Others, 52

“Sorry to make you wait,” Helena said as she stepped into the sitting room. Gloria had been waiting for quite a while.

“It’s fine,” said Gloria. She was used to waiting. She’d been waiting her whole life. It wasn’t so bad, having only her own thoughts as company. “I presume the king needed something.”

Helena nodded, but didn’t say what it was. That didn’t matter. Dominic had gone to see Franz to warn him of the assassination plot earlier, so no doubt Franz had immediately summoned Helena to confirm it. Gloria wouldn’t bother asking if Helena had, because the answer was irrelevant and Helena wouldn’t answer either way. “He did, but I’m here now. I understand you wanted to speak about your parents.”

Gloria blinked. Fucking Helena. “I wanted to speak about the Empire.”

“Yes, I read your letter. We can talk about them too.”

Others, 32

“You’re an exceptionally hard woman to track down,” Helena said to Jocelyn.

“You would be too,” Jocelyn snapped, glaring at Helena. “If the people who were after me were after you.”

“Indeed. You’re very lucky that Samson Arkhewer doesn’t have the resources I do. Tell me,” Helena said. “What in the world possessed you to betray him?”

“Perhaps I’d be inclined to answer you,” Jocelyn said. She took one of Helena’s cookies, bit into it, and then glared at it. Helena had never understood people who didn’t like her cookies; she made them herself. “If I knew who the fuck you were.”

Helena sipped her tea. “I believe I already told you, I’m Helena of House Quate. I’m the king’s primary advisor on matters of domestic import.”

Team, 83

“You want to play that on the west side of the board,” Cal said, leaning against Joey.

“Why do I want to do that?”

“Because it protects against traps, which Ray likes to use, and he’s about to start moving there, see?”

Joey nodded, playing a card. “Okay.”

“Probably you’re going to want to use your next turn on fortifications so you don’t get overrun.”

“I was thinking I should attack in the north.”

“You should,” Cal agreed with a smile. “But you need to make sure you’re not leaving your ass open to attack while that’s happening.”

Joey giggled. “Right.”

Prince, 72

“Prince Franz?”

“Hm?” Franz looked up at Helena, who was looking at him. “What is it?”

“Are you listening?”

“Of course,” Franz lied. He had not been listening. There was some kind of situation down south. He had a letter from Hans claiming that Geoffrey had staged a coup and tried to kill Dahlia, and a letter from Dahlia—probably—claiming that Hans had seized the throne and that she was hiding with Geoffrey. He wasn’t sure what to believe, but it was evident that his sister was in danger.

“Do you have an opinion to offer?”

“About the food at the wedding?” Franz asked. “Not really. I think we should have some.”

Prince, 68

“So do you actually know where Dominic is?” Franz asked, sitting down in Helena’s sitting room. “Or are you just saying that to trick me into coming here so you can reveal something else to me instead?”

“Dominic is out west,” Helena said, upfront for once. “In Pelican Bay. According to my sources.”

Well, okay then. “Are your sources reliable?”

“Yes. He’s there. I don’t know why, but he is.”

“I don’t suppose you know what he’s doing?”

“No,” said Helena, leaning back. “But I’ve a theory.”

Prince, 67

“We’re not going to have a party, are we?” Franz asked, waving his fork like a baton as he talked. “Because I know our collective natural impulse as heinously rich people is going to be to have a party, but every time we have one of those, someone almost dies and it’s always someone named ven Sancte.”

“Sounds like someone’s feeling left out,” Gabrielle teased, nudging Franz’s foot under the table.

Franz smiled at her. “Guilty. I’m very much looking forward to our wedding party, since that will be the party celebrating the fact that my name will also be ven Sancte, and then someone can try to kill me as well.” He frowned at the window. “Not that it’s been a particularly safe year for people named DiGorre either.”

Oops, there went his good mood.

Live Interview

Sam’s shirt collar was too tight, the tie he was wearing was too tight, his shoes were too tight, and all his clothes were too fucking tight. Even the collar he was wearing underneath his shirt collar, which Henry had assured him wasn’t visible, was too tight.

Henry had done it on purpose, Sam knew, all of it. To remind him to behave. Sam didn’t need to be reminded to behave. He wasn’t a little boy. He’d given interviews before.

Okay, not live interviews on television, but it wasn’t the first time some idiot with a journalism degree had asked him stupid questions.

“And today,” said the journalist, while Sam sat quietly and waited for his cue. The journalist was named Helena. Henry had reminded Sam of that about twenty times just while stuffing him into all this tight clothing earlier. “We are joined by a special guest. The young CEO of Netzer Pharmaceuticals, who’s been making waves in the philanthropic world of late, Samson Arkhewer. Welcome, Mr. Arkhewer.”

Mr. Arkhewer? That was Henry, not Sam. Why would she…

Sam had to say something. He put on the smile Henry had made him practice. “Thank you for having me, Helena. I appreciate the invitation.”

Prince, 59

“You know,” said Franz, holding Gabrielle’s hand as they walked to the meeting room. “Normal people don’t have to have meetings to talk about their weddings.”

“We’re not normal people,” Gabrielle told him. She shook her head. “Stop pretending we are.”

“I suppose.” Franz looked at the frosted windows. He had to admit, snow was pretty. “Does the High Presbyter have to come to the wedding?”


“Fine, fine.” Franz sighed. “It occurs to me that I’ve sort of missed several steps in the courting you that I was doing.”

“You did,” Gabrielle admitted with a chuckle. “But it had its intended effect. It made me like you.”

“Oh, that’s good to hear.” Franz smiled as they neared the door of the room. “Still, there’s one part of it I’d like to make sure to do.”


Franz nodded, stopping, pulling her to face him. He got down on one knee, reached into his pocket. He showed her the silver ring he’d had made. “Gabrielle ven Sancte. I’d like to spend my life with you. Will you marry me?”