“You will wed Nallea,” Lord Rydan commanded. “It is already agreed. This is not a lad’s game.”
“In eight years, she will be fifteen. I will not argue this with you.”
“I don’t know her. I have no idea who she will be!”
“That is of no consequence, Raze. You will be Lord of Vestrelle. You bear responsibilities, duties to the land, a future in the kingdom. Do you think these puny provinces will remain under separate rule? Do you believe our rivals will idle contentedly within their walls?”
Raze curled his fingers in silence, any reply wasted breath. “What about love?”
Rydan’s eyes tightened into pale slits, and he faced his son. “Love will follow.”
“Did you love my mother? Did she love you?” The questions had barbs, and Raze would use them to pull his father’s heart inside out. “Was your marriage forced upon you against your will?”
The Lord waved away his argument, but his jaw softened. “No, it was not.”
“Did you wed her for love?” Raze would force an answer. Even if it made no difference, his father would acknowledge the unfairness of his demand.
Rydan retreated to the window that peered over the rose garden pruned and dripping in the squalling rain. Its glory had turned brown and brittle during the bitter months of snow, love’s blooms reduced to thorny canes with sharp tips. A corner of his father’s heart had remained faithful to his mother, tenderly caring for her roses, his affection for the delicate petals a stoic confession of love and longing.
Four years ago, she’d drowned on the winter sea, and though they’d all, more or less, moved on with their lives, they each saved a sacred place for her. She had carried a piece of their hearts with her when she died, and the wounds had yet to heal.
“Yes, we wed for love,” Rydan said. “There is your answer.”
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