Slumber Page 11

I flinched at his use of my given name. He’d never called me Rogan before. Not to my face anyway. It had always been my Lady, despite my lack of nobility.

“-May I remind you that I’m the one with Lord before my name. Don’t speak to me like I’m dirt beneath your shoe.”

Arrogant beast, I shook my head. Just like his demon father. I laughed humourlessly, a cold, brittle laugh that caused him to wince. “You don’t need to remind me who you are, Vikomt Stovia.” With that I veered from him, pushing my way through the crowds to escape him. I looked back to make sure he did not follow. He didn’t, but I watched him nod at someone and then glance at me. Within seconds, Lieutenant Chaeron had pushed his way through the crowds to walk by my side, his hand on the hilt of his sword. I wanted to be annoyed at the immediate sense of suffocation his presence caused me, but then I recalled Jarvis’ words of warning and relaxed. There was a reason behind Haydyn’s idea for a ball. Quite suddenly I was glad for our trained Guard. We had never needed them before.

But then there had never been crime before.

Chapter Four

“What about Matai, Haydyn?!” I hissed, knowing he stood outside her bedroom suite. She glanced worriedly at the door, before pinning me to the wall with a hurt look.

“Please, keep your voice down, Rogan.”

I tried. I shuddered, trying to take deep breaths. But I was so mad at her. I wanted her to wake up! My head swam with all Ava and Jarvis had told us.

That morning, Haydyn had been called to the Chambers to speak with Jarvis and Ava. Last night, Wolfe’s men had returned… and they hadn’t returned bearing good news.

“So… it’s all true?” Haydyn had asked, as she sat, clutching my hand tight in hers. I ignored the pricking, wincing pain of her long nails digging into my skin and tried to squeeze her hand in reassurance.

Jarvis nodded, looking years older since the last we had seen him only a few weeks before. “All three complaints prove true. Javinia is in unrest and it seems rumour of the unrest is spreading through Sabithia. Alvernia is worsening; even the Valley grows more uncivilised. Apparently Arrana is the only civilised city in the province. And as for the rookery in Vasterya… well it exists.”

“Oh no.” Haydyn grew limp beside me, her young eyes round and fearful. “What do we do?”

Ava and Jarvis shared a look.

I was immediately suspicious. “What?”

“Well,” Jarvis cleared his throat. “Of course we should send reinforcements into Javinia, and someone should speak with Markiz Solom Rada in Pharya – he needs to send his guard out to police the rookery. I don’t know why he hasn’t already.”

“I do,” Ava murmured and I knew what she meant. Markiz Solom was my least favourite of the Rada. Spoiled, entitled, weak.

“What about Alvernia?” I narrowed my eyes on them.

Again they shared that nervous little look.

“Well.” Ava smiled at Haydyn brightly. “We have a wonderful suggestion.”

My intuition told me it wasn’t that wonderful. “Suggest it then.”

“Rogan,” Haydyn admonished. I merely shrugged.

Seeming unconcerned with my attitude, Jarvis leaned forward across the table, his eyes all grandfatherly and wise as he focused his attention on Haydyn. “You are of an age now, Princezna, and it’s time to discuss the possibility of you marrying and carrying on the Dyzvati line.”

I sucked in a breath, feeling Haydyn stiffen under my touch. “She’s not a broodmare,” I snapped.

Jarvis flinched at my tone and narrowed his eyes on me. “I didn’t suggest she was, Rogan. Please disband with the attitude.”

“Rogan, please.” Haydyn patted my hand. “His Grace is right. I am of age.”

As I watched Ava and Jarvis share pleased looks, I just knew, knew deep in the pit of my stomach what they wanted of her. “You want a match with Alvernia.”

They seemed shocked at my deduction and Jarvis shifted nervously for a moment. Vaguely, I noted Matai stiffen at the door.

Jarvis found Haydyn’s eyes again, drawing her in to his soothing look, making me want to pull her away from him. “We think you might want to consider a betrothal between your Highness and Markiz Andrei of Alvernia – son of Vojvoda Andrei Rada. It would greatly improve relations between the two provinces and may be a brilliant stepping stone towards civilising the north.”

My mouth fell open as I watched Haydyn’s reaction. She was pale and still, deliberately not looking at Matai. She glanced at me, winced at my expression. And then she straightened, her chin rising defiantly. “I think it’s a very good idea. And one we must consider. Vojvoda Andrei and his son are invited to the ball next month are they not?”

“Yes,” Ava replied happily, relief sparking in her eyes, “They are Princezna. They’re staying at the palace with the rest of the Rada and their families. It will be a wonderful opportunity to get to know one another and further any plans for a betrothal.”

“Splendid.” Jarvis clapped his hands together and Haydyn smiled, happy to have pleased them.

The walk back to her suite had been ice cold, Matai refusing to look at either one of us, Haydyn trembling the whole way. Matai had opened the door for us and we went in. He shut it carefully in our wake, not saying a word.

“I just can’t believe you’re even considering marrying some stranger!” I snapped at her.

Her cheeks grew pink with deep blush, and I knew she was growing equally angry with me. “It may be for the best of Phaedra! I’m finally doing something worthy of a leader and you’re angry at me?!”

“You’re not doing something worthy of a leader! You’re doing what someone else wants you to do. As always!”

She flinched, hurt widening her eyes. I immediately felt awful but words of apology stuck in my throat.

“There was never a future for Matai and me,” she whispered sorrowfully, pleading with me to agree with her. “He’s not of a high enough rank.”

But I shook my head. “You can have any future you want, Haydyn. They need you!” I spat, pointing out the window. “Not the other way around! You can do what you like, love who you love, be who you want to be. And there is nothing that they can do about it, because they need you.”

Haydyn trembled, clasping onto the post of her bed. “No.” She shook her head, growing more wan by the second. “Something’s wrong with Phaedra and I have to fix it. Jarvis knows how. The betrothal is a good idea,” she gasped, seeming out of breath.

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