"You gave me the dullest, most docile mare on purpose, I swear it," Imelda muttered, frowning accusingly at Alexander and giving her mare's reins a tug.
"Don't want you running off on me."
"You're such a misogynist," Imelda fumed.
Rolling his eyes, Alexander waved a hand in Imelda's direction. "I would've said it to anyone, even Adrian, if he had a personality like yours," he replied. "I swear, you could run off, even with all these people surrounding us." He gestured to the ten-man escort that had accompanied the Prince and the Prisoner's Sister.
"I'm sure I could, and I'm glad you acknowledge it," Imelda responded, sitting up a bit more straightly and jutting her chin out in Alexander's direction.
"Look, Imelda, not now," Alexander cut the bantering short with a shake of his head. "I've got a million things on my mind right now, and arguing with you isn't going to help."
There was a long, strained silence, in which Imelda's posture lost some of its tension and Alexander's nerves were ironed out, just a little. Finally, when the silence had stretched on long enough, Imelda offered timidly, "I suppose that's how I deal with stress. Arguing with whoever's by me. You should hear how Zahra and I get on, sometimes. It drives my little sister, Grazenni, positively mad."
Recognizing the shift in Imelda's tone of voice, Alexander acknowledged the peace offering for what it was. "I believe it," he said with a quiet smile. "You should've heard the way Zahra and I got on, sometimes."
The clip-clopping of the horses' hooves did a sorry job at filling in the worried quietude that enveloped Alexander and Imelda. Clip, clop, clip, clop, clip, clop.
"How do you feel about me wanting to go rescue Zahra?"
"I'm thankful. I don't know if I could've handled the task alone. Having another person along is really helpful."
"You know what I'm asking, Imelda."
"Well...I think it's admirable, that you'd go and risk your life for her," Imelda said, voice cautious. "And after seeing the way you responded to the letter, I really do believe you're rescuing her for the right reasons. It's just...there are certain things about you that I just can't accept."
"Like what?" Alexander prodded, afraid of what he would hear but still desiring to know the answer.
"Like..." Imelda hesitated, clearly about to say something she knew Alexander wouldn't want to hear. After several moments' trepidation, she smiled and urged her horse forward. "Like how you gave the dullest, most docile horse." The issue would have to wait.