Nobody eats cat!

“Oh good, you did get my message!” he beamed a grin as he crossed the small restaurant, meeting her as she rose to her feet. Sheigh took Elleiria’s hand in his, bringing her fingers to his lips gently. “It would have been rather embarrassing if you hadn’t.”

She blushed as all the eyes in the restaurant turned to them. “Oh please, you sent in somebody to make certain I was here before you came in!” She winked playfully (even though yes, he had) and then took a step back. “So did I get it right? Is this appropriate?”

He eyed her up and down. Instead of her traditional ponytail she wore her auburn hair in voluminous waves that covered all but the ends of her long elfin ears. A barely-there splash of eyeshadow and touch of blush made her smile warm and soft. Bright red lipstick offset the creaminess of her skin, a splash of color that kept his attention focused on her soft, inviting lips.

Her dress was equally elegant, a strapless red taffeta gown that hugged her sleek form down past her hips before layering and expanding through the knees to her feet. Emerald beads splashed a sharp contrast in a thin under-bust pattern, drawing his eyes in that direction enough that he wanted to blush in embarrassment. The emerald matched her eyes, along with a stunning silver necklace that hung across her throat, a large ruby amulet dangling from a thin silver cord against her skin.

He raised an eyebrow. “I recognize that necklace! It’s absolutely beautiful on you.” He grinned and nudged her playfully as he helped her take a seat. “I suppose you can keep it after all this.”

“Oh I didn’t intend to give it back,” she replied without missing a beat. “So . . . you like it? Will I fit in?”

He nodded as he took his seat. “I didn’t think you could become more beautiful, and yet I am proven wrong again.” He looked down at his own attire. “I feel like some common steward next to what you are wearing.”

“Nonsense!” she laughed, taking a sip of water from one of the table’s fine crystal glasses. “You look marvelous in a tuxedo. Is that one new?”

He nodded as the waiter arrived. Sheigh reviewed the wine list before selecting a Redridge vintage, then looked up at his dinner partner. “Wait, have you been through all my clothes?”

She giggled softly. Elleiria might call herself many things – a gambler, a professional at the games usually – but she was a masterclass thief. Sheigh had been impressed when his housekeepers admitted things were missing from the kitchen and larders, but when the beautiful thief appeared in his private chambers one night, that impression had become admiration. The girl had been an enigma, coming to take his food and drink, dismissing his powerful magical works and items as merely “trinkets and junk,” stealing not one of his library’s priceless ancient tomes but rather a just-bound book of blank pages . . . the mystery of it all intrigued him, and he set out to get to know her.

He grinned to himself at the silliness of it all, courting a burglar, but here they were on what was not their first date.

“What is so amusing tonight?” she asked, kicking his shin lightly under the table. Her foot didn’t leave his leg, teasing his bruised shin and calf through her toeless heels seductively.

He smiled and lowered his voice. “Just thinking about how I am taking a cat burglar to the finest restaurant in Silvermoon, before she is my guest at the grand reopening of the opera house, when she is wearing jewelry she stole from me.”

“Oh hush,” she smiled as the waiter poured them two thin glasses of the wine. “It was in one of your little treasure shipments from up north, not your precious family jewelry.” She reached out to him, taking his hand in hers, letting her fingers tease his family signet ring that she had briefly stolen.

He squeezed her fingers softly, warmly. “It is good to see you again. Two months is too long.”

She nodded, her eyes darkening. “You’ve been home. I wish there was a better way for us to communicate when we are apart.” She withdrew her hand as the waiter came. They listened to the night’s menu, and though Sheigh smiled to hear it was in older Thalassian as befit such a fine establishment, he saw the sad loneliness in Elleiria’s eyes. He resolved to himself that he would find a way for them to talk more while he was gone fighting the Scourge in Northrend.

He liked her, he couldn’t deny it. Her personality was a match for his own, at least for his real personality, not the one he hid behind the facade of lordship and duty as an archmage fighting in the war against the Lich King. She could be frivilous and funny, finding an inside joke and whispering just a single word of it into his ear off and on all night until even he was laughing from the ridiculousness of it. At other times she hid a deep sorrow, or tried to mask a heartache that she refused to tell him about. He often suspected she was in love with someone else, or had been deeply in love and had been hurt badly. He didn’t press her on it, nor did he press too deeply into his own feelings for her. He often asked himself if he loved her, and his answer was always the same – maybe. He knew he was keeping himself at a distance from her emotionally after learning about his fiancee Islimah and losing his concubine Abegail. Still, when he looked at Elleiria, his heart raced, his tongue became dry, his head spun at night when he thought about her. Did he love her? Maybe.

“And the good sir?” the waiter asked, more than a little annoyed. Sheigh snapped out of his reverie and realized Elleiria and the waiter were both looking at him strangely.

“I . . . ahh . . . the steak please,” he stammered, throwing out something he knew every restaurant would have while he tried to cover his embarrassment.

The waiter snorted slightly in frustration. “The lynx medallion or the shoveltusk porter, sir?”

Damn it, he thought, two steaks! “Umm, the lynx will be fine, thank you.” Elleiria kicked him under the table again as she brought a napkin up to her lips, trying to stifle a laugh.

“I can’t believe you eat cat,” she laughed as soon as the waiter was gone.

He shrugged. “Everyone eats lynx. I’ve been eating lynx that my family hunted ever since I was born.”

She rolled her eyes. “Nobody eats cat anymore! It’s unfashionable. Nobody even hunts them anymore!”

He laughed and sipped his wine. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know. Did I embarrass you?”

“Yes!” she smiled, blushing. “So . . . tell me how beautiful I am. You wouldn’t believe what I had to go through to get this dress.”

“I probably don’t want to know,” he grinned. “That would make me an accomplice to the crime!” That earned him another kick to the shins, so he winked at her and began to remind her of how lovely she looked. She wasn’t used to such compliments, least of all from high lordlings who were used to preening noble girls, and she loved hearing him fawn over her.

He heard a disturbance by the door but thought nothing of it, just whispered voices having a quick conversation about something other than reservations and seating arrangements. But when he heard the sound of heavy footsteps accompanied by the rattle of sword belts, he knew something was more than just awry.

A shadow fell over his table. “Lord Sheigh of House Llyrandor?”

Sheigh tensed, a spell of shielding quickening in his mind. Elleiria flashed concerned eyes at him, then up at the man behind him. Her hands disappeared under the table.

Sheigh stood and turned. A royal courier and two city guards waited impatiently. “I am Lord Sheigh. What is the meaning of this interruption of my dinner?”

The courier bowed respectfully, helping set Sheigh at ease. “Milord, my sincere apologies but I have been trying to track you down for three days. The Lord Regent said I was to deliver this note to you personally and make sure to witness you reading it, milord.”

His heckles rose. News from Lord Lor’themar himself was almost never pleasant. Sheigh’s dealings with the Lord Regent of Quel’thalas had been a rollercoaster of difficulty, including exile, reinstatement, and all places in between. He broke the wax seal of the note and read it. “Appointment?” he muttered in confusion at the note’s almost unbelievable message.

The courier bowed again, turning and marching for the door, satisfied his job was done. As Sheigh turned back to his seat, he saw the waiter was coming with his steak and Elleiria’s pasta. He took his seat and looked across at her . . . only to see she wasn’t there.

The waiter cleared his throat. “Is milady returning shortly, good sir?” he asked, setting the steak in front of Sheigh.

Sheigh sighed heavily, knowing the girl was gone. The guards must have scared her off, he reckoned. His ire rose . . . one night alone in two months, ruined by politics! He looked around the room for any clue where she was hiding, but saw nothing. Damn!

Then he noticed the origami on her side of the table. He reached out, picking up the napkin gently so it didn’t lose its shape. Rolling it around in his fingers, he clearly made out the figure of the climbing cat, smiling at her quick message to him.

“Sir? Is the steak to your liking, sir?” the waiter interrupted his thoughts.

He looked down at the perfectly browned steak, its scent making his mouth water and his stomach rumble. The origami cat sat next to it, leaning on his wine glass – a cat burglar climbing a tower to steal inside of it. He chuckled to himself and rolled his eyes before handing the waiter a pouch of gold coins for the meal and turning to leave. “No thank you garcon, apparently nobody eats cat anymore.”

*Auth. Note: I used this gown (and its description, obviously) as a reference for those interested: http://www.rissyroos.com/products/Alyce_Designs_br_Style_6572-14184-25.html

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