Heart Thief, Book 2, Cut
A dangerous, but unreadable thought pattern emanated from him. Ailim lifted her own cup to give herself a little time and scalded her tongue. "In marriage?"
He inclined his head.
"I'm sure we can come to an agreement," Ailim said.
"She doesn't want me."
"She doesn't know you. Give her time." Ailim sipped.
"With a few reasonable risks and aggressive action, we can clear the D'SilverFir debt in this generation. Or," he shrugged, "we can plod along."
Blackmail. Her blood heated and her fingers tightened around the cup handle. The Family had to show more than plodding before the six month deadline to keep their Residence and estate. But two could play this game.
Inhaling deeply to tamp down her outrage, she set her cup down and leaned forward a little in her chair. "It will take time to develop a relationship between you and Cona. Court her. We can set a date for the formal announcement in six and a half months -- perhaps Spring Equinox."
He narrowed his eyes. "You think so?"
She kept her gaze locked with his. "You must decide your priorities, and what actions you will take to gain your goals. But," she smiled with teeth, "my cuz will not appreciate a man who lost her Residence. She is very proud." And vain. And selfish.And troublesome. Ailim smiled faintly. "I think you will do well together."
He stared at her and laughed, a hand flew up in a fencer's acknowledgment of a hit. "You look soft."
She curled her fingers over the chair arm. "I am Supreme Judge of Druida."
He stood and put the cup onto the saucer without the hint of a clink. "I want your cuz. Will you promise her to me?"
"No, not now."
His teeth flashed. "She's spoiled. I may need to be a little mean." He sounded as if he relished the task.
Her face froze. "No force or coercion at all, or your Family will be plunged into another blood feud."
He raised his eyebrows. The Reeds had more men and younger sons to fight than the D'SilverFirs. "No force or coercion. But she's my price, don't deny her to me."
"You have my agreement to wed her."
"And perhaps a D'SilverFir estate?" he asked
"Land for a younger son?"
"A cultivated, profitable portion," he pressed.
"We shall discuss that. If you do well and Cona refuses the marriage, then there will still be payment for you from D'SilverFir, a larger, more prestigious estate."
A corner of his mouth lifted. "Ah. I want the woman, though. But if my strategy does not work, perhaps a mid-sized estate would be acceptable." He glanced at the puppy sleeping beside her chair. "And a litter of pups."
"I'll promise a litter."
He bowed and left the den quietly.
Ailim knew one thing for certain, she couldn't trust him. She would have to be very cautious and very clever, or, at the end of six months, she'd lose the Residence and estate.
One telepathic word shot from his mind as he exited. Seduction.