I don’t know that I will ever get over how enchanting it is to watch Aaron in a ballroom. He is just so exceptionally good with people. And it is wonderful that every few moments he makes sure to catch my eye and smile at me.
We were in bed all afternoon. I’d missed him so much, it was so easy. But tonight we couldn’t miss. Marina worked so hard to make this winter festival special, and it really is. There have been some wonderful parties since Annalise returned but this one just sparkles. Everything is lit by candles and, with Raymond’s help, a shimmering magical net of stars over the dance floor.
“I didn’t want to interrupt earlier,” Tristan walked over to me, I glanced at him and nodded. “I’m going tomorrow.” I stopped, swallowed the sip of wine I’d just taken. “Thena, don’t.”
“Tomorrow?” I said. He nodded. “I thought you were waiting until court moved.”
“Aaron’s back now, and The Dowager Countess,” he said softly, “And Martin, she doesn’t need me here now.” I scowled and took another sip.
“Well she might not,” I muttered. He laughed. “My contract.”
“I have spoken to Aaron,” he said, “Lisette and I will write to settle it, as we both know what you want.” It was far too sensible a solution.
“Mama’s jewelry?” I said. He nodded.
“If you’ll allow me a few pieces for my own bride,” he said and took a deep sip. I nodded. “Your children will have full access to guild training should they elect for it. Though if they do, I will assume you raised them poorly.” I laughed.
“Yes,” I said, “and my oldest, girl or boy inherits Pantona.”
“That’s law in Cammadan,” Tristan said, “and Lisette of all people is unlikely to challenge it.” I laughed. “If it works, in Dorin, you’ll stand for me? Not Alex?” My eyes filled with tears and I threw my arms around his neck. “Thena,” he muttered.
“If Alex tries to supplant me I’ll stab him,” I whispered in his ear, and he laughed. “Does Lisette know?” He shook his head. “Marina?”
“I’ll tell them tonight.” He said softly. I nodded. “You wanted this, you lunatic!”
“Well, not tonight I didn’t,” I muttered. He laughed. “I’ll miss you is all.” He smiled and kissed me on the cheek.
“I’ll miss you too,” he said. Aaron bounced over to us, as the music was picking up in tempo.
“I believe I have done my duty by every young lady thrust into Dovetail after the ascension,” Aaron said, taking the sparkling wine out of Tristan’s hand and taking it down in one gulp. “But I think a dance with my intended would be preferable. If it’s allowed?”
“As far as I know,” Tristan said, “being not immersed in it yet, I think dancing with your intended is permitted.”
“Thank Cornan,” he winked and took my hand and I laughed as his other hand placed on my waist and pulled me close. “Commander.”
“Your Grace,” I said as he whirled me around in time. “Aaron, are you still sure, after being home?”
“I am even more sure,” he said. I beamed. “I’m serious, Athena, I thought I was going to die of grief and boredom without you.” I kissed him softly. “Are you alright? I know Tristan leaving is a lot for you?”
“I’ll manage,” I said softly. “It will be easier since I’ll be planning our wedding.” He laughed. “Would you like the Mastero to officiate? Or maybe a sister?”
“I thought Marina, actually,” he said. “Thought I suppose The Mastero makes sense.” I nodded. “What do The Guilds do?” I frowned.
“The head of your guild,” I said and shook my head. “If Grandfather dies before we manage it, then I would allow Trey to, but I don’t want him.” He smiled. “Is William really going to marry Kathy?”
“Possibly,” he said. “But I have a feeling that Kathy’s enthusiasm for the match will probably wane.” I looked at him. “She seemed to think,” he shook his head, “well, she seemed under the impression that as William was my manager it would give her convenient access to the manor and well, to me.” I stopped dancing and stared at him, my mouth agape. “I told her that under no circumstances would that happen.”
“I ought to throttle her,” I said. He laughed. “Oh, poor William!” I giggled. He pulled my close and kissed me again. “You didn’t even consider it?”
“No,” he said, “I don’t want anyone else.” I smiled. “We have the rest of our lives ahead of us, that’s all I think about.” I pressed my forehead against his chest.
“I love you,” I said softly. He kissed my hair gently.