Delshad, despite knowing what her response would be like, could not help but feel slightly disappointed. But that would not stop him; he would never give up on her, he would never stop trying. Sometimes he fell into the doubt that perhaps she just hated his guts, but he tried his best not to think of it that way. He would keep waiting for her, wait until she was ready to come closer to him. “The fact that we are married does not mean that I should wish things of you that you do not want to do,” he replied to her cynical remark.
That was exactly what he had said to her on the night of their wedding—that he would wait for her. Normally that sort of talk would have been ridiculed—one did not wait on the frivolity of a woman’s decision. That would have been an unthinkable, but Delshad was not like most men. He truly did respect her, and didn’t want to force her to do anything she didn’t want to do. Had he had some sort of say in their marriage, he would have declined if he had known that she would not be happy with him.
Maybe he was being a romantic sop. After all, marriage could be based around love, but most were about politics, money, advantages and alliances, not love. He knew many lords with wives who each had their own lover on the side—and being the future ruler of Asshai, he would have no one to answer to even if he had multiple lovers. But that was not what he wanted—he just wanted to have a warm family with one wife. He wanted to be faithful to her, and to provide for her and make her happy, even if the marriage had not occurred because of love.
He saw that she had no interest in speaking with him any further and so decided to eat instead—the food did look quite appetizing. Delshad patted at the seat next to him for Darya, smiling as she skipped over and joined him. Eskandir and Darya didn’t have any problems with him—but Lyanna was still very much closed up to him. Speaking of which, where was Eskandir? He looked about, and then out of the corner of his eye he noticed him lead one of the dancers out of the main ball room. He quirked an eyebrow—that was not one of those high-class girls he was supposed to be socializing with. What would Lyanna say if she saw? Or more importantly, his mother?
Leliana Rilyn-Ra’ir was his mother-in-law, a woman with beautiful red hair. Unfortunately, she wasn’t exactly stable in her mental aspects—she had dual personalities that she jumped from and to quite rapidly. He knew that it must be hard on the siblings, especially Lyanna, to have an unstable mother and a busy father. Lyanna and Eskandir had practically raised Darya themselves, to the point where Darya called Lyanna ‘Mumma.’ He would have been willing to listen to Lyanna—had she been willing to talk about the things that plagued her mind (something she did not do).
She rarely spoke more than a few sentences to him at a time, unless it was about finances or something of the sort. He tried many times to start casual conversations with her, but it never went as smoothly as he would have liked it to. At bedtime, he would usually read or write in his notebook, recounting the events of the day, allowing her to have her personal time. They slept in the same bed, but it was quite big and they ended up sleeping on the far sides of the bed, each to themselves.
He realized that they had both finished their food and were just sitting there. One by one, couples were rising to dance to the music, and he knew that technically, as the heir to Asshai, he should honor his host by dancing with his wife. He looked to her with a mild smile, his words as considerate as always. “If you don’t want to dance, you do not have to, Lyanna.” He really did mean that. “If you do wish to, then I would be more than happy to dance with you.”
Delshad knew that his wife did not want to get close to him—but he wouldn’t just let her distance herself. She could do as she pleased, but he wouldn’t let her isolate herself like that.
She froze as the curtain was swept aside, her eyes wide and shamed. For anyone to see her in a vulnerable state was a thing she hated so much…and this in front of the whole roomful of people…it was downright mortifying. Thankfully most of the dancers distracted the other guests from seeing them, but right now there was a young man with dark, cold eyes in front of them. The young man promptly grabbed at her master’s arm tightly, obviously with the intent to stop him from hurting her further. Shirin swallowed, not sure of what would happen now. Who was this? Wouldn’t Lord Fariel grow angrier? Indeed, her master’s face was as pleasant it would have been if he had eaten worms instead of his fine cuisine.
Shirin was stunned when her master let her go, albeit grudgingly. He glared at the young man, who had identified himself as the heir to the Merchant’s Guild, and stepped away. She had never seen Lord Fariel do something against his own will, seeing how he outranked everyone in his house. Apparently this person, a boy that didn’t seem much older than herself, outranked him. Shirin looked up at the young man with guarded incredulity in her eyes. Why would someone like him bother to come to help her, an enslaved dancer? She didn’t understand. The rich did not care about those that they owned, and they certainly did not treat them like someone of their higher status. Especially merchants.
He introduced himself as a Rilyn-Ra’ir and Shirin immediately dropped her gaze to the floor, recalling just how powerful that family was. The dancers and servants talked and gossiped about the things that went on in the city, and his family was, as he had said, the head of the Merchant’s Guild, and alliance with the ruler of Asshai, the family Adaire.
He wanted her clothed and fed? And then he wanted to dance with her?
…Was he out of his mind?
He smiled at her, but Shirin did not smile back—eyes wary and mistrustful, refusing to meet his gaze. She did not trust people, because no one had trusted her. Why should she trust, anyways? It wasn’t as if trusting had gotten her anywhere better. He sounded sincerely concerned when she asked whether she was hurt, but she did not exactly find it touching. In fact, she found it uncomfortably foreign and strange—no one ever worried or cared about her. Besides, she had taken worse before. Once she had ended up with a bloody scalp, another time with bruises all over her body. She didn’t have to be saved. It made her feel like she was being viewed as some weak, pathetic creature.
And being weak was one thing she hated to be.
“I am fine, ser,” she answered guardedly, not taking his arm. “I am not hurt.”
But she would be when he was gone after the party and Lord Fariel had let his anger fester. With him, it was really better to just let him expel his anger as soon as possible—it came back heavier if pushed to a later time.
Shirin nearly flinched and yanked her arm away when he took it and slid it into the crook of his arm, but barely restrained herself. What was she supposed to do? She really didn’t think she had a choice here—he was the son of the richest merchant in Asshai. And she, she was next to nothing, a piece of property to be used and displayed. She didn’t have a say. Shirin allowed him to lead her away, following his steps.
However she started to get nervous when he took her away from the rest of the audience and into another corridor without many other people around. Where was he taking her? Her eyes wandered nervously about—perhaps she really had been correct to be wary of him and his motives. Why would a young man of his status step in to help her unless he wanted favors? Shirin took in a silent, shuddering breath, her mind forming very bad possibilities. Why the bloody hell did her master keep her in such skimpy clothes? Oh yes, because it was pleasing to the eye. She felt the urge to wrap her arms around herself, but did not stop walking as he had motioned her to do, lips pressed shut in silence.
She stole a glance at his face, which could have been considered very attractive. He didn’t look like he was planning anything bad to do to her, but she knew well how looks could be deceiving. After all, was that not what she did on stage? Did she not dance as if she was joyful; did she not dance as if she was a different person altogether? Shirin took another cautious look at him when she thought he was not looking.
Whatever was on his mind, she could not tell what it was—and whatever deed he was planning for her, she did not get a choice, because she was a slave and he was someone with power.