When Your Family Experiences A Loss, It Makes You Come Together
Dominic had either been lying or wrong. Gerard’s assassins weren’t coming in a week. They’d come a few hours after he’d left, and now it was too late.
It was too late for Helena Quate and Franz’s uncle Hans, too. All three of them had been killed in the same night and Franz simply didn’t understand why.
“It just doesn’t make any sense,” Dahlia said, shaking her head. “If the Empire wanted to destabilize us, that’s one thing. But am I really to believe that their information network is so shoddy they didn’t realize Hans wasn’t in charge in Kyaine anymore?”
Franz nodded, looking down at his uncle’s body. It was being prepared for transport back to Kyaine so his funeral could be held there. Franz would go, except he couldn’t, because Gerard was dead and that meant his wife was about to be crowned queen of Dolovai.
Franz had known he’d be king someday. He hadn’t thought it would be two weeks after his wedding.
“Then why kill my brother?” Hans’s brother Darcy, Franz’s other uncle, was the only one in the room with them and their companions. He was a tall man who looked shrunken. Franz didn’t blame him. This time last year he’d had two brothers. “I’ll never pretend he was an innocent man but he wasn’t hurting anyone.”
“I don’t know,” Franz finally said, after thinking about that for a second. What would he say about Felix if someone asked him? Not that. “It could have been unrelated.”
“How could three people be killed in unrelated assassinations in one night?” Flora asked. Franz and Dahlia had talked about whether they should let her come and decided not to, but then she’d come anyway. “That’s too much of a coincidence to ever be real, right?”
“Yes,” said Dahlia, her face ice-sharp. “It is. I’ve also sent word back to Kyaine to make sure everyone I left there is okay. But there’s no way the assassins weren’t all hired by the same person.”
“That’s not entirely true.” Dahlia’s companion Andre was pretty and pig-nosed, and was growing his hair longer since Franz had last seen him. “I mean. When the servant goes to the market and the cook needs flour and a porter needs polish, the servant gets polish and flour at the same time, right? If someone had paid for your uncle’s assassination, the assassin might have just killed him last night because they were out killing people anyway.”
Everyone looked at him, which made him visibly uncomfortable. “How likely is that, though?” Flora asked.
Andre shrugged. “Probably not very. I’m just saying it’s possible, right?”
“It’s possible,” Franz agreed. “It doesn’t seem likely, but neither does the Empire messing up and deciding to assassinate Hans for no reason.”
Franz didn’t know if it was helping, to stand here over his uncle’s corpse and theorize about who’d killed him and why. If he was honest with himself, he didn’t know that Hans’s death was upsetting him all that much.
If he was honest with himself, he wasn’t sure that any of the three deaths was upsetting him as much as the fact that all three had happened together. Maybe he’d be more upset later. Right now he was just numb and scared.
“Hans made a lot of enemies during and after the coup,” Dahlia said, swallowing. She was carefully not looking at Darcy. “Whoever wanted him dead may have been someone at home. It wasn’t me. I thought about it once, but it wasn’t me. It wasn’t Giacomo either. I know none of you trust him, but I do, and it wasn’t.”
Franz didn’t trust Giacomo DiSheere, but he did trust his sister. “What about Geoffrey?” It had to be asked. He didn’t think Geoffrey had done it either.
“I don’t know him as well, but I doubt it. We’ve monitored all the communication he’s had since I was crowned and there’s never been any sign he was communicating with assassins. Besides, for him to kill Hans now after I’ve all but stripped him of his power is just spiteful, and I don’t think Geoffrey is like that.”
“It doesn’t matter,” Darcy said, sitting down next to his brother’s head. “It’s not important.”
Franz didn’t agree. He wished Boey was here, but Franz was the one who’d told him to go be with Hector. “Okay. It does, it does matter, and we will find out who did this. But there’s no point in sitting here and speculating about it right this second.”
“Yeah,” Dahlia agreed. “I have to go. Giacomo and I are going to see Georgina.”
“I know. I’ll be there.” Franz looked at his uncles. “Let’s go. If you need anything, we’ll be here, Uncle Darcy.”
Darcy nodded vaguely, and the rest of them left him in there. “Should we leave him alone?” Flora asked. “I’m worried about him.”
“Me too. But he’s been trying to distance himself from our family for twenty-five years and especially since the coup,” Dahlia said. “I don’t think forcing our company on him will help.”
Franz nodded, and Flora’s companion Dorothy looked over her shoulder. “Why did he distance himself from your family?”
“He had a fight with our dad,” Franz said. “I don’t know what it was about. But he decided it was better to just go and be the lord of House DiFueure. It’s why we barely know Darius.”
“I feel bad,” Dahlia admitted. “I kind of made him come. I told him it was his nephew’s wedding and it might be the last time he gets to see you and all that. He was using Darius as an excuse, but he just didn’t want to come. I don’t know if that was the right call. Is it better for him to be here or would it have been better for him to find out about Hans after the fact?”
“It doesn’t matter,” Franz told her. Darius had been abducted and abused for a month as well. Nobody in his family was doing okay. “We live with the decisions we made.”
“And the decisions other people make. I never wanted to be queen.”
“Yeah. I never wanted to be king, either. It never really felt like a real thing, even though I knew that was the point of the arranged marriage. But it does now and I don’t want it.”
But Franz would do it, because he had to. Because Gabrielle needed him to.
“We’re not going to be like Uncle Darcy and Uncle Hans and Dad, right?” Flora asked. “We’re not going to grow up and fight and all hate each other.” She sounded afraid.
“No,” Dahlia and Franz said at the same time. He smiled at her. “No,” Franz repeated. “We’re not. Sometimes people make each other mad and that’s not a choice. But fighting is a choice. Holding a grudge for twenty-five years is a choice. None of us are going to do that, I promise.”
“Okay.” That seemed to calm her down, and she held Dorothy’s hand. “It was the right thing not to bring Donny, right?”
“Yes. He’s seen too much death already,” Dahlia said, immediately.
“That’s what I thought.” Flora sighed. “So have the rest of us. I’m going to go see him. Cordelia is coming with her family.”
Franz nodded, and he and Dahlia headed down a different hallway. “I’ll see you at supper,” he promised Flora. “Actually, why don’t you get Donny and join us? Just for a bit.”
“Sure.” She hugged both of them before going off with Dorothy.
They got about ten steps before they were caught up by Giacomo and his companion. Giacomo looked really upset and out of breath. “Sorry,” he said quietly to Dahlia. “Sorry I’m late.”
Dahlia shook her head. “It’s okay. What did Geoffrey say?”
“He didn’t know. They were all surprised when I told them.”
“Okay. Thank you.” Dahlia hugged him, resting a moment. She did care about him, Franz saw. And he saw how Giacomo supported her, even though he looked exhausted.
He didn’t have to like his brother by law, but maybe he wasn’t quite so terrible. And maybe it took some deaths in the family to make Franz a little more open to having more family members.
They went together to the sitting room where Georgina was still with Gabrielle and Gavin, and Owen and their kids, and Gloria as well. “Your Highness,” Dahlia said, going over to Georgina. “I’m so sorry for your loss.”
“Thank you, dear,” said Georgina, hugging Dahlia. “And for yours.”
Boey was there too, Franz saw, with Hector, so with a look to Gabrielle, Franz went to them, and hugged Hector. “I’m so sorry,” he whispered.
“Yeah.” Hector had obviously been crying very recently. “Yeah. Thanks. Me too. It’s…” he got weepy again and moved to Boey, who held him.
Franz gave Boey a hug as well, and Gabrielle came over to sit with them, so he put an arm around her. “How are you doing?” she asked. “How’s your uncle?”
“Not great. Regretting things.” Franz looked around the room. “When we die, I don’t want our families to regret things.”
“Me either,” Gabrielle said, holding him. He held her too, and Gabrielle circled a finger to indicate the room. Flora came in with Donny as she did it, which meant Jacob was with them, and so were Silas and a very nervous looking Frederick. “This is the only good thing that’s happened today.”
“Yeah,” Franz agreed. It wasn’t a high bar, but she was right. “It is. We’re going to be okay. I promise.”
“Me too,” Gabrielle said quietly, and she shut her eyes against more tears. Franz ended up crying with her.
But they were going to be okay.
2 thoughts on “Prince, 104”
An estranged family member who held a grudge for 25 years? Sounds like a prime suspect to me!
And even if he isn’t behind (one or more of) the assassinations, there’s decent odds that Darius is Up To Something.
Yeah, maybe they should be looking just a little bit closer at Uncle Darcy there, especially given that Hans also got his son kidnapped a few months ago…