Susan Bischoff's having a contest!
In ROW80 related news, I'm moving pretty steadily; looking over reviews from beta readers for Out of the Water, and drafting here and there for Verse, Venice and Viziers. It's so exciting diving into the free flow pantsing of a new story!
In sad book-related news, this year's book fair at McGill University is the last.
I ran up the hill on my lunch hour and had my final browse, discovering a few gems (including an A. A. Milne I'd never heard of) and the hardcover of the first book of Janet Evanovich's new series for only 4$. The fair has run for four decades, but there're no volunteers left to organize and run it.
And now we come to part three of my Rule of Three Blogfest story! An as-yet untitled historical romance: Part One featured Prince Cem, and Part Two featured Ayten Hanım (Miss Ayten).
For this part, which is at 596 words, I used the prompt relationships unravel or strengthen.
Devran tapped his quill on the blotter. His eyes strayed to the letter before him, but he'd placed his palm over the offending words. It was dangerous, covering the letter that way, for his fingers twitched with the urge to crumple the paper and launch the rude demands into the cold grate.
The door opened and a maid stood aside, admitting Ayten Hanım. She kept her head down as she crossed the room, and stood before the table, and all he could see was a part of her high forehead, furrowed.
She might well wonder what had dared him to summon her to his presence, in this oddly furnished chamber. What he wouldn't give for a proper, comfortable, divan, and none of these straight backed chairs and rigid tables.
He motioned for the maid to leave, and felt his lip curl when she left the door ajar behind her. Once again reminding him that these were not his halls. That they were all guests of 'Prince' Cem, in the town of Renaissance, outside the bounds of the Ottoman Empire.
He looked again at Ayten's figure, as straight as any one of the chairs, and the paper crackled under his hands.
"I have here a missive," he began, smoothing out the sheet. "From our host. He goes on at length of last night's masquerade and the feast to be held tonight. I shall be blunt in my retelling. He asks for you."
"He summons me to his chambers?"
"Ha! If only that were all. He will have you to wed."
Raise your head, Ayten, he wanted to command. Look at me, so that I may see what these words mean to you.
"But is he not –"
"Yes, of course. You would be his second wife. For a while. I doubt not that he would choose another concubine before long." The thought of fair Ayten being used in such fashion smote his heart and he lost control of his hands. The balled letter smacked against the chimney and landed in the grate.
"I have been a slave before," she said, "and will not willingly become a chattel ever again. I am free." Yet her voice wavered, and she had not lifted her eyes.
"Of course. There are, however, conditions." He rose. Taking up the poker, he pushed the letter deeper in amongst last winter's ashes. She was only a step away from him. "I did not say he asked for you. I said he will have you. The only way to prevent his taking you by force would be for you to wed someone else."
"That's absurd!” Finally she met his gaze, but her eyes were chips of blue ice. "We leave in two days' time – would he send a fleet after us? For me?"
"There is no knowing what he might do. He is a man dangerous to cross. Thwarted in his claims to the throne, dependant on the rabble of Renaissance for succour, he is used to having his way in all smaller matters."
"How dare you!"
"I did not mean that you should be considered as such. If I had my way –" He closed the space between them, but she stepped aside. He flung the poker on the marble floor and threw himself back into the desk chair.
"Yes?" she whispered. "If you had your way?"
"I am willing that we should be married. It will keep you from a servitude you do not deserve. Only a contract, with no grounds for preventing an annulment at the soonest opportunity. If you so desire."
By the way... here's what Ayten looks like: