May 21, 2017

In Which Riona Pulls the String

March 14, 1204

"Please, Holladrin. You've escaped notice so far because everyone else is wrapped up in their own family dramas, but a mother never misses the way her daughter looks at a man--or the way a man looks at her daughter. I said nothing before because there was no need. With your Aunt Danthia dead, that has changed."

Her daughter's deer-to-the-bow look gave Riona no pleasure, but the balance of honesty and discretion was one of few maternal assets she could pride herself on. She'd never been the warmest of people, finding it easier to show affection by pulling strings in the background to make life easier for her children than by cuddling or hours of inane play, and there were days when there was guilt over it. But, Riona Sadiel didn't lie to her children, even if she sometimes had to omit the truth or hide behind cryptic wording. And Riona Sadiel let her adult children make their own decisions, and didn't pry.

Holladrin didn't need to be protected anyway, not from men. Anxious as she might have been at the moment, a clever, pretty girl from a powerful family didn't get to be her age and unmarried if she didn't know how to deal with unwanted suitors. Farilon was not unwanted. While Riona wouldn't pretend to see the appeal, he was kind and caring and loyal--somehow, he'd even managed to be that to Danthia, of all people. Not the choice she would have made for herself, but she didn't disapprove for her daughter.

But, Danthia's death hadn't been so long ago. No one missed her, and no one cared enough to bother taking her passing at more than face value, but if Farilon married so suspiciously early, either he or his new, beloved wife could raise a few eyebrows. That was a string Riona could pull.

"I think it's a fine match."

Her daughter's level of shock neither rose nor lowered, but its manifestation shifted. Where before there was fear, confusion now reigned: wide eyes squinting, quivering lip curled, tense shoulders slouched to a slight tilting of her head. "Sorry?"

"There's the age difference, sure, plus the fact that he was until recently your uncle by marriage--but, he's a stable sort, plus a marriage would renew the tie between House Andronei and the Royal Family that weakened when Farilon's brother left your Aunt Meera a widow. That, and you were adamant throughout your time at the university that you intended to return to Dovia, so on the off-chance that Queen Medea fears Farilon might make a move for her throne, I don't doubt she'd appreciate another reason for him to stay safely out of Naroni."

"From what I hear, Queen Medea isn't so paranoid, Mother--plus everyone knows Farilon has no interest in ruling. I see your point about the alliance, but Aunt Meera did give Conant three children before he died, so that bond lives on as long as they do. And surely it wouldn't seem appropriate if Farilon married again just yet! Especially if people know just how bad his marriage was."

"I didn't say that you ought to head for the chapel right this second." But, if they did head for the chapel, and Riona herself had championed that union... well, then at least any suspicion would be off of Holladrin and Farilon, and instead with the one who at least deserved it. "Give it another few months, well into the summer at least. No one should bat an eye at Farilon never marrying again, after all; he's still a young enough man, plus he couldn't be faulted for wanting an improvement on his first marriage."

"I suppose." Holladrin stood, as she often did when in need of absolute confirmation. Riona had a habit of doing the same. It was difficult to look someone in the eye from the disadvantage of a seat. "You're sure you approve, Mother?"

"You know I wouldn't have said so if I wasn't."

"Yes, but you must understand just how... well, how much of a relief it is," Holladrin finished in a please half-sigh as she stepped forth for a hug. "Thank you, Mother."

"You needn't thank me for wanting you to be happy, darling. So long as Farilon makes you happy and treats you well, why should I object?"

NEXT CHAPTER:

May 13, 2017

In Which Hollie Is Closer

February 2, 1204

"The bedroom is to your liking, I hope? I know you tend not to care much about decor or anything, but if only for the sake of comfort--"

"Shh." Hollie tapped her finger to Ricky's lips. It was sweet of him to consider such things, but as sweetness and consideration were typical of him, she doubted he could have made a bedroom unfit for her if he tried. "I'm quite happy with it. Cozy, but not cluttered--and simple, but not dull."

"Ah, good." His arm on her shoulder relaxed as she drew back her hand, though he choked out a nervous chuckle all the same. "Maybe it's good luck, a bedroom that fits the same description as one's husband?"

"You're not simple, and I'll box the ears of anyone who calls you such."

"I'm flattered that you're so eager to defend my honor." Ricky slipped his free hand beneath Hollie's knees and nudged her up to his lap. Comfortable though he'd made sure the bench was, she preferred this alternative seating.

"All those years of my nagging parents were worth it, you know. I'm sure I could have found someone who didn't make me miserable, but no one makes me happy like you do, Hollihock."

"And you likewise," she agreed, leaning inward until they were brow to brow. His eyes may well have been the only blue in the room, but there came and went a distinct second in which her whole world was that color. "Here's to all those years and then some of us figuring out how to make each other even happier."

"Each other, and ourselves from time to time. I know you're still figuring things out. If there's anything I can do to help you find yourself, know that there's nothing you can't ask of me."

"I know--but I'm a lot closer already." Closer in time, closer in space, closer in every sense including the gaps between thoughts and the strings that tied hearts together. "It helps when you have someone who will love you no matter who you are."

NEXT CHAPTER:

May 6, 2017

In Which Gennie Is Not Wolf's Mother

January 10, 1204

"And that," Wolf concluded with the help of a triumphant wave of his arm, "is how the brave prince reclaimed the Kingdom of Cake from the tyrannous grasp of the evil Lord Broccoli!"

"Yay!" Jadin bounced about in his father's non-narrative arm, the image of this Lord Broccoli's launch from the spoon catapult no doubt more prominent in his mind than any gesture from an over-dramatic nominal adult ever could be. Gennie would privately admit to some amusement from both of them.

But out of duty, she caught her husband's eye with a disapproving frown. "Great. How on earth will we make him eat his vegetables now?"

"Eh, if he's hungry enough, he'll eat anything. The challenging job will be getting me to eat my vegetables."

"Then lucky for me that I'm not your mother."

"Lucky for me, too." He winked.

That did it. She couldn't fight back that grin. "You're impossible."

"And yet, here I am." Wolf contorted his mouth into that goofy smirk, causing their son to giggle as he always did. "But in all seriousness, if you stuff me full of too many vegetables, then only you can claim responsibility for the assault of sounds and odors that leak out of my ass as a result."

"Wolf!"

"I'm serious! Imagine how it'll be if there's nothing but green on my plate the night before your sister's wedding. It may be welcome entertainment for bored children, but don't expect Hollie or Ricky to ever forgive you for such unyielding flatulence."

"You weren't even listening, were you?" Gennie stood up and walked over to her husband, wagging her finger in a mock-scolding. "It's your mother's job to make you eat your vegetables. Me? I'm only the mother of your children."

"Children?" Amused, Wolf cocked his head to the side. "Plural?"

Gennie rolled her eyes. "Eventually, I should hope."

"Interesting." Her husband shut his eyes and let out a sigh of content. It was a quiet gesture she didn't expect of him, but he made it suit him regardless. "I'm glad to hear that I've managed to win you over in regards to making babies with me."

"And why shouldn't you have? When you're not discouraging vegetables, you seem to make quite a good father."

NEXT CHAPTER: