I was dressed for dinner and on my way down to the ball for Marina’s winter festival when I saw Tristan. I walked over to him and swallowed.
“You’re going?” I whispered.
“Yes,” he said softly, I took his hands. “Soon, at least, I knew we’d discussed it, but everyone is back now, and,” he sighed, “I don’t know exactly when, it depends on my grandfather.’ I nodded and hugged him tightly.
“I know why you have to go,” I whispered, “but I wish I could change it.”
“Lisette,” he said softly. “Don’t tempt me.” I looked up at him. “Of course you can’t help it.”
“Hello you two,” Athena said, “Tristan, The General wants to speak to you, something he wants done when you go up North.” He nodded and we let go. “You know he’s going tonight?”
“Yes,” I whispered, “I mean, I gathered. What do you need?” She smiled. “What?”
“Aaron wants to announce our engagement tonight,” she said, fiddling with a necklace, which I now saw had Pantona’s crest. “Officially.” I nodded.
“I’ve given my permission,” I said and we walked towards the ballroom, “do you need something else from me?” She bit her bottom lip.
“Well, yes, sort of,” she sighed, “I want to negotiate the contract, you see.” I laughed.
“Oh,” I said, “I didn’t realize.”
“I know it seems silly, but well, we’re Dumanis,” she sighed. “It’s important to me. I don’t have much of a dowry, but my aunts assure me there’s some and,” I smiled.
“Alright,” I said. “Thena, I still don’t see a problem.” She sighed.
“With Tristan going, Martin is going to sit down for me, and Aaron,” she shrugged. I stared at her.
“You want me to negotiate Aaron’s side?” I said. She nodded. “Why isn’t he asking me?”
“Because he thinks the whole thing is nonsense,” she said, “and he thinks you’re too busy.” I frowned.
“It is not nonsense,” I said, “and if it’s important to you then we’re going to do it.” She smiled. “Now, do I look dignified?”
“Oh, always,” Athena smiled and straightened my sash, “come along your majesty, we have revels to attend.” I laughed and we entered the ballroom. With all the fanfares and greetings finished, I invited Marina and Aaron to start the dancing, something they were both thrilled to do.
“Your Majesty,” Elodie walked up to me, I smiled at her and noticed Mercy Williams with her. I’d noticed them spending a lot of time together, “Mercy and I have a wager, along with Captain Dugarry,” she nodded at Athena.
“Mercy already spoke to me,” I said, Mercy giggled. “I’ll put ten gold on tonight.” Elodie laughed.
“I personally think it happened months ago and she’s being discreet,” Mercy straightened up. “She was always good about secrets.”
“No,” I said watching Marina grab Lefty after the dance and pull him into a corner. “It’s tonight, I’m almost sure.” They smiled and walked away. Betting on when Marina was losing her virginity was exactly dignified, but it wasn’t as though we weren’t all exceptionally happy for her.
“Your Majesty,” Eric walked up and offered his hand, “if I may?” I smiled and nodded. He wasn’t in uniform which was different for him. Instead he was in a blue long jacket, a clean white shirt without a tie, and tan linen pants. It suited him. “You look beautiful.”
“Thank you,” I said as we danced. “Eric, I,” I swallowed, “I think I need to apologize to you.”
“You don’t,” He said. “Annalise, I,” he smiled, “I know when it thaws you’re going south, and I’d like to come with you, if you want me.”
“Of course I do!” I said. “I thought that was settled.” He laughed, and glanced at a table where Raymond was chatting to Mastero Anselm. “I might suggest letting Raymond stay here though. The Mastero will be.” He laughed.
“We might spare the Mastero,” he said. “I have feelings for you, you do know that.” I nodded as the song ended. He kissed my hands.
“I have feelings for you too,” I said, “it’s only that I’m hopeless about doing anything that everyone wants me to do.” He laughed and nodded.
“I see that,” he said, “I shall try to make myself a less desirable match then.” I giggled.