Zahra made her way to her cell, walking as though in a trance. A new understanding had come upon her: the understanding of why the prince was the way he was.
It was simple: Alexander lived a reckless lifestyle because the women who fell for his wiles couldn't pull themselves away from him.
Except me. You will not have me, too, Alexander!
Thrusting open the door to her cell, Zahra was surprised to see Imelda waiting for her.
"There you are. I've been wondering when you'll show up and explain things," Imelda said. "I mean, you've explained what you think matters, but I need you to tell me more about the prince. Why you kissed him."
Zahra was completely taken aback. "Excuse me?"
"I heard you mutter something about the 'prince's vile kiss' when you walked in here. And I can tell by the way you're upset that something terrible has happened. You let him kiss you, didn't you, Zahra?" Imelda said softly. "Why? He's awful."
"I didn't kiss him, Imelda," Zahra said, then shook her head. "You're right. I did kiss him. I can't hide anything from you, can I?"
"Not when you mumble about it right in front of me," Imelda replied. She patted the seat next to her. "Come here and tell me about this man who's stolen your heart."
Disgusted, Zahra refused to believe Imelda's words. "He has done anything but stolen my heart, Imelda. Don't you know who he is? He's an amoral rogue, disguised as a prince. A prince! My stallion would make a better prince than he. Only those who are half-witted can't see that it's Adrian who is the backbone of this country."
"So, why did you let him kiss you?"
"I had no choice in the matter. He kissed me, all of a sudden. That is all." Zahra shivered.
"But you're upset. And you're not just angry with him, I can tell. You seem a bit out of sorts with yourself. Perhaps because you enjoyed the kiss more than you're letting on?"
"No!" Zahra burst into tears right in front of her sister. "I just want to go home, Imelda. I'm tired of being confined and confused. I want to see Grazenni and our parents. I wish I'd never come here in the first place."
"Sometimes, our destinies come about in the most hopeless of cases," Imelda said quietly, reaching over and stroking her older sister's hair. "Don't give up yet, Zahra. There's a reason you're here." The younger stood and faced the window. "I just wish we could see what that reason is."