I was very busy for several weeks after the mourning period. While I’d been running the Barony by proxy for almost two years, there was a marked difference between “by proxy” and “in fact and law.” Mostly, ceremony. Lots and lots of ceremony.
When I wasn’t being draped in ceremonial whatnots, mouthing ceremonial words, or signing ceremonial documents, I had my new slave to train.
He wasn’t Michael, and, though I tried not to drive that home to him too much, I’m sure it came up more than it ought to. Probably about the seventeenth time I slipped and called him “Michael” instead of “boy” and he found an excuse to leave the room and vanish for four hours.
I didn’t even punish him for that. How could I? It was so much like I’d felt. I did, finally, sit him down and ask what he’d been called, back home.
He had to think that one over, checking, I think, against the Countess’ orders. I made a raspberry noise before he got to an answer. “First things first. Who do you belong to?”
“You, Mistress.” That part was easy, it seemed.
“Very good. Whose orders do you follow?”
“Yours, Mistress. And… and your Chief of Staff.”
“Very good. But you follow Ander’s orders only because I ordered you to. What this means is whatever orders She gave you are no longer in play.” It felt so very, very, VERY good to be able to say that. I think I was grinning as I said it. “You are mine, and not hers.” Although I might be tempted to brand him.
“I’m yours,” he repeated. “Yes, Mistress.” Finally, what I was saying sank in. “My name was James. James Markson.”
“James.” Conveniently, it sounded nothing at all like “Michael.” I smiled at him, very happy. “Then I’ll call you James.”
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