“Just a moment,” Grey said with a trifle more emphasis than really necessary, putting her hand up to draw attention to the bright, almost sticky pink Blue Tooth device hanging from her left ear, giving any observers time to draw the wrong conclusions.
Grey thanked the uniformed driver with the generous, elegant style an American might expect from a titled scion of one of Britain’s older families, at least if they read and watched enough of the right fiction, and if any one recognised the manner as something of a caricature, so much the better. A sense of humor can be a valuable asset in most lines of work.
“I have arrived,” Grey said sweeping grandly into the front hall in the manner of one who just knew the doors would get out of her way rather than someone with good timing and the ability to hear footsteps through the heavy wooden panels. “I will call you back when I have things settled.”
With that, Grey removed the splash of pink and dropped it into one of the deep pockets of the light jacket she wore over her dark blue blouse ignoring Iohar’s squawk of protest pink did not go out all well with her current color scheme. Grey wore her short, dramatically styled hair in a shade near black for the occasion, eyes a deep, hypnotic blue, and ice white skin, to add just a touch of the outre to the business casual outfit.
Iohar insisted, and after one too many fight to convince a prospective client of Grey’s competence in the face of a too ordinary exterior, she finally let him take charge of her image, within reason.
The head set, however, was completely for show and nu’s direction. It did not connect to any device, transmit or receive on any frequency that could be detected, trapped, or blocked. Grey wore it when she wanted to talk to her overprotective half-brother, on the inhuman side dead bodyguard, and otherwise incorporeal, wonderful pain in the ass, Iohar Riordan (it is a long story). It gave people the wrong idea so they did not over react when she went around talking to thin air. Cellphones have made it much easier to get away with than it used to be.
Grey’s faux aristocratic manner, (stolen whole cloth from a great aunt who had some modest success as a stage actress under another name) carried her all the way into a modestly sized but luxuriously decorated suite on the first floor above the ground with a pocket handkerchief balcony on the back of the building just the perfect size for a small wrought iron table and chair that just begged one to lounge around with a cup of tea watching the sun set over the fair sized lake beyond the formal garden and hedge maze.
On second glance, Grey dismissed the idea. The unruly sun hung in the wrong corner of the sky to set on the other side of the lake. Grey had nothing against the down, and her peculiar background let her get by on shorter sleep than most, but Grey objected on principle to getting up early unless she got paid for it. She would rather lounge in bed with a book, especially a big, soft, four poster bed like the one that dominated the bedroom of her little suite.
Grey was just beginning to think that the weekend might not be too bad when a polite knock summoned her back to the sitting room door.
“Yes?” Grey asked, opening her door without looking through this peep hole.
Three young men in the Antebellum costumes of the hotel staff stood in the hall wearing various degrees of professionally blank and embarrassed expressions with their arms full of well-polished, blonde wood garment boxes. “Please excuse us for bothering you Miss Grey, but we have brought a selection of costumes provided for you by your hosts for the ball this evening, the leader of the three said in a commendably even tone.
Grey glanced again at the boxes and noticed the ornately hand lettered card on each box. She felt her gracious smile freeze on her face and start to crumble around the edges.
“If you have any trouble with or questions about the selection provided, please do not hesitate to call the desk. We have a seamstress and tailor on staff to deal with any unfortunate wardrobe mishaps that might arise,” the speaker went on, obviously sticking to a given script, no matter the circumstances while one of his companions rolled his eyes and the other blushed and turned away to stare down the hall.
Grey stepped back and waved the bearers into the room. “Just put the boxes anywhere,” Grey said after an uncomfortable pause while she forced herself not to talk through gritted teeth.
Grey tipped the three men as generously as she had the one who brought her bags up earlier. All three hesitated, looking at their largesse and each other almost in guilt or even shame.
“They are nice boys, aren’t they?” Iohar whispered in Grey’s ear. “Don’t worry about ti. I know it is not your fault,” Grey said more naturally. “I will take care of my own costume for tonight.”
They all knew that all attendees were supposed to wear one of the costumes provided, but under the circumstances, no one decided to mention it. Grey eased her visitors out of the room and locked it behind them.
Without even opening any of the boxes that now sat arrayed on the settee, chair, and coffee table, Grey knew as well as the deliverers that none of the contents would suit her figure. She stood with her fists on her hips glaring down at the cards smirking innocently up at her. Each one elegantly proclaimed that the contents were meant for “The Honorable Mr.Julian Grey.” said in a thoughtful, almost hopeful tone.
“You said rude, obnoxious, or ill advised, didn’t you?,” Grey said in a thoughtful, almost hopeful tone.
“I said especially rude, obnoxious, or ill advised,” Iohar responded with emphasis. “This particular gaff is practically standard these days.”
“Damn that blogger and his camera,” Grey said, disemboweling the boxes and spreading their contents across every available surface. As expected, she found an array of period men’s garments in a variety of pastel colors and sizes.
“To be fair, he managed to get your name and most of the details right about that overgrown lizard marauding in the park in spite of the language barrier and the officials actively trying to keep anyone from knowing anything about the entire incident,” Iohar pointed out, not for the first time.
“When did I ever claim to be fair?” Grey demanded sourly.
“And people have been getting your gender wrong since you were born, so it hardly seems fair to heap all the blame on one poor fan boy’s head,” Iohar continued reasonably.
Grey’s growled response was unintelligible and probably extensively profane and at the very least disrespectful of her ancestors, so it was probably just as well no one could make it out.
“It seems my ability to get under your skin is a bit better developed than you thought,” Iohar said with the smirk plainly heard in his voice.
Grey growled and raised both hands, clutching at the air like she would throttle him, if only she could get her hands on him. Then she relaxed, letting go of the histrionics and laughing. “Touche, oh brother mine.”
She looked over the display of costumes, biting her lower lip. “Granting that our hosts have not yet proved excessively rude, obnoxious, or ill advised, would you, at least, grant they have earned a little obnoxious in return for this,” she paused to lift a pair of peach knee-breeches by one lace-trimmed cuff then let it drop as if it soiled her fingers and finished the question. “Gaff?”
“Just how obnoxious are we talking?” Iohar asked warily. He had known Grey for most of her life, after all, and knew just how obnoxious she could be.
“Oh, hardly at all,” Grey said with an innocent smile that only a fool would trust.
“Grey…” Iohar started, but she cut him off with an airy wave.
“Oh, don’t get your vibrations in a knot,” Grey said heading for the bedroom. “I will wear period appropriate garb. I just do not feel like cross- dressing tonight, or transforming myself or their offerings into something more appropriate to their expectations.
“I saw the costume ball on the schedule of events, so I brought my own gown,” Grey said, heading for the long garment bag laying over the foot of her bed with her modest suitcase.
“Oh dear,” Iohar said resigned to the inevitable.
“Pastels don’t really suit me, anyway, and you said I should stand out.”
“At least this sets one of your worries to bed,” Grey said, still smiling her happy little smile.
“Which one was that?” Iohar asked tiredly.
“If this had anything to do with our little Pennsylvania visit, they would have gotten my gender right,” Grey said with a grin. “Moreland might have covered for us after we dropped him in it, but there were other witnesses, and the Major mover would.”
Iohar did not speak, just let out a slightly pained little noise that proved Grey had some skill at getting under his ‘skin’ as well. That took some doing, since he had no skin to speak of, but what else are siblings for?