Elsabet’s gaze was unrelenting. After what seemed an excruciatingly long moment, she gestured to the other petite woman. “Well, introduce me to the lady! Have you lost all manners?”
“Oh, hell!” Rhyers swore. “Sorry, Els.”
She gave him a dirty look.
Enjoying tormenting him.
“In my defense,” Rhyers objected. “she’s barely a lady.”
Ebony gasped in outrage. Eyes narrowing as she walked threateningly toward him.
Elsabet stepped from her path to allow her to chastise Rhyers who was beaming like a fox in the henhouse.
Quite proud of his mischief.
But upon seeing Elsabet move from the dark-haired woman’s trajectory, his face withered into a frown. “Elsabet this is Ebony Marshall. She is a sist-the sister of my former-of my friend.”
“You’re close then?” Elsabet asked dryly.
“Yes!” Ebony declared. Catching his sleeve and pulling him closer to her side. “Right, Bodin?”
“Bodin?” Elsabet lifted a brow.
“My middle name. She seems dead set on calling me by it instead of by my real name.”
“I don’t even know what your real name is.” Elsabet murmured. Assuaging Ebony’s malcontent.
Not accidentally. Bast knew her well enough to see the small kindness for what it was.
“Christophe.” Rhyers educated her.
“Come, girl.” Elsabet crooked a finger at the raven-haired beauty.
Ebony’s eyes narrowed but she fearlessly walked to the other woman.
Elsabet caught her arm in a biting grip. “You’ve a good man there.” She whispered. “Take care of him.”
Ebony’s eyes widened, but seeing the woman posed no threat, her face softened in a smile. “I do! But he won’t even dance with me.”
“Ah,” Elsabet nodded. “that we must rectify. Come.” She caught Ebony by the elbow and drug her back to Rhyers. “If you’ve no wish to dance with this beauty we must indeed find someone who will.”
All Rhyers’ humor abruptly vanished.
“Fine! If we must.” He groaned. Holding out his hand and looking away as though he couldn’t bear to see her take his offer.
Teasing her. Bast recognized. He does have great affection for her.
Certainly, enough he was unwilling to let anyone else dance with her.
“Bodin!” She cried. “Cease being a jackanape and dance with me.” Ebony pouted.
“A jackanape?” He feigned affront. Leading her onto the dancefloor. His other hand draped over his heart dramatically. “I’ve never heard such language! And from a lady, no less!”
Antagonizing her now?
“Now I’m a lady?” She stomped a slippered foot.
“So they say.” Rhyers gave her a sideways glance.
He chuckled. Pulling her in for a dance.
She promptly stood atop his feet and gave him a long look. “Keep teasing me,” She warned before she whispered something in his ear.
Clearing his throat, he abruptly caught her by the waist and set her on her own feet to commence dancing with her. Quietly.
It must’ve been an impactful threat. It was highly effective. Bast watched. Eyes dancing.
“You do truly enjoy meddling in their lives, don’t you?” Elsabet’s voice pulled him from his reverie.
“Me?” He shook his head in shock before pointing in her face. “’Twas you that meddled. I merely watched.”
“But you enjoyed every moment.”
“I did.” He pulled her a step sideways to begin dancing with her again.
“May I cut in?” A booming voice asked.
Elsabet looked up. “Mardichi?”
“Be my guest.” Bast bowed out.
The barbarian towered over her. Delicately taking her hands. But moving surprisingly graceful.
For a tree. Bast shamelessly eavesdropped.
“Have you met my daughter?”
“Daughter!” She cried. Covering her mouth. Eyes huge. “You’ve a daughter? I didn’t-”
“Nor did I.” He growled.
“I’d love to meet her.”
“Liasa!” Mardichi called. Summoning the tiny redhead that’d begged Bast for sweet bread earlier.
She skipped over. Crumbs still lingering on her cheeks.
Spotting them, Mardichi frowned. “Sweet bread?”
She flushed and her finger lifted to point to Bast.
But Elsabet crouching to see her, interrupted Mardichi’s thoughts. “My name is Els.”
“Hello, Els.” She said sheepishly. Dimples appearing in her round cheeks.
“Did I hear you know where the sweet bread is?”
“I do!” Her eyes were huge with the hope of sneaking another bite. She caught Elsabet’s hand.
“She is lovely.” Elsabet whispered over her shoulder to Mardichi who puffed up to twice his size at the compliment. “You’ll have to excuse me. I go in search of sweet bread.”
Mardichi took a step to stop her but Elsabet tossed over her shoulder. “Sorry. I cannot hear over the crowd.” She twirled a finger to indicate the ballroom.
Which is actually relatively quiet right now.
Mardichi frowned as he watched them go.
“A barbarian defeated by a couple mere lasses.” Bast sighed. “It’s a sad day.”
“Have you met those two?” Mardichi gestured limply. “I never had a prayer.”