She was beautiful, there was no denying that. Elegant, slender, wore that formal tailored suit like she had been born to it. And the hair of course. Always his weakness. Alright, so the picter had likely made some adjustments to the hololithic portrait, but still. And it wasn’t just the beauty, the ‘lith had captured something in her eyes – a fire, a challenge. It might be the wine talking, but Reeve could easily fall in love with this woman. For a time at least.
He groped down by the side of the chair, found the neck of the bottle of Zumerian red and poured another measure into his glass. The gallery Reeve had found himself in lacked any tables, so the hardwood floor around his chair played host to his bottle and a platter bearing crusts of fresh bread and crumbs of hard white cheese. He wasn’t sure exactly what time it was, he’d quite lost track of time since the end of that first ever-so-awkward meeting with Stroud and the others. After being shown to his room, Reeve had taken what may have been the longest bath in the history of the Imperium before locating the nearest dining room. He’d seen the little scribe scurrying off into a library room, no doubt salivating over the prospect of fondling some manuscript, but had not seen any of the others save for the Mech-Rep. That in itself had been a little uncomfortable as he… she…it? Had indicated that it wished to collect some samples. That minor unpleasantness over, he had been left to his own devices.
And that was dangerous.
Still, with little to no incident, he had found himself wandering the seemingly endless galleries of paintings and sculpture and hololiths, not really paying them any attention until this one. And here he had remained, lost in his own thoughts until a cough pulled him from his admiration. Reeve looked up and couldn’t stop the small sneer from creeping across his face at the sight of the oh-so-stoic Stroud stood over him. He saw the man’s eyes tighten fractionally before Stroud spoke.
“The Lady Adrielle.”
“Hmm? Oh, you mean…” Reeve pushed through the slight fuzz of drunkenness to compose his thoughts and mould his face into something more neutral and controlled.
“Yes, the woman you’re…admiring. Lord Haldane’s own daughter. She’s…” Stroud paused. Was that discomfort Reeve sensed? “She’s currently away. With family.”
“Ah, well. I see. There’s a shame.” Reeve raised his glass in salute, turned to face the hololith again. “Still, here’s to Haldane and his ravishing daughter. My thanks for their hospitality.”
Stroud remained standing, hands clasped behind his back. There was a tension to him, that much was obvious, something to do with the girl in the hololith. Reeve could feel the man’s eyes boring into the side of his head. He obviously had something to say, question was would he come out with it or work up to it?
“I wouldn’t have taken you for a lover of art.”
Ah, so we’re taking the scenic route then. Reeve felt a grin slash its way across his face.
“Oh I have my hidden depths sir, you can be sure of that. And well, who couldn’t appreciate something like this? Besides, there was a fellow from the understaff who was becoming quite irate at losing his pay so it seemed like a good idea to explore the house a little more.”
“You were concerned for your safety?”
“Ha, Throne no,” Reeve laughed. “I was concerned for his safety.” He wasn’t sure if it was possible for Stroud to stiffen even more, but somehow he managed it.
“Tell me Reeve, are we are going to have a problem with you? I will not tolerate any behaviour that will endanger this Cell or its undertaking. I’d have hoped that you of all people would embrace this chance to leave your past circumstances and serve the Throne as best you can. As I said, if you feel this calling is not for you, arrangements can be made for your removal from this…situation.”
And there we are. Reeve grinned again, a crueller one this time as he bent to pinch crumbs of cheese from the platter at his feet and slipped them past his lips. Seemed like Stroud had quelled whatever traces of doubt he may have had and was back behind that rigid self-control and sense of righteousness. He pushed himself to his feet and collected the bottle of wine by its long neck, swaying slightly as he stood.
“No problem here, I assure you. I’m simply eager to begin our work.” He hoped the smile he gave Stroud was sincere looking, but from the expression on the man’s face, Reeve doubted he’d managed it. Ah well. Reeve clapped Stroud on the shoulder as he pushed past and began to walk towards the door leading from the gallery.
“I’m to my bed, to sleep and to purge myself of impure thoughts of red headed women. Seems we have that in common at least.”
“I fear you are a terrible man, Nolan Reeve,” Stroud called after him. “There is a cruelty in you, I think.”
“Ha! You may be right sir. But why else would I be here, if not for that?” Reeve raised the bottle in one last salute as he left the gallery. “Good night Stroud. Give my regards to the Lady Ardrielle.”
He left the Arbite standing there, gazing at the hololith.
Edited by JackDaw, 31 May 2016 - 01:41 PM.