[ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]
.I still love my mother and I still mourn her.It’s okay to mourn those you loved.There’s no shame in it.”“I didn’t say there was,” he grumbled.She shrugged and rose from the bed.“I’m off to see your mother,” she announced as she smoothed down her skirts.Zorin rose up on his elbows, his giant ebony wings spread out behind him against the black sheets.“So that was it? I bare my soul to you and tell you all about your son and then you leave me here?”She smiled sweetly at him.“What else am I supposed to do with you?” she teased him.“Just because you were naked and had me in your bed doesn’t mean anything else.”He snorted.“Tease.”She waved blissfully at him.“You really are a good man, Zorin.Try to remember that.”He groaned.“Someone save me from overly sentimental women.”* * * *Her laughter followed her out into the hall where she ran into Amalthea and her guards.“Isabelle?” she asked, looking between her and Zorin’s dimly lit bedroom just beyond the door.“Have you been visiting my son so early?”She nodded, unashamed.“Yes.I have.”Amalthea frowned at her.“That is hardly proper.”Isabelle rolled her eyes and brushed off the older woman’s concerns.“I wanted to speak to you about the next council meeting.”Amalthea blinked at her.“Oh? Did you have some input in topics to discuss?”“Yes, I do,” Isabelle announced.She was warmed by the show of support Zorin made by coming up against her back.She turned and nodded to him, glad to see he had at least put on a pair of pants, even if they hung low around his hips and showed off a soft tangle of dark curls below his navel.She tried to ignore the heat in her cheeks as she faced down his mother.“I want humans involved in the council.In the future I want representatives from each community elected to speak at the council, but for this next one I want you to invite businessmen and landowners as well as anyone else who wishes to come.I don’t care if they are beggars or streetwalkers.If they live in the Phaedran Empire they should have a say about what goes on here.I understand if not everyone can make it, but in the future I want them to try harder to attend.” Isabelle held up her hand as Amalthea began to protest.“And I want the Draconians and dragons to be allowed back in.There will be no more bounty on their heads.If I hear of any reports of someone trying to murder one of them I will have them executed.”“But that’s preposterous! You can’t do that!” Amalthea sputtered.Isabelle stared her down, confident and collected even as Zorin’s hand snaked around her side to land lightly on her hip in a clear sign of support.“I will not have my son or his father in danger.If anyone else is banned from the council meetings I want them able to attend as well.No longer will your meetings just be about the elite Angelus.Phaedra belongs to everyone now, just as it should have always been.”Amalthea glared at her.“You are not the queen.You have no power here.You are a princess who has been cast out of her own lands.You do not get to make demands here.Stand aside.”Isabelle narrowed her eyes at the queen.“I may not be queen yet.But I will be one day very soon and you can avoid a lot of bloodshed by helping to facilitate what will become of these lands.This will happen with or without you.Zorin?”“Yes, my lady?” he practically purred in her ear, his approval dripping from every word.“Have I forgotten anything?” she asked.“Taxes.Angelus and those in power along with them should be taxed at the same rate as the humans,” he told her quickly, despite Amalthea’s chagrined look.Isabelle nodded.“Equal taxes.”“And execution for Angelus as well, not just humans,” Zorin added.Isabelle’s temper flared.“Just because you have wings and I don’t does not mean that we should be any less than equals, Amalthea,” Isabelle told her.“Zorin’s request is a good one.And fair trials for all.And fair punishments as well.”“I don’t know what’s happened to you, but I will not let this stand,” Amalthea seethed.Isabelle shrugged.“Then find another qualified woman to take your place.”“You know that there isn’t one!” the queen screeched.Isabelle gave her a level gaze.“Then I suggest you help me with this instead of me forcing these new laws onto your people later.At the next council these new laws will be brought into action.I will be attending with Zorin by my side.”“Isabelle?” Zorin said gently.“Yes?” she replied, not taking her eyes off Amalthea as the woman struggled to recollect herself.“Two things.First, don’t be hard on my mother.Many of the old laws were in place from my grandmother’s rule and were just never changed.”Isabelle snorted.“Laziness hardly takes the sting from being unjust.”He nodded.“And you’re right.But try not to blame her too much.”She tapped her foot impatiently.“And the second?”“Your uncle will be at the next council meeting if you proceed like this.He’s human and although he’s never been allowed to attend before—”“I’ll have opened the door for him and invited the monster inside,” Isabelle finished for him.Zorin nodded.“Are you sure that you still wish to proceed?”She looked up at him, feeling vulnerable and needing his comfort.“You’ll be there to protect me?”He nodded quickly and pulled her tight against him.“As will Faolan.And the griffons and the dragons and the unicorns and any other creature I can scrounge up.You’ve given them a voice.Good job.”She blushed and turned back to Amalthea who was much calmer now and eying them speculatively before saying, “Are you sure that a party is definitely in order? It seems you’ve found your king already.”“No,” Isabelle said at the same time Zorin said, “Yes.”Amalthea smiled indulgently at them.“Well, you’ll certainly make an interesting queen.And your people, I’m sure, will love you for it.”Isabelle blinked at her.“You were furious a moment ago.And now…” her voice trailed off as she stared at the woman.“I don’t agree with your ideas,” Amalthea told them.“And I am reluctant to see any of them put into action.But only time will tell if you’ve both made grave mistakes or if there can be good in this world again.People adapt to changes.We long lived creatures forget that.Perhaps this will be beneficial for us all,” Amalthea said as she walked past them.“I don’t forgive you for scheming.But I do commend you on your ideas,” she called back over her shoulder.“Now excuse me, children, I’ve got an engagement party to prepare.”Both Isabelle and Zorin stared after her as she swept down the hall, her guards and ladies close on her heels.Chapter FiveThe morning of the party involved Isabelle holding her tongue and biting her lips to keep from screeching at Amalthea.She gasped loudly as Meggie tightened the laces on the lacy corset she was being forced into as Amalthea looked on with a disappointed turn to her well-polished lips.“Tighter,” she called, despite Isabelle’s groans of displeasure.“It can’t,” she gasped as another lace was pulled, “go any tighter.”“Of course it can.You just haven’t worn one in years.Now pull it tighter, Meggie.We haven’t got all day to stand here [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]