It began to storm so we all went inside. The children ran upstairs for baths, laughing as they raced each other. We went into the tea room and a servant brought some tea around to warm us up. The king and queen took up one of the small couched and Angel and I the other. That left the third one for Tiberius and Christina who both looked nervous.
I tried so hard not to laugh and I knew Angel was, too.
"Drinking tea and visiting is more comfortable when you sit," Angel said, the corners of her mouth twitching.
"After you," Tiberius whispered.
Christina bowed her head in thanks and sat down. Tiberius joined her, sitting stiffly.
"So, David," Roland said and I looked up from mixing some sugar in my tea. "What would you like for your birthday? I know you're not the ball kind of man."
I stared at him. "My birthday is next month. How did you know?"
"I'm psychic," he joked and I laughed. "I'm the king."
"Right," I said and rubbed the back of my neck. "I don't know and, frankly, I think we'll be having some... visitors."
Angel stiffened and I rested my hand on her thigh for a brief second.
"I had forgotten," Miranda whispered and I wondered why it was taking the wolves so long to get here.
We turned. Tiberius had been so nervous he had knocked his tea right into Christina's lap. I bit my lip to stop myself from laughing as he desperately tried to make it better. He was only making it worse, though. Finally, she stopped him.
"It's okay, Sir Tiberius," she laughed. "It's just a little tea."
We all jumped to our feet, obviously having the same thought.
"Well, I'm off to bed," Roland said and offered his arm to his wife. "What do you say, dear?"
"Sounds wonderful," she said and they left quickly.
"I think we should go to bed, too," I said, setting my tea down. "Tiberius, Angel and I need to discuss some things about our guests so don't worry about us for the next hour or so."
"Yes, your highness," he said and watched us with pleading eyes as we left, barely containing our smirks.
When we were in our room, I laughed and pulled Angel in for a kiss.
Despite what my former Black Hand members thought, I was no fool. I wasn't sure what to do next and it seemed Lady Christina didn't know, either. Over the last week we had exchanged glances but it never went beyond that. Several times I had tried to speak but I would fail drastically.
Thunder rumbled and she jumped a little.
"Are you all right?" I asked, looking at her.
"I don't like storms," she answered, wringing her hands in her lap. "They make me nervous."
"Yes, they do the same to me."
We fell into silence and I looked around, desperate for some kind of inspiration. My eyes landed on my broken teacup on the floor.
"Do you like tea?" I blurted and shut my eyes, mortified.
"When it's not in my lap," she giggled and I groaned. "Would-Would you like to join me for a walk?" she whispered suddenly.
"Yes," I said immediately and stood, holding out my arm.
She smiled shyly. I wasn't sure where to go so I started by going up the stairs. We didn't speak for a while. Again, I tried to come up with something to speak about. Preferably something that wouldn't remind her of what a clumsy dunce I am.
"May I ask a personal question?" she asked and I nodded. "Is it true you were the leader of the Black Hand."
I clenched my jaw. "Where did you hear that?"
"The walls have ears," she muttered.
I sighed and stopped walking. "Yes, it's true." She looked at me, not in repulsion like I expected, but genuine curiosity. "But that life is behind me."
"Why did you leave?"
This was not where I wanted the conversation to go but she didn't seem to want to talk about anything else. We resumed our walk down a corridor as I thought about the best way to answer without touching sensitive memories of hers.
"I-I didn't want to continue...."
"Killing people?" she suggested quietly. I nodded, not looking at her. "Why did you do it then?"
"You grew up learning how to sew, correct?" I asked and she nodded. "I grew up learning how to slip among the shadows and fulfill people's darkest desires. I hated every part of it, Lady Christina. Over time, it becomes second nature, though. You learn to say yes to anything. When King Roland called upon our services to escort Prince David, I dreaded it. Then, when I saw what he did.... It was like I was seeing my life through someone else's eyes. I had wasted my whole life doing something I hated. Here was a man ready to end his life just for the woman he loves."
"Did you ever love a woman?"
"I was never given the opportunity for love."
"When Bryan was killed," she whispered, "I thought I would die with him. But I had my children. I loved them and they needed me."
I didn't quite know what to say to that except, "I am very sorry about your husband."
"I miss him," she said. "But when I look at my children, I see him in them. It brings me some comfort."
I bit my lower lip, trying to think of the best way to word my next question. I was certain she knew I was interested in her.
"Did you ever consider...?"
"Remarrying?" she asked and I nodded, knowing my cheeks were pink. "No. I never met a man that I was interested in. Most of them didn't want the burden of four children."
I frowned at her and stopped walking again. "They are not a burden. They are beautiful."
"Thank you," she said, smiling shyly and facing me.
I couldn't look away from those beautiful brown eyes. Her brown hair fell into them and I brushed it away, my hand shaking a little. I felt drawn to her in a way I had never felt before and soon our faces were close. I could feel her breath on my lips and I closed my eyes. When our lips touched, I felt warmth spread from my head down to my toes. I had never been kissed before. At least, not like this.
"Not exactly how I expected this evening to go," I said quietly and she giggled again.
"Nor I," she responded and I realized I had put my hands on her waist. "Don't," she breathed when I started to let go.
Her eyes were confused and a little scared. I knew mine mirrored hers.
"Lady Christina, I am in a very unfamiliar situation right now," I whispered.
She stood on her toes and kissed me. I froze.
"Just kiss me again," she whispered against my lips.
I gulped and nodded. We kissed once more. Her hands linked behind my neck, still on her toes. My hands slid behind her back, enjoying so much the feeling of her velvety lips against mine. Is this what I had been missing my whole life? If it was, I never wanted to lose it.
I lay beside Angel. She was smiling at me, brushing the damp hair from my forehead. The sheets were pulled up to the top of her breasts and I moved it a little so I could kiss them. She giggled and moaned a little. I pulled her close and she snuggled against me, putting her head on my chest. She played with my hand.
"Do you think they've kissed yet?" she asked and I chuckled.
"Tiberius is too shy. If they have, it would be all Christina."
"The look on his face," she laughed and I joined her.
"I know. I- Wait, shh!"
We listened carefully.
"Well, good night," we heard Christina whisper. "I should make sure the children are actually sleeping."
He chuckled a little. "Yes and I must stay here."
"Good night, then."
"Lady Christina, wait." I could almost see her turn. "Perhaps-Perhaps tomorrow, if I can, we could go on another walk?"
"I would very much like that, Sir Tiberius." Silence. "Do you think they are asleep?"
"Probably. They've had a long day."
"Then kiss me one more time," she said in a high voice and I grinned.
There was silence again.
"Good night," Tiberius murmured and her footsteps soon disappeared.
I looked over at Angel who was trying to stifle her laughter and I kissed her lips, laughing into them, too.