The Lion's Heir

By: Lilly Pink


He raised his glass and clinked it against his friends’.

“Ave imperator, morituri te salutant,” the young billionaire remarked with a pitiable grace.

“Aye,” Cameron said.

“I think we all need another beer. Or six,” Alan finished the thought.





CHAPTER TWO





He spoke little the remainder of the day, though news had traveled fast, and when he returned home, Miriam was waiting for him anxiously. That maternal decorum had returned to her face, but she would never bring it up unless he did first. He ate sparingly and retired to bed, but before he did, he asked for a hot coffee.

“Miriam, do you think this is for the best?” he asked when she came in. “I mean this marriage. You know the climate of the Clans as well as anyone—I know you do. Your title of ‘matron-servant’ hardly does justice your actual role.”

The edges of her big lips turned up at the praise, and she patted the bun of black hair behind her head and waddled to his side. “I think we are always bound by certain fates. Sometimes we can run from them… sometimes we can hide. But more often than not, fate has a way of tracking us down like a bloodhound. Or… a lion, if you prefer.” She smiled. “But to answer your question, I don’t know. I think it will avert war, but the question of whether or not you’re up to the task… the sacrifice of accepting this fate… is ultimately up to you.”

Kyle grumbled. “I hate philosophy,” he murmured.

***

The next morning he met Alan and Cameron at the airport, although both men looked grumpy. They shared a laconic groan among them, but it was drowned out as the plane descended and three women stepped out. There were three of them—one had black hair, another was flamboyant and led the way with fiery red hair, and taking up the end was a small petite woman with brown hair. That’s her, he thought, Krista.

Anastasia, the leader of the three (self-elected, he figured… she had all the bombastic air of the nobles he remembered from his childhood) took front and center and greeted Alan with an almost cold formality.

“We’ve been expecting you,” Alan said, with a bow, and introductions were made in turn.

When the brunette stepped forward, Kyle was surprised at her timidity—she was quite stunning, in a simple sort of way. Her round face was delicate with high cheekbones, and it dipped into a round chin. When she smiled, her cheeks were like perfect blushed apples, and her dark unflinching eyes seemed always on the verge of watering.

She had on an elegant skirt that rode just over her knees, and seemed to sashay with a sort of childlike abandon as she walked. Her blouse was equally elegant, and it was clear some effort had been taken to make sure they all matched.

“I’m Krista,” she said in a small voice, and for a moment he wasn’t sure if he’d actually heard her, “of House Roseblood.”

“A pleasure, Krista. No doubt you already know who I am, but as dictate would have us pretend to be unfamiliar with one another… I am Kyle.”

He wasn’t sure if it was the proper way to address her—these women were all of high-born status, even if Anastasia looked to be the only one flaunting it. But all his upbringing suddenly snapped into motion, and he realized the one good thing about his father’s strictness had, in fact, been instilling all the social protocol.

Well, where do we go from here? he wondered. He looked across and saw that both Cameron and Alan were getting on—with varying degrees of success—with their brides-to-be as well. They were like school children as Kyle led her to his Miata, and he saw her eyes light up when she saw the vehicle.

“Beauty isn’t it?” he said.

“Yes! V8 engine, I recognize the model. Probably outfitted with the latest fuel catalyzer too!” she said in an excited voice, and then seemed to remember herself and quickly blushed and patted her cheeks in embarrassment. “Sorry, I mean…”

Kyle gaped at her. “You… know a lot about cars?” he asked, though the answer was clear.

“I…” Krista cleared her throat, “I’m a little weird.”

He gave a good natured chuckle. “I don’t think that’s true at all. A woman who knows a lot about cars is hardly weird. We don’t really sit on gender roles here in Cedarhaven,” he murmured.

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