Tristan came and joined me sitting out by the water at the manor. I was still exhausted, even though it had been weeks. I hadn’t thought I wanted to see anyone, I’d even sent Nika away. I wanted peace. But Tristan didn’t disrupt that peace.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “I can only imagine how you’re feeling.” I sighed.
“May I confess something?” I whispered. He nodded. It was Tristan, I could trust him. “I don’t feel anything. I’m numb.” He placed his hand over mine. “My heart isn’t even broken just, gone.”
“I don’t believe that,” he said softly. I looked at him.
“Losing the love of his life destroyed my father,” I whispered. “Damian isn’t dead, of course, which might be worse, he’s just out there, without me.” I managed a small smile. “Have you and Carolina settled?” I asked. He nodded.
“I think so,” he said, “Her mother and sister set sail today. Alex claims the ship they’re on will be here in ten days or so.” I nodded.
“I’m glad for you, truly,” I said. “But I’m a little sad.” He sighed. “It’s silly, I love Damian, and I’m,” I exhaled, “I don’t know what’s next with Nika, but you, and I,” he nodded.
“Whenever I think about the wheel,” he said, “and the threads of time, I think about us first.” I looked at him. “I think no matter what, Lisette and I would have wound up as we are, maybe by a different path. But it was doomed from the beginning.”
“I don’t know about that,” I said. He shrugged. “But you think about us?” I said.
“Mm,” he nodded. “I think about if I hadn’t been so focused on the mission, if I’d let myself look at you for a moment,” he sighed, “we could have had time.”
“I didn’t help my cause,” I shrugged. “I could barely speak to you.” He laughed, I pushed his hair out of his eyes. “When you were at Pantona, and you would write to me, you wrote about Lisette a lot.” He nodded. “In Dorin you never did.”
“I didn’t know to miss you when I was at Pantona,” he said softly. “I missed you every day in Dorin.” I nodded. When he’d left he said he’d regret me forever. He was changed now, I saw that. And I could see his commitment to Carolina was true. “I miss you still, actually.” And it was in that moment that I realized it didn’t matter.
“I miss you too,” I said. And we were kissing them, I don’t remember if he kissed me or I kissed him. It didn’t matter. Nothing did, except that neither of us wanted regret again. I stood up and he followed me upstairs. We kissed again and fell back against the bed. “Tristan,” I whispered.
“Yes,” he said.
“You know this doesn’t change anything?” I said. He pushed up onto his elbows above me.
“I do know that,” he said and kissed me again. “This happened a long time ago.” I nodded as he bunched my skirts up around my thighs. I slid his pants down and he pressed into me. We kissed as we moved with each other. “I’ve needed you so badly Rina.”
“I need you now,” I whispered and kissed him. I groaned as he finished. I swallowed and he rolled over. “A long time ago?” I said.
“Yes,” he said. “The night of Annalise’s coronation,” he said, “when I went to her instead of you.” I rolled over and looked at him.
“I was with William that night,” I said. He shook his head.
“You said goodbye to William that night,” he reminded me. I laughed. “I waited one night too long, and it was a mess. But I’ve gone over those days in my mind so many times,” I pushed his hair off his face. “And that was it, that was the moment when we could have been together, and I missed it.”
“Why that moment?” I asked. “I seem to remember being very open to it after.” He smiled sadly at me.
“You met Lestoff the next day.” He sighed and I nodded. “I could love you but you can’t compete with the sun.” I laughed.
“If I’d been with you I’d never have looked at him twice.” I whispered. “I only ever wanted you, back then.” We kissed. “Martin can perform the ceremony, if you’d rather.”
“No,” he said softly, “I want it to be you. I’m starting a new chapter in my life, and you’re the person who’s been there for every chapter.” I smiled. “And I want you to be happy.” I closed my eyes.
“When he’s back, I’ll be happy,” I shrugged. “Until then, I don’t know. Content, I suppose, satisfied, curious,” I shook my head. “But no, I won’t be happy, Tristan. I hope you can be.” He wrapped a curl around his finger.
“I love her,” he said, “I do. She’s amazing, and so beautiful, and smarter than anyone I’ve ever met, including you,” I laughed. “And in Dorin it was easy. I could be what she needed, what, she wanted.” I exhaled and looked at him. “Here everything is weighted down by the past.” I nodded.
“It doesn’t have to be,” I said, “I let you go such a long time ago, Tristan,” I whispered, “it was freeing. You should let go.” He cupped a hand against my face. “We can’t live fully in one place or another, life is in the in between.” He pressed his forehead to mine.
“So wise, Rina,” he mumbled. “I’ll try to remember that.” I laughed. “Should I go?”
“No,” I said and snuggled close to him, “please stay. Unless you need to.”
“No,” he whispered, “I can stay.” I fell asleep in his arms.
This all happened a long time ago.