𝔗𝔥𝔢 𝔗𝔦𝔪𝔢 𝔗𝔬 𝔇𝔦𝔫𝔢

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"Welcome, welcome, welcome!" Lady Sutherton stood from the dining table and hurried over to Ezra. She clasped her hands, smiling and beaming with sparkling luminescence. "I trust you made it to the dining hall with ease, Mister Ezra?"

"Yes." He surveyed the sweeping sublime scapes of the dining area and the sprawling golden table where hot and steaming foods crowded the surface, and Lord Sutherton was already eating his fill. "Luckily, I found my way, but I did have a little trouble." He swiped a glance at Erin.

"Trouble?" Lady Sutherton winced, rapidly fixing her sight onto her daughter. "What kind of trouble, Erin?"

Erin pressed her tongue against the side of her mouth, a scowl easily cementing. "What?" She met her mother's concern with distaste.

"By trouble," Ezra said, "I meant I got a bit lost on my way here. You have such a magnificently large estate, Lady Sutherton, so it was easy to lose my way. It seems I was a bit too cocky with my directional skills."

Lady Sutherton reluctantly pulled her stare away from her daughter and glued it onto him. "I see you meant trouble like that." She sighed in large exponential relief.

"What?" Erin narrowed her eyes. "Did you think I pulled him aside and physically attacked him, Lady Sutherton?" she emphasized, hatred burning on her tongue.

"No." She gawked. "I suggested nothing of the sort, my dear."

For a time of unbreakable tension and animosity, they held stifling stares.

"If I might be so kind as to add, Lady Sutherton?" Ezra spoke up amidst their contest. "Lady Erina actually helped me find my way to the dining hall."

"Really?" Her disbelief was prominent.

"Yes." He smiled at Erin. "If it wasn't for her suggestions and compulsions, I wouldn't have found my way out of the room I was lost in, nor would I have stumbled upon the dining hall."

Erin peered at him before looking back to her mother. "Right. My... 'compulsions'." She turned a brief glare at Ezra. "I'm not a monster, mother, I'm a young lady and I can be hospitable. Hence why he's unharmed now, isn't he?"

Lady Sutherton took a steady inhale, brushing away loose hairs. "Haha. Right." She strained a laugh. "Well, dinner will get cold at this rate. Please come, have a seat anywhere you'd like, Mister Ezra." She gestured him toward her but the moment he took one step forward, Erin placed her arm in front of him.

Abruptly, Erin pushed him back with her forearm.

"Sit anywhere he'd like?" she bemused sardonically. "He's a butler, Anya. Service workers don't sit at the table. You know that."

Lady Sutherton's smile grew flaccid. "Tomorrow, he starts work, right now he's our guest, Erin. Guests may sit at the table. You know that is proper cordial procedure."

"Well, I don't want to sit next to a service worker, Anya." She folded her arms over her chest.

"No one said you're sitting next to him, dear." She struggled to maintain her composure.

"A lowborn sitting anywhere at our grand hall table is insult enough," she scoffed. "How do you not think so?"

Lady Sutherton anxiously exhaled. "I didn't realize you intended to come. I thought you said you were skipping dinner."

"Did I say such a thing?"

"It seemed like you were. You just stormed off, so I assumed you were up to your usual antics of bothering someone to pass time or locking yourself away in your room to brood and mope." She feigned a smile, examining her daughter up and down. "Also, would it not be better if you skipped dinner? You want to fit into those new dresses we talked about, right?"

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