It was me who finally broke the silence.
“I’m so sorry about Gus,” I said.
“No, it is fine. I understand. Though there are two doors going in and out of the servants room. You can just lock the one that connects your rooms. I did mention that to him, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did.” I was blushing again and had to put my teacup down to hide my face. “Ugh, I could strangle him right now.”
“Rest assured, I don’t, um, suppose anything of that. I do know your relationship.”
I sighed. “I’ve never met a teenager so insistent on being treated like an adult.”
“That aside, even if he doesn’t see you as a mother, a relationship between master and apprentice doesn’t allow such, um, romantic possibilities?”
I didn’t want to talk about this anymore. I didn’t want to think about it either. So I fell into another round of thanks to Roman, which he brushed off with the same well-bred grace and a reminder of how thankful he was, as well as how happy he was to have me working at the estate.
“You could have a lot more power and prestige as a saintess, and yet you know the real price of such. I admire that wisdom, Miss Lilian.”
“Wisdom? More like anti-social, baby-hungry rebel.”
His hand flinched, spilling a bit of tea. “Pardon, I’m not familiar with, uh, baby-hungry? Is that what I…?”
Ugh. Now who was the one not thinking before they speak?
“I’m sorry, I have no idea how to talk to a noble, so I’m just letting whatever roll out, that’s really rude of me. If you could lend me a book on it I’ll clean up right away.”
“No! No, I appreciate your candidness. People have tip-toed around me all my life due to my malformation and birth, not to mention there is no one’s thoughts I want to know more than yours. And if you don’t want to deal with the intricacies of socializing, I’m more than happy to oblige. It’s not like you need to say all the niceties to heal colds and broken bones–though that doesn’t mean you aren’t kind, or that I don’t think you’re kind, miss. Not that at all!”
“Calm down, chief. I don’t offend that easily.”
Thank heavens he seemed to believe me and relax, because his getting all tense made me tense, and I’d had enough of that for the day.
“Let it stand that I like the way you talk. If nothing else, it puts me at ease and let’s me feel like I can be candid to. It’s a very freeing sensation.”
“Alright then, but if someone sticks a knife in my gut for not calling you ‘your highness’ or whatever the paltry refer to you by, it’s your fault.”
I hoped he remembered that note. I was lucky that, up unto this point, I’d only met a few of his knights and the butler, who all seemed to follow his lead when it came to how to react to me. But there’d always be someone with a stick up their butt to defend their master’s honor—I mean, take the situation the wrong way…misconceptions and all that. I’m not slamming on the master-servant relationship or hierarchies in general, that’d be super supremist of me, or is it racist?
“I’ll have you know,” I added as an afterthought. “I know there is an important purpose to those ‘niceties’ you speak of. In a world where an offence can mean life or death, or the frustration of getting your work done, having an overly-polite way of doing things makes sense, and is necessary, even.”
He gave me an odd look over the tea cake he had just picked up.
“Are you certain you weren’t something akin to a noble before?”
“Positive. Very common place. Just had a decent education that helped me to think outside my own shoes.”
“What kind of education? I’ve been meaning to ask, though I’ve let the tutors know to be ready for anything.”
In that way, I found myself talking late past the evening and into the night with him, with equal surprise and fascination on both our sides as I heard about what was taught here and he heard about what I learned back home.
Either or, I was more the happy that my new boss already understood that I had little interest in being social or being popular. I wanted to do my job, raise the hero, then get back to being more or less dead, thank you very much.
At some lengths, the clock in his office (an interesting specimen that had 14 hours on it instead of the 12 I was use to back on earth, and those in the common quarters didn’t usually have clocks of their own) chimed a late hour and Roman offered to escort me to my room, in the case I didn’t remember my way…which I couldn’t for sure say that I did, so yet another thing I was grateful for.
“You know, you’re very easy to get alone with. Smart, friendly. I’d be happy to never know of any skeletons in your closet just to keep this.”
He gave me an odd look, his mouth opening, closing, then sort of wiggling, as he tried to figure out just how to react to that.
“Like bad things about you that you keep hidden. For example, if you had a bunch of hidden children with your maids or—“
“Heavens no! How could you—“
“It was an example, calm your—calm down.” Best not to tell him to calm his tits. “Sorry, what I’m saying is that the time I’ve spent with you so far has been very pleasant and I’m okay ignoring anything that would make it otherwise. I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to give you a heart attack.” I paused, not quite burying a mischievous smirk. “Unless you do have a passel of illegitimate maid children?”
He saw the humor in my gaze and, thankfully, understood the joke this time and gave a wry sigh.
“And wouldn’t I be happy if I had? Alas, my condition has made me both single publically and privately, even for one night flings.” As we reached the top of the stairs and turned down a hall, just as lavishly decorated as the rest of the mansion, he tried to mirror my playful smirk, though the flushing about his cheeks ruined it a bit. “Have you ever been such an illicit maid?”
“Never been a maid,” I said. “And only the one bastard of a husband. I was very serious about my dating, no playing around, no fun. I wanted to marry the right guy and build my dream family.” I snorted, suddenly not in such a playful mood anymore. “That worked out splendidly.”
I must have made it too awkward to say anything after that, because he didn’t speak again until we’d made it to outside my door, and that was because Gus as sitting there like a creep, waiting for me.
“You know how creepy that is?” I said to him immediately.
He scrambled to his feet. “I wanted to apologize.”
“And you couldn’t have just found us to do that?”
He looked down at his feet. “I-I didn’t know if I could ask—look, I just want to apologize because I realized how what I said could be, uh, taken wrong.” He looked at me, then at the duke, to which he bowed with the first sign of proper respect outside of Hal I’d seen yet. “I swear, your highness, she isn’t that type of person, and I—I just said that because I’ve—I was presumptuous.”
“Your apology is noted,” said the duke, in a stiff tone I had never heard him use up till now. “But it was your master whom you humiliated, not me. If she had been such a woman, I wouldn’t have hired her to begin with.”
…Huh. Wonder if that meant anything. I mean, other than ‘I don’t hire pedos.’ I wouldn’t hire pedos either. You know.
So I got the awkward experience of Gus bowing to me and asking me forgiveness, ears bright as strawberries.
“Nope. Nope. I am not doing this so late at night, get your creepy hide back to bed, we’ll have a proper fight over it in the morning.”
“I’m not going to fight with you over it, I already said I get it.”
“Then ‘get it’ by going to bed—wait, hold on.” I yanked him back just as he was turning and smacked a kiss on his fluffy, belligerent head. “Good night, baby.”
His face became red for a whole other reason. Half-bridled fury lit in his eyes, while his mouth twisted with something like chagrin. Scratching at his scalp angrily, as though to thoroughly dispose of the kiss in question, he gave a grunt and stomped down to his door—the one that connected the servant’s room to the hallway. I was kind of surprised he didn’t slam it shut after him.
I chuckled low, like the evil villain I was.
“Revenge is sweet.” I turned and, on a whim, gave my best attempt at a curtsy. “Good night, Roman. If I can call you that.”
As I looked up to see his response, I found his features softened with his smile, and found myself wishing I hadn’t looked. If he was mind-buzzingly beautiful without even trying, smiles just made him unholy.
“I look forward to our friendship,” he gave a small bow, keeping his eyes on me. “And only if I am allowed to call you Lillian.”
“You could call me ‘hey you’ for all I care.”
He chuckled. He was an easy-to-laugh bloke, this one. That or I was just that funny to him.
“Good night, Lillian.”