Warrior’s Bride (Pt 7)

Chapter Seven
Tialla frowned softly. She had not expected him to show any remorse, especially to her ladies, noting the way the women blushed, their eyes dropping as they tried not to stare at the man. This time he was charming – totally at ease a warm smile on his features – she inwardly groaning seeing the way the women almost giggled as they looked at the tall, devastatingly attractive man before them. Clapping her hands angrily, their attention was once more pulled to their princess as she stood proudly before them, her eyes warning them as they melted away, bowing as they moved into other rooms.
Turning she faced him, her voice tinged with anger, “So Cadell of Karok, speak.”
He grinned again, Tialla not allowing herself to be taken in with the charm which seemed to fall so easily from him, he moving to the door, “I thought that we could have dinner together… Discuss it in more comfort.”
With eyes which narrowed, she nodded, moving out as he led her along corridors, chatting amicably about her realm, seeming not to notice that she remained tight-lipped by his side. As they entered her smallest dining room she flicked a look at him as he pulled the chair back for her on the small table set for two. The more formal robes he now wore suited him, his hair – cut shorter than most warriors – brushed back. He was handsome she had to admit, possessed of something which made her very aware of this brutal man, Tialla determined to stay on her guard and not become a giggling push-over like her ladies.
“You look stunning princess.” His words pulled her back from her thoughts as she gave him a haughty look ignoring his comment.
“Can I assume by your change of ‘approach’ that you no longer plan on finding me a place in your household… or bed?”, the last part bitten out angrily as he made a small grimace, his eyes shining with laughter.
“Like I said… Sometimes we do and say things which we would not dream of uttering under normal circumstances. I needed you compliant, and the best way to accomplish that seemed to have you afraid. I once more apologise for that.”
Glaring back at him, she raised her head proudly, “I do not fear you Cadell”, his lips quirking once more.
“No… I noticed that. You are a unique woman Tialla… But I do apologise for my words, I would never have forced you into my bed.”
Silenced by the arrival of the first course of their meal, she smiled at the servant she recognised as one of her own. As the man once more retreated back to the kitchen, she fixed Cadell with sombre eyes. “You will understand that I take your words now with more than a little bit of scepticism. You had me chained to the floor wearing slave girl silks while your men took great delight in loudly proclaiming what they would like to do with me.”
His look hardened as he nodded, “Forgive me princess… As I said it was necessary to ensure that your uncle realised quickly that you were no longer in control.”
Tialla placed her fork back on the table, her head turned to him as she frowned. “So you still plan on remaining within my realm. I cannot believe that Harbin would support such an action, therefore I would like to know what you and my uncle discussed.”
Sitting back against his chair Cadell regarded Tialla. She puzzled him – most women in her situation would be hysterical, terrified of what was to become of them, but not her. She sat calmly, her questions direct and to the point, his jaw resting on his hand as he considered her thoughtfully. “Your uncle worries for you Tialla.” Her look never wavered from his. “As I told you earlier, had I not invaded, then another would have. Your uncle has heard of my enemy Garel… And also of the kind of man he is and he knows that like I, he would want to hold this province.”
With the smallest of frowns creasing her smooth forehead, she spoke slowly, “Why?… What could my province possibly offer?”, something lighting her eyes as she gave a soft moan, the answer coming to her, “Our ports. Easy access to the sea.”
He nodded gently. “Yes. His armies on land are entrenched, and with my forces advancing further each day, he is becoming desperate. The only option left to him is to come up behind us. Your realm has easy access to the sea and the infrastructure for trading, offering an ideal opportunity.” Leaning forward slightly, his look held a note of apology, “I cannot allow Garel to hold your ports… And your defences are lacking, as I have clearly shown”, his features now stern. “We took your province in less than a morning. We met little-to-no resistance and neither would Garel have.”
Looking away she sighed softly, “We are a peaceful people, my lands are small… We have no need for armies.”
Cadell shook his head gently. “I am truly sorry that you have found yourself dragged into this Tialla… But I have to ensure that the ports are not used by my enemy… And while you do not see it yet, my actions will have saved many, many of your people’s lives.”
Tialla once more picked up her fork, her mouth delicately biting a small piece of the delicious fish as she pondered his words before turning to again hold his eyes, “You have still not answered my question… What did you and my uncle discuss?”
He too lifted his fork, a frown on his brow. “Your uncle persuaded me to see that he would be a greater ally than an enemy… And that you were much loved by your people and should be allowed to return to the throne.”
She looked on quietly, her insides fluttering with hope. “So, you wish to return me to the throne and pretend that you did not attack us and become… friends?”, her tone holding incredulity as he smiled once more.
“Princess, if I was to leave now, you would be a sitting target for Garel. No, whether you wish to believe it or not you need me and you need my army.”

{next installment 28th Jan}

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