With everyone now in attendance, Queen Giselle stepped forward. “Your Royal Highness, Ladies and Lords, and people of Zioneven, please accept our warm welcome to Sheburat, and I hope you’ll accept our sincere apology for the chaos in which you find us today.”
Efren inclined his head. “Of course, Your Majesty. On behalf of Zioneven, I offer our heartfelt condolences on the loss of your beloved daughter.” Despite acknowledging that his hopes of marital happiness had risen dramatically in the last hour, his words were sincere.
“Thank you,” Queen Giselle replied. “Sadly, our loss yesterday affects more than simply causing us private pain.”
“Indeed.” Prince Efren kept his reply short. Under the circumstances, diplomacy demanded he let Queen Giselle take the lead to direct the conversation. If she pointedly avoided the topic of his choosing his alternate, he would step up. But, if his diplomats’ analysis of her strength and character was accurate, he needn’t worry.
He let a soft sigh slip when she continued as hoped. “Although disappointment caused by the cancellation of the wedding we’d expected tomorrow is unavoidable,” Queen Giselle said. “I hope you’ll find a small comfort in knowing that you may now make your own choice of your future bride from among my younger daughters rather than the arrangement made on your behalf at the tender age of five.”
Efren held back his threatening smile and maintained his sedate composure. Again, he inclined his head and said that one word—that one important word that his parents had worked into the contingency agreement. “Sibling.”