The Marriage Ch. 03

byDreamCloud©

"That you would admit it, yes," I replied. "Do I seem aloof?"

"Not now, but when Alia is near," Angelica answered. There was no pain in her voice. She wasn't upset. She was informing me.

"I must balance things better," I said. King Toric's words came back to me, 'Pray that three women do not drive you to an early grave.'

"As must I, when Mylle arrives," Angelica added. For Angelica's sake, I was looking forward to Mylle's arrival. Strangely, somewhere deeper, I resented it. I could not determine why. Angelica's happiness was as important as mine. A few days ago, I was adamant with the king, and proud to make the request. There was no reason to gainsay it. It simply bothered me.

"Ah, I see it in your face, too," Angelica said, "better that we both see it now."

"See what?"

"We are falling in love, you idiot," Angelica said, sounding upset for having to voice it. "Not the love we feel for Mylle and Alia, but love none the same. I am jealous of Alia. You looked like you bit a lemon when I mentioned Mylle. Do you deny it?"

"It will make things difficult," I said, realizing she had the truth of it.

"Or easier, I do not know," Angelica added. "What will Alia and Mylle think? We build this family, and now this happens. Do we tell them?"

"Gods! I think she already knows," I said, remembering the morning talk about Angelica's jealousy. My mother only had to push a little to get Alia to doubt me. The questions about me getting bored by not being with her in the day. The talk of producing an heir. She saw herself competing and losing. Now, she sent me to Angelica - she had decided to share. Angelica's mind was out there for all to see. Alia's was more subtle, but just as calculating.

Storm snorted and jostled on his forelegs. He was bored with standing. I turned him toward a cart path, and we headed down at a walk.

"Jealousy could ruin this," I offered.

"Only if we yield to it," Angelica said. "We make time for each other. We do not ignore each other."

"Where is the passion?" I asked. "Mayhap this is something else."

"Mayhap it is. It will grow, and we will see. I think passion will not be a part of it." Angelica looked over to me and smiled. "You intrigue me. Seeing you naked does not." I had to laugh at that.

"I do not yearn for you either," I said with a grin. "As a man, seeing you naked would be intriguing though." Angelica reached over and tried to slap my shoulder. I moved quicker to make her miss.

"Do you see that tree, the one with the drooping branches?" I pointed across the field we had been riding the border of. It looked a furlong away. Angelica nodded.

"A contest?" Angelica's smile broadened.

"Go!" I shouted. My lead was too feeble. Storm did his sire proud, but Sunrise had the best of him in the straightaway. Angelica's shout of victory was music to my ears. I did so enjoy her happiness.

We spent the rest of the morning riding about, seeing the surrounding parts she had not visited yet. It was relaxing after our earlier revelations. We planned longer rides for future days. Rides that would take us close to the borders of the kingdom. There was much she wanted to see. There was much I wanted to show her. If it was love, it was a candle compared to Alia's raging inferno.

<<<<<>>>>>

It was ten days later when lead riders arrived with news that Angelica's brother, and, more importantly, Mylle were a few hours away. We had been swamped with wedding preparations. It seemed the two queens had made it their mission to enlarge the affair. Angelica, who at first seemed to not care, was now deeply involved with every aspect. I had made it a point to find private time with both Angelica and Alia.

I was able to give Alia her first riding lesson. Her initial fear of the mild-tempered horse Cory had chosen quickly dissipated, and reemerged as adulation. Alia bonded with Apple quickly. Apple was an ugly beast, mostly brown with half his ass covered in white. He sagged in the middle, had stubby legs and molasses moved faster. Alia thought he was the king of horses. Cory informed me that Alia visited Apple on numerous occasions to sneak him treats. Apple knew where his bread was buttered and nuzzled her every chance he got. I did not have the heart to move her to a better mount. When your love smiles, you just ride along and enjoy it.

We waited in the main bailey for the arrival. The ceremonial guard was dressed in their crimson. The kings, queens, Angelica and Alia were present. Alia, as the crown's ward, was thrilled by the entire experience. I thought it useless, but tradition dictated we meet the future king in this way. Angelica had warned me of Uri's disposition so I was prepared for a grim greeting. Angelica had been quiet, unlike her nature, since the riders had arrived. I thought she was holding her excitement at bay, trying not to give herself away.

Uri rode at the lead of ten horses. His bearded face grim, his back straight as a board. I could see his father's face, minus the smile. My mother came forward and gave the formal greeting. Uri thanked her formally, his stiff expression never breaking. King Troic came forward and introduced his son to the Southerson family. There were no jests or warm handshakes. A simple bow was all he offered, and all he received in return. I disliked him immediately. When I was introduced, his eyes changed from indifferent to indignant. I returned the same and made certain my bow was less deep than his.

King Toric then brought his ward, Lady Mylle, forward. She was a petite woman, a full head shorter than I. She had long, raven hair with dark eyes to match. She looked apprehensive as she was introduced, her eyes kept flitting to Angelica who was trying desperately to not draw her attention. Uri was watching Angelica closely, which made me wary.

My mother and father received a small smile from Mylle as she was introduced. She looked nervous when she was introduced to me. I could see panic behind the dusting of freckles covering the bridge of her nose.

"Prince Cayden," Mylle said softly as she curtsied properly. I gave her what I thought was a charming smile, stepped forward, bowed and took her offered hand. I lightly kissed her knuckles.

"Lady Mylle, you are most welcome," I said clearly. I heard an almost silent grunt of disgust from Uri. I ignored it. "I have looked forward to meeting you. The princess has told me much about you. She somehow failed to mention your beauty, my Lady." The blushing smile I received was worth a hundred of Uri's grunts. Alia greeted Mylle with her own ravishing smile. Mylle seemed the better for it. I suspect she wasn't fully aware of what had transpired here.

"Lady Alia," my mother interjected when the introductions were complete, "can you show Lady Mylle to her room and help her settle?"

"Yes, your Highness," Alia said happily. She quickly took Mylle in tow, and they disappeared into the keep.

"I leave Prince Uri to your care," my mother said looking at me. The look was one of apology, but I was to be king one day. There were many objectionable tasks I would be forced to endure. This would be minor compared to most.

"Prince," I said, gesturing to the door. He followed silently. We were moving up the stairs when the silence felt uncomfortable. "Was the trip hard?" I asked, assuming his mood was somewhat driven by a bad day. He ignored the question and asked one of his own.

"Why has Mylle been summoned here?" Uri asked harshly.

"At my request," I answered stiffly. This was not going to go well. I wasn't going to try to feign propriety.

"You are aware of her history?" Uri snapped back. I stopped on the stairs and turned to face him.

"Fully," I said, standing my ground. "Have you come to disrupt the alliance?"

"My father's word stands," Uri said crossly, "so does my opinion." I nodded and continued up the stairs. We would not be friends. I took him down the hall, toward his parents' room, and stopped just prior and opened the door. "You will allow her shame to persist?" he asked rudely.

"Your concern for her is at an end," I said, "your opinion carries no weight here." I left him there in the hall. I was no longer concerned if he found the room comfortable. I would welcome the day he departs.

I took some deep breaths and shook off the encounter as I returned to my room. I did not want to bring the unpleasantness back to others. I was surprised to find three women in my room. Alia, Angelica and Mylle were seated and obviously waiting for me. Mylle's hand snapped from Angelica's when I entered. A reflex action, obviously, from years of hiding.

"Did it go well?" Angelica asked.

"We understand each other," I answered, "your father's word will be kept."

"There is that at least," Angelica said.

"How was your trip, my Lady," I addressed Mylle in a pleasant tone.

"Long, my Lord," Mylle answered. "Now I am confused by my princess's words." Angelica smiled at me softly. I could see the explanation was overwhelming.

"It is strangely simple, my Lady," I said calmly, "the kingdoms require an alliance by marriage. My bride and I love others. We choose both love and marriage." Angelica reached out and took Mylle's hand again. Mylle looked up at me, awaiting my displeasure. Instead, I sat next to Alia and took her hand in mine.

"You will allow this?" Mylle asked while holding up Angelica's hand.

"Only if you wish it," Alia said before I had a chance to respond. It was better she said it. It was not for me to allow or disallow. I saw a tear form in Mylle's eye.

"We can be together?" Mylle asked Angelica.

"Forever, my dear," Angelica answered sweetly. Tears began to flow and they were contagious. Alia stood and led me from the room. We left them there, together. No one would look for them in my room. Alia dragged me to the stables to pamper Apple.

<<<<<>>>>>

Dinner was a strange affair. The mood was bright and airy until you reached the dark cloud that was Uri. I could see he had had words with his parents. They were avoiding each other on purpose. Any attempt to pull Uri into a conversation was met with one word replies. He was insistent on his misery, and desired that all join him. I avoided him, least we come to blows.

Mylle shied away from adding to conversations. I sat between her and Angelica, with Alia on the other side of my bride. We thought this best to avoid noticeable familiarity. It was my duty, therefore, to break into Mylle's shell. My mother was struggling to help.

"That is a fetching gown you are wearing, my Lady," I said trying, to stir her thoughts.

"Thank you, my Lord," Mylle answered shyly. Her eyes looked at me, then quickly back to her plate of roast duck she had hardly touched. She was not accustomed to attention.

"Where did you find such pretty trim?" my mother asked.

"The seamstress chose it, your Highness," Mylle replied. Her responses were polite, but she never elaborated. I was going to stop for fear of embarrassing her, then thought better of it. She would be part of my strange family. It would be a long life for her if she failed to open up.

"Did you get many visitors at Douderson castle?" The question was open ended, and I hoped to get more than a one word response.

"Not many, my Lord," Mylle answered. I was thinking that question had also failed when she surprised me with an elaboration. "We did have a Turkish merchant a season back." I listen intently. "He brought the most amazing game; Tavia it is called." My mother smiled at me. I had found a topic.

"Tavia? I have not heard of this," I prompted with interest.

"It is played on a board with colored pieces and dice." Mylle's face brightened with enthusiasm. "You must use the dice to move your pieces around and off the board before your opponent does." Mylle's hands were gesturing, trying to draw the board in the air - as if that would help me understand. "You can knock the other's pieces back to the start if they are not protected." She looked up to my smile and realized I had only the vaguest idea what she was describing. Her knowing smile was adorable.

"I would love to teach you, my Lord." Mylle ended her lesson and resorted to an offer.

"I would like nothing better," I said, "you brought a board with you?"

"Oh yes, my Lord." I then received an excited description of a redwood board and the onyx playing pieces. My mother jumped back into the conversation wanting to know the history of the game. Mylle obliged and explained what she knew. The conversation started to shift, and Mylle did not falter. Her shyness a mere memory. I was rather proud of myself.

"I do love you so," Angelica whispered in my ear. I turned and saw it in her eyes. I had brought Mylle home and made her feel welcome. A greater gift I could not have given. Alia leaned forward, beyond Angelica, and smiled her love in turn. It would have been more pleasing if not for the acrimony in Uri's eyes.

<<<<<>>>>>

"Prince Uri does not seem pleased," Alia observed later that evening. We were alone in my room after most had retired. Angelica and Mylle departed quietly, I could only assume they were making up for lost time.

"He has a single vision of the world," I said as I sat down to relax. Alia scooted her chair to face mine, then lifted her bare feet onto my lap. I absently massaged her soles. "I do not believe we fit his version."

"Mylle is frightened of him," Alia added.

"He is an ignorant bastard," I said, "but there is an honor about him. He will follow his father's words. He will do nothing to hurt her." Alia's eyes closed as I found a sensuous spot to rub.

"Mmmm," Alia cooed, "Angelica loves you." Alia did not open her eyes or move her feet. She was just letting me know that she knew.

"Does that bother you?" I asked. I kept my voice steady and calm. The topic was bound to come up, and I was secretly happy she started it.

"Sometimes, briefly. Mostly, no," Alia answered as if I was asking what she wanted for lunch, "I think it will be better this way. I always knew it would happen." I moved my hands to the same sensuous spot on her other foot. I watched her shoulders turn to mush as she sank deeper into the chair. It was a good time to have the conversation.

"I have feelings for her, myself," I said calmly.

"And I have encouraged it," Alia said sleepily. She had been adamant about keeping my commitments to Angelica. "I see the same beginning in Mylle. She wants desperately to teach you her game. In time, she seek your love as well."

"She has only known me for half a day," I said incredulously," it is Angelica she loves." Alia's right eye opened and her adorable smile formed.

"I will not begrudge them," Alia said softly, "it is a strange thing we build here and love is inevitable." Her other eye opened. "It is I who gets all of you. I can share parts."

"You see much more than you let on," I said, "you would have made a great queen." Alia closed her eyes again, and I continued on her feet. "You have me wrapped around your finger," I realized out loud.

"You love me for it," Alia said, her voice dropping at the end. I went to work below her ankles, just above the heel. She was melting into the chair. It was true. I did love her for it. I ran my hand under her dress and up her calf. I raised her leg and kissed her big toe. I saw a little shiver run down her leg, and a smile form on her lips. I kissed the second toe then slowly sucked it into my mouth. I lifted her leg higher, and her hem fell to her thighs. The view was more than I had imagined.

"Do you ever wear underclothes?" I asked with a smile.

"My secret is out," Alia moaned.

"How will I control myself knowing this?" I jested. Alia lowered her legs and crawled over to my chair. She undid my trousers and pulled them off my legs. Laughing, she pulled me forward on the seat. She raised her skirts and straddled me there in the chair.

"It would be quicker if you did not wear trousers each day," Alia grinned. She reached between her legs and guided me into her. Both of us were ready. She lower herself until she sat on my thighs. She did not move once she had settled.

"See, you are mine now," Alia said sweetly.

"I have always been yours," I said. Alia shook her head.

"Your mind wanders, as does your love." Alia cradled my face with her hands. She kissed my nose. "Now, you think only of me. This is when I have all of you." She kissed my lips, and I felt her smile when my manhood twitched. "Your mother saw it in you that night you had words. She told me so - you would have thrown your family away for me. She begged me to undo what was done. I never imagined a queen begging me. She made me her daughter to repair your heart. That is the love I have from you. A love that moves a kingdom. I cherish it above all."

I had no words for what Alia said. My actions were the only responses that seemed appropriate. I made love slowly and ever so deeply. She was correct, I thought of no one else.

<<<<<>>>>>

Sunrise was in an especially feisty mood in the morning. Angelica had to twice reign her in from her own exuberance. Storm seemed to lumber beside her, content to move at my pace.

"Was it as wonderful as you remembered?" I asked Angelica.

"Most wonderful, my Prince," Angelica answered, "I can see by your smile, you did not wallow in jealousy over it." Her smile was teasing. Sunrise gave a little kick, and Angelica pulled her to task again.

"Shall we let her run a bit?" I offered. "She seems to be the jealous one." I encouraged Storm to a gallop, Sunrise followed with no encouragement needed. We rode hard, and in silence, through four fallow fields. We slowed as we approached a fence line. Sunrise seemed to calm.

"In a week's time we will be husband and wife," Angelica reminded me, "there will be duties then."

"You wish to start right away?" I asked, surprised. I thought we would ease into it.

"An heir would solidify everything," Angelica said, "Uri would not deny a nephew no matter his feelings for me. The future must be secured."

"Spoken like a queen." I smiled.

"My father will not live forever," Angelica continued, "Uri has not softened toward me as I had hoped. We are at risk without his backing." Angelica gave me a sly smile, "Also, the thought of a tiny Cayden is not unpleasant."

"Or a little Angelica," I added.

"Oh, that would be your undoing," Angelica laughed, "she would rule the kingdom through you. You would never learn to say no." I thought about it. It was true, but I saw a daughter as so perfect, the word 'no' would be unnecessary. A daughter as well as a son, the idea was growing on me.

"That is why I have you at my side," I jested, "I will love them, and you will discipline."

"I will discipline you," Angelica replied. We rode at a walk for a while, letting Sunrise and Storm recover from their run.

"Will you find the making of an heir...uncomfortable?" I asked carefully. I did not know what to think about what she thought. I did not know if she found men repulsive or just not enticing. I was not even sure if the question was insulting.

"I have talked with Alia about it," Angelica stated as if we were talking about fabric for a chair, "She said the first time has a little pain. She seemed certain I would not find it unpleasant after that." Angelica looked at me with a serious face. "She says you are quite good at it." I blushed. "I am to ask you to be slow, and not be so lustful the first time."

"You spoke with Alia about it?" The very thought made me nervous.

"Well, I cannot very well speak with Mylle about it," Angelica sounded exasperated, "she knows no more than I. It was Alia or my mother. Or yours if you would have me ask her." The thought of my mother giving my wife bedding instructions was worse than Alia doing it.

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