To Shop or Not To Shop... No Question, Really (attn: Ambrose)
Technically Ysabel wasn't working tonight but like usual that didn't stop her from dressing the way she liked to. Tonight she was in a ground-length gown from the early 14th century, consisting of a light silken chemise of off-white and a cotehardie of deep blue with silver trim. Her shoulders and a great deal of chest were bare, emphasized by the addition of a platinum chain around her neck with a delicate sapphire pendant that dangled just above her temptingly displayed cleavage. She wore a matching metal-worked belt low on her waist, as was the style of the period. This was a manner of dress she loved. It was feminine and pretty and she could move in it just fine. Ysabel could never understand how modern women preferred jeans and sneakers.
She had pulled her hair away from her face and plaited it, pinning it behind her head and leaving the rest of her golden hair to spill down her back in gentle curls. Ysabel was not above vanity; she was pretty and she loved it. She spent plenty of time on her appearance each night but had put extra effort into it tonight since she was spending the whole night with Ambrose.
They had made their way out into the vibrant night life of the Strip and Ysabel was looking forward to one of her favorite passtimes, spending money. It seemed like ages since she'd made a single purchase and she had a list of things to get.
They had left Ambrose's truck parked along a side street and proceeded by foot to the first store she wanted to go to. It was the only one of its kind in Nachton, a little tack store located off the main beat. She greeted the shop keeper within as they entered. The two of them were relatively regular customers. The owner of the store was a vampire as well, but the people who ran the store were her familiars.
Ysabel made her way to the things she needed first, picking out a new bit for Elegy and some supportive boots for Vivace, who had suffered a tendon strain a few weeks ago. Settling upon those necessary items they wandered the aisles.
"Do you think Marie would like a new saddle blanket?" She asked Ambrose as they noticed a display of colorful pads. Ysabel's spending sprees were generally not centered on herself (although she certainly included herself on the list). She liked buying things for her friends and family too though.
Although, that dress had almost put the whole evening on hold. The position of the necklace alone was rather tempting as was the hair cascading down her back. It was nights like these that Ambrose didn't mind looking like he was robbing the cradle. And they almost always got one or two of those looks any time they were out in public. He thought it was rather amusing considering that Ysabel was really a cougar.
At least they were starting in an agreeable location. Tack he could handle. At some point though they would probably wind up in some shop with an over powering floral smell and delicate lace and porcelain and he cringed just thinking of it. Ysabel didn't typically subject him to such things, and when she did he had a feeling it was something of a joke but still.
Midnight's gear was in good shape and he didn't need anything but he still enjoyed the variety of options modern equestrians had. It was so much different than it had been in his day. As they paused to look at the saddle pads he casually slid an arm around Ysabel's tiny waist and nodded.
"I think if -you- were to give her a stick she'd like it.â€
The familiar was rather enamored of Ysabel. Not that he blamed her it was just how things were.
"What about a bare back pad instead though?â€
She leaned against Ambrose when he wrapped his arm around her waist and nodded. "She has one," she said at his suggestion, "but it's rather worn. You're right, she would probably love a new one."
They looked at the pads in question, Ysabel's eyes immediately going to the higher end of the selection. The low-end cheap fleece pads may as well not have been there. They looked nice and fluffy now, but a few hours of riding and they'd be hard, flat, and covered in pills. Not to mention the cheap nylon girth was hardly worth the twenty dollars. She also turned her nose up at bareback pads with stirrups attached.
"Those sort of defeat the purpose, don't you think?" She asked. The whole point of riding bareback was to forego stirrups and ride au naturale, as it were. The pad was just there to ease the burden on your horses's spine as well as absorb shock for the rider.
She finally saw something that interested her, a faux suede pad with a neoprene bottom and girth with pockets on the back to hold things, as well as a pocket for a water bottle. "This might be nice," she said.
It was more breathable than fleece, and seemed like it might be contoured in all the right spots. She looked up at Ambrose. "What do you think?"
Not that the waif was a child any more. Hell she wasn't even a waif any more, not really. Ambrose wasn't quite sure what Ysabel was going to do with her familiar. He knew Marie had expressed a desire to be turned and that Ysabel had tentatively agreed but he wasn't sure what to make of that. Maybe their little family would grow and the girl would stick around. Maybe she'd wander off on her own. They'd just have to wait and see.
"I'd call it cheating."
Stirrups, that was just sad. It made him question if people seriously rode these days. Critically eyeing the pad that Ysabel had picked Ambrose nodded approvingly. It was good, very good. In fact he'd like one himself but he didn't trust his leg hanging unsupported along the side of a horse. While he was a solid enough horseman not to need the stirrups without that little support his leg might fall off. At least that was his thinking.
"That should fit the bill and then some."
With a small squeeze Ambrose picked up one of the the pads in question. Since it only came in one color they didn't have to worry about which one to get. Upon closer inspection he was more than satisfied with the item and had to hand it to Bell for having an eye for quality.
"Have we got everything here then?"
Belle never made just one stop so he knew better than to think they were heading back to the truck. And because the cab couldn't hold much and the bed wasn't secure Ambrose also knew he'd be carrying the purchases. He didn't mind.
She favored him with an angelic look as they made their way to the register and paid for their purchases. The bareback pad was flexible enough to fold in quarters. While that wouldn't do for storage it was just fine for carrying around until they got back to the truck.
Ambrose took the bag with everything in it and Ysabel was pleased that he did so. There was a gruff kind of chivalry to him that she loved. It didn't matter what their respective ages or roles were; he opened doors for her and slid her chair out before she sat. He stood when she entered the room (sometimes) and in general treated her like the Lady she was. Ysabel enjoyed that. It wasn't that she couldn't do things for herself - it was the gesture that counted.
He couldn't hold her hand with one hand occupied with his cane and the other holding the bag so she simply took his arm instead as they left the tack store with a few words of thanks. Ysabel looked around once they got back onto the Strip. Many stores were tempting to her, and many also went completely ignored. Like Walgreens. Target. Anything that was... ordinary.
What caught her eye next was a clockmaker's modest storefront. Ysabel had seen this shop before but she'd never gone in. Living in the digital age was well and good but clocks were an art form and a good clockmaker deserved to make a living, right?
"Let's go look in there," she suggested, not actually suggesting so much as heading that way. She did not expect Ambrose to gripe until she found someplace perfumed and flowery to get into. She couldn't help it, sometimes she had to go inside stores like those just to see how long Ambrose could hold out.
Why he remembered his manners around Ysabel was something of a mystery to Ambrose. One he didn't really think about. She inspired that in him, something no other woman did. She had from the first time they'd met and now it was his way of telling her how he felt without actually saying anything.
With her hand on his arm Ambrose glanced down and saw the ring he'd picked out for her and nodded. They probably ought to set a date, at least narrow it down to a decade. He should probably meet her folks too, as uncomfortable as that was bound to be.
There was no doubt who was leading who but Ambrose just went along with it relieved the shop wasn't stuffed full of sachets and dollies. He did, however, hope they got out of there before the hour, there were clocks everywhere and all kinds. Grandfather, coo coo, Big Ben replicas, clocks that played a different bird song each hour, modern, reproductions and antiques. It was rather stunning.
"I wonder if he knows what time it is.â€
He asked Belle. He wasn't quite sure what they were looking for, Ambrose wasn't sure he'd ever seen Ysabel wear a watch and he thought they had enough clocks in her house. Maybe it was a present.
She winked at her fiancee at her own little pun but headed into the store anyway. The workmanship of the clocks was wonderful. Clearly the man at the counter hadn't made all of these clocks; there were so many different styles and varieties.
"I was thinking of something for my parents," she said. Her father was fond of clocks, and Ysabel tried to get him a new one from everywhere they went. It made for a lot of clocks, but he seemed to enjoy placing them in different rooms and Richard and Elsa had many different houses as well.
She wandered through the aisles looking at the different displays. Some were large and some were small; Ysabel was of a mind to find something small, something modern, and something made in the USA. She might find it, or she might not, but she would have fun looking.
"Do you really think this is the time for jokes?â€
Wit wasn't his strong point but he'd struck lucky with that one. Time was a a nice broad topic and gave him a lot of openings though. Still, he was rather proud of himself.
He made a bit of a face when she mentioned her parents. It wasn't because he disliked them or anything, but he remembered all too clearly meeting a woman's parents and telling them he intended to marry their daughter. Yeah that had gone just brilliantly. You'd think being more than a century old and being engaged to a woman who had six centuries under her best would get him out of the whole meeting the in laws thing.
Of course, Ambrose thought with a bit of a twisted smile, he could always sick Damaris on them if things got ugly.
"I think we can find something like that. Maybe something Ben Franklin made... did he make clocks?â€
His history was a bit rusty, school hadn't been his top priority and an education out in the territories was dicey any way. If you asked about the west or Mexico he'd do better but that was just because he'd lived most of it.
"I suppose we ought to see about me meeting them at some point. They do know we are getting hitched don't they?â€
He'd not exactly asked for their daughter's hand in marriage either and knowing her family he probably should have. Too late now.
She understood that Ambrose's moue was not because he thought poorly of her parents but because he disliked formalities, and meeting the parents of his betrothed was definitely a formality. Especially since he'd already asked her directly for her hand rather than doing it the old-fashioned way. Ysabel approved; just because she dressed from another age didn't mean her opinions had stayed there too. She had been happy to accept his proposal for herself.
"I don't know if he made clocks," she said with a little shrug. Ysabel's grasp of American History wasn't the strongest. Nachton history, yes, thanks to her little passtime at the Historical Society, but Ben Franklin had nothing to do with that.
She paused to look at a very modern tabletop clock, encased in glass with little platinum accents. She could see every little gear inside of the clock itself, and it had four faces so that no matter where you sat at a table you could read it. It was very pretty.
She glanced up at Ambrose's somewhat worried words and said, "Of course they know we're engaged, dearest. They couldn't be happier and they're looking forward to meeting you."
That was nothing but truth. Her parents were happy for her. The time for Ysabel to marry for her family had passed; she finally got to marry for herself and she was excited about it. Wedding number twelve would be what she wanted, not what someone else envisioned for her.
While he never left Ysabel's side, he did become rather fascinated by a coo coo clock. To his eye it looked old, it looked a lot like one his mother had. She drug it out west with them. It was one of the few 'niceties' that they took.
He didn't worry about the Franklin thing, it didn't matter much one way or another, especially as his fiancÃ©e seemed more interested in a modern clock rather than an antique. Ambrose had to admit he liked being able to see how it worked.
"The inside is almost better looking than the outside.â€
That was something of a relief. He had an odd vision of her father threatening him with a shot gun for dishonoring his daughter. He silently rolled his eyes at himself and these images. Yes it would be great if he got along with Belle's folks, but it wasn't a requirement and he wasn't a damned kid to get bullied into something.
"So I don't have to worry about pistols at dawn or anything like that? Good. Did you want to go there to meet them or are they planning on heading this way.â€
Personally Ambrose would prefer to stay on his own turf, but he suspected Ysabel might want to go back to Europe for a visit. She'd been away for a number of years. It would probably be good for the girl too, culture and all that.
The little clock should definitely come along with them. It was a pricey piece, but it had been made here in the USA and it was fairly unique. The more she looked at it, the more she liked it.
"This one it is," she said decisively. She brought the clock to the front of the store and gave the proprietor her credit card, ignoring the near four-digit price. It didn't really matter to her anyway.
Ambrose's trepidation about meeting her parents was palpable. "There will be no dueling," she assured him, "but I would very much like you to come to England. You would enjoy the stables, I think."
Her father's passion was Friesian horses and he had been breeding them for centuries. Ysabel thought Richard and Ambrose would find plenty of common ground over their mutual love of horses. She would enjoy riding out into the country with her family, Marie, and Ambrose. It would be an enjoyable vacation.
She thanked the man at the register as he boxed up the clock and put it in a bag. Ambrose took the bag, adding it to the first one from the tack shop, and then Ysabel took Ambrose's arm once again as they left the store.
Ysabel looked up and down the strip. "Where shall we go next?"
Having become used to Ysabel's budget, or lack there of, he didn't think anything of the price. She was generous though, you had to give her that. He took the clock, which was heavier than he'd thought, and again offered her his arm.
"Well I'm glad to hear the no dueling. That isn't exactly the first impression I want to make.â€
Nor did he want to come off as an ignorant cowboy. Huh, maybe he should talk to Rupert or Damaris or both and get some extra manners. Might be nice to Surprise Belle with them. They probably wouldn't last but it was the thought that counted and all that.
When Belle asked him where too next Ambrose looked down at her, clearly perplexed. He didn't shop he had no idea where to next. Not being willing to back away from a challenge, no matter how odd, he glanced around slightly desperately and grinned softly to himself when he saw something that would work.
"How about there?â€
He asked as he started them toward a small music shop that was tucked in between to larger flashier shops and was probably often over looked.
"We can go to England though. I don't see why not. I think I have a passport still.â€
The response was slightly distracted as Ambrose was starting to think they were being followed, or at least watched. He didn't say anything to Belle though, he didn't want to worry her. He did, however, wish he had brought his gun. Damned it living with Belle was making him soft.
She had been with Ambrose long enough now to understand his likes and dislikes, and she knew that going to England to meet her family would be... stressful. She couldn't convince him otherwise though; Ambrose was very much a 'see it to believe it' person in some matters. So she would be patient and simply demonstrate to him that everything would be just fine.
She nodded her assent to the music store when he pointed it out. Ysabel figured she couldn't spend all night dragging Amber into stores he would hate; they had to mix in a few cowboy-friendly stores.
"Have you given any thought to a new guitar?" she asked as they entered the store.
It had been a while since she'd bought him a gift, and she liked getting things for him. If he indicated that he liked one, she would get it, she decided. Ambrose was worth so much more than money to her, but it couldn't hurt to get him a token of her affection now and then, could it?
Actually, there was no way it could be as bad as Ambrose thought it would be. He was planning on a worst case scenario that would make Noah's flood and Three Mile Island look positively boring. It usually centered on around Belle's father forbidding her from marrying him and them him starting a fight that some how lead to the exposure of their race to humanity and an all out war. It probably wouldn't come to that. Probably.
The little bell above the door seemed flat to him. Which, given the nature of the store, brought a wry grin to his face for just a second. Apparently store fronts on the strip were expensive as the proprietor had made the most of every square inch of his shop. While the aisles were wide enough and clear enough to allow easy movement -anywhere- you looked held three or four items, or more, for sale. He had an over whelming variety as well.
"Thought about it, but the ones I've got are doing fine. I could stand some new strings though.â€
And a new harmonica, he had the strangest urge to get a new harmonica. The one he was currently playing was near as old as his Colt. It still sounded good but it might be time to retire it, especially as he was getting more work playing the harmonica of late. It seemed to be a fad, but it was a fad that was brining him work so he wasn't going to complain.
"I thought we might find you or the waif something. Or something for your mother.â€
"Let's get you your new strings then," she said as they entered the store. That much was easily accomplished, but they were both musicians and browsing seemed like an enjoyable thing to do.
"I don't know if there's anything here Elsa would like," she said, "I do have a few ideas for her though."
This was a very small music store and, being in England, Elsa had access to some incredibly old stores with lovely antique instruments and a much wider range of accessories. Not that this store didn't have a lot, Ysabel would still keep her eyes open. She suspected she might not find something spectacular for Elsa here though. Her mother's passions lay elsewhere.
She did browse through some sheet music for the piano; Ysabel had quite a collection at home but she was always looking to add to it even if it was just a new arrangement of an old piece.
"Did you have something in mind for Marie?"
Ysabel watched Ambrose even as she riffled through the well-organized musical pieces. She wanted to know what was drawing his attention. If she could figure out something he wanted she could always come and get it for him later.
"I'm open to any and all bribe ideas."
Ambrose was still learning the piano, something Belle was helping him with and he browsed the sheet music over her shoulder. Their taste in music could vary broadly, but not to the point of conflict. Ysabel was very open minded and could appreciate any number of genera especially when arranged to highlight the music rather than the volume.
"That girl is all over the map. I caught her experimenting with my drums the other day."
It was his opinion that Marie would never be a professional musician but thanks to Ysabel's education she did have more than a passing interest and seemed to genuinely enjoy the piano.
"Maybe she'd do better on the strings though, guitar or violin or something. She doesn't strike me as a base or cello player."
Even as he said it though he was half scanning the store for a harmonica. It didn't take long to determine if the shop had them they were in a case up front. Under the pretext of getting a couple packages of strings Ambrose made his way up there. He about fell over when one or two hit the five grand mark. What the hell?!
She watched him as he talked about Marie while getting his strings and not so surreptitiously eyeballing the harmonica display. A ha. So that was where his thoughts were going. She knew there had to be something he would want in here; after all Ambrose loved music. For him to come into a store like this and not get goo-goo-eyed over anything at all, well, she would wonder if something were very very wrong.
"Perhaps you could teach her to play the harmonica," she suggested with a bit of amusement in her tone. She peered closer to the display. There were many harmonicas there. Ysabel knew nothing about them, so she couldn't say which would be best for Ambrose.
"Which of these are good ones?" She asked. She had seen him play his, of course, but she couldn't recall offhand what brand he played. Hohner sounded familiar; at least she thought it did but that could be because she'd looked at them elsewhere before.
As they looked over the harmonica and Ysabel suggested he teach that to Marie he snorted. No that wouldn't do at all.
"It's a bit old fashion and doesn't seem to suit her."
Still, as his thoughts had already wandered that way he couldn't just let the idea go. And found himself rambling an answer at his fiancee anyway.
"I haven't read up on them in ages. The Hohner are usually solid, I'm not sure about the Suzuki ones though."
About then he started looking very hard at something he'd never seen before, a wireless harmonica mic and amp.
"What the hell. They'll make anything wireless these days."
Despite his grumbling Ambrose was fascinated. This could be killer and the idea of playing with it a bit was highly tempting.
Years ago Ysabel might not have noticed that but today was a different story. She knew Amber very well indeed and it as clear to her that he liked what he saw, or was at the very least interested in what he saw.
"Well then, perhaps you should learn to play with it so no one can accuse you of being too old-fashioned, too," she said cheekily.
With a simple gesture and a nod, the woman behind the front counter of the store retrieved an unopened box, not the display model, of the harmonica in question complete with amplifier. Ysabel did not wait to hear any objections before paying for it; if Ambrose didn't like it she would return it. Maybe.
The drawback was now Ambrose's arms were truly full. He was carrying all of the bags from every store they'd visited and he was beginning to look decidedly bulky.
"Perhaps we should run back to the truck and make a deposit," she suggested as he wrangled the last bag onto his arm.
"I'm not old fashion, I'm and old soul."
Ambrose said with a rather sheepish grin in response to her teasing. Before taking the bag from the sale's woman he quickly kissed Ysabel's temple in thanks.
It came as something of a surprise to him how much they'd already managed to collect. The weight wasn't too much for him but the packages were a bit awkward so he readily agreed with Ysabel's suggestion to drop things off.
Some how he found a part of his arm to offer her and they started back to his truck. They chatted a bit back and forth as they walked but Ambrose again got the feeling they were being followed gradually he became quieter and quieter as he fell back on old instincts and skills casually surveying the area around them finding ways to casually look behind them without really looking.
Yup, there he was. Ambrose didn't have a good look at their stalker but he knew who it was. There was a gun in the truck. They just had to get there before this punk made a move.
"The keys are in my pocket. You may want to jump in the cab right quick."
Ambrose warned Belle. He didn't want her hurt, even if she would heal.
As they made their way back to the truck arm in arm they talked softly. Ysabel could not miss Ambrose's looking around, however. She didn't know what his worry was until they were very nearly at the truck.
There was a slight patter of footsteps behind her and then suddenly she felt a tug at the purse that dangled from her wrist. She was taken by surprise, not prepared at all, and felt the purse slip off of her wrist. A smallish figure dressed in black took off down the road the way they'd come and Ysabel cried out in shock and outrage.
There were very few people around; they were practically alone. So Ysabel suited actions to words and, catching sight of a dangling shoelace, gave it the most energetic tug she could manage, holding onto it with her mind and yanking the boy's feet out from under him.
Quickly she nabbed Ambrose's cane from beneath his hand, dashed up to the would-be thief, and knocked him in the wrist with it. He gave a cry and clutched his wrist to his chest, releasing her purse.
"Ow, that hurt!"
With some surprise, Ysabel realized he was hardly more than a boy. A scrawny teenager. She sighed and looked down at him, then without touching it, lifted her purse and returned it to her outstretched hand as the boy stopped his whining very suddenly to stare.