The clay roof tile shattered against the wall behind him as he used his grip on the brick chimney to slingshot himself around the corner and onto the adjacent roof. Leopold ducked into a roll and came up running, gasping for air and trying to hear footfalls behind him over the sound of his blood pulsing in his ears. “I’m an academic,” he thought, “I’m not made for this sort of thing!”
Leap. Tumble. Dodge. Taller building. Leo was airborne for a long moment, then began jumping from windowsill to veranda to awning, climbing. Beneath the loose billowing robes of a desert traveler, the unfamiliar sensation of the form-fitting leather was distracting. He was reminded of its utility when he felt what was presumably his pursuer’s throwing dagger bounce harmlessly off the area between his shoulder blades. He focused, launching himself over the other edge of the building, grabbing the ledge, and flinging himself onto the flimsy metal emergency escape. It creaked warningly before Leo grabbed the sides and slid down.
Blessed solid ground met his feet. Run. Turn. Duck. Alley! Digging his heel into one of the many holes left by missing cobblestones in this part of Gearford, he shifted his momentum and disappeared into the darkness. He shuffled sideways between two rubbish bins, then crouched behind them. He slowed his breathing, calmed his beating heart, and grew completely still. No footfalls, padded or otherwise.
Just as he began considering how long he should wait before making for base, he felt cold steel against his throat followed by the contented purr of a female voice. “I herded you here, you know. So predictable.” He could hear her smile in the clipped precision of her words and pictured it vividly. He frowned. There was something familiar about this alley, he realized. His voice was surprisingly even for a man with a dagger to his neck “You have me, woman. What do you intend to do with me?”
The woman grabbed his collar and spun him, tossing the dagger aside. Elspeth drew back her hood, smirked, then shoved Leopold Phillip Featherstonhaugh against the wall of the alley where, five years prior, he had saved her life. He let out a quiet oof and smirked back. She laughed. “You’ve a lot of cheek for a man who just got caught for the third time in a single evening.” Before he could compose a satisfactory comeback, the shapely vibranni’s rough kisses melted his thoughts, her tail curling affectionately around his forearm.
Several hair-mussing lip-bruising minutes later, she broke the kiss, leaving him in a contented daze as she turned back toward their home and smiled at him over her shoulder.
“Still. You are improving.”