Ambrus sat at the table with Regine, still stinging from Rachel's quiet curse and trying not to fume. Regine had only made things worse by hauling him away, didn't she realize that?
Of course not. And it was disloyal of him to even think that. He couldn't stop himself, though; the table's population was dwindling as people took to the dance floor, and the conversation was dying, leaving him alone with his thoughts. And his mistress.
"I'm glad Chloe didn't say anything." It was out before he could stop himself, not a normal circumstance for him. "Or things could have gotten even messier."
"What, with Rachel?" Regine shook her head, tapping her fingernails on the table. "I think she's self-deluded enough, she hardly needs anyone else contributing to it. Everything will be fine. It was a lovely ceremony, wasn't it?"
"Very nice," he agreed, the lines coming as if by rote. "Everyone said they looked very nice together. Very much in love."
"And they do, don't they? They are. So why let it bother you?"
"I'm not bothered by that," he said, not certain if it was true or not. "They're wonderful together. They seem happy… that's a rarity for either of them." Were all of his children doomed to be miserable? All? That was a lot of unhappy children.
"It's a joyous occasion, and most everyone is in the spirit of it," she agreed. "Rachel - and Chloe - will be out of your hair again before you know it."
"They will," he agreed wistfully. "Though I wouldn't mind if Chloe stayed a bit longer." What was in this wine? He was normally better-controlled than that. "I'm sorry," he apologized. "I didn't mean…"
"You certainly did," she noted, pressing her hands together. "Perhaps you mean you shouldn't have?"
"I beg your pardon," he answered, his voice dull to cover his surging emotions. Times like this, he wished she hadn't forbidden him calling her Mistress. It would fit so well. "Should I not have, ma'am?" After all, she had put him in bed with Chloe in the first place.
"Frankly, I don't particularly care. But if you don't think it was wrong, then why apologize?"
"Because it was inappropriate," he answered stiffly. "I'm here with you. I'm yours."
"Of course," she nodded, folding her fingers together. "But if there's someone else you want, you know you have only to ask."
He paused. She'd never hesitated to throw him in someone else's bed, but only… "Because you want more children from me?"
"I wouldn't say no to the prospect, of course, but I think we're a bit past that stage at this point, don't you?"
"I don't know," he answered, stiff with tension. "You don't share your plans with me."
"Should I?" she asked, eyebrows raising in mild astonishment. "You've hardly shown interest in the long-term ramifications of our projects before."
"I've had large gaps in my memory until a few months ago," he countered. "It made it hard to think past the immediate." Gaps that she had put there.
Regine pursed her lips and slowly leaned back in her chair. An unusual expression crossed her features... no, not unusual he realized, simply atypical on her face. Resignation. "Then perhaps the time is coming, now, for us to rectify some portion of that."
Panic overcame him. "Gods, please don't take those memories away again! If you want me to just sit there and be pretty, I can do it, but please…" my kids… "Don't take it away."
"No, no..." A faint smile now, amusement at his... misunderstanding? Gods, yes, he'd panicked in his haste to interpret this turn of events. "...but it may be useful to you, soon if not now, to understand more of the why behind those memories. I have not impelled you to act out of whim or caprice, you may be sure."
She didn't have a whimsical or capricious bone in her body, he was fairly certain. "Of course," he answered. What was she up to?
"However, I hardly think this is the venue for what's liable to be a lengthy, and possibly spirited, discussion. Perhaps later, when we return home. We can take our time about relaxing, and enjoy this victory ourselves."
Victory. Of course she'd think of it that way, wouldn't she? He nodded. "Of course, Regine." She would do what she wanted with him, and nothing he said would sway that. That was what being Kept meant, after all, wasn't it?
Perhaps it really was time to no longer be Kept.
Copyright © 2009-2012 Lyn Thorne-Alder with Elasmo. All rights reserved.
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