𝔇𝔞𝔫𝔤𝔢𝔯𝔬𝔲𝔰 𝔄𝔤𝔯𝔢𝔢𝔪𝔢𝔫𝔱𝔰

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The doors slammed shut, and Erin and her mother's exit was like a fleeing hurricane of motion and noise.

Once the dust settled, and the muffled scuffling beyond the door ceased, it was then that two were left: a young man with an unreadable smile and the stern grimacing aged man burning holes into him.

"That was a rather interesting display," Lord Sutherton coldly said, watching Ezra with dedicated observance. "You are starting to go beyond intriguing me."

Ezra's brows pinched together. "I'm honored to inspire your attention, but display? What do you mean by display, my Lord?"

Lord Sutherton's already hardened grimace grew even more taught and deeper the longer they held eye contact. In precise static movements, he rubbed the stubble of his beard before reaching into his blazer's pockets. "I'm referring to how you engaged that troublesome child." There was a frigid chill in his voice. "That was the first time I've seen her so taken aback. You've managed a feat most don't near." He gestured towards a seat. "Take your seat."

Ezra's eyes flickered from Lord Sutherton and then to the seat.

"There are few men who know how to place duty above everything---even themselves." Lord Sutherton glanced at him, rawly speaking with a cast iron gaze.

Ezra took a seat directly across from him, a dead tundra breeze filling the stale air. "Well, of course, my lord. I like to take my work with grave fidelity."

"Is that so?" Lord Sutherton swiftly tugged out a small golden rectangular cigar container from his pocket before cracking it open and nimbly pulling out a black cigar. "Well, I would have struck her already if you hadn't saved me the hassle by entertaining her games. Smoke?" His eyes surfed past the young man and then back to the glare of the gold case.

"I regretfully must turn down your offer."

"Pity. My father, Graham Sutherton, was an ardent proponent." He snapped the cigar case closed. "During the Flash Conflict, he said they helped keep him calm in times of crisis. He told me one day, I would want to do the same because Suthertons are bound to pick up a particular habit or two." He swiped at the bottom of his nose. "But the young never believe the old until they too become old." He slipped the container back into his pockets whilst fiddling with his trousers in search of a match.

In response, Ezra tugged out from his pocket a worn, aged silver lighter. "Old? My Lord, you are the definition of vigorous." He lit the match, a bright red flame appearing. The red danced in the reflection of his smiling eyes, a spark and cloud of smoke striking the air the moment the cigar and flame collided.

Briefly, there was cold brick silence, as Lord Sutherton puffed the cigar, his copper brown-colored eyes scanning the composed young man across from him.

"Your flattery is unnecessary." The corner of a taught grimace lifted as he puffed. But, the hint of his smile faded just as quickly as it appeared leaving a dead silence in its wake.

"Cercle Durick's Yorkshire Blend, right?" Ezra's eyes narrowed on the deep black cigar wrapped with a red band in the center, his nostril taking the scent of a mix of heavy rain and burning leaf.

Nodding, he puffed, murky white smoke trailing into the air. "That's correct." He sucked in the cigar, blowing out a cloud of grey. "How did you know? Few know the brand."

"A prior master of mines preferred those in particular."

"Hm. These aren't the easiest to get your hands on. Ever since Prince Kaelixson-Nier declared the brand his chosen cigar, the Crown has seemingly made it their mission to monopolize the supply." Waves of smoke swirled around the stubble of his beard. "Tell me, what man must I be made aware of? Surely his means of supplying himself must also be mine because some days I am lucky, other days I am not; fighting for resources with the Crown is not anything ideal."

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