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I don't see his face at first, shadowed as it is by his cold-weather cap and the way the porch light shines onto it. The chill breeze of the evening bites the wine-flush in my cheeks, nipping at the heat and most likely making my nose redder. I always did gain such a motley, unattractive blotching when slipping into my cups, and in this world, the wine is never watered.

"Come in, come in!" I say, turning to open the closet door and fetch a hanger for his snow-sodden coat. "Well met, and well come."

He enters, doffing his cap and stuffing it into his pocket. Then he shuts the door behind him and raises his head. I turn around. His smile is gratified and hopeful, and a very great shock to see.

The sound of the wooden hanger clattering to the tile is bright, and abrupt enough that several pairs of eyes turn from their conversation in the living room to peer at me. I don't recall backing up the staircase, but when I blink again, I am three steps away. And Elgar Reed is standing in my foyer, dripping melting snow on the tile and holding an enormous bottle of wine tied with a ribbon dangling mulling sachets. He holds the bottle out, a clear offering. And one that he equally as clearly expects me to accept.

Oh, the fool.

"N-n-no," I say, as firmly as my tripping tongue allows, though whether the denial is for him, or for me, I am not certain. All I know is that I will not stand by the door and welcome Reed into my home on Solsticetide, bad luck for turning away a guest on the Night of Light be damned. A little bad luck is well worth the price of keeping Elgar Reed away from my family.

"Hello, my boy," Reed says, and it is stiff sounding. Tentative. Hopeful. He is clearly under the assumption that he can bludgeon my rebuff into nothingness with the force of his cheer. His cheeks are also red, but from the cold, and his jowly face is covered with a thinly cultivated beard. He looks like the fat spirit of cheer that is summoned to homes on Christmas.

"N-no," I say again, in the face of his blind and selfish hope. I gesture as sharply toward the front door as I can. "L-l-leave."

He toes out of his boots and puts one socked foot on the lowest step, extending the wine toward me, cradled in two hands now as if it were a sacrificial offering or a white flag of peace. Neither of which I was willing to accept from the likes of him. "Come now, my boy—"

"I am not your b-boy!" I hiss, keeping my voice low for the sake of our guests. The very last thing I want is for Martin or Mei Fan to come see what is wrong, for them to get sucked into Reed's persistent delusion that I think of him as part of my own original family, or that I want him involved in my new one.

If Pip's parents come into Reed's orbit, the sly old bastard will introduce himself as my father, and then I will be stuck. Worse still, they would probably bring Alis with them to the door, and I have done my utmost to keep Reed away from my daughter.

Elgar Reed has ruined enough Turn lives. He will have no hand in Alis's.

I scan the crowd in the living room quickly, but no one seems to be paying us any mind for now. Good, we have not made enough of a mortifyingly obvious scene for that—yet. All the same, I wish Pip were here with me. While I am perhaps more elegant, the viciousness of her crasser vocabulary is to be admired, and she deploys it so very well.

"Leave," I say again, catching myself backing up the staircase, step for step at pace with Reed. I force myself to stop, to stand my ground. This is my house. I will not be chased into a corner like a mouse. "You are not w-welcome here, and I believe I have m-made that c-clear b-b-before."

"Forsyth!" Reed pleads. He stoops and leaves the wine on the step beside him when I do not release the banister to take it from his hands. "Please."

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