Christmas At Pyaridge Hall – 11

Dreyfus stood up and offered his hand in invitation.  Emily took a slice of pear and put it in her mouth, stood up and they walked wordlessly out through the big double doors.  The lights in the next room came on automatically and Dreyfus hesitated, then stopped.  There were three other doors.

“You’ll have to show me which way,” he said. “I’m a little lost.”

Emily’s eyes widened. “I don’t know where we’re going.”

“Your bedroom.”

“Oh, alright,” Emily said, a touch of uncertainty in her voice, “This way.” And took Dreyfus’ hand.

They retraced their steps back to the entrance hall that blazed with Christmas when they got there.  And they climbed the big staircase just a little too quickly — like anxious travellers, barely pausing at the top.  Emily’s bedroom was the first on the right.  Dreyfus opened the door and put his hand on Emily’s waist with enough pressure to make her go in first.  She stepped through the doorway.

The lights were on, but it was all wrong.  It was moving, reflecting, dancing, like – like — fire.  Fire!  Emily had a twitch of panic before her head snapped to the fire in the fireplace.

“How did you do …?”

Emily suddenly turned to Dreyfus, “We can’t do this.”

“Of course we can.  It’s your house.”

Emily stepped forward and saw the pile of quilts and pillows and duvets on the floor in front of the hearth.

“No, you don’t understand, we ….” Emily turned back and gestured, “How did you do this?”


Billie did all this?”

“I think he likes you.”

Dreyfus moved past her and knelt down on the quilts.  He opened the glass doors on the fireplace and put in a short log from the stack that was sitting there.  He closed the doors, twisted around and unzipped his boots.  He took them off, bent his knees and pulled his feet up.

‘I should have brought the brandy,” he said.

“I’m confused.” Emily said, standing there.

“Don’t be.  Come down here where it’s warm.”

“What is all this?  What’re we … What’re we doing?” Emily moved her head slightly back and forth.

“Well,” Dreyfus paused, “Most people get caught up in the moment, and then when the storm’s over and they’re lying around all naked and sticky, they have to figure out what happens next.  Or – even — worse, what just happened.  But you and I – um – we’re not most people, so I thought we should do things the other way around.”

Standing there, looking down at Dreyfus surrounded by flames, seeing him like she did yesterday in the doorway, like she did the first time they ever met, she knew exactly what he meant — exactly what he was doing.  This was her Dreyfus Sinclair, and she could feel the ache for him.

“Besides, if you think we could have had sex in this refrigerator, you don’t know much about the male anatomy.”

Emily gave a very small laugh. “I’m probably too tired to do it properly anyway,” she said and kicked off her shoes.

“Just a minute.”

She went over to her night table, pulled open the bottom drawer and brought out a small bottle.  She held it like a prize, came back to the pile of quilts and gave it to Dreyfus.

“You little drunk!”

“Just in case,” she said and awkwardly sat down.

Dreyfus took a swallow from the bottle and passed it to Emily.

“Janet’s going to kill me,” she said and took a sip.

“She really does manage everything around here, doesn’t she?”

“No, the fire,” Emily rolled her eyes and passed the bottle back.  Dreyfus set it down behind him.

“Don’t worry: tomorrow, Hudson and McCormick are going to make her an offer she can’t refuse.  Anyway, we just won’t tell her.”

“There are no secrets in Pyaridge Hall, Sinclair.”

“Well, we might as well make the best of it then.”

Dreyfus lifted himself with one hand and pulled one of the quilts out from underneath him.  He put a pillow under his head, stretched his legs forward and reached out with his left arm.

“Come,” he said, moving his fingers.

Emily curled into him.

“Watch your hand,” he said and dragged the quilt over both of them.

“What do we do now?” Emily asked, taking her bandaged hand out from under the quilt and putting it across Dreyfus’ chest.

“Figure out what happens next.”

Emily snuggled in closer. “That better be obvious,” she said, slightly pushing with her hips.

They lay there for a few seconds, feeling the warmth of the fire and their bodies together.  Then there were a few seconds more and they were long and cozy.  And Emily closed her eyes, and there was more time — somewhere.  And drifting, Emily could feel Dreyfus, the lines of his body against her, and they touched everywhere.  And there were sounds from the fire, and it smelled like Christmas, and she wanted to tell him. But then there was more time, and the fire was warm, and he was warm and …

“What do you want for Christmas, Dreyfus?” she thought she said.  But before he could answer, he felt Emily’s breathing drop, deep and even. And he closed his eyes, and a few second later — for the first time in their lives — Emily and Dreyfus fell asleep together.


Christmas At Pyaridge Hall – 10

Dreyfus hesitated.  He didn’t want to talk shop.  He wanted her, but he wanted her on her terms.  That’s why he telephoned; that’s why he accepted her invitation; that’s why he was there.  He wanted – needed — to know.  And now they were sitting at a table together alone in a huge room bright as golden glass.  And she had brought them there.  To the hopeless romantic in Dreyfus, it seemed as though all he had to do was take Emily’s hand and the two of them would glide away across the floor like elegant dancers.  But those weren’t real thoughts: they were just shades, textures, the vague perfume of what he felt looking across the table at her.

For Emily, it wasn’t that complicated.  For her, it had been lust at first sight, and even though she’d learned long ago to be selective about her lovers, she hadn’t thought about that.  In fact, she hadn’t thought about anything.  She’d invited Dreyfus to Pyaridge Hall because she desperately wanted him to be here – close to her.  Close enough to touch.  That was the only thing that would satisfy her disrupted dreams.  And now – here — there was nothing – no barrier — between them.

Emily turned the bottle on the table, struggling with the cork and her bandaged hand.  Instinctively, Dreyfus reached over to help her.  He twisted out the cork and set it on the table.

She poured both glasses, set the bottle down and lifted her glass.

“Merry Christmas, Sinclair.”

“Merry Christmas.”

Dreyfus flexed his fingers. “How’s it feel?”

“I stopped the painkillers last night, so it’s a little tender.” Emily raised her glass, “But this should help.”

“It’s very nice, but true confession: I don’t have a very sophisticated palate.  I usually just take what I’m given.”

“You’re hardly ever disappointed then?”

“Depends on how you look at it.” Dreyfus drank and reached for the bottle.

Emily put her hand on his.  The touch between them was soft with feeling.

“We had a deal,” Emily said, lifting her hand.

“I’ll make you another deal,” Dreyfus replied and refilled both glasses.

“Do you negotiate everything?”

“I’ll tell you about the eggs if you let it go and we get on to more important things.”

Emily considered it.  “Alright, as long as you’re not just fobbing me off with some bullshit fairy tale.”

Dreyfus nodded and smiled.  “How come your accent goes in and out like that?”

“Don’t skirt the question, Sinclair,” Emily said and put a bit of cheese on a cracker and ate it.

“Okay,” Dreyfus laughed, “I gave the eggs to my boss, and I have no idea what he did with them, but ….”

Emily scowled at him.

“But,” Dreyfus held up his index finger, “I’m pretty sure they’ll go back to being lost and Hudson and McCormick will get a healthy storage fee to make sure they stay that way.”

“But they’re not lost.  I saw them.  I have photographs.”

“I’d lose those photographs if I were you.”

Dreyfus sipped his brandy and reached for a piece of cheese.

“Look, Emily, nobody wants those eggs found.  Nobody.  And you should forget about them.”

Emily raised her bandaged hand.  Dreyfus slowly shook his head.  He was seriously worried.

“They’re trouble.  More trouble than you need.  More trouble than they’re worth.”

Emily knew just how much four “lost” Fabergé Eggs were worth in the art world.

“That’s right,” Dreyfus said hearing her thoughts, “But there’s a lot more trouble than that out in the real world, believe me.  Your friend Anton was killed because of those eggs, and you barely escaped with your pretty little head.  So just forget about them.  Seriously.”

“You think I’m pretty?” Emily smiled and flirted, but then she was serious again. “Is this what you do?”

Dreyfus slightly lifted one shoulder and gave her a pained look.

“I don’t care.  Really.  I don’t.  I just need to know.  If I’m going to worry, I’d like to know why and for how long.  That’s not too much to ask.”

“I don’t know how to answer you.  Hudson and McCormick insures things that are,” Dreyfus gave a small grimace and sucked air through his teeth, “under the radar.”

“Like ‘lost’ Fabergé Eggs?” Emily ate a slice of pear.

“Yeah.  And when things go wrong, they send me out to fix them.  That’s it.  That’s what I do.  Mostly, it’s just like any other job, but every once in a while, you run into people like the Russians,” Dreyfus shook his head again, “Who won’t take no for an answer.”

Emily thought about it.  “Alright, I think I can live with that.”

Dreyfus spread his arms with an opened palmed question.

Emily looked directly into Dreyfus’ eyes.

“Take me to bed,” she said.

Dreyfus picked the cork up off the table, held it for a second and then pushed it back into the bottle with his thumb.  He lifted his eyes and looked at Emily.

“I’ve got a better idea,” he said.

Friday – Part 11

Christmas At Pyaridge Hall – 9

That night, Dreyfus and Emily were alone in the big dining hall and dinner came on two covered silver trays – one each.

“Thank you, Margaret.  That will be all this evening.  Could you tell Reynolds to lock up, and we’ll all get an early night tonight.”

“Yes, ma’am.” Margaret left the trays and left the room.

When she was gone, Emily gestured for Dreyfus to lift the cover.  On the tray was a pub pastry meat pie and a bottle of beer.  Dreyfus laughed his surprise.

“We can’t go to the pub; maybe the pub can come to us.”

“You can do this?”

 “Sure,” Emily shrugged. “Given enough notice, Mrs. Tisdale can do anything.”

Emily lifted the cover off her dinner.

“So, what do you want to know about James I?”

The dinner was small-talk pleasant, if a bit hollow in the big room.  Dreyfus asked about the estate and things like where the dogs were.  (They didn’t like the house and had their own kennel by the stables.)  Emily rambled a bit, too tired to pick her questions, but it was clear she had some.  Dreyfus avoided most of them.

“That was quite an entrance with the helicopters.”

“That was Sydney.  He’s very keen.  I just said we needed to get to Pyaridge Hall tomorrow, and he whistled up the helicopters.  I’m going to have to be careful in the future.”

“Who’s Harbir Singh?” Emily asked seriously.

“Sydney’s dad.”

“I know that.  But who is he?  When you told the Russians he was Sydney’s father, they noticed.  So who is he?”

“I told the Russians a lot of things.” Dreyfus shied away from the answer. “I was negotiating, remember.”

Emily scowled, “C’mon.”

Dreyfus considered it for a second. “He’s a heavy hitter in the City.  A lot of power and a long reach.”

“So why’s Sydney driving a taxi for you?” 

“Punishment, I think.  Harbir Singh owns the service I use, and one morning Sydney showed up as my driver.  The morning I came to your studio, actually.  You’ve known him as long as I have.  But it’s worked out.  I like the kid.  And he’s certainly enthusiastic.”  Dreyfus made a rotating motion with his index finger.

“I like him, too, but I’m just as glad he’s staying in the village,” Emily slyly admitted.

“Am I going to have to go drag him out of the arms of the Weird Sisters?”

Emily laughed and the tired went out of her eyes. “No, he’ll be here for Christmas dinner.”

Dreyfus looked the question.

“We hold Christmas dinner here for the staff, tenants, people associated with the estate.  Hannah will be here, and her sister, and I’m guessing Sydney also.  You can negotiate his release then, if you like.”

“Well, you do have nine other fingers.”

Emily laughed again.  It was good to joke.

“C’mon.  I want to show you something.”  Emily flipped her napkin on to the table and stood up. “I think it’s kind of cool.”

They walked out of the dining room, down the short wide passage into the entrance hall that burst into Christmas as the tree lights automatically came to life.  On the other side, there were two more rooms that also lit up when they entered and then a set of double doors that were (oddly) very nearly square.  Emily stopped.

“You’ll have to help me,” she said, motioning with her injured hand. “I can’t do them both.”

Dreyfus reached for the long metal handle, and they pulled both doors open.  They were surprisingly light.

“Alright, now take my hand.  No.  Wait.  Let me get on the other side.” Emily was clearly excited, “There.  Now, on three, take one step forward.  One, two, three!”

They stepped in unison into the room.  Nothing happened.

“Shit!  Okay.  Just ….”

Suddenly the room ignited with light.  It was so big and so bright and so empty it took a few seconds for Dreyfus’ eyes to adjust.  There were three massive chandeliers, in a line high in the ten metre ceiling that shone like burning diamonds.  One long wall was a row of tall casement glass windows that were dozens of dark mirrors, reflecting away from the black outside night.  The other wall was a vast field of textured, dove white with an irregular track of portraits that lost themselves near the far wall.  And the far wall was small – insignificant in the massive room.


“This is the ballroom.  We’re going to have Christmas dinner here.” Emily smiled at Dreyfus’ approval.

“Who are you trying to feed — the Royal Marines?”

Emily laughed and stepped forward, sweeping her arm at the white wall.

“And these people are my ancestors.  Back to ….” Emily shrugged, “Actually, we don’t know who this first bunch are.  Uh – well, we know who they are; we just don’t know which is which.  They got mixed up a couple of hundred years ago.” Emily chuckled and pointed, “But that’s the first real Duke of Weldon, there.”

Dreyfus saw an Elizabethan grandee with stiff ruffed neck and a dagger goatee.

“Then they follow each other all the way down the wall to my grandfather and daddy.  Then there’s a place for me.”

“Then what?” Dreyfus thought.  He also noticed that a couple of the portraits were women, but Emily’s hand caught his attention before he could ask.

“And there’s dessert.”

Over in the corner was a small round table and two tiny chairs.  In the big room they looked like doll furniture.  Emily put her hand on Dreyfus’ elbow and directed him forward.  They sat down.

“Alright.  Sliced winter pears from our trees,” Emily indicated. “Nutmeg, if you like, but I wouldn’t.” She shook her head, “Crumble cheese — not quite local but close enough to bear the name, and Tuc Originals from – uh – Tesco.”

Emily reached below the table.  Dreyfus could hear ice jingle.

“And this,” Emily said, as she lifted a clear squat bottle, “Is our pear brandy.  Pyaridge Hall’s Eau de Vie.”  She set the bottle on the table.

“There’s a pear in there.”

“Mm-hmm” Emily smiled, pleased with herself.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had pear brandy.”

“I’ll let you have some — if you tell me what you did with the Fabergé eggs.”

Dreyfus laughed. “You’re not going to let it go, are you?”

Emily shook her head.

Tuesday – Part 10