Geraldino fought the urge to hit something while he waited in Crowthorne’s office. It would only worsen his circumstances, and would provide no more than a few seconds relief for his frustration. He’d already messed up enough tonight – talking back to a club member, raising his voice to a member’s guest – and he knew the rules well enough that he had no excuse for his behaviour. Hell, it was usually he who reminded other staff about the rules. And so he stood waiting in silence, parade-ground straight, hands clasped behind his back, and gaze fixed on an otherwise unremarkable corner of the windowframe.
The door closed with a soft click. The heels of Crowthorne’s shoes tapped out the rhythm of the steps he took to reach the small sideboard, and then the clink of glass and splash of liquid preceded his shuddering indrawn breath.
“What,” Crowthorne said – calm, measured, controlled – “the fuck was that about, Gerald? Right in the front lounge, no less! Are you trying to ruin me?”
Geraldino refused to answer, deliberately failing to even acknowledge Crowthorne’s words.
A hand pressed against his upper arm and, raising his hand to brush it away, he found a crystal tumbler half full of expensively strong spirits pushed into his grasp. He glanced around without thinking and found himself caught in Crowthorne’s wry smile.
“Fortunately, his grace and your father-”
“He’s not my father!”
Crowthorne raised an eyebrow.
Geraldino scowled back.
The silence stretched.
“Fine!” Geraldino tossed back half his drink as he gave in. “I’m his natural son. So what?”
Crowthorne took a measured sip from his glass before replying mildly, “Better than an unnatural son, I’d say.”
Crowthorne shrugged and said it was no matter – just a turn of phrase – leaving Geraldino unsure whether to believe him or hunt down Crowthorne Senior and make him suffer.
“To business,” Crowthorne declared, striding to his chair and sitting behind his desk. “Your behaviour this evening was a disgrace. You are suspended without pay for a minimum of a week. Go spend time with your father – starting as soon as you’ve changed out of your livery with an apology to him and his grace the Duke of Fallowford. Who, if I may remind you, for some reason considers you to be a personal friend rather than a servant like most of our gentlemen.”
Crowthorne raised his eyebrow again. “I will also remind you, Mr Firenzi, that I can make you both unemployed and unemployable before the clock strikes midnight. Now finish your drink and go make friends with your father before I toss you solely onto his mercy.”
Oh, and if you spotted it, there’s a very key piece of Matthew’s backstory revealed in the story above which I didn’t realise until after I’d written the sentence down on paper.