Iris watched Melanie turn her head to greet big brother as he came down. The young woman was busy slicing apples and welcomed him warmly with a big, bright-eyed grin.
"Morning." Melanie was always easy on big brother when it came to giving him a smile or two. Yet I noticed those smiles seemed especially splendid now that they were "going out."
Brother's eyes also brightened in response. He walked right up behind the unguarded girl to issue a kiss on the cheek.
Iris felt her eye twitch.
It was something that had been occurring often the last couple of days so she didn't mind it.
Melanie's hand jerked exaggeratedly and she probably would've cut herself had brother not predicted the reaction. He stopped the blade before it could do any harm, his hand now grasping Melanie's own and not looking like he intended to let go.
"Y-Y-Y-Y-Young Master, what are you--?!"
The girl stuttered incessantly. She did that a lot. It was annoying.
He didn't seem to mind. "What, is it wrong for me to greet my girlfriend like this?" His arms, which were currently wrapping themselves around her waist, apparently did not know the meaning of shame as they pulled her closer.
Their bodies were brought together snugly, Melanie's smaller frame fitting into his taller one like a glove.
Ugh. It was torture. Why did they have to be so mushy? Brother had been sweet on Sophia too but this was a bit much, didn't he think? Melanie was even easier to get a rise out of so maybe that had something to do with it.
It wasn't over. Brother actually had the audacity to give a small squeeze, which made Melanie squeak like a mouse before hastily stepping back.
He put on a sorrowful face that Iris knew to be a lie. "Sorry. Was that too much? I just thought you'd like being spoiled a little. But if you don't, then--"
"N-No, that isn't it at all!" Melanie hurried to say, then shrunk into herself. A glance was shot Iris' way. "...I mean, you just surprised me is all."
"So you don't hate it?"
Melanie appeared greatly distressed. "I don't hate it." Her voice was incomparably small. "Rather I think I like it a bit too much." The words were very nearly inaudible by the time she got them all out.
She was an honest girl.
"So there's no problem then." Brother concluded, gracing her with another kiss.
Iris closed her eyes and tried to keep from looking disgusted.
No. That wasn't right, she thought. I said I wouldn't be a bother anymore. I can't ignore this.
"But Young Master." Melanie shifted about uneasily. "Lady Iris is...I mean we aren't somewhere private, so..." Private? What the hell did she want to do when things were 'private', huh? "Um, that is to say...we can't just..."
"Melanie, do you think our relationship is something that needs to be kept out of sight?"
Was that a statement or a question?
"Good. Because I don't care at all if others see, or what they think, I'll never be hesitant to show you my affection. I'll only care about whether what I do is something you're comfortable with. That said, if at any time me kissing you becomes something you don't want then I won't do it again. "
The girl giggled. " I really doubt a time like that will ever--" She broke off, going awkward. "Uh, no, nevermind."
"But." She continued bravely, "At least when Lady Iris is around please show some presence of mind." Melanie then whispered, "I really don't want to be hated more than I already am, so..."
Iris heard that and felt like snapping at her. Complex emotions clouded her mind these days and this didn't help.
She didn't trust herself to speak. Iris reminded herself of the words she'd said to her brother that one night.
Remember, she told herself. Be a good girl....Be a good girl...
The words had long since become familiar. Yes, since long ago. And again, as always, they echoed about inside her head. A chant, a spell.
Lyle rubbed the older girl's head like she were a kid who'd just said something amusing. "Silly thing, who could hate you? " He smiled.
It wasn't even directed at her but to Iris' eyes that smile was just so incredibly brilliant. So blinding and warm. She knew she'd never be able escape it.
Lyle noticed his sister's keen gaze and sensed her discontent.
"Iris." He called.
"I love you. You know that, right?"
She seemed distracted. It took her a second to reply. "I know, big brother." She nodded. "Because Iris is a good girl."
She always had to be a good girl.
...But sometimes she wasn't...And so what did that mean?
You, Melanie, are a beauty. A fine specimen of a woman. The epitome of feminine grace and elegance.
Pay no mind to all the much more stylish and pretty young ladies currently giving you death glares.
...Please don't hurt me.
Melanie felt a shiver. Her lower lip quivered. She gulped and fiddled with her hair nervously.
"Young master, you'll be the death of me." She whimpered.
He didn't even realize his crimes! This guy was just...no, actually, he didn't do anything wrong though. Definitely not. It's me, yeah? I admit my wrongs. So pretty please stop with the staring, okay?
His eyes followed her own and he pinched her cheek a moment later. "Don't worry about them. You're beautiful. How can they not stare?"
"You know that's not why they're looking."
"Do I?" A teasing smile. "I'm not sure. It's why I'd stare."
"No! I'm talking about the women, you know? The women. They wanna lynch me, I just know it!" She glared at them all like the enemies they were. Right from behind Young Master's back, where it was safe.
"Envy is such an unbecoming trait in a woman, isn't it?"
This guy was determined to act oblivious! I had a headache. "Ugh. Honestly, Young Master. How do you deal with them? I'm serious here. All those eyes, it's disturbing. Right?"
He shook his head in refutation. "I'm used to those kind of looks from girls by now. I don't get worked up over it anymore. I mean I used to, inwardly. Now it doesn't bother me at all. You'll get used to it too, some day."
"I don't want to!" Melanie persisted.
"In any case it doesn't matter how they look at me. The only woman I'm interested in is already by my side."
As expected of Young Master, he didn't forget to add a little heart-stopping one-liner. And yes, alright. She had to admit, it really was a smooth one-liner. The way he said it so naturally...
Did her heart skip a beat or two? Maybe. Okay, yes. Fine. It did. Sue her.
Enemy. He was the enemy of women, placed here by the gods to test our mettle. Hmph, she'd not be so easily rattled by him this time.
He could use all the smooth lines he wanted, she shan't be moved!
...Her resolve crumbled in seconds.
Melanie couldn't resist feeling all mushy inside, damn her.
Saying something like that, how unfair.
"Young Master's finally showing his true colors, hmph. Your skill at meaningless flirtation is as great as always but I won't be fooled so easily. I swear, what a bad guy....saying such things...trying to lead me astray...how hateful..."
Lyle took her words in stride.
"I wouldn't ever tell you something I don't mean."
"See, you say that, but what if someone really epically beautiful came along and tried to seduce you?"
His lips curled upwards. "Considering I'm already another's woman's man? Nothing."
Melanie flushed. Her man? What, was he her's now? She was embarrassed to death but the idea wasn't unwelcome. Then she chastised herself for feeling that way.
Shame on you, me. Being happy over something like that, learn your place. We're trying for a serious conversation here and you're feeling happy over something so trivial?!
"No, no, really." He insisted. "To me it doesn't really matter how beautiful a woman is. As long as I already have a woman I'm seeing I won't care if others come and make advances, okay? I like to tease, but I'm not unfaithful. If I was I would've pushed you down ages ago."
"I mean If we're being technical, you did push me down."
Lyle gave a helpless smile. "But I wasn't together with Sophia back then, now was I?"
Ha. Lyle really didn't like remembering that.
"Yeah, that's true." She acknowledged. She spotted a woman throwing her a dirty look from afar just then. "Speaking of pushing people down, I think some would hope it to be one of your favorite pass-times."
He followed her eyes. "I can't exactly control how other people feel, though, now can I?" He poked her side with a finger to draw back her attention.
Melanie gave him a look that said she didn't believe that at all.
From what she'd seen and experienced that statement just seemed like a big fat lie.
"So." She went on. "What if it were Lady Cecelia?" She continued. "Would you feel tempted if it was her doing the seduction and we weren't dating?"
Not the most subtle way she could have asked what he thought of the woman but certainly the most direct. Which had it's own merits, she supposed.
Lyle's mouth twitched. What was with her?
"Cecelia's like a sister to me." Actually she almost was. "I wouldn't be so callous with her like I would be others. If you're asking if I'd ever consider her a romantic partner, the answer wouldn't be a definite yes or no since feelings can always change. Like you she's an important person to me. But I don't see her in a romantic way, at least not right now. And I find our current relationship due to the whole thing with Sophia to be..." He thought. "Complicated at best. It would just be weird if we were to ever start a relationship."
If there's one lesson that father had always made a point to remind him about, it was 'Don't fuck your ex's sister."
A rather crude way of putting it but also the most effective.
Not that it applied to Lyle in the sense his father meant it. He found his determination of marriage-only intercourse to be particularly useful in avoiding a lot of situations his father warned him about.
Lyle sent her a knowing look.
She coughed, not meeting his eye.
"So you don't like her that way. And as a person? How do you...view her?"
Lyle wanted to knock her on the head. "You seem awfully interested in Cece...should I be concerned?"
Or what else, was she feeling jealous? How cute.
"What? No, what the fudge? Of course you shouldn't!" She denied, quite vehemently.
"What's with the sudden interest in her then? You know you don't have to be jealous of her. I already said--"
"I'm just curious, that's all."
He breathed out in frustration. Stubborn.
"There's nothing much to even say. She's been a friend, a comrade and sometimes even a saviour. She wouldn't betray me."
He said that but Melanie had never even implied she would.
So that's it. That's how it is. He seems to have a lot of trust placed in the girl. But wasn't it sad?
Young Master Lyle is and always will be a very intuitive man. Maybe he already had suspicions of his own. Maybe he only forced the doubts down, denying them.
She found him staring down at her. Under such an intense look Melanie faltered a step.
He caught her easily, however, and locked his arm around her's more firmly to prevent it from happening again.
"Sorry..." She mumbled.
She wondered if they were talking about the same thing just then.
That aside...He was close, too close! Her heart felt like it might explode, it was pounding so hard.
"We've been walking a while. Would you like something to eat?" Noticing her discomfort he suggested they stop. They had breakfast already but a light snack wouldn't hurt.
He knew this little glutton always felt better when she was chewing on something sweet. And there were many bakeries in the vicinity.
"No, I'm fine." However as they walked something caught her attention.
It was a quaint little shop with a window that displayed several delicious-looking items.
"Too bad. I could go for a treat myself." Lyle knew Melanie well. "But if you don't want to--"
"If you're hungry it's not good to hold it in, right?" Melanie was already pulling them towards the place, almost unable to contain her excitement.
Lyle found the entire thing very endearing.
The previous topic was long forgotten.
It's the way it should be.
"If you'd like anything else, please let me know."
The waitress had her body extremely close to Lyle's own, an enamored smile on her face. After a few moments she reluctantly turned away to continue her duties, clearly disappointed at his lack of response.
Melanie watched her leave without saying anything, biting into her warm donut wordlessly.
It was good. It was good, but what was this annoying feeling...?
"She's pretty, but she's not you."
Lyle, leaning back in his seat and sipping a cup of milk, looked for all the world like he owned the place.
He did that alot, didn't he? Melanie wanted to learn how to do that too.
"I know." Melanie took another bite.
They were both silent for a while. Both were lost in their own thoughts. She felt him look at her. If there was one thing people would always notice about him, it was his eyes.
Although they were not currently their natural mesmerizing gold they still had a very magnetic quality to them.
And right now, as they gazed at her unblinkingly, she was keenly away of every small movement she made. Conscious of everything. Even the way the hairs at the nape of her neck straightened.
The young man seemed to pick up on this. "Melanie, you're beautiful."
"Hmm." She gave a neutral reaction, eyes downcast.
"Sweet too, I'm betting."
"Hmm." It took a while for the words to sink in. "...E-eh? "
Sweet? Did she hear right?
Sweet, was it.
Somehow that sounded...sorta bad?
Understanding the implication behind the words she looked up and was about to chastise him for his roguish ways.
But before she could his next words stopped that from happening.
"It really makes me want to take a bite out of you." A slow and wicked smile began to form at the edge of his lips, his voice a mere husky whisper.
"A bite!" she choked out " What? Huh?!" W-what did he mean by that?! He couldn't have meant "that", right? Right? Or did he? No, surely not? Saying something like that in public, even he couldn't be that bold, could he!?
Seeing her get into a fit of uncontrollable coughing he calmly passed her his cup. She downed more than half of it in an instant, gulping the drink greedily.
Then he simply took the cup in hand and lifted it to his mouth, saying soon after, "Ah, I was right. Sweet."
Melanie swallowed hard, staring at the cup in shock.
"You...you..." She didn't even know how she should react to something like that!
"So how was my warm milk?" His tone was glaringly suggestive.
Melanie sank down in her chair, holding her hands over her face. T-This guy...
Then a thought came to her: Did he order that on purpose? C-Could it be he planned this from the start?!
"Young Master has a lewd mind."
"Oh?" He blinked innocently. "Lewd? However did you come to that conclusion, Melanie my dear? I simply asked if my cup of warm milk was to your liking, in what way is that lewd? Melanie, if either of us is lewd it can only be you, right?"
'My dear'? Oh...this bad guy, trying to make her all flustered. Hmph. It only half-worked!
"Me?" Melanie didn't believe it. She refused to. "But that's not....I mean, I'm not..." She trailed off, not sure what she was going to say in response.
Lyle enjoyed her suffering."As expected, your reactions are just so adorable." He laughed, calling the waitress who eagerly came at his beckoning. "I think you've earned another treat, wouldn't you say?"
He was using her as entertainment! He was definitely using her as entertainment!
"You..." She glared, feeling wronged. She shot daggers at him, which only made his grin widen.
"Melanie..." But whatever he was going to say was lost as she stared at him. He could only shake his head and say, " Honestly, you're so cute it should be a crime."
Seeing how her attempt at intimidation did nothing she just sighed helplessly and continued eating her pastry.
"Not cute." She grumbled sulkily, through mouthfuls of donut.
"...Maybe... maybe just a little cute?" A compromise was offered.
"No. Amazingly cute."
Very stubborn. How hateful.
Melanie really disliked him right now. Why did he always say that? She didn't want to be cute! She was older than him! To be called cute by someone younger than yourself, it was degrading!
"So, still angry?"
"About what?" Melanie caught sight of that waitress from before and, with mixed feelings, took the crêpe that was brought forth. She marveled at it's magnificent creamy goodness.
Lyle's eyes momentarily drifted to the waitress, whose face noticibly roamed over his profile and lingered near his lips. She took her time walking back, hips swaying seductively as she left.
"That." He saw the woman glancing back at him, giving Melanie a smirk as if him looking at her meant some sort of victory.
Melanie's cheek twitched.
The woman could have at least made the effort to not act like she wanted to mother his children.
Just oogling a customer so openly, is professionalism a dead concept? Although since she was dating her employer, maybe she isn't one to talk.
"Ah. Right. That." She deadpanned. "I'm not angry. At all."
She really wasn't.
"So that's how it's going to be, huh? Alright, fine. Melanie, come here for a sec." He beckoned.
Melanie, out of habit, listened to him without question.
She leaned in from across the table, curious, and felt one of his fingers press up against her chin.
The kiss wasn't chaste or quick at all. No, he took his time and thoroughly laid claim to her lips, tongue and mouth.
It was a kiss that completely disregarded the people around them who were watching, a kind that just focused on making her slowly lose her sense of reason.
Melanie went brain-dead, allowing him to do as he pleased with her. Her heart beat wildly in her chest. It's erratic pounding became louder and faster by the second.
She may have even purred.
...Now she wasn't going to say with certainty that she actually did, in fact, purr, but she acknowledged that it was within the realm of possibility she at least made a noise reminiscent of one.
And when he finally broke their contact, leaving her breathless, she felt a particularly strange sense of dissatisfaction.
"Right now you're the only woman in the world I'd be willing do that with. If nothing else, remember that."
Melanie, still addled from that kiss just now, asked, "Would you be willing to do it again?"
And instantly regretted it. She started cursing her own shamelessness.
Bad, naughty girl! What the hell are you saying, huh!
He laughed, short and light. "I think we can work something out."
Oh. Well then. Good job, me!