I sat at the dining table with my knees up to my chin, my eyes locked on my toes as I bit down on my lower lip. I was smiling to myself, thinking of the past two nights I had spent with Dastan.
“Well, that explains why I haven’t seen you at all since we got back.” Emi’s soft voice travelled to my ears as she waddled to sit in front of me.
I could feel the heat in my cheeks reach my ears out of embarrassment. I shot her a nervous smile as i untucked my knees and sat normally to face her across the table, “How are you feeling?” I nodded down to her exploding stomach.
She chuckled as she shook her head, “I need to get it out, now.” She rolled her eyes but they stopped and glistened when she placed her hand on her stomach, admiring the beauty of life within her, “But maybe one day I’ll miss this.”
She sighed sitting back on the chair and clasping her hands on her stomach, eyeing me as if I was dangerous. I tilted my lips up, smiling awkawardly at her.
“You’re different.” She whispered, her eyes narrowing.
I shrugged, “What did you expect? It’s been so long.” My voice was a whisper, hiding itself from the truth.
“Well, from the look on your face when I walked in, it looks like you and Dastan never missed a beat.” She teased with a growing smile.
I frowned, feeling a small prickly feeling in my chest. “I wouldn’t say that exactly.” I stared down at my fingers as I pricked the skin near my nails.
“What do you mean?” Her voice became breathy, hesitance loud and clear on her tongue.
“Maybe physically, we’re fine.” I shook my head, looking up at her, “I’ve never been with another man like that, but emotionally, I...” I sighed shaking my heand as I ran my hand down my face. “I feel like he treats me like a child. Caging me in. I crave more now. I want to do more.”
Her eyes softened and she unclasped her hands form her stomach, sitting forward in her chair, “You were taken from him, tortured, hurt... it makes sense that he feels the need to protect you. I say let him, he needs it, and you need it.”
“I don’t.” I whispered defiantly, my mind traveling back to those months where we helped that starving village. That’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something, I wanted to go out, help people, build a better country, a better land. I didn’t want to be pampered and taken care of.
“Aria-“ Emi started, but she was interrupted when Dastan and Zumir burst into the room. They both looked tense, like if they had just been fighting over something serious. I looked between the two before eyeing Emi, but she just shrugged. With a loud grunt, she stood up from her chair and Zumir quickly ran to her, holding her hands for support.
They left the room, leaving us in a deep pool of silence. Dastan sighed heavily before sitting down at the table, “Everything okay?” I frowned.
He smiled softly, exhaling a loud breath, “Yes, there’s just a lot going on.”
“What is it? Maybe I can help.” I sat up straighter, my heart beating fast at the thought of being able to do something.
His face twitched in amusement as he smiled, “No, don’t worry, love. You just rest." He looked around, motioning for a servant to bring us lunch.
I frowned, "Dastan, I can help, you know? I can do things. I'm not the same girl I was when we first met."
He froze, his eyes narrowing as he looked into mine. He nodded slowly, looking down at the table, "I know that. But I don't want you involved in these things, their complex and-"
"Then teach me." I begged, "How can I stand by your side as you rule without being involved, without doing anything?" I sighed in defeat when two servants came busting in the room, placing plates of chicken and vegetables on the table. "Dastan." I whispered harshly, demanding an answer.
He looked at me, his gaze severe and his eyes followed the women as they left the room. He looked back at me with his jaw tense, "I never needed anyone to help me. I never asked for help."
I chewed the chicken slowly, trying to hold in the anger that began to build in the bottom of my stomach, "What am I supposed to do then?" I shook my head, "Sit and around and look pretty?" My voice was drenched in sarcasm, dripping onto the floor.
His eyebrows twitched, "And be a mother." He grunted, returning his eyes back to his plate.
I scoffed, "Is this what you've always wanted from me? Even before?" I pushed away my plate, my appetite leaving me.
"Isn't that what you wanted?" He jerked back in his chair, also pushing his plate away.
I frowned, trying to remember who I was, what I thought and what I felt when we first met, "No? Maybe. I don't know!" I threw my hands up in frustration, "We never really talked about it. But it's not what I want now."
I stood up in a huff, walking past him to leave the room, "Aria." His voice spoke quickly and shortly as his fingers wrapped around my arm. I stopped walking, looking down at him. His eyes were glued to the table, his brows in a frown, "Join me tomorrow at the council meeting."
My eyes softened, and relief flooded me. At least he was willing to listen, willing to try. I smiled softly, "Thank you." He nodded curtly, his jaw tightening. I leaned over, placing a soft kiss on his cheek before walking back over to my spot.
We continued our lunch in silence, and I wanted nothing more than to break the tension we seem to be in continuously when we are not in bed together, "Um, I want to go Jamarion." I squeaked, looking at him to gauge his reaction.
"We have one argument and you want to run to Jakko?" He grunted, stuffing his mouth with food before chugging down a cup of wine.
I frowned, pained at his unnecessary attack,"No. I want to see Thijs and Sarn. The only reason they came with us was so that they could be married and be together without repercussions. I want to help with their wedding." I looked down at my plate, and decided I would not be comfortable enough to finish the rest.
"Ummm. Yeah." He stood up, looking around the room before looking back at me. "Let me make the arrangements." He left the room without looking back at me, making me feel as if something was off.