The guests were seated and playing cards. Stuveton, Bilford, and Darius were joined by the Baron and his wife tonight. The Baron was faring well on his luck and he grew boisterous from his exhilaration plus an excess of whiskey at hand. The Baroness was annoyed and embarrassed by him and seemed to wear a rigid scowl the whole time. Bilford was tired from the exhausting run of evenings past and kept yawning and trying to prop up his drooping head. Darius, however, was distracted from the card play as he kept looking over his shoulder at his little sister Gemma at the piano. Stuveton had seemed to take a keen interest in watching the little blonde darling tickle the ivory and kept making joking asides. Gemma, however, seemed confused and bashful at his overt advances.
"Gin!" The red-faced Baron was chuckling as he set his cards down and then pounded the table. "I win again, this calls for another drink!"
"Another scotch sir?" Asked Grieg
"I'm growing weary of my husband getting drunk on victory. I think I will sit out this round if you please." The baroness held her head and threw herself back on the couch.
"I think I rather...," Bilford let out a loud yawn. "Sit this one out too." Bilford joined the Baroness who decided to ply her complaints to Bilford about the troubles of being an aging mistress. Something Bilford was quite out of his depths in understanding.
The Baron fell back in his hair and blew up a large, fallen wisp of gray hair. "Hey, c'mon the party can't break up already. It's early yet! C'mon Darius, you and me, let the milksops and ladies sit out and let us double the stakes!"
"I rather not and seems you've already fattened your purse plenty tonight," Darius said grimly as he walked toward the piano and saw Gemma's relieved face as he came forth.
"Oh, brother you are here," Gemma said simply.
Stuveton looked at Darius. "Where have you hidden your dear little sister all this time? Look here she's almost a full-grown woman and she won't even flirt with me even a little. She won't do at all in society."
"If she hasn't I'm glad of that. Her innocence needs protection from scoundrels."
"Scoundrels?, I know nothing of the kind that keeps in company with the Dariuses." With that he lifted Gemma's hand and kissed it.
"Ahem" Mary Lou curtseyed nearby "Your drinks, sir"
Darius took a tumbler as did Stuveton. Lizzy shortly followed with the additional drinks and was handing out the glasses. When she neared the piano she shuddered visibly when she saw Stuveton's eyes on her.
"Steady now." Stuveton tried to grab the tray Lizzy's wobbling tray as she approached him but it was too late and the glasses came crashing down at his feet. His shoes and clothes got a smattering of the liquor as well.
"I'm so sorry." She mumbled, trembling for a few moments as she stared at Stuveton's shoes and ran out of the room.
Darius simply shook his head at Stuveton. "I'm sorry this maid is new and is going through an "adjustment" period."
Grieg handed Stuveton a cold cloth which Stuveton used to wipe some of the liquid from his shirt. "I can help you to a new set of evening clothes sir if you follow me."
"It's perfectly alright. I will go myself." Stuveton walked out of the room whistling.
Lizzy was in the cellar getting a replacement bottle when she heard approaching footsteps and a smiling presence near her.
"Well now Lizzy, I had no idea you were under Darius's keep now."
Lizzy froze and with some effort looked up to Stuveton.
"Why you look pale with fright. I don't recall you disliking me before so." Stuveton laughed boisterously."
"Come now let's give us a kiss for old times sake!" Stuveton grabbed Lizzy by the waist and began devouring her with his mouth and yanking her lips with his teeth which made her bleed a little."
Lizzy could only muffle her protests and she pounded her arms against him.
"Ahem, Can I help you with a vintage, sir?"
When Stuveton turned he could see Barlow eyeing him hard.
Stuveton fixed his shirt and smoothed his tousled hair.
"Yes, why don't you bring out several bottles. Never mind which. You seem like a man of sense, there's no need to make a big fuss about this."
Barlow just lowered his head as if in agreement.
"Good chap." Stuveton put his hand over his shoulder but gripped in a vice as if to display how with a crushing blow he would exert it if it ever came to fists between them.
Then he was gone from the room.
Glen gave Lizzy a handkerchief. "You are bleeding on your lip."
Lizzy bowed her head, red from shame. "Thank you," she muttered.
"Think nothing of it. I'll be damned if that man isn't a regular beast."
"That he is," Lizzy said simply.
"You are okay then."
"Yes, I'm ok. It was just...a shock only."
"Here...I got just what the doctor ordered." Glen took a vintage and poured a glass for Lizzy and himself.
"Bottom's up!" He winked at Lizzy before they took a swig.