Sir Fairenson all but came running out when he saw me trying to flag down a carriage.
“My lady, why didn’t you say anything? Please, let me help you with that.”
“Uh, thank you. And it was just sort of a last minute decision. I’ve been needing some new clothes.”
He stiffened. “Wait here. I’ll arrange an escort and carriage. Please, the master would insist.”
It was the said master who came out instead of Sir Fairenson when the carriage came around, armed with a sword at his hip and a somewhat breathless dimpled smile.
“Lillian! You wouldn’t mind me accompanying you, would you? I have something I need to do in town as well.”
I frown. “In the same part of town as me?” The shops in the square I was used to going to were nice, granted, but I knew for a fact they didn’t dally to the elite.
“The shopping district is the shopping district, isn’t it?”
I narrowed my eyes. “You better not buy me anything.”
He actually looked hurt, and I almost apologized.
“Why would you take such a pleasure from me? And towards my savior?”
“I’m not your savior, I’m your magical bone crusher and protein swapper, which, by the way, I need to check next week.”
His mouth did that familiar twitch it did whenever he found my words humorous. It was the step down from straight out laughing.
“Your choice of words,” he shook his head. “Very well, how about this: there will be times you need to accompany me for safety’s sake, and when that occurs you’re going to need a more appropriate dress than what you’ve been wearing.”
For some reason, that made me think of what Dr. Mustache had said about my dresses and I blushed, wondering if I should ask Roman why he, the self-proclaimed friend, hadn’t said anything about my dresses, even though they’d been well laundered since then.
“And that’ll be expensive,” he said with a sly grin. “More than you have on hand.”
I groaned and ran my hands down my face, pulling on my bottom-lids very unladylike. But then, I didn’t want to appear ladylike to this man. If anything, I’d like to be, like, a dude friend to him.
Actually…that sounded like a great idea. Female-dude friend to the duke didn’t have nearly as many cons as wife of the duke. Ugh, every time I considered this guy romantically liking me made me feel like an arrogant narcissist. It must be all of Gus’s mutterings of ‘love slaves,’ I told him to shut up!
“Fine. One dress.”
“It will need a pair of shoes and accessories.”
“I feel like you’re trying to buy my soul. Oh look, the chains are tightening, where do I sign?”
Another mouth twitch. This one reached his bright green eyes.
He held out a hand to lift me into the carriage.
I took it and settled in, noticing for not the first time that this carriage was the nice one he’d picked us up in. I debated on just how offended his noble senses would be if I took a nap. I was still a little tired from manhandling Gus’s growth yesterday evening. Gal, I couldn’t even begin to guess at their rules. The only noble I’d ever talked to was Roman, and he’d already set up an informal attitude to our time together.
So I went to the old default of just asking him if it would be horribly offensive if I took a nap and he said it was fine with that easy smile of his, so I got a good snooze on those big-a seats. Oh yeah. Carriages beat cars hands down. Unless you can get me an astro van with a bed and curtains in the back, but then there’s the whole possibility of crashing on the freeway going 80 miles per hour…not like I’ve ever done that.
I was carefully shaken awake in front of a fancy store made of white brick and beautifully carved flourishes. The display windows had voluminous dresses that gleamed in the sunlight with satin, silk, and jewels.
I eyed the window as he gave me a hand down out of the carriage.
“You look like you’re looking at a half-rotten carcass rather than a dress,” said Roman. Thankfully his smile was amused, not insulted.
“I’ve never known catching attention to be a good thing,” I said. “And those dresses are practically lit up.”
“Well, where you’ll be wearing these, you’d stand out if you weren’t ‘lit up.’”
“Yes yes, let’s get this over with.”
“Ha ha, I’ve never known a woman to be so depressed at being spoiled.” He held the door open for me. Right and proper gentleman to the last inch.
“That’s because I know this spoiling has strings attached to it. Nothing in the world comes for free.”
Inside, dresses were displayed on headless mannequins against the walls. A lounge area took up the majority of the first room, followed by what I guessed to be a dressing room, but which I soon found out were more rooms of dresses. There was a whole other floor of the building for VIPs, including a dressing room the likes I’d only seen when I went shopping for my wedding dress. It had a pedestal to stand on and three way mirrors from floor to ceiling to see every inch of the dress.
Being reminded of my wedding dampened the temporary uplift in mood at seeing all the pretty stuff.
The staff, looking quite dapper in their matching uniforms, led us upstairs to the couches facing this pedestal with the mirrors. After handing us a catalog, they left to get refreshments. Talk about A+ service. Free food included.
Since Roman wasn’t making a move to, I cautiously pulled the catalog into my lap and opened it. After the third page, the little eight-year-old princess in my heart woke up with a silent squeal. Thankfully, the serious adult part of me kept a tight hold on the reigns with all soberness.
“Is it really that frightening of an idea to owe me?”
I glanced over at Roman, who had his eyes down to the catalog as well. I couldn’t help but notice how thick and long his black lashes were. Seriously, girlish beauty was wasted on him. He was already pretty enough to be dangerous.
“Are you afraid of me?” he asked.