Conversational Gambit in Finland
At the Helsinki airport, Despina exits customs after a walk-through and a nod, as she's come from another Euro block nation. Ragnar, casually waiting for her to deplane, turns on the charm and wit to spar away her ill will.
"You, again! What's going on?"
"I'm working for the same person I was the last time you asked, so the answer is still the same. Don't take it personally. If I were a US citizen, you would probably call what I am about 'shuttle diplomacy'." He smiles broadly, opening his arms disarmingly.
No briefcase, this time. He's so handsome. I'm definitely within range of his hormones. Finland is surely a bigger country than just Helsinki. This is just too much coincidence for me to swallow.
"Don't try to tell me you didn't plan THIS meeting!"
"No, this one is pure lust on my part," he admits ruefully, drawing her into an embrace she wants powerfully to resist, but as soon as he touches her, she goes up in smoke.
Mark has turned back, and without thinking, shouts, "Are you coming, Despina?" before he's really taken the situation in. "Oh, there she goes again. Off with her tall un-dark stranger. We won't see her again this sight-seeing tour, I bet. There go all the fun places to visit." With a lop-sided grin of his own, he pulls Suzanne to him, hugging her in a pale imitation of the full embrace Ragnar has used. Suzanne gets a matching goofy, happy grin on her face, unconsciously mimicking the look on Despina's as she glances up at Ragnar.
Switching to an arm-in-arm arrangement, Ragnar walks her over. Catching Svein's eye, he inquires in rapid Norwegian if he may attach himself to the tour group for the time being.
Switching to English, Svein replies suavely, "I'm sure every member of our group would feel honored to be in the company of a Viking Prince. This is indeed an honor, sir." Thus setting the tone for the interactions of the Americans with this brush with royalty, he sets off organizing the trip to the hotel, a decidedly more downscale place than Ragnar can quite stomach.
"We'll be using my private accommodations, Svein. Can you give us the time the first tour of the city is due to begin?" With the arrangements made, he spirits Despina off with him, snatching her luggage deftly from the pile.
"How'd you know which bags were mine?"
"I've seen them before," he reminds her.
"But that looked like more than a glance -- that looked like the quick recognition of ownership."
Afraid she's working up to being annoyed, he leans over and plants a kiss on her nose. "Come, Princess. Our carriage awaits."
Expecting a taxi, she turns to find a horse-drawn carriage literally waiting, door open. "Where... How? I didn't know Helsinki had horse drawn carriages."
"Well, I didn't have time to import one of Ibn's stable mates."
She shivers at his deep laugh. Everything he does seems to affect me. I haven't been this off balance since I was 15!
While the others fiddle with strange food in a cheaper restaurant, Ragnar rings for a fruit plate for dipping into, then delights in quickly stripping Despina and whisking her off to bed before the tour is due to officially begin.
Afterward, Despina finds it hard to work up any enthusiasm for the coming sight-seeing. "Come, Princess, duty calls. We must not disappoint your constituents. Mark and Suzanne are clearly following our lead."
"Gulp! At a much less intense and serious level, I certainly hope! We've been quite flamboyant."
"I've something quite serious to propose to you, Princess."
"I wish you wouldn't call me that. Our Indians don't have royalty, and I am only a tribe member by marriage, not blood. I have NO claim to that title, at all. It makes me feel dishonest and uncomfortable."
"I'll try to amend my ways. It is natural for a Prince to address his wife as Princess."
"But, surely we have not married... " Despina sputters to a stop in confusion.
"But, I think it is time to schedule a royal wedding. While your pets can still attend. If we skip Tallinn."
Last updated 11/10/04.