As we walked to the temple I couldn’t help smiling at Eric’s company. Tristan asking if I was falling in love with him filled my mind.
Was I? I do like him, so much, and I can’t ignore how easy it feels, which doesn’t feel like love, as I’ve known it with Tristan. I glanced at Marina who was blushing as she talked with Lefty.
“We need to give them time alone,” Eric said. I laughed and shook my head.
“I don’t think she’ll like that,” I said. He raised his eyebrows. “It’s complicated, but last time, with, someone else, she felt rushed.”
“Hmm,” he said, “but surely, a walk back to the palace?” I laughed again.
“Alright,” I said. “Athena,” I called out and she rode up next to us. “Surely your Grandfather would be happy to see you and Tristan, since you’re in town.” She laughed and nodded.
“He would, certainly,” she said and glanced at Tristan. “And as we’ll have some time.” I nodded and she walked away.
“I don’t see how that will help,” Eric frowned.
“If Tristan and Athena go to the Market, you and I will have to stay behind at the temple,” I explained. He nodded. “We’ll have to let Sir Raymond know, but I doubt he’ll object.”
“Object to what?” Raymond said. Eric rolled his eyes and I smiled. “What wouldn’t I object to?”
“Making sure Marina and Lefty can be alone,” I said. He sighed.
“Oh, that,” Raymond said with a sigh. I couldn’t help but laugh, Marina and I discussed how at a base level his aura reminds of Brayton but as I get to know him, I like my young cousin more and more. “Yes of course, I’ll go along with whatever, I think she’s too good for him though.” He marched ahead and I looked at Eric who was laughing.
“He’s so serious,” he sighed, “I know I’ve said I’m doing my best for him, but I don’t think it’s ever going to be enough.” I nodded.
“Marina has an idea,” I said, “I can grant entrance to the University for visiting scholars.” Eric looked at me. “Raymond was denied a chance to study in Phania, right? The Brothers rejected him?”
“Yes?” He said. “That’s why I took him on. Well, and because Elana asked. She worries about him.” I wanted to know more about Queen Elana, about their relationship.
“He could be a Mastero,” I explained, “if he wanted, or just study and gain a degree like my uncle did.”
“I think he’d like that,” Eric said, “I don’t know if Elana would, or the people of Tumona, they might like a Lord again. They’ve been in a lurch since your Grandfather died.” I smiled. He took my hand. “Annalise, I’m glad you asked me to come today.” I smiled.
“I’m glad too,” I said softly. “Have you done it? The ritual?” He shrugged.
“Not really,” he admitted, “when my father died, but I was only three, so my memory was simple, not fully formed. My mother’s though, always stayed with me.” I didn’t ask, it seemed personal. “Will you miss the Dowager Countess, and the Count?” I laughed.
“Very much,” I said, “Aaron more, frankly, Olivia and Caleb were always coming and going our whole lives, but I always had him, even when I only had him.”
“In that way in I’ve been lucky,” Eric said, “I got to bring Lefty with me.” I smiled. I was glad he understood. He always understands. We’d reached the temple. “Shall we?” I nodded and smiled, walking behind him. I noticed Lefty stayed behind. I didn’t comment. I knew they were more conservative about men being in the temple in Phania.
After we shared our memories, and dismissed Marina and Lefty, (Under the pretense that they had to fetch the twins,) I sat happily on the temple steps with Eric. He looked at me and smiled.
“What?” I asked.
“I keep picturing that little girl with a dagger,” he said, “I think I would have been afraid of her.” I smiled.
“I was quite fierce,” I said, “then you aren’t afraid of me now?” He shook his head and I leaned in and kissed him. He placed his hands around the sides of my face and pulled us closer.
“Goddess, I was wondering when we were going to get to that,” he whispered and I giggled. “I hope I wasn’t a disappointment.”
“You weren’t,” I said softly. “Have you,” I swallowed, “is there anyone else?” He smiled.
“There have been girls,” he said, “but nothing permanent,” I nodded. “I hope you don’t insult my intelligence by thinking I don’t,” he sighed, “understand that isn’t the case for you.”
“I try to be as subtle as possible,” I said softly. He nodded. “Do you mind it very much?”
“I don’t like it,” he said, “and I think I’d be within my rights, if things progressed to ask you,” he brushed his thumb under my chin and I smiled, “I don’t want to share my wife, Annalise, and if that’s impossible for you when it comes down to it, I’ll do my best to move on.” I nodded and kissed him again. We broke apart hearing a throat clear.
“I suggest we go back to the Palace,” Athena said with a grin. “If it pleases you both, Your Majesty, Your Highness,” I glared at her. Eric cleared his throat and excused himself. “Well that’s interesting.”
“Shut up,” I said and stood up brushing myself off. “Don’t tell Tristan!”
“Oh don’t you worry, I’ll let you handle this,” she said practically bouncing down the steps. “But just watching the whole situation is going to be a lot of fun for me.”