I woke in the morning feeling better, still sad but better. I pulled my dressing gown on and walked into the sitting room to make sure breakfast was set. Annalise was already standing out on the balcony with a cup of coffee, which felt strange. It’s normally murder getting her out of bed.
She was even dressed! Not that I wasn’t aware of the fact that she could dress herself. It’s just since we came to Dovetail it’s been increasingly unusual.
“Good Morning,” she smiled.
“Good Morning,” I said and walked out. “You’re awake early.”
“Athena told you that we’re going riding?” She asked. I nodded. “I thought to the valley? It’s quite pretty and very Cammadie.”
“A good choice,” I nodded and laughed. “I’m sorry for fleeing last night, I wasn’t feeling well, and I think saying goodbye to William drained me more than I thought it would.”
“You’re entitled,” she said softly. “I’m going to miss him, not as much as you, I’m sure, but still. I know Aaron and Olivia have to go back to Pantona soon too, and it will be at least a year before I can go. My childhood followed me to Dovetail but I know it can’t stay.”
“What do you think of the Prince?” I asked. She smiled at that. “You like him?”
“I do,” she said, “he as very frank last night, he said he had instructions to stay at least year and that his brother is very eager for our marriage.”
“His brother?” I smirked. “Not himself.”
“I doubt he’d mind,” Annalise shrugged. “I’ve been thinking that I might not marry at all. Anessa didn’t.”
“Anessa had a companion who had children,” I pointed out. “She didn’t marry because she didn’t like men, and found heirs in another fashion. I don’t think it would work that way for you.” She frowned.
“You could be my heir,” she said, “or Athena and Aaron’s children.”
“If you think not marrying will solve your problem with Tristan I don’t think it will be that simple,” I said. She laughed. “Annalise, I feel like I need to tell you,” she shook her head.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said. I swallowed. “Marina, I mean it. We decided ages ago that we wouldn’t let this get in between us, right?” I nodded. “He mentioned something, after I told him,” she sighed, “if something happened I can’t blame you. Or him, really, it’s all such a mess. The only thing I can do is move forward with Eric or see if I want to.”
“Alright,” I said. “Athena seems to think I’ve been going around making conquests, or that I should.” Annalise laughed.
“Athena needs to learn that not everything is a battle,” she shrugged. “If it makes you feel more comfortable, I think that Lieutenant Lestoff and Lord Raymond are simply homesick, and you’re as Phanian as you are Cammadie. Or at least that’s how the Prince explained it to me.”
“That makes more sense,” I said. “I have to dress.” She nodded.
“Marina,” she said. “If it would make you happy, don’t let me stop you.” I smiled.
“I know,” I said, “I don’t know what will make me happy at this point.” I stopped. “Have you been Dreaming?”
“Not lately,” she admitted, “but I’ve been expending so much energy on learning battle magic, I thought that was merely it. Have you?”
“No,” I shook my head, “it’s odd. Not since we came to Dovetail. I’ve never gone this long without one, it’s worrying.” She nodded. “I thought perhaps after going to the temple yesterday.”
“I’ll write to Anselm,” she said, “perhaps he’ll finally come.” I nodded. I went inside and dressed quickly. I picked a red riding dress that Athena had given me as a birthday gift. I didn’t wear the color much, which is I think why she’d chosen it. We walked out to the front and saw the horses waiting. And the twins, and Aaron.
“Good morning,” Annalise smiled.
“Good morning Lisette,” Aaron said, “Duchess.”
“Count,” I said walking over to my horse. Papa gave me Rosemary a few years ago. I lifted to mount and Tristan came beside me to help. “Thank you.”
“Anytime,” he said. Annalise was looking away pointedly. “Could we talk later?”
“I don’t think there’s anything left to say,” I said softly. The Phanians walked out then. I glanced at Annalise as the prince walked to her and took her hand and kissed it. She was blushing.
“If you’ll excuse me,” Tristan said, “Your Majesty, may I be excused from this morning’s excercises? My grandfather has asked to see me before he returns to Dorin.”
“Of course,” Annalise said, “but Tristan, I,” he bowed and left. We rode out through the back gardens and into the valley behind the castle. The ride was pleasant, and the valley is beautiful, especially as the fall colors were changing.
“I was disappointed last night,” Lieutenant Lestoff said, coming beside me. “I was hoping for a dance.” I smiled at him.
“I’m afraid I’m not much of a dancer,” I explained, “however, last night especially I wasn’t feeling up to it.” He nodded ahead to where Annalise and Eric were talking. I noticed her laughing.
“He likes her,” he said.
“Good,” I nodded, “she likes him.” He nodded. “He called you something yesterday. Not your name.”
“Lefty?” He tried. I nodded. “Before I was his lieutenant he was my step brother, it’s an old childhood nickname, I use my left hand for most things, and my surname.” I nodded. “Still, I can’t help but be jealous, I understand you spoke of the Goddess with Raymond.”
“Only incidentally,” I said. “And if you’re to stay a year, I imagine there will be plenty of chances for dancing.” He nodded. “What do you think of our valley?”
“In general, I’ve always enjoyed Cammadan,” he said, “we never spent much time here, but Dorin’s a favorite, and we’ve sailed by your home often.”
“Dovetail is my home,” I said, “but I suppose you mean Brightcoast?” He nodded. “I’ve not been there since I was very small.”
“We’re always happy to see it,” he said, “where we grew up, Eric and I, Brinecliff, you can see it from certain heights and in the right weather. It means we’re close to home.” I smiled at that.
“He’s your step brother?” I said. “He was fostered with you? Like Annalise was at Pantona?”
“No,” he said, “when King Philip died, Queen Aimee married my father. We have a sister in common, Katrin. She’s not yet twelve and is quite insistent that I tell her everything about Annalise.” I laughed. “What she wears and eats mostly.”
“Perhaps next summer when we move court to Brightcoast you could send for her,” I suggested, “if Brinecliff is so close.”
“She’s no longer in Brinecliff,” he said. “At ten, Phanian girls are presented to the sisters in Vacana and then either taken to convent to begin training or given to Queen Elana and Princess Karina to be trained as ladies of court.” I nodded. “Katrin had no desire to become a sister, so she lives at the palace now. My father and Aimee are back in the city as well. We were on our way there when we received notice of the coronation and changed course to Dovetail instead.”
“I’m glad you did,” I said. He smiled. “For the queen’s sake, that is. She was anxious to meet the prince.”
“Of course,” he said. “For the queen’s sake.” He spurred his horse on. I smiled. I feel silly, I was moments away from Tristan being my lover just last night, and before that William.
But there’s something different about Lieutenant Damian Lestoff.