Weeks pass, and the girls grow accustomed to their new life at the manor. Lara’s mornings have become routine. Up at dawn, she goes downstairs to the kitchen and finds a white, legal-size envelope full of twenties with a note written in small, neat script instructing her to buy what she needs for the house. Sometimes there would be a short list of things she was to fetch, but usually, she was left to her own devices. Lara would then take a cab into town, pick up what she needed for the day, and come back in time to start breakfast. When Derek came down for his coffee, she would hand the envelope full of receipts and whatever money was not spent over to him. Lara is a very thrifty shopper, and there was always a substantial amount of change left. However, this was probably due more to Mr. Fáelán’s habit of giving her far more than she needed rather than her conservative spending.
Once all that is taken care of, Lara cooks breakfast while Derek reads the paper and drinks his coffee. Shortly after the wolf would sneak in and while Lara’s guard was down he would steal his breakfast from off the counter. He’d then ignore her scoldings and grab a bottle of spirits out of the cabinet and head back upstairs to do whatever it was he did up there. Derek delighted in watching the two of them interact. It seemed the wolf enjoyed this little game as well, for no matter what Lara fixed for his meals he found it necessary to snatch something. The poor girl suspected that he did it just to get a rise out of her. Derek insisted that the wolf just enjoyed her cooking so much that he couldn’t help himself.
“If he likes my cooking so much, why does he feel it necessary to wash it down with that stuff?”Lara snaps at him, frustrated at the wolf for stealing sausages out of the skillet before she had a chance to serve them to the rest of the house.
Derek gives her a good-natured smile and shrugs, “He enjoys good food and good drink? I wish I could give you more insight, but this is fairly new behavior for him. He usually turns his nose up at anything we make him.”
Lara furiously scours the dirty skillet in the sink and ask,“ What on earth did he eat, then? You had to feed him something.”
Derek goes back to reading his paper, “I assumed he ate whatever the old man ate.”
She sets the now-clean skillet on the drying rack and starts on the next dish, “Speaking of which, should I bring up Mr. Fáelán’s meals? I don’t think I’ve ever seen him come down to eat.”
“I wouldn’t trouble yourself. Our boss is more than capable of tending to his own needs. If it will make you feel better, I’ll bring him up a plate when I turn this into him,” he tells her, waving the envelope of change in front of her.
“I could do that for you if you like. I know you and Dimitri are busy. I don’t mind-”
Derek shoves the envelope into his back pocket and says, “Never too busy to talk to the old man. Gives me a chance to pester him about introducing himself to you two. Honestly, he takes the trouble to sneak down to leave money for you in the middle of the night, when he could just come down in the morning and hand it to you like a normal person. I hope you will forgive our antisocial employer.”
Lara drys her hands and sits down across from him at the table to sip her coffee, “Forgive him? He hasn’t done anything wrong, except maybe giving me far too much spending money. Makes me nervous having that much cash on me. Not that I’m complaining, I’m happy he trust me enough to do the household shopping. Still, two hundred a day is a little much for feeding five people.”
Derek swallows his bite of toast, “And one giant dog. With him around, it’s more like feeding eight. I get your point, though. I’ll go over your past receipts with him later today to see if we can’t work out a better budget for your grocery shopping.”
She glances up at him from the brim of her mug, “I could help with that if-”
He gives her a knowing smirk, blue eyes twinkling impishly, and sipping his coffee.
Lara shyly looks down at her breakfast. Damn, I guess I pushed that too far.
“Sorry, I know I’m overstepping myself here. It just seems strange that we haven’t met him yet. Is he well?”
Derek’s smirk wavers as he stares at her, seemingly lost for words. Giving himself a moment, he clears his throat and says, “For the most part, yes. He does have a condition that keeps him isolated for a great deal of time. Nothing catching, so you needn’t worry about you or your sister.”
She set her mug down with a clink, splashing a few drops of warm coffee onto the table, “I’m less worried about that than I am about his health. If he keeps himself locked away how are his needs being met? Is he getting enough rest? Nourishment? Medical care? Anything?”
Derek laughs at the frantic girl and says, “Calm down, Lara. Mr. Fáelán has lived with his condition for a while now. He is more than capable of taking care of himself.”
He thanks her for breakfast and goes down to the basement with a plate of sausage and toast for Dimitri. Another mystery the sisters have pondered over, what could those two possibly be doing down there all day. If Derek wasn’t upstairs talking with Mr. Fáelán, he was cooped up in the library or down with the mad scientist in the basement. Derek usually only came out for meals, which he would then bring down to Dimitri, who seemed to be in the habit of forgetting to eat.
Most of the time the sisters could hear strange, mechanical sounds coming from the basement. Occasionally, they would see lights flickering from underneath the door, or smell peculiar odors. Tara would try to find ways to trick Derek into giving away what it was they were working on. He would just give her his best Cheshire cat smile and tell her not to worry about it.
He had the same answer for Lara any time she inquired about their employer. And she would try to keep her mind off him. She would busy herself with cooking and cleaning and other chores around the house. There was never a shortage of things for her to do. But no matter what Lara couldn’t shake the feeling that there was something very odd about the house and its owner. She found herself lying awake at night listening to the pacing footsteps above her bed and worrying about what he could be doing up there. It seemed she did a lot of that lately, worrying.
Later that night, Lara finds herself once again unable to sleep. The light of a full moon shines brightly through the curtains of her bay window, casting eerie shadows over her room. The pacing upstairs tonight is more frantic than normal. A steady drumming heartbeat instead of the usual soft thumps. Unable to contain herself any longer, Lara whips her covers off and tip-toes out of her room and down the hall. She stops at the foot of the stairs leading up to the third floor and listens. Straining her ears, Lara could just make out her employer’s monotonous footfalls.
Enough is enough. Just because he can’t sleep doesn’t give him the right to keep everyone else up. She gathers up her nerves and tip-toes up the stairs.
Letting out a long breath she didn’t realize she had been holding, Lara counts to three then gives a light rap on the door. The footsteps paused for a moment, then she can hear them walk towards her. She waits to see if the door will open, but after a few minutes of silence on the other end, Lara gives the door another light rap.
Clearing her throat she asks, “Mr. Fáelán? Is everything alright?”
Nothing. She listens to the silence ringing in her ears for a moment before tip-toeing back to her room, a feeling of unease washing over her.
The wolf could smell her from under the door, a mixture of dish soap and shampoo, along with her unique scent, warm vanilla and honey. He found the scent captivating, and that troubled him. He did not care for the scent of most humans, finding them to be too strong and artificial. Too much cheap perfume trying to cover up a sour, musky smell. He found her scent to be light and sweet, and it made his heart race.
The sound of her voice had a similar effect on him. It was soft, yet clear, and no matter how excited or upset she got it never became shrill, to which he was thankful for. High pitch, shrill noises caused his ears to ring painfully, making his head tilt in an annoying way that humans seemed to find cute. He never had that problem when she spoke. The problem was he caught himself hunting for her scent, or listening for the sound of her voice. He would stop whatever he was doing just to watch her. The other morning he heard her humming in the kitchen and he spent the next half hour watching her from the doorway while she swept. The young woman was practically dancing with the broom, humming a song he had never heard before. For a moment he wondered what it would be like to dance with her.
Being around her made him feel things. Things he had not felt in a long time. Things he knew he had no right to feel. Hell, he even stole food off the counter just so he could provoke her. She was after all kind of cute when she was pissed. Although he found he liked her smile more. Sometimes she would catch him watching her and she would smile down at him, occasionally stroking the fur on his head and face. He found that he enjoyed the way her fingers ran through his fur, finding the sweet spot just behind his ear. Unable to help himself, he would lean into her hand, eyes closed. It took every ounce of self-control he had not to moan with pleasure at her touch. And now she is at his door-
No, he needed to stop this! He couldn’t afford any distractions now, no matter how pretty or good smelling. He knew that he should avoid her, all of them really, as much as possible, but he couldn’t help being curious about the two outsiders who have made his home theirs. Especially her. She was the only one of the two that wasn’t afraid of him. She seemed just as curious about him as he was of her. Perhaps even more so, which could be a problem. If she were to see too much. If she were to discover-
No, it was better to avoid her entirely.
That morning when he came downstairs he wolfed down his breakfast, grabbed a bottle of spirits, and slunk back upstairs before Derek or the maid had a chance to say their good mornings. No stealing food off the counter, no eye contact, progress. He still caught a whiff of her scent, but that was unavoidable. At least he didn’t linger around like a lovesick pup. See, progress.
The booze kept him somewhat functional during the day. Due to his high metabolism, alcohol burned out of his system almost as soon as it was consumed, but if he drank enough of the good stuff he could dull his usually heightened senses for a while. At the very least he should be able to get a few hours of work done without hearing Dimitri tinkering in the basement.
After his drink, he shifted, showered, got dressed, and went to work. He went through his mail, checked today’s paper for any property listings of interest, signed rent checks that he would send with Derek to take to the bank later, made calls to his stockbroker and leasing office. The usual morning routine. It was boring, but at least it was normal, something in short supply around here.
Once his normal work was done, he turns his attention to his real work. Reading over the research Derek had done for him he finds that most of it is junk, but he took note of a few promising leads. Based on these he pulls out old maps of the area and begins to circle spots of interest. Once the sun sets, he would call Liam and have him check them out. He would have to make an order for fresh blood for him tonight, the vamp didn’t work for free after all.
That meant going into town. He groaned at the thought. Jedidiah hated going into town. All the sounds and smells put him on edge, but it was necessary at times to make an appearance. He couldn’t let his non-human residents forget who’s territory they where graciously being allowed to stay in, could he? Contentment leads to complacency, a dangerous thing when it comes to monsters and fae. It usually leads to them doing something stupid. Sometimes stupid enough to get noticed by the human inhabitants of this town.
Something stupid like a werewolf hiring two human women as live-in maids?
He leans his head back in his office chair, rubbing his face with his palms. He still couldn’t figure out how he let Derek talk him into that one. Although, he had to admit that the older maid’s cooking was a vast improvement over the bad take-out they usually had. And the place was looking a lot better, more like how it did when he first moved in. He just hoped that hiring these two didn’t bite him in the ass later.
Reaching into the small filing cabinet by his desk, Jedidiah pulls out a manila folder marked DuBois and begins to thumb through it. Liam had been able to find quite a bit of information on the girls for him. More than Jedidiah thought he would have. Lara and Tara DuBois, the only children of Sara DuBois. Father unknown. Lara is the oldest of the sisters at twenty-two, Tara being just a year younger. Lived in this town since birth, except for two years in their early childhood when they lived with their aunt Clara DuBois in Colmar, France while their mother was in rehab. Moved back when their mother won legal custody of them. Neither girl has had contact with their aunt since they left France. Both girls had been attending classes at the community college nearby until three months ago when they suddenly dropped out for family reasons. Both had high GPAs and were model students while in school. Tara is the songwriter and musician for an underground goth band Luna’s Lunatics, which seems to have a bit of a fan base in town. No criminal record on either of them. No known supernatural ties.
It wasn’t everything he wanted to know, but it was a start. He would have to find out the rest on his own. He could ask Derek since he seemed to be close to the two newcomers. However, the author was surprisingly tight-lipped when it came to divulging the secrets of others, a trait he normally valued in the man. And unless the two happened to be related to Tesla or were in fact automatons, Dimitri would have no interest in their private lives. He could have Angelus pry into their thoughts, but that tended to leave behind some psychological scarring. No, if he was to learn more, he would have to bite the bullet and be sociable. Not something he was keen on doing just yet. At least not during the full moon. For the next two days, he planned to have as little contact with the two maids as possible. His curiosity would have to wait until after then.
Jedidiah looks down at his watch. Seven forty-five. The sun has just set, time to head into town. He groans and reluctantly gets up from his desk. Grabbing his long wool coat and fedora from the rack by his door, he slides a panel free from an inner wall in his study and goes inside. Using this secret passage allowed him to travel through his home unseen, which is just what he wanted right now. He didn’t have the patience for questions tonight.