Chapter 2- The Count's Son

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Wind whipped through the grassy meadow, making the yellowing grass ripple like waves. Darith stared at the movement as he buckled his pants, trying to hold onto the pleasantness of the moment. The conversation coming would be distasteful, and the taste in his mouth was foul knowing he should have talked with her first.

He glanced to the sky as a shadow fell over him from one of the floating districts over the planet of Yahal. Sometimes he wished he could join them up there, reveling in the wickedness of technology and degenerate morals. He wouldn't be in this situation then-- it was only the nobles and the huge farming communities that lived on Yahal that took sex so seriously.

Gretta arranged her skirts and picked bits of grass from the small tight curls of her free hair. She was a remarkable creature, and Darith allowed himself a moment to admire the smooth molasses brown of her skin, especially where her bust met the white of her low collar.

Why did I believe she'd prove any longer lasting than the other village girls? They always ask too much.

Darith fingered a small clip of cash in his pocket, but, no. She hadn't done anything to imply she was one of those girls. Some of them secretly liked having cash tossed their way as a consolation prize. This girl's family wasn't poor, just lower-class.

"Next week?" Gretta asked.

"No. It's been lovely," he said.

"Lovely? I don't understand."

"I didn't take you for dim-witted." Darith turned and walked back to his car. The black vehicle was parked as to block them from view.

"Why?" came her breathy reply, at last.

Darith looked at her reflection in the tinted windows of the car. Tear-filled eyes stared up at him, not yet angry, but that would come next. As his mother always said, the truth liberates and heeding those hurt by it is a pointless endeavor.

"My father is the count. My wife isn't going to be some sweet-faced shop girl. You're not going to be the mother of my children. What is the point of continuing once you start bandying around words like love? I can't love you. Call that accountant you keep laughing about— he wants to hear your love confessions and earns enough to support you well. Haven't you wasted enough time chasing dreams?"

"Yer heartless, Darith Cortanis. Ye—"

"No, dear. Heartless would be continuing only to discard you, and some bastard child, when I found a woman I intended to marry. This is pragmatism."

Gretta threw a tuft of grass at him, the dirty roots brushed his calf.

"I never asked for more than you can give. Never," she shouted.

Darith rubbed his forehead, wondering if the money wasn't a good idea after all. He'd enjoyed this one. The tears rolling down her cheeks shown in her reflection in the car windows touched him where her words failed.

"But you would have. Would it be kindness to continue this a year or two until your other suitors are gone? How long before this affair gets out and you are considered sullied? Any other planet than Yahal you might be fine, but here? No decent man would have you. I'm too young to commit to a lifelong mistress, and you deserve a husband."

"Why start if..." her words choked off in a sob.

"Because you are lovely, and I'm ending it because you want love. Call me heartless if the words console you."

He'd thought Gretta had more common sense than this. Sometimes village girls understood intuitively what his attentions meant. He granted them some patronage, and they both enjoyed the dalliance. If they wanted a more liberated society, more options, then all they needed was a passport off of Yahal.

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