There was a chandelier dripping with crystals. And walls with those plaster-formed square frame thingies that served as placeholders for paintings. And red carpet all up the stairs made of dark polished wood. And those weird little side-tables whose sole purpose is to hold rich-ass vases all full of fresh flowers—frick, look at all those candles lighting up this place. It was a pain enough for me to light the candles back home, how do they light so many candles, and all up way stupid high on that massive chandelier? And was that—it was, that was a butler coming at me. Grey-haired and everything, he even had the monocle and—and—
“May I take your coat, milady?”
I was hardly aware of myself slipping off Milly’s coat, because dude, I think the frames on those paintings had gold leaf. And dude, those paintings…they were just landscapes and the like, but I bet they were fancy-ass expensive landscapes! And one was of some round-face chick in a poofy dress looking all regal and crap!
“Everything is so shiny…”
I heard Roman chuckle and his shoes tapping across the floor.
“I hope this doesn’t make you uncomfortable.”
“No, it’s…” I had to pause as I got a closer look at him, coming towards me as he was. “You’re pretty shiny too.”
He raised an amused eyebrow. “Shiny?”
“Nice! I mean nice!”
And he did look ridiculously nice. Thankfully, he hadn’t dressed to the knives like his footman or butler. He wore a simple white shirt with a green vest and black pants that tied at his waist. The only thing shiny about him were his black boots and the emerald brooch on his cravat. And maybe his hair. Such pretty, shiny, wavy hair, all combed perfectly along his part and too the side. Mr. Darcy indeed.
…That made me really uncomfortable.
“Though I got to say, it’s a lot easier to look at you than it is that diamond glory you have hanging up there, or your door guys. I’ve never felt so out of place in my life.” I found myself being a lot more frank and speaking more off my mind because I was so distracted, mostly by his stupidly pretty face. I couldn’t believe I had forgotten just how much of an impact his looks had on me, or that looks could have an impact on me. I’d never been one to care about appearance, but freaking holy crap, if that boy couldn’t brainwash Nazis with those looks I’d eat my own face.
“I assure you, it’s only crystal, not diamond, and I did try to dress in a way that would put you at ease. If there’s anything I can do to make you feel more at home, please let me know.”
I glanced back, but the butler was gone. “You could make sure they don’t throw away my coat.”
He blinked. “Why would they do that?”
“I don’t know, just I figured, having to be around this all the time, they might mistake it for rags…” Hang on, I was sounding really rude. You didn’t just walk in and keep talking about how fancy and rich someone’s house was, even if it was all you could see. “Sorry, where are my manners? Thanks for inviting me, along with the ride and the escort. This is really very kind of you.”
“No need to push yourself on the niceties, my lady. Just talk as you usually would. I assure you, I won’t judge you on such things.”
“I’ll…I’ll try.” Nevermind the fact that being in this entryway in my simple white and lace peasant dress made me feel like all the servants were looking at me like a dog that had just peed on the floor.
Roman held out his hand to me.
“Allow me to escort you to the sitting room. Dinner is not quite yet ready, but I’ve prepared some light vintages, if wine is to your tasting. I was told by a reliable source that you’re not all that fond of alcohol, so I found some very light, sweet beverages I hope are more to your liking. If not, I also have some juices and teas.”
For the first time, I thought I detected a bit of nerves in the way he rambled all that out. Each word was still finely pronounced and the sentences delivered at just the right pace, but there seemed to be just a bit too much unnecessary explanation that he hadn’t been prone to before. Also the hand which delicately held up my fingers as he led me down a hall to the left of the stairs had a minute tremble to them. Recognizing this eased me more than I could say, as it made this being, who had been becoming more and more unreal to me, suddenly human again.
“I wonder if I should be creeped out that you learned my drink preferences,” I said with a light smile.
I didn’t miss the little flinch in his hand, or the slight widening to his green eyes as he looked askance at me.
“It—it wasn’t anything that would infringe on your privacy, I only wanted to be prepared and give you a pleasant experience.”
“Calm down, it’s not such a big deal. It’s just drinks. And it’s not like a secret or anything.” Kind of hard to not get some attention when you work in a medieval joint that serves nothing but mead, ale, and water. In fact, mead, ale, and beer were considered safer to drink than water. And they’d be right. But I would rather run the slight risk of drinking from the spigot in the back than deal with the yeast, vinegar and yuck taste of those drinks. I just couldn’t shake off the impression the smell and taste gave me that I was drinking someone’s underwear.
To further reassure him, I gave his fingers a light squeeze.
“Same goes to you, good sir. Talk as you usually do. Be comfortable. I won’t judge…much.”
His eyes jumped from each of my eyes then down to my smile, which I hoped was playful and friendly rather than insulting. He cleared his throat as he opened the door to the sitting room, which was every bit as extravagant as the hallway, though not on such an awe inspiring scale.
While still large for a room (perhaps I was too use to the little rooms of the inn), it had been made to be a cozy space, with a merry fire in a granite fireplace, warm wood furniture, and heavy moss colored drapes. I couldn’t help but think of the green rooms in theaters and TV stations that were used as a calming room before performers got on stage. My next happiness was being able to sit on a couch. The most comfortable chair in the Red Swallow Inn had been an old, creaky wooden rocking chair that had been passed down through the family. My butt and back were very happy with the squish to the green cushions of his settee.
“I could sit here all week,” I said dreamily as I gazed into the fireplace across a shiny coffee table from me. “Even the rug is soft—oh! What interesting patterns.” And they were, as I was so use to the curves and fleur de lis of the classic Persian rug of my world that I had yet to see and appreciate the culturally new designs of this world. For one, there were a lot more plant and animal designs. This rug in particular had lots of depictions of vines and pines to go with the relaxing green theme of the room.
I wondered if he found my poor-commoner-self amusing amongst all this richness, but when I looked back to read his expression it was carefully mellow and polite, though his eyes held the same warmth the comfortable room had conveyed to me.
“Shall I poor the wine?”
“Unless there’s some sort of ritual before hand that I don’t know of, I don’t see why not.”
“What a curious thought,” he went over to a cabinet—I’m sure there was a fancy word for the holder of pretty glasses and wines—and fetched two delicate crystal goblets. The wine he had been aiming for, however, had been left in a china bowl of sorts amongst some ice. As he got out a cork screw and went to work opening the bottle, I couldn’t help but wonder where his servants were for this. I mean, in all the books of these Darcy-like places the servants did more or less everything, didn’t they? But, looking around, he and I were alone. The door had even been closed.
He handed me a full goblet of a light, peach liquid and I shrugged off my concerns. Who was I to try and guess how the posh folk worked in this world?
“Tell me what you think. I heard it has a almost rosey aroma, like having roses on the tongue.”
I took a sniff—yep. That was alcohol, yeast, and rotten fruit—and took a tentative sip. I took a few more, finding that it did, indeed, taste much better and different from the meads and ales of the inn. Still had that slight vinegar and rotten fruit tinge, but enough of the juice flavor had remained.
“There’s something oddly addictive about the after taste,” I said, before giving him my review of the taste.
He seemed to find my response amusing. “I suppose you are not the type to find refinement in aged tastes. There’s a difference between decay and fermentation.”
“Hey, I already said it’s not bad. I still prefer good old juice, but I could actually enjoy getting drunk off this stuff. Actually never been drunk before. Never saw the appeal to it.”
“You’ve never been drunk?” Why did he seem surprise?
“Surprised since I work with alcohol?”
“Well…yes, I suppose that’s one reason. Though I shouldn’t be surprise if you don’t like the taste of alcohol in general.”
We chatted about light things such as my work and experiences with drunks as I finished the small glass. Despite being assured that the alcohol content was low, I still felt oddly relaxed and bubbly after finishing it, as though invisible bindings around my bones and insides had loosened. It kind of felt like taking off a pair of too-tight pants.
“Huh, so this is why people drink. I feel all relaxed.”
His expression flashed a bit of concern from where he sat next in an armchair adjacent from me. “You’re not feeling light-headed, are you? There shouldn’t be enough to get drunk off only one cup, but, then, if you’ve never drunk…”
“I’ve had alcohol before. In sips. It really isn’t all that bad. The more you drink of it, the more you notice that sweetness.”
“Well, I can send it home with you, though I don’t think it’d be a good idea to give you more.”
“No worries, I wasn’t going to ask. This would be a terrible time and place to experience my first drunken humiliation, no offence.”
“None taken. Though, I hope you know nothing would happen.”
I almost reassured him with my trust, but stopped myself. Had his pretty face and gentle manner made me forget that I hardly knew this guy? Maybe it was the alcohol talking, because reflecting on myself, I realized my original wariness towards his overt attractiveness had dissipated, leaving me soft like putty to its effects. Weird. I never knew a pretty face would make one more willing to please…or make them just want to be in the same room as them. Among other things.
“I kind of miss your old face,” I said without thinking.
2 thoughts on “Raising a Hero–chapter 53”
I get so excited when I get an email saying you updated! 🤩
I loved the new chapter, she is getting to see everything in a new light and he is being so kind and caring towards her. Nothing like her ex husband! But I like how she is beginning to loosen up, but then says she misses his old face…oops! 😳 Guess the wine is talking. What will he say back to her?!?