I regain my seat behind Lord Alistair’s large, oak desk. The three people sitting across from me don’t seem any more comfortable after our break than they did before. Leith rubs the hilt of one of his knives. Renna grips her skirt like she wants to bolt. Brandi just bounces in her seat as if eager.
“Thanks for returning, everyone.” Since Brandi looks so eager, I decide I’d better start with her. “Brandi, Sierra wants to know what your favorite food is?”
“Aunt Mara’s maple sugar cookies.” Brandi closes her eyes and rubs her stomach. “Especially when they are warm and goey and the sugar on top is still melting into them.” She opens her eyes and cocks an eyebrow at Leith. “Aunt Mara never made them while you were visiting. Too bad.” She crosses her arm and turns her attention to me. “That will change in the next book, right?”
“I’ll…see what I can do.” I shouldn’t have been surprised. Brandi did tend to get her way when she set her mind on something. “Moving on. Leith, Claire wants to know if there is any skill you wish you had?”
“Throwing knives.” His eyes narrow at me. “I don’t have the hand-eye coordination.”
“Sorry. It’d make things too easy.” I clear my throat. “Renna.”
She squeaks and snaps her head up when I call her name. I think she was secretly hoping I’d forget about her if she made herself silent and small enough. I lower my voice a little bit. “Do you have any friends in Stetterly?”
She shrugs and picks at her skirt. “Not really. Before my parents died, I was the future lady of Stetterly. I didn’t exactly make friends with the local girls. Afterwards, it was safer not to leave Stetterly Manor all that much. And I wouldn’t want to put anyone in danger by being friend’s with them.”
I could hear the hint of loneliness in her voice. “But you do have a few friends.”
“Well, Lydia Alistair was nice enough when we were little. And her brother was…a friend.” Renna swallows and looks away.
“Yes, we’ll have to let the readers figure out the rest from there.” I can’t help but grin as I turn back to Leith. “Leith, Sierra wants to know if you think you’ll ever have a family in the future?”
His jaw drops. “What? You can’t seriously expect me to answer that question.”
“Yep. Don’t worry, none of you will remember this conversation when I leave the book-world, so you can be completely honest.”
He crosses his arms and glares at me.
I cross my arms and glare back. I’d played this whole silent game with him before. If I waited long enough, I’d get an answer out of him.
His shoulders sag. His eyes flick towards Renna for the briefest of moments. “I haven’t really thought about it.”
“Yes, you have.” I swallow my sigh of frustration. Sometimes he could be so stubborn he’d keep things from himself.
“It’s not like I’m ever going to have a future. King Respen is probably going to kill me long before that happens.”
“But if you did survive and you didn’t get killed and you were able to settle down, would you want to have a family?”
“You’re not going to drop this, are you?” His hand clenches on his knife. Renna flinches, but I don’t. I know it’s only a reflex. He wouldn’t actually draw it on me.
“Nope, I’m not. So just answer the question.”
“Fine.” He scowls. “Yes, I would like a family.”
Renna gapes at him. Brandi grins so broadly that I shoot her a warning look. I’d better distract her before she started meddling. Or spouting spoilers. “Brandi, if you could be anything or anyone, who would you be?”
She blinks at me for several moments. Finally, a question she doesn’t have an immediate answer for. She goes strangely still and stares at the floor. Renna cocks her head at Brandi, as if she was seeing a side of her sister she didn’t realize existed.
“I’m not sure.” Brandi shrugs. “I want to do something great. Something big. Like something from a story.”
I smile at her. “Don’t worry. You will. Eventually.”
Her face brightens with the return of her grin. “In that case, I’m happy just being me. That’s a good thing, isn’t it?”
“Yes, it is.” I pick up my stack of papers. “Thank you all for coming and putting up with me.”
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