5: Sister, Muse, Whose?

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"You and the prince have been spending quite a lot of time together of the late, whenever you're off duty it seems," commented a noble lady, and Sophie tried to hide her blush, knowing she was right.

For the past two weeks, Sophie and Fitz made many excursions to Moonglade, spent many tea-times together, and spent a lot of time with Silveny to make her feel more comfortable in the palace stables. Almost every minute of when Sophie wasn't with her family or Biana, she was with Fitz.

"Are you close? You seem to be rather... attached," another noble lady hinted, narrowing her eyes at Sophie critically.

"Yes, do tell," another batted her eyelashes at Sophie as she fanned herself with a splay of peacock feathers. "A secret affair, maybe?"

"What?" frowned Sophie, "No, I-"

"Pardon me, ladies," Dex approached the crowd of noble women surrounding Sophie calmly, but a storm brewed behind his periwinkle eyes, "but Princess Biana has requested my sister's presence."

With scathing glares, the noble ladies released Sophie from their impromptu interrogation session, trying to get Sophie to promise she'd tell them later as she was escorted by Dex down the hall.

"Good timing," Sophie smiled up at her cousin, "what does Princess Biana need me for?"

"Nothing," he said a bit stiffly, "I just wanted to talk to you about something that's been bothering me lately back in our room."

She quirked an eyebrow curiously, "Oh, okay?"

They walked the rest of the way in awkward silence, and as soon as Dex closed the door to their room behind her, he angrily whispered, "What are you doing?"

Taken aback, Sophie asked, "Whatever do you mean?"

"Why must you spend so much time with the prince? We agreed that we would keep our heads down to avoid trouble."

"We agreed upon that years ago," argued Sophie, "things are different now."

"Why is it any different? Yes, you spend a lot of time with Princess Biana, but that makes sense because you're her handmaiden. In that position, when in public, you can avoid drawing attention to yourself, it's safest, but now, suddenly, you're in the thoughts of every noble in the palace because you're spending unnecessary time with the prince."

Her heart jolted in pain, "The time is not unnecessary! Fitz understands me

"Are you ready to be under the scope of the country?" he demanded, "Are you ready to be their spectacle? You may be his muse, but you're their entertainment."

"I'm not anyone's muse!" Sophie said harshly, her eyes narrowing into daggers that would've sliced anyone open if they didn't have an icy armor like Dex did.

"You may not see it, but you are, that's the reason why he's spending so much time with you, taking you away from watching over the triplets-"

"They're in the nursery! They're fine!"

"They spend more time in there than they do with us," he argued.

"Yes, and they've been doing that since you went off to join the war," she reminded him. "It was for the greater good, yes, but taking care of the three of them alone was hard. I couldn't do it by myself, and the triplets don't mind, they get to play with their friends."

Hurt flashed in Dex's eyes, and he retorted, "I don't want to teach them that they don't need their family. I'm on guard duty a lot of the time, but you have the opportunity to spend extra time with them, and you going off with Fitz sets the example that they don't need us."

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