An hour later, Beatrix was standing outside the stables, dressed in her green riding dress and with her hair pinned upon her head. She was expecting a ride of about an hour, perhaps a short break at the river not far away. What she was not expecting, however, was her cousin, Aaron.
‘Ah! My sweet cousin! Your maid informed me you would ride out today. We should ride out together – make a day of it!’
Beatrix paused. ‘Sir, I do not understand your meaning. I was under the impression that-’
‘Very well! I am pleased you like the suggestion. I took the liberty of ordering your horse prepared for you. We can ride out straight away, with no further delay!’
And so it was that Beatrix found herself riding out towards the forest by the side of her cousin.
‘Ah, what a beautiful day it is!’ sighed Aaron. Then, with a glint in his eye: ‘But I would far rather have a beautiful woman than a beautiful day, think not you, Cousin?’
Beatrix kept her face impassive. ‘I really do not believe I am best placed to answer that question, My Lord.’
Aaron laughed. ‘Perhaps not. But come, Beatrix, less of the formalities. I am no more than your cousin, my dear.’
‘On the contrary, My Lord, you are many things, the least of which being my cousin. You are Erl of Tarnsbrough, nephew of the late King Roald, and, of course, Prince Regent of Disnarta – at least until our own Prince is found. I really do not think you are nothing more than a cousin, My Lord.’
Aaron narrowed his eyes slightly. ‘I sincerely hope you do not side with the outlaw Owain, Beatrix? While his actions shocked us all to our very cores, we cannot simply act as if they did not happen. He is no longer Prince of Disnarta. I only wish we could welcome him back as such – but it is not to be.’