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familiarity breeds contempt

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“You’re welcome.”

Annoyance rises up, turning his pleasant mood and well earned sense of encroaching victory into naught but angry ashes scattering in the wind. It is a talent of hers, he’s told her before, how she has perfected the art of worst timing.

“Did I not make it clear that you were to play nice?”

Walter lazily spins on his heels to face the unrepentantly smug expression Viktoria is waiting to greet him with. Annoyance curdles into something far more sour, bordering just shy of anger. 

“I was playing nice. Plenty of people like to be scared. Besides. It gave you the perfect opportunity to swoop in and save the day. Ever the romantic hero.” 

At the evening reception, she had managed to keep her bitterness restrained to merely a hint of resentment and jealousy buried in the inflection of her voice. Here, now, with much less chance of anyone overhearing something as scandalous as genuine emotion from the fearsome eldest bride, she lets it saturate her words. Viktoria is hardened edges, sharpened tongue. All venom and spite and dust.

It makes him feel ancient. 

He despises it.

“Green is not your color, my dear.” He steps closer, tilts his head back. He’s never minded having to look up at her, though he suspects she picks her highest heels just to give her that extra edge. “You haven’t taken another bride’s presence so personally in centuries. I’m curious what it is about her that makes you feel so threatened.”

A thousand emotions flash across her face, impossible to see with mortal eyes. She felt the sting of that word choice. 

Good.

“I find her plain. And too free spirited. Too independent. Too much is riding on someone so…” She lets the sentence hang in the air unfinished, so many potential insults left unspoken but still heard in that silence.

They are pressed to the wall in a split second. Movement too fast for any mortal eye to see. Walter’s hand around her throat, keeping her pinned as he drags her down, forcing her knees to buckle until their eyes are level. Fingers squeeze until she finally relents a sharp gasp of something bordering on pain.

“You’re right - too much is riding on this succeeding. Which is precisely why you will keep your… elitism to yourself until I have secured the bargain. Then you and Evelyn can sort out this rivalry amongst yourselves.” His lips twist into a vicious sneer. “Though I must say, I do think she might give you a run for your money.”

It has been centuries since Walter has seen fear in Viktoria’s eyes. Even longer since he was the source. There is something creeping in, something more vulnerable than the coldness of age and the bitterness of being displaced. It is not quite fear, but it is close. More importantly, it is something new , something different - and much like Evie and her modern, American personality, it is refreshing .

As loyal and devoted as she is to him - to this life of luxury and sin without consequence - as possessive as she can be, the affection between them has been poisoned by time. It is a sad fact of immortality, one he made peace with much easier than she has.

“Fuck you,” she finally whispers through the vice-grip on her neck. Defiance erases that vulnerable emotion he glimpsed in her eyes. 

“Not tonight, my dear,” he taunts her. His fingers release their hold on her, and his back is turned before she rights herself back up to her full height. The air crackles with her anger, and Walter grins in amusement. It would be cruel to twist the stake. But what is he, if not cruel? A genuine smile stretches across his face as he briefly turns back to face her one final time tonight.

“Oh, and - thank you, Viktoria. Your little game was most helpful.”