A good while later, Shelly reentered Raivas office, clearly in a good mood and humming to herself.

”How did the captain find his lodgings? ” Raiva asked teasingly, as Shelly gathered the tableware from the coffee table.

”Oh, Sir Griffin was very pleased Id say, even though there was barely anything in it! I told him I would give the movers a good scolding, but he just said that this is all there was to move! Could you imagine? ” she started in exasperation. ”And then I told him I would find him some furniture and fabrics, at a good price, too, you know I always know someone or other, I definitely have a few favors lined up. But to that too, he said no! I can figure out if he was being shy or polite, but he must see reason sooner or later, don you think? One really can relax like that. ”

Raiva was trying to imagine Captain Griffin being shy or polite, and had a hard time sticking any of those descriptors to the man.

/I mean, good natured, I think, but polite? Shy? Curt and taciturn more like.

”But really, my lady, what a handsome young man, so proper and polite, ” she finished her recounting of guiding the man to his room.

”Young? Im not sure, of course, but isn he 40 or thereabouts? ”

”38, my lady, ” Shelly replied matter-of-factly.

”You did -not- just up and ask the man his age! ” Raiva was shocked at her boldness, and took a step back, mouth agape.

Before she could get a response out from her, however, she scuttled out of the room in an almost childlike manner, so as not to be confronted further.

”Shelly! ”

Raiva merrily took up the chase but made it no further than the dining room, when the door bell announced the third residents arrival. She stopped, looked back towards the entrance and back at Shelly, disappearing around a corner.

”Ill answer, ” she called out, shaking her head with a chuckle.

When Raiva opened the door, she stood face to face with one the the most beautiful men she had ever seen.

He was younger than her, by a good few years at least, a little taller, and had a boyish air about him despite a decidedly elegant appearance. His waist length golden blond hair was assembled in a simple braid, tied with a sea foam colored ribbon that matched the details on his light cotton suit. The bright blue eyes looking back at her, were almost cat like, both in their slight upturnedness, and in how they were in observing her closely. Strangely, he seemed familiar.

”Good afternoon, sir. May I help you? ”

”Good afternoon miss. I am Victor, a tenant moving in today, ” he bowed his head lightly and gestured to the two men behind him, which she had somehow failed to notice, arms crammed full of bags and boxes.


”Of course. I am Raiva, -madam- of this boarding house. Its nice to meet you, please come in, ” she responded with an equally light lowering of the head. She said in a clear voice over her shoulder, ”Shelly, would you show these gentlemen to sir Victors lodging? ”

The four moved in through the doors, the two accompanying men waiting in the entrance, while Victor followed Raiva to the sitting room.

”Im sorry, sir, was there something else you needed? ”

”Yes madam, I wanted to apologize for not showing appropriate courtesy, ” he fell to his knee and carefully clasped her hand in a practiced manner, before giving it a polite peck. In that exact moment, Shelly flitted by the two, glanced over with her eyes wide open, but decided the poor overburdened men in the entrance took priority at the moment.

”I am Victor, and most glad to meet you. I have heard of your beauty in the rumors, and I must assure you that they can barely encapsulate your charm. ”

/So he really is that Victor, I see.

”And your reputation precedes you, sir Victor. I am flattered, but please get up. I am of no standing to receive your courtesy, as you probably know. ”

She was, indeed, aware of his reputation and popularity with the upper echelons of society as a ”professional companion ”. Not that this bothered her in any capacity, but right now she did not have the energy to skirt around polite advances by a charming youth, who was used to eating widows and widowers for breakfast.

/I can see how his attentions could be a comfort for most. Who wouldn want to be charmed by a beautiful young man after all, to help ease the hurt a little?

”If it isn too much of a bother, would you spare me a moment of your time? ” he asked, carefully running his hand along his braid, as though he were nervous, though he of course wasn .

”Of course, ” she replied, inwardly rolling her eyes at his little maneuver. ”This way, please. ”

For the third time today, Raiva was having a sit-down with a new tenant in her office.

/This is beginning to feel silly.

Sitting with his leg politely crossed in the opposite armchair, with the afternoon sun reflecting gently off of his golden hair, he really did look like a supernatural being.

/I wonder how he gets his skin to look so even despite being this fair skinned?

Victor clearly took her attention as a positive sign to continue his polite advances.

”I don mean to be too direct, madam, but haven we met before? ”

”Yes, ” she tilted her head, trying to remember the exact time. ”A number of years ago, at a small garden party, I believe. I think I recall overly lavendered macaroons. ”

He lit up into a smile, relieved that she recalled it.

”Thats what it was! At Sir Walters vernal equinox party! It was a terribly cold spring that year too, but he had just completed his greenhouse extension, I seem to recall. Im embarrassed to say, but I simply couldn place it. I don know how I could ever forget such clear, peridot eyes. ”

She chuckled in response, ”Wouldn one usually say emerald or jade when trying to flatter someone? ”

”If it were flattery, and they were susceptible to comparisons to expensive things? Naturally, ” he raised his hands nonchalantly. ”But either way emerald and jade are not uncommon hues for green eyes, and I am quite serious, madam. ”

He leaned closer to her until she could see that his eyes were the color of cornflowers.

/The flower of young lovers. Very comme il faut for a man like Victor.

”Yes, ” he said in a low voice, almost a whisper. ”Definitely peridot. ”

Her heart fluttered for a second, and she noticed she had begun to hold in her breath. Composing herself, she adjusted her sitting position, and put her hand against her temple.

”Tell me, sir Victor, ” her fatigue creeping into her voice. ”I hope I don sound to rude, when I ask this, but… Do you make it a habit of trying to beguile all your landladies or should I count myself as special among them? ”

He burst into laughter, the surprised, explosive kind. Holding onto the armrest he used his other hand to wipe a single tear from his eye as he wound down.

”Im… ” he regained his breath for a moment. ”Im sorry, madam, I did not remember you being -this- direct. ”

”It has been a long few years, after all. ”

/And you would have been all of, what, 19?

His smile faltered.

”Yes. And Im sorry for my late condolences, ” he bowed his head in apology and commiseration.

”Thank you, sir Victor. Now, if that was all, ” she began rising from her seat, weary of this interaction.

He jumped up, and interjected, ”Actually, if I may. ”

She was surprised by his sudden movement and remained, where she was, looking at him curiously.

”This was my intention from the beginning, but I became all sidetracked, Im afraid. ”

He was carefully rummaging in his coat pocket, only adding to her growing confusion.

”I couldn help myself, seeing your beautiful hair in such disarray, ” he went on, pulling an entertainingly small brush out, along with a yellow ribbon.

Initially she felt a bit offended by the insinuation, but when she moved to touch her hastily pinned hair, she realized he was right. Her hairpin had half fallen out and her locks very slowly falling from the loosening bun.

She was about to excuse herself to fix it by herself, when he continued with a polite smile, ”If I may? ”

”I… what? Why? ” she blurted out in surprise.

”It seems it has been a long day, madam, and I would like to give you a moment of respite in your clearly busy day. ”

While he was evidently still being coy, she was inclined to let it be this once.

/I really shouldn . Im only inviting trouble if I let him, I can feel it.

She briefly tried to remember the last time someone had brushed her hair, and she couldn quite pinpoint it.

/Was it Maria? Or maybe Kassandra? Did I even let them after the accident?

She was torn, knowing she shouldn , but longing for the feeling.

/Oh, but I love getting my hair brushed

Today had worn her down, and she was getting impulsive, prone to seeking out comfort.

/How sly, finding my weak spot so soon.

”Well then, if your offer is genuine I will gladly accept, ” she capitulated. ”I am in your hands. ”

His smile had gotten bigger at seeing her tormented by the offer, but opted not to say anything, lest she take back the acceptance. He was confident in making others relax, and making normal interactions feel strangely intimate. This time was no exception, of course.

She leaned back in her chair and looked at their vague reflection in the glass cabinet behind the chair Victor had occupied.

He was standing behind her, carefully pulling out the hairpin and tucking it away in his pocket, letting her hair fall down over the back of the chair. Gently brushing against her neck to gather up all the strands, sending a shiver down her spine. Slowly running his fingers through her hair to separate any loose knots, starting at bottom and making their way up, having her locks tug slightly and occasionally making her instinctively lift her head a little.

Her breathing was oddly becoming unsteady, and her cheeks felt as if they were reddening. A sound was trying to escape her, but she refused to give in to it. She tried to think of something to say.

”Was this really your intention from the beginning? ” she asked, observing his reflection.

Without stopping, he replied, ”I make it a habit not to lie, madam. ”

His reflection was smiling, head tilted.

”Is it such an odd thing to do? ”

”Im afraid so, ” she replied with an accidental chortle.

/No man has ever asked to brush my hair, no matter how pretty or messy they found it.

He laughed airily and responded, ”A stain upon my reputation then. ”

”No more than a tinge perhaps, ” she muttered reflexively, getting somewhat lost in the sensation of Victor brushing her hair. The funny little pocket brush was clearly of high quality, never once getting stuck in the little knots her hair was prone to creating.

Her eyes had closed without her knowing, when he suddenly leaned in by her ear and murmured, ”Would you mind if I rearrange it a little? ”

She was startled enough to let out a small, ”Ah, ” immediately covering her mouth with her hand.

”No, feel free, ” she managed to answer, before her face flushed from embarrassment.

/Very composed, Raiva, good job.

She already regretted accepting the initial offer, but couldn get herself to make Victor stop.

Despite not making a sound in return, she saw him grinning in the reflection.

Already on edge, she almost shrieked when he ”accidentally ” tickled her ears to gather those parts of her hair, and to brush the remaining parts downward. Her breathing was getting heavier, and she had unintentionally been clenching her hands tightly in an attempt to control it. She started counting her breaths and focusing on the tapping of her fingers in her lap. The heat in her face lessened, and her began to steady.

Finally he completed a series of adept twists, and secured the half updo with the yellow ribbon from his pocket.

”All done, madam, ” Victor stepped away and returned to her field of vision. ”Then, I will excuse myself for the time being. ”

He bowed politely with a mischievous smile, then turned around and left the office, closing the door behind him.

Raiva blinked a few times, processing the situation.


She covered her face with her hands, and groaned, for the second time today.

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