Negotiations

Annalise

“We understand your hesitancy in the matter of marriage,” Franz said pompously, “but it is difficult to understand why you still haven’t sent an ambassador to our court.” I sighed and Duchess Norvine looked at me.

“I haven’t sent any ambassadors anywhere,” I reminded him, “I’ve only been secure on the throne for a year, and it’s been a trial to even get my own provenances in line. I took Prince Eric’s arrival and considerably long stay as remark of confidence on your king’s part. Perhaps I was mistaken.” Eric grinned at me.

“Can you commit to sending an ambassador in the next year?” Franz said. The Duchess nodded at me.

“I believe, yes,” I said, “I can.” The Duchess nodded. “Duchess Norvine, your son in law had discussed wishing her could travel, had he not?”

“Indeed he had your majesty,” she grinned at me. “And Liesle has complained of the cold her whole life.” I smirked.

“Well then,” I said. Eric cleared his throat.

“I don’t know that we need name the person today,” he said gently. I sighed and looked at him and the door cracked open, a young guard slipped in.

“I apologize for interupting, Your Majesty,” she squeaked. I nodded at her. “You asked to be told when they arrived and they have.”

“Ah,” I said and stood up, “you all will accept a brief recess? I must speak with my General as he has returned.”

“Of course,” Eric smiled and stood up as I left. I walked into the throne room and saw Thomas standing waiting for me with Aaron.

“Hello Thomas,” I said and walked over. He bowed and grinned then pulling me up into a hug. “I’m so glad you’re back.” Then I looked past him. “Oh, Chancellor Dumanis, I hadn’t realized you’d join us so immediately.” Aaron shrugged.

“Your Majesty,” he said. “Of course, I assumed you wished to discuss strategy. I’ve brought nearly fifty ships.” I nodded.

“You bringing the ships was the strategy,” I explained. “There’s no open fighting yet, and I wanted to remind Admiral Franz who is on my side.”

“I see,” he said. I smiled politely at him. “Tristan and The General seemed more alarmed.” I glanced at Aaron.

“Tristan is usually alarmed, that is his nature,” Aaron pointed out. “And The General left before we had a full understanding of the situation.”

“I am unbelievably grateful for your assistance, of course,” I said with a confident smile, “but at the moment I have no further need of it.” The old man stared at me, his face bright red. “I can imagine you have a great deal to do, to settle in here? Many of your associates here in Brightcoast must wish to speak with you in person.”

“Of course,” he said and bowed, “I will see you this evening, for Miss DuKarras’s presentation?”

“Of course,” I smiled and he left. I exhaled and slid down in the throne. Thomas sighed and leaned against it. “Insufferable man.”

“Truly,” Thomas muttered. “How are negotiations?”

“So far,” I said, “they’ve demanded a full neutral stance on Pharras’s independence, Lefty was thrilled with that.” Thomas nodded. “A commitment that no husband who isn’t from a royal family would be crowned king. And today that we send an ambassador to King Daniel’s court by the end of the year.”

“Who’d you promise?” Aaron asked.

“Anya Norvine’s son in law,” I laughed. “I know they’ll want Marina and she may well want to go, but I won’t say as much in there.”

“Of course,” he said. “You won’t get rid of Carland, you know?” I sighed and stood up.

“I know,” I mumbled. “I can put him off though, at least for a while.” I fiddled with the necklace around my throat. “Can you send word to the Admiral that we will be a good deal longer? I want to get a nap in.” I kissed Thomas on the cheek. “I am glad you’re back, it will be easier with you here.”

“I’m glad to be back,” he said softly. I smiled and walked up to my rooms, slipped my dress off and flopped onto the bed.

“You make this far too easy, love,” Eric’s voice rang with a laugh from my doorway. “Half undressed and in bed already.” I sat up and looked at him.

“I’m attempting to rest,” I said, “not tempt you.” He laughed and came and lay down and kissed my neck. “I am besieged on all sides, Eric. Franz with his petty demands from your brother which could have been delivered in a letter, and now Carland Dumanis thinks he has the right to sit in on war councils.”

“Poor Anya,” he said softly, slipping his hands down my spine. “And you have to receive her tonight.” I exhaled. “I won’t pretend not to be jealous, but I can’t imagine it won’t sting your pride a little.”

“Mm,” I said softly. “I keep thinking about what it will be like to see him again. I don’t know how it’s going to feel.” He slipped his arms around my waist and turned my face to kiss me.

“Fret about it all you like,” he whispered, “but please remember you’re mine, now.” I smiled.

“Yes,” I said and rolled over to face him, “I’m yours.” He sighed. “But I do need to get some sleep, Eric. And if you’re going to be king,” he groaned.

“I wanted to slap him, when he brought that up,” he said. “You don’t need to crown me. I just want you.” I smiled and kissed him and snuggled close. “Sleep a little, my heart. I’m here with you.” I drifted off, grateful for his arms.