Author Explanation: This was the first scene I ever wrote with Desfan, Serene’s betrothed. It originally fit into my first draft of Royal Decoy, but I decided to save Desfan’s POV for Royal Spy. Once I sat down to work on his chapters, I realized this wasn’t the best place for us to start Desfan’s story, and so this scene was cut.
Serjah Desfan Saernon Cassian, heir to the throne and current regent of Mortise, scrubbed the heels of his hands against his temples, dreading the fact that he had to leave his room today. If only he could crawl back into bed without the servants spreading rumors. If only he didn’t have a full court to address today. If only he was back on his ship.
His father’s council was most likely already assembled, waiting on him—simmering with anger, he had no doubt. By now they must have learned the latest thing he’d done without their approval. If he weren’t the serjah, they’d probably demand his head.
Desfan scowled at the parchment laid out before him. It was probably his fifteenth attempt to write a letter he simply did not know how to write. He read the lines again, wincing at how stiff the words were.
Princess Serene Aren Demoi,
I trust you are well. I hope our upcoming betrothal is as anticipated by you as it is by me. I look forward to meeting you when you make your journey to Mortise. Your father has assured me that you are excited to see the ocean.
Desfan muttered a curse and rolled his shoulders. The letters were getting worse. He should have given up two weeks ago, since there was no way she would ever receive it before leaving Iden. He could send it to one of the places along her journey route, in care of a Devendran or Mortisian nobleman. But what was the use? He had nothing to say to this stranger he was going to marry.
Desfan lifted his quill, dipped it, and wrote with much less precisian than before.
You are a perfect stranger to me, and I fear that will never change. I hear stories about you. Your beauty, your renowned diplomacy, and frankly, I’m terrified.
He stared at that last word. It made his stomach lurch, because it was true. He was terrified.
He continued to write.
I don’t know what your laugh sounds like. I don’t know if I’ll be able to stand the sound of it. I don’t know what you think of me, or this alliance. These are things I won’t know until it’s too late. Until we are officially betrothed. And the only comfort I have is that there is a chance, a very small chance, that one day I will care for you. That is more than I can say about those who surround me now.
He tossed the quill aside. He did not bother to re-read these lines. They had been an indulgence, and he could not afford indulgences. Not among his father’s court, who sniffed for any reason to expel him from the governance of Mortise.
Desfan burned the letter using the small flame in a wall lamp and retrieved his gold crown.
He was needed in the throne room, whether he was ready or not.