‘How are you, Cousin?’
Aaron’s eyes were wide and flecked with green, but they betrayed no emotion, and certainly not the concern he wished to portray.
Beatrix would’ve liked to say something clever, like: ‘I demand to be returned to my tent at once,’ or ‘How dare you steal a Lady in such a way’. But when she tried to open her mouth and swing her legs from the chaise longue she was lying on at the same time, the world span and she felt bile rise in her throat.
‘There, there. You’re safe now. You’ve been through a terrible ordeal, but all that’s over now.’
‘I don’t know what you mean,’ she slurred, hating herself for her physical weakness.
‘That’s alright. Don’t you worry about a thing.’ And he reached out to touch her shoulder.
‘Get away from me! How dare you!’ She tried to move away, but there was no need.
His arm retracted, and he turned away with a sigh.
‘Still cold as ever, I see. Tea?’
He handed her a beautiful china teacup with blue flowers painted on it, filled with hot tea. She was going to refuse, but it smelt so nice, especially when wafted right beneath her nose like that... Maybe just a sip...
Aaron smiled. ‘Good to see you recover so quickly, Cousin.’
The tea made her feel worse, and she pushed it away. All those soldiers out there risking their lives - all this conflict, all this death - just for a man who sat in here sipping tea. She wanted to stand up, she wanted to strike him, she wanted to hurt him...
She sat back, frightened at her own violence, at her own anger. Control! she told herself.
If she’d killed him, how many lives would she have saved? How many women would have fathers, sons, husbands return to them?
She was right not to strike him down. But she’d have been heroic to do so.
How many of those subsequent deaths were her fault?
She would come to ponder this in later years, but she never found an answer.