I woke up early in the morning, now that I’m rested and comfortable here, I’m back to my old ways of being up before dawn. I headed to the kitchen to grab something quickly for breakfast and was surprised to see Aaron and the back door, talking to a pretty girl with curly auburn hair.
She was holding a basket and her eyes looked wide.
“I’m sorry, Kathy, I thought,” he said,
“I know what you thought,” then she saw me and I jumped backwards, “Never mind.”
“Kathy,” he started and then saw me, I pressed my lips into my mouth.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt,” I said, “A friend?” I tried. He frowned.
“This is not my finest moment, and after last night, it is not how I was hoping you would find me,” he admitted. “Kathy is from the village,” he explained, “we were, that is,” there’s some fun in watching him squirm, “it’s over now, regardless, it’s been over.”
“Understood,” I grabbed a roll, “I was going to train and then go for a ride, if you wanted to,” he scratched the back of his neck.
“It’s market day,” he explained, I nodded. “I have to go over the account lists with the cooks,” I grinned. “What?”
“You take it seriously,” I explained, “running this place?”
“Someone has to,” he shrugged, “my parents are busy saving the world. But when its saved, I’d like Pantona to be a part of it.” I ripped a piece of the roll off. “After your training and your ride, I’d like to have lunch with you.”
“I’d like that too,” I said and kissed him softly. I managed to clear my mind training, I went to get Rosethorn saddled when I saw Annalise and Tristan walking back, she was carrying a small bouquet.
I made a note to tease Tristan later, but Annalise went back to the house and Tristan walked right up to me.
“So are you officially courting her now?” I grinned. “Flowers and everything.” He sighed.
“Dumanis train showed up today,” he grunted. I sighed.
“Really?” I said. “Uncle Trey or Aunt Brie? Aunt Andrea is in Dovetail this time of year.”
“Just Lotte and Xander,” he muttered. “I think Lotte knows.”
“Well, Lotte’s not an idiot and if she saw her,” I shrugged. “She won’t tell.” He nodded. “I’ll go see them in a bit. Is that all?” He shifted his feet.
“It’s wrong, you know,” he said, “I should stop it.” I looked at him and shook my head, “suppose, I mean, it isn’t safe, is it?”
“She likes you too,” I said. “I think it’s good for you. And how would it be dangerous?”
“If Grandfather thinks he has an in with the crown,” he drifted off, and I grimaced. That was concerning. Our Grandfather is not a good man, he’s brutal about his control over the merchant guilds. If anyone attempts to undermine that control, his vengeance is quick and usually bloody.
“Tristan, I can assure you,” I said softly, “Grandfather is going to attempt to leverage us to get to her regardless of if you’re sleeping with her or not.” I mounted Rosethorn and galloped toward the village. Our cousin Alexander, was smirking already waiting for me.
“My Lady,” he swept into a bow.
“Master DuFrey,” I muttered with a dip. “A letter would have been nice.”
“We didn’t know you were here until Lotte spotted Tristan,” he pointed out. I rolled my eyes. “Uncle Trey didn’t say a thing.”
“I doubt Uncle Trey knows,” I sighed, “we didn’t until right before we left.”
“Hm,” he nodded. “Come on, I’ll take you to Lotte.” I nodded and we walked through the wagons.
“Hello Cousin,” Charlotte DuFrey smiled at me. She’s fourteen years older than us, and never married, rare for a merchant woman of her standing, but she was never willing to marry down in the clans, and since she’s the granddaughter of Carland Dumanis, that meant it was the nobility or nothing.
“Hi Lotte,” I smiled at her, “I can’t stay long, I’m supposed to have lunch with,” I stopped as a wagon door opened and Carlton stepped out. “Oh,” I said. Charlotte winked at me and walked away.
“Lady Athena,” he said, “I,” I smiled.
“Why aren’t you in Dorin?” I asked.
“I was,” he admitted, “for a week, and then, well, my future inlaws,” he shrugged, “they’re holdings are mostly in Brightcoast, so,”
“A week,” I said, “you make quick work.” He stepped closer to me.
“But you knew that,” he slid his hands onto my waist. “Come see me tonight?” I swallowed.
“If I can get away,” I nodded. “I have to go.” I slipped away from him and padded back up to the manor. This was certainly a mess.