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End of Story, or, Cake

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The pastry had a delicacy to it that seemed firmly out of its element at Grandage Place. Ethan watched as the slave trader sliced into it with fingers so deft and gentle they might have been able to capture and caress a hummingbird without harming a single gilded feather.

“I knew you could handle yourself in the kitchen, but I never took you for such a master baker,” Ethan said under his breath, lest he disturb the artist at his craft.

“Miss Ives enjoys her treats,” Sembene replied in his typical flat tone and cadence.

“So what have you got there?” Ethan asked. Sembene regarded him with a slightly raised eyebrow.

“This is a six layer torte with lavender cream and vanilla from Madagascar. From a distance it just looks white, but if you inspect closely, you can see the delicate purple color and the dark flecks of the vanilla.” Sembene extracted a piece of the cake and plated it. Ethan chuckled and swore he caught a note of pride in the servant’s description, subtle as the lavender undertones in his dessert.

“Well, aren’t you just full of surprises?” Ethan remarked, remembering how the same hands currently holding porcelain plate and cake knife had handled the curved blades that sank deep into flesh of the undead. He watched as Sembene plated two more pieces of cake and placed the generous portions on a tray. Then he covered the rest of the tall treat with a glass dome. “Hey there, I think you miscounted. You’ll need another piece. There’s me and Victor, Malcolm, and Vanessa. You’ve only got three pieces there.”

Sembene considered Ethan with a look that was at once confident as it was bored. And it was at that moment, Vanessa came into the kitchen. “Good night, gentlemen,” she said. She cupped Ethan’s shoulder with her hand in a gentle caress and then kissed Sembene’s scarred cheek. “I’m off to bed.”

“You’re going to miss out on dessert,” Ethan said.

“Save some for me for breakfast,” she said to Sembene with a little smile.

After she’d cleared the kitchen, Ethan asked, “Does she always eat dessert for breakfast?”

“Always,” Sembene said with a rare grin. “Sir Malcolm brings it to her each morning.”

“The two of them,” Ethan began, shaking his head. “They’re a rare sort of thing, aren’t they?”

“The two of them are rare. End of story.” Sembene returned. “You’ll carry the coffee.” Ethan picked up the silver coffee urn and followed Sembene’s crimson coated back into the parlor.