“I know that I am being irrational, but I don’t trust him alone with her. He did this.” said Lania.
“That wasn’t him. The monster you met in the Ashlands is gone. That Milos was the one I met before the war, who was wildly in love with his wife and who still is. He doesn’t need your judgement or scorn as he is already doing a very good job of punishing himself. Besides, you need to get something to eat.” said Doranand.
“But that would require me leaving the room.”
“Exactly, now get up. Milos isn’t going to hurt Aliana.” he nudged her upwards and of course with his hands touching her, she was fully compliant.
“Are you sure?” she said shooting the king an uncertain look.
“I am.” he smiled softening the steel in his grey eyes.
“Okay.” she said following him out of the room. She was still nervous around him as after they’d come home they barely spent any time around each other. Their last moments on the battlefield were spent gathering the sick ones into wagons. A losing battle she thought at the time as the lava river was coming at them quite quickly. Then she noticed that the thundering stopped and the earth stopped moving. The titian streams had turned to an ash grey and then dulled into black, blending in with the night.
That too after the green and red auras that had flooded the night sky dimmed. She knew then that Aliana had come through for them. But the price was great. Thinking about it now she wanted to turn back into the room and clobber that damn Garian over his head.
“No you aren’t going back in there until you eat and rest.” said Doranand as if he had read her mind.
“Where are we going by the way?” she asked as they were on the lower floor moving past the kitchen.
“My room.” he said stopping at a door before pushing it open. He walked in and then looked at her waiting for her to follow. “Are you not coming inside?”
She wasn’t sure if she should. “It wouldn’t be proper.” she said stupidly. Of course she wanted very badly to be alone with him.
“We are sharing a meal, there is nothing improper about that.” his mouth twisted in wicked amusement. “Besides you have come in here before.”
“Not as myself.” she retorted and he laughed.
“It was okay to besmirch the queen’s character, but not your own.”
“It was at the time my job to do exactly that.” she said in her defence and he laughed louder.
“Don’t be afraid, I won’t do anything improper. I will even leave the door open if that will make you more comfortable.”
“That would,” she said and stepped into the room. The small table was lined with fresh bread and cheese. Cold cuts of veal were set in the middle and a decanter filled with cold wine dripped with condensation. The pleasant aroma of the food caused her belly to let out a light growl, which she hoped that Doranand didn’t hear. He pulled out a chair for her to sit and then he joined her at the table.
She waited for him to start before digging into the food. She must have been going very fast and she slowed down as she noticed that he was watching her. “I was hungrier than I thought.” she said after taking a sip of wine and dabbing her lips.
He smiled and she blushed deep. “You aren’t going to let us talk about what happened in the Ashlands.”
“Many things happened there, you would have to be more specific.” she said spreading cheese on the warm bread so that she could avoid looking at him.
“I am talking about me kissing you and you kissing me back.”
“Well it was a very stressful situation.” she said biting into the bread.
“Was that all it was stressful? Did you feel nothing else?” she looked up and found his eyes digging into her own.
“There was something else, more, but I am just a house servant so it really isn’t my place to say or hope for impossible things.” she whispered and then swallowed the lump of bread which was like stone stuck in her chest.
“You are more than just a house servant. You are one of the bravest persons I know. You are caring, kind, loyal, intelligent and if I must say, a very good kisser.” Her eyes bulged and now the bread was really stuck in her throat. She took up the wine and swallowed.
“That is all true, but if you are proposing Lord Doranand that I become your mistress, I will pass. I don’t have much but my dignity and I will one day become someone’s wife, not a conquest or mistress.” she said.
“I don’t want you to be a conquest Lania and I was hoping that someone who you referred to whose wife you would become, would be mine. If you will have me.”
She looked into his eyes, which were quite earnest. “You’re being serious?” she sputtered.
“Not the response I expected.” he whinged, but then he took a ring set with a large diamond. “But yes, I am serious. Lania, you are everything I want in a wife and the mother of my children. A woman who I believe will compliment me in every single way and stand by no matter what. Will you become my wife?”
This could not be happening. She was dreaming. She pinched herself hard. It wasn’t a dream. “But I only kissed you once!”
“Still not the answer I was looking for.” he winced and his fingers started to retract the ring. She held on to his hand. She hurt his feelings but he still didn’t give her a good enough reason to say yes.
“I can only marry someone who loves me. You said many nice things about me just now, but not that you love me. Which is impossible since I saw how you were with Aliana and I just don’t compare...”
He was beside her in an instant. “You are right, you don’t compare.” She should have known. “You are much more. Aliana and I are friends and that is all we would ever been or had been, if not for my father’s scheming for us to get closer. But with you it is different. I feel like such a fool for being in the palace and not noticing you all that time. I have never felt this way about anyone else, not even Aliana. I can truly say that I love you Lania, as brief as our courtship...”
“Or lack of courtship.” she tacked on.
“Or lack of courtship might have been, but I am sure that I love you.”
“But I am just a palace servant.” she countered.
“But if you say yes, you will become a duchess.” he said as he held her hands.
“If you put it that way, then yes.” she burst out laughing and flung herself in his arms.
“Now look who is being improper.” he breathed in her ear. “Maybe I should close the door after all.”
“Maybe you should.” she said stepping away and he kicked the door closed not letting her out of his arms.
“Do you love me?” he asked.
“Undoubtedly,” she said. He slipped the ring on her finger and pulled her closer.