Reining in the Belle, part 4

“I challenge you,” Tauch stated to Grasen.

“Me? Whatever for?” the hazel-eyed girl asked in shock.

“Because a member of such a small House shouldn’t strive so high. We see you with the Consort’s daughter, worming your way into her favor. When the day comes and Belle becomes our next Queen, she’ll need powerful friends—like me,” she sneered.

“No, what I’ll need is honorable and loyal friends,” Belle growled from behind the challenger. “Grasen fulfills her role admirably and is very much in my favor. Now, do you wish to continue with this futile challenge or will you withdraw?”

Tauch glanced at Grasen and looked her over with a disapproving expression. “If that is what you wish Mistress Belle. So be it.” The large young woman turned away and entered the school, her eyes locked forward.

The friends stood silently for a moment while Grasen formed what she wanted to say. “You didn’t need to step in Belle, but thank you.” Grasen sighed heavily. “It won’t help much in the long run though. She or someone like her will find some excuse or another and challenge me again. You can’t protect me forever.”

“I don’t have to protect you forever, just for a short time.” Belle whispered softly as she placed her warm hand on her friend’s shoulder.

“Oh? Why is that?”

“Because,” she began, stepping in front of the shorter woman and tilting her head slightly, “they will realize your place in my life is not fleeting nor minor,” Belle told her seriously. Their eyes locked for long moments.

Grasen could only wonder what Belle had meant. She felt the desire bubble up inside of her--to ask her friend to say more. She could only stare at her spellbound, trying to keep her emotions leashed in case she was mistaken. As if to answer her silent question, Belle smiled as her large hand rose slowly and caressed her flushed cheek. Her dark eyes dropped lower to gaze at her parted lips. Realizing Belle meant to kiss her, Grasen lifted her own hand and pressed a finger to Belle’s lips. She shook her head slightly, regretting her own action already.

“Please,” she whispered, “not here. We need to talk without fifty pair of eyes staring down our necks,” she pleaded, well aware of the other youths watching them. 

Looking worried, Belle nodded curtly. “Where?”

Grasen bit her lower lip and tried to think. “Um, how about the park?” She didn’t want to go to either of their homes. Grasen needed a neutral spot and it was close to the school.

“Alright. Let’s go now.” Belle’s tone was resigned, causing the smaller woman’s stomach to tighten. Belle expected the worst and Grasen knew what she needed to say would be difficult.

They walked in silence the entire way, not even looking at one another until Belle pointed towards a secluded bench. They sat down stiffly.

“Let’s get this over with,” Belle almost growled.

“Belle…I…damn. You know I have to stop this here and now, don’t you?”

“Yes, I already figured out you’re not interested in me,” she bit out, hurt and angry with herself. Belle had thought Grasen returned her feelings.

Grasen couldn’t stand seeing her so miserable. Taking her hand, she tried to find the words to make her friend understand. “Belle, look at me, please?” The consort’s daughter looked at her briefly but looked away quickly, her pride demanding she didn’t cry.

“I do care a lot for you Belle. And no, this isn’t a ‘But we’re just friends’ speech. I don’t want you leaving, believing I don’t love you when I do.”

“Then why are you pushing me away?” Belle choked out.

Grasen sighed. She had made the vow to be worthy of Belle’s trust, but telling her would cause more pain. But not telling her the entire truth would drive her completely out of her life. She wrestled with her heart for a moment then spoke.

“Belle, what is the one ironclad requirement of any consort or mate for a Queen?”

“What are you trying to tell me Grasen?”

“That I don’t have the right to mate with you Belle. Sooner or later, the truth would come out and it would be disastrous for both of us.”

Belle stared at her, wanting to know the truth, despite the cold lump of fear forming in her stomach. “Tell me.”

“I wasn’t born of two nobles. My actual father was a slave. Mother’s husband name was listed on the records but it was a nasty little family secret known among everyone in the household. If we announced we were taking one another as mates, it wouldn’t be long before it was discovered. Too many enemies would dig into my past. That’s why I have to stop this now. We could be lovers at best and you’d eventually would have to take another as a mate.”

“Do you think I would care? Lonnie isn’t a noble either.”

“Yes, but she took a chance with her life to overcome that. I won’t. Find someone else Belle, please.” Grasen pleaded.

“ I don’t want anyone else Grasen. I’ve been waiting for you to come into my life since I was a little girl. I grew up, watching my parents and the love they shared and wanted it too. Don’t leave me Grasen, please!”

Tearfully, Grasen dove into Belle’s strong arms and clung to her, unable to push her away again. “I won’t, I promise.”

* * * * *

Belle insisted they have Palla drive them to Grasen’s home. She was going to claim Grasen that very day, before her friend could possibly think things over and try to do the noble thing and disappear. Arriving at the small villa, Belle followed quietly behind her through the door for the very first time. Grasen had never brought her there in the past. Surprised eyes turned in their direction. An older woman stepped forward.

“Grasen, please introduce us properly to your classmate.”

Obeying her mother, Grasen went through the proper rites nervously. Belle bowed slightly.

“Mistress Hessa, I am here in my own behalf. Grasen has consented to become my consort and joining my household this day.”

Shocked, Hessa swung her gaze to her daughter. “Grasen, does-“

“She knows Mother, she knows. I felt she should be told the truth,” she told her, meeting her parent’s eyes solidly. It had been the right thing to do and that belief kept her eyes proudly fixed. Hessa slumped and dropped her gaze.

A few hours later, they arrived at the Residence with a large load of Grasen’s belongings. Palla honked the horn in the drive, bringing out several slaves in response. They would bring in everything and place it inside Belle’s private apartments.

“By the Holy One, I’m scared,” Grasen managed to stutter.

“Why? My parents adore you and consider you family already. They won’t reject to us being a couple.”

“And when they ask why you didn’t formally take me as a mate?”

“We’ll tell them the truth. Things will work out, I promise.”

They both silently prayed that she was correct.

* * * * *

Belle glanced at her watch. It was unusual for her parents to nap this long. They were typically up by the time she returned home from school. Unable to wait any longer she tapped on their door. Not hearing anything, she slowly opened the door and peeked inside the room. Spotting her still sleeping parents, she backed up and grinned at her nervously waiting friend.

“Still sound asleep. Let me wake them, just a moment.” She entered the room, closing the door behind her.

Her mother was sprawled over Lonnie haphazardly, her dark hair in disarray and one bare leg sticking out from under the covers. Lonnie was on her back, one arm around Tashalia and the other lying across her own eyes. They obviously fell asleep were they collapsed after a bout of lovemaking. Grinning indulgently, she tapped Lonnie on her forearm. The older woman grunted and plopped the arm down onto the mattress.

Blinking her eyes, Lona spotted her daughter and gave her mate a gentle shake. The Queen made an inquiring noise and shifted into a more comfortable spot.

“Your daughter needs something,” Lona said sleepily.

“How is it she is only my daughter when you are in bed?” Tashalia grumbled good-naturedly.

“Because no daughter of mine would dare wake me,” Lona teased. Tashalia chuckled.

“What is it Belle?”

“We need to talk. Actually, I need to bring Grasen in here or have you come out to the outer chamber. It’s important.”

“Well, it would be best if you let us freshen up and get dressed first. The poor thing would probably be embarrassed otherwise, don’t you think?” Tashalia teased.

Their daughter blushed, forgetting their appearance in her hurry to speak with them. “We’ll be waiting outside,” she told them. She left the room, giving them their privacy.

“Told you so,” Lona grinned.

* * * * *

Lona and Tashalia were disappointed that the match wasn’t formalized, but understood. Both realized the pain the youths felt but couldn’t find it in their hearts to tell them to part ways and move on. Whether it was now or when Belle turned twenty-eight, the pain would be just as intense. Hopefully they would each carry good memories into the future.

“Welcome to our family,” Tashalia told Grasen warmly, kissing her cheek and giving her a long hug. The young girl blushed and looked away bashfully. The Queen glanced at both the girls, noting the strained look on their faces.

“Why don’t you take her to your chambers Belle? I’ll have the cook send something up. The two of you need some peace and quiet,” Tashalia suggested.

Belle looked a bit shy, thinking about what the evening would bring. She took Grasen’s hand and smiled. Lona saw it and grinned. She stood up and kissed her daughter’s cheek.

“Little one, a piece of advice. Go to your chambers, dress in something comforting, eat, and go to sleep. Both of you had a trying day and don’t need anything else added to it. Stay in bed late and forget about attending classes tomorrow. Okay?”

Belle blushed deeply and nodded. Putting her arm around Grasen, she led her from the room.

“Just had to ruin her fun sweetie, didn’t you? Tashalia teased.

To be continued...