Lord Loric of Zale adjusted his new white cuffs and looked down at the young seamstress stitching the hem of his cape. She had graceful hands and nimble fingers that adeptly threaded the needle through the deep purple fabric. Her face was plain and her body was nothing special, but those delicate little hands...

"Did anyone ever tell you what lovely hands you have, my dear?" Loric said. The seamstress blushed, and a sweet smile graced her features.

"No, my lord," she replied shyly. Her shop was small and not well known, so she rarely had a customer as handsome and charming as Lord Loric.

"'My lord'..." he repeated. "What a formal, stuffy title. Please, call me Loric."

The girl looked up. Loric truly was a sight to behold, dark-haired and dark-eyed with strong features and a wolfishly-charming smile.

"Oh, I don't think I could, my lord," the seamstress said, finishing her work on the hem. "It just wouldn't be proper."

"Really," Loric said, kneeling next to her. "I insist." He lifted her chin and met her eyes with his own.

"I-I..." the girl began, but was too flustered to continue. "Ouch!" she yelped. Her hands had been shaking so badly that she had pricked her finger with the needle.

"Why, I believe you've hurt yourself, my dear," Loric exclaimed. He took her finger and examined the swelling drop of blood there for a moment before tearing a strip of cloth from his silk handkerchief. "Tell me your name," he said, more a question than an order.

"It's Kia, my lo- I mean, Loric," she corrected herself.

"Kia," he said, testing the word. "What a pretty name."

"Thank you, m-...Loric."

Lord Loric grinned as he tied the piece of cloth around Kia's finger.

"You didn't really have to do that," Kia said, blushing.

"Oh, but I did," he insisted. "Red is a nice color for your face, my dear, but not for your hands."

"Really?" Kia asked, smiling shyly. Loric nodded. Suddenly, his dark eyes widened and a small choking noise escaped his throat. A little stream of blood drizzled from the corner of his mouth. Kia stood up and let the body of Lord Loric of Zale fall at her feet, stooping to pull her dagger from the back of his neck. Crimson blood slipped down the blade and stained her palms. "I think it looks beautiful on them."

The seamstress untied the cape from Loric's neck and tossed it around her shoulders, running her hands along the velvet and leaving a trail of blood where her fingers passed. She stepped out of the shop and took a deep breath of summer air. The breath rippled through her body, and the image of a plain young girl broke and rearranged itself into that of a dark-haired, dark-eyed man with a charming smile.

"What a lovely afternoon," he said, and strode off in the direction of the city, pausing to wipe the blood from his hands.