The Fae Worlds

Talking to Adrianna

The Duke’s Ball

When Nate walked in with Adrianna on his arm I knew exactly what he, and his brother, were doing. Had it not been for Richard Nate would never have known who she was. That would have been better for everyone involved. Seeing the pain in her eyes when she realised the man she loved was betraying her… had I been anyone else I would have been able to comfort her, but I wasn’t. She didn’t trust me, and that I understood. I was the Duke of West, a title that came with certain connotations I’d done nothing to dispel when I inherited it, knowing they’d help me in the future. People who looked at me saw my father’s son. People who got to know me quickly realised I was nothing like my father. Adrianna didn’t know me. There was a chance she would never see past the person I pretended to be.
“I don’t believe Nate would do anything to hurt me.” Yet there was uncertainty in her voice, because she no longer trusted him. She couldn’t. When he found out who she was his plan had been to use her. “Richard, however, is a different matter entirely.”
There were so many things I wanted to say. None of them would help the situation, so I held them back, my eyes on hers. “I know you have no reason to trust me. Unfortunately for you I’m now the best choice you have. I will keep you safe.”
“Keep me safe?” She laughed. “Do you know how long I’ve been keeping myself safe, Your Grace?”
“You’ve been keeping yourself safe by hiding who you are.” I knew far more about her than she would have wanted me to, because of who she was. Keeping an eye on her was one of the most important jobs I had inherited. Had she known more about her own family’s history things might have been different, but she didn’t, and that, for the moment, meant I didn’t have to answer the truly difficult questions she was going to ask in the future. “How long has it been since you used your magic, Adrianna?”
She stared at me for a long time. “Long enough.”
“Do you have wards?” I already knew the answer to the question, but it was the logical one to ask next, so I asked it. “Strong wards might be enough, but people are better. If you were to stay here I have guards watching over the place day and night.”
“No, I don’t have wards.” She raked a hand through her hair, glaring at me as though this whole mess was my fault. “A promise? Who did you make it to, and when?”
“Promises can be passed down from one generation to the next. In this family that’s normal.” I studied her. “You have a choice to make, Adrianna, and I know it’s not an easy one, but a man you dislike knows who you are. He also knows what you’re truly capable of, had you not spent the last fifty years hiding from who you are. What I think Richard made very obvious today is that he’s willing to use the people around him to get what he wants. There is a reason he chose Nate to help him with this. He believed that your love for Nate would be enough to convince you to do what he wanted you to. He thought you’d do whatever you had to in order to keep Nate in your life, only you made a different decision to the one he expected you to make.”
“How did you know what I’d do?”
“Fifty years of hiding. Fifty years of pretending to be someone you’re not. No one does that for no reason at all, and, as I know that book, I can understand why you made the decisions you did. People, if they knew, would have been trying to use you for as long as you have lived, and that includes Nate. You might want to believe he’s different, but he isn’t.”
“You don’t know him.”
“I know him.” I smiled. “I’ve known Nate for as long as you have, maybe longer. The two of us used to be friends, a long time ago, but time changes so many things.” My smile faded as I thought of what could have been, had Father not… I pushed that aside. It had happened. It was in the past, and there was nothing I could do to change what had been. All I could do was move on. “I know I’m the very last person you want to have to rely on right now, but that book is out in the world again. You are the only one who is truly in danger from it.”
Adrianna, for a moment, looked like she wanted to argue with me, but she knew the truth. She knew the danger she had left herself in by making the choices she had. Biting hard on her lip, her eyes full of emotion, she nodded. “You’re right. I am the only person in danger from that damned book, and I thought I’d done enough to protect myself.” Running her tongue over her lips she looked down at the floor. “How did Richard find out who I was?”
“Richard asked the right people the right questions. That, unfortunately, has always been something he’s good at. Had he not asked those questions he never would have known, but he did.”
Nodding, she sighed. “Then I don’t have a choice. I can’t go back. Now they know there is no going back.” She looked at me again, raking her hand through her hair, the anger having taken over once more. “I don’t like you.”
Laughing was not the right reaction, but I couldn’t help myself. “Most people don’t like me.” I stepped towards her. “I can prove to you that I am doing this for the right reasons, if you would be willing to take my hand.”
“There’s no reason for you to prove anything, Your Grace. As much as I hate to admit it I believe you. You stepped in when you didn’t need to.” She shook her head. “I’m pretty certain you told me what you did in order to make sure I came up here, and yet I can’t help thinking you did it for the right reasons. That’s not something I would have thought was possible before today.”
“Does that mean I can assume you will be taking the room that was set up for you?”
“Why is there a room set up for me?”
“Nate very rarely accepts invitations to anything like this. When he did I knew something was up, especially as Richard had also agreed. The two of you stepped in together, and the moment that happened I was told, so I could start preparing for what was to come next.”
“You could have made the decision to protect the book.”
“I did. I protected the book by protecting you.” I smiled. “You are the only wild card right now. The only other person who can use that book is more than capable of dealing with Richard, if he does make the decision to go and find her. I truly doubt he will, unless he feels he has no other choice, but I think he’s still going to believe there is some way of convincing you to help him with his plans.”
She shook her head. “That’s never going to happen. I know what that book is capable of, and there is no way he can convince me to touch it, let alone make use of it.” Shuddering, she looked back at where the book had been. “He doesn’t understand.”
“Very few people do, and it’s normally better than way. It’s just when people like Richard get it into their head that they can use the book that there are problems.”
Adrianna’s eyes met with mine. “If it’s not too much trouble I do need someone to get my things.”
“That will be done.” I wasn’t going to tell her someone was already on the way to do just that. She didn’t need to know how certain I was she was going to accept the room I offered her. Knowing that book, and her, the way I did made it obvious she would make the right choice. Had she not… well, there were other choices, although there were some things my father might have done in that situation that I truly wasn’t willing to. “How about I get someone to show you to your room? Then you can get yourself settled in. We can talk some more at a later time, if that’s what you wish to do.”
Nodding, she almost smiled. “Thank you.”
“You have nothing to thank me for.” I gestured to someone I had waiting by the door. Niamh stepped into the library, glancing at me once. “This is Niamh. She’ll be your guide for the next few days, as you get used to the castle.” I stepped back. “If you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to the ball.”

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