Private Finished Looking a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Zora

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Every morning, for the past week or so, Zoraida had arrived at work to find a favorite coffee, macaroons, a cherry Viennese - or Danish, chocolate brioche, or butter croissants waiting for her at her desk. It was always generally something for breakfast or a mid-morning snack.

At first, she had been really touched by the unexpected gifts. She figured it had to be Stefan and that he had just been lucky at guessing her favorite pastry items.

However, when she had gone to thank him, he had assured her that he had not been her anonymous breakfast gifter. Disappointed at this, she then guessed that maybe it was one of her staffers like Sterling, or maybe even Kalvin, her grandfather’s PA.

Deciding to approach both Kalvin and Sterling, she quickly was told that it was neither one of them, and when, on Friday, her most favorite coffee blend, along with her childhood comfort food, Miguelitos - a puff pastry dusted with powdered sugar and filled with a light lemon custard, appeared on her table, she began to feel for the first time very unsettled.

So much so that she was slightly distracted when she met up with Stefan after work at the diner they had first met at.

@Stefan
 

Stefan

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Things had been going well for the demi-god. Zora and him had been doing well. Meeting a small part of her family had gone over way better than he could have imagined. The Lilac Festival had just finished up and was beyond fun. Stefan had even performed in it and was well received.

Walking towards the diner that he had first really gotten to know Zora in, he had a big smile on his face. His favorite part of any day was getting to see her, and today was no exception to that. Glancing around once he got inside the diner, icy blue eyes found his girlfriend as he walked over to her.

"Hey big boss lady."

The joking pet name had stuck, but it held just as much affection and love as the first time. Leaning in he gave her a loving kiss on the cheek and sat in the booth across from her. That was when he noticed that she wasn't quite there.

"You ok hun?"
 

Zora

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Sitting at the table, Zora was cradling a cup of hot tea and staring at her hands when Stefan arrived. The tea was not so much a way to comfort her, it was more to keep her hands busy and to calm her nerves somewhat until Stefan arrived.

"Hey," Zora looked up when her boyfriend finally arrived and smiled at him when he called her big boss lady - which was somewhat ironic since she was not very tall or big, and even though she was the head of a large conglomerate there were still times that she didn't feel like the "boss". The boss was her grandfather, not her.

Watching Stefan take a seat across from her, she waited until he was comfortable before answering.

"I am fine," Zora reassured him as she gazed across the table, meeting, what she intuited, was his gaze through the mirrored lenses. "Just something weird has been going on at work, and I'm not sure it's not just me overreacting to an act of unexpected kindness," she admitted as she lessened her grip on the cup.
 

Stefan

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Seeing her loosen the grip on her cup of tea, Stefan reached out his his hands and slipped then into hers. He gave them a slight reassuring squeeze. It must have been about the random gifts she had been receiving.

Some people would get jealous of their significant other receiving random anonymous gifts. Luckily, Stefan wasn't the jealous type. A lot of that stemmed from his mother but even more of it came from his trust in Zora.

"You wanna talk about it? Think you know who has been sending them?"

His voice was calm and reassuring. The last thing he wanted was to sound worried or worked up. A thumb gently caressed her hand as he looked over her face, trying to find any hint of what was going on
 

Zora

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Closing her hands gently around Stefan's, Zora just looked at him gratefully and nodded in answer. Yes, she did want to talk about it, however, she wasn't sure where to start or why the little gifts bothered her... well, she did know why, but at the same time, maybe it was just all coincidental?

"I know you thought it might have been someone at work," Zora started as her gaze moved downwards to stare thoughtfully at their hands, smiling softly as she did so when Stefan's thumb moved over hers. The gesture was both comforting and reassuring, and made her feel safe too.

"Yet when I asked around, nobody seemed to know who the coffee and pastries were from," she told him.

"And this morning, when I came back after an early morning meeting, there was ... a Miguelito on my desk," she told him, a tiny frown appearing on her face. "It's a pastry my mother loved, and she would get it every Sunday... it was sort of a comfort food for me growing up..." she said, her voice trailing off, disconcerted.
 

Stefan

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Stefan listened intently. He didn't want to miss a detail of what she was telling him. This was obviously bothering Zora. Stefan, for obvious reasons, just couldn't place a finger on why. Maybe she was worried he would get upset. His thumb continued to caress her hand as she seemed to take some minor comfort and reassurance in it.

"So it wasn't someone at work. I'm assuming it's someone that knows you well and knows what those would mean to you."

Little did Stefan know, he hit the nail on the head a lot harder than he thought he would. His statement was innocent enough though. He was merely trying to help out and didn't know the entire story. To him it just sounded like a secret admirer and maybe a stalker. The former was innocent enough. The latter could turn dangerous.

"Any other ideas on who it might be?"
 

Zora

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"No... No, I don't..." she said, slightly distressed now and with a shake of her head.

"The only ones that might know this would be ... maybe Celeste or my grandfather, or my father or brother and they are both, well, ... gone now," she told Stefan, her grip tightening a little on his when she mentioned her father and brother, but especially her brother.

"And Celeste sends stuff all the time to the office, so I can't see her doing any of this," Zora explained as she looked up at Stefan, an unsettled look on her face as she tried to quell the ever-growing anxiety. None of this really made any sense, so maybe she was just overreacting? Making it more than it actually was?
 

Stefan

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Stefan felt the grip on his hand tighten as she mentioned her father and brother. She had never really talked about them much so he didn't know the full extent of what happened. It always seemed to be a painful subject so he never pushed. He knew Zora would talk about it when she was ready.

"Well with that it just sounds like you might have a secret admirer hun."

His lopsided grin came out trying to keep a calm air about him. Zora seemed really worried about what was going on and Stefan didn't want to feed that anxiety for no reason.

"There's never been a card or anything with it? No one hanging around out of the ordinary?"

His questions were purely curious. Figuring out what was going on would help her settle down, and Stefan missed the smile of hers.
 

Zora

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"A secret admirer, huh?" Zora remarked thoughtfully, bemused by the idea. She had initially toyed with the idea when Stefan said he wasn't the giver of the gifts but as the gifts became more personal she became less convinced of this notion.

Thinking about it now, almost all of them had some significance... the cherry Danish, while fairly common, had been something she had craved during her pregnancy with Jeremiah.
The brioche was a pastry she insisted on having whenever they had returned to Paris. Even the croissant had significance. It was the first real chef's pastry Celeste had mastered, and Zora always insisted she make them for her birthday.

"No, there was never any note or card," she replied after a second. "The pastries and coffee were always just there at my desk, waiting for me," she told Stefan.

"It's all a mystery, and maybe you are right. Maybe I am just reading more into this than I should be," she conceded sheepishly. Zora was starting to feel silly for feeling weird about what was obviously an attempt to make her day a little brighter.
 

Stefan

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"Oh no no! We must get to the bottom of this! I can't have them stealing you away from me!"

Stefan took on a mocked upset and offended tone as he spoke, but his smile betrayed him. Something about Zora always brought the smile outta him, well, more so than he usually smiled. He gave her hands a reassuring squeeze.

There was something in the back of his mind that was curious about what was going on. It was strange that it was almost everything that had some kind of meaning to her. That seemed to be an awful coincidence, which was becoming more and more far-fetched the longer he was living on Manta Carlos.

"But for real, I am curious who this person is. I don't want it to develop into something dangerous."

Stefan lifted a single hand of hers and kissed it gently hoping it would reassure her that he was there for her through anything.
 

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