“Maybe Tristan was right,” I said to Martin as we watched Tristan comfort a clearly shaking Carolina, “maybe they are scary.”
“He was absolutely right,” Martin said, “they are terrifying, but he was less right about how she’d handle it. She did well.” I nodded.
“Commander Dugarry?” A man with darker blonde hair and clear icy eyes walked over to me. I smiled at him.
“Can I help you?” I said. He looked at me. “We haven’t met have we? Do you work for my Uncle? Oh, Cornan, did Carlton send you?” He blinked oddly at me.
“Athena, this is Captain Andrei Arrain,” Martin said, “he was the one who’s ship we were on, on our way down.”
“Oh,” I smiled, “of course, thank you so much for the safe delivery of my family, Captain, how may I help you?” Martin nodded and walked away.
“I wanted to speak about Miss DuKarras,” he said simply. I frowned.
“Alright,” I said. He sighed.
“I thought you should know I mean to challenge the contract,” he said, “Carolina and I had an understanding, and while nothing formal,” I laughed.
“I’m sorry,” I said, “you’re going to challenge the contract,” he nodded. “For my brother’s marriage?” He nodded. “Carland Dumanis’s grandson? The favorite of your queen? And the brother in law to be to the Count of the second largest provenance in Cammadan?”
“Yes?” He said, his voice had gone up a register.
“Well, I wish you luck but I don’t think it will go well for you Captain Arrain,” I said, “may I ask on what grounds? Beyond this vague, understanding you’ve described.”
“Her father and I had begun negotiations,” he smirked, “and I was living in the family home.” I stared at him. “With all that that would entail.”
“Alright,” I set my drink down, “but then why was my brother even introduced to Carolina as a prospect?” His face fell. “My cousin Alex was incredibly confident she was free.”
“Having not lived in Dorin, you might not be aware of how your family,” he cleared his throat, “clears their own way, as it were.” I cocked my head.
“I am more than aware of that tendency,” I said sharply. “Nonetheless, I cannot allow,” I exhaled, “whatever this crisis of yours is to stand in the way of my brother’s happiness. Or Miss DuKarras’s for that matter, as she’s made her desires more than clear, despite wherever you were, erm,” I cleared my throat, “residing.” He nodded. “But again, I wish you the best of luck regarding your challenge.” I swept past him to where my grandfather and Mr. DuKarras were standing.
“Thena,” Grandfather smiled, “you look lovely. This is quite the spectacle. And all for us.”
“For Carolina,” I corrected him, “and Tristan.” He shrugged. He’s clearly decided that Tristan has become one of them. I hate that he might be right. “Mr. DuKarras, might I steal you away for a private word.”
“Of course,” he said and followed me into one of the smaller parlors, “is something amiss, Lady Athena?”
“Captain Arrain told me he intends to challenge the contract,” I said. He laughed. “I’d be amused if it didn’t appear he had decent grounds.”
“Andrei is impetuous,” he shrugged. “But yes, we had begun negotiations.” I swallowed. “Carolina’s mother did not believe he could provide for her, however, so they were cut short. He went to Rastan to prove he could provide and in the meantime your cousin brought Tristan, and the plans changed.” I nodded.
“He was living in your home?” I said. He smirked.
“I didn’t think Caro’s virginity was something you were overly concerned with,” he said. “Given your own reputation.” I started to seethe.
“I will not gamble with my brother’s future and happiness as it appears you did with your daughter’s,” I hissed. “Fix it. Or you can explain to everyone you try to do business with why your daughter was married by her husband’s commanding officer with no contract and her dowry was rejected.” I stomped out and slammed to door behind me.
“Someone’s in a mood,” Harran said as I stepped, less than lightly into the ballroom, “Tristan’s betrothed is,” he whistled, “if I weren’t already in a tangle, I might even flirt with her.”
“Don’t add to my worries,” I grumbled. He smirked. “How is your tangle?” He growled. “Oh that good?”
“Brea has decided that she will stay as long as I do,” he muttered, “she won’t accept the truth that I don’t want her.” I looked at him.
“You did once though,” I said gently. He nodded. “So what changed? And don’t say it was Lisette, you flirted and bedded plenty before you two took up.” He sighed.
“I don’t know,” he shook his head, “I just don’t think I’d make her happy.” I swallowed. I suddenly understood something about my friend.
“I think you should let Brea be the expert on her happiness,” I said gently. He shrugged again. “I”m glad you didn’t leave,” I said. “I like when you’re here.” He smiled softly at me.
“I like being here,” he said quietly. “And I like you Athena.” I smiled.
“Well of course,” I said, as Aaron nodded to me from across the room. “Everyone likes me.”