“No, I don’t think you understand.” Wren leaned forward over the table and tried not to pound on the table. Ladies do not throw tantrums in public. Ladies smile, and find out all their enemies’ weaknesses. Phelen had been full of good lessons. Massive control, but lots of good lessons. “We are not looking for someone who wants a nanny. We are not looking for someone who wants a mommy. We have our own children.”
“Look, if I’m going to top someone as a lifestyle, I expect them to cook and clean for me. I expect my subs to do as I tell them. That’s not being childish; that’s just the way I do things.”
He was slick as a snake and twice as scaly, although he was on the list as Faded. Nydia had gone silent next to Wren, and she understood the urge. She pursed her lips at the man.
“Then we are not interested.”
“You won’t find anyone else as skilled in this sort of thing as I am.”
Something about the way he argued made her want to argue back. “But it doesn’t matter how good of a plumber you are when we’re looking for an electrician.”
“If you truly knew what you wanted, you wouldn’t be in the market for a dom.” He reached over the table and touched Wren’s hand. She moved her hand away before he could press down.
“If you touch me without my permission ever again, I will ruin you faster than you can say ‘creepy old man.’ This interview is over. Thank you for your time.”
He stared at her. She wondered if anyone had ever said no to him before. She didn’t have time to baby him thorough this, though; Nydia was twitching next to her. “Good luck in your future endeavors.” She wasn’t very good at being authoritative, but she managed now, for the sake of the team. “Nydia. Come.”
It took her friend until they were in the car to realize what had happened. “Did you just…”
“You were frozen. He creeped you out?”
“Snake.” She curled up around her knees in the passenger seat. “If you hadn’t been there…”
“Hey, that’s why we’re a team. Come on, let’s go home. We’ve only got one more place to look at, and that’s not for another three hours.” And only two more people on Lady Maureen’s list. She didn’t want to have to write home and ask for another list. She wasn’t sure that would go over well.
There was a dead rabbit – no, a very well-tanned rabbit skin, head and all – and two jewelry boxes waiting in front of Wren & Nydia’s door. Not collars, she prayed, but Nydia was already opening one.
Not collars. Tennis bracelets, diamond tennis bracelets. Wren stared at the piece in surprise. “It’s your colors.”
“Bet the other one had brown stones. Rabbit skin?”
“Hey. It’s not a dead bird.” That probably would have freaked her out more. “Nyd… do you think it’s safe to bring the kids here?”
“Thresholds. Speaking of…” She unlocked the door and pushed Wren through.
“Only works on fae.” Wren grabbed Nydia’s arm and pulled her through anyway.
“Yeah, well, deadbolts and a steel door work pretty well on humans. Rabbit skin this time. He’s learning.”
“Why do you say he?” Wren closed the door and looked at the gifts.
“It’s just such a guy thing to do. So, where do we stand on our standings?” Nydia set the rabbit fur on a bookshelf, draping it over some piece of statuary she’d brought with her. “The buildings. That one next to the old factory?”
“That’s the best option so far. But I’m not sure about the other one, either. The one in the mall?” Wren stuck the brown tennis bracelet in her room. Where would she wear something like that?
“Meh. Too mall-y.” It was always a bit surprising when Nydia had opinions. “But at least we have options there.”
“The redhead…” Wren offered it up weakly, knowing it wasn’t going to work.
“The redhead was boring. Come on, the orders he came up with…”
“Were as bad as the creep today, I know.” She sat down in the big, comfy armchair. “I don’t know. I’m beginning to feel like Lady Maureen set us up for failure with these guys.”
“Why would she do that?”
“For a lesson, maybe? Or maybe she really likes one of the last two guys.” She glanced at her notes. “I’m not sure about that one. They’re likable-looking, but so was the snake today.”
“She doesn’t seem like she’d get something like that wrong. And she agreed with our plan.”
“That doesn’t mean that she thinks it will succeed.” The idea was beginning to sound more and more reasonable. Lady Maureen had wanted them to learn something. Maybe Maureen and DJ had gone in on it together. They could find a building that was almost perfect, and that would work out. But to find a boy who would be what they wanted – take them in hand without being overbearing, accept their collar without mooching, and be able to deal with their children without issue – that was beginning to seem impossible.
The phone ring cut across her moping like lightning through a grey sky. She scrambled for it, but Nydia picked it up first.
“Hello? Oh, yes. Yes, tomorrow at three, right. What? Ah, here, why don’t you talk to Wren?” Frowning, she passed the phone over.
“Hello, Miss Watson? This is Erwin Landero; I have an appointment with yourself and Miss Chatelle tomorrow at three? The Lady Maureen made the arrangements.”
“Yes.” She flipped open her appointment book. “Yes, we’re meeting at the Moon Beans Café.”
“I was hoping I could stop by today? I have a small pamphlet I’ve written up, and if you and Miss Chatelle had a chance to read it before we met, it would be wonderful.”
“Well, we won’t divulge our home address, but if you’d like to meet briefly at the Starbucks on the corner of Juniper and Clove, we could be there in forty-five minutes.”
“Thank you very much, and I understand the precautions. I’ll see you there. Juniper and Clove in forty-five minutes.”
“That’s interesting.” She hung up the phone and reached for her coat. “This one will either be a complete scum, or perfect.”
“So we’re taking the long way around the block, then?”
“I think we could use a little walk. And there’s that place on the corner we’ve been thinking about.”
She opened the door while Nydia got her coat. There, bending over to put something on their doormat, was the leanest, most feline-looking man she’d ever seen with a human face. He glanced up at her, dropped the thing – more chocolates – yelped, and ran away.
Wren could swear she saw him go halfway up the wall when he turned the corner.
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