“You are a mean man, father,” I said as I went to his side. He sat on his gold throne, with my uncle at his side, and turned to me with a smile.
“I know. But you cannot deny that today will be a day that no one will ever forget.”
He stood up and turned to face me. He stared at me as my anger and shock of what he had just done began to fade.
I shook my head, but smiled and threw my arms around his neck.
“Why did you not tell me?”
He let me go and met my eyes, “Because I wasn’t sure I was going to do it. Not until the very moment he was on his knees before me.”
“What do you mean?”
He gestured for us to go out onto the patio outside of the grand hall. Once we were alone, he turned to me, “Laylar, my sweet child, I have known about you and Rein since before your uncle left to find Connie.”
“Then why didn’t you have him killed then? Why wait?”
He let out a long breath and looked up at the sky, “Your uncle told me to give him a chance. To let him prove himself to me. So I did.”
“And it took you all this time to see that he loves me?”
“No,” my father said and turned to me, “It was only in the moment I held the blade in my hand, that I saw what I needed to see.”
“What was that?”
“Nothing,” he said and I frowned at him.
He smiled, “When I looked into Rein's eyes, moments before he thought he was to die, I saw nothing. Not a single trace of fear or regret. He knew that loving you could mean his death, and he did not fear it. He was sure that I was going to cut his throat, and yet his sadness felt. . . Like it belonged to you. That he was sad to have to say goodbye to you.”
I lowered my head and let my father’s words sink in. No regrets. No fear. He was ready to die for me.
“You are not angry with me?” I asked in a quiet voice.
I felt my father’s arms wrap around me, “No, my child. I am immensely proud of you. Look at the incredible woman you have grown up to become. I know that your mother would be so very proud of you as well.”
“I wish she were here,” I said as I felt my eyes sting.
“As do I. You and your sisters and brother lost her too soon. But I know she is looking down on all of you with a smile.”
I took in a breath and bit my lip before I said, “Ash is a special woman too, father. She makes you happy, and the way the people followed her. . .”
When he didn’t say anything I risked a look at my father’s eyes. He lowered his gaze to the ground in thought before he looked at me again, “Laylar, there is something I need to ask you-”
He frowned, “Yes?”
“Yes, I approve of her,” I said with a smile.
“What makes you think I was going to ask that?”
“Oh father,” I said as I hooked my arm in with his, “Your thoughts are so loud sometimes, that I am sure that even the stone walls can hear them.”
We walked back slowly into the hall and as we stood on the top steps looking down at all the people, my father turned to me, “You know the rules, Laylar. Even I am bound by tradition. If I want to be with Ash, then. . .”
Why is my father so scared to say it? Does he not know how much we all love Ash?
“Then you need to marry her and make her the queen. I know father, and like I said, we all approve.”