She never thought she’d be happy to hear of her sister’s return to Atherton, but life was just full of surprises these days.
She’d only admitted as much to Caelum, of course, and even then had intimated she’d still kill Yarrow when it was all over.
“If you feel that’s wisest,” he said.
“This coming from the man who became my Consort just to save her life, when we both know I disgust you?” she spat.
“You don’t disgust me –”
“I know you still love her, Caelum.” She turned away from him. She hadn’t meant for her voice to sound so hurt. What did it matter to her? He was a pawn! Nothing more.
She wished she could believe her own thoughts.
His hand was on her arm and now his thumb lightly stroked her skin. “And if I do?” he asked, his voice gentle. “What of it? It doesn’t change how I feel about you.”
She turned her head to regard him sharply. “Of course it does. How could you possibly love twins who hate each other?”
He smiled patiently. “I’m a masochist.”
She broke away from him with a sound of disgust and paced the room, refusing to look at him. He didn’t try to follow her this time, for which she was grateful.
Needing to expel energy somehow and not wanting to yell at him – not overmuch – she talked about their situation. “Anala told me she was able to get a messenger out of the city. There are three regiments heading back from their extended tour in Harbourtown. With any luck the messenger wasn’t killed, and the regiments will arrive in time to support Yarrow’s obvious plan to strike. Wish I knew when,” she sighed. “But I’m sure we’ll rout the invaders.”
“And then?” he prompted when she fell silent. “If you kill Lord Exsil Vis, Voco will be yours again. What will you do about the island?”
She stopped pacing, wondering how much she should trust him with. He probably knows all this already. And I’m already doomed, so what does it matter? In a moment of melancholy she decided to tell him. “You were aware that Anala is his daughter, yes?”
She knew he was hedging, but she let it be. “Well. She’s a good admiral. I daresay she’ll be a good Lady Exsil Vis.”
“I’m sure she won’t like that,” he said, but it wasn’t a challenge. She didn’t reply. “And what about Yarrow?”
Her mouth hardened into a line.
“That depends entirely on her.”
That night, when they went to bed, she didn’t let him touch her, for she was not yet over her anger. Yet for some reason, she kept him sleeping in her chambers. After she’d thought him asleep, she felt him move closer and put his arm around her.
“I do love you, Zee,” he whispered in her ear, “whether you ever believe me or not.”
She said nothing. She couldn’t speak over the lump in her throat.