From just about the moment he strode in, all confidence and that clear smile, I did not like Viscount Aaron of Pantona.
“Did my mother leave you two on your own?” He asked. “That isn’t like her.”
“She was checking on The Princess,” I said. “I’m sorry your Grace.”
“Aaron,” he said. I frowned. “I’m glad you’ve come, it’s gotten very dull around here.” I swallowed.
“We’re here to protect the Princess,” Tristan said, “not for a visit.”
“Oh and she’s in so much danger here,” The Viscount retorted. “I’m not trying to undermine your mission, Sir Tristan, but I have a feeling however long you’re staying will feel more like a visit.”
“I doubt that,” I said sharply. He looked at me and smiled curiously. “We’ll have to see what she knows. Surely she doesn’t expect to just stroll into Dovetail and sit on the throne?”
“She doesn’t stroll much,” The Viscount said with a shrugged. “She runs, and trips over things, occasionally I’ve seen her skip, but strolling, no, not really her style.” He sat down on the couch and crossed his leg over his knee.
He looks so much like his father, but this arrogance, it doesn’t suit that face. Count Caleb is kind, if a little cold. I was about to say something else to shut him down when the Countess and Princess came back in and Tristan made an ass of himself pledging his life and sword to her.
I heard the Viscount cough to cover a laugh, which softened me a little.
“Oh for heaven’s sake, Tristan,” I said, breaking whatever trance he was in. He glanced over at me sheepish. The Princess was blushing. I was suddenly furious on behalf of poor, stupid, Lady Marina, who was probably spending her first night at Resistance Camp, mooning and wondering when her brave night was returning. “Stand up, you’re making everyone uncomfortable.” He glared at me as he brushed himself off. “Countess, I think we should have tea. Tea always makes this kind of thing much less awkward don’t you think?”
“Whiskey can help too,” The Viscount winked. The Princess giggled and sat down. We started to chat a little then. She came to life when a messenger reminded her she had a magic lesson and she ran off.
“What did I tell you?” The Viscount smirked. “Not one for strolling.”
“Leave it, Aaron,” the Countess said sharply. He sunk into his chair. I like that he doesn’t argue with his mother. “Can you see that dinner will be ready on time?”
“Of course,” he murmured. He stopped. “Is there anything you would prefer, Lady Athena?” I gaped at him.
“Aaron,” The Countess said, he laughed and walked away his hands in his pockets, whistling. “I apologize. He has the manners of field hand, I should have done better.”
“They’re so,” Tristan said softly, “young.” I looked at him. I didn’t realize it at the moment but that was it exactly. They seemed so young. But Aaron was older than we were, and Annalise less than a year younger than we.
“The country is different from Dovetail,” she admitted and sipped her tea. “What are you thinking about Lady Athena?”
“What training does she have?” I asked. The countess laughed. “She can fight?”
“Quite well,” she said. “I think even you’ll be impressed.” I nodded. “I could use help making a lady of her though.”
“Does she need that?” Tristan said. I looked at him.
“Not to win,” I admitted, “but to rule, yes, she does. Unless she wants to build court from scratch but I don’t assume that’s the plan.”
“It is not,” the Countess said. “The plan, as you put it, is to take the capital as cleanly as possible, by her birthday, offer clemency where warranted and crown her.”
“Take the capital?” Tristan said. “Her birthday is at the end of the summer. We can’t take the capital by the end of summer, we don’t have the numbers!” The Countess sipped on her tea and then he looked at me. “We don’t! Do we?”
“We might?” I shrugged. “After,” I swallowed, “well you know, after, I stopped getting regular recruitment reports but before that we were near it.”
“Why were you getting recruitment reports?” Tristan asked.
“Because I asked for them,” I said. “The General would have given them to you too.”
“No,” he muttered, “he wouldn’t have.” He stormed out. I sighed.
“Excuse me,” I said and followed after him out into a courtyard, Tristan wasn’t there, but the Viscount was. “Have you seen my brother?”
“He came through with a storm cloud over his head and then asked where he was supposed to be sleeping,” he explained. I sighed and nodded. “Can I help?”
“You’re an only child so you wouldn’t understand sibling rivalry,” I said. He shrugged. “Where are we sleeping?”
“We’ve arranged rooms for you,” he said, “yours is next to Lisette’s.” I nodded. “Did you think we’d put you in the barn, Lady Athena?”
“I don’t know how these things are done in the county, Viscount,” I grinned. “I suppose I ought to find him.” I walked back inside.
Why am I flirting with him?