A bunch of authors from the QUILTBAG Historicals Facebook group have gotten together to try to brighten this dark midwinter time with some posts based (loosely) on The Twelve Days of Christmas. There's also a fantastic giveaway, which you can enter here!
It's the seventh day, which is swans swimming. I actually do have a scene in The Envoy's Honor in which swans are swimming in a pond in the background, so I'm sharing that today, even though the swans aren't the focus of the scene.
“Don’t mind them,” said a quiet voice at his side.
Kirill started and glanced to his right to find Adora there. He must have looked confused because she continued. “They enjoy teasing each other. They don’t mean anything by it.”
“I was more surprised they’d behave so informally in front of someone they don’t know.” Certainly, royalty would act with more reserve and discretion around an outsider, especially one such as Kirill, wouldn’t they?
“Oh, well, probably because you’re with Griffen and it’s easy to see you’re quite taken with each other.” Adora glanced away, back toward the rest of the group, but it seemed to be at least partly out of shyness or anxiety at what she’d said, as a blush also pinked her cheeks. She was a quiet woman; he could tell even after just a few moments. She resembled her brother Amory quite a bit, with the same auburn hair and dark eyes and finely wrought features, hers just a bit more delicate. Adora wore a frothy, pale-yellow gown cut to her petite frame and a neat little hat pinned to her curling hair. He would have said both she and her brother were lovely, but it probably would be a bad idea for him to make such remarks about the prince consort and his sister.
Kirill wouldn’t dispute her statement, didn’t want to make her feel bad. Even if he shouldn’t have let it stand and leave her to get the wrong impression.
They weren’t taken with each other. Not in the way Adora implied.
Soon enough, Adora was drawn back into the center of the group by a laughing Meriall. Kirill let his attention drift just slightly. Children played on the other side of the pond under the watchful eyes of parents or nursemaids, and couples strolled along the paths. Swans glided along the water, powerful and elegant. They didn’t seem particularly concernedMeriall and Adora had left off feeding them, though a couple hovered close, perhaps hoping for more.
He was almost to the point of retrieving the little bag the ladies had been feeding them out of and continuing to do so. For the swans’ sake and for something to do while the others spoke. It was never easy to be in the middle of a group of people who were obviously close and not know any of them. Worse even than a room of stilted strangers at a formalevent. Before he could wander off to amuse himself, Griffen’s arm snaked out and threaded through Kirill’s, bringing him closer.
“What do you think?” Griffen asked, likely assuming Kirill had been paying far more attention to what they’d been saying. He should’ve been, didn’t know what he’d been thinking letting his mind wander so much in such a situation. “They’re picnicking here for lunch, and they say there’s plenty. I don’t want to impose, but they insist we won’t be. But I’ll understand and so will they if you want to go somewhere on our own as we’d planned.”
Kirill contemplated Griffen for a moment, trying to determine what Griffen wanted. “I’ll be sad not to have the time alone with you,” he said slowly as he came to some conclusions about what Griffen was likely thinking. “But of course, we can stay if we won’t be an imposition to them.”
“They say not.” Griffen shrugged. “We have to take their word for it.” Kirill chuckled. “I suppose so.”
“So, it’s all right with you?” Griffen asked in the same low voice he’d been using since he asked the original question. “Yes, of course.”
Griffen smiled. “Thank you. I’ll make it up to you another day.”
Before Kirill could tell him it wasn’t necessary—because it wasn’t, as that was not the type of relationship they had--Griffen had pulled him forward, into the group again, and Kirill had no choice but to go. And was welcomed by them because of how they saw him and Griffen together. Something he’d have to give quite a lot of thought.
About The Envoy's Honor
Second son of an earl and cousin to the Crown Prince, Griffen has worked hard to forge a career in diplomacy for the principality of Tournai, but he never expected his diplomatic skills to be necessary to a problem so personal to him and his family. A delegation from the mysterious kingdom of Ivria has come to Tournai to make sure the secret of their people—the magical Talent allowing them to change into dragons—and therefore their kingdom itself remain safe. The delegation is concerned with Corentin, an Ivrian with the ability to change into a dragon—and the man Griffen’s older brother is soon to marry.
The Ivrians seem to want to drag Corentin back to Ivria for the offense of revealing their secret, but Griffen refuses to let it happen. His determination puts him into contact—and conflict—with Kirill, a negotiator for the king of Ivria who possesses the dragon Talent himself. The two clash and connect, getting closer and pulling away as they try to negotiate the needs of their people and an unwanted attraction between themselves. However, just as trust might be growing between them, a plot is uncovered and a member of the Ivrian delegation murdered. Griffen and Kirill must discover who is behind both for the safety of their countries and the people they love...and for a chance to be together.
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