Claire watched Aidan a moment longer, taking in his words before finding more of her own, “You trust me enough to admit this to me, already?”
Aidan’s eyes moved downward with a soft smile before he offered his own answer, “When it comes to you and I, here in this place, here in the human world, I have all the power in regards to our relationship to one another, here. However, if we were away from this place, you would be the one who held all that same power over me, regardless of your gender.” only a slight pause as he moved his dark eyes back up to hers, “I would like to believe that because of those two facts, we can find a balance here, behind these closed doors.”
His words caused her to falter once more, just then realizing that even if she didn’t understand the reasons behind it, at the time, maybe, just possibly, she was correct in allowing this man some benefit of a doubt when it came to not having truly malicious intentions towards herself.
She finally found her voice again, a moment later, “So, you didn’t actually bring me here to be your mistress then, after all?” she asked, trying to keep her own tone unreadable.
Aidan couldn’t help a slight chuckle at her words before responding, “I didn’t say that, exactly.” his words just caused her to raise an eyebrow and await a further explanation, “Like I said, my hopes are that you come to care for me enough, some day, to grant me my wish to become one of you. How I plan to go about gaining your favor…that has yet to be completely determined.” he added with a bit of the previous night’s flirtatiousness obvious in his tone.
Claire allowed a smile that was more than slightly laced with nervousness before responding, “And you believe your skills as a lover could truly endear you to me in such a way, then?” she couldn’t stop herself from asking.
“I believe those aforementioned skills couldn’t hurt.” he chuckled slightly before attempting to continue, “Besides, wanting to be like you, I have many questions about the way you both live, and love. I’m hoping that our relationship with one another will be, shall we say, ‘enlightening’ for me.”
“You want me to teach you how vampires love: How I love?” she returned in a near whisper.
“It’s something that one should be aware of when undertaking the very idea of living forever, isn’t it?”
Claire just shook her head slightly, her eyes turned downwards, “And you’ve somehow decided that I’m the one to teach you such a thing?”
Aidan allowed another slight chuckle, “Well, who else do you recommend? Your Prince or your husband?” to that, Claire simply shook her head again, “They are both beautiful men, yes, but I believe you may be a much more willing teacher to me than either of them.” he added with a smirk.
A soft sigh as Claire thought over his words further, “So, what you really want, is to be close to one of us, in order to learn how to live like us, and hopefully gain yourself an opportunity to finally become one of us, after all?”
“You and your husband are both quick learners, I see.” he smiled.
“He himself almost immediately guessed at some of the unspoken facts of his own role here, as well.”
Aidan allowed another nervous smile, “You really want to spend your first evening as my ‘mistress’ in talking about your husband?”
Claire’s eyes narrowed slightly before she glanced over him and added any more of her own words, “Would you rather talk about your wife instead?” she asked pointedly as her eyes easily caught his wedding band.
Aidan was only slightly caught by her words, but quickly hid the fact behind another chuckle, “You really wish to know about my wife? I thought the point was for me to learn about your kind. I’m sure you already know plenty about mine, at least in regards to how few perfect marriages there actually are in our world.”
“You having a mistress surely can’t contribute to the well-being of yours.” Claire pointed out wryly.
Aidan allowed a small scoff before answering, “Yet another reason to become one of you.”
“To escape your marriage?” she asked with another raising of her eyebrow.
“Well, there’s that, but also…”
“Also…what?” she asked warily.
“You and your husband are both Kindred, obviously. And you seem desperate to be near each other, which would be a sign of a perfect marriage in and of itself. However, here you are, agreeing to be my mistress, while your husband now lives here at court as well. And though neither of you seem overly willing to trust me right away, the fact itself of you accepting this role seems to have had little or no effect on that marriage of your own.” Aidan pointed out his own keen observations.
Claire swallowed slightly before finding her words, “And you think that is all because of what we are?”
“Most people would be inclined to believe the stability of our marriage would be because of who we are, rather than what we are.” she argued, though weakly.
“So, you were his wife before either of you were embraced, correct?”
“Yes, for twelve years.” she answered easily.
“And in those twelve years, before the change, would either of you have ever accepted even the idea of you becoming another man’s mistress, honestly?” Aidan had to ask, though in a knowing tone, as Claire looked downwards, silently answering his question anyway, “So, as you can see, the strength of your marriage may very well be due to what you are, after all.”
Claire took a long moment before finding a response that time, then finally spoke again, “I’m not sure the fact of me accepting this role is quite the basis to determine whether or not a marriage should be deemed ‘perfect,’ though, is it?”
“Well, he wanted you to spend eternity with him, and here you are, still willing to do anything to remain close to each other. So what would you call it, then?” he asked her softly.
“So, you’re validating my love for my husband, whilst asking me to be your mistress?” she called him on his apparent duplicity.
Aidan allowed another small smile, “All I want is to understand what I see. And what I see is someone with beauty, power, love, and the ability to show great self-sacrifice for that love. Is it any wonder I want to be as close to you as possible? As much like your kind, as possible? Up to and hopefully including becoming one of your kind, even.” he answered her with what sounded like actual sincerity.
It was less than two weeks after Claire’s and Sean’s move to the royal court, when there was a major upheaval in the entire rule of England. It was only one week from the end of March when Queen Elizabeth passed away, throwing all of the royal court into an uproar, which did very well to prevent Claire from having to worry much about any of Aidan’s true intentions towards her at all, at least until things would settle once again.
During those final weeks of March, Aidan’s attention had to be fully focused on coming to terms with the crowning of the new ruler of England. Having been a young and healthy male of only twenty-seven years of age, it would have been understandable if Aidan himself had had a chance at becoming England’s new ruler. However, Aidan’s father, who was indeed the half-brother of the now departed queen, also happened to be an illegitimate son of her famously libidinous father. Because of the fact that Aidan’s long-deceased father had been born to only one of many of the former king’s mistresses, he was not to be included in the list of heirs to the throne. Knowing this was just another of many reasons Aidan wanted to assure himself a place in the Kindred world, especially now that the Tudor dynasty had fallen with Elizabeth’s death, and his own usefulness, if any, to the new king, was yet to be determined.
The night before Claire’s birthday, she found herself alone in the room, as was usual considering the chaos of that moment in time, with Aidan continuing to try and prove himself useful to the new king. She was spending her evening seated in the window staring out at the spring rain, after having pulled the heavy curtain open once the sun had set and she had risen that evening. It was nearing ten as she was startled from her study of the moon’s light reflecting off of the still falling raindrops, when Aidan finally returned to his quarters with a sigh.
“Any news?” she greeted him, attempting to continue developing some sort of friendship with him despite the realities of why she was there at all.
Aidan allowed another sigh, “Well, I haven’t been ordered away from court yet, but Griffyn is not happy about any of this either.” he then sat tiresomely at the edge of the bed to begin removing his boots, “And when Griffyn is unhappy, it’s never a good thing.” he added more quietly, his voice failing to completely hide a slight tinge of what almost sounded like fear.
“As you said, the king hasn’t sent you away yet. Maybe he will let you stay, after all.” she attempted to reassure, despite his words. After all, if she no longer had a place at court, she no longer had a place near Sean, or possibly, any place at all, there in the old world.
Aidan scoffed slightly as he finished removing his footwear, “Elizabeth barely allowed my continued presence on some days, and I was much more closely related to her than even our new king is, my father’s illegitimacy aside.” he sighed again.
Claire’s sigh was only slightly softer than his own before she steeled herself to move from the window and take a seat several inches from him atop the huge mattress, “So, if James does send you away, then what happens?” she asked worriedly.
“To you?” he asked as he turned those dark eyes back to her.
“And Sean…and you.” she added more quietly.
Aidan looked downwards once more with a sad shake of his head, “To Sean? Most likely nothing. He is simply here to entertain the royal family and their guests, no matter who those people happen to be. His position is most likely in no danger whatsoever of being dissipated, which is about the only thing that Griffyn is still satisfied with.”
“But if James does actually send you away,” she began, speaking in an apologetic tone, “then…?” she left the question at that.
“That’s the question that I don’t have an answer to. All I know is that if I’m no longer at court, then Griffyn will most likely end the bond I have to him, and when that happens…” he shook his head as his voice also trailed off.
Claire took another long pause before speaking, “How likely do you think it is that you may be sent away, honestly?”
“Reading the thoughts of another is a skill some of us don’t have, I’m afraid.” he answered her with a bit of bitterness, though not specifically directed at her.
“So, if you could stay at court, then all would be well again, yes?”
“That’s a very large ‘if,’ I’m afraid. Like I said, I barely held my position here when my aunt was queen, and now…”
Claire took another long moment to think over the situation before finally adding her own thoughts to the matter, “How difficult would it be to see Sean?”
Aidan just scoffed with disbelief at her words as he stood and turned away from her with a shake of his head, “You almost had me convinced that you cared about my fate for a moment.”
Claire furrowed her brow at his immediate change in tone before quickly deciphering the reason for it, “No, Aidan, that’s not what I meant.” she attempted.
He only slightly turned back to her, “Then, what did you mean?”
“Of course, I would love to see Sean, but I meant, that if I, or even you, could see him, there may be a way to fix this.”
“Fix this?” Aidan repeated, turning fully toward her once more, “What does that mean?”
“I would try and do it myself, but it would be much easier for Sean, all things considered. And it might be easier if I was the one who asked him to do it, rather than you, but my point is, he may be able to help you stay at court.” she attempted.
“I’m not sure I follow you…” Aidan returned warily.
“Sean has much more access to James and his advisors and family than I ever would, so he just may be able to ‘convince’ them to keep you here.” she said, though in a whisper, as if she knew her suggestion should not be heard by anyone else in the entire palace, for many reasons.
Aidan looked more than a bit shocked at the meaning behind her words before he managed to respond a moment later, “Aside from the fact that you are basically suggesting that your husband commit treason, of sorts, why would you ever think he would do such a thing for me…all things considered.” he just had to add more quietly as he looked her over once more.
Claire sighed once more, “He wouldn’t do it for you, or even for Griffyn.” she admitted, then added, “But if you must leave, then I must leave. And I couldn’t bear going out there on my own, away from Sean, and leaving both you and I to whatever fate Griffyn sees fit, on top of that.” a brief pause, “So, if keeping you here means keeping me here, then that, I know he would do.”