Gander tittered a little at Angela’s outburst, but for her part, Angela was too upset to decide if she’d offended him or he was laughing. She was trying to figure out what was happening, because it was impossible that the future leader of Axion was going to marry a human.
“Miss Winslow,” Gander said gently, “I understand that this must come as a bit of a shock. However-”. Angela raised her hand, causing Gander to fall silent.
“Let me see if I understand you correctly: my match is the Crown Prince of Axion?” Angela phrased it as a question, but it was more of a statement. Gander inclined his head to agree.
“He spent quite a bit of money to have me as his match, but his family doesn’t know about me?”
“Yes,” Gander concurred. “However, as you’ll soon see, money is rather a useless commodity on Axion. At least for the titled and especially for the royal family.”
Angela tried to absorb this. All her life, money had been the driving factor needed to survive. Money meant food, safety, and a chance to better oneself. The idea that the concept of money didn’t exist for these people completely flummoxed Angela, as well as made her angry. She hadn’t had a choice when she entered the ABA, but clearly Prince Whatever had every opportunity available to him and was playing around with Angela.
“Gander, I’m just going to be straight with you,” Angela said bluntly. “Proper Axion protocols were drilled into my head at the ABA, but I feel like we’re way outside any expected scenario I could have been trained for. What’s really going on?”
Gander looked surprised at Angela’s frankness, then he broke into a grin, the first time Angela had truly seen him smile.
“Goodness,” Gander said with admiration. “He’s not going to see you coming at all.”
“I’m sorry?” Angela asked.
“His Royal Highness picked a human match for two reasons. One, he knew how utterly horrified everyone would be and yet they would have to hide it. And two, the perception of humans is that they are weak-willed and pliable. I believe he thought he’d be able to continue life as normal without your interference.”
“So this is some twisted game to him?” Angela was furious. “I entered into this arrangement in good faith and he’s just some rich idiot playing games with other peoples’ lives because he can?”
“It’s more complicated than that,” Gander said, sighing.
“I’m afraid I cannot break His Royal Highness’s confidence. Please know that while I’m sure he’s going to enjoy the mayhem he’s created, he has no intention of hurting or abandoning you,” Gander said sincerely.
Angela flopped back against the soft seats, glaring out the window. Nothing about this made sense. She could tell she was upsetting Gander, but she really didn’t have time to think about his feelings when her whole life had yet again been upended. Suddenly, Angela sat straight up, piercing Gander with a highly intelligent stare.
“He’s using the trial period, isn’t he?” asked Angela. Gander’s eyes widened in shock, betraying even his prejudice against human intelligence. “The six month trial period is legally binding and your Prince needs that time. He has no intention of marrying me, just using my convenient and hilarious presence to accomplish something during that time.”
“He’s not going to see you coming at all,” Gander said, staring at Angela in open admiration. “I think I’m rather going to enjoy the mess he’s gotten himself in.”
“Don’t think I didn’t notice you neither confirming nor denying my theory,” Angela said. “And considering what’s happened so far, you’ve basically confirmed it.”
“My dear Miss Winslow, you might be better at these games than any of us ever anticipated,” Gander said approvingly. Angela just rolled her eyes, a wry smile curving the side of her mouth.
“Politics might be games to all of you, but do you really think people survive in colony cities without knowing and understanding people’s fundamental nature?” Angela asked. “Humans, Axions, it doesn’t matter. At the core, we’re all the same and we all have to learn your so-called games or we won’t survive.”
Gander just stared at Angela before giving a slight shake of his head and muttering, yet again: “He won’t see you coming at all.”
Angela spent the remainder of the ride staring outside in wonder. Most of the people walking the streets were clearly Axions, but few seemed full-blooded. Humans and Axions looked remarkably similar, with only the Axions’ height and subtly shining skin and eyes as giveaways. Few Axions were shorter than six feet, with most men seven feet tall or higher. While the women were slender and willowy, the men had broad shoulders that tapered to athletic physiques.