An Invitation

A few days after settling in to the palace I keep having memories. Flashes and images of our life before the fall, before Brayton. It’s aided by Lisette’s quick and easy way of running court. People are coming already. Martin’s brother’s, Lord Jeremy and Paul have arrived and I’ve never seen him quite this content.

The only shadow over our happiness is Countess Olivia, or Dowager Countess now, I suppose. And Aaron. They do their best. They smile and advise Lisette, but they feel like ghosts. Aaron talks about Pantona, about taking his father home.

“Lady Athena,” Elodie slips into my sitting room one morning, “Sir Tristan,” she nods to him.

“Captain,” he says with a smile. She blushed and looked down. “How can we help you?”

“There’s a message for you,” she handed it to me. “From the Market.” I sighed.

“Right,” I muttered ripping open the seal and reading it aloud.

My Beloved Grandchildren,

I am so proud to hear of your bravery in assisting our lovely young Queen to take her rightful place. I have arrived in Dovetail this morning and would be most pleased to see you this evening.

Your Affection Grandpapa, Carland Dumanis

“I’m not going,” Tristan said. I rolled my eyes at him. “Tell him she can’t spare us both.”

“I’m not going alone,” I said. I glanced at Elodie, who held up her palms and backed out of the room.

“Bring Aaron,” Tristan shrugged. “He’ll love it, he can talk about Pantona’s trade needs, and Grandfather will drop dead of happiness to host a Count.”

“You’re a coward,” I grumbled, “You just don’t want to go because you know Aunt Brie will have some debutante to throw at you.” He raised his eyebrows.

“You got it in one, look at you,” he muttered. “Alex came to see me yesterday. Apparently there’s enough gossip about us.”

“Oh,” I said softly, “but I thought after, that you weren’t.”

“We aren’t,” he sighed. “The suitors are coming, Cornan help me.” I pinched him playfully.

“You aren’t so bereft of admirers,” I said, “there’s Marina, for one.” He smiled. “She loves you, she always has.”

“She loves Annalise,” he said, “so do I.”

“You’re hopeless,” I shook my head. I stood up and walked to the apartment Aaron had been keeping. “Hello,” I smiled.

“Hello,” he smiled, “William Santino wrote me. He’s coming. He’ll even be here in time for the coronation.”

“I’m sorry, I know you were hoping to ask him to manage the estate for you,” I said. He nodded. “Do you want to meet my grandfather? He invited us to dinner and Tristan refuses but I think you’d be a worthy substitute.” He laughed and stood up, wrapping his arms around my waist.

“I’ll happily go,” he said. I smiled, so glad to have him.

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