumors of bad behavior outside of their conflict with one another, and nothing within the conflict has any evidence. It felt more like the situation when the wind knocks over a vase, and two siblings hear the crash and immediately point to the other. "He did it, Dad!"" He smiled at Smoke again. "As an unrelated party, I did not anticipate any trouble for you from them. And I still think sabotage by Pouring Magic is unlikely. But Courthall security is investigating the sabotage given your information. And I did position a lookout to keep an eye on your new gatherers. We'll be increasing overall security in the buildings starting tomorrow to watch for saboteurs. Are there any other particular measures you'd like me to take to assure your safety, or that of your work?"
* It was archangelbeth's idea, and yes I rolled it. :D
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