"Would you still want to stay if it meant remaining in this place for who knows how long?" I gestured, my moving hand indicating our seclusion in the dungeon. Katrina bit her bottom lip, taking several controlled breaths.
"The location matters little—" she grabbed my hands and gazed into my eyes, "—as long as you are here with me."
Though I worried about her safety, I had to admit that she was right. If we were forced to separate, our time together would be remembered all that more fondly. And, if the worst were to come true, the surviving member would never forgive themselves if not every opportunity had been equally cherished.
"Alright!" I sighed. "Let's just see what happens next."
"Agreed," she replied, giving her grip an extra squeeze and lowering her head. She kissed one of my hands. "I love you, Jon."
I opened my mouth to return the sentiment when I heard Alex scream from the other side of the room, obviously irritated with her brother. As she continued to shout at him, Sebastian marched past me, his shoulders stiff from his own irritation.
"What's happening?" Katrina asked as Mr. Hurst moved from his resting position toward Alex.
I replied, "Some sibling rivalry—" and then with a smile "—unless I miss my guess."
"I don't want to think about what Luke or Father will say if I do end up staying."
I repeated what I had said before. "Let's just see what happens."
"That seems to describe the rut we have been in for a while," she replied in a lighter tone. I laughed, imagining digging into a ditch, unable to get out.
A few moments later, Alex emerged from the darkness, her brows furrowed in a worried expression. I tilted my head to one side, silently asking her to approach me.
"I know what you're about to say," she said, raising a hand. "I need to trust the man."
"Actually, no," I replied, shaking my head. "Caution is a good thing. However, what I have learned about the people of Handrin tells me that they are just as complex as any Iberan."
"How would you know?" Alex retorted, unwilling to let go of her attitude. "You have not been with the nobility. You have only been tromping around through their villages."
"True," I replied, "I have not, but I've been tromping for a lot longer than you have been spying." I closed my eyes and brought both hands up, my palms facing Alex. "I do not wish to fight with you. I want to simply remind you that spying in Handrin might mean that we have to let our guard down at times, such as choosing to trust certain people. I am putting my trust in the queen ... and the people she trusts ... until I have reason otherwise."