It’d been two days of the same thing. I continued to live my life as though he wasn’t a pest I couldn’t be rid of as he ignored my attempts by planting himself within my line of vision every few hours.
Inside, I handed my cloak to Mintale, who nodded at both of us, and then closed the door on the cold.
“Would it help if I paid her a visit?” he asked, hesitant. “I would like to apologize, profusely, and to explain that I never would’ve permitted such vulgarity.”
At the base of the steps leading to my rooms, I spun to glare at him. “You stay away. The last thing she needs right now are any reminders of what happened.”
Raiden’s lips pursed, but he nodded. “I understand.”
Searching his grass green eyes, I saw he was trying to, and that maybe, he really did feel wretched about what’d happened to her.
“What will it take?” he called as I began to climb the steps. “For you to at least give me your company. To give me a chance.”
I couldn’t give him an answer because there wasn’t one.
Inside my rooms, I sat upon the windowsill, my lips wrapped around Zad’s pipe.
Cloves were not the only thing I had to smoke. Truin had sent a leafy plant with her grandmother that weakened the desire to run through the city, through the villages beyond, and into the woods to the estate on the other side.
Though it mellowed the urge, it still remained. It was just easier to kick away.
Snuffing the pipe, I laid it down and dragged my finger over the damp glass of the window. Through the line, I saw treetops sway in the distance.
This was what needed to happen. Raiden as king, my husband, and Zad at his manor with his own wife.
It was the reason I’d sent him away, yet I couldn’t bring myself to do what I’d so desperately insisted I needed to and move on as our continent needed.
A knock on the doors lifted my head, and I waved my hand, opening one for Raiden to walk inside. “I brought you some soup,” he said, the door closing behind him as he crossed the fur rugs to the small table between my dressing chamber and the door. “You didn’t come to dinner,” he said. “Again.”
I looked over at him, offering a brief smile. “Not hungry.”
“You’re beginning to give me a complex.” He’d said it in jest, but I could tell that my inability to show him the time of day was beginning to wear thin.
Things could be worse. He could keep me contained in this marriage and make my life utterly miserable at the same time. He could tire of my antics and arrange to have me assassinated as he had first planned to before meeting me. He could end the marriage and ruin the fragile peace we’d managed to find with his return.
There were many ways in which this could be worse, but he was doing none of them.
Instead, he was offering an olive branch. A unified front. He was trying to make this work.
And I needed to quit behaving like a child and remember who I damn well was.
With a sigh, I shifted my leg down from the sill, my nightgown falling to the floor as I stood and walked over to the table, taking a seat.
Raiden busied himself with my books, flipping through the pages while I tipped the bowl to my lips and drained half of it.
Setting it down, I looked up to find Raiden watching me. “You can leave at any moment.”
“Why do I feel as though you don’t mean that?” Stepping closer, he dragged a finger over the table through a drop of soup, then lifted it to his mouth to suck. “Not entirely.”
“What is it you hope to achieve here?”
“Forgiveness. Peace.” I ignored the curving of his lips, the way his voice dropped lower as he finished his sentence. “Among other things.”
I ignored it even though I knew I shouldn’t. “You’ve played a lot of games with me, King. So you’ll have to excuse me if I find myself exhausted and wary.”
“The first one was necessary.”
The words he’d said to me in the dungeon and the vehemence behind them had eaten at my mind for hours on end during the long trip home from his kingdom, with nothing to do but store my anger as Truin laid asleep upon my lap. “Have you ever taken theatre lessons?”
A confused laugh left him as he said, “Have I what?”
I gazed up at him, reminding him, “The things you said in my dungeon. The things you called me. The cold, callous attitude you harbored so well.” I smiled, flashing my teeth. “So believable, so…” I pursed my lips, remembering, you’re one of the coldest bitches I’ve ever encountered. “Heartfelt.”