Although the Lyons butler handbook warned of possible disagreements and the usual squabbling over resources among the household staff, never once did I think that I might be directly involved. I had faith in my conflict resolution skills; I had been trained to serve.
But I, Leopold Lyons, had an arch-nemesis.
I supervised the cook carefully when Master Straud was otherwise occupied and nothing else in the estate required my attention. She was extremely prone to spilling liquids and splattering food.
While the meals themselves were served, she took to mooning over our mutual employer.
But it was the aftermath of those meals that secured her eternal position as my arch-nemesis.
And while I repeatedly cleared my throat–a butler’s weapon of choice–she seemed entirely ignorant of my pointed censure, instead giggling to herself and saying “Rhys Straud” with varying intonations.
Only once did I attempt to politely correct her propensity for leaving a trail of filth in her wake.
“It appears that you’ve made yourself quite at home in Master Straud’s kitchen,” I began.
“Ohmigosh, isn’t it just the best? Everything’s so expensive and new and the stove has so many burners and it’s soooo nice to cook in a kitchen without any cats. I mean, I love Trash and Garbage to bits, but I’d just die if I got kitty litter in Rhys Straud’s food.”
If she loved trash and garbage so dearly, why not take it home with her? “You do seem to enjoy preparing food on every available inch of the stove and countertops,” I said as a politer alternative, though I made certain to arch a disapproving brow–a butler’s second-favorite weapon.
To my surprise, she flashed me a dazzling smile. “Ooh, do you want me to send you home with some leftovers? I tried this new flourless cake, but apparently it has too many calories…”
“I…have special dietary restrictions.”
“Oh, like Rhys!” How brazenly she called our employer by his first name. “Are you doing a gluten-free clean-eating vegan organic diet too? He calls it the ‘hummingbird diet.’”
“…I am not.” Apparently the cook possessed weapons of her own, with the intensity of her gaze and brightness of her smile numbering among them.
So I walked away, unsuccessful at shaming her into cleanliness.
And when it was time for her to return home after supper, I stayed behind and returned to the kitchen.
“Bye, Leo! See you tomorrow!”
Where did she get the idea that it was appropriate to call me such a thing? And must she remind me that my torment would begin anew so soon?
But I was a butler, and a butler must bite back any complaints for the sake of the master of the house. And that master must never be confronted by the distasteful sight of a filthy kitchen.
Not even in my highest-level butler training had I encountered such stubborn grime…
Between picking up any slack for Lady Dru, addressing Master Straud’s more outrageous demands, and eliminating the sheer amount of filth the cook left behind, I was exhausted.
There were limits even to a vampire’s–and Lyons butler’s–stamina.
Abominable behavior on my part. I would be harshly chastised at the Blackwell-Lyons Butler Academy for falling asleep at my place of employment–and not even in a cool, dark place.
But when my gaze was drawn to the window, I soon realized that my similarly vampiric cousin was standing about in the sun.
I rose and took a closer look. Was she speaking with someone…?
As butler for the estate, I’d best investigate.
“Lady Dru,” I said. “Do we have company?” I placed my hands on my hips. As butler, it was my responsibility to announce any guests, and this would be a terrible breach of decorum.
She whirled around. “Oh, hey, Leo. It’s just Sunflower.”
“Yeah, he’s–” She glanced over her shoulder. “Shy, I guess. And slippery. He’s good at disappearing when I look away for a sec.”
“I see…” Was this Sunflower perhaps a squirrel or bird–or a raccoon? Well, the Blackwells were notoriously eccentric, according to Mother.
“So what’s up? The boss need you to redo something I messed up again?”
“Ah, no. I only wondered what you were doing out in the sun.” I shaded my hand with a shamefully stained white glove; they would have to be replaced immediately. And now that my arch-nemesis had returned home and we were out of earshot of our employer… “What do you think of the cook, Lady Dru?”
“Daisy? She’s nice, I guess. Gives me leftovers to feed Lyanna’s dog. Well, I think they’re supposed to be for me, but…” She shrugged. Such was the burden of a vampire.
I had perhaps expected more commiseration from Lady Dru, but our responsibilities were far too different. She was more likely to complain about our employer’s demands or mock his many idiosyncrasies, which would put my butler’s discretion at risk should I dare to join in.
And I couldn’t discuss the rigors of butler work with the person I most wanted to. I’d been disappointed to find out about Benedict’s very first butler position from Father, rather than from my twin himself. But even had he not told me, I would’ve seen him in his new uniform myself.
Did he never want to ask me for advice, or discuss the nature of our work…? I wondered if he still had a copy of the Lyons butler handbook, or if I should send him another.
But I got the distinct impression such a gesture would be unwelcome–as would a simple phone call. Even as his twin and elder brother, I could do nothing but silently wish him the best from afar.