I walked into my rooms exhausted. I’d heard Marina had settled the Prince’s crew in the barracks, but I was even more surprised when I saw Tristan sitting on the couch with a dazed look on his face.
“What is it?” I asked and sat down with him. “If you’re going to brood the whole time Prince Eric is here I’ll stab you, I mean it.”
“I,” he swallowed, “I think I ruined everything,” he whispered. “We were so happy last night and, I just, it just popped out.” I stared at him.
“Oh, Tistan you didn’t,” I said. “What did she say?”
“What do you think?” He said, “Do you think if Lisette and I were engaged I’d been sitting here?” He stood up. “I knew she couldn’t, but well,” he sighed. “I love her, Athena, I can’t help it. I’ve tried not to,” I looked him, saw how desperate he was.
“I know that,” I said, “but Tristan, you can’t go on like this.” I looked down, “Maybe, there’s an answer, maybe you should,”
“If you say I should go to Dorin I’ll punch you,” he muttered. “I won’t do it. Mama would have hated it, and besides,” he looked down, “it’s not like I don’t have other options here, you’ve said it yourself.”
“Don’t do something you’ll regret,” I warned him. He looked at me. “Something else you’ll regret.”
“You don’t understand,” he said softly. “You never did.” I looked at him.
“Maybe not,” I said, “but there’ll be a special room in Amina’s court for you if you hurt her now.” He glared at me and left after that. Tristan and I don’t argue often, but when we do, it’s dangerous.
“You know, Athena,” Aaron said walking in, “I think that these Phanians might not be entirely trustworthy.” I looked at him and laughed in spite of myself. “I’m serious, showing up the day after the coronation, at dawn like that? And the other two,” I looked at him. “They’re both already panting after Marina.”
“My love,” I said, “you are welcome to a brother’s protective suspicions for Lisette, I’d never deny you,” he flopped on the couch next to me, “but don’t deny Marina some fun at being chased. She never really has been, I think it will be good for her.” He laughed. He kissed me. “Tristan asked Lisette to marry him?”
“Took him long enough,” he muttered, “and terrible timing, she said no?”
“Of course she said no,” I said, “You know she can’t, he knows all the reasons, he’s just throwing a fit.” Aaron sighed.
“Mm,” he said, “we’re leaving soon.” I nodded. “Martin is coming, and Mama is going to ask Duke Lestat.”
“I see,” I said softly.
“I want you to come,” he said rolling onto his side. “It could be months, Thena and I don’t want to be without you that long.”
“I love that you asked,” I said softly, “really, but with you and your mother and Martin gone, who will look after Lisette?” He smiled.
“Marina,” he said softly, “Tristan, Elodie, Harran, the Phanians,” he kissed me between each name.
“Incompetent, all of them,” I sighed. “So sad.” He laughed. “I don’t want to be without you either, Aaron, but I can’t go, not now.”
“I know,” he said, “but I wanted you to know I wanted you there. I’ll always want you there.” I kissed him.
“Ugh,” I sighed standing up. “Who’s idea was it to have five balls? And to invite my family to all of them?” He laughed.
“Lisette’s I think,” he said, “though your family, I blame you.” I laughed. “Are you on duty?”
“No,” I shook my head. “Aunt Andrea sent us all new gowns.” I smiled, “I think you’ll enjoy mine.”
“You Aunt Andrea is a mad genius,” he said with a grin. “Every woman in the guard in her gowns and next week half the court will buy from her.” I laughed. “Thena,” I looked back at him, “we didn’t talk about it.”
“There’s nothing to say, I’m not and I wasn’t,” I shrugged.
“Are you relieved, disappointed, what?” He asked. I looked at him.
“Both,” I admitted, “I want to have your children more than anything, but the timing is not ideal.” He smiled.
“I suppose not,” he said softly. “I’ll see you later.” I nodded. He walked over and kissed my forehead. “I’m disappointed too, for the record.” I smiled at him and hugged myself close.