Hello, all! This is my first attempt at publishing fiction, so I hope you enjoy. I'm not sure if I'll continue, but this plot just popped into my head, so I figured I'd share. Hope you let me know your thoughts! It's B/E and M just to be safe.

"Just tell me why, Princess," the prince sneered at his wife of three months, trying to contain his fury. "Why do you, in front of the whole of the court, insist on acting as though we are strangers?"

His furious glare had no effect on the woman sitting on the couch across from him. The prince had demanded this private meeting with her in a largely unused sitting room when, after yet another night of her conduct, he was pushed past his point of endurance. The princess was as composed as ever, her unreadable face completely unfazed by his words or his tone. A trained eye could catch the gleam of amusement in her stare, but no one able to read her so was present in the room, or, indeed, the country.

"Aside from the fact that we are strangers, my lord?" was her simple and pointed reply. Her tone was politely disinterested.

"We have been joined before God and men in holy matrimony!" the prince raged. "How acquainted we are is of no consequence! You embarrass me continually with your behavior."

He jumped up and loomed over her in an effort to scare compliance from her. But neither her posture nor her expression altered in the slightest.

"You are not embarrassed," she said candidly. "Your people believe you able to heal the blind and walk on water, and they'd declare so were it not blasphemous. My actions can certainly not harm your pride or your position in their eyes. If anything, I am making the court even more sympathetic toward you, their beloved prince so wronged by the cold, vain Arizian princess. You are not embarrassed, so what about my actions vexes you so?"

"You are my wife! I deserve your attention!" he exclaimed with fire in his eyes.

"So you admit that this is merely a matter of being used to getting your own way," she said with a small secret smile followed by an exasperated sigh. "I am the toy that you do not want but that you expect to always be at your disposal and no one else's. In short, you're acting spoilt."

Crown Prince Edward of Englasia sputtered for a moment, unable against her accurate logic to come up with a legitimate reason for his ire over her inattention. He looked for a moment as though he would reprimand her, but his need to understand her actions outweighed his anger over the slight. Since he had no answer for her, he brought the conversation back to its intended purpose.

"So you refuse to explain your behavior where I am concerned? You refuse to say why you sit by yourself rather than dance with me, why your glance is infrequent and cool, why your answers to me are short and unfeeling?" he accused.

"I could tell you the reason for my deliberate and public indifference to your person, but I fear it will only further fray your already sorely taxed nerves," Princess Isabella retorted with something akin to derision.

"If it is my reaction you fear, I swear you will not be punished for anything you say in this meeting," the prince allowed, feeling as though he was bestowing a great and generous gift upon her. He was willing to briefly relinquish his typical rigid control over what is said in his presence in favor of the answers he craved, and he was sure her wit couldn't possibly be up to the task of truly insulting him in any event.

"How magnanimous of you." There was no mistaking the tone of sarcasm in her voice now.

"Woman, do not try my patience!"

"I'll be direct then. I have no allies in this country, sire. That which I do I must do with no help. And since I'm desperately out-manned, I must win by superior cunning rather than force," she explained shrewdly.

"You speak as though you are waging a war." It was his turn to be derisive.

"I am, of sorts," she said, as though she had not heard his tone. She casually stood up to match his stare. "Not of physical one, of course, but a social one, a relational one. You won that war with your subjects merely by virtue of being born. I have no such advantage and countless handicaps to hinder me."

"You are nothing like they said you were," he told her almost accusingly.

"And what did they say I was?"

"The kind of princess who was so sweet that merely watching you smile could make one's teeth rot," he said, openly mocking her now. "The kind who showered everybody such overwhelming kindness that most believe you unaware that guile exists. I find you nothing of the sort."

"And how do you find me?"

"Cold and feelingless," he said without hesitation.

"And that will be the image I project for now," Isabella said matter-of-factly. "Everybody in this country is predisposed to feel scorn towards me, and that scorn will double should I act good-natured all the time. If I show my inherent kindness in the current climate, I will be ridiculed for insincerity, for obliviousness, and for weakness. None of those would be true, but that is how my actions would be perceived. I must first earn their respect, for only then will they accept my kindness."

"You know that my people love me," the prince's tone had turned slightly persuasive. "If it is their good favor you seek, openly enjoying time with me could only help you."

"Yes, your people love you. They love you so much that they overlook the many mistresses you have stashed about court and the whore houses you frequent when chance takes you beyond its confines."

"You know—?"

"Of course I know," she said dismissively. "All of the court knows. And were I to publicly acknowledge you as more than my sovereign lord – were I to give you my smiles and my laughter, were I to dance with you and converse amiably with you – I feel certain that they would be more agreeable to making idle chat with me at gatherings and less likely to openly revile me. But they would laugh behind their hands to one another at the idiot Arizian who is either so stupid that she doesn't know her husband spreads his seed about to countless women throughout the kingdom or is so weak that she will overlook it completely and dote upon him nonetheless. The last thing an alliance with you would yield, my lord, is respect."

"Who told you of these things?" Edward asked, enraged. "I've been far too discreet for you to have figured them out on your own."

Isabella threw her head back and laughed. "Discreet? I don't think you know the meaning of the word. You've never achieved stealth in your life, but the kingdom looks the other way when you attempt it so as to allow you to think you have succeeded. Besides, I can name every woman in court that you have bedded."

"That's preposterous," he scoffed.

"Not so, my lord. There are several tells. Some of the bolder ones, who seem to value discretion less than you do," she said mockingly, "have approached me with an air of unfounded authority and tried to intimidate me. As though there is some sort of competition for your affections and they have won. I quickly and decisively put them straight, and they all walked away with their pride wounded. I'm sure they sought you to bolster it back up the same night."

"They approached you?" he repeated disbelievingly. Isabella noted how oblivious he seemed to the possessive and jealous nature of women.

"I could have named them even if they hadn't. The ones who enjoy your bed look at me rather smugly, as though having your eye makes them superior to me, though I've never thought that being able to lie on one's back and spread one's legs was much of an accomplishment. The ones whom you've previously bedded but stopped gracing with your presence give me looks of malicious jealousy, as though they'd like to gouge my eyes out with their gazes. The ones who pine for you but have never shared your bed look at me with jealousy as well, but their gazes are forlorn and longing. The only decent women in your court, whose numbers are shockingly small, look at me with the ill-defined contempt with which your people look at all those from my homeland."

Edward stood there with his mouth open, not certain how to respond to these revelations. He had counted on his wife's blissful ignorance of all that went on around her. Indeed, he had looked forward to laughing with his friends about his stupid, self-absorbed, oblivious Arizian bride. He certainly did not expect the cunning, self-assured, and observant woman before him.

Isabella deduced that he had had enough frankness for one night. "If that is all we need to discuss, my lord, the night is grows old, and I need sleep to function well in enemy territory."

When Edward still didn't respond, she took it as implied dismissal and turned to leave. But before she took more than two steps, he spoke, wanting to injure her pride as she had his.

"Before you leave, Princess, I require clarification on something you said earlier," he called.

"Of course, my lord," she responded, turning around once again.

"You said that my mistresses spoke to you as though they had won my affections. Well, does not the evidence point that way? After all, I bed you out of duty. I bed them out of desire," he finished smugly, sure that that would be a dagger to her fragile female heart.

"You misquote me, my lord," she said conversationally, without a hint his words affected her at all. "I never said they didn't hold your affections – I said there was no competition for those affections. My meaning was that I do not compete for them. It matters not to me where your attentions lie, as having your regard would in no way benefit me. Why would I want the eye of a boy who, for lack of true wisdom or leadership, seeks to prove he is a man by bedding multitudes of willing women – something which requires no skill and achieves nothing? Why would I seek the devotion of such a one? Nay, you may bestow your affections where you will, sire. I have no need of them."

And with that example of brutal honesty, she turned on her heel and walked out of the door, a small smirk on her face. The Crown Prince of Englasia, however, didn't see it. He stood gazing off into space with his mouth agape, an expression he had become far too familiar with in the last several minutes. His thoughts rested on his completely unflappable wife, wondering at her ability to cut him to the quick with her well-place words, while his feeble attempts to do the same merely bounced off her, as ineffectual as a blunt blade against steel armor.

Please give me your thoughts (good, bad, or ugly)! :)

Two questions: (1) Should I continue? and if so, (2) should I go back and start from the very beginning, or should I continue from where I left off and give you background as I go? You choice on both issues.