The rumors of Cardelia’s beauty were not exaggerated. Valerius took a moment to get a hold of himself, keep from staring. She was stunning with her green eyes, lush red lips, milky skin, and long red curls. He concentrated on his guilt so he wouldn’t stare, mouth agape like some brainless imbecile.
He felt terrible that he was up at the main table, taking his meal with the old king and the beauty on his left when Xavier, who had suffered and given so much for the village and for him, had to sit with the commoners, eating coarse bread and drinking watered down wine while he indulged in the delicacies of flavorful meat, fresh fish and strong sweet wine.
If Dianthe wasn’t so nervous at having to pretend to be Cardelia, she would have been more receptive to the man called Xavier’s attempts to engage her in conversation. He certainly was handsome. The trouble was that he knew it. He’d had the gall to wink at her when Quirinus wasn’t looking and used the excuse of clumsiness to brush his hand against hers time and again. If he did it again, she’d use the clumsiness excuse herself to stomp on his toe.
Dianthe tried to pay attention to Xavier’s clever quips and quick wit, but instead was strangely drawn to the figure hidden half in shadows in the back. He had a horrible scar running down his face yet he sat tall and proud, almost regally, looking dangerous, like he’d as soon run someone through with his sword than have them mention his scar. Dianthe felt an overwhelming urge to go to him, soothe him.
Xavier was angry. All his life, he’d selflessly given of himself to protect his family and his people. And now, when he was at his lowest, feeling half dead, broken, and worthless, the Gods had put Cardelia in front of him. Why? He raged silently. The one time he wanted something, or should he say someone, for himself the Gods had put her impossibly out of his reach.
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