The Count is back, and they invited William to dinner to celebrate. He’s been making some very pointed remarks about the family to Tristan, which I realize is almost entirely about Lisette, but it even stings me a little, and I’m nowhere near as sensitive as he is.
He doesn’t stay, which is a blessing because then the Count can give me the letter.
First of all, stop worrying, I am being well taken care of. Second of all, I did not rush in alone, I was backed up by the Count, Duke Lestat and your Elodie.
Do you see how well I know you, my love?
I’ve gotten each of your reports from Pantona and I’m glad it’s gone well. I know you are probably angry at me for keeping Annalise from you. I wanted to keep you safe. And her. Your Aunt Andrea wrote again about you going there with them this winter. You cannot keep putting it off, you must decide if it’s a clear yes or no.
The shadow injury is interesting, it’s drained my energy far more than it harmed my body, but I’ll be back to myself by the time I see you.
Your Affectionate Papa
I looked over at the Count.
“He’s alright, though?” I squeaked. He nodded.
“Lady Marina has been caring for him.” He explained.
“That does not inspire confidence,” I mumbled, “I should answer him.” I got up and left going to the courtyard and started crying in relief. He was safe, but he’d been attacked by a shadow, and the old fool calls it interesting.
“Are you alright?” Aaron said softly and walked over. I nodded. “Athena, I’ve told you, if it’s easier for you, we can leave this.” I took his hands. “Are you in love with him?”
“What?” I laughed. He frowned. “With General Martin, you mean? No, he’s like a father to me, he’s my family. Like your father and Lisette.” He exhaled. “Besides which, he’s only ever liked one woman, it’s usually men.” He smiled. “I don’t want to leave this.” I slid closer to him. “I want this forever.” He nodded. “He’s a fool though, and reckless and it will get him killed and it will break my heart.” He touched my face. “Your friend Kathy spoke to me today,” I said. He sighed.
“Yes,” he muttered, “William said she went to him too.” I looked at him.
“What did you say to her?” I asked. “Before. What had you promised her?” He frowned.
“It doesn’t speak well of me,” he admitted. “I wanted her, and I did imply a more permanent arrangement.” I shook my head.
“Scoundrel,” I said.
“And I suppose that merchant boy didn’t think he’d have a shot at being Carland Dumanis’s in-law?” He teased. “A farmers daughter is more likely to be my mistress than you leaving the guard to run a fine townhouse in Dorin.” I wrinkled my nose.
“That’s absurd,” I said. “Carlton can’t afford his own house, and he’s under my uncle in Dovetail, not Dorin.” He laughed and we kissed again. “It’s different, and you know it.”
“It is,” he sighed softly. “I’m not proud of myself.” I nodded.
“She said something,” I whispered, “that the only girl you cared about was Lisette.” He sighed.
“I suppose that was true,” he said softly, “but it isn’t now. I care about you.” I smiled.
“It struck me because for so long I only cared about Tristan,” I said, “and Martin I suppose, but now there’s you, and Lisette, and your mother.” He sighed.
“This will all be over soon,” he said, “and I don’t want it to be. Maybe it’s selfish, but I like it here, where we can be together.” I smiled and kissed him.
“We can be together there too,” I said. “I’m going to bed. Do you want to come?”
“I have to talk with my father,” he sighed. “Sleep tight, beloved.” I kissed him and stood up and went to bed.
I dreamed of the camp, of Lady Marina sitting by Martin’s bedside reading out loud to him. I felt calm and soothed. As if someone, or something was assuring me he would be alright.