"You look just like your mother," Wyldon says. His eyes hold a touch of wistfulness, and Vania looks at him dead on.

"I'm not her," she says. Her words are not hollow.

"I wouldn't expect you to be," he responds.

She says "good," quietly, under her breath, but it doesn't matter. He still hears.

She supposes it's possible he's thinking of Thayet when he kisses her, when he reaches to unbutton her bodice. She hopes he isn't.


It's too easy to toy with Evin Larse.

Vania can't remember why she ever picked him. He's pretty, but she lives at Court. There are more than enough pretty men in the palace for her to while away her time with.

He taught her riding tricks, showed her how to speak to her horses. Said it was in her blood and she'd best remember that.

She still lets him kiss her. He isn't the best but he isn't the worst, and it's something to do while she waits to be married off.


It is unspoken that Alan of Pirate's Swoop belongs to Lianne and Lianne alone. But her sister is in Galla, heavily pregnant with Gallan heirs, and at that point, Vania considers the laws of ownership null and void.

She wraps her hands in his hair and pulls his face down to hers. He raises one bright red eyebrow.

"That's hardly necessary, princess." Alan has a bit of a drawl, a hint of his father in his voice, and well, Vania can see what's appealing about him, once you get past his hair.

She kisses him, if only to shut him up.


"We can't do this," Zahir says, brows drawn together. She cups his face in her hands, feels the scratch of his stubble against her palms.

"We can," Vania insists. If she were anyone else, she would be begging. She's perilously close to it, anyways. "We have so little time left."

"Because you're getting married," Zahir says. "Which brings us back to the root of the issue."

"It doesn't. Not the way you're thinking." Now she is begging, pleading with him. "The marriage contract isn't set in stone yet. They're not done with negotiations."

"And what happens when they are?" Zahir asks. "There will be no grey area left, do you understand that?"

"Perhaps it won't go forward," Vania says. "We don't know that. We can't know that yet. But until we do, I want to spend as much time with you as I'm able to get away with."

"As you're able to get away with," Zahir repeats, but when she kisses him, he doesn't pull away.

"As much as I can," she says, and rests her forehead against his.