‘What do you want from me?’ She didn’t really need to ask. He wanted what every other man wanted. She’d been so naïve to think anyone was any different.
‘Oh, I’m going to use you for a purely political purpose, you have my word on that,‘ he said carelessly, but the glint in his eye said otherwise. ‘Simply dwell on this - how well do you think your ‘friends‘ love their Lady Beatrix? Enough to give up their chance of freedom?’
Beatrix went cold. Whatever she had expected, it hadn’t been this. Fool! Of course that’s what he wanted! She was a bargaining chip, nothing more. As she had been all her life.
‘No. You can’t do this!’
He looked mildly amused. ‘Oh, I think you’ll find I can. I have already dispatched an emissary to the rebels with my terms. They have until midnight to fully surrender and send me their leader to ensure their... obedience.’
Hathering. No! Ye gods, what would Aaron do to him?
‘What if... What if I told you I was their leader?’
Aaron laughed this time. ‘You, their leader? Don’t be ridiculous! You must take me for a fool! Give me some credit. At least Hathering isn’t stupid enough to follow a woman.’
Beatrix had to bite her lip to stop herself from murdering her cousin with her cup and saucer.
No,‘ Aaron continued. ‘They’ve got a soft spot for you, and no mistake. I’m merely doing what any good general does - saving lives by taking the diplomatic option.’
‘You’re not a good general, and this certainly doesn’t count as ‘diplomatic’,‘ Beatrix growled.
Aaron’s eyes narrowed, and the temperature in the room went from chilly to freezing.
‘What did you say?’
Beatrix kept her voice as level as she could, but inside she was screaming. ‘You heard.’
Aaron stood up slowly, his beady eyes examining Beatrix minutely, lingering. She flushed.
Finally, he said: ‘You’re lucky you’re so beautiful. Or I might kill you myself.’
She met his gaze steadily. ‘I’d like to see you try.’