Home Sweet Luthor Mansion
"We have to walk?" the woman joked with a slightly overdone petulance, glancing surreptitiously at her new husband. Little did he know this complaint was part of an elaborate scheme to prevent his incipient acid comments concerning how their driver had abandoned them at the base of a long, winding, thin road surrounded by overhanging trees and suspicious poison-ivy-look-a-like plants which was hardly wide enough to be considered a trail, much less a driveway.
"Lillian, it's beautiful," he forestalled her, taking her arm and beginning the trek. Neither of them was really dressed for an intrepid hike, even if one supposed something lay at the end worth their while. Lillian was rather annoyed he hadn't bothered to tell her. All right, so he claimed it was a 'surprise.' Whatever. Lillian still didn't know why they'd come here after their lovely honeymoon in the south of France, when back home, he had a fledgling company and she had loving friends and a bossy family.
"Sweetheart," she asked, stealing a curious look at his gorgeous profile, "What are we doing here, again?"
"You'll see," he told her, expertly lifting her over a patch of poison ivy that had bravely migrated to the path.
Lillian pouted. This was getting tiresome. "Lionel…" she wheedled. There. He'd never be able to resist the old helpless-girl charm. This was what had gotten her through Metropolis University (or Met U). Well, this and Cherie. For someone who spent all her time protesting the way the government of Kansas ran the state and wearing too much black (and too much black eyeliner) Cherie knew an awful lot about a lot (which was going overboard for Met U in those days—honestly, they only wanted you to know a little about a lot).
Lionel, marching steadfastly forward and pulling Lillian along willy-nilly, spared her a glance, half-amused, half-exasperated. "You're going to love it," he informed her confidently.
"Not as much as I loved the beach-house, I'll bet," she muttered, dwelling fondly on warm days spent lazing around in a beach chair, wearing sunscreen and little else and getting Lionel to loosen up. So far, her methods had met with some success. Really, she thought, that was what she had devoted her life to, when she promised to love and honor (and obey—feminist principles versus traditional wedding vows) Lionel. He got so stressed out over that company of his—Luthorcorp. And there was only so much she could do in the realm of hostessing and helping. Still, he didn't seem stressed now. And if he'd heard her comment, he wasn't dignifying it with an answer.
Lillian studied Lionel as he hurried her along (clearly, the man had no understanding of how difficult it is to walk in heels—he could at least have warned her) and thought how incongruous he ought to look. There he was, in a dark suit—not custom-made, but not thrift shop, either—and dress shoes. His normally perfectly tamed hair was windswept, and his eyes were alight with a glow Lillian assumed was enthusiasm. Or it might be—slightly!—obsessive. What was so important about these tangled woods, anyway? Lillian, of course, was city-bred. As such, she distrusted forests, open spaces, and too much sky.
In fact, more sky seemed to be appearing up ahead. As well as—
"Wow," Lillian breathed, once she regained her breath. The castle—for such it was—loomed up out at them at the end of the trail. It was surrounded by a shallow moat over which lay an antique drawbridge on the point of collapse. Lillian saw, with a little thrill of delight, that it had real stained glass windows and even real turrets.
"I know," agreed Lionel. "Our guide is meeting us inside, let's go."
"But Lionel…this…this is…you were right, I do love it."
Lionel put his arm round her, and they gazed up at the castle for a long moment.
"How did you know about this place?" Lillian asked, fully expecting that fairies or elves had told him. Or perhaps he'd been here in a previous life.
"After I got Luthorcorp on its feet, I visited here," Lionel answered. "This place has my heritage, my Scottish roots." No one, looking at Lionel, could doubt that he was Scottish. Still, Lillian rather doubted that this particular fairy-tale place had been handed down, generation after generation, Luthor to Luthor. After all, it wasn't as though she didn't know Lionel had grown up in Suicide Slum. She still smiled a wicked little smile whenever she thought of the effect this news had had on her parents. Lillian Roy-Kinnaird, daughter of Leah Roy and Felix Kinnaird, marrying an orphan from Suicide Slum! Lionel's parents had died in a tenement fire. Well, it was Lillian Luthor now. And Felix and Leah had paid for the wedding. The helpless girl act had always worked on Lillian's father, too.
Now, as she and Lionel walked toward the beautiful castle, Lillian thought it looked like where Macbeth might have hung his sword and shield. She glanced at her husband. He was scanning the grounds for their guide with a remarkably proprietary air. A whimsical thought occurred to her. Perhaps this place had been handed down through Lionel's family…starting with the Scottish Lord himself.
Eventually, they found the guide. He hurried to open the big doors, and, even as Lillian started to follow, Lionel swept her off her feet and carried her over the threshold. Her cheeks warmed as the guide carefully shut the doors. Lionel gave her an intense look she knew well before gently setting her on her feet again.
There followed a flurry of talk from the guide (Lillian hadn't caught his name) about the castle, or more accurately, he assured Lillian, the manor: its history, its furniture, furnishings, stained glass windows, indoor plumbing, previous owners (Macbeth wasn't mentioned by name…)… It was all very interesting, but Lillian found it more fascinating that a place she had never before been could hold her attention so completely. She followed Lionel and the guide, her eyes wide.
Lillian had grown up with money, of course. Leah and Felix had a beautiful new house with all the latest in amenities and decorations, and a vacation home in the Hamptons. But this—! This was so much more beautiful. The furniture was antique without being on the verge of collapse, the stained glass windows were an epiphany in and of themselves, and the rooms were all big and free. This was not a house of clutter. Couldn't be. And the library—! Rows and rows of beautiful books—Lillian spotted all her favorite classics.
The guide was moving on, already describing the next room, but Lillian hung back. She wasn't ready to leave that library.
"Glorious, isn't it?" Lionel asked softly.
Lillian nodded, although this seemed a frail and feeble way to express her agreement. "I wish…" she began, then stopped herself.
Lionel, however, seemed to hear what she hadn't said. "Someday," he whispered against her dark, auburn hair, taking her in his arms. "Someday this will be ours."
Lillian felt herself acquiescing in his powerful, contagious confidence. "I love you," she said with some conviction.
"And I love you," Lionel murmured against her hair. His breathing grew more ragged, and his mouth found hers.
Fergus Clacher sighed in exasperation. People (especially couples) often got…distracted during tours, but really. They were in the library, for goodness sake! He had been about to show them the ballroom. This was ridiculous.
When Fergus's boss had called, saying Mr. and Mrs. Luthor were to receive a private, guided tour, he hadn't mentioned they were newlyweds. He also hadn't mentioned, Fergus reflected bitterly, that Mr. Luthor was nearly more knowledgeable about the manor than he was, or that Mrs. Luthor was incredibly beautiful. They were both Scottish, of course; he could tell. But their accents were all-American. And their clothes—! A private guided tour usually meant rich old folks or groups of energetic college students, but the Luthors were far from either of those. In their twenties, but richer than the last tottering group of rich old ladies he'd escorted around the manor.
Still, above and beyond their financial resources, there was something strange about those Luthors. He couldn't put his finger on exactly what it was, but they were…unusual, and slightly off-putting. Perhaps it was Mr. Luthor's air of treating the manor as though it were his own private residence, or the way Mrs. Luthor had shrieked at what she claimed were cobwebs (although it was no such thing—Marie, who was in charge of cleaning the place, would never allow it), or perhaps it was just that they were getting it on in the library, when they had already passed the luxurious bedrooms, and he was about to show them the ballroom. What were they, some sort of intellectual types? Not that he imagined they were reading in there…
Fergus sighed. Should he go knock, or something? Or…maybe it would be smarter to just go wait in the grand hall. No reason to antagonize that Mr. Luthor. He had a look about him Fergus mistrusted. Cold, calculating…maybe that was it. Perhaps what bothered him about the Luthors was their ruthlessness.
Lionel didn't mention his plan to buy the castle (or, as that provoking guide person who kept staring at her so much said, manor) again, but Lillian knew he hadn't forgotten about it. He never forgot his promises.
Also, of course, if anyone could scrounge up enough money to buy an entire Scottish castle complete with furnishings and still afford Lillian's frequent shopping sprees, it was Lionel. Lillian smiled secretly. She knew Lionel was ruthless and determined. She rather thought he was planning on conquering the world, in the style of those long-ago emperors he so admired. Her parents, her friends, and those irritating people who filled out her inner portrait of the world thought she should swoon at the mere thought of a raging megalomaniac like Lionel Luthor. They would never know, Lillian reflected that night as she gazed happily at her sparkling, clacking rings, just how much being Lionel Luthor's wife—and queen—suited her down to the ground.