Chapter 14

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“I asked you to keep away from Tofer,” said Maelyn.

Arialain sat on the bed in her small chamber. She gathered her knees to her chest and hugged her ankles. In her white nightdress, she looked much younger than a girl of fifteen. “I’m not trying to… to marry Tofer! He’s my friend.”

“Has he kissed you?” Maelyn sat against the opposite wall, in the same chair Uncle Jarrod had used. Arialain shook her head.

“Tofer is a nice boy,” said Maelyn. “But not a nobleman. You know Mother wanted noblemen for all of us.”

Arialain sunk her chin in her knees. “Why? We weren’t born noble.”

“But we are now.” Maelyn’s tone hardened. “It would be ungrateful to our parents to throw that away on a commoner.”

Arialain raised her green eyes. Her yellow hair hung in delicate wisps around her face. “Forgive me, Mae. I – I don’t think that’s why.”

Maelyn frowned. “What?”

“Some people say we’re not truly princesses,” said Arialain. “And… I believe that frightens you. You think if we marry commoners… it will be like surrendering. Admitting they are right about us.”

Maelyn lost her words. She went to the window and watched the moon weave through thin strips of clouds. Arialain was right, of course. But that changed nothing.

“Ari,” said Maelyn, turning to face her, “Promise me you will stop seeing Tofer.”

“Oh, Mae!” Arialain cried. Maelyn watched her steadily, knowing her sister usually succumbed to a hard look. Arialain wept into her knees for several minutes. Then she lifted her wet face. “I promise.”

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