“Do you have any idea how humiliating that was?” demanded Coramund in a firm tone. Reggie looked up from his book, a guilty expression coming across his face reflexively. There were only a few other people in the library, as most were just now returning to the castle after the welcoming. As soon as they heard Coramund’s voice, they returned their books to the shelves and left, offering brief bows and curtsies to their queen as they filed out. Once the door shut behind her, Coramund planted her hands on her hips. “You shook her hand. Was that what you were supposed to do? No, no it wasn’t. How many times do I have to tell you? You KISS her hand! Always kiss a lady’s hand!”
“I’m sorry, Mother,” Reggie replied weakly. He closed his book and set it down beside him, preparing himself for a scolding. “I panicked.”
“Yes, of course you did. That’s all you know how to do, you bastard!” exclaimed Coramund, charging toward Reggie. He leaned back so far that his head hit the window behind him that depicted Alice going down the rabbit hole. When she was mere inches away from him, he couldn’t stand the wrathful look in his mother’s eyes anymore. He hung his head in shame, guilty for failing his mother once again. Coramund simply continued with her barrage of cruelty. “Vivika was very offended that you ran, and I don’t blame her! Her father even said that it didn’t seem as though you even wanted to marry Vivika, and it doesn’t! You walk around this castle, throwing your weight around, intimidating the servants, ordering your siblings around, all because you think yourself superior! I don’t believe you even want to get married! Why should you want to share your throne, your power, your wealth, your life…?!”
“But I do,” interrupted Reggie meekly. “I don’t want it to be lonely at the top. I just…”
Before Reggie could even register the shift in Coramund’s expression, her hand drew back and then contacted with his cheek. A loud crack echoed through the silence of the library. A sharp sting began immediately on his cheek, and his hand flew up to cover it in a delayed response. Tears prickled in his eyes in response to the pain. A foolish mistake, interrupting Coramund. He had known for years the consequence. This one was mild, compared to past occurrences.
“Did I say you could speak?!” demanded Coramund, the furious tone that Reggie was all too familiar with in her voice. Reggie shook his head silently. “Then why did you speak?!” Reggie didn’t respond, not wanting to risk another slap. Coramund carried on anyways, not wanting an answer. “Don’t you know that your voice is like nails on a chalkboard to me? I loathe everything about you! The only reason I so much as tolerate your presence is because your father refuses to make Jerald his heir! One day, I’ll convince him of your total inadequacy and he will see that Jerald will make a much better king! Now, since I’ve grown tired of seeing your pathetic face and Vivika clearly wants nothing to do with you, you will leave my sight this instant and ask your father to take you to the hunting lodge for a week! When you come back, do try not to make a fool of yourself in front of Vivika and humiliate me further.”
With that, Coramund turned on her heel and headed for the door. Reggie looked back up at her retreating figure and swallowed hard.
“But shouldn’t I apologize?” asked Reggie, causing Coramund to pause in the doorway. “What if Vivika thinks I don’t want her here?”
“Reggie, what did I say about whining?” asked Coramund, without even bothering to turn around. Reggie’s blood grew cold, knowing the next words by heart. He always feared hearing them. Not because they hurt him anymore, but because he was afraid the next time he heard them would be the tipping point to cause him to follow his mother’s instructions. He swallowed hard, mumbling the words as his mother spoke them. “If you have a problem, kill yourself instead of making it mine.”
“Yes, Mother,” Reggie responded automatically. Coramund carried on walking, not concerned for the part of his heart that withered a little more every time he heard those words. In fact, she reveled in Reggie’s pain. The more he suffered, the less self-esteem he had. That just helped her all the more in convincing Valentine to replace him as heir.
Once Coramund was gone, the door shut firmly behind him, Reggie took a steadying breath and rose from the window sill. He reflected on his pain only briefly, casting it as deeply inside his heart as he could. He clutched his book close to his chest. ‘Love Amongst the Dragons’ told a tale of love persisting through every tragedy, through every quarrel, through hell and back. Reggie tried to hold onto that thought as he went to find his father. He was certain Addie loved him, but what did he know of love beyond that? How could he ever be a good husband when the only kind of relationship he knew well was one of fear and supreme authority? He tried not to think about it. Instead, he wondered if his father would question taking him out hunting for the third time that month.