"Papa's tax," Kin says, and offers it to me.

I copy my husband—mmm, mint chocolate chip—and hand the cone back to Terse.

We have to wait in the marshalling area for another twenty minutes, during which our kids finish their ice cream. I am grateful that one of the folks with us has wet wipes handy to clean up their faces, and I sign about ten copies of The Riveting Return of Kintyre Turn, book one of the new series, for the people on the float. Kintyre has near about three heart attacks trying to keep Ettie and Terse from clambering down the giant wheels under us, or eating the candy necklaces we're supposed to be throwing to the crowds along the route, or deciding to play hide-and-seek without telling us and suddenly vanishing.

Adam, who's been keeping an eye on our little hellions, waggles his eyebrows at the back of the oversized stack of books. I can see Ettie's stuffed unicorn peering around the corner, as if my kid would be able to spy on her brother through its plastic eyes. Yup, that's Kin's daughter right there. But she reminds me a lot of Vulej, too, my next eldest brother, in her carefree joy and determination to never miss out on any of the simple pleasures that life has on offer.

Terse, I can't spot, however. I'm not certain how they think they can play hide-and-seek when there's only two of them, but they're seven, and they seem to have a secret and special way of doing things between themselves which only makes sense to them. Pip calls it a "twin thing," and Alis calls it "stinking unfair" when it means their older cousin gets excluded.

A cheer rises from the waiting crowd around us, and a whistle shrieks over the blare of dance music that gets cranked up. Kintyre reaches around the stack of books and lifts Ettie up by the back of her shirt, hefting her onto his massive shoulder. Ettie squeals with glee, the unicorn flying. Adam catches it before it can sail over the edge of the float.

Predictably loath to be left out of anything, Terse squirms out from his hiding place behind the barrel of candy necklaces and scrambles up the side of the books to take his rightful place on his da's other shoulder.

"Oh my god!" one of the other people on the float squeals, and those ever present bloody cameras and phones all start snapping and clicking. Kin flashes his movie-star smile at them, and the twins strike poses with their arms in the air. Kin flexes his biceps, the glorious show-off, bracketing Ettie and Terse so they can't slide off when the massive truck pulling the float lets out a deep honk and begins to slowly roll down the street.

"Pa!" Terse commands indignantly when I stay where I am, admiring the picture my family makes on the colorful float, instead of joining them. "Come on! You're missing it!"

"All right, Lordling Terse, all right," I chuckle. We call him that not because he is the heir to anything we can claim anymore—besides, his half-brother Wyndam is still above him in precedence—but because he likes things Just So. He keeps tabs on everyone, has a head for names, and faces, and is the most proficient small-talker I've ever seen in a seven-year-old. If we were all still in Hain, I might have started to worry that Gisella Gyre might snatch the boy up for her apprentice courtier and secret Shadow-Hand-in-Training.

Ettie—sweet, boisterous Ettie—would probably be kissing frogs, and tumbling through the wheat fields, and brandishing toy swords alongside Lewko Pointe. I would probably have to talk her down off Capplederry every night so she could sit with us for dinner. And Cook would always be in despair over the state of the young Ladyling's frocks.

And Miss Alis, well, someone would need a chain and a hook to pull her out of the Turn Hall library and force her to go to bed. There is not one event, or family picnic, or day at the beach, where Alis hasn't wandered off for a bit of alone time with a novel. Pip calls her an introvert who just needs time away from people to "recharge her batteries," and says she's very much the same. I'm not sure how that behavior would have been taken in another Great House, but I hope that at Turn Hall, we would have made it clear that we had no problem with Alis's bookishness. Of course, it's well-balanced by her reckless sense of danger-hunting, as well. For all that she reads like a bookmouse, she is also the first one of her friend-group to jump off the highest diving board, to try wall-climbing, to beg her Uncle Bev to teach her how to string a bow and shoot an arrow.

An Accidental Short - #4 - PrideWhere stories live. Discover now