“May I asked you something?” Prince Eric asked me, walking into the parlor of The Princess Tower after dinner. Lisette was out on the balcony talking with Aaron. I looked at him. “Are you ever concerned about the two of them?” I raised an eyebrow.
“How shockingly direct of you!” I said. “No, Aaron considers The Queen his sister. They’re close but it isn’t like that between them.” He nodded.
“That’s something of a relief,” he said and sat down. I smiled and shook my head. “And your brother?”
“Well, I don’t worry about Annalise and Tristan, but I could see how it might be troublesome for you,” I shrugged and sat next to him. He nodded. I looked around and noticed Tristan was in fact, gone, as was Marina. I sighed, that wouldn’t end well.
“I’m leaving,” Lefty said walking over. “Lady Athena, always a pleasure.”
“You can’t just leave,” Prince Eric said. He shrugged.
“Well, I am,” he sighed. “It’s been three nights in a row, Eric, I’m begging you.” I laughed.
“I don’t think the Countess will mind, really,” I said, “she doesn’t keep a particularly formal household.” Lefty laughed took my hand and kissed it.
“I will never forget it,” he said, “you are an angel of mercy.” I laughed as he left.
“He’d have stayed if Duchess Marina had,” Lord Raymond said. Eric shushed him. “I’m reasonably sure she noticed, Eric, he’s not subtle.”
“As opposed to you,” Eric said, “does Randolph know you’re spending most afternoons with her?” I raised my eyebrows.
“Given that I’m not interested in women, it doesn’t really effect him,” Raymond shrugged. I laughed. “Are you shocked?”
“Not terribly,” I said, “if you meant to shock me, I hate to disappoint. After my parents died I was raised by my Uncle Trey and General Martin, who were merely unmarried because my grandfather disapproved?”
“Disapproved of Trey’s orientation?” Raymond asked. I shrugged.
“Possibly,” I said, “but mostly of Thomas. They butt heads quite a bit. And Trey considers his position in the family very important.” I looked at him. “Where is he? You ought to have brought him.”
“Randolph is with the crew, but we’re not used to being able to be in the open.” He admitted. “We hadn’t realized it was, well, that we could be.”
Aaron and Lisette walked in.
“This feels distinctly more intimate,” Aaron said.
“There are still three more people than most nights of our lives,” Lisette pointed out. Aaron nodded.
“Yes, and as I thought coming to Dovetail would put an end to quiet nights where you and I stared at each other and Mother occasionally saying something witty,” he picked up a drink and sat down, “but alas, here I am.”
“Ennui doesn’t suit you love,” I said. He laughed and kissed me on the cheek.
“I hope you all know what you’re getting into with these Cammadie women, Your Highness,” Aaron said pointedly, “My Lord. They’re the most stubborn breed in the world.”
“Hush,” Lisette said with a glare, “as if growing up with the most impossible boy in the world isn’t what made me stubborn.” The Prince laughed.
“Imagine this but without the charming additional company and you will have some idea of what my past eighteen years have been like,” Countess Olivia swanned in. I am always astounded by her, but in these past few months, even more so. She’s thinner, and paler, and black does not suit her at all, but the light I always saw and was inspired by still shines.
“I can’t imagine they were so terrible, Your Grace,” Prince Eric grinned, “as children it must have been endearing. I find the way my nieces bicker the most charming thing in the world.”
“How old are the Princesses?” I asked. Raymond let out a long sigh.
“Karina is thirteen, Vanessa is nine, and Angelica is six, almost seven” Raymond said quietly, “and my sister is, if you can believe it, at her wits end.”
“I can believe it,” Olivia smiled, “I remember those ages individually and combined.” She bit her lip. “I hadn’t realized there was such a gap between Karina and the others.”
“There wasn’t,” Eric’s face darkened. “Amos died in his cradle.” Olivia nodded.
“How awful for Elana,” she said, her hand going to her own belly reflexively. I’d often wondered why Aaron was an only child. “And how difficult for you.” Eric smiled.
“More difficult for Karina, in the end I think,” he said softly. “Elana is determined that she be named heir.”
“Do you object?” Lisette asked. I knew his answer would mean everything.
“Not for moment,” he said, “I have no great desire to succeed my brother, and Karina is well suited to be Queen. Besides which, it’s something we’re woefully behind in, not allowing osur women to inherit.” I smiled and then rose and stretched.
“I’m afraid I’m finished for the evening,” I said, “Thank you as always, Your Grace.”
“I will have you calling me Mother soon enough,” she teased and kissed me on the cheek when I leaned down.
“I’ll escort you,” Aaron leaped and we walked out. We weren’t even back to the main palace when he pressed me against a wall and kissed, I giggled into it. “That was endless.”
“I like them,” I said. “Your mother did too.” He rolled his eyes.
“They’re too charming,” he said, “But I don’t want to talk about it.” We kissed again. “We’ll only argue and I leave in a week and I don’t want to spend it arguing.” I stopped.
“A week?” I said.
“Yes,” he sighed. “Mother is concerned about moving before the frost.” I sighed and pressed my head against his chest. “I know, love, and I’m sorry.” I nodded and we kept walking. I was so tired of him being sorry, I was tired of worrying about us, or Tristan, or Lisette. I just wanted him so badly.
We reached the apartment and walked in. I kissed him again.
“I just want you,” I said, “remember that night by the lake? I want you like it did then, I just want every doubt to fall away.”
“I promise,” he said softly, “I’ve never doubted, and I don’t want you to. I’ll come back to you as quickly as I can.” I smiled and we walked back into my room. Our sex was urgent but lingering.
No doubts, but then I Dreamed.