The Red Sapphire

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Chapter 21

His father stood at his side and his mother at Aliana’s as they exchanged vows. He was marrying a woman who hated him. Why was marrying her the first line of defense he could put forward when his father suggested that she be killed? He himself had been tempted to kill her himself during their many arguments. Three-quarters of their conversations were arguments. You could get an annulment when the war is over, another part of his brain suggested. He however dismissed the thought. Marriage was sacred and he would not make a mockery of the institution. Gods help him, she was going to be his wife until one of them died.

He had expected her to be scowling throughout the entire ceremony but her face had remained solemn as she listened to the priest. Her hazel-gold eyes were rimmed with kohl and her lips stained red to match the colour of her gown which enhanced her slight figure. Her hair had intricate braids on top of which was perched a gold diadem with a single ruby embedded. The plain princess was gone. She was simply beautiful and was going to be his wife.

When the priest indicated he took the twined bracelet from the cushion and placed it around her narrow wrist. She then took the entwined ring and slipped it on his second finger. The union was then sealed with a chaste kiss. He suspected that she had a lot of passion under that natural reserve and when the time came he was looking forward to coax it out of her. He was determined that this was going to be a real marriage in every way.

They knelt together to receive the final blessings and in a matter of moments, they were man and wife.

Only a few were invited to the dinner afterwards. It was the way he preferred. He wouldn’t have the court gawking at Aliana the whole night. He would shield her from their criticism and cruelty as much as he could. When Sonetta had thrown the wine in her face it had taken everything in him to remain calm that day. He was very tempted to have Aliana beat her right then and there, but it wasn’t the expected behaviour of a future queen, so he had to restrain her. Next time they won’t be so lucky.

Although they danced, laughed at the right intervals and held hands most of the night he could feel a certain sadness radiating from her. It wasn’t the wedding she’d imagined for herself he knew, and it was worse since her name among the masses was the Arnay harlot or Garion whore, depending on the nationality.

The night wore on and eventually they’d settled in his quarters. He had walked out of the bedroom and into the adjoining study while the maids prepared her for their wedding night. He heard them leave and he walked into the room to find her sitting in the middle of his bed which was draped in clouds of blue and silver curtain. He walked over to the door and slid the latch in place.

Her eyes were downcast as he approached and sat on the bed. “There is no need to be afraid princess. I will not force you to share the bed with me.”

“I wasn’t planning on it. I was just wondering where you were going to sleep since I will be taking the bed for myself.” she said looking at him

He smiled, “Well I think the bed is quite large enough for the two of us. I may have a wife who won’t sleep with me—yet, but I am going to sleep beside her.” she shrugged. “The night is still young. What are we to do princess?” he asked after they’d fallen on silence.

“First you will have to learn to call me Aliana that is the husband-ly thing to do.”

“Husband-ly?” she nodded firmly. “And I suspect there are other things to you wish to teach me, Aliana?”

“Very good husband.” she smiled and then slid out of the bed and stood placing her hands on her hips. The white night gown fanned out around her. He had to force himself to look away from the smooth skin exposed at the small of her back. “The next thing is that you will have to keep me acquainted with the rest of your chambers.” she said turning to look at him expectantly.

He walked with her to the door on her left. “This is the bathroom.”

“Your tub is significantly bigger than mine, even the one back home.” she said staring at a pool which extended out to the balcony and seemed to fall from the very edge.

“Well it is our tub now so there is no need for comparison.” he said as he watched her from the door.

“That is true.” she said as she scanned the rest of the room. Seemingly satisfied she marched across to the next room.

“My study and games room.”

“Well it seems that you do more studying than playing.” she said as she picked up one of the books that was strewn across the pool table.

“Well yes I tend to seclude myself at times and books are often the best company.”

She perched on top of the table swinging one of her feet up. The slight shift slid down slowly revealing more and more of her legs. All those years wearing pants had made her forget her ladylike poses. The princess didn’t seem to notice as she looked around her.

“So you kept to yourself most of the time.” she said and Milos forced himself to look at her face. “So what about all those women you slept with before?”

He coughed, “Who told you that I...” he spluttered.

“Your mother, she told me that she thought you had indulged in far too many women growing up.”

“Why would she tell you that!” he said choking on his words.

“Was it something you didn’t want me to know?”

“You would have found out about my past eventually, but I am not like that anymore.” The last time he’d indulged was well over a year ago and she really wasn’t making it any easier for him to keep himself away from her as her shift slipped lower down.

He both thanked the gods and cursed them when she stood. She took in the weapons cabinet which had several daggers, shields and swords artfully displayed. She then moved over to a table on the far right of the room. A map of the continent was spread in the centre surrounding it were leaves of paper with notes that he’d made. This he’d done to practise presenting his theory about the war to his father, not that it did any good.

“Do you mind?” she asked taking up a sheet.

“Go ahead, I want to hear your opinion about what I’ve written.” she looked at him as she asked, does my input really matter? He smiled slightly encouraging her to read.

She sat in his chair and scanned the notes while alternating looking at the map. “Is this all true?”

“All of the reports have been confirmed.”

“I think you are right about the distraction. I agree with you about the dykes being the target. Did you tell your father about this?”

“I did,” he said sitting on the arm rest above her.

“And?”

“He disagreed he still thinks that the main assault will be by land. While the barons laughed.” he shrugged.

Again her features softened as she looked at him, was that compassion he saw in her eyes? She turned back to the map. “I think you are right, so what are you going to do about it?”

“I was going to take you sailing tomorrow.” he said.

She turned back to him and frowned. “Sail where?”

“To this spot above the Dykelands.” he said pointing it out on the map before getting up. “It will be a long trip it’s best we turn in.” he said pulling the sash over his head before opening the buttons of his shirt.

“What are you doing?” she asked.

“Getting ready for bed. You didn’t expect me to go to bed wearing this.” he said pulling the shirt of completely and throwing it on the pool table.

“Well, I umm...” she swallowed. He smiled as he noticed that though she was trying to look at his face her eyes often strayed to his chest.

He started on the first button of his pants when she jumped out of the chair suddenly and pulled the waist of his pants together. The mischievous glint in his eye brightened. “So you want to the task of undressing me then? By all means go ahead.” he said as he placed his hands behind his head.

Her face flushed and then she dropped her hands. “I thought so.” he laughed. “No worries, I do have on underpants. I will keep then on for now.” he said resuming undressing in front of her. “This husband-ly lesson is for you wife. I sleep in the nude.” he said kicking off his pants and walked out of the study.

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