Karrie wandered the halls in a daze. Several passing servants gave her confused looks, but no one approached her. She didn’t feel angry, not even upset, just lost. Mom thought it didn’t matter that Damien didn’t love her and probably never would. The odds of her finding someone that both loved her and was an appropriate match were so slim they hardly bore thinking about.
In that case Mom’s point about simply selecting the strongest acceptable match that would let her do as she pleased made sense. And there was no one in the kingdom whose power even came close to Damien’s, especially now that he had the demon sword.
She sighed. And there was the problem. Lizzy, the demon sword, his one true love. Strange that the notion of him loving the spirit hadn’t bothered her so much when it was hundreds of miles away in his father’s possession. Now that they were together and would be all the time it made it seem like they were a real couple, perhaps the strangest in history, but a couple nonetheless.
Could she really reconcile the practical considerations her mother thought so important with the fact that just thinking about Damien and Lizzy together all the time made her heart ache? She simply didn’t know.
Her wandering brought Karrie to a window on the second floor that looked out over the city. Everywhere she looked new construction jutted up, freshly hewn beams gleaming pale in the bright sun. Everyone was out there working hard while she moped about, trudging around like a zombie. She needed to find something to do, something useful, to take her mind off Damien. If she didn’t think about it so much maybe a solution would appear like magic.
“Oh, I’m sorry.”
Karrie turned to find Salem standing in the entry of the hall. She had on a bloodstained apron over a gray dress and was holding a plate filled with meat, potatoes, and rolls. Seeing the food made Karrie’s stomach rumble. She must have been wandering longer than she thought.
“I didn’t mean to intrude.” Salem turned to leave.
“Wait. Please join me.” Karrie waved her in. “I was just looking out over the city, thinking.”
Salem tiptoed closer, looking like she expected Karrie to turn and bite any moment. Considering their first meeting she couldn’t blame the woman. Salem brought the food closer prompting Karrie’s stomach to rumble again.
Salem smiled. “Would you like to join me? I took too much anyway.”
“Thank you. I believe I will.”
A small table and two chairs appeared in the hall and Salem set the plate in the middle. Karrie sat first and Salem joined her. Salem grabbed a roll off the plate, took a bite, and sighed. “These really are delightful. Damien got me hooked. He says your cook makes the finest rolls in the kingdom and I don’t doubt it for a minute.”
Karrie nibbled a piece of ham. “Do you see much of Damien? I know the two of you are very busy.”
“From time to time. When he’s not on a mission Damien checks in on me now and then to make sure I’m settling in okay and that I have everything I need. He’s very sweet.”
Karrie finished her meat and managed a smile of her own. “He is, isn’t he.”
“And you two are engaged now.” Salem finished the roll and moved on to the potatoes. “I haven’t had a chance to offer my congratulations. I had a little crush on him myself you know.”
“Really?” Karrie raised an eyebrow.
“Not that he ever did anything to encourage it,” Salem hastened to add. “He was so strong, but also kind and gentle.” Her smile turned wistful. “Anyway, I’m sure I’m not telling you anything you don’t know.”
“No.” Karrie stood up from the conjured table. She wouldn’t force him to do something she knew he really didn’t want to do. Damien was too good a person to take advantage of like that. Besides, even if they weren’t married she had no doubt he’d support her any way she needed him to. “Thank you for the snack.”
“You’re leaving already? I didn’t mean to chase you off.”
Karrie shook her head. “You didn’t. In fact I have to thank you. You helped me sort out something that had been troubling me.”
“I did?” Salem stared at her, clearly not understanding.
Karrie waved and walked back toward the royal apartment. Her mother wouldn’t like it, but she was going to call off the engagement.