Antonio Paravaci smiled pleasantly to the nonplussed Dr. Hannibal Lecter. There was a slight tilt of Lecter’s head to the side and confusion touched his eyes in a world class performance.
“I beg your pardon Mr. Paravaci?”
“You heard me Dr. Lecter.”
“Yes, I did. I must inform you that I have no idea what it is that you speak of.”
“I understand. You don’t want to admit something like this. Understandable, given the circumstances. I’ll give you the option of meeting elsewhere. Actually, no, there is no other option. I shall see you at three o’clock in the afternoon this Monday. Ciao Dr Lecter.” Antonio Paravaci walked away without another word.
Fingertips brushed lightly down Lecter’s spine and he stiffened. Turning swiftly he was met with the warm smile of Anastassia Serdste. Lecter was taken aback. It was rare for anyone to have the ability to startle him, especially Anastassia. He knew her scent. He knew the delicate sounds of her footfalls. Seeing him relax visibly, Anastassia spoke first.
“Hannibal? What is wrong?” The smile faded and turned to a frown.
“We will discuss it when we leave ma Stassi.”
Anastassia nodded gently and threaded her arm through his. “Perhaps it is time for us to leave then?”
The ride home was quiet. They had left the party somewhat earlier than what was preferred by Jael Serdste. Anastassia made her mother feel a bit better by leaving a large donation of funds to the foundation. The two doctors spoke softly on the way back to Anastassia’s home. She puzzled over what happened between Lecter and the young man Antonio Paravaci.
“Is he a threat Hannibal?”
“I am not sure yet. I am positive that he will use the information for blackmail. What sort of blackmail, I do not know.”
“This is not good. I am not sure what to make of Antonio.”
“Nor do I. Alas, it has happened. So, it will be taken care of promptly.”
Anastassia squeezed his hand lightly. She knew that he was concerned. Although, Lecter did not appear to be worried in the least. She found relief in the knowledge that it would be taken care of promptly if Paravaci became an issue.
Lecter returned the squeeze. With a flick of eyes, he looked at his companion. “To paraphrase a friend – it is not a good idea to threaten a man that spends his days thinking of killing.”
They ended the conversation upon reaching Anastassia’s home. Upon arrival, they went their separate ways within. Anastassia needed to place the cello in its proper place. They both changed and met in the kitchen. She was brewing them both large mugs of tea, when Lecter walked in.
“Thank you ma Stassi.”
“Quite welcome.” She smiled gently at him. “Shall we go out onto the balcony and enjoy the tea?”
“With you dressed like that, I should hope it would be the back balcony.” He eyed her clothing choice. All she wore was one of his old dress shirts.
She chuckled softly. “Of course. Indecent exposure is not one of my proclivities Hannibal.”
“Tell me more of these proclivities Dr. Serdste.”
She laughed at him. The sound was warm and welcoming. With a shake of her head, she spoke. “You won’t like me when I am psychoanalyzed Dr. Lecter.”
They laughed together. Lecter stepped closer to her. Setting the mug of tea down, Anastassia reached up to wrap her arms around his neck. Pressed close together, he kissed her lips fondly. “I have spent a small fortune on sleepwear for you over the years and still you procure my cast offs every chance you get.”
Anastassia leaned in and whispered in his ear. “I am comforted by your scent.”
“It is that simple?”
“But of course.”
He shook his head. Lecter’s eyes searched Anastassia’s darker ones. She was nearly as tall as he was and he looked directly into the fathomless depths. This was the only person in the world that he trusted completely. His conscious was turned off to everyone but this single woman. It amazed him in many ways. The simple fact that he could truly care for anyone since his sister was killed astonished him.
“I am worried about you Hannibal.”
“Whatever happened to you at the event has you bothered.”
“I am that easy to read ma Stassi?”
“No. I just know you that well.”
“You shouldn’t worry Anastassia.”
“I will worry. There is nothing you can do about that Hannibal.”
Releasing her, Lecter chuckled softly. They went up the staircase and out onto the back balcony. The view was beautiful. A mixture of city lights and trees that were just started to turn with the oncoming fall filled the horizon. Anastassia sat down in one of the chair. He took the time to set the mug of tea down and went back inside. She puzzled over the abrupt departure and before she could say something he had returned.
A large cashmere throw was taken from the back of her chair in the bedroom; Lecter took the time to cover her with the soft weight. Sitting down next to her, he sipped the tea.
“I do not need you getting chilled.”
Looking out into the night, Anastassia spoke once more. “We have changed Hannibal.”
“In what way ma Stassi?”
“Oh? Please explain.”
“A few years ago, we would never have done this. We would have never sat outside in the middle of the night on the balcony. We might have had sex.” She laughed softly. “But we would have never just sat here because we could.”
Lecter reached over and took her hand in his. Drawing it upwards he kissed the back of her slender hand with warmth and affection. “Our lives changed after the ordeal with Hammerli ma Stassi. I have always trusted you. With every inch of my being I have trusted you, but now that trust has grown deeper. You have proven to me that you are mine in so many ways.” He looked upwards at the night sky, studying the stars. “I have never been as close to any one as I am you Anastassia. I have never been truly able to share my world. With you, I am able.”
Lecter paused and then began again. “Even I need comfort now and again ma Stassi. Apparently you give that to me.” Turning he looked at her. “You are mine Anastassia Nicoletta Serdste. You are mine fully. You are my paradox.”
She nodded. Anastassia pulled her hand from his grasp. Fingers gently splayed against his cheek. A single digit caressed along the sharpness of Lecter’s cheekbone.
“Is that why you looked angered when I kissed Antonio’s cheek after the performance?”
Lecter was startled. “I am surprised with the lighting set up that you could see that.”
“I couldn’t. I could feel it when I returned to you.”
“You never cease to amaze me ma Stassi.”
“I believe it has been said Hannibal that you have the eyes of a mourner and lips that bespoke both cruelty and kindness. I do not recall where the line comes from, but it is so true.”
“Have I ever been cruel to you Anastassia?”
“Good. I would be abhorred to know that you have found cruelty in me.”
“Hannibal, I have known you almost my entire life. I could not think that of you. Everything you do is precise and has meaning. I may not always understand, but I know you are being genuine to yourself.”
“What are you going to do about Antonio?”
“That answer will have to wait until I speak with him again. I do not know his plans so I cannot formulate one of my own in its entirety.”
“Not even a mental outline?”
“He will be disposed of. That is the only outcome I can give you.”
“Will you need my help?”
Lecter turned his head sharply. There was neither nary a sound nor a moment from him in the surprise of her words. Finally a single brow arched high and he spoke. “Are you offering to dispose of him?”
He smiled a secretive smile. Leaning over, Lecter brushed his lips against his companion’s cheek. “I would be proud and privleged to accept your help then ma Stassi.”
Leaving the tea mugs where they sat, Lecter rose. His arm slid beneath Anastassia’s legs and the other behind her back. Lifting her with ease, they exited the night air and went inside.
Their lovemaking lasted into the wee hours of the morning. When Anastassia woke, she was very much in the same position as when she finally drifted off to sleep with dawn breaking through the sky. Nestled in Lecter’s arms, she stretched. His eyes opened ever so slightly to look down upon the woman he held.
“Good morning.” His voice was rough with sleep.
“Good morning Hannibal.”
She kissed him again and rose from the bed. Lecter smiled to himself, enjoying the view of the lovely woman as she walked off to the bathroom. He could hear Anastasia’s morning routine as he lay back against the sheets.
“I will start breakfast if you make the coffee Hannibal.”
“I believe it is a date then ma Stassi.” He rose to follow his own morning routine as Anastassia walked out the door and headed down to the kitchen.
They spoke as breakfast was being made. She started with a warmed grapefruit and orange selection. A butter brown sugar sauce with roasted coconut was added to the citrus fusion. Caviar butter topped fresh toasted bagels was served with ‘ham’ and Gruyère cheese topped waffle tartines.
They ate quietly in the small breakfast nook off the kitchen. The room was quite small. But it was filled with a glorious two person table and a neatly arranged fireplace. It was one of Lecter’s favorite places to relax within Anastassia’s home.
“I am meeting Will Graham for lunch.”
“Oh? Whatever for?”
“The latest case that the FBI has is making Will a bit worse.”
Anastassia looked up, thoughtful. “Will you help him or send him in a different direction?”
“Help. The person that they are looking for is quite rude. He has insulted my work on several occasions.”
Chuckling softly, Anastassia looked positively amused. “In what way did he insult you?”
“He compares himself to me.” Lecter tsk’ed at the notion.
She pursed her lips slightly in thought. “Perhaps invite him here for lunch then Hannibal. The environment is easier to relax in than your office or somewhere in public.”
“What is wrong with my office?”
“There is nothing wrong with it. It is not conducive to relaxation, alas.”
“You make a fine point Anastassia..”
“I will make lunch and then afterwards become scarce so you and Will may take the time you need to discuss this newest fan of yours.”
Pulling the phone from his pocket, Lecter did something that he loathed. He sent a text to Will. It wasn’t much, just a statement to meet at Anastassia’s home. “Done.”
“I believe seared scallop salad, lobster and corn chowder served in bread bowls, and then a dessert of bread pudding with whiskey sauce should suit us for the afternoon meal.”
“None of the meat from our special butcher?”
“No. I need not to eat so much animal protein. Seafood doesn’t bother me at least.”
Lecter nodded. “Is that not a little heavy for the American standard of lunch?”
A little shrug was given. “Fall is upon us and the days are cool. I believe that would be a meal worthy with the chill of this early fall.”
“And you are in need of comfort food.”
She laughed. “Yes, I suppose I do need a bit of comfort food now and again.”
“Very well then, you need to get started then. I shall clear the table.” Leaning closer, Lecter tucked an errant curl back behind her ear before starting the day.