How very rare it was, in every sense, for Matteo to allow another being within his home. At least, within that part that was so uniquely how own. So much downstairs had become a veritable common ground. Tourists of all kinds strolled those grounds and perused the grand halls, marvelling at its architecture and the artworks that adorned it. Ah, but if only they knew the stories behind so much of that art and too the tales those walls had seen! Those upper floors however, had never once been opened to the public. They, after all, were the Frenchmans' home and had been for centuries now. Those rooms were personal, private and shared only with those whom he felt at least some measure of trust towards. Harley, time and again, had proven herself to be as such. For all the young women's energy and spit-fire nature she was nothing if not....steadfast in her loyalties. She would not betray him to Risque- of that Matteo was certain. The Frenchman was equally inclined to admit he enjoyed the company. Aiden and Dorian had their own lives to live- as did Alexander. His family so hardly having the time to spend entertaining his company. Yet, that big house seemed all the more contenting when others moved about within it. For several moments Harley seemed content to merely observe that open living space- from the french furniture to those more modern touches. The kitchen was, by far, that most updated room and yet those large windows and french doors still added that distinct age to the home. A gentle breeze caught the fine white curtains, allowing them to billow softly. The air was warm today. Indeed it was almost pleasant and yet that pleasant, quiet moment seemed destined not to last.
The skittering of claws on polished stone announced Herbert's arrival well before the small hurricane of a corgi truly presented himself. The brown and white animal, awash with excitement at his Masters return and too- the presence of a guest- all but flew into that room. Matteo could hardly prevent the heavy sigh that left his lips. The dog perhaps one facet of his life he was not capable of concealing as the animal raced around and around the table- only to at last collapse at Harley's feet in an abysmal display. The near wicked grin that danced upon the young woman's lips so surely gave away her own amusement in the dog. The very irony of how...ensuite Herbert was to both Matteo himself and his home was clearly not lost upon her. Matteo was near foolish to believe it might have been otherwise. Harley, like himself, shared a distinctly keen sense of the ridiculous. Hmm. perhaps it was that too, along with her striking appearance that made the woman so very....appealing. Such a sense of humour was becoming rarer and rarer to find. Even if that very humour was aimed toward him. Matteo's frame shifted to lean agianst the arm of the couch. The very action nothing short of casual as Harley reached to scratch at that place herbert seemed to adore the most before affording him that nickname. Stubby. How very....undignified. A soft snort of amusement let the Frenchman then, his head shaking softly at the ridiculous creature he found himself fond off all the same- only for Harley to question what owning such a dog said about him.
Ah, but that women missed nothing! His earlier words, it seemed, had been turned back upon him. Matteo so doing his best to offer them some measure of counter even if it was something of...a stretch. The Frenchman was nothing if not adaptable when it came to that war of words. Harley, it seemed, was not about to be fooled. The womans challenge prompting that own chuckle from within his throat. Ah, but he missed such company, some days. Harley's sudden inquiry of what 'that' was prompted the near-ancient Fae to glance about that room in search of the object of ehr curiosity- only to have an apple all but launched towards him. Sacrebleu! That apple struck him in the chest, Matteo lunged forward in near the same moment to attempt to grasp that fruit. The man managed to capture it barely a moment before it struck the ground. That entire assault was distinctly unexpected. How well harley had played it and yet- how well he was determined to play in turn. That apple was tossed neatly within his hand then, Matteo catching it once more before querying whether or not Harley might like to learn more about apples. The woman's curiosity, he knew, sure to lead her down that path even if she hardly desired to go. Harley, he was certain, would sense that veritable trap of words. The woman's violet gaze narrowed in clear expectation of that tease and yet, as he had suspected, she remained unable to let that knowledge pass. Ah, how much he could surely teach her....about apples.
Another soft chuckle rose within his throat once more as Harley commented about dogs and their owners, matteo content to insist Herbert and himself shared only those otable qualities as he took another bite of that apple. The young woman insisted she would decide later whether or not he was a 'good boy' that very promise coaxing a snort from the Frenchman as a simper found his lips.
"I am always very good."
Such a lie it was and yet how sweetly he uttered it. The silver of his gaze so briefly met the violet of her own then. Both of them, it seemed, well content in the others company befre Matteo pushed neatly away from that sofa. His offer to show her the rest of the home one he had suspected she would be quick to take up. Her curiosity so distinctly....feline like even if he hardly dared utter such a thing. Harley easily found her place beside him then as Matteo moved to lead the way from that living room and towards the first staircase, this one, as so many of them did, leading to a hallway in which door upon door seemed to line either side- along with those works of art. Matteo, long ago, having run out of places to keep them. The vast majority of his collection hanging upon those hallway walls. He had forgotten so many of them. Indeed, over the years, he had near ceased to pay attention to them and yet Harleys curiosity prompted the man to pause once more and examine several of those works in turn. Alexander, he knew, would remember where each painting had come from and when. Mateo having forgotten those details long ago. How fortunate Harley did not desire in depth information on those paintings. They rounded a corner then, Matteo effortlessly led the way up another set of stairs and towards another hallway of doors and artworks. Harley, this time, commenting that she was sure she had dreamed a dream with this very hallway and door scenario.
"I will admit the doors are rather....numerous. In truth I have little idea of how many I have."
His head shook lightly, a simper of amusement still upon his lips as Matteo, at last, began to open some of those doors- affording Harley a chance to glance within them as he lifted his hand. Those doors opened near the queue. So many of those rooms contained little save for furniture and stored boxes. The Frenchman long ago had forgotten the contents of most. Harley's sudden query on why he kept them coaxed a small frown to his lips.
"Ah, Mon Amie, how I wish I had some grand answer for that. In truth, going through them now would take so very long I simply find I have niether the time nor the inclination. Gregory harrasses me about it no end though. Grupy Greg, as you called him, is a well suited name."
His lip quirked upward all the more at the mention of that housekeeper. How outraged the warlock would be to be called 'grumpy' and yet how such a thing only amused Matteo all the more to consider. Later, perhaps, he would need to summon Gregory if only to meet Harley. That resulting fallout is so surely worth that effort. His passing mention of that music room, however, seemed to ensnare the young woman's attention as she queried after what he played before announcing she had played the guitar once- including in a band that was apparently never to be mentioned. Harley appeared near sheepish as Matteo's eyes lifted in curiosity.
"I have never been so displeased I cannot see the past. Tell me, Mon cherie, did this band have a dreadful name? What sort of music t did it play? I fear I shall harass you for such details until I find them and oh, I shall find them."
How very....amusing it was to consider Harley within a band of any kind. Such a thing so hardly seeming to suit her and yet how curious it was to consider. His silver gaze shifted to her own once more, Matteo continued to lead the way further into the depths of Chambord.
"I can play several instruments, the guitar and the Crwth most notably but it has been a long time since I played either."
How long had it truly been? Matteo, in that moment, inclined to realise he hardly knew. Theguitar had surely been severna years ago. The Crwth...perhaps a century or more. There had been a time, once, when Alexander had often had him play and yet those moments seemed...so long ago. A different world. The Frenchman led the way to that final door then. Matteo, this time, ushering the young woman inside before turning on the lights and allowing her to view that near the giant room. The space was a veritable library and yet- one dedicated to a single subject alone. His very life. Harley's tease in regards to that scrapbook further prompted the return of that simper to his lips as Matteo strolled near casually about that room once more. The Frenchman so hardly minded, in any sense, if Harley found those photographs of portraits of him in less than flattering attire. Harley's insistence that it was like stepping into a time machine prompted a soft chuckle within his throat.
"I shall take that as a compliment."
It would not be....fair of him to ask after her own life and offer her so little in return. Matteo, by that notion, content to offer her.....the entirety of his life- or seemingly so. The Frenchman moving with deft ease t conceal those photographs of Aiden she might recognise. There was a time and a place, after all, to afford her that knowledge. Here and now so surely not it. That offer to allow Harley to see into his life entirely genuine and yet....only to an extent. There was so much within that room she would surely not be able to explore i all- so many of those stones left veritably unturned. Perhaps they were better that way. Harley's sudden question coaxed his mind away from those thoughts, Matteo drawing his gaze toward the picture she pointed too. Alexander and himself in one of many army uniforms. How many they had fought for over the years. Harley, astute as always, having effortlessly picked on the very notion that Alexander appeared in a great deal of those pictures. Hmm. He surely needed to stop underestimating the dark-haired women.
"Yes, that is Alexander. We have been in quite a few armies together."
Matteo nodded toward several more pictures that dotted that room of his Father and himself in uniform. Those pictures range from mounted on horseback to the deck of ships to the wings of airplanes. The air force, by far, having been Alexanders least favoured. It so hardly seemed to take Harley long to locate that large portrait that hung towards the rear of the room. That picture a veritable centerpiece if only for its size, age and simple...beauty. Matteo's efforts to place it on the far side of the room hardly seemed to draw attention from it. Much as Isabella herself in life had been. No matter how many times her husband had abandoned her in some corner of the room she so always seemed to draw attention. God. it had been near six hundred years and some part of him still...ached. A tiny, small, hidden part he so often refused to acknowledge somewhere beneath that hurt and anger and raw emotion that had been layered atop it over the years. That description he provided Harley was purposefully brief, giving little away of the very depths of their relationship beyond that assurance she had been Dorian's mother. That they had produced a child together so surely hinted at that great story and yet Matteo found himself hoping it would not be down that line of questioning Harley chose to go. How unfortunate Isabella's portrait would not merely fit within his pocket the way those pictures of Aiden did. Harley turned toward him once more, Matteo quick to hide whatever emotion had dared to glance upon his face. The Frenchman, over the years, having become distinctly skilled in presenting the world with only those emotions he chose even if he suspected Harley might yet be one of the few whom suspected that very truth. Was? That question lingered within Harley's voice without even truly needing to be spoken. Matteo, once more,works to keep those emotions from his features.
"She died a very long time ago. She was beautiful though, yes. It was her eternal curse."
A genuine simper found his features then, that look almost rueful all the same. Her beauty, after all, was the very thing that had attracted both Ferdinand and himself to her- had either of them ever truly been good for her? Matteo's head shook softly in an effort to rid himself of the thoughts. At least for now. The Frenchman instead made every effort to direct hardly to another of those shelves- one he was certain she would find amusement within. The seventies, after all, had been something of an....intriguing era. The fashion was hardly forgettable in any sense. Matteo was almost certain the idea of him in flare pants might inspire her interest enough to draw her away from what else lay between the pages of some of those books and indeed that portrait upon the wall. The Frenchman, after all, was nothing if not a veritable artist in that act of misdirection. Harley, however, was an equally skilled player. The woman so refusing to be misdirected that easily even with his 'hippy phase' on offer. Harley instead declared she intended to pick from those folders at random. Matteo, this time, allowing both his eyes to raise. The faintest touch of red so momentarily illuminating them. Just which folder Harley intended to pick already dancing before his eyes. The Frenchman content enough to allow her to have that one. After all, he already knew its contents. Ah, how well he played that cheating game! Harley selected the very folder that future sight had suggested she would, the women flopping into that couch with the album resting on her legs before she opened it.
"That one is from the nineteen fifties. The Koren War started that decade, Stalin died, Winston Churchill was re-elected, Marylin Monroe was an icon and Alaska joined the rest of the United States. Alexander bet me that it would never happen. He had to work as a newspaper delivery man for six months for losing that bet. It still amuses me."
A near smug grin found its way to the Frenchmans features then as that memory danced behind his eyes. That moment, however, was a near perfect distraction in itself. Matteo taking that chance to utter his companions name before softly tossing what remained of that apple towards her. Harley having every opportunity to catch it. The look of surprise upon her features at such an easy catch was followed by her insistence he was hardly trying. Matteo, this time, allowing another easy roll of his shoulders, that near impish look returned to his features as she claimed she had won. Perhaps she had. Matteo offered that insistence that the prize was surely a marriage proposal. Ah, but how priceless that look on her face! Harley nearly choked upon that final bite of the apple. Matteo, this time, unable to suppress that laughter that hummed from within his chest. She had, after all, so asked him about apples had she not? Matteo so merely doing as asked. With that singular goal of distraction. The woman's efforts to ground herself were hardly unnoticed. Harley struggled to swallow that bite before declaring she knew where Darius had gotten it from. Her day largely consisted of dating and marriage proposals. Matteo, once more, offered that casual shrug of his shoulders.
"Ah, Mon Cherie, you are a woman in demand."
One eye rose once more with teasing ease. That veritable chemistry between them nothing short of undeniable. How easily that flirtation came! Harley sat more upright then. The woman addressing him by that 'husband' title. Harley so apparently planning a fall wedding if only because the trees were so full of....deflection? Matteo's gaze narrowed near instantly. The Frenchman realising perhaps that moment too late that she had caught onto his game.
"You, my darling, are better at this then I gave you credit for."
That term of endearment, this time, was offered toward her in that plain english. That compliment a rarely offered one at that and yet- hold bold Harley was, how much he enjoyed it. Matteo near resigned to his fate in that moment as Harley nodded toward that portrait of Isabella once more before patting the sofa beside her. How he had strove to avoid this very thing. The near ancient Fae, for several moments, seemed to debate taking that seat and yet.....he supposed, Harley had played that game and won. His toned figure moved to cross that room then. Matteo gently taking a seat beside Harley, the warmth of her figure distinctly notable before his gaze turned toward that portrait he avoided for so very long. The sigh that left his lips perhaps betraying those emotions that stirred below the surface and yet he so refused to allow to breach that shield of apparent indifference he so often attempted to wear. Matteo leaned back within that chair then, his fingers tapping at the arm. Those words, when they came, were accented as always.
"Her name was Isabella. I met her during a war many years ago. She was already married. Her husband was the king of Italy at the time- and the enemy to my own army. I was supposed to be gathering intel on her husband and his armies. She seemed like a good way to do that. I did not anticipate....falling for her as I did. Her marriage was an arranged one. She was unhappy. He had numerous mistresses though most kings of the time did. She had already given him several heirs, done her duty and she was no more to him then a plaything he had tired off. What started as flirtation between us became an affair. When she fell pregnant to me she could hardly hide that affair any longer. Ferdinand had been away at war when it happened and the man was hardly a fool to believe he had fathered the child. He...loathed me entirely and I him. Isabella threatened to expose his affairs if he harmed the child. I told him I would take the head from his shoulders. He allowed Dorian to live, claiming him as his own son publically to prevent any scandal and yet- people suspected from the beginning. Dorian looked nothing like his half-siblings. Though no one would question the King. Ferdinand was never kind to him, I was forbidden from being within the Palace though I visited when I could, in secret, raised him when I could. Isabella...endured, through it all. Somehow. When the plague came to Italy she fell ill, she died a few weeks after contracting it. I was beside her."
Oh how much went unsaid about those final days of Isabella's life! Matteo so hardly mentioned that fighting that had gone on. The guilt that still wracked at his soul or indeed that...anger he still felt towards the woman he loved. Even after all this time. Her death remained a distinctly....sore point. The fae hardly elaborated any more upon it. His gaze at last fluttered back to Harley then. The faintest simper finding his lips then.
"You would think, Mon Cherie, that I had learned my lessons about married women after that. I fear I did not. Surely though, this answers your questions about Isabella, oui? There is much I regret in my life- but i do not regret my eldest son."
Matteo sighed once more and yet the warm simper upon his lips hardly faded. That moment of...distress seeming to have passed.
"Alexander nearly killed me when he found out Isabella was pregnant. My Mother though, she was still alive at the time, she was thrilled. We Fae are not terribly good at procreation. I think that is why our species remains so rare. Although we are, of course, very good at the sex itself..."
Oh how easy it was to return to that banter...
c'est dur d'être un dieu.