Copyright Kelly St. Clare 2016
“I want to sit on my own chair, Jovan.”
He ignores me, sipping from his goblet. I glance down the table left and right and find Olandon watching with angry eyes. Rian stands behind him. Rian. The sole living member of my mother’s Elite. The young soldier switched sides before we fought the Elite. During his frequent trips to my sick bed, my brother has expressed his concerns over keeping him alive. But by now I trusted my gut, and understand Olandon’s faults, too. Rian is on my side. Or rather, he is on the side that will help Osolis prosper once more.
Drummond is peering at the King and I with undisguised annoyance. I don’t know if it is disgust, or irritation that a solati is on the Glacium throne. I raise my eyebrows and Drummond’s expression swiftly clears. If there’s one thing the advisors know, it’s that they should be very careful what they reveal in front of me. The memory of Blaine’s severed head is still fresh in all of our minds.
I am jostled between Jovan’s arms as he cuts a pear into chunks. What am I? Five years old?
“Eat,” he orders, holding a slice up.
I let my blue-black hair slip forward as I glare at him, refusing to open my mouth. “I am not eating from your lap. Nor your hand.”
Someone is chuckling. “She’s not going to make this easy on you, my king.”
Jovan doesn’t look away.
“It is a bruma custom,” he explains. “If you reject the food I offer you, you reject me.”
My face falls. This man humbled himself before his entire people for me.“Reject you?” I couldn’t do that to him.
Jovan nods. Someone is choking behind him, but I don’t move my eyes from the king’s lightly stubbled face.
I sigh. “If I just eat one bite is that enough? The idea of you feeding me is…strange.”
His eyes gleam. Eyes narrowed, I glimpse at the men around me. Their faces are neutral. Why do I feel like something deeper is happening right now?
Jovan holds up the pear, eyebrow raised, and I brush my hair behind my ear. If this is going to be done, it’s only happening once. Every one needs to see because it won’t be repeated. I open my mouth.
My lips close over the juicy pear, brushing against his fingers. Wondering if he’s noticed, my eyes flick upward to his own piercing blue gaze. What I see there startles me. His expression has never been so focused on my actions; so intent. Maybe it is because of where we are and who is watching. But I can’t felt but feel there is something going on which I don’t understand.
I chew quickly, avoiding the gaze of everyone. Juice escapes and rolls down my chin. But when I move to wipe the juice away, Jovan grips my hand and slowly leans forward…