He signed Evan Goldleaf on the document then slid it across the desk. Jerold Bellamy scrawled his signature across the paper then held out his pudgy hand to shake on the deal.
Goldleaf merely smiled, letting his reputation take over.
“Sorry about that,” Jerold mumbled as he took back his hand. “Customary and all.”
“I hope this will be a long and prosperous partnership.” Goldleaf dipped his head as he stood. He never took off his gloves, not even in the afternoon heat. Another of Goldleaf’s idiosyncrasies, but one others tolerated as doing business with him tended to make them wealthy. As it would Jerold Bellamy if he abided by the agreement. If he didn’t, well, Goldleaf would deal with Jerold accordingly.
“As do I,” Jerold said.
Goldleaf motioned toward a young man with a thick shock of unruly blond hair. “Nathan will see to all the particulars.”
It was likely the one and only time Goldleaf would meet Jerold Bellamy face to face, and he was glad for that. The man washed too little and wore too much perfume.
Nathan bowed then took the chair Goldleaf had vacated. The lad had a sharp mind and was eager to prove himself. This was a rather simple deal, but if the boy handled it well, Goldleaf had a great deal more for him.
It was too bad he’d lose the young man in only fifty years or so.
But then humans just didn’t live very long.
Turning the meeting over to Nathan, Goldleaf strolled through the offices, assuming a bored indifference. Few glanced his way as he appeared to be like every other successful merchant in Aerius.
His glamour spell was holding beautifully, but then most saw what they expected to see. The spell simply reinforced it. Yes, the occasional child pointed at him, or stared, but most parents quickly corrected their children and fussed at them about their lack of manners.
That suited Edrahil Goldleaf quite well.
He hadn’t thought of himself by his birth name in years. Easier to adopt a human name than listen to them mangle his elven one. Besides, no one questioned Evan. Edrahil might draw attention.
And he’d rather stay unnoticed. It had worked for 200 years. He wanted it to work for 200 more. Maybe longer.
His time in Aerius had originally been intended as a way to make amends for his trespasses. Now, his position in the capital city of Tamryn made him valuable.
Of course it did.
Few other elves could tolerate life among humans, much less build a thriving mercantile empire. And unlike so many of his kind, he liked humans. Yes, they tended to be dirty, uncouth, and always in a hurry, but they didn’t dwell on the past and forget to live. Sometimes that caused them to repeat foolish mistakes, but it also propelled them forward.
They were a boisterous, messy race, trying to cram too much into their short lives, but you’d be a fool to underestimate them. Most of the world already bowed to their dominance. If the elves wanted a place in this world, they had to find a way to coexist. Better yet, they’d have to find a way to thrive.
And Goldleaf would help them. They were still his people, no matter what else had happened.
But few elves agreed with him.
Another wedge between him and his home.
Goldleaf had been away so long, changed so much, he wondered if the woodlands of his youth were still his home. As his cane tapped against the marble floors, he knew the answer. Admitting it was something else.
But then, he had little need to admit anything. And if he were wise, he’d emulate his human companions and forget about such troubling things while enjoying an excellent glass of brandy.
He stepped out onto the street, planning to indulge in the brandy or perhaps open a cask of elven wine. Humans had never made good wine, but brandy was quite a different story.
Goldleaf’s carriage driver tipped his hat and pulled up to the building. As a footman opened the door, magic slapped Goldleaf.
The kind he hadn’t felt since leaving the elves.
His breath knotted in his chest as he searched the street for this threat.