Author's note: So begins Music Box. Most chapters probably won't be this long, I just couldn't stop writing. Enjoy!
The Lopez family was not a family to trifle with. They were close friends of the king. Duke Lopez happened to be one of his closest friends and his fortune and influence knew no bounds. It wasn't as if the Lopez family had anyone who would cross them. They were generally well-liked people, consisting of only the father, the mother and the young daughter. The only ones who had a problem with the family was the Karofsky family who had been thrown from their seat of power when it was discovered that they had neglected to watch the Prince on one visit. The Prince had slipped and fallen into the river, soaking him to the bone and nearly drowning him. Duke Lopez's profession was medicine and he had sealed his spot in the upper class when he alone saved the king's son from the terrible illness that resulted from his fall. No other physician knew how to treat the boy. But the then Marquess Lopez took one look at the ailing boy and treated him as quickly as he knew how. He stayed by the boy's side for a whole week, not leaving for anything except when he absolutely had to. When the boy finally awoke and his fever broke, the king almost broke down and cried from relief. He immediately appointed him to be his personal doctor and even sometimes advisor. Marquess Lopez became Duke Lopez taking the title previously held by the head of the Karofsky family and they'd held a grudge ever since.
Duke Lopez quickly established himself not only as a skilled doctor, but as a charismatic and effective diplomat. He quickly went about using his new influence to repair and strengthen allied relations and his actions only served to make the king rely on and trust him even more. They were celebrated, credited to bringing general peace to the neighboring nations and founding new treaties with those not as close. The king often boasted about his close advisor, saying that he alone had brought about a new era of wealth and prosperity to their great nation.
They had only one child, a bright, spirited daughter by the name of Santana Lopez. The king once asked why Duke Lopez never tried for more children. He promised that if Duke Lopez were ever to have a son, that son would enjoy the comforts of the highest rank the king himself could provide. But Duke Lopez politely declined, attributing his hesitance to the frailty of his wife.
"I almost lost her in child birth. I won't risk that again. Besides, I have the most beautiful little girl a father could want and I am more than pleased with that." Duke Lopez replied when the king asked.
Ever since she was a baby, anyone who had seen her made comments that she was going to grow up to be a beautiful young lady, possibly even more beautiful than any child of the Fabrays. The Fabrays too had a daughter the same age as Santana. Their family specialized in the finances of the country, who to borrow money to and who to collect from. The Fabrays were also known for their stunning good looks. For several generations, men and women from their family were infamous for breaking hearts simply by entering a room. They had an older daughter, already making her rounds in court despite how young she was. Already some of the boys on the cusp of becoming men tried to court her but she effortlessly turned them down, following her mother's advice to "hold off and find the richest, most important man she could find." Their second daughter, Quinn, looked follow in her sister's footsteps. She and the Lopez daughter played together every now and again, while their fathers discussed business and their mothers busied themselves with chatting about their husbands, the servants, and of course court gossip. The two families were close, and they had to be for their position. It was lucky then that they got along well enough.
Santana was a lovely child. She grew up without a care in the world, educated by the finest teachers in languages, rhetoric, music and etiquette. As she aged and attended parties with her parents, she learned quickly how to be charmingly polite. Older women fawned over her, cooing that she was such a sweet little princess sure to catch the attention of a handsome young man in the future with wealth and looks. Santana in return would smile cutely and thank them for the compliment.
To be honest, Santana was a bit of a handful. The servants at her estate found this out quickly. As soon as she learned how to crawl, she was off exploring the home, with its dozens of rooms and vast expanse of hunting ground and gardens in the back. Her nanny quickly learned that taking her eyes off the little girl for even a minute would result in more than an hour of searching. Santana knew all of the best places to hide. She flitted around the house, ducking into cupboards and giggling to herself until the her nanny inevitably heard her and carried her back to her room.
Santana was spoiled, there was no doubt about it. Her father brought back new toys and presents for her every day. Many of them were gifts from the king and they ranged from gold hair combs to thoroughbred ponies for her to ride as she grew older. There almost wasn't a single thing that Santana lacked.
Growing up in the aristocracy, Santana never found time for friends. It was either lessons one minute, attending concerts the next or entertaining guests. As a young girl she often looked outside and watched the stable boys and servant girls run around the yard playing hide and seek in the bushes. They'd look so happy, so content with their lives that sometimes Santana wanted to join them. But they were the lower class and her mother told her never to play with the lower classes unless she wanted to catch whatever communicable diseases they had.
Curiosity and rebelliousness, however, caused her to ignore much of what her mother said. She wandered down to the stable one morning when her nanny wasn't looking. She mostly wanted to see the white pony the king had sent her as an early birthday gift. She found a boy laying in the hay, snoring. She quietly walked over to him. He was a funny looking boy with tanned skin that signified the working lower class. He was wearing a white buttoned shirt, suspenders and brown pants. His face was obscured by a hat that he wore over his face to keep the sunlight out. Santana, in her white lace and frilled dress made her way over.
"Excuse me." She said. The boy snored in response. "Excuse me!" She said louder. The boy awoke with a start, jumping to his feet.
"Huh? What? Don't hit me!" He put up his hands in defense. "I wasn't sleeping, I was thinking! Honest!" He looked around and realized that he was in no danger of being beaten for sleeping on the job. He let out a sigh and put on his hat and yawned. He spit into the hay and wiped his nose on his sleeve. Santana was initially repulsed by his bad manners but at the same time he fascinated her. He represented everything she was not, dirty, poor, but free. She recognized him as one of the boys that would play in her family's land. If she wasn't mistaken, he was the stable boy in charge of taking care of her ponies.
"What do you want?" The boy asked.
"I just came down to see my pony Eris." She replied. The boy sneered.
"He's right over here." He said, jerking his thumb over to one of the stalls where the pony snorted and shook its head. Santana smiled and watched the boy as he picked at his teeth and looked around.
"What do you do here?" She asked.
"What do you think? Haven't you been to a stable before?" He sneered. Santana was offended by his tone of voice and she put her hands on her hips angrily.
"That's no way to talk to a lady." She said indignantly.
"You're no lady." The boy stuck out his tongue. Santana frowned and fumed as the boy continued to make faces at her.
"Take that back! I am too a lady! I'm educated, I'm dressed like one. My father is a duke."
"You sure have no beauty to boast of! I thought Ladies were s'posed to be handsome!" The boy teased. Santana wanted to hit him but the insult cut deep and she dropped her hands and began bawling. The boy pointed and laughed at her, doubling over. But just as soon as her wails drifted outside, a young man burst into the barn to see what the commotion was.
"Lady Santana!" He exclaimed. He took one look at the situation to size up what was happening.
"Uh oh." The boy said, backing away. His eyes darted towards the opening of the barn, wondering how fast his little legs could take him before he could get caught. But by the time he decided to move, the stable master swooped in and grabbed him by the back of his shirt, lifting him up.
"How dare you make the young miss cry?"
"Let me go!" The boy cried, struggling. The man hit him over the head.
"The next time you make the little lady cry, Puck, I swear I'm going to give you a beating so hard your mother in Heaven will feel it!" The stable master shouted. Santana, slightly amused but mostly still hurt watched him as the stable master hit him across the shoulders a couple of more times, causing the boy to let out a steady stream of curse words Santana had never heard before. The profanity only caused the stable master more anger.
"Do not curse in front of the Miss!" He commanded.
"I'm sorry! Let me go now!" Puck pleaded. Finally taking pity, or perhaps no longer wishing to subject the daughter of Master Lopez to such violence, the stable master put him down.
"Sorry about that, Miss. Puck here is a bit of a spitfire but he means well and he takes care of your horses well enough. If you'll excuse me." The stable master bowed a little and went outside to continue wrangling the horses for the afternoon hunt. Puck stood up, slightly bent over at the hip. He rubbed his head and his shoulders, checking to see if any permanent damage had been done. Tears filled his eyes, threatening to spill over and he pouted angrily.
"Why are you still here?" He demanded, turning around so that he wasn't facing her any more and could therefore hide his shame. Santana wiped the tears from her cheeks.
"Hmph, I wish I'd never come here!" She yelled before turning on her heel and storming out of the stable. She couldn't help but glance back as she made her way up the hill and back towards her house. He sat back down on the hay and rubbed his eyes, sniffing a little before curling up. Santana couldn't help but feel a little sorry for the boy, even if he did insult her.
Back at the house, Quinn Fabray had just arrived for their weekly play date. Santana liked the girl well enough, even if she could be a little grating to the nerves. She was an adorable blond girl with hazel eyes and porcelain skin and she reminded Santana of the dolls that they played with. Mrs. Lopez greeted Mrs. Fabray politely, inviting her in for tea, leaving the two girls to their own devices. Santana looked at Quinn who shifted nervously.
"Would you like to play with my dolls?" Santana asked. Quinn nodded and the two scurried off to Santana's room. When they got there, they hopped up on the bed, taking the china dolls off of Santana's night stand. Quinn dressed hers up in a ball gown while Santana opted for a more practical riding gear.
"Tomorrow's my birthday, Quinn." Santana said.
"How old are you going to be?" Quinn asked.
"I'm going to be 10, you're the same age as me."
"Untrue, you're going to be a little older than me!" Quinn countered. Santana frowned.
"Father says I'm going to be a big girl tomorrow. We're going to have a big party and everyone is invited, even you." Santana said.
"I know, mother mentioned it." Quinn replied, standing the doll up so that she could get a better look at it.
"Father's taking me to an auction house so that I can pick out whatever present I want." Santana boasted. Quinn smiled brightly. She liked the auction house, it was full of all sorts of items and people waving their hands. It was a friendly place in her mind, and she especially liked the man at the front with his gavel and large moustache.
"Get another doll. This one is old." Quinn suggested.
"It's my birthday." Santana said. "I'm going to get what I want." Quinn shrugged indifferently.
"Get a doll anyway." Santana put her doll down and looked out the window. She was getting bored of playing with dolls all the time. That was what Quinn wanted to do every single time she came over. She wanted to go outside.
"Let's go play in the garden!" Santana said, hopping off her bed. Quinn looked at her as if she had just said the most ridiculous thing she'd ever heard.
"Outside? But there are bees out there! Last time we played outside I got stung and it really, really hurt!" Santana remembered that time. They'd been picking flowers along the path and Quinn picked one that was already taken by a bee. That bee did not want to share and so it stung Quinn right on her hand. The blond let out a scream that deafened Santana for a while and ran back towards the house. Santana followed her, dropping her flowers on the way. Quinn could not be consoled for hours after that and since then, she loathed going anywhere near flowers.
"It'll be fun! I promise you won't get stung this time." Santana pleaded.
"I don't want to." Quinn crossed her arms and refused to move.
"Fine. I'm going outside. And I'm also telling your mother that you're the one who broke her tea set that time we were throwing the ball around." Quinn's ears and eyes perked up when she heard the threat.
"You won't!" She said. Santana stuck out her tongue.
"Then come play outside with me!" She said and dashed out of the room. Quinn dropped the doll on her bed and chased after her, shouting for her to stop throughout the five rooms it took to get to the outside door. Before she knew it, she was standing on the cobblestoned walkway into the garden. She shifted uncomfortably from one foot to the other.
"Santana...I don't want to be here." She whined. Santana returned to her side.
"Come on, Quinn. I promise, promise you won't get stung!" She said. Quinn bit her lip nervously and looked around. She saw gardeners attending to the flowers and a stable boy walking from the barn across the yard. Santana followed her gaze and saw the stable boy too. The stable boy looked up, almost as if sensing that he was being watched. When he made eye contact with Santana, he stuck out his tongue and turned to walk in the opposite direction.
"What was that?" Quinn asked.
"A stupid stable boy." Santana replied.
"You should get your father to discipline him, teach him his place. He shouldn't be acting to us like that." Quinn said. Santana shrugged.
"I don't really care about him." The two skipped around, Quinn soon forgetting all about her fear. They stopped at the giant fountain in the center of garden and sat down on the stone benches. Quinn brushed her hair back.
"My sister already has a duke wanting to marry her. Mother says she should because it's the closest she's going to get to the monarchy. She says that if I play my cards right and grow up proper, and with some help from my sister's connections, I could wind up marrying a prince!" Quinn said cheerfully. Santana shrugged.
"My father's already got money, I don't see why I should want more."
"Mother says that unless you're married to the king, you can always marry higher and you should." Quinn said with a certain air of snobbery. Santana said nothing. She'd been told the same thing by her mother, except her mother never mentioned the word "should." Rather, she substituted the word "would" in there, implying that due to Master Lopez's connections, Santana was going to marry into a higher rank whether she intended to or not. Santana never said anything in return, merely nodding and replying "yes mother" like a good girl should.
"Quinn! Quinny!" A voice floated down from the back porch. Quinn stood up and turned to Santana.
"I have to go, mother's calling. But I will see you at your party tomorrow. Make sure it's entertaining, understood?" She nodded slightly to Santana and dashed off in the direction of the house. Santana stood up and breathed in a large sigh. She looked over at the stable and caught the stable boy, Puck, glancing at her. He pulled down his lower eyelids with his fingers, showing his teeth. She turned her head in the air flippantly and walked back towards her house.
For a child the age of 9, the day before their 10th birthday lasted forever. Santana fidgeted uncomfortably at the dinner table, glancing at the clock every few seconds to see if a lot of time had passed. Her mother, in the middle of cutting her duck, looked over at her.
"Good girls know how to be patient, even if it is their birthday." She noted. Santana faced forward immediately though her eyes darted to the corners still while her mother wasn't looking. Her father laughed a deep belly laugh.
"Your mother is right. And good girls get to pick out whatever they want at the auction tomorrow." He said. Santana grinned.
"Really Papa?" She asked, bouncing up and down in her seat excitedly.
"Indeed." Her father nodded. Santana giggled and began eating her vegetables like a good girl. Her mother nodded approvingly as she downed her peas. When dinner was finished, Santana went upstairs and took a bath, despite hating it. All she could think of was going to the auction house and picking out the prettiest most expensive thing she could find. As her nanny tucked her into bed, she sat up suddenly.
"Nana, what would you get if you were at the auction house?" She asked. Nana gently coaxed her down.
"I would get whatever caught my eye." She responded.
"What do you want?" Santana asked. The nursemaid laughed a little.
"Miss, what I want and what you want are two completely different things, you see. Go with your father tomorrow to the auction house and you'll know when you see it." She tucked Santana back in and left the room. Santana looked outside her big glass window at the shining moon and stars. As she drifted, all she could think about were the jewelery boxes, the beautiful hairpins and dresses that she would find tomorrow.
When Santana awoke the next morning, she all but jumped out of bed. It was early in the morning and the auction house didn't open until much later but she wanted to get there early to scout out what there was for sale. She dashed over to her parents room, both still slumbering soundly. She jumped on her father's bed and began hopping up and down.
"Papa! Papa! It's my birthday!" Her father snorted and his eyes opened sleepily.
"Princess, it's hardly 7." He muttered.
"It's my birthday! I want to go early!" She kept bouncing, causing her mother to hit her father on the arm.
"Just go with her." She said. "Nothing bad ever came of arriving early, you know." Her father let out a giant sigh and sat up. Santana clapped her hands eagerly as he yawned, stretching his arms well above his head.
"Alright, princess, but we do get breakfast first, understand?" He said, rubbing his eyes and slipping into his robe. Santana got off the bed and hugged her father's leg.
"Thanks Papa!" She ran off to find her nanny so that she could get properly dressed. Her father smiled and filled up his coin purse with notes and currency, enough to buy the whole auction house if she so wished. He just hoped she didn't have that set in her sights.
It was a little after 11 when the carriage arrived at the auction house. It was a decent sized building, with marble pillars and granite walls. People of all ages, sizes and classes showed up, either to spectate or to participate. High ranking officials from all over made their presence, with Santana's father nodding and chatting with a good many of them. Santana in the mean time busied herself with looking around at all of the different items for sale. There was a beautiful chestnut colored dresser in one corner, on top a magnificent silver and gold tea set. Next to it stood a beautiful porcelain blue and gold vase. Paintings in gold frames stood, lining the edges on individual mantels. Expensive books rested on bookshelves and jewelery were displayed in display cases. Santana looked at all of them with eager eyes.
It was her birthday, and her father told her she could pick out anything she wanted. There were even lapdogs for sale and Santana briefly considered getting one of them before she noticed something resting on top of a cabinet meant for displaying dishes and silverware. It was a bright red music box, trimmed in gold. The designs etched into it were an intricate Celtic pattern, resembling the tangled roots of a large tree. There was a porcelain disk embedded into the front, showing an angel gracefully extending its arms out while white doves surrounded it. Santana quickly walked over to it and took it in her hands. She wound it up and it started playing the most beautiful melody that she'd ever heard. Looking closer, there were several bright gems embedded into its sides, ranging from diamonds to emeralds to rubies.
"We shouldn't touch things." Her father said, gently taking the music box out of her hands.
"I want that, Papa!" She said, pointing to it. Her father looked at it up and down.
"Alright, princess. Are you sure?" He asked.
"Yes! I'm absolutely sure!" She insisted, nodding enthusiastically. Her father laughed and fished several large coins from his coin purse. He opened Santana's red and blue purse and dropped them in.
"Here you go. This should be more than enough to buy it when the calls for it. You know how to win an auction, right? I have some business to attend to in the room next door. Just raise your hand at the very end. If we some how lose it, just memorize the name of the person who bought it and tell me, alright?" He kissed her on the forehead.
"Yes, papa." Santana replied. Her father moved through the crowd to join his friends in the room next door as they discussed matters of the nation.
Santana sat down on a chair, eagerly awaiting the moment they brought the music box up. She eyed her competition, mostly old fat men looking to buy gifts for their daughters or wifes or mistresses. But today was Santana's birthday and she was going to win this auction. As the men brought up pieces one by one, Santana's eyes began to wander the room, looking to see if she recognized any of the people there. She knew one or two from the balls that they attended but no one really stuck out in her mind.
"And here we have this beautiful display case," the auctioneer droned on. Santana yawned, feeling a little sleepy from the long ride and the early rise. But she shook her head and focused on the task at hand. She would never be able to forgive herself if someone else won the auction because she fell asleep.
She thought about the extravagant party she was going to have. The Fabrays were sure to buy her something to wear, they had for the past 9 years. The Berrys were also going to make an appearance though it was a long journey for them, being out in the country. The king and the prince were going to stop by, if only briefly but she was excited to have royalty attend no matter what.
"And here we have this beautiful scarlet music box..." Santana's attention snapped forward and she focused on her prize. There it was, in all its glory, being presented on the podium. She sat up eagerly and waited. There didn't seem to be that much interest in it, lucky for Santana.
"Please Papa! Don't do this, please!" A commotion to the right of her caused Santana to look away for a moment. She scanned the room, trying to find the source of the noise. When she found it, she frowned.
"Please don't leave me, please papa, please." A young blond girl with scared blue eyes, dressed in peasants clothes gripped and older man, no doubt her father, by the leg. Tears overflowed from her cheeks as she pleaded with him.
"This is for the best." Her father said but the look in his eyes showed that whatever decision he was making was equally difficult for him.
"Don't leave me, papa!" The girl wailed. "Don't send me away!"
"You have five brothers and a new sister. This man offered enough money for us to take care of your mother and your siblings. They'd die of starvation, don't you understand?" Her father tried to explain, prying her thin arms off of his leg. To the left of them, and old, white haired man with quite a belly counted out several notes. The girl buried her face into his leg and sobbed loudly. By now, everyone was at least glancing at them because of all the ruckus they were creating.
"Don't give me away, papa! Don't leave me!" The girl kept repeating. Santana looked back at the music box and then to the girl. She was about Santana's age.
"It's for the best." Her father said quietly, his face contorted in pain and agony at the thought of selling his daughter like this. "You'll be fed, clothed and housed far better than any of us would be able to provide."
"Here's your money." The aristocrat said, handing over the notes. The man took the money.
"I love you papa, don't leave me!" Her father patted her on the head and then tore her away, handing her arm to the aristocrat. Santana watched, not knowing why she felt bad for the girl. She'd never seen anything like this. She knew the young servants had to come from somewhere but she'd never seen a transaction actual take place.
What she didn't know was that it wasn't a mere servant transaction. The aristocrat was well known, infamous, for buying young girls and raising them to be his own personal mistresses. No one ever said anything to his face, he had far too much power and money for that. What he did with his money was his own business. If he wanted to buy girls for his own personal brothel, that was his matter, no one else's. This girl was no exception. The money he offered was too tempting and needed by the family to refuse, especially after the mother had just delivered yet another baby. So this girl was the sacrifice for the rest of the family to survive.
Santana watched as the girl struggled and cried for her father. Something about the way the aristocrat smirked at her made Santana feel uneasy, and she didn't like watching the whole scenario. She looked back at the music box. People were still bidding on it at a fairly steady rate. She turned back to watch more. By now the aristocrat had both of the girls wrists clasped in his own as he struggled to get her under control.
"Be good!" He ordered, slapping her across the face. The people around him jumped at the sound of the hit but they did their best to ignore him and focus on the auction at hand. The blond girl went instantly quiet, though tears still streamed from her face.
"Any more bids? Anymore?" The auctioneer said. Santana gazed at the music box. It was beautiful and it had caught her attention and she was going to buy it.
"It's your birthday today, no?" She heard the aristocrat say. "Let me buy you a necklace, hmm? It will look beautiful on you." The way he said it made Santana's skin crawl. She looked back at the girl, whose head was bowed in defeat. Then the blond girl looked up and made eye contact with Santana. Something in Santana wrenched and her heart ached for the girl who had been sold by her own father on her birthday.
She got up off of the chair and made her way over. The aristocrat noticed someone small walking towards him and looked over. He instantly recognized her.
"Lady Santana Lopez! What a pleasure it is!" He said in a way that betrayed no sense of guilt for what he was doing.
"Going once, going twice..." The auctioneer announced. Santana swallowed and made her decision. "Sold!" The gavel fell and the music box was taken away. Santana held out her money purse to the aristocrat.
"I want to buy her." She announced. The blond girl looked up sharply, her eyes wide with shock. The aristocrat looked down at his newly attained prize and then back at the coin purse Santana presented to him. He took it and looked inside. There was more than enough money there to cover two of the blond girls.
"Um...My Lady, if you don't mind me saying, she's not for sale."
"It's my birthday." Santana announced. "My father said I could have whatever I wanted at the auction house."
"But what would you do with her?" The aristocrat asked. Santana shrugged. She hadn't really thought that far ahead.
"Servant girl." She responded. "Um...my own private servant girl." The aristocrat began to sweat. There was no way he could win in this situation. To refuse a Lopez on any matter, even this one could bring trouble for him. At the same time, he did not want to give up this girl. She was sure to grow up to be a beauty and he was more than a little reluctant to give her up.
"Please, is there anything else I can do? I can offer you another servant girl, one much nicer and more obedient than this one." The aristocrat pleaded.
"I want this one." Santana said, putting her foot down.
"Did you win, princess?" At that very moment, Santana's father walked over. Santana looked up at him and so did the aristocrat who turned a slight shade paler.
"No papa, I want this girl." She said firmly. Her father jerked his head back in surprise and surveyed the girl his daughter was talking about.
"What? You don't want the music box? I thought..." He saw the determination in her eyes. "But what would buying this girl do?"
"That's precisely what I told her, Your Grace." The man said. Duke Lopez finally looked at the man whom Santana wanted to buy the girl from. His eyes narrowed instantly when he recognized who it was and knew exactly what he was going to do to this girl.
"Count." He said, nodding curtly and coldly.
"I told your lovely daughter," Duke Lopez bristled when he said those words but he kept his expression in check. "That I have lots of other girls she can have as a servant girl."
"I want her." Santana replied firmly. "I even lost the music box because of it." Duke Lopez smiled warmly at his daughter and then turned his steely gaze upon the Count.
"It is my daughter's birthday." He said. The air of power and influence seeped from every pore and the Count knew it was a fight he wasn't going to win. "And she seems to be set on a personal servant." The Count laughed nervously.
"There's more than enough money in that pouch to pay for this girl." His gaze turned slightly hostile and threatening. "I suggest you take it, it is a better deal for you after all." The count shuddered under the menacing glare.
"Very...very well, Duke. I apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused." He said, releasing the girl. Duke Lopez grabbed her hand gently and the girl put her hand to her mouth, shaking due to fear. The Count regarded Santana.
"Happy birthday to you, Miss Lopez." He said, though his voice contained traces of bitterness. He promptly left the auction house. Duke Lopez sighed in relief and looked down at the trembling, crying girl.
"You got your birthday present, Santana." He said, motioning towards the petrified peasant girl. "Let's head home, I can feel a headache starting to set in." He rubbed his temples and led both girls, one in each hand out of the auction house. Santana leaned back and looked at the girl. She was still shaking like a feather in the wind but she wiped her eyes and no more tears were falling. The whole ordeal had been traumatizing for her but she seemed to be in better shape now that she wasn't in the hands of the Count. As they got in the carriage, Santana and her father sat on one side and the blond girl sat on the other, her knees drawn up to her face in fear.
"No one will hurt you." Duke Lopez assured. "I can assure you of that." The girl nodded numbly. "Will you tell us your name?" The girl shook her head, her lips pressed together tightly. Her eyes were still wide. Duke Lopez sighed. He reached into his pocket and pulled out two small pieces of candy. One he handed to Santana and the other he handed to the girl.
"I promise nothing bad will happen to you." He said again. The blond girl looked from the candy to the Duke, with his gentle, reassuring looks. The girl reached out and tentatively took the candy from him, unwrapping the foil and popping the sweet into her mouth before returning to her huddled position. Santana watched her, noticing that she glanced up at her every few minutes and then quickly averted her gaze. They rode mostly in silence, with Duke Lopez having fallen asleep mid-ride. When they almost reached the house, Santana spoke.
"My name is Santana." She said. "What's yours?" The blond shifted in her position and looked up at her.
"My name is Brittany."