It’s after dinner, which, I’ve learned is the best time to talk to Annalise. It’s about the only time she’s not trying to move. 

We’re working on embroidery, which neither of us excel at, but it’s bonding.

“So, tomorrow is market day,” Lisette says and looks at me. I nodded. “I have to go to market, I mean, I don’t have to, but I usually do, it’s the sort of thing that,”

“That the orphan ward of a Count would do,” I said. She nodded. “I don’t have a problem with it.” She glanced at Tristan. “He won’t either, just go while he’s running.” She laughed.

“Is there anything you want?” She asked. I raised my eyebrows. “To eat in the next week or so.”

“Oh, um, I like rabbit?” I tried. She cocked her head. “It’s silly, but when we were little we were at Resistance camp a lot, and my mother would make,” she placed her hand on mine.

“Of course,” she smiled. “There’ll most certainly be some. Hunting rabbit and selling it to the butcher is how most of the farm children make their pocket money.” I laughed.

“I have more exotic tastes you know,” I said, she giggled.

“Well, I don’t,” she grumbled, “whenever your cousins pass through Olivia tries to introduce me to something new and it is never as good as well prepared mutton with mashed potatoes.”

“Yes, but the difference is The Countess gives you a chance to say you don’t like it,” I giggled to her, “my cousins and my especially my uncle have no interest in hearing it.” she laughed.

“I’m having tea with the innkeeper in town too, William Santino,” she explained.

“I met William,” I said. “He took care of my horse when we first got here.” She nodded. Hearing the name I saw The Viscount move his focus from his conversation with his mother to us.

“OK,” she smiled, “you could come.”  I raised my eyebrows. “I’m serious, I would love to show you the village.”

“I don’t think so,” I sighed, “I have to,” I didn’t have an excuse, “I think I just need a little time to myself,” She nodded and we both went back to our terrible embroidery. I don’t know how much time passed.

“Do you hate having to be a lady?” She asked. I looked at her.

“I’m sorry?” I asked.

“I mean, things like this,” she explained pointing to her sampler. “Or having to be pretty.” I grinned.

“This is Cammadan,” I said softly. “Anessa lay down a tradition, you’re her namesake, you must her story.” She nodded.

“I know she was the only queen to reign alone,” Lisette said and bit her thumb nail. “She had no biological heirs but left the kingdom to her wife Eliza’s children with her first husband’s children.”

I looked at Tristan. I realized to a girl like Lisette, to whom a throne felt equally like a trap and promise, Anessa’s story might be an escape at least in one part.

Anessa found heirs without giving birth to them. If Queen Annalise chose a consort who’s blood was unsuitable, she could choose other heirs.

“She was also a warrior,” I explained, “who was blessed by the gods with beauty and grace. Warrior women of Cammadan never shied from being feminine. They fought in gowns, they remained groomed, they took lovers, men and women openly,” she smiled. “Other kingdoms pushed their women to the side, or forced them to become more like men, but no, we are Cammadie, we are daughters of Anessa, we are women, and we rule and we are strong and we love and we fight.” Her eyes filled with tears and she hugged me tightly.

“Olivia told me that I used to scream for you,” she whispered. I swallowed. “‘Where is my Thena! She sleeps with me!’ I don’t remember but I can believe it.” I touched her face.

“We shared a cradle,” I explained, “we were supposed to grow up together, I was never meant to leave your side.” She nodded. “I’m close to useless on this myself,” I admitted, “but it’s something to do,” she giggled. She looked up at Tristan, who’s been writing to that twit Marina Sanpierre. When he admitted it I was surprised, it caused a bit of a tiff which ended in me marching away from Aaron.

I wish I could pin him down.

I had a talk with Lisette about it, and she didn’t defend him, but she does seem to find it all amusing. She’s preoccupied though, because my idiot brother. I stepped out of her room and saw Aaron with a candle heading to bed.

“Is she alright?” He asked. I looked at him and nodded. “I’m sorry, that you find my manner so irritating. I’ll try to keep it in check.”

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I misjudged you and I don’t like being wrong.” He smiled. “Lisette is fine. I just wanted to take a look at the knives.” He laughed.

“I see,” he said, “here I thought you were looking for an excuse.” I shook my head but took a step closer.

“And if I was,” I whispered, softly. I could play this game. I was good at this game. He put the candle down and slid his hands onto my waist. Mine moved around his neck.

“It would be a good one,” he said, “and I’d be glad, I won’t deny it.” I nodded and kissed him softly. He pulled me close and then back to the door. I exhaled when we parted. It was a very good kiss. “Gods, Athena,” he murmured.

“Lisette says you usually move on quickly,” I said, “shall we try this again in a week?”

“If that’s what you want,” he said. “I don’t see the reason to wait.” I smiled and walked away to my room. I lay half asleep with my hands under the covers and between my legs.

When it came down to it, I wasn’t sure I wanted to wait either.


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