Noble, 17

Even When They’re Irrational, You Should Pay Attention to Bad Feelings

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“Never seen a storm like this,” Geoffrey muttered, looking out the window.

“It is a bit strange,” Tanya agreed, sipping coffee and looking outside as well. Out of nowhere, a huge thunderstorm had started up just two minutes ago, and it was now hammering the city relentlessly as if it had been going on for hours. It was really weird.

“Flash storms happen,” said Danai, scowling. “It’ll blow over in ten minutes.”

“Flash storms happen in the summer,” Geoffrey corrected. “Not in the middle of winter. There’s something wrong here.”

“And despite what we may wish,” said Bernd, slowly, “none of us can control the weather, Geoffrey.”

Geoffrey sighed, went back to the table. “I know. Sorry.” Giacomo was in the castle with Darius, working on what Darius was going to say to his father to get him away from his uncle and away from Dahlia. Realistically, he knew that they were just naked somewhere with Alfie and Aleksander and that nothing was happening that Giacomco wasn’t getting off on. They probably hadn’t even heard the thunder. The sudden storm just made him nervous.

“I don’t think we can kill Dahlia,” Jens said, after they’d settled. “It’s not going to be a popular move, and we’re going to need some form of popular support for Danai’s rule.”

“But unlike Hans, Dahlia’s not an idiot,” Carlotte reminded Jens. “We can’t just count on her screwing up and leaving us an opening to take advantage of.”

Bells rang through the air, audible even over the storm. “Those are…alarm bells,” Geoffrey said.

“Probably just telling people to go inside.” Tanya didn’t sound sure of that even as she said it.

“Or that there’s an attack happening,” Geoffrey muttered.

Danai waved a cute little servant over, spoke quietly to him. He ran off. “We’ll find out what’s happening,” she said, sharp. “But in the meantime, this is important. It would help if you could focus. I would remind you that this was all your idea.”

“Right, right,” Geoffrey said. He gave another sigh. “Sorry. We don’t need to kill Dahlia, or even discredit her. Hans will do it for us. And then we can kill him in the name of patriotism.” This was not what Geoffrey anticipated happening.

“And why would he kill the source of his own power?” Bernd asked. Of all of them, Geoffrey thought Bernd was probably onto him. He might have to let him in on it soon before he decided to cause trouble.

Geoffrey shrugged. “Because she’s trying to get him killed. She’s no good to him if she’s not earning him any power. He’ll try to arrange an accident for her, declare himself regent again, and then in a year he’ll produce a girl he can pretend is Flora, or even better, a baby he can pretend is Felix’s, and everything will turn up his way. That’s definitely his best plan.”

“You’ve told us what his plan definitely was before, and you were wrong.” Carlotte seemed entirely interested in the food she was cutting, but of course Danai said nothing about her lack of focus.

Geoffrey pushed down a surge of anger. He’d planned all of this, and now these idiots were poking at him just to remind him that he needed them. He knew he needed them. He also knew they wouldn’t have been poking at his father this way. “Yes, I made a mistake in not predicting Dahlia’s return,” he admitted. “I’ve corrected for that. And I know this is what’s going to happen, because I’m going to convince Dahlia to do it.”

“You’re not worried that Dahlia is smarter than you?” Tanya asked. She, at least, knew what was really happening.

“She might be, but smart people are easily manipulated.” Geoffrey looked outside at another loud peel of thunder. What the fuck was going on? “They think they’re smarter than the rest of us, so it never occurs to them that someone could be effectively playing them.”

“Says the person who fancies himself the smartest of all of us,” said Jens, pointedly.

Geoffrey smiled, spreading his hands. “No. I think Giacomo is the smartest of all of us. He’s with Darius right now giving him the last push so he can drive a wedge in House DiFueure and end his marriage contract with Dahlia all at once. After that, Giacomo is going to try and court Dahlia, which won’t work, and then Lydia Elderbyne is going to take a shot at it, which Hans will be okay with until he realizes that I’m helping her, and will want to stop it. It should be around that time that Dahlia moves against him and he’s forced to move against her. By that point he’ll be out of options.”

“You say it so confidently,” said Jens.

“You don’t take over a country by thinking in maybes, cousin,” Geoffrey assured him.

“There’s a difference between confidence and arrogance, however,” Bernd warned.

Geoffrey nodded. “I’m aware of that.” Francesca had been arrogant, and Stephan’s people had punished her for it. Stephan hadn’t been arrogant, but his advisors had, and it had been Stephan who’d paid for it.

“What of this agreement hanging in the air with House DiCrawe?” Danai asked. “Tell us what you’ve decided.”

“I haven’t yet,” admitted Geoffrey. “I was hoping you all could help me figure that part out.” He did not need any of their help to figure that part out, he already knew. But he let them talk to him about it for a half hour, until it was time to leave before the lunch got too long.

“You should stay,” said Carlotte. “Until the storm stops.”

Geoffrey shook his head. He didn’t want to be here anymore. He was in a bad mood and he’d say something stupid if he wasn’t careful. “I’m worried about Giacomo. I want to go see if he got home okay or if he’s still in the castle.”

They accepted that as an excuse, and Geoffrey managed to escape after just a few minutes of niceties. He went out into the pouring rain—the alarm bells had stopped—and got into the carriage that would take him home. It was only up the road, but it took five minutes, and for a few of those Geoffrey wondered if it would have been a better idea to stay at Carlotte’s house until this passed. Giacomo was fine. He knew Giacomo was fine.

But he still rushed into the house, worried. “Is my brother home?” he asked Herman as he handed over his coat. It was a cold weather coat, not a raincoat, and Geoffrey was soaking from just two seconds outside.

“No, my lord, he’s yet to return.”

Geoffrey scowled at nothing. “Okay. Let me know as soon as he’s back. I’m going to go change.” He should have stayed at Danai’s at least long enough to have that bright-eyed servant come back and report what was happening.

He tried not to storm to the bedroom, but he kind of did, startling Javier when he banged the door open. “Sorry,” he said, feeling bad when he saw Javier jump.

Javier shook his head. “It’s fine. What’s wrong?”

“I hate my extended family and Giacomo’s not home,” Geoffrey said, taking off his shirt. “And it’s pouring rain and it just feels wrong, and…”

“And Giacomo’s not home,” Javier finished, coming over and rubbing Geoffrey’s shoulders.

Geoffrey nodded, sighing a little as he felt Javier’s hands. It was nice. “I want a drink.”

Javier’s hands slid lower, now wrapping around Geoffrey’s middle, coming to rest on his belly as he hugged Geoffrey from behind. “You shouldn’t have one.”

“I know.” His father had had a drink every time he’d wanted one. Geoffrey knew better. “I’m sure he’s okay.”

“Of course he is. He’s always okay.”

As he said that, a form appeared in the doorway, out of breath. It was Alfie. He looked terrified. Geoffrey’s heart sunk to his knees. “What happened?”

Alfie shook his head, and everything else shook too. “The, I…someone came to the castle. He had a knife. He…”

“Alfie, slow down,” Javier said, letting go of Geoffrey and calming Alfie down now as well. Geoffrey couldn’t hear anything but blood in his ears. “Slow down and just say it.”

“He was after Darius, but Giacomo got in the…he disappeared. He just disappeared. With both of them.” Tears were streaming down Alfie’s face. “He took Giacomo. Giacomo’s gone.”

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