“Of course not,” the scarred Red woman adds dryly. Father takes her disrespect in stride, but only for the coalition’s sake. If not for our alliance, I suspect he would kill her, to teach everyone a lesson in propriety.
Cal calms a little, doing his best to keep his head. “How long will you be gone, Premier?”
“It depends on my government, but I don’t expect a long debate,” Davidson says.
Queen Anabel claps her hands in amusement. She laughs, deepening the lines on her face. “How interesting, sir. And what does your government consider a long debate?”
At this point, I feel like I’m watching a play led by mediocre actors. Not one of them—Father, Anabel, Davidson—trusts a breath out of the others.
“Oh, years.” Davidson sighs, matching her forced humor. “Democracy is a funny thing. Not that any of you know that yet.”
The final jab is meant to sting, and it does. Anabel’s smile turns frosty. She taps a hand against the table, another warning. Her ability can destroy with ease. Just like the rest of us. All deadly, all with our own motives at play. I don’t know how much longer I can stand it.
“I’m excited to see it for myself.”
The temperature rises before the words are barely out of Mare’s mouth. She’s the only one who doesn’t glance at Cal. He glares at her, eyes burning, while his teeth worry at his lip. She remains resolute, her expression pleasantly blank. I think she’s taking a page out of Davidson’s book.
Quickly, I put a hand to my mouth, stifling a surprised giggle. Mare Barrow is so wickedly talented when it comes to upsetting Calore men. At this point, I wonder if she plans it. Lies awake at night and schemes on how best to confuse Maven or distract Cal.
But does she? Could she?
On instinct, I try to smother the spark of hope that bursts in my chest. Then I let it bloom.
She did it to Maven. Kept him occupied. Kept him off balance. Kept him away from you. Why can’t she do the same with Cal?
“Then you will be a good envoy for Norta instead.” I try to sound bored, uninterested. Not eager. I don’t want anyone to realize I’m throwing the bone far away, knowing the puppy will follow. Mare’s eyes snap to me, her brows rising a centimeter. Come on, Mare. I’m glad no one here can read my mind.
“No, she won’t, Evangeline,” Cal says quickly, forcing the words through gritted teeth. “I mean no disrespect, Premier, but we don’t know enough about your nation—”
I blink at my betrothed, tipping my head. Silver hair slides across the scaled armor at my collarbone. The power I have in this moment, however small, snaps through my nerves. “And what better way to know? She’ll be well received, a hero. Montfort is a country of newbloods. Her presence will help our cause. Won’t it, Premier?”
Davidson fixes me with his blank eyes. I feel his stare go through me. Look all you want, Red. “Undoubtedly.”
“You trust her to report what she finds there? Without embellishment or omission?” Anabel scoffs in disbelief. “Make no mistake, Princess Evangeline, the girl has no loyalty to anyone with Silver blood.”
Both Cal and Mare lower their eyes at the same moment, as if fighting not to look at each other.
I shrug. “Then send a Silver with her. Perhaps Lord Jacos?” The older man, thin in his yellow robes, seems startled by the sound of his own name. He has a frayed appearance, like a worn piece of cloth. “If memory serves, you’re a scholar, aren’t you?”
“I am,” he murmurs.
Mare’s head snaps up. Her cheeks are red, but the rest of her seems composed. “Send whoever you want with us. I’ll be going to Montfort, and no king has the right to stop me. But they can certainly try.”
Excellent. Calore tightens in his chair. His grandmother looms close, smaller in comparison to him. But their resemblance is still clear. Same bronze eyes, broad shoulders, straight nose. The same soldier’s heart. And, ultimately, the same ambition. She watches him as she speaks, wary of his response. “So Lord Jacos and Mare Barrow will represent the true king of Norta alongside—”