Sir Ethan Quintrellaine's deep-set slanted hazel eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly as the liquid contained within the fragile and intricately-wrought bone china cup slipped past his delicate pursed lips and danced upon his sensitive discerning tongue. As his flawless complexion darkened half a shade, his elegantly arched brows knitted, nearly wrinkling the smooth taut skin of his noble forehead. In a slow, deliberate, almost serene motion, he lowered the dainty vessel of liquid from his now tightly-sealed lips — the long fingers that twined about its round, painstakingly-painted bowl now whitened with tension and distress. The cup shook as it descended; shook, not from the unsteadiness of the horrified hand that so reluctantly embraced it, but in fear, for it knew that its vile contents had profaned the refined palate of a pristine gentleman — nay, a very god.

The terrible, nigh-interminable plunge toward the glossy dusky oaken tabletop slowed further until the disgraced drinking vessel hovered, trembling, a mere inch above the smooth varnished semi-reflective plane of wood. Sir Ethan's fair unfluttering eyelids sank low until their sable fringe dusted the tops of his high illustrious cheekbones, and then — after a pause as portentious and brutally significant in its silence as the calm that whispers at the heart of a hurricane — flew wide to reveal the determined gleam in the glittering golden-irised orbs so recently hidden beneath. His rosy delicately curved lips parted, unveiling his shining pearlescent enameled incisors in an expression which might, had it appeared on the visage of a man of lower social stature and refinement, have been construed as a snarl. His lean artistic carefully-manicured fingers curled yet tighter about the fragile hemispherical bearer of the execrable draught. And then a cry — a wordless, keening ululation, almost musical in its clarity and strength of pitch — rose from his long slender throat, and he brought the accursed china cup down upon the four-legged specimen of dining room furniture with the grim finality of an executioner wielding his greatsword. Though the drinking vessel, by some miraculous chance — or perhaps by a devil-wrought fortification of integrity — did not shatter, the jolt of impact sent a multitude of diabolical amber droplets into the air, spinning and sparkling like sinister spherical demonic rubies. As these shining fragments of airborne liquid spun languidly upward, reached the peak of their arc and descended once more, one chanced to land upon Sir Ethan's outflung arm, sullying the lace-trimmed sleeve of his sensuous white satin tunic.

"Charleston!" he wailed desperately; and flung his head back wildy, inducing his neatly-coiffed mane of silken auburn undulatingly wavy hair to fly loose about his handsome features in a halo of dancing tendrils.

"Charleston!" he cried again; "Where art thou? Come hither, manservant, so that thou may repent this evil thou hast done me!"

The carven mahogany door to the dining chamber was thereupon thrown hastily open, and through the rectangular portal fairly sailed a tall blond tuxedo-clad man with a towel over his arm and an expression of concern on his narrow pale features.

"Master! What ails thee, that thou hast summoned me hither with such urgency and volume?" the flustered butler queried inquisitively. "If mine eyes do not deceive, 'twould seem thou art not under assault or taken with ill health. But, lo! Thy meal is untouched and thy drink has been but tasted. Hast thou found thy dinner unsatisfactory?"

"Unsatisfactory!" the distraught nobleman exclaimed. "This drink has assailed my tongue and defiled my very soul with its repugnant sapidity! Thou hast wronged me, Charleston, in delivering this ghastly brew unto me!"

"But... but, sir, is it not the beverage of thy request? Is it something other than a carbonated liquid, flavored with cherries and chilled with twin cubes of ice?"

"O fool — fool, Charleston! I desired naught but that divine nectar the gods doth name Cherry Pepsi — and thou hast served in its hallowed place the Devil's own bane: Cherry Coca Cola! For shame, Charleston; for shame."

And Charleston bowed his ignominious head and was ashamed.


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