Aria rises and takes a seat at their table across from Nate. Sophie's infatuation with Aria's activities has transformed into mild alarm at Aria's revelation. Aria waves to the waitress to order a coffee as if the discussion that they are about to have is the most normal conversation in the world. Aria takes a comfortable and relaxed position as she sips her coffee. Nate is now acutely taking in their surroundings looking for potential threats. Aria knows that the wayward pair will come around to her point of view. "So now, we are going to get the two of you back to the states post haste, Duchess." Aria is intently watching something that is out of Sophie's view. She pulled out the one term that would capture Sophie's attention completely… Duchess. Sophie attempts a protest to no avail. Aria is dispatching them back to the States on her plane… taken to and fro by Lexi's driver. Aria knows that Lexi's people are beyond reproach like her own. Aria has vetted her own staff carefully over the years. Loyalties were tested and proven before trust was entered into the equation. Aria moves them out fast enough to make their heads spin. Before they even know what hits them, Sophie and Nate find themselves back at Aria's Maine fortress.
Sophie decides to join Aria in her study as she works away upon her laptop. She gently places a cup of tea upon the desk before circling to the side. "Something on your mind Duchess?" Sophie smirks at Aria's comment. "You mind telling me how you are so sure you know who I am?" Sophie settles into the chair in front of Aria.
Aria looks up coyly from from her work. "Takes one to know one." Aria winks at Sophie as she takes a sip from the offered cup. Sophie glances out the window with a smile at the falling snow. "This place must be magical at Christmas." Sophie rises to take a closer look. The whimsy of her comment and the look of Sophie as she gazes out the window. It has been a long long time since there was a Christmas here. There is still time before the holiday for planning perhaps it is time to plan a holiday. Aria sits back and thinks to past holidays, some spent in the company of those she loves in less than opulent conditions. There were holidays celebrated in the desert. Holidays spent in hotels and among strangers. Aria thinks back the more recent past of Eliot's wedding.
"Are you up for a holiday adventure, my dear Duchess?" Aria walks up behind Sophie as Sophie turns to engage Aria. "So what did you have in mind?" Sophie's eyes are lit like twinkle lights. "Shall we plan a family holiday." Sophie's instantaneous reaction provides the appropriate response to Aria. Aria rallies her staff with instructions to prepare the house and the grounds. Aria sets in motion a huge holiday gathering with the perfect event planner at the helm. Aria's staff could not be happier. The house and the host could both use a dose of happy memories in the making. Aria leaves the house and the planning in capable hands as she tends to some details of her own.
Eliot is reveling in his new life. He is tending some of his horses when as he turns to see a familiar presence at the door of the barn. Aria leans against the door contently watching Eliot work within his element. A huge smile crosses his face as Eliot walks across the corral. "Howdy, Stranger… how was Vienna?" Eliot takes up a position on the fence. A soft smile crosses Aria's face as she hops up on the fence. Eliot hops up on the top rail next to Aria. Eliot watches her for a few moments. Aria's eyes are transfixed on the horses. There is a lightness in this look that Eliot has not seen from Aria in a very long time. He allows for her to linger for a while.
A short time later, Eliot slaps her on the leg to return her attention to the conversation that he knows she wants to have. Aria tells him of her encounter with Sophie and Nate. They talk and walk for a long while under Amy's watchful eye. Aria bids her farewell as Amy gazes from the door. Eliot walks into the house to see the bounty that Aria left behind from her trip which includes some of Eliot's very favorite brews, treats for an expectant mother, toys and gifts for the baby to be… Aria certainly knows how to woo… when she puts her mind to it. She also leaves and invitation that both Amy and Eliot will find hard to decline.
Having your own airplane is a luxury but it is not a time machine. Aria arrives back in DC at a truly ridiculous hour to find that, as usual, she is not alone in her townhouse. Vance always managed to specialize in the ridiculous. She walks in to find him lounging in her study savoring some of her finer brandy with a cigar. Before he can react, Aria tosses his bag of bounty on the table in front of him. She enjoys the moment of the reveal. She loves the smile that always stretched ear to ear on her dear friend when she returned from the market with her treasures to share. He opens the box and breathes in the sweet scent of the torte. This is his true addiction ever since Aria introduced him to the delicacy so many years ago.
"So why are we staying up so early?" Aria takes refuge in the adjoining chair propping her feet on the ottoman. She sinks into the soft leather of the club chair relishing in being home. She knows Vance is simply taking advantage in private space that does not involve teenagers and their friends. The pair chats as Aria offers a New England holiday which greatly intrigues Vance. New England offers a break from the DC social scene and entertainment for the kids. He accepts Aria's offer as he watches Aria is wrapped up in the civilian malady of jet lag. As Aria drifts off Vance continues to enjoy the solitude of Aria's DC pad. The quiet serenity of no kids, no wife with nothing but the soft sounds of the music coming from the stereo, it reminds him of their military days with posher surroundings and better booze. Aria sleeps well into the morning under Vance's watchful gaze. She wakes under the warmth of the soft blanket that Vance laid over her. She shields her eyes from the light streaming in from the windows as she begins to stir. A familiar and inviting smell is emanating from her kitchen as she unwraps and follows her nose.
Sophie is in heaven spending time at Aria's castle. This place always felt like home to her. It reminded her of the best of her childhood in England with better weather. Aria's staff has anticipated their every need and even tended needs she didn't even knew she had. Nate is also enjoying the luxury afforded by time spent in Aria's world. He cannot be concerned with the events that brought their return to the castle. He is curious as to the whereabouts of their host. She put them on her plane and vanished in Vienna.
Aria rounds around the corner to find an unexpected sight in her kitchen. Expecting Vance, she is pleasantly surprised to find Shelley cooking breakfast. Aria's expression is one of shock as Shelley hands her a cup of coffee with a smile. "What?" Aria takes a long sip of her elixir. "So when did you learn how to cook?" She looks over the island at his creation. Shelley looks up with the smile that melts her from the inside out. "I have skills… skills acquired over a long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you." He winks at her as he offers a taste of his creation.
Shelley makes two plates and tops off Aria's coffee before settling into her breakfast nook. Shelley jokes with her at the bounty that she had delivered to his house sharing the video as his son realized that it was for him. Aria had sent a beautiful Christmas tree completely decorated with European glass decorations and tons of magical presents waiting for his son. Aria never disappoints.
"So what is the deal with the Duchess?" Shelley is not one to mince words. "It would seem that someone is showing some interest our royal highness." Aria is quietly enjoying breakfast as she still battles the effects of the travel. Shelley laughs. "Never thought a shmuck like me would have a life overrun with royalty." Aria acknowledges the joke. "At ease, peasant."