“Which was where?”
“There’s a copse of brambles right out back. Rignuth, Vaughan, and I hid there.”
“Amongst the thorns?”
“Yes. Regardless, what we know is that Corsen kept him calm, and he sounded upset for the most part. Shouted about how he’d been deceived and lied to, about how he’s not the man he thought he was.”
Audra nodded her head. “Corsen is there for him. Good.”
“But she knows everything. However, her father was not home, so it was only Corsen.”
“I see. What else?”
“The volume rose and fell, and eventually, the two of them and Apple went to your mother’s old home.”
“Talking, as far as I could tell,” said Maxen, paying close attention to his fingernails as he spoke.
He glanced up at her with a half-scowl. “Nothing untoward happened, but I would like to preserve a shred of the boy’s privacy.”
“Did you hear anything else?”
“Yes. It was much easier to hear their conversations in the hut. Mostly, Corsen tried to encourage Rory to see reason, explained why you might have done the things you did. They argued when Corsen told him that he needed to stop viewing you as a flawless creature beyond reproach, a paragon of perfection, and start seeing you as a flawed human, like every other woman who walks the earth.”
Audra’s jaw dropped, but then her lips curved into a smile. “She said that? Soft-spoken, demure, deferential Corsen? Goodness, I didn’t think she was so bold.”
“After that, we had to leave for supper, but I overheard Corsen telling Rory she planned to visit you, and...
... middle of paper ...
...e so than any person Audra had met. Audra did not catch a whiff of anything duplicitous or disloyal about the girl, though Audra had been wrong before.
“Corsen, I must be frank: you hold tremendous power over me. The information you possess, if shared, would mean my end. Though you may not feel I deserve respect, I ask that you tell me your intentions. Woman to woman, as the mother of the man you care for, I beseech you.”
The composure Corsen had clearly tried so hard to maintain broke. “N-no, Your Highness.” Shaking, she shot to her feet and wiped at her eyes. “I am sorry; it is so overwhelming to be in your presence and Sir Maxen’s. I would never disrespect you or put you in harm’s way. I’ve looked up to you since I was a little girl.”
Audra’s mothering instinct took old. She pulled Corsen close to her and stroked the girl’s hair as if she was her own daughter.
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