A soft tapping at the door roused Brand from his contemplation of the sea. He dragged his gaze away from the vista beyond the picture window and rose slowly from his chair. After a day, he was still unused to the reawakening of his senses. As Mab had promised him, the Annas'Carile still flowed strongly in his veins.
He had spent most of the morning sitting, looking out towards the horizon, watching the gray waters of the channel as they churned uneasily; seeing beyond the surface texture to the complex interplay of forces that were now visible to his eyes.
The soft knocking came again to his ears; the soft echo of hand upon wood. Yet, with his heightened capacity to hear, Brand could sense the tension within and around the sound. Padding along the hallway, towards the front door, he felt the solid presense of her; heard her soft breath; smelt her delicate perfume.
Juliette Hansen's hand was raised for a third knock, and his abrupt opening of the door caught her by surprise. Shock fought with quick fear, for dominion of her eyes.
'Oh.' Words jammed, clogging her throat. Brand watched impassively, as she fought to clear the blockage, and speak. He noted the multi-hued folds of her russet colored sheath-dress, as it clung to the curves of the willowy body. A matching handbag was attached to one hand, the one not raised to the door. The color went well, Brand thought, with her bronzed auburn hair, and hazel eyes, that to his sight were now flecked with emerald. Her hair shone, reflecting the pale morning sun in prismatic coppery splinters of light.
She was almost as tall as he, almost able to meet his gaze at eye level, and he saw her start visibly, as her gaze met his.
'A good morning.' Brand said mildly. 'I trust that you are well.'
'Oh.' Juliette's voice was a nervous, high-pitched squeak. She coughed, and tried to pull herself together. 'Yes. I mean; good morning. I..,' Brand stood to one side, and gestured for her to enter, cutting off her words.
'Please, come in.' He waited for her to glide nervously past, and pressed the door closed, cutting off the light. 'To your left.' He indicated the door to his lounge. ' Can I offer tea or coffee?'
'No - no thank you.' The woman managed a quick smile, and preceded him into the lounge. Instantly, her attention was caught by the view from the large picture window, and she moved towards the front of the room, her nervousness temporarily forgotten.
'What a fabulous view.' She stared, entranced, past the promenade, towards the placidly undulating expanse of the channel. 'I could look at this all day. You are so lucky.'
She suddenly seemed to remember where she was, and threw him a nervous glance. 'I'm sorry if I seemed startled,' she apologized quickly, 'it's just that you caught me a little off guard, and when I saw you, I..,' she hesitated, as if afraid to finish, then rushed on. 'It's just; your eyes.' Her gaze sought his; dropped quickly. 'I don't remember them as being so unusual - the last time, I mean. When I first saw you, I thought they were very striking, almost cat-like. But not as much as they are now. And, I'm almost certain that they were black; not the green color they are now.' She managed a small, self-conscious laugh; brittle and fragile. 'I suppose it goes to show that the stories I've heard about you are true; some of them, at any rate.'
Brand cursed inwardly. He had forgotten, in the euphoric rush of the Annas'Carile, and the restoration of his senses, that his eyes would have reverted to their Fae state. He should have excercised caution. Carelessless such as this might be his undoing.
With a small effort of will, Brand reverted his eyes to their human state. 'Is that less disconcerting for you?' He asked quietly. Juliette's eyes flicked over his face, and she nodded quickly.
'It's not that they aren't nice or anything.' She explained quickly. 'It's just that they look so... alien; so out of place. I hope that isn't insulting.' She added quickly. Brand shook his head slowly. That she had heard the whispered stories about him - that he was Fae - he had not doubted for an instant. It was impossible to live among mortals for so long, and not give birth to tales - generated, in part, by those he had helped over the years.
'No.' He told her. 'I understand.'
Juliette looked relieved. 'Good.' She managed another quick smile. 'At least it proves that you are what they say you are. You might be able to help me after all; I wasn't certain until now.' She changed the subject. 'I was told that you had had a change of heart, since we last talked.'
Brand did not bother to ask who had told her. Agents of Winter were everywhere; both mortal and Fae. Mab would have had word sent to Juliette, immediately after the moot.
After some consideration, Brand had decided to go easy with the young woman, despite his own inherent revulsion of what she was. Her birthright was, after all, no fault of her own, and Mab's interest in her, for whatever reason, was also none of her doing. Mab had said that she was ignorant of what she was, and that it should remain so, and Brand had no reason to disobey, as yet.
Simply looking at her, it was no easy task to imagine Juliette Hansen as Changeling. Brand had met several during his time in exile and, to a fault, they had proved to be unstable in the extreme. Given to bouts of murderous insanity, few survived beyond their first century, being destroyed either by humans bent upon revenge, or by their own maddened hand.The product of Fae couplings with mortals, Changelings were usually substituted at birth for human infants, to both cause mischief and to replenish the supply of mortal workers and slaves in Faerie. Changelings were both base, and malleable; open to manipulation by any Fae that wished to jerk their strings in furtherance of their own aims.
That Mab had decided to take a personal interest in this Changeling boded ill for whoever she associated with, and Brand could only ponder upon the intricate workings of the Sidhe Queen's mind. That Mab would have sired the girl herself was unthinkable; that Mab knew the identity of her Fae parentage was, in all probability, highly likely - else why the interest in her?
There was no way to tell whether the girl was the product of Summer or Winter, or even if she was Wyldfae; she obviously wouldn't know herself as, according to Mab, she had no idea of what she was. So all Brand could do, he thought, was to help her, as best he could, and study her - in the hope of a clue to her parentage presenting itself.
'If I may begin, by apologizing for my actions at our first meeting.' Brand smiled. 'I was distracted, and was, perhaps, a little hasty.'
'Yes; of course.' Juliette returned his smile, if a little cautiously. 'I'm just thankful that you've reconsidered.' She hesitated, and some of her nervousness faded, to be replaced by something resembling determination. 'May I ask why?'
Brand shrugged. It was almost uncanny, he thought, catching himself in the action, how easily one assumed mortal affectations, after living amongst them for so long. 'I was, as I said, distracted.' The lie came easily and smoothly to his lips. 'My decisions lately have not been the best. I have reconsidered, and have decided to try and help you.'
'Well; in that case, thank you - I'm grateful.'
'Let us begin anew.' Brand gestured for her to sit. 'May I again offer you tea or coffee? I have hot chocolate, if you prefer, but not with brandy; I am sorry for that.'
Juliette smiled. The curve of her lips transformed her pretty features into something radiant. 'Coffee would be lovely.' She told him, easing herself into one of the two chairs that faced the window.
Brand returned within two minutes, bearing a tray holding a single mug, with milk and sugar. Placing the tray at Juliette's feet, he settled into the chair beside her.
'Aren't you having?' She asked. Brand shook his head.
'I do not drink coffee, and I but recently partook of hot chocolate.' He explained.
Juliette looked mystified for a moment, then nodded and retrieved the mug. 'Okay. Where would you like me to start?'