I sat in a leather chair, a book lay open on my lap. The words on the pages of the book were forgotten. My mind swirled with thoughts, as my skin soaked in the warmth from the flames of the fire in front of me.
I thought about how much has happened in the last few weeks that I spent with Val. We travelled from place to place. Some places I had been before, like Paris and Rome. But this time I got to experience them like a true tourist. When I had gone to these places before it had always been for work or school. I rarely found the time to see the pleasures of each city. It was magical being able to see the cities for what they had been and what they had become over history. Valerian hadn’t just taken me to large tourist cities, he had taken me to small towns and villages that I had never heard of before.
Over the last few weeks, Valerian had shown me the person he truly was. He was still arrogant, and sometimes an idiot but he had shown me a side to him that I would have never known if I hadn’t taken the time to. I was wrong to judge him, allowing Rupert’s idea of him to spoil my own views.
Thoughts of Rupert still popped into my mind from time to time, the pain of his betrayal had slowed to a dull constant pain. I tried to keep all thoughts of him from my mind; Valerian kept me busy enough to do so.
At this moment though, having time to myself to get lost in my own thoughts I appreciated. The last three weeks were so busy I feel like I haven’t had a moment to myself. I closed the book that was on my lap and set it on the table next to me. I pulled the blanket off the back of my chair and covered myself. I tipped my head back against the chair and closed my eyes.
I barely had a moment of silence with my eyes closed before I heard the heavy wooden door to the study open, and close. I opened my eyes and turned to look who had come through the door.
I gave a small smile and watched as Grace moved to sit down in the chair across from me. Her hair was down in soft waves. She wore a pair of black pants and an ivory coloured blouse. Even in the comfort of her own home, she always wore something elegant or business worthy.
“How have you been doing?” She said as she leaned back in her chair.
I shrugged my shoulders. “Alright, given how crazy things have been.” I hoped that she didn’t want to dive into the issues regarding Rupert. I had told her a quick, less detailed version of what had happened and didn’t want to dive into it further. It was something I would like to keep buried in the back of my mind.
“Have you been enjoying your time with Valerian?” She asked, her eyes searched mine.
“It’s actually been really great.” I smiled. “He’s a different person than what I had originally thought.”
She smiled and let out a deep breath like she was thankful that I didn’t hate him.
“That’s good.” She leaned forward in her chair and looked at me in silence for a moment. “There’s something very serious that we need to discuss.” Her face held no smile.
I looked at her, my eyes searching her face. I swallowed, my heart began to beat a little faster as my anxiety began to set in. I nodded my head and waited for her to continue.
“When you were just a baby, your father and I arranged marriage to Valerian for you. It was for the sake of our kingdom.” She began. “Our kingdom and the Carnelian kingdom had been in a dispute for a long time. In order to end that, and not risk having to go to war we decided that the future of our kingdoms was up to the two of you. Joining our kingdoms in marriage was the best idea that his parents, and your father and I could agree to.”
“So, what your telling me is that I’m still expected to marry him?”
“Yes.” She nodded her head. “That is, if you want to.” She quickly added. “You’re mated to someone else. They don’t know that, I haven’t even told your father. All they know is that he’s marked you.”
“Okay...” I took a deep breath. “If I don’t marry him?” The thought of having to marry Valerian sent my heart in a flutter and my stomach and mind in a furry.
“If you don’t...” Grace trailed off as she tried to think of a way to best explain herself. “If you don’t, your father and I will be forced to war. Hundreds to thousands of people will die in both cities.” She ran her hand over her face and shook her head in grief. “I’m sorry. We should have found a better way.”
I stared at her in silence. My mind was a mess of thoughts, my body was filled with a hurricane of emotions. I thought about the words that Rupert had said to me when he pushed me away. I thought about the families that would be left mourning the rest of their lives at the loss of their loved ones. I thought about how Nix is slowly losing her grip on reality because she lost her own life mate.
Am I willing to sacrifice my own happiness, as a princess, for the lives of my people? I thought.
The simple answer was yes. I was.
My selfishness could be set aside. My duty to my people was to keep them safe, to protect them. If marrying Valerian, meant keeping my people safe then that’s what I had to do.
I glanced over at Grace, my eyes met hers. I nodded my head and let out a deep sigh.
“Okay.” I continued to nod my head. “I’ll marry him.”
She sat there in a long period of silence as she tried to register my words. A frown formed over her face before a look of shock replaced it.
“I wasn’t expecting you to say that.”
“I wasn’t either,” I whispered.
“Are you sure? Once this happens, there’s no going back.” She gave me one last try to change my mind.
“I’m sure. There’s no coming back from death. I can’t take away people’s families to be with someone who doesn’t even want me.” I shook my head. “My duty as a princess is to protect my people. So if marrying Valerian means that they’re safe, then I’ll do it. He could be someone terrible, but he’s not.”
Grace smiled, she reached over and gave my knee a squeeze. “That’s the right thing to do. You’ll make a great ruler, my love.”
She moved to stand up, she gave my knee one last squeeze before she made her way towards the door.
“Oh,” She stopped and turned back to face me. “I will inform Valerian and his parents about your decision. A news release will be in the papers tomorrow to announce your engagement. This weekend we will hold a ball in honour of the both of you. Townspeople will attend as well as people from the Carnelian kingdom.”
I didn’t open my mouth to respond. I gave her a small smile and nodded my head. She returned my smile and slipped out the door. I closed my eyes, leaned back my head and let out a deep breath that I didn’t realize I was holding.
A shiver rolled through my body. I clenched my hands into fists and let out another deep breath. My stomach ached at the thought of marrying someone that wasn’t Rupert, but my heart and mind told me that this would be okay.