How to Tame a Dragon Ch. 02bytotallyatease©
She only agreed to do it as a favour to her sister -- but he more than made up for the inconvenience...
Daniel studied Izzy discreetly as she ate the evening meal. He'd thought her quite plain when he's first seen her, but then she had smiled and her face had lit up. Now though she looked stunning... but for some reason, he did find himself preferring the other, understated Izzy. He'd always been a sucker for a pretty face... but Izzy was beyond pretty, and she bought out all kinds of strange almost protective urges in him.
Richard couldn't seem to keep his eyes off her either, and Daniel glanced across at Jessie expecting her to be furious. He was surprised to see the smirk on her face and a look of such satisfaction that he thought she might start purring at any moment.
Everyone around Izzy seemed to favour her. Even his own Mrs Coats was extra careful when she put food in front of Izzy, extra careful that everything was in easy reach for her, so that she wouldn't have to stretch for anything. Izzy would look up at his housekeeper with a little smile and it was as if the two ladies were communicating.
He began to feel frustrated that although she sat opposite him, her head was always down. He could never get a proper look at her face, and more importantly he couldn't see her eyes.
They finished their meal without a single word spoken between Daniel and Izzy; and Izzy began to feel more confident. She walked into the living room with Jessie and they sat together on the sofa. Jessie was talking quietly to her, so that the two men couldn't hear their discussion.
Daniel found himself straining to catch a soft word from either of the girls, wanting to know what they were talking about. Izzy giggled suddenly and Daniel felt it tingle down his spine.
When Jessie rose to get her and Izzy another glass of wine, Daniel saw his opportunity and moved in. He sat down next to Izzy on the sofa, and began an easy rambling sort of conversation with her. She looked like a rabbit caught in a headlight, and Daniel wanted to grind his teeth in frustration. Jessie came back with their glasses and after a quick glance at her sister, she somehow managed to insinuate herself between the two of them.
She engaged Daniel in a sparkling conversation, where manners told him he must reply, and there was nothing he could do when Izzy moved away to talk to Richard. Again Daniel strained to catch a word or two, but she just seemed to elude him. On one occasion Richard threw back his head and laugh delightedly. Jessie looked fondly at her sister as Izzy joined in with Richard's laughter.
She caught Daniels eye and leaned forward to speak to him. "You frighten my little sister," she told him accusingly, "and it's important that she doesn't get too stressed... So I think it would be a good idea if you gave her a bit of space, while she's here." She'd spoken quietly to him, making sure that there was no chance of the other two overhearing.
Daniel frowned at her. "I have no intention of harming your sister in any way," he told her feeling offended.
"You may not mean too but, Izzy is very vulnerable right now and she doesn't need big domineering men walking all over her."
Again he thought that there was something that he wasn't being told and he opened his mouth to speak.
"Time for bed I think," Jessie said standing and hiding a dramatic yawn behind her hand. "Goodnight Daniel goodnight Richard." She held her hand out to Izzy who walked over to her with a small smile.
"Goodnight," she said quietly to the room in general and the two girls left the men.
Daniel narrowed his eyes at his brother who took one look at him and put his glass down on the table. "I think I'm for bed as well... goodnight Daniel!" and he'd left the room before Daniel had even realised his intentions.
Daniel spent the next few days wandering around his home and finding Izzy in the strangest of places. She'd be curled up on a sofa or in a window seat and every time he came across her, she would either be deep into some novel or fast asleep. There was always a tray at her side with an empty cup and half eaten food. And Daniel noticed how the hollows in her cheeks; and under her eyes started to fill out. Jessie had not tried to make her over the way she obviously had on that first evening, but Daniel always found his eyes drawn to her, trying to capture her gaze; so that he could look into her eyes. It became a bit of an obsession with him, and as though Izzy had noticed it, they began a game of cat and mouse with him trying to get her attention, and her deliberately blanking him.
Any time he managed to capture her gaze even though it would be for a split second he would feel a flash of triumphant excitement flood through him, even as her eyes skittered nervously away.
Jessie had noticed something too and in typical big sister protectiveness she would continually be forcing him into conversations that neither of them wanted. They skirted around each other with little Izzy in the middle as the prize.
Izzy pottered around in the kitchen under the eagle eye of Mrs Coats. "So what was the nature of your illness?" that lady asked suddenly.
Izzy flushed uncomfortably. "I'm better now honest!" she began evasively; but as Mrs Coats continued to look questioningly at her, "it was just a bad dose of flu... followed by minor complications," she finished vaguely.
Izzy sighed realising that Mrs Coats wasn't going to give up until she knew. "A slight case of bronchial pneumonia," she said lamely.
"Nasty!" Mrs Coats was all sympathy.
"It was for a while," Izzy conceded, "and of course my recovery has been a bit slower than anyone would have liked!"
"And Mr Daniel? How much does he know?"
Izzy gave a short uncomfortable laugh. "I'm here on sufferance as it is," she said stiffly, "without him feeling that he should worry, every time I so much as cough or sneeze."
Mrs Coats gave a little grunt. "I suppose..." she said uncertainly.
Izzy was looking out of the window. "Is that a summer house I can see just behind those trees?" she suddenly asked.
Mrs Coats joined her at the window. "Yes Miss Izzy, that's Mr Daniel's summer house."
"Will it be locked up do you think?" Izzy asked hopefully.
"I've got the key right here..." Mrs Coats began, "but I'm not sure it's such a good idea for you to go out there."
"Nonsense." Izzy laughed. "It's time I started getting out a bit... The fresh air will do me good, and it doesn't look that far." Izzy went and put her jacket on and held out her hand for the key; and with a little sigh Mrs Coats handed it over.
Izzy gave her a cheeky grin and marched confidently out of the back door. It was a cloudy cool day, and the air felt sharp on her chest; as she headed for the trees, taking it slow and careful.
By the time she reached the summer house, her breathing was laboured and she was shaking with fatigue. It hadn't been that far but it really showed her how out of condition she was. She fumbled with the lock and finally managed to open the door. She banged it too behind her and sank thankfully on to the bench.
Mrs Coats watched with concern as the weather closed in, she made up a flask and folded a blanket and placed them both into a small back pack. She fetched her coat and with one last look out of the window started to pull it on.
Daniel wandered in to the kitchen. "Going somewhere?" he asked surprised.
"It's Miss Izzy!" she blurted worriedly. "She went out to the summer house just before the weather turned, and she's not back yet."
Daniel frowned at her obvious concern. "I'm sure that she'll be fine and not want any fuss."
"Yes, but, she was only wearing a little jacket. And the weather is starting to look real bad." Mrs Coats was on the verge of wringing her hands in her distress.
Daniel gave a sigh and pulled on the coat, that he'd been taking off when he had entered the kitchen. "If it'll make you feel better I'll go and fetch her for you."
Mrs Coats flashed him a look of relief and handed him the bag. "Just in case..." she murmured not quite meeting his questioning look.
Daniel marched purposely over to the summer house. The rain was getting quite heavy by the time he reached it, and he pulled open the door and looked inside. Izzy was curled up on the bench -- fast asleep.
Daniel started to curse just as the heavens opened and heavy rain came pouring down. He dove inside and pulled the door too behind him.
The sound of the door slamming snapped Izzy out of her nap.
"What in god's name do you think you are doing?" he snarled at her, as she sat up; her face white with fatigue. His eyes narrowed. "Are you ill?" his tone was accusing and she flushed guiltily, bringing a sparkle back to her dull eyes.
"No! I'm just a little tired -- that's all."
Daniel came and sat next to her, just as she gave a cold little shiver. He turned her to face him and started to rub her arms briskly, until she could feel them tingling. "Better?" he asked after a bit and Izzy nodded.
"Much better thank you," she smiled wanly.
"Now let's see what Mrs Coats sent you," he murmured looking into the small bag. He pulled out the blanket and wrapped it around her, and Izzy snuggled thankfully into its warmth, as Daniel pulled out the flask. He unscrewed the top and poured some of the fragrant brew. Izzy cupped her hands around the small mug and gulped some of the hot liquid. Her eyes widened and filled with moisture and she almost choked it back out, but she managed to swallow it down, and sighed as she felt it warm her belly.
Daniel watched her as she curled up against him and took little sips from the cup. He grunted and filled the second even smaller cup. Placing the flask on the floor next to his feet he took a large gulp, and almost spat it back out again. "Hell's teeth!" he swore savagely, as the very sweet liquid rushed down his throat. The hot coffee had been liberally laced with alcohol as well and he wondered what Mrs Coats had been thinking of. He turned to Izzy to say as much only to notice that she had some colour again and her eyes shone brightly if a little glazed from the alcohol.
For one awful moment there!! When he had seen her curled up and looking so lifeless and drained...
He put both of the cups on the floor and pulled Izzy into his arms; and they sat snuggled up together on that bench and watched in silence as the rain lashed against the windows.
Izzy relaxed into the warmth and strength of Daniel, she felt like a leach slowly draining from him to revive her.
Her eyes shone with life and her cheeks developed their first natural colour in a long time. Her breathing eased, and she felt... almost well.
She sighed into his chest and felt him tense beneath her fingers.
"The rain is letting off," he said gruffly. "We should think about heading back before it closes in again."
Izzy pulled regretfully away from him and rose to her feet. She kept the blanket wrapped around her as they walked and Daniel took her arm to assist her.
As they reached the house she could see Mrs Coats looking worriedly out of the window and Izzy groaned feeling guilty. Mrs Coats opened the back door and urged her inside. "There you go Miss Izzy." She fussed. "I was that worried about you, I was." She put another hot mug into her hand and sat her down at the kitchen table. "You just drink that up miss. It'll warm you from the inside." She urged Daniel to sit opposite Izzy and handed him a mug as well.
"If it's anything like that stuff from the flask, remember to sip slowly!" Daniel whispered to Izzy.
Izzy looked into his eyes with shared humour, and Daniel felt like he'd just been hit, by a sledgehammer. For the first time since he had met Izzy he was the first to look away.
His shoulders stiffened and his attitude changed suddenly; and Izzy frowned in confusion and retreated back into her protective shell. She drained the mug and placed it carefully on the table before rising to her feet. "Thank you Mrs Coats. I'm going to shower and change." She flashed a look at Daniel who seemed to have retreated into his own private world, before turning and leaving the kitchen.
After she'd showered and dressed, she curled up on her bed to rest. It was the thing she hated the most about her illness, this constant need to rest. She lay down but for once she didn't sleep, she could still feel a last residue of the strength from Daniel... She sighed at the little butterflies fluttering around in her stomach, as she remembered his strong arms around her. "Don't you be such a fool!" she warned herself softly. "He's not for you at all."
There was a knock on her door and Jessie poked her head around it. "Oh good you're awake!" she smiled as she came and sat on the bed. "Daniel took Richard off to the factory for some sort of meeting," she sighed, "and I'm just so bored on my own!"
Izzy smiled apologetically at her. "I'm afraid I've not been much company for you -- have I?"
"Oh bother that!" her sister dismissed with a wave of her hand. "You're my sister Izz and you are always good company..." She giggled suddenly. "We're too much alike for it to be anything else!"
Izzy laughed lightly. "When did you get to be so good with my ego?"
"Oh only since you needed it." Jessie jumped to her feet and held her hand out. "Come on you. Mrs Coats said something about tea and cream cakes as a special treat."
Izzy took her sister's hand and they left the bedroom. "Ooooh... now how can I say no to cream cakes?" She licked her lips dramatically and Jessie giggled.
"It's probably a good thing the guys aren't here to see us making pigs of ourselves."
"It also means that we don't have to share." Izzy said dryly.
They entered the living room and stopped dead in their tracks. "Oh wow Mrs Coats you've really out done yourself!" Izzy said her eyes round as she looked at the table loaded with sandwiches and a variety of cakes.
"It was Mr Daniel's instructions miss Izzy... He said to give the two of you a very special tea while they were away."
"Well I'm certainly not going to argue." Jessie murmured as she moved towards the table.
"What about you and Rosie?" Izzy asked suddenly. "We couldn't possibly manage all this so you and Rosie simply have to join us."
"What a brilliant idea." Jessie concurred. "Where is Rosie?"
"She's just washing some pots in the kitchen." Mrs Coats said doubtfully.
"Shall I go and fetch her?" Izzy turned towards the door.
"Oh no miss I'll get her." Mrs Coats seemed to reach a decision. "Dinner is just about prepared and we were just about to have our tea break any way... so I suppose just this once it wouldn't hurt."
By the time Mrs Coats and her young assistant came back, Jessie had put on some music and pulled out a couple of bottles of wine, and the four of them sat around demolishing cakes and laughing hysterically at each other. Their little impromptu party developed into a little impromptu dancing and that was how Daniel and Richard found them.
They had come in through the front door to hear the music blaring out and Daniel had stormed in to stand in the door way absolutely stunned at his staid motherly little house keeper bopping away with Izzy. They were all giggling away and Daniel could feel himself grinding his teeth. He fixed his eyes on Izzy the look of thunder transmitting itself to her. The music came to a halt and they all looked across at Daniel at his most formidable. Jessie's grin faded to disappointment. Rosie looked like she was about to throw up. Mrs Coats looked frightened. But Izzy, Izzy lost her colour, her sparkle vanished; the animation she had showed stilled; and Daniel watched as she wilted like a dying flower before him.
"If you have all quite finished?" he bit out accusingly.
"Yes, yes of course, things to do you know," Mrs Coats mumbled as she and Rosie fled.
Jessie grabbed Izzy's hand. "And we really must get ready for this evening," she beamed at him as she dragged Izzy from the room.
"Well I've got to hand it to you brother," Richard laughed behind him. "You really know how to clear a room!"
"Shut up Richard." Daniel ground. "Just -- shut -- up!" and he turned and stormed off to his study.
He walked around muttering angrily to himself. "Just once," he swore, "I'd like to be around that girl when she is not about to pass out!"
Izzy and Jessie scuttled off to Izzy's room; they banged the door too and looked at each other guiltily. Jessie started it first; she gave a little chuckle and tried to restrain herself. She giggled helplessly and looked at Izzy. It wasn't long before both girls were bent double with laughter, tears streaming down their cheeks.
"This is all your fault Izzy!" Jessie gasped finally. "It was you who invited Mrs Coats and Rosie to join us."
"My fault!" Izzy protested. "I'm not the one who put the music on full blast. And I'm most certainly not the one who suggested we all have a dance to burn off all those calories; and I'm not even going to mention the wine at all."
"Ok, ok." Jessie held up her hand. "We'll face the dragon together and take equal responsibility."
"Agreed." Izzy nodded. She looked at her sister apprehensively. "Should we do it now do you think?"
"Now? Oh no I really must get changed..." She glanced at her watch. "We'll find the right time later I'm sure." She pulled open the bedroom door. "I'll see you in a bit for dinner."
And Izzy was left alone to mull over her next encounter with the lord and master.
She absolutely refused to be the first one down for dinner tonight. She just couldn't handle Daniel on her own; knowing that he was furious with her. She hung around her bedroom until long after they usually sat down to dinner.
In the end Jessie had to come and drag her down. Izzy squared her shoulders and marched defiantly into the dining room. She glanced at Daniel with his glittering eyes and her head went down.
They ate there meal in silence and as soon as it was over Daniel excused himself politely and disappeared.
The three of them went in to living room and tried to start off a conversation but it kept trailing off. In the end Izzy had had enough. She picked up the novel she had left on the side earlier and said goodnight to the other two.
She closed the door and headed for the stairs. A noise... or... something caused her to look back and she saw Daniel watching her from a doorway. His eyes burned her and she flushed uncomfortably. "Good night Daniel!" she called out softly before scuttling up the stairs and slamming her door too.
She curled up on her bed to continue reading her book, but her eyes kept drifting to the door. In the end she threw the novel down in frustration. "What do think for heaven's sake!" she told herself angrily. "Do you think he's going to break down your door and have his wicked way with you?" she laughed at herself mockingly. "Dream on!"
She went through to the bathroom and decided to run herself a bath...
Outside her bedroom door, Daniel stood clenching and unclenching his fists. He'd followed her up here to have it out with Izzy once and for all. He'd reached for the door handle only to be assailed with images of Izzy in a state of undress. This was after all her bedroom. He stepped back and swore silently several times, before storming off to his own room and a cold shower to cool his temper.
He stepped shivering from the shower and began to dry himself vigorously with the towel.
"Calm down." He kept muttering to himself, as he felt the blood coursing through him. He stopped suddenly as he realised how irrational he was being. He felt no ill will to Jessie or Rosie or even Mrs Coats. His entire wrath seemed to be targeting Izzy, which to his sense of fair play, was just so wrong. He sat down to think through his feelings about what had happened. There had been no harm done. In fact his biggest feeling was of regret that he'd missed out on something which had looked like fun.