Loose Ends

It’s been fun for me, watching William Santino court Marina. If nothing else, it’s been fun watching the way it makes Tristan angry, in ways even he can’t quite name, and I thought that they were doing well together, but this morning when she sighed saying she didn’t know how to end things I was shocked.

But her explanation shocked me less, that William was ready for sex and she wasn’t.

I’m not surprised Marina feels she isn’t ready. She’s grown up so much, but she’s still awfully young and childish. And despite her protestations, I don’t think she’s quite over my brother, who spent the whole day with a smiling determined look on his face, focused entirely on Lisette.

So, we’re doing this again.

As Aaron sat quietly opposite me staring at him, he smirked.

“What?” He asked.

“I think I can fix several problems at once,” I said and marched over to him. “Master Santino.”

“Lady Athena,” he said, “is there something I can help you with?” I swallowed.

“I know the queen was happy to have you here,” I said softly. He looked at me. “But you once said you would be happy to do me a favor.”

“Lady Athena,” he sighed, “I was never much of a spy, just an attentive inn keeper, who was well placed. I didn’t even spot,” he looked down.

“I don’t have need of a spy,” I explained, “I have need of an attentive inn keeper, well placed,” he smiled. “Do you miss Pantona?”

“A little,” he shrugged. “But I believe I’ve reached the end of my usefulness there.” He glanced at Marina, twinkling with several of the suitors.

“And you think you’re more useful here?” I said sharply, “Or perhaps in Brightcoast?” He snapped his neck to look at me. “If your talent is being well placed, there are more useful places. Including Pantona.”

“Is this an order, Commander?” He whispered. I looked at him sternly.

“No,” I said, “it is however a favor, being asked by your future lady.” He nodded shortly. “I doubt either of your hearts will be broken if you say good bye tonight.”

“I’ll consider it,” he said.

“Do that,” I smiled and walked away. I went over to Martin who looked and me shook his head. “What?”

“I don’t know that I approve of this,” he said, carefully flicking the charm around my neck. “I had a very long conversation with Trey after that stunt you pulled at dinner with your grandfather. He seems to think I’ve let you run wild and become disrespectful.”

“He’d be right,” I said and crossed my arms. “I’ve heard you say worse to him. I only told the truth.” He laughed.

“Your Grandfather is allergic to the truth,” he said, “they’re threatening to disinherit you.”

“I’m terrified,” I raised my eyebrows. “I’ll threaten to have Aaron cut off Pantona, my inheritance is safe.” He sighed. “You and Trey are talking?”

“Don’t change the subject,” he pointed at me. “You aren’t a Countess yet, Athena, and perhaps you can afford to cut off the guilds but the crown cannot.” I sighed. “You’ll go, before he returns to Dorin, you’ll apologize.”

“Fine,” I mumbled, “but can I threaten to cut him off just a little?” I held up my fingers spaced apart.

“No,” he said, “you’ll say you lost your temper and that you’ve always appreciated the support of your family and that you cannot wait for the future little lords and ladies of Pantona to be wholly loyal to the family Dumanis.” I wrinkled my nose in disgust.

“All this so Trey will keep speaking to you?” I said. “I think you’d do better with my mother in law to be, Thomas.” Countess Olivia was still dressed in black, though she didn’t wear a veil to such a celebration. She still looked deadly pale.

“Don’t tease about things you don’t understand,” Martin said, his face red. “She’s in pain. She doesn’t need reminders of old wounds.”

“I can’t force you to be happy,” I said and kissed him on the cheek. “But while you let the past dictate everything you do, don’t meddle with my future.”

The party continued, before I was able to convince Aaron to leave, I noticed Annalise and Tristan slip away. I sighed. That would only end badly. Aaron and I drifted off to sleep and I slept dreamlessly only to be woken up by Elodie gently poking me.

“What?” I muttered, “Elodie, I’m not on duty.”

“It isn’t that,” she said, and swallowed, “Lady Marina said to come find you,” she glanced at Aaron who was now rubbing his eyes, “both of you, and Tristan if,” I sighed, “The Phanians are here.”

“Well,” Aaron yawned. “This should be interesting. Lisette will be pleased.”

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