Xavier groaned as he sank into the heated bath water. Although Dianthe and the girl denied their weariness, they could not hide their delight when Xavier suggested a night at an inn instead of camping under the stars as they had up to this point.
The boy who he knew as Icarus was actually a woman, and not only that, she was princess Cardelia. This was what had been bothering Xavier the about the “boy”. If he had his wits about him, he would have noticed that Icarus had no adam’s apple and no growth of beard. He would have noticed the instances when Dianthe had almost slipped up and called her Cardelia.
But, he’d been too caught up in Dianthe, her proximity, and his guilt at lying to her to pay attention to the details. He relished his time with Dianthe but it was now done. It was time to set things straight.
#Valerius had no idea how to deal with the creature who sat opposite him. Her hair was combed and styled, the unruly locks now smoothed and framed her face. How could he have ever mistaken her for a boy? Her green eyes sparkled like emeralds even as they flashed bolts of anger his way. Her lips were full and lush, and a light dusting of freckles accentuated her otherwise flawless skin.
Xavier entered the dining hall and Valerius made some room so he could sit.
“Princess, Lady Dianthe,” Xavier bowed low before sitting down next to Valerius. Cardelia acknowledged Xavier with a nod.
“Have you any idea how much danger you are in? Riding out alone with only us for protection?” Xavier’s tone was scolding.
“I don’t care,” Cardelia said, crossing her arms across her chest. “I don’t want to marry a man who I had no hand in selecting.”
“If you don’t have a care for yourself, think about the rest of us. Your father would have our heads on pikes decorating the city gates. He would use our skin to cover the chairs in your great hall.”
“I…I didn’t think about that.” Cardelia lowered her eyes, realizing Xavier spoke the truth.
“Don’t forget you almost drowned today,” Valerius added.
“No thanks to you!” Cardelia shot back.
“This is the thanks I get for fishing you out? Next time I won’t bother,” Valerius grumbled.
“Enough!” Xavier silenced the two of them. “We are not without fault in this matter. We have been lying to you ladies as well,” Xavier took a deep breathe, looking straight at Dianthe as he spoke.
“I am not Valerius, I’m Xavier. I switched identities with my younger brother, here, because I am not as fair to look upon as he, and I did not wish to frighten you. But the time for lies is past. Should we find the flower, princess, it will be me, not my brother to whom you will be wed.”