When he went into the dining room the men were either still there or back again. A greying dark haired woman dressed in black was also there, speaking furiously in an undertone to his father-in-law. Boscailo spoke over the top of her in a loud, cheerful tone, “Count Terrence, I’m back!”
“The minotaur returns.” The black dressed woman raised her voice to drip dry voiced sarcasm. “We should all rejoice.” She turned her back on him to start talking to Terrence again.
“Aunt Helena.” Boscailo’s voice stayed loud and cheerful as he walked across the room. “I’ve told you before, I’m not a minotaur, I’ve even had the blood tests, so I just look like one.” He put one hand on her shoulder and turned her around so he could hug her. “I know a couple on the Episcopal Guard. Perhaps I should introduce you so you know what they really look like.”
She shrugged out of his embrace. “How dare you touch me! I am the Countess Strefagi! Terrence, why do you allow this...person in your home?”
“He’s my son-in-law and he was invited,” Terrence said mildly, then added calmly, “You are not the Countess Strefagi, my wife is. You are the Dowager Countess. If you’re going to go throwing your title around, then use the correct one.”
“Your sons-in-law are such an interesting collection,” she sounded like she was talking about an undesirable set of museum specimens, “And none of them even a Strefagi.”
“I am fortunate that none of them relies on me for an income – they are all their own men,” Terrence returned calmly. “My daughters have all chosen well.” He gave Boscailo an odd look. “Perhaps better than I had appreciated.”
“That is as may be,” she cut back, “But we still have to decide what the Strefagii are going to do about this ‘offer’ from the Desideri.”
“I have already made my decision and sent out my orders, Helena,” Terrence said firmly, “There is nothing left to decide.”
“Nonsense,” Helena spoke as if she were correcting a child, “You haven’t consulted with your councillors – we’ve all more experience than you. When you’ve done that, you can replace those interesting,” she winced slightly, “Interim instructions you issued with something more informed and permanent.”
Terrence’s face turned to stone. “You seem to be under the impression that the Strefagii are a democracy in which you have a vote or that you have a voice in my councils.” In a crushing, almost dismissive, tone he finished, “You have neither.”
“I have been a member of the advisory council since your father’s death,” she hit back, furious, “I have advised every Count since then. Your need me.”
“Given our fortunes since my father’s death, that is hardly a recommendation, Helena.” Terrence was furiously angry and it seemed that Helena was the only person in the room who couldn’t see it.
As she was opening her mouth again, Boscailo cut in with, “If this is becoming a discussion of Strefagii business, I have to leave. May I discuss the matter of my sister-in-law before I go?”
“Please do,” Terrance said gratefully. “I would be glad to return to this meeting's original purpose.”
“Very well,” Boscailo took a deep breath.
“We need to settle this now,” Helena interrupted. “The girl is unimportant in the bigger scheme of things.” She gave a dismissive wave. “Write her off, flog the boy. Have done with it. Move on with our business.”