“I’ve been hearing stories about you.” Aisling sat in front of her guardian’s desk in his study, the picture of a proper young lady. “Are they true?”
“Which stories are you hearing?” He leaned back in his chair, big and lazy-seeming.
“That you’re not who you say you are, that you lied about what happened to my parents to get your hands on their fortune, that you concocted the papers that made me your ward and even that you’re not really human.” She paused then added with a dimple, “Of course, that’s ignoring all the nonsense Mirabelle Gates tells me about my family, you’d think she imagines I’m a rival for Jeffrey’s affections.”
“Are you?” The slow lazy smile she’d known since childhood.
“Please! Jeffrey’s very nice but I’m not that interested, certainly not interested enough to try to change his mind now he’s decided on Mirabelle.” Another dimple. “Back to the subject in hand, sir. Are the stories true?”
The lock on the door snicked loudly behind her. “What if they are?” He leaned forward, not lazy now, and she was reminded of the day he’d stood over the bailiffs and stopped them dragging her off to the orphanage after her parents had died.
“You want my parents’ fortune, then marry me and you still have it. It is the man who marries, not the name, after all.” He eyes were glowing, her colour was up and she was excited.
“You’re not afraid I’ll kill you for it?” Now he was alert and amused.
“What you have, sir, you hold. If I’m yours and faithful, I believe I have nothing to fear from you. Besides,” she cleared her throat, “you are the most interesting man I know.”
“You don’t mind if I’m not human?” He was grinning with his teeth showing.
“My parents’ biggest secret was that they weren’t human either,” she looked at him appraisingly, “but you knew that, didn’t you?”
“Oh yes, little elf-get, I knew that.” She was facing a tiger in human clothes, his backwards hands on the desk in front of him. “Do you still want to go through with your suggestion now you can see what I am?”
The golden light in her eyes intensified, “Oh, yes please.”