First: Purchased: Negotiation
“Well.” Sylviane cleared her throat. “That is Melody. You okay?”
Leander blinked. “Yeah. Yeah, she’s intense.” He smiled for Sylviane, although it might have been a bit of a weird smile from the way she looked at him. “She’s,” he tried again, “I expected that to go much worse from the way it started.”
“Oh, yeah. She’s like that. She’ll just dive in and then the next thing you know you’re best friends, for like ten minutes or something, and then bang she has something else to do and you do it all over again the next time. I blame Dad.”
“Because he -” Leander wasn’t sure how that sentence was supposed to end.
“Because he has no sense of what a personal assistant is supposed to do, has grand plans that often exceed his reach, and generally likes to come up with things for his people to do that are considered impossible by most sane people. He really is going to run the city in the next ten years. The question is, how many people will have nervous breakdowns in the meantime?”
“You know, as his ‘people’, you’re not filling me with a sense of encouragement or anything here.” He smiled at her, hoping she’d realize he wasn’t actually worried.
Even if he kind of was.
“Come on.” She took his hand and pulled him into a room so full of sunlight that he started to wonder about her Change and her name – sylv- meant some sort of tree thing, right? And here was a table for four in a greenhouse. Or at least in a room so full of glass and plants that it ought to be a greenhouse.
While he was still blinking into the sunlight, she pushed three buttons on the wall – or just tapped the wall; he couldn’t tell – and the room dimmed enough that he could see. “Ricky,” she called out, not shouting, just like she was looking for someone.
A moment later, a man walked out of the kitchen – handsome, dark-skinned, muscular although not so much as Leander, tall but still an inch shorter than Leander, with hazel eyes that, he imagined, would be very distracting if he was at all into men. He glanced at Sylviane.
She appeared not to notice her father had hired some sort of Mediterranean god. With the beauty that Melody was (that Sylviane was!), maybe she was inured to it. “Nyyrikki, this is Leander; my father hired him yesterday to be my bodyguard. Leander, this is Nyyrikki, my father’s chef.”
“Hi, Nyyrikki. Ah, um. Pleased to meet you.” He bowed. Bowing was almost universally considered good.
Nyyrikki chuckled – shit even his chuckle was handsome. Leander was so outclassed here. “Welcome, Leander. Stand up, come on, I’m here to serve you, too.”
No collar. Of course not. Leander settled for putting his hands behind his back and raising his eyebrows in question.
“I cook. I make delicious things for everyone in the household. It’s a small household.” His accent was very very thin, but it was there if Leander listened hard. “So I do a lot of experimenting, but mostly, I enjoy cooking and Mr. MacDiarmad, he doesn’t throw that many parties. So what I do is I feed you.” He looked Leander up and down in a way that seemed like it ought to be somehow insulting but instead was just like he was measuring him for a suit. “I think I feed you a lot, especially if you will be guarding Miss MacDiramad’s -“
“Would someone please call me by name?”
“-Miss Sylvianne’s body. So, breakfast? What will you have?”
“An omelette please, with toast and hashbrowns, toast first, that jam you made last month, please, Ricky.” Sylvianne also had her hands behind her back.
“And she asks me to call her by name,” the chef stage-whispered to Leander. “And yet she calls me Ricky. What about you, Tall Man?”
“What were you saying about names?”
“Ah, but you will earn it. Besides, you are very tall. What will you have for breakfast, Leander?” The challenge was clear. Leander wondered exactly how many fights he was going to get into here and how much Mr. MacDiarmad would put up with.
“I’ll have what she’s having – but half again as much.” He raised his eyebrows again, this time in how’s that for being tall? If that could be an expression.
Damnit, he’d been hoping he’d avoid this sort of jailyard bullshit being a Kept in a proper house.
“Ah, I doubt you can eat that much, but we will see, won’t we? Coming up, then. Sit, sit.”
Sylviane took Leander’s arm. “Here, looks like you want your back to the sun, right?”
“I – Yes.” He let himself be steered and took the seat she put him in as Nyyrikki headed into the kitchen. “So you have clothes now. If you hate them, we’ll go buy something else.”
He blinked at her. “Your – my-“
She smiled at him, an expression so sweet he was surprised it didn’t have literal fangs behind it. (Maybe it did!) “Has he told you, directly, what he wants you to wear? Or, I mean, even that he has an opinion on it at all?”
“No – no, but he doesn’t need to.” He huffed at her. “You know what it’s like.”
“Only what I’ve read and been told,” she admitted. “But I know that there’s an impetus to follow orders.”
“Impetus,” he scoffed. “Force. Imperative. It’s possible – sometimes, barely – to disobey a direct order. Sometimes. Barely. I don’t think I could spend more than a minute more than 40 feet from you without it splitting my head into a screaming migraine, for example. But most of the time, it’s uh. It’s a lot more than an impetus.”
“But that doesn’t cover, uh. Things that aren’t orders. What you wear. What you do that you haven’t been told to. Any of that.” She held up both hands suddenly. “I’m being super nosy, and I know it, and if you don’t want to tell me, I will totally understand and won’t be offended. I just – I want to understand.”
“You should understand.”