Weston, Part 7

“I don’t know if I can fully impart just how common it was,” Weston said, staring at the top of his tent. Aria had rested her head against his shoulder, and together they shared a bottle of wine. “Ian used to give me things and then tell father just so father could take them away again as if I stole them. Olivia used to set her friends on me until I was smart enough to stop thinking they were actually interested. My mother tried to protect me, but there wasn’t much she could do with father determined to make my life miserable. I remember the first time I disappointed him quite vividly.”

Aria traced her fingers along the seams of his tunic. “So you were mismatched in what you needed from your parents. They punished your traits rather than rewarded them.”

“I suppose,” he said. “And I assume you’re going to tell me what that means?”

She smiled into his shoulder. “Honestly, Weston, it’s just something I’ve seen. The mistress in Tower of the Moon liked me, so she rewarded my behavior as much as she could without giving me any grand ideas. Other girls weren’t so lucky, especially the ones she knew wouldn’t make much when they put their virginity up for sale. Those girls learned how to protect themselves from pain.”

“I was always more vulnerable with my mother,” he said. “But anyone else…I see so much of my past through this haze of anger. I did a lot of things out of spite.”

“I’m not surprised, now,” Aria said. “I just didn’t know. Of course you’d be possessive of me if you feared I might be taken away. Although it really discounts my own participation in the matter.”

Weston kissed her hair. “Gods, I know. I’ve been such a fool.”

Sitting up, she framed him with her arms so she could look down at his face. “I love you, Weston.”

“I love you, Aria. My behavior—your eye has already strayed, hasn’t it?”

She furrowed her brow. “A little, I suppose. Please don’t be angry with me.”

He touched her cheek. “I’m just sad that I drove us to this. Can we fix it, do you think?”

“Can anyone predict the future?” she asked. “We can try to trust each other more than we have.”

“I won’t question you in front of your people anymore. I only did because I was afraid you wouldn’t need me.”

“We can start there and see.”

Weston tucked her hair behind her ears one side at a time. “Valtteri is a kind man. Casimir is gruff, but he’s a genius. I’m incredibly jealous of them.”

Aria grinned. “We all have our own pain, Weston. Yours was just too loud for you to see past. Now that you have, a bit, I’d encourage you to look a little deeper at the people around you. Valtteri has sadness in his eyes even when he’s smiling. Casimir has his haunches up constantly because he’s been hurt by too many.”

“How do you see things like that, Aria?”

“I’m not sure,” she admitted. “It’s just a matter of what you’re listening for, I suppose. I’ve missed plenty of clues in my life, too.”

Weston sat up to meet her lips. They kissed gently, pushing no further.

“I’m going to parley with Alistair,” Aria whispered.

He drew back, his expression incredulous. “Aria—”

“I know what you’re going to say. But I know what I saw in his face. I need to speak with him.”

She watched him fight down several waves of protest until he finally said, “Valtteri thinks this is a good idea?”

“Perhaps not good, but if it could end the war, he thinks it’s worth a shot.”


“Thinks I can handle myself.”


“Wants to go with me so he knows I’m safe.”

“I want to be there too,” Weston said.

“Alright. I’m sure we can arrange it.”

He searched her face for a long moment. “What if he kills you, Aria? Poisons you, or has an assassin with him?”

“I won’t be unprotected,” she said. “Casimir will ward me, Valtteri will have his hand on his blade, and I assume you’ll have something up your sleeve as well.”

“If we lose you…”

“You won’t.”

“If I lose you…”

She smirked. “You’ll remember me by all the things you learned today and use them on the next pretty girl who wants to be a queen.”

“There’s no one like you, Aria,” Weston said. “I don’t think I can trust anyone but you.”

“Then trust me when I say you aren’t going to lose me.”

Weston smiled slightly. “My father hates women like you. He hates feeling like he’s powerless.”

“And you?”

He shook his head, exhaling sharply through his nose. “Of course I’d love what he hates. Why couldn’t it have been something like…blonde hair?”

Aria grinned. “I want you to know, though, Wes…”


She grimaced. “That we don’t owe each other anything.”

He stared. “What?”

“It’s just something Casimir said to me in Bucori. He asked me if I loved you or if I owed you. It seems to me that your father influenced you in staying with me when this rebellion started, and if so…wouldn’t you owe me, a little bit? For the shift in perception?”


“Please,” she said. “Just think about it. Because we can’t live like that.”

Weston frowned severely. “Sweetheart, of course I owe you. And you do owe me, as much as we’d like to pretend it doesn’t matter. But that isn’t a bad thing, is it? If we’re together like this, there’s nothing to worry about.”

“That isn’t balance,” she said. “And it certainly isn’t love.”

“It’s realistic,” Weston said. “It doesn’t have to mean what we feel isn’t true.”

Aria held his gaze for a long time, longer than she had in ages. His hazel eyes were wide, beseeching, as if he didn’t see the problem.

“We owe each other,” she finally said, carefully.

“Yes, of course,” Weston replied. “I got you out of Tower of the Moon and you’ll make me look good to my father. It’s a bit like an informal treaty between us, isn’t it?”

Aria nodded slowly, her mind racing. “Oh, yes. I suppose so.”

One Comment Add yours

  1. Susan Fraser says:

    I love this, Becca: “We all have our own pain, Weston. Yours was just too loud for you to see past”. What a perfect description, a tangible takeaway for me. But Weston lost it in the turn with the ‘you owe me’ – they just can never be a healthy relationship. Powerful post – THANK YOU!

    Liked by 1 person

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