Behind Green Eyes Ch. 02byElenia26©
Party night came, and we dressed in Jenna's room. Jenna had decided to go in a sapphire blue little-girl dress, which barely reached mid-thigh, and flared delightfully around her legs. She wore sapphires that her mother had given her when she turned sixteen. I had some simple gold jewelry, some of which Jenna had purchased for me, and some of which I had bought. I didn't mind not having any fancy jewelry, but Jenna wasn't about to let that stand. She finished dressing, and then came over to me with a velvet box before I had my dress on. I looked down at it, then up at her. I started to protest, but she covered my mouth with her hand.
"I won't hear of it, Elenia. You're eighteen and this is your party, too. I insist you wear them."
"All right, Jenna. Let me see them." She opened the box, and I gasped in wonder.
There was a set of the finest emeralds I had ever seen. It included a beautiful teardrop emerald pendant, teardrop earrings, and an emerald tennis-style bracelet. It also included anklets, a ring, and even a slim bellychain with a large emerald in the center. I put everything on, sliding the chain around my waist last. Underneath the dress I had donned a simple silk slip and silk stockings, and everything looked beautiful when I finally slid the dress over my head. I had tried various things for my hair, including putting it into a bun at the nape of my neck, but I finally consented to having most of it down, with a lock over my shoulder. The red-gold of it contrasted beautifully with the green dress.
Jenna had put her hair in a french twist, and looked older than usual and very elegant with her fair skin.
We went down to the ballroom, where the guests were shortly due to arrive. The place was decked out with white ribbons and white roses, a sign of the innocence of the girl who was coming out. I was pleased to see the eyes of the servants following not just Jenna but me as well. Obviously I had bloomed nicely these last two years.
Soon the guests began to arrive. As they started coming in I was pleasantly surprised. For these were not the high-flung society matrons I had expected. From the muscular arms and the scars and the knowing eyes I realized these were all adventurers. I looked at Jenna questioningly, and she laughed. "I thought you might enjoy people you could talk to. I don't like those boring old society dames either!" I laughed, and hugged her—this party was starting to look way better.
As we were hugging, I sensed a step near me. Jenna was so unobservant, she didn't even notice, but I turned to look quickly and almost bumped into him.
Standing very near—a bit too near, in fact—was the handsomest man I had ever seen. He was well over six feet tall, towering over Jenna and me. (I was 5'5", Jenna barely stood 5'2" in her stocking feet.) He had green eyes, not emerald like mine but darker and framed by long lashes, and his shoulder-length hair was bluish-black, like the color of the sky at midnight.
His shoulders were broad, but he carried himself with easy dignity. He wore a light scar across one cheek. He was dressed like a gentleman, in black with silver trim.
He bowed. "Ladies." He had an accent, and it took me a second to recognize it. The last place I had heard this accent was on a barbarian from the cold reaches of the North. This handsome man hailed from that barbaric place?
Jenna nudged me, and I realized I had been staring. I curtsied, quickly, and murmured, "Pleased to meet you. I'm Elenia."
He smiled then, and my heart nearly stopped. I realized that Jenna was also affected, judging by the heat of her arm as it pressed against mine. "The pleasure is mine, surely. Tiradon Brightblade, at your service." Jenna held out her hand first, and he bowed over it and kissed it. I did the same, and he kissed my hand as well. His lips were warm and made me tremble.
I had never really paid much attention to men in my short life, other than enjoying their looks when they turned them my way. I figured, I was only eighteen, and I had plenty of years yet. Besides, too many times they weren't kind or nice about it. I was not considered a lady to be treated well! Adventurers were at least somewhat better looking than the sappy youths of Jenna's acquaintance were, but most adventurers became brutes around pretty red-haired young girls. And I had never found myself actually attracted to one of them, not with the closeness Jenna and I shared. For a while I had wondered if that was to be my fate in life, to be only attracted to women. But for the first time a young man was making me tremble.
"Am I to understand that you two are the birthday girls?"
Jenna simply nodded, and I took it upon myself to answer. "Yes, Mr. Brightblade. It's a pleasure to meet you. I am Elenia, and this is Jenna."
"Please, it's just Tiradon. Jenna was obviously feeling shy, so again I answered. "Very well, but only if you call us Jenna and Elenia as well."
"Of course, my lady. May I ask - which one of you is older? Or are you both born on the same day?"
Jenna finally spoke up. "I'm younger...tomorrow is my birthday and yesterday was hers."
"Ah. I see. How convenient for a party." Jenna giggled, and I smiled. "May I ask one of you two to dance?"
My eyes narrowed immediately. I couldn't help it. I knew men wanted Jenna because of her vast inheritance. Jenna was so kind-hearted. I had always been fiercely protective of Jenna and her money, and that was why I answered quickly, before Jenna had a chance to. "Certainly. I would love to." I saw Jenna dart me a look, but I didn't pay any attention yet. I wanted to make sure he was all right before I let him near her.
He smiled, a slight, knowing smile. "As you wish, my lady." He bowed, and held out his arm, and I stepped into it and he drew me onto the dance floor.
I had meant to stay the requisite six inches, or even better, eight inches away from him, but he drew me right up to him. My breasts were just barely brushing against his chest, and I was forced to look up into his face. Heat filled my face as I thought of what his view must be, looking almost directly down at me. I imagined him admiring my curves and the teardrop emerald resting against my skin. For a second I wished I hadn't worn such a low-cut dress. He didn't show it though, and his eyes didn't flicker from mine as his hand went quickly around my back, and pressed against my bare skin. His skin was cool to the touch, and mine felt very hot. No doubt about it, this man affected me. His other hand took mine gently, but I could feel the calluses on his palm and thumb. A swordsman, by the feel of it.
I opened my mouth to protest, then shut it again. I had to admit it was a pleasant feeling. He spoke first.
"That was brave of you back there."
I looked up at him archly. "What do you mean?'
He smiled again. "Why, throwing yourself at me to protect your friend. Do you always protect her?"
I was embarrassed that he had picked up on it so easily but determined not to show it. "With my life." I answered immediately.
He grinned at me. "I thought as much. How long have you two known each other?"
I softened a bit. After all, he was a guest and was being nice. I looked up into those marvelous eyes and smiled. "Nearly all my life. We've been best of friends since we were very young."
"Did you grow up in this city?"
"Yes...I was born here." And then, not overly anxious to delve into the story of my childhood, I quickly changed the topic." And you, Tiradon? Do you live in this town?"
He shook his head. "As a matter of fact, I am originally a foreigner to these parts. There's a story to it, would you like to hear it?"
"Very well then. Please forgive me if I bore you. My father came to these parts with me when I was just a baby, and he was only twenty himself. He had heard he could make his fortune here. He took up an apprenticeship to a goldsmith, and took care of me in between. We had a woman come in and take care of the house since my father usually put in sixteen-hour days as an apprentice. When I was old enough, I started taking care of as much as I could.
"My father taught me his trade but never asked me to become part of it as well. So I learned goldsmithing, but as soon as I turned sixteen I left home to make my own fortune.
"I didn't feel guilty because my father had become quite a good goldsmith in the years, and had put away a few coins, enough to buy a fine house. I live in Willowroot, the town down the river."
"That's about the sum and the whole of it. Did I bore you?"
"Not at all. So you're actually a goldsmith by profession? I mean, what is it that you do these days?"
"Well, I have received my certification from the Craftsmen's Guild; however, it is more of a hobby than anything else.
"What about your mother?"
He smiled sadly. "My mother died in childbirth. I don't remember her."
"I'm sorry to bring up old pain."
He waved a hand dismissively. "What of yourself? How did you become an adventurer?"
Considering he had been so honest about his own background, I decided to be so also. I smiled up at him, and responded, "First I'll say the same thing: I'm sorry if I bore you. I'm sure my story happens a thousand times in Sosaria.
"I know what you mean about your mother. I remember my mother, but very faintly. She was very poor, and we didn't really have enough to eat. I learned very early how to get food.... in other ways." I looked up at him to see if he understood. He had a mischievous look in his eyes that indicated he knew exactly what I meant. I smiled impishly back at him.
"Anyway, my mother died before I was five years old. I...survived until I was about eight. I filched something from a vendor's cart and ran for it, but the guards saw me and gave chase. I hid under a carriage, which turned out to be Jenna's. She was coming home from the market with her mother. She pulled me into her cart and hid me from the guards. Together her and her mother managed to convince her father to raise me. When Jenna's parents died, Jenna insisted I stay with her but two years ago at sixteen I finally left. And that's my story."
I wondered if he would ask about my father. I knew who he was, but I had never told anyone, not even Jenna. To his credit, he did not.
"I am also sorry about your parents. It is a credit to you that you survived so long on the streets alone. You must come and visit my home sometime. My father would admire you."
I looked at him shyly. "I think I would actually like that. Maybe I could see some of your father's work...or yours."
"Done!" he said. "I'll send an invitation very soon." I laughed, thinking he was joking.
The song was coming to an end, and I was actually enjoying myself. However, I wanted to go chat with Jenna about him. He had other plans, though.
He escorted me back, and still looking at me, he bowed deeply and said, "Would it be all right if I took Jenna out on the floor this time?" I blushed and nodded. He turned to Jenna and bowed again. Extending his arm, he said, "My Lady?" She darted me a mischievous look as she took his arm and in a minute they were gone.
I watched them as they moved around the floor. My skin still tingled where he had touched me. I had never been affected like this, and I couldn't help but smile as I thought of him. I wondered if he meant to invite me. I thought not. After all, I was just an orphan and Jenna was the heiress.
Another one of the guests came up to me and invited me out on the floor. I went agreeably enough, but I had to admit my mind was elsewhere.
The rest of the night went enjoyably. After he returned Jenna to my side, I didn't see Tiradon again until we cut the cake, around ten p.m. Jenna and I cut a huge three-tier cake together by holding the knife at the same time, giggling as the cut was crooked. I fed her a piece and she fed me one, and as she did I glanced up right into a pair of dark green eyes that were fixed on me over the heads of the other guests. He was watching me with a faint hint of a smile playing about his lips. When he noticed me looking he smiled fully, and winked, slowly and lazily. I looked back at Jenna quickly, who was watching me also with a knowing grin.
He danced with each of us once more that night, and kissed my hand again when the party ended. His lips were still warm, and I thought he lingered.
As soon as the last guest left, Jenna pounced on me.
"So? Do you like him? He's cute, isn't he? Well?
I laughed. "He seems like a nice guy, he's very handsome, and well what?"
"Well, do you want to see him again?"
I shrugged, not wanting to admit how much he'd affected me. "It wouldn't be a bad thing, I guess."
She pouted. "You guess! Fine, I won't tell you the surprise." She flipped her hair and started to march away, but I had guessed that would be her next move and had already caught her hand. "What? Tell me!"
"You really want to know?" she said, still pouting.
"Yes, yes, I do!!"
She turned toward me with a big smile on her face. "I've invited him for lunch tomorrow! He'll be coming by at noon!"
I guess I couldn't hide it entirely, because her smile went from just happy to happy and triumphant. "You do want to see him again! Admit it."
What could I do? I lowered my eyes and nodded, but I couldn't suppress the smile. She grabbed my arms. "You like him!" Then pause, and "Do you?"
I looked into her eyes as I answered. "Like I said, he is a nice gentleman, and it will be nice to see him again. So there!" And so saying, I slipped out of her arms and ran for it, up the stairs, down the hall, and into her bedroom with her in hot pursuit. She never could keep up with me though, and I got there first and closed the door. I leaned against it, and listened to her pounding on it in between her giggles.
I finally let her in.
I won't go so far as to say I dreamed of him that night, but he definitely kept me up longer than I would have expected. For the first time in my life I caught myself looking at the empty spot next to me...and wondering.