So the circumstances were a bit dodgy, but none more so than the ones that led me there. Besides, I liked his responses the morning after my… engagement. I guess I’ll call it that. I liked it even more so that he’d left me alone throughout the night, proving he was a man of his word.
There had been nothing in my luggage to change into for sleeping, because I had no luggage, not that I was in desperate need for night clothes. Clothes were clothes, and I was accustomed to simply sleeping in my oldest tops and such at home. I was planning to stay in my dress. So when Bremeerson handed me a spare shirt–a rather nice, buttoned, long-sleeved, obviously too expensive for me to wrinkle and drool upon shirt–I promptly refused, saying as much.
“I’d like to look at your legs, and your wearing of my shirt will enable that nicely without me discomforting you too much, I hope.”
“When put that way…”
“I promise to only look.”
Whether my dress or his shirt, there wasn’t much to either, but his shirt wouldn’t smell of sweat and would definitely be more comfortable to lay down in.
“There’s time enough to come to more intimate conclusions.”
Perhaps I would’ve been less accommodating if he was so obviously a leacher or, worse yet, a perv. I wasn’t a golddigger, just someone who wanted a better life… And this man, this successful and unconventionally handsome individual who so obviously held his own, wanted to look at my legs. His request was almost winsome, almost.
So I accepted his shirt and his trailing eyes when I exited the bathroom, again, a bit later.
“Black suits you.”
And that was that. I slept on the chaise unmolested after he retired to his bedroom, at my insistence, mind you. He did offer the bed, but I wasn’t going there yet. In the morning, I woke to the smell of black kafe, much earlier than I was ever used to. Master Shenlen’s day always started much later than my own at home, and I made kafe per his schedule.
“Come eat with me. There’s kafe or cha as you prefer.”
Without thinking, I poured a cup and set it down in front of his plate.
“Thank you, but I’ve already poured my own.”
“Oh, I…” There wasn’t any shame in working hard all your life. So I finished with, “I have my own habits.”
While we ate, we continued our negotiations from the night before. I found that I was a little less stunned. This was, after all, how the economic elite did things. It was significantly better than being poached and sold, especially when he asked about what I would like from our binding.
He added, “I would strive for a contented companionship.”
“Do you have a library?”
My question surprised him a little, I think.
“I, actually, do.”
“May I have access to it?”
“You’ll have access to a great many things–not everything, but most everything. What would you do with my library?”
His brows were eloquent. “Anything in particular?”
“Everything, but to start, commentary on current histories and Amnis law, magiks… and folk tales, please.”
“You value reading, very much, I see.”
I just nodded. If not for books, I would’ve gone mad ages ago.
“Can I add something else?”
“You can ask.”
“Can I work for you?” His brows were very eloquent at my request. “You already have power over me. You’ll have more soon. You might as well be my actual boss. I think I might like that better.”
“I didn’t intend for quite that outcome, but… It would be in your best interest to actively help maintain my profits.”
“Does your assistant have an assistant?”
“No… but he would like one.”
“Would you like to interview me for the position?”
He gave an enigmatic smile and a slight laugh at my question, but I think I knew where his thoughts went just then.
“No. I’ve already done a background check, and our discussions have given me enough insight into your qualifications.”
That morning, the first of many shared over kafe, he extended his hand to shake, saying, “You’ve got the job. I don’t think the Black Feather clan knew who they were sending my way.”
I never considered myself a romantic (or a thrill-seeker) before then, not with the kind of life I led, but there was a look in his eye–one that I wanted repeated, and only directed at me… a soft respect. It was the kind of regard that let my heart know it was going to be in trouble.