It was really really strange, not having Leo around for a few days. But I was surprised when he came back to work so soon. He still hovered around the kitchen, but he didn’t seem to watch me as much…
But Rhys Straud still had to eat, so I had to concentrate on cooking for him for now. And now Leo’s sister was staying here, and her dog too. I was sooo happy to have a pet around again–I missed Trash and Garbage so much.
Even if he kind of got in the way sometimes when I was in the kitchen and nipped at my heels…
His sharp teeth reminded me of Trash and Garbage’s claws…he was probably really really hungry.
I was trying out a new dessert, one that Rhys Straud hopefully wouldn’t find too sweet or high in calories. “Sit with me a moment, won’t you?” he asked when I handed him the plate.
“Me? Are you sure?” Rhys Straud was asking me to sit with him! The second he nodded, I plopped down next to him and watched him eat up close…
“I know you’ve probably grown accustomed to preparing a very strict vegan meal plan for me, but I hope you won’t mind expanding your repertoire to accommodate my guest. I’ll gladly cover any extra expenses, as well as compensate you generously for your time.” Ohmigosh, had I ever seen him smile so much?
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm… “I don’t mind at all,” I said. “I’ve been trying soooo many new recipes for this pop-up restaurant I’ve been invited to cook for…”
“You have my gratitude, Daisy,” he said. “And if you could…make her feel welcome in any other way, I’d appreciate it. I’m certain this is a difficult time for her, and I’d like for her to have a friend.”
Oooooh, he had it bad for Leo’s sister. I’d seen her, on his and Galatea’s show… She was sooo pretty.
“I’m sorry your show got cancelled,” I said as he finished with his dessert. I think he liked it! Or maybe his smile was for Leo’s sister…
“Hm?” He stood and pushed his empty plate away. “Ah, I’m not–at least our guest won’t have to work so soon after her father’s passing. There were a number of episodes that were set to air but never will, thanks to the especially dire ratings.”
He really didn’t seem sad about it at all… I wonder if he felt the same way when Young, Haught and Rich was cancelled. I know I cried for days and days.
I stayed late that night, after making dinner for Rhys Straud and Leo’s sister (she likes her meat bloody, according to my notes), hoping that maybe I could say hi to her. Ophelia. She had such a pretty name…
I caught a glimpse of her pacing the balcony in her black clothes…
She looked so sad. Sad and beautiful, like my old roommate…
But for some reason, I couldn’t bring myself to talk to her, even though I could talk to just about anybody. Maybe because I messed up so bad with Galatea… I didn’t want to say the wrong thing and make Leo’s sister want to leave too, or make her even sadder.
What did you say to someone who lost a parent? I didn’t really know what to say to Leo either, so I went a couple days without saying anything to him at all.
I wanted to tell him everything would be okay, but how could it ever be okay? His dad was gone forever… Just the thought of losing mine made me want to cry into Rhys Straud’s kale smoothie.
But I couldn’t just ignore him either, not when he looked so sad and alone…
“How are you, Leo?” Was that a stupid question? It was a stupid question, I knew it, but I didn’t know what else to ask…
“Perfectly well, Miss Strider.” He cleared his throat. “I overheard you and Master Straud discussing your plans for a…’pop-up restaurant.’ Perhaps I might be able to assist you, considering our relationship and my extensive butler skills…?”
To be honest, I would’ve liked to have someone else around. That was part of why I agreed to join a couple other “personal chefs to the stars” for a few nights–not just the chance to get investors for my future restaurant, but to be around people again.
But… “I couldn’t ask that of you, Leo…”
He looked up and met my eyes. “You could ask anything of me, Miss Strider, and I’d be delighted to oblige.”
“Then…if you could come over tonight? I could really really use a sous chef…”
Leo agreed, and we were set. I was sooo excited. I hadn’t really cooked with anybody since culinary school…
I tried to make things easier for Leo at work by cleaning up after myself. I didn’t want him to be tired, because his sadness was probably wearing him out already, even if I never saw him cry.
Did some people really like cleaning? Leo seemed to, but he was a butler.
And I had this really really weird feeling that I might’ve done a couple things wrong while cleaning…
After work, I got everything ready before Leo came. And I went to answer the door the second I heard him knock…
It was sooo weird, seeing him outside his butler uniform. I never knew he had such nice arms…
“Leo!” Was I too close? Did he need space, or was it comforting to have someone so close? “I’m sooo glad you came.”
“As am I, Miss Strider. Thank you for the invitation.”
I couldn’t help it–I just had to hug him. Galatea didn’t like hugs, but most people did, didn’t they?
I knew it lasted too long by the way he cleared his throat, so I led him into the kitchen. Did Leo know how to cook? Maybe I was asking too much of him…
I got to work chopping vegetables right away. “Watch me closely,” I said.
I didn’t expect him to watch me that closely…
“Please don’t cut yourself,” he whispered in my ear. The puff of breath was so cold… I shivered.
“I know what I’m doing, Leo! Don’t worry.”
“Miss Strider, please watch your hands at all times when handling a blade–”
His hand reached around to steady mine, and then my finger slid against the knife in my surprise…
My eyes went wide. I saw the blood before I felt the pain. “I’m bleeding.”
“I–I can smell that, Miss Strider.”
Didn’t he mean see?
I was shocked when he brought my bleeding finger to his lips. He might get blood on his white shirt… But he probably did have medical training, since he was always asking if I cut myself.
His cool lips numbed the back of my finger. “You ought to be more careful…truly.”
And then his expression changed, and he turned his head away, even though his hand never left mine…
“Leo…” I said softly. “Are you…a vampire?”
It would’ve made sooo much sense, the way he’d never try anything I made, no matter what it was, and the way he was so pale, and tried not to stay outside for too long.
When he didn’t respond, I added, “My mom was a vampire. She’s a human now, and a food critic, and she loooves food…” I hesitated. Was this rude, or…? “Do you…do you want a taste? I don’t have any band-aids, and you probably drink blood, and I don’t want to bleed everywhere, so…”
“I mustn’t,” he said hoarsely. “Such a thing would be wildly inappropriate…”
“But it’s my finger,” I insisted. “I don’t mind, and it’d be nice to have something you can taste…”
I raised my finger closer to his face, watching his eyes follow it and his nostrils flare. “Please, Leo.”
He smiled shyly at me, his fangs peeking out behind his lips. “If you insist…”
He didn’t need much more encouragement after that…
I wasn’t expecting it to feel really really good…
I was almost sad when he stopped, and let my finger slide out between his lips… He had such full ones, for a man.
He closed his hand protectively over mine, his fangs glistening when he smiled. That smile felt so precious now, after seeing him so sad every day. “You’ve given me a great gift, Miss Strider.”
“I really really wish you’d call me Daisy,” I said, “especially since we’re close enough for you to suck my blood…”
He abruptly let me go. Could vampires blush? “Ahem. Yes. Well. I fear we’ve already let things progress far too quickly, and I wouldn’t want to do anything else unseemly before–well, we must have a mourning period first, naturally. Why don’t you allow me to handle the knife for the rest of the night?”
Well, that fell in line with a sous chef’s responsibilities… “Do you know how to cook, Leo?”
“Do I know how to cook?” he scoffed. “Miss Strider, I am a Lyons.”
He did seem to know what he was doing… On a whim, I sat on the counter so I could see him face to face.
“Please mind the blade,” he said. “As–as delicious as your blood was, I’d rather not have another taste anytime soon.”
“Thank you, Leo…I’m so glad you were with me tonight.”
“As am I, Miss Strider.”
Well, he was a vampire. There was plenty of time to teach him to call me Daisy.