The car ride lasted longer than he thought it ought to, winding through the city and into a neighborhood where there were actual lawns, through a gate they had to buzz through and into the detached garage next to a big house or a small mansion. “All right. No orders on behavior but I’m going to warn you, we do have a cat, she liked jumping on people, and she is often far too sharp.”
“Sir.” Leander raised his eyebrows. “A cat?”
“She’s a very sharp cat.” Mr. MacDiarmad looked far too pleased with himself. “As for the rest, it’s better that you are yourself than that you start out with you or her having any sort of misconceptions. She’ll try to walk all over you if you let her. I’d suggest you try hard not to let her.”
“Sir.” This time he knew he sounded disbelieving. “Sir?”
“I’m serious, Leander. Your job is to protect her life, not to wait on her hand and foot, not to hold her purse, not to help her pick out dresses. But she likes to test limits, and she is definitely going to test yours. Come on, let’s get it over with.”
Get it over with was sounding more and more accurate. Leander got out of the car and waited, hands folded behind his back, for his owner.
Mr. MacDiarmad led him out of the garage and through a long hallway that seemed to be there for the sole purpose of being a hallway. That led out into a wide living room – leather and brown-tones, wood and wide windows opening on a generously large yard. “Sylviane! Come down here!”
Leander braced himself while trying to look like he was completely relaxed. Braced for what, he wasn’t certain – a tantrum? A flying cat?
What he got was a woman running headlong down the stairs at top speed, hair flying everywhere. She was clearly Mr. MacDiarmad’s relative – she had the same skin, the same nose, the same eyes, even the same color hair, although hers was in wild curls.
She was also gorgeous. Leander took a step backwards without realizing it.
“Daaad, I was not busy with anything at all, of course. You can’t just… hello? Dad. You didn’t. Why did you – whatever possessed you – hello.” She ended the last standing directly in front of Leander, one hand reaching out towards his collar.
Leander held very still.
“Sylviane, you don’t have permission to touch him yet, do you?”
Her hands fell to her sides and she looked abashed. “Dad. You seriously – hello, excuse me,” she nodded at Leander and then took her father’s – father’s? – arm and pulled him out of the room.
He could still hear everything she said. He wondered if she knew that.
“You have a man in a collar in the living room, Dad. Where did you find a man in a collar, and why?”
“Well…” From the sounds of things, Mr. MacDiarmad was enjoying himself. “Generally, one wanders to the sort of place where one finds such people and engages in a bit of negotiation and -”
“Father.” She stomped her foot.
“Sylviane, you’re hardly fifteen anymore, and you don’t need to act like it; you’re fooling no-one.”
“Well, you’re not fifteen anymore either! What are you doing, bringing home strays?”
If she accused him of having fleas, Leander was leaving, collar and Owned and orders or no. He eyed the door and wondered how far he could get.
“Not a stray, Sylvanie, a bodyguard.”
“Not this again! Come on, it’s the modern day; I have classes to go to; I have a life. I have a good number of things that having a bodyguard would seriously get in the way of. Send him back. Or if you can’t send him back – because he’s a person, you seriously went and put a collar on someone, what is this, 1503?- then let him go. Find him a job with one of your friends.”
“I didn’t put a collar on him; I bought him. He was already collared, and I think – although I can’t be sure – he’s glad to be out of the situation he was in.”
Leander shifted. He was pretty sure he was glad to be out of the situation he’d been in, but he was becoming less and less sure. Overhearing this discussion was playing havoc with his brain.
“Dad, you can’t just own people. I mean, I know you can Own people, yes, I passed basic Fae 101, but you can’t, just, bully their lives around.”
“He’s here to protect you, Sylvanie.” Something had shifted in Mr. MacDiarmad’s voice.
“I don’t need protection! The world isn’t going to end. I am going to go to college. I’ve got a social life. I do not need-”
“This is the non-negotiable.” Now his voice made Leander stand up straighter.
“It’s only June!”
“Well, then, I’m going to have to hope that you don’t do anything ridiculous for the rest of the year. He is going to be your bodyguard, Sylvanie. But you needn’t worry. He’s going to remain my Kept, at least for now.”
“Well, that’s not really fair to him, is it? I mean, I know like three things about Kept-”
“And that is why he is going to remain my Kept. Because I know more than three things about them. Now. Go out and try to be nice to him. You’re going to be with him for a while.”