Artem hadn’t been wrong when he’d expected the day to be deadly dull. Adrianna could barely keep her eyes open as she rattled around in an open topped carriage with Rowena sitting next to her and Prince Niccolo and Artem opposite. She did not find the city interesting at the best of times, and of course, Niccolo was only showing his royal guests the best bits. There wasn’t a starving beggar or a street urchin in sight as the horse dragged their carriage along the streets and the Prince droned on about the history of this building or that monument.
The lunch that the Prince had organised was probably the high point of the day. An open clearing in the Prince’s private park had been chosen as the spot for an elaborate picnic. Blankets were spread on the ground and there were mountains of cushions for each person to lounge against while they ate.
Adrianna remained quiet for most of the picnic, listening intently to Rowena’s conversation with the Prince about their two countries and occasionally making her own remark about how beautiful Verenia was. Rowena didn’t push her to become too involved with the conversation, knowing the restraints she was under, but whenever she did say something, the Queen gave Adrianna her full attention, listening intently and nodding slightly in agreement.
The Prince seemed to approve of Adrianna’s modest manner but said nothing to her apart from the occasional pleasantry. This didn’t bother Adrianna, she was more than happy for Prince Niccolo to stay away from her and leave her to her own thoughts.
Rowena’s meeting with various politicians that afternoon was just as dull as the carriage ride in the morning. Adrianna couldn’t stand any of the men in front of her and knew they were all misogynistic idiots who had more money than brains. But she managed to smile politely as she listened in on the conversation that passed over her head.
She became increasingly frustrated the more the politicians talked, simply because of the way they were treating Rowena, like a stupid woman who had no idea what she was talking about. Of course, the Queen didn’t let any of her own frustration out, merely nodded at what the politicians said and occasionally saying something that sent the old men spluttering because of it’s political nature. It was in these moments that Adrianna’s fake smile turned into a genuine one, wishing she could prove to them that she was just as politically minded as many of the nobles at court in just the way Rowena was doing.
And yet Adrianna was so glad to return to the castle at the end of the day and when she followed Rowena and Artem back up to their guest rooms, she felt a huge weight fall from her shoulders.
“Well that was informative,” Artem said, peeling off his jacket and throwing it onto the armchair.
“It wasn’t so bad,” Rowena said, picking up the jacket and tidying it away into the bedroom. “Everyone was very kind and listened to us.”
“Did you not hear the way they were speaking down to you?” Artem exclaimed. “It made me want to kick something.”
“That’s the art of diplomacy,” Rowena told him as she sat next to her husband on the sofa. “Surely you know all about that.”
“I’m more used to working with spies and informants these days and you don’t need to be so polite and subtle with them.”
“I’m sorry today has been so dull and frustrating,” Rowena said to Adrianna, ignoring Artem’s comment. “You don’t have to come back if you don’t want to, although we should discuss plans for tomorrow night.”
“Don’t worry,” Artem said coolly, “I have it all planned out. Where are we going?”
“It’s a tavern calledThe Prancing Lion. Wear as plain clothes as you have and don’t go in until Matteo and I have arrived.”
“How are you getting out?” Rowena asked.
“Don’t worry, I’ve got a plan.”
Adrianna and Rowena said their goodbyes, each woman hugging the other like they had been best friends for years. Adrianna gave Artem a friendly wave goodbye before leaving their rooms and heading for her carriage.
Although the day had been more boring than words can accurately describe, Adrianna felt strangely happy as she sat in her carriage, bouncing along on her way home. She had enjoyed the time she had spent with Rowena and felt like she was really getting to know the foreign Queen and all her little habits, like the way she nodded when she was pretending to be interested in what someone was saying or the way she stroked her hair back from her face when she was nervous.
She also found Artem’s company surprisingly enjoyable. He was a very relaxed person and didn’t really seem to care about the status of the people around him; he just treated everyone with the same cool calmness that she had grown to expect from him. It made it very hard to tell if he liked someone, but from the warm smiles and occasional winks he sent in her direction when Rowena had made one of the politicians stumble over their words, she felt like she had received his approval.