Chapter 1 Part 7 | Son in Sorrow | IHGK Book 2
Tellis exhaled and tried to pick up her teacup but trembled so hard she gave up. "You thought you were dismissed from Meadow House last year, because...because of what happened between you and the Heir."
Mattie's stomach clenched at the memory of that night, a year ago almost to the day. She wouldn't have minded the Prince's attentions in a different context. He was quite handsome but he was also quite drunk when he'd discovered her half-dressed in the hedge alley with her sweetheart. If she hadn't done exactly what the Prince said, she knew she'd be cashiered though he'd said otherwise. She'd done what he asked--no more than a few kisses and some fumbling gropes at her breasts before he threw up--but her mother had fetched her home before the spoke was out, just as she'd known would happen. "If that wasn't it, then what was it?"
"They paid me to take you away."
"Who paid you? Why?"
Her mother's trembling increased. "The royal family. Here is the secret, oh my Mattie, my darling girl!" She looked old and frightened, and suddenly Mattie was frightened, too. "Mattie, you are not Mr Dunley's girl. You're the King's."
Mattie let out a strangled laugh. "What?"
"You are an Antremont, not a Dunley. You are the daughter of His Majesty King Harsin. You know I was in service at the Great House, yes? The King saw me there, when Prince Temmin was born. It was only three times, but I got you from it, my precious, precious girl."
She thought of Papa, how he held her hand as they walked home to the tavern after Paggday market, how his laugh rang out when he joked with customers in the taproom, how he always smelled of sweet pipe smoke when he kissed her goodnight. "Papa wasn't my father?"
"He was your father in all the ways that matter, sweetheart! Darwas knew you weren't his, he married me when I was already two spokes gone, but oh, but he was your Papa! He loved you so much, Mattie, never, never doubt that!" cried her mother. Mattie sat silent, staring at nothing while her mother sobbed. After many sniffs and shudders, Tellis brought her tears under control. "No one knew but your Papa for the longest time, though I think Standfast Jenks always suspected. He would never say anything, though, that dear man. He must have spoken out for fear..." She shuddered into her handkerchief again. "He must have been afraid the Prince might send for you, and that would not do."
"No." Mattie's eyes turned hot and heavy. "I'm tired now, Mama. I know you are. Perhaps you and I should turn in."
Tellis hugged her close and whispered love into her ear as they parted on the landing outside their bedrooms. Ianna the parlor maid came to her after attending her mother, helped her out of her gown and then into bed. Mattie blew out the candle. She lay in the dark, her head too full for sleep.
She was Mattisanis Antremont, not Mattisanis Dunley. Prince Temmin was her brother. That made the Princesses her sisters. She had always wanted brothers and sisters. Now she had three. Did this make her a Princess, too? No, all it made her was a bastard. If Adrik found out, he wouldn't offer for her. But could she deceive him? Tears rose into her eyes and throat in a flood, pouring from her heart until she fell asleep.
Temmin danced until the others dragged him away, making up for the spokes spent isolated from society in general and his family in particular. Now he followed Anda and the twins into the staff foyer of the Lovers' Temple and he wasn't tired a bit. "But the musicians were still playing!" he protested, stubbornly bringing up the rear.
"Because you were still there," said Anda.
"Have pity, Tem! It's nearly five--they were falling asleep clutching their instruments," said Allis.
Issak rumpled Temmin's already hectic hair on his way to the stairs leading to his suite. "Master Sullo was this close to dropping his baton."
"But I was enjoying myself! It's my birthday! I'm not tired!"
"I am," said Anda. "I can't believe you're not exhausted--you danced almost every dance and drank I don't know how much sparkling wine."
"We royals have strong constitutions. Ellika was still dancing when we left!"
"Your sister has feet of steel," Issak called from the landing above them. "Goodnight, Temmin Supplicant!"
Anda kissed him. "Goodnight, Tem. I'm going to sleep. By myself. Don't come near me unless you intend to rub my feet. Unlike your sister's, mine are made of mere flesh. Very sore flesh." She hobbled through the back door of the Supplicants Chamber.
"Hmf," said Temmin, scratching his chin. "I'm still not sleepy!"
"Good," smiled Allis.
He swiveled, surprised to see she hadn't followed her brother upstairs. "Good?"
"Good." She twined her arms around him, stood up on her toes and kissed him.
He'd never gotten used to her kisses; the hair on his nape still bristled, warm shivers still shook him. He never got as many as he wanted, either. Though he'd come here in no small part for her, they spent only limited, official time together--never more so than lately. Temmin bent over to let her feet rest on the floor, and the kiss ended, their foreheads touching. "Is this a kiss goodnight?"
"Not unless you want it to be."
He kissed her again. "I never want to say goodnight to you."
"Then you are a rude young man." She took his hand and led him up the Embodiments' stairs. At the top stood two doors; the red with white carvings led to Issak's suite, the white with red carvings led to Allis's. She opened her door and pushed him inside, laughing.