Cyrus came to a halt at the end of the long winding path and squeezed his daughter’s hand. “You ready?” he asked with a sly smile, and Kalli nodded eagerly. She tended to be nervous when meeting someone new. Not out of shyness, of course, for Kalli was hardly shy, but he and Addy had told her this morning in no uncertain terms that Eriaas Argoatan was very important and that she would need to be on her best behavior during their visit. It wasn’t easy reining in a girl with so much energy.
“Are you ready?” Addy asked him knowingly, hovering her hand over the COMM beside the door leading into Argoatan’s house — well, mansion, more like. It was a gorgeous place, he had to admit. An expansive, sleek building built into a hill, overlooking an ocean. Salty wind had blown at their faces as they’d made the trek up the path lined with little twinkling lights just starting to flicker on as the suns made their slow descent to the horizon, painting the sky in orange and pink. Cyrus could hardly imagine what one had to pay to get this kind of view every day.
“Of course I’m ready.”
Addy flashed him a look of amusement, then said, “Adrasteia Atelier and Cyrus Soliveré here to see Mr. Argoatan,” into the receiver.
A proper male voice responded, “One moment, ma’am,” and Cyrus snorted. He couldn’t imagine how much one had to pay to get a live-in door-answerer either.
“It’s a little ridiculous,” Addy muttered in agreement. “Let’s just grin and bear this, okay? Endure his charm for an hour or two and we’ll get the help we need.”
Cyrus grumbled noncommittally, because Addy was right: Eriaas Argoatan’s money was vital to rebuilding. A healthy donation from him meant New Genisi could keep expanding on schedule. Homes could be built, infrastructure could be laid, the city could come together. Without a donation? They could be stalled for months…
“Addy!” proclaimed a bright face as the door swung open. The man flashed his shiny white teeth as he spread out his arms in excitement. For as long as Cyrus had known him, Eriaas had always been a handsome man, in the strictest sense of the word. He had a firm jaw, smooth dark skin surrounding eyes that shimmered under the right light and he was always dressed as impeccably as his income suggested. Cyrus wasn’t entirely sure what he did to achieve that income. Maybe he just convinced people to hand him piles of credits with his neverending charm.
Frankly, he made Cyrus want to gag a little.
“Cy,” Eriaas went on, pointing at him with a wink and speaking with a sly tone that seemed to imply an inside joke between them that Cyrus had never heard. He smiled back. Tightly.
Finally, his eyes fell to Kalli who was now squeezing Cyrus’ hand even tighter. “And this must be the little tornado I’ve heard so much about.” Eriaas leaned down, his hands on his knees to get a better look at her. “It’s very nice to finally meet you, Kalli,” he said seriously, extending a hand for her to shake. Kalli took it gingerly, a little thrown off, but when he overdramatically shook it up and down, she giggled and bounced on her feet.
Eriaas laughed in return and looked back at Addy. “Clearly gets her looks from her mother I see,” he chimed and Addy waved him off, but pink flushed her neck. Cyrus wasn’t sure whether to be more offended by the fact that he was hitting on her (as usual) or the fact that he’d implied Cyrus bore their daughter the ugly genes…
“Anyway, come in, come in,” he insisted, stepping back inside and sweeping his arm for them to follow. “I’ve got my chef making the final preparations for dinner right now, should be ready any minute. Adrasteia, my dear, can I get your coat?” Before Addy could even respond, he was helping her out of it. A little too eagerly, Cyrus couldn’t help but note as he saw Eriaas’ hands stay at her hips longer than was necessary.
Cyrus fell into step beside Addy as they followed their host towards the dining room. “Remind me why we’re here again,” he muttered bitterly and Addy laughed.
“Just play the game, Cyrus.”
The dinner, as it always was when they visited Eriaas, was spectacular. Cyrus was by no means a connoisseur of fine food, but when he sat down at the long table beside the seamless glass windows and was presented with a feast on shining platters, he knew what he was looking at was expensive at the very least. The fact that it tasted good seemed to be an added bonus.
The conversation was much less palatable.
“ — and I spent most of last month in Ordenon,” Eriaas was saying halfway through the meal, after catching them up on his travels through the Ellegian wilderness, fighting off wild animals and nature. Or something. “It was a nice break from roughing it.” He laughed. Addy laughed with him. “You’ve been to Ordenon, haven’t you?”
“Ah, no, actually,” Addy admitted, twirling pasta around her fork.
“I have,” said Kalli at once, her small voice proud and confident. Cyrus snickered and nudged her elbow.
Addy went on to Eriaas, “I’ve spent some time in Tarin proper, but never Ordenon. Pretty sure we wouldn’t be that welcome there…”
Eriaas waved her off, shaking his hand. “Nonsense! Visit with me and no one would dare make you feel unwelcome,” he beamed, and Cyrus felt a bristle of irritation. By the way Eriaas was looking at her, he doubted the invitation was for the entire family.
“Though they might be a bit of a bore for you,” he went on. “It’s all parties and politics, really. Even I can barely stand the place for long. I picture you as more of the adventurous sort, am I right? Trekking the mountains of Uora, paddling down the Lassan river, sleeping under the stars?”
“Under the stars?” Kalli piped up, her voice puzzled. She looked from Cyrus to her mother. “Why?”
“It’s called camping, honey,” Addy explained, smiling at her. “Like in tents, outside. We’ll take you someday.”
“Of course we will,” said Eriaas grandly, beaming across the table.
Cyrus repressed a snort. He forced his eyes to his plate, stabbing at his food with his fork. Of course Eriaas loved camping and nature and all of the things Addy liked but Cyrus hated. Of course.
Kalli went back to her plate, gingerly taking bites out of each piece, chewing carefully, a look of deep thought on her face, before putting it back down and apparently trying to decide whether she liked it or not.
Well at least one of his girls wasn’t impressed by this guy.