There were, at the very least, not literal traps between the Solar in the back left of the downstairs and Senga’s room in the middle right of the upstairs, or at least not new ones. Senga found that she was holding Erramun’s hand, and she found that he was holding very firmly to that hand.
She closed the door behind them and locked it. She turned to look at him as he released her hand and dropped to his knees in the middle of her sitting room. “Mistress.” His voice sounded rusty; it hitched in the middle of the word.
“Erramun.” She needed a manual for this. Aunt Mirabella had clearly not seen fit to provide her with all of the things that she needed for this endeavor. If it turned out she wasn’t really dead, Senga was going to have come very stern words with her. Continue reading
“I have to ask again, are you an idiot?”
“You don’t have to be an asshole. I know how Keeping works, you giant shit, so you can back off and just assume I’m not asking or talking about the bond. Obviously you’re protective of her. Obviously you have to obey her. That has nothing to do with the way you’re looking at her right now.” Ezer rolled his eyes and flapped that away with a wave of his hand. “Anyway. There’s a job. It’s a recon, and if you, mister, can listen and follow a plan, then we could use you. If you can’t, then you’re staying back here.”
“You can’t give me orders,” Erramun snarled. Continue reading
“I’m just saying, she knows more than she’s saying.”
Ezer was following Senga and Erramun around the house.
This might have been adorable in a normal case, but since Senga was trying to get a moment or seven alone with Erramun, it was growing a little frustrating.
“And I’m saying, of course she does.” Senga checked the back door to the garden – the one in the Sturdy – and found it, too, locked.
Her cousins were fae. They couldn’t enter a house without an invitation, any more than she could. But that wouldn’t stop them from sending an agent, or a team of them, if they thought it would work.
“What do you mean, of course she does?” Continue reading
Ezer cleared his throat. “How likely is this to interfere with our business?”
“I think,” Senga admitted quietly, “that it’s already doing so. I think that whatever happened with that job the other day, it was probably family-related – my family. I mean, unless you or Allayne have come up with enemies lately that you haven’t told me about.”
“What about Chitter?” Erramun looked between the two of them, ignoring the staff for the moment.
Ezer snorted. “She just makes online enemies. They’d hack the house – one of them made the icemaker spew ice all over the kitchen once – but they don’t generally sink to attempted murder. They think it’s messy and sort of below them, I think.”
“Murder?” Candavish leaned forward. “You’re not speaking of Mirabella.” Continue reading
It took them another fifteen minutes to calm Chitter down that time, during which the tea and coffee – and Chitter’s soda – arrived. The maid bringing the drinks made things either better or much worse by looking Chitter in the eye and apologizing for being late. “I had to feed the moat creature, you see.”
“Moat creature! Moat Creature! Wait…”
Five minutes later, Senga had managed to convince Chitter that there was no invisible moat and no moat creature. Five minutes after that, with Candavish’s amused help, they’d managed to calm her down.
“Honestly. You could have just told me that you were kidding,” she huffed.
“I believe I did. Twelve minutes ago. Although-” Continue reading
It took half an hour to get everyone settled down. When Senga managed to get Candavish and Erramun to stop sizing each other up, got Allayne to stop fussing over the staff’s uniforms, which, it appeared, had a fashion of their own, got Ezer to stop whining and acting like his head was going to explode, and got Chitter to stop looking for trap doors from which the staff could have arrived – all of this while trying to ignore her own pounding heart and the confused twist in her chest – she sat down with a thump in the Casual Lounge.
“I… Okay. Candavish, Mrs. Johnson and Mrs. Collier, please come sit with us. Could, ah, someone get me some coffee? Coffee, everyone?”
Her crew were looking at her like she’d grown a second head. “Okay, Allayne will have black tea with a hint of mint, if we have it. Ezer drinks his coffee with enough cream and sugar to bring it to beige caramel. I drink mine black with one ice cube. Chitter likes soda; if you don’t have that, she’ll have water. Erramun?”
He looked surprised she was asking his opinion. “Black tea,” he managed.
“Black tea. Thank you.”
One of the younger maids – younger than her! – scurried off. Continue reading
It would have been nice to sit there with Erramun for a while — perhaps forever, and certainly at least for a few minutes. Senga knew she was feeling a little raw about the whole mess and she imagined that Erramun was not feeling particularly better. The way he kept on reaching up to touch his neck, the way that he would look sidelong at her as if expecting something — what, she hadn’t figured out yet. Orders? Complaints? — the way he’d reacted when she’d shown him his room…
She couldn’t afford to baby him any more than she could afford to be afraid of him. But still… She waited until he had dropped his hand again and then brushed her fingertips over the marks around his neck. “I think it goes well with you. It looks like you looked the first time I met you—” Continue reading
Erramun shifted on his knees but didn’t stand. He didn’t look at her, didn’t move to touch the ink. He seemed to be staring off into space.
Senga walked around behind him and brushed a feather-light touch over his shoulders.
He twitched and leaned forward, away from her touch. She moved her hands and moved back around in front of him.
His hands had come to clasp behind his back. His eyes looked blank. Senga frowned. “Errmun?”
“Yes, mistress?” His voice was rough and very quiet. He looked like he was holding himself forcibly still.
“Senga,” she corrected. “Erramun, what’s wrong?”
“Everything is fine… mistress.” His shoulders were tight. She wanted to touch him again, but it seemed like it was hurting him. Continue reading
Senga showed Ezer the back staircase for his side of the rooms, made certain Allayne was doing something reasonable and not fighting with anyone, and then, after a couple deep breaths, headed back to what had been her grandmother’s suite with Erramun.
After a brief reconnaissance, Senga opened up the room next to her newly-redecorated bedroom. “It’s not the biggest room, but I think it will hold your things and anything else you want to bring here.” She gestured in. “All yours.”
She was not expecting Erramun to freeze, nor the very slow movement he made towards the room after searching her face for – for something she couldn’t quite guess at. After a moment, he growled quietly. “Three exits.”
“Two. And the windows. That door is a closet…. no, three,” she corrected. “The closet has a stairway up to the attics.”
“Four exits.” He moved slowly into the room, as if trying to keep an eye on her, and opened the windows. They opened – it made a little noise of protest, but her family had always been pretty good at Preserve Workings – as all the second-floor windows did, more than wide enough for his wide shoulders and lanky body.
He left the window open and went to the door on the far side of the room. It opened into, as she had said, a closet. He found the stairway and left that door open as well. Then he paced to the door to the hallway, opened that, and left it open. Continue reading
When they left the master suite – Erramun had redecorated the bedroom into shades black and blue that made it feel much more like a space Senga lived in and had somehow made it smell fresh and aired-out and not at all musty – they found Chitter and Ezer arguing over the other wing of the upstairs.
“Senga!” Ezer called. “Tell Chitter that I need this space to coordinate the three of you on your ridiculous death-defying missions!”
“Senga,” Chitter whined, “tell Ezer that I need all this space for my computers!”
“Guys…” Senga looked between them. “There’s literally two wings of residential space, not counting the servants’ quarters in the back. There is literally room for each of you to have a floor of a wing to yourself. Why do you need this space?”
“The view” they answered as one. Then Ezer added, a little sulkily, “Allayne got the wing below yours. And that’s the next nicest.” Continue reading