One More Pledge

I don’t know how long I was crying, or what I was really crying about, even. Being held by Eric wasn’t unpleasant, and I’d initiated the whole thing. And our conversation, about the Dream, and about Rana.

“Lisette,” Tristan walked in, I sat up. “I’m sorry, I couldn’t find Marina or Athena, and it’s near dinner, and Aaron and the Countess leave tomorrow.” I sat up. “What’s wrong love?” He sat down and touched my face.

“Tristan don’t,” I whispered. He nodded and stood up. “I’m sorry, it’s only, I hate not being with you but I don’t see how we can go on.”

“I know,” he sighed, “we were being selfish, I think.” I laughed and reached out my hand, he took it and sat down and kissed me. “I don’t want to leave you.”

“I know,” I said. “I was with Eric today,” I felt him tense. “I’m sorry, I just, you know me so well, and I can’t talk to Aaron about him,” He laughed and took one of my curls around his fingers.

“Of course not, I’ll be a good sport,” he said. “What did you and The Prince talk about?” I looked at him.

“My mandate,” I said softly.

“I see,” he whispered. “I wish I could help,” I rolled onto my stomach and smiled.

“Perhaps one of these days you’ll feel the touch of the God and then you can,” I said. He laughed.

“If either of us are chosen, it’s Athena,” he said, “not me.” We kissed. “Do you like him?”

“I do,” I said softly. “It’s different than us. I expected it to be, but more like,” I sighed. “Well, more like William.” He laughed.

“Well, perhaps if you neglect him enough he’ll move along to Marina as well,” he grinned. I whacked him in the chest. “Can I come to you tonight?” I nodded.

“I want you to,” I said softly. “I know it can’t last but we should be together, while we can.” He nodded and I stood up and looked in the mirror. “Goodness, I’m a mess.” I sighed and reached for a bell. A maid quickly appeared. “If you can’t find Duchess Marina, please get Countess Olivia or Captain Dugarry, I need to change for dinner.” She nodded and left and Tristan left behind her.

I sighed and stood up and looked in the mirror.

“Well, really,” I jumped hearing Rana’s voice as she appeared in the mirror. “I understand his appeal more, but you rely far too much on him.”

“It isn’t up to you,” I said. She frowned. “I apologize, My Lady, I’m,” I sighed. “I don’t know what you want from me.” She smoothed her hands along my shoulders.

“Mm,” she nodded. “I wish I could be more upfront with you, child, but my bindings prevent it.” I sighed and the door opened and the goddess vanished. Olivia walked in.

“Well,” she smiled, “you are rumpled.” I laughed and she pointed to a chair and took a comb. “Marina was on her way but I wanted one last chance.” I turned my head quickly.

“You’ll come back,I  though,” I said, “after!” She sighed.

“I don’t think I will, Lisette,” she said softly. “I’m sorry, Little One, but I want to be home. I was hoping to see you settled first, but alas.” I frowned and she turned my head and continued combing. “How is that going?”

“Settling?” I said. She nodded. “We had a nice talk today. I don’t know otherwise. I’m looking forward to seeing him at dinner.”

“A start, then,” she said, finishing a long braid of my hair and coiling it into a bun. “What about that pretty blue dress that Andrea Dufrey sent at the coronation? I think Alex is going to be at dinner it would be a nice compliment.” I nodded and she pulled the dress out and we got me into it.

“I wish I was going with you,” I said, pressing my forehead to hers. “I miss Pantona, and I want to put Caleb to rest.”

“I know, love,” she said, “you’ll be there soon enough.” I nodded. “Besides I doubt The Goddess would approve.” I laughed. “Have you and Tristan made up?”

“Yes,” I said softly. “He’s still going, and I still hate it, but we’re friends again.”

“I’m glad,” she said, “even if you can’t be together as you wish, you don’t want to be angry with one another.” She looked sad. I knew she didn’t regret her choice but I wonder how long she and Thomas were angry at each other. “Caleb would have been so proud of you my darling.” She cupped my face. We walked out and Aaron escorted me to dinner. He was teasing me when Eric walked up. He kissed me on the cheek.

“I’ll see you soon, Little Sister,” he walked away. Likely to find Athena. Eric sat next to me.

“Do you still want us to join you?” He asked. “At the temple tomorrow?”

“Yes,” I said, feeling a sort of calm.

A Walk

I’ve gotten used to taking long afternoon walks in the palace grounds, sometimes by myself, sometimes Martin or Aaron or Marina come with me. Today I’m alone, because I just sent a letter to Anselm about the drowning dream.

I don’t like the portent that it was Brayton who pulled me out, and I can’t trust him to interpret it, and Marina is still barely speaking to me, so I’m stuck with a letter to Anselm. I almost asked him to come, but I can’t bring myself to, it isn’t fair to him, but when we agreed that he would stay in Pantona I thought I would still have Caleb with me.

“Your Majesty,” I turned seeing Prince Eric running towards me. I smiled in spite of myself. “That is Annalise, I really can’t get used to it.” I laughed.

“Are you more formal at home?” I asked. “Your mother and brother and sister in law, do you call them, Your Majesty?” He smiled.

“With the King, always, Daniel and I have never been close. With Elana, in public, and with the children.” His smile changed then, became more sad.

“Your niece,” I said, “the eldest that is, Karina? Is she,” I exhaled, “will your brother change the inheritance?”

“I don’t know,” he frowned. “If Elana has her way then yes, and well,” he blushed a little and then I swallowed.

“Some of it depends on me, then?” I said.

“It would be easier if the current heir was on another throne it would simplify her claim,” he said. “Not that I want to add any pressure.”

“No,” I said stopping and leaning against a rail. “There’s no pressure here.” We both laughed. “How long do you plan to stay?” I propped myself up. He stepped closer to me.

“As long as you’ll have me,” he said, “do you really plan to go to Brightcoast in the summer?”

“I think so,” I whispered. “We’d ride down, but I suppose you’d want to take the Glory.”

“I can trust Lefty and Raymond to it,” he said, “if you’d rather.”

“It’s months away,” I said drawing back. “Besides, would Lieutenant Lestoff like it?” He laughed.

“He wouldn’t like being away from Duchess Marina, however he misses sailing and complains about it regularly.” He shrugged. “Plus I am his commanding officer so I get to make the decision.” I laughed. “You wouldn’t want to sail?”

“No,” I sighed, “I mean, I would, but the ride is traditional, and the road goes through Pantona so,” I stopped.

“You want to go home,” he smiled.

“I am home,” I said. He laughed.

“Now you sound like me,” he said, “I have to claim Vacana as home, but it’s Brinecliff where my heart is. You lived your whole life in Pantona, it’s where your family is, it’s home.”

“Aaron and Olivia and my uncle are going to bury Caleb soon,” I said, “I’ll probably go to the temple when they leave. Would you come with me?”

“Of course,” he said, “I’ve been going a few days a week, actually. Sister Anna has been assisting me.”

“I like Sister Anna,” I said, “I had no idea you were so devout.”

“I wasn’t,” he admitted. “But being away from the sea has made me nostalgic, and I long for Rana.”

“You’re welcome to her,” I grumbled, kicking the dirt and thinking of my Dreams.

“The Dreams are bad?” He asked.

“There’s been a particularly vexing one,” I shrugged. “I don’t want to bother you with it.”

“Annalise, the first time I heard of a Dream was when I was four and I awoke to my mother screaming bloody murder,” he shrugged. “I tend to take them in stride.”

“I was drowning and then,” I exhaled, “someone, an enemy pulled me out.” He nodded. “I don’t know what it means except I think she’s frustrated with me. I’m not moving fast enough for her.”

“What is your mandate, anyway?” He asked sitting down on a bench. I smiled, “besides you know, all this?”

“Release the gods, they’re bound somewhere at the moment,” she said, “restore balance. All this, as you say, is a big symbolic part of that. I’m product of Rana and Cornan’s chosen lands, Cammadan and Phania.”

“And you have to do it alone?” He smirked. I shook my head.

“I have Marina, and whoever Cornan chooses,” I said, “we’re not clear on who that is.” He nodded and leaned back looking thoughtful. “I’m sorry this must be dull.”

“You said you wanted to try,” Eric shrugged. “This is a part of your life, I want to understand it.” I felt my shoulders fall and then felt myself reaching to hug him. And then he just sort of held me.

And it felt so incredibly right I immediately ran to my room to cry for an hour.


I was sparring with Athena that afternoon, normally we bantered and chatted during this time but today I was just frustrated with her. I had a feeling she had more to do with Tristan’s decision than he’d said.

This plan reeked of Aaron and Olivia. It was too practical by half, solved about ten problems at once, gets Tristan out of Eric and any other suitors way, reunifies the crown with the Merchant Guilds, gives Tristan a place if he chooses to leave the guard (or stays, frankly, a woman from Dorin probably wants to stay there and I need a northern commander), solidifies Pantona’s power in the economy, but they wouldn’t have thought of it themselves, just figured out the details. I was so hurt by all of them.

Athena takes advantage of my distraction to knock me off my feet.

“Yield?” She grins. I smile.

“Yield,” I said, she offered her hand and I took it and she pulled me back up. We went and sat down.

“You’re upset about something,” she said. I sighed and threw my head back. “My brother?” I sighed and stood up.

“I don’t think I can talk about this with you,” I said. She sighed.

“Lisette,” she shook her head, “you could have him you know.” I turned around and looked at her. “You could defy everyone’s advice and expectation, forget it all, marry Tristan. They’d get over it, you’re still young and you’re strong and popular.”

“I hear a but coming,” I said.

“No but,” she shrugged. “I’m not Aaron. I see you, and I see Tristan. You love each other, you were both so happy in Pantona before everything else came into it, before people started whispering in your ears that it was wrong. Ignore them, be together, or agree and part, but stop torturing each other. It’s miserable and not just for you two.”

“Was Dorin your plan?” I asked. She laughed.

“No,” she said, “Dorin was a back up from long ago, our Aunts have had us in the mix for arrangement basically since we were born. Our mother disapproved but went along to get along as it were, and when they died Martin deeply disapproved and wanted all plans halted while Uncle Trey wanted the plans to continue, eventually, the disagreement became so deep, that, well,” she shrugged. “I didn’t know they kept planning, but that’s The Dumanis for you.”

“Why now?” I asked. I knew the answer, me, I was why now. So many other things were settled now that I was on the throne, why not settle this too?

“We’re the right age,” she said, “and the season starts in spring, so it wouldn’t disrupt much for him to show up in Dorin.”

“The season?” I asked.

“Aunt Brie calls it the meat market,” she said, “it’s basically a bunch of parties where everyone around the same age meets each other while their families discuss dowries and contracts. It happens here too, when people are presented, though the nobility are less upfront about it than the guild. Probably if we reopen Brightcoast it will happen there.” I nodded.

“So, it wasn’t Aaron’s idea?” I asked. She burst out laughing.

“Gods no!” She said. I nodded.

“And Caleb, what did he,” I drifted off.

“If he had any thoughts on it, Tristan and I didn’t know,” she took my hand. “Why do you doubt them now?” I frowned.

“I guess I’m feeling trapped,” I said and stretched. “And Caleb had so many plans.” I put my face in my hands and rubbed it.

“What does Marina say?” Athena asked softly. I looked at her.

“Marina is completely heartbroken so naturally I can’t talk to her about any of this,” I sighed. “Did you know that they were,” she rolled her eyes. “Naturally, everyone but me then?”

“Not everyone,” she smiled, “I don’t think the countess and Martin knew.” I laughed.

Lost In A Tempest

I slept fitfully after the ride in the valley. We’d had dinner with Olivia, she seems in better spirits, though she kept asking Eric questions about Phania, and his mother. He took them well, but she also seems so tired.

After we ate, I stood quietly on the balcony and Aaron walked out and propped himself up onto the railing. I laughed and looked at him.

“So, Lisette,” he said, “what do we think?”

“You’re the politician,” I said, he laughed. “You tell me.”

“Politically it’s the best match besides myself,” he explained. “But you know that, Father told you that often.” I nodded. “And let’s not forget your mandate. You made need ships, and I would think the Goddess would approve heartily.” That made me role my eyes.

“You don’t believe in my mandate, or the goddess,” I pointed out.

“I don’t not believe in it,” he pushed down, “and you believe which is the important part. Lisette, don’t be foolish.” I nodded. “What does Tristan say?”

“Nothing good,” I sighed leaning forward. “He thinks I’m tying myself to fate. Maybe I am, I don’t know.”

“He’s afraid,” Aaron said, “I am too, you know. You’re different now, you have to be, I understand that, but it’s scary to see you change.” I nodded.

“I think I need to sleep,” I said softly. I went back carefully, through some back passages I found. (Meant, probably for the royal couples to visit one another) I got back to the apartment, and Marina undressed me quickly. She was in another world, and I didn’t ask.

I didn’t want to know.

I climbed into bed and fell asleep. I Dreamed. I was riding down a beach, a wider, whiter beach than I’d ever seen, it was Brightcost, I knew it was Brightcoast. There was a gleaming golden palace in front of me and behind me a smaller manor house. I stopped my horse, and looked over the sea, which was raging. The storm reached us and the horse reared and I fell backwards being pulled out to sea. I screamed, but crushed under the waves, I couldn’t breath.

When I broke through the water I was pulled onto a ship deck.

“You find me in the strangest places, my dear cousin,” I skittered back at the voice. I’d been expecting Eric, or perhaps the Goddess, but it was Brayton, dressed in his black robes.

“How?” I asked.

“Perhaps I’ve been lonely,” he shrugged, “or perhaps Amina and Rana have reached a detante.” I reached for my belt, drawing my sword, “for Goddess sake Annalise, it’s a Dream, you can’t stab me. Always the damn sword with you, like your father.” I frowned.

“Rana wouldn’t have drowned me,” I said.

“No,” he said, “though she’s clearly impatient.” I woke with a start then. I needed to talk to Marina. I scurried out of bed into the sitting room. Her door was closed. I didn’t want to wake her. I sat trying to find my center when the door swung open and my heart caught in my chest.

Marina was flushed, still in her gown from the dinner but rumpled, Tristan was behind her, and I understood.

She stammered something and left. I couldn’t blame her. I couldn’t blame either of them. I wanted to be angry, I wanted to scream.

“Say something,” he said. I blinked at him. “Lisette,” he whispered, “please, say anything.”

“What should I say?” I asked. “That I hate you both? That I don’t understand? I don’t, and I do.” He nodded. “I have no right, when I refused you, I set you free, and it isn’t as though I didn’t know how Marina felt.” He stepped closer and kissed my forehead.

“I promised to stay with you,” he said. I nodded. “But I can’t, it’s agony.” I swallowed.

“What then?” I asked.

“The Dumanis have suggested an arranged match,” he said, “I’d go to Dorin.” I nodded. “Not immediately, but before spring,” I nodded again. “I’ll always love you.”

“I know,” I said softly. We kissed and then he left.

Down In The Valley

The ride was invigorating but I was distracted. Tristan hadn’t come the night before. I’m not sure I expected him too, but I’d missed him. I kept glancing at Marina, who couldn’t meet my eyes. Tristan had helped her onto her horse after he’d excused himself.

Why did he want to see his grandfather? Tristan tried to avoid The Dumanis as much as possible. It was so odd.

“You seem lost in thought,” Eric said riding next to me. I smiled, he looked uncomfortable, but it was endearing.

“The riding doesn’t suit you?” I asked as we reached the valley pass just past the palace.

“We don’t usually ride much,” he shrugged, “I got a little better when we were in Rastan, they’re obsessed with hunting, but their forest aren’t quite so rocky.” I grinned.

“I’m sorry, I thought it was a good idea,” I sighed. He nodded. “You’d have done better in Pantona then. It’s very flat.”

“Do you miss it?” He said.

“Yes and no,” I shrugged, “I miss the village and my life there. But it’s nice to be settled, not feel like there’s an assassin lurking in every tree.” He laughed. Athena raced ahead past us. “Oh no.” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Aaron said, “she got it into her head to catch our lunch.” I nodded. “It’s been a good two weeks since she shot anything.”

“Right,” I smiled. I understood why Athena was restless, I’d been restless too. But even explaining things to Eric made me feel calmer. Lieutenent Lestoff and Sir Raymond were both riding beside Marina who was blushing. “That’s interesting.”

“Lefty’s smitten,” Eric said with a grin. “That’s not unusual but it’s still good.” I looked at him. “And maybe I was wrong about Raymond, though my guess is he’s more interested in her magic than anything else.” I nodded.

“My Uncle says your family collects Chosen girls,” I said. He frowned at that. “Sorry, I don’t know why I said that out loud.”

“He’s not wrong,” Eric sighed. “My father was obsessed, apparently, with the prophecies about well,” he gestured to me. I blushed. “So he pushed Daniel to pursue your mother, and then Elana and then he married my mother.” I nodded. “I’m not sure I believe it.”

“Don’t you?” I asked. He shrugged.

“I had strange dreams sometimes, still do,” he explained, “I think the gods have plans for me, I suppose, like they do for everyone, but I don’t think there’s some epic destiny we have to shape our lives around.” I smiled.

“What’s in the dreams?” I asked. He shook his head.

“I think you know that, Your Majesty,” he said. “Why do you think I knew you’d be waiting for me?”

“I”ll wait forever, Your Highness,” I said and spurred the horse on.


I sat at dinner quietly. It’s not like me and I’m sure people noticed, so I’m glad Athena had already said I was exhausted. Tristan had taken a door duty so I don’t have to look at him, but I feel him watching me.

“I was told I owed you an apology,” Prince Eric said. I looked at him. “Or at least an explanation.”

“I’m not sure I understand,” I said. He smiled and looked down. “You have nothing to apologize for.”

“We were sailing home,” he explained, “when we received word of your ascension, we changed course. I don’t know why Elana thought,” I smiled.

“It’s alright,” I said, “honestly, I’m relieved! I was disappointed when Queen Elana wrote that none of you were coming.” He brightened at that. “I’ve always wondered, about you.” He smiled.

“And I you,” he admitted. I thought of the Dreams. Of the vision that pulled me out of Brayton’s smoke. “You should know my brother is very determined.” I laughed.

“Determined for what?” I asked. He rolled his eyes. “I’m going to make you say it.”

“He wants us married by the end of the year,” he said. I smiled. “I’m less determined, though I haven’t ruled it out.” I picked up my wine and took a sip.

“Haven’t you?” I said. He smiled.

“I mean, if I’d gotten here and you were hideously deformed I might have gotten right back on the ship and then told Daniel to go right to Amina,” he said. I nearly choked laughing.

“Good then,” I smiled. “I mean, that you don’t find my hideously deformed, you haven’t seen my feet yet though.” He laughed.

“Frankly, with the stories I heard seeing that you are in fact a girl of flesh and blood and not a witch made purely of shadow is a relief,” he said. I laughed. “I want to get to know you, Your Majesty, if I may be permitted.”

“I think it’s best if we start as friends, Your Highness,” I answered. He nodded.

“If we’re friends then it can’t be Your Highness,” he smiled. “Eric.” He extended his hand.

“Annalise,” I said taking it. I almost said Lisette, but then I realized, I’m not Lisette anymore, I don’t want to be, not with him. “Tell me about your companions, they both seem deeply interested by my cousin and I must protect her.” He smiled.

“Raymond’s your cousin too, come to that,” he said, “his mother is your mother’s Aunt. He’s no danger to your Marina, if you catch my meaning.” I nodded.

“You can say he likes men plainly, it’s not taboo here,” I nodded towards Thomas. Eric smiled.

“That will suit him,” Eric said, “I do my best by him, but we’re very different people. His temperament actually matches my brother’s more.” I smiled. “As for Lefty, that is Lieutenant Lestoff, he’s my brother and I won’t speak against him, but she should be on guard. He likes a conquest.” I exhaled. After Tristan and William, I wonder if being pursued by an experienced play boy would be good for her.

“Your brother?” I said. “Another? I didn’t realize!” He laughed.

“Step brother, I suppose is more appropriate,” he explained, “my mother married his father after mine died.” I nodded. “But I was barely three when all that happened, so I’ve known no other life.”

“I know something of that,” I admitted, “I barely remember my parents, Caleb and Olivia and Aaron are my family.” He nodded. “What do you know of Cammadan?”

“I know Dorin,” he said, “and the sea, so I know the merchants well.” At that Athena looked over.

“You know my family then?” She said. He smiled.

“We do,” he said, “your cousin Alex best, probably. But your grandfather was always very good to us when we were in his city.”

“It’s Duchess Norvine’s city,” Aaron said, and Athena pinched him. “It’s a matter of some disagreement.”

“You can see having a courtier and merchant as my main advisers is divisive,” I grinned. Eric laughed. “But you don’t know the valley at all?”

“No,” he said, “but I look forward to getting to know it.” I smiled. Later when he’d excused himself and he and Lieutenant Lestoff had left, I didn’t know where Lord Raymond had gone.

“We should do something fun,” I said to Athena. She raised her eyebrows at me and glanced at the door. “What is it?”

“It’s nothing,” she said, “what were you thinking?”

“Riding maybe?” I said, “Down into the valley? It’s so pretty and it will be too cold to do it soon.” I looked around. “Where is Marina?”

“She mentioned she wasn’t feeling well,” Athena said quickly. I nodded. “I’ll let her know the plan.” She got up quickly and then I noticed Tristan was missing too. I was suddenly very sad and very grateful for Athena.


After waking up and lining up our ducks. (I sent Marina and Aaron to greet them. They’re good at people and manners and I need to catch my breath.) Olivia was helping me dress. Marina had chosen the clothes, a green uniform dress and the crown of the goddess. I was supposed to look splendid and terrible. I mostly felt ridiculous.

He looks different than my visions, but I knew him immediately. And I felt at ease. Eric. Prince Eric, My Eric, I probably shouldn’t drop the title. But it was like everything felt easy, when he took my hand.

Marina is sitting studying in the parlor now. I walked out and sighed loudly and flopped on an armchair.

“Can I help you?” She asked not even looking up from her books.

“What time do I have to change tonight?” I asked.

“Around 7 I suppose,” she said. I frowned. “You could try taking a nap.” I wrinkled my nose. “Annalise, I can either keep working and unlock the battle magic secret or entertain you this afternoon.” I laughed. “Go bother Aaron, I’m sure he’s plenty bored too.” I stood up and kissed her on the cheek.

“I am sorry for bothering you,” I said and she swatted at me and giggled. She’s changed so much in the past few months, and it’s a good change. I walked out into the gardens, wondering who if anyone I’ll come upon. I want to spend more time with the courtiers, but I think they all think I’m odd.

“Lisette,” Prince Harran called to me from across the lawn, he was standing with Tristan. I wanted to be furious with him after this morning, but seeing him, “That is, Your Majesty. Did I tell you, Captain Dugarry about my great shame when I first met our queen.”

“My great triumph,” I said straightening my shoulders. Tristan raised his eyebrows. “Prince Harran came to Pantona, when I was fourteen, with some very potent whiskey.”

“Ah,” Tristan nodded, “And Queen Annalise, or Lady Lisette as she was then,” he looked at me, that melancholy way of his, “drank most of it.”

“Here was this little girl, charming of course, and very beautiful,” Harran said, “and she sat down with me in Pantona’s study as I opened the bottle and asked for some. And then, I think it may have been at the Viscount’s urging, we wound up in a contest, and I found myself unable to stand while Lisette continued to pour herself drinks.” I giggled.

“it was not ladylike, but I was proud of myself,” I said. “I’m glad you’ve come.”

“The Chieftans insisted, my brothers were put out,” he said. “They want to court you,” I laughed. “Harran’s already had his chance at Pantona! I said they can line up behind half the men in Cammadan and most in Rastan and Phania.” I smiled.

“It’s a lot to handle,” I said, seeing Tristan’s face darken. “Which is why familiar faces and old friends can be helpful.” He nodded and bowed. “You’re still angry.”

“I’m frustrated,” he said. “Harran’s right by the way and it’s been hell.” I took his hands and lead him away from the crowd. We kissed then. “Last night, I thought we could change all that.”

“I want to,” I said, “Tristan I do, really.”

“So marry me,” he spit out. I kissed him. “I’m serious.”

“I can’t,” I said, “you know why I can’t, we’ve talked about it!” He frowned.

“Because the court wouldn’t like me, and Rastan and Phania’s honor must be served,” he frowned. “You sent away all the Provenance heirs, except Aaron, obviously.” I sighed. “Lisette, don’t argue with me, just,” I closed my eyes.

“Tristan, I can’t marry you,” I said, “I thought I’d always made that clear,” I wanted to cry, I might have been crying, come to think of it. “I love you, only you but, I can’t,” he nodded.

“Fine,” he whispered and kissed me again and then walked away. I feel like my heart is torn in two. I ran inside and luckily Marina had left. I walked into my room flopped on the bed and kept crying. I didn’t hear the door open, but then I heard Athena’s voice as she sat down and stroked my hair.

“That idiotic boy,” she muttered, “I’d strangle him if I could bring myself to.” I sat up and looked at her. “Honestly, I know he’s my brother, but he doesn’t deserve you and you don’t deserve any of this.” I smiled.

“Did they send you to fetch me?” I said. “I have a lot to do, I know, but I just,” she shrugged.

“It’s alright, we’ve told everyone you’re worn out,” she shrugged. “I don’t think it’s untrue, but you still need to make an appearance tonight.” I wiped my eyes. “What do you think of him?” I looked at her.

“I don’t know yet,” I said softly. “I was so surprised this morning, I thought I had  more time.” She nodded. “Athena,” I whispered, “don’t tell anyone, about what Tristan asked. Not Aaron or Martin, please, I couldn’t take it.” She pressed her lips into her mouth.

“Alright,” she said. “What about Marina?” I sighed. Marina and I were at an understanding about Tristan finally, this morning not withstanding, but this was different.

“I’ll talk to Marina,” I said softly, “eventually.” She nodded.