Here’s an expansion bonus scene for the Plans Trilogy, taking place years in the future as the princes visit Sheburat to attend Kemble’s wedding. This scene was originally shared in my monthly newsletter in October, 2021.
Bonus Scene – Change of Plans
I received 5 prompt words for this scene, and used them all:
Kareni: ale – marks – bloom – ink – tavern
~ ~ ~
Queen Giselle of Sheburat was trying, or at least her son, Prince Marcelo, sensed that she was. She refrained from sniffing in derision, but a bloom of flush crept up her neck when Marcelo accompanied his husband, Efren, the crown prince of Zioneven, into Sheburat’s assembly chamber where a new trade agreement between the two realms was to be signed.
Marcelo nodded politely to his mother, the queen, and diplomatically also restrained himself by not allowing a smug grin to curl his lips. His presence was not, by any means, merely for show. She’d likely known that for a couple years now.
Efren gave Marcelo’s hand a gentle press before relinquishing it as they sat. Final versions of the agreement were passed between Gideon (Zioneven’s ambassador in Sheburat), Efren, and Marcelo for review before signing.
Shortly after immigrating to Zioneven as a naive and starry-eyed newlywed, Marcelo had been invited to attend council meetings alongside Efren. In hindsight, Marcelo had no doubt his loyalty had been tested in the early days, but no more. He knew his input was valued, initially for his fresh perspective as a political novice, but eventually for his savvy.
Having risked his own life to save Efren’s early in their marriage, Marcelo’s loyalty was now unquestioned in Zioneven. Or, for that matter, in Sheburat or anywhere else in the four realms.
Marcelo breathed an inconspicuous sigh of relief that nothing beyond that mild flush betrayed what he suspected were the queen’s true feelings, considering the propaganda he’d been fed growing up. She’d treated him as a respected member of Zioneven’s delegation, with a small nod to their relationship in the form of a single, restrained hug upon arrival. She was still nothing if not diplomatic in…well, basically everything.
Marcelo perused one of the documents then pointed to two small words as he slid the paper to Efren. Those words weren’t nearly as significant as the single word the King of Zioneven had inserted in the long-ago peace treaty between Sheburat and Zioneven. A word that had allowed Efren to select Marcelo under the treaty’s contingency plan in lieu of one of his younger sisters when Marcelo’s twin—Marcela, Efren’s original betrothed—passed away shortly before their wedding.
These words were mere prepositions, but their switch injected some ambiguity that, if exploited, would favor Sheburat. Efren nodded and softly but forcefully expelled a long breath. He dipped his quill into a bottle of ink and slashed bold marks through the two erroneous words, then he tidily replaced them with the preapproved words.
Gideon looked over and nodded. He’d noticed the same, and he passed his copy to Efren for correction and signature.
The queen’s eldest daughters, who Marcelo thought of as the heir and the spare, sat stony-faced on either side of the queen. Kemble, a year younger than Marcelo, and the daughter who everyone in Sheburat had thought would be Marcela’s replacement as Efren’s bride, sat next to the spare with a far more benevolent expression gracing her face.
Efren initialed the changes and signed the adjusted documents with a flourish then passed them without comment to Queen Giselle. She barely glanced at them before adding her own initials and signature and returning one of the fully executed documents to Efren.
The queen sniffed. “I’ll speak to the secretary who copied the final documents about those errors. I appreciate your understanding.”
“Mistakes happen,” Efren said. “I’m not concerned.”
Though Marcelo sincerely doubted that Efren considered it to be an honest mistake any more than he did.
The queen rose, and everyone else followed suit. Pleasantries were exchanged before making for the exit. They would all meet again for a formal dinner that evening but were free for the next few hours.
The queen and Marcelo’s older sisters turned toward her private library, but Kemble hung back. Once the others disappeared around a corner, Kemble turned to Marcelo with a sincere smile.
She took Marcelo’s hands in hers. “I’ve long been wanting to tell you how proud I am of you.” She gave his hands a light squeeze. “And I know Marcela would have been, too. She always said you were braver and more clever than mother gave you credit for being.”
“Thank you.” Marcelo’s chin rose a notch as he returned her smile. Efren ran a warm hand comfortingly up and down Marcelo’s back, sending delightful tingles across his skin. “And I wish you all the happiness in your upcoming nuptials that I’ve enjoyed in my own marriage.”
In two days time, Kemble would marry Roderick, a young man she’d favored since before Marcelo’s marriage. That had been the primary reason for Efren and Marcelo to make this trip. The documents could have journeyed back and forth via diplomatic couriers for signatures, same as they’d done to hash out the agreement.
Efren had once joked that the expression of utter relief on Kemble’s face when he’d announced his intention to marry Marcelo rather than her would have bruised his ego if he’d been at all interested in women.
Kemble tittered. “Thank you. Speaking of…” She bounced her gaze between Marcelo and Efren. “Would the two of you care to join me and Roderick for a pint of ale at Land’s End Tavern? I’m to meet him there shortly.”
Marcelo glanced at Efren with a raised eyebrow. Efren nodded.
“Of course,” Marcelo said. “We would love to.”
“I would have been interested to hear your firsthand accounts of your journey to Zioneven after your wedding over the ale, but I suppose that’s not possible?”
“No.” Marcelo shook his head. “We never recovered those memories after the Forget-Me-Not incident. We can only relate what we’ve been told.”
“Probably for the best,” Kimble said. She paused a moment before adding, “Mother masks her feelings well, but you should know that it was obvious she was deeply affected personally—not only because of the political implications—by what happened to you. She was horrified on your behalf and clearly relieved that you’d survived relatively unscathed.”
“Thank you. That means a lot to me.” Marcelo turned to Efren with a sly grin. “Land’s End is next door to Mr. Tolly’s sweets shop.”
Efren affected a mock grimace, and Kemble snickered. She said, “I dare you.”
Efren laughed, pulled Marcelo into his arms, and landed a kiss to his forehead. “I’m sure the nutter buzzers on display to the public will be safely untainted by Forget-Me-Not.” Efren was referencing the time, early in their marriage, when they’d unwittingly been dosed with that mind-wiping toxin when an enemy had poisoned the package of nutter buzzers Efren had ordered for Marcelo all the way from Sheburat. “Would you like to stop by Mr. Tolly’s?”
Marcelo gnawed his lip, but a grin twitched up, and he nodded.
“We’ll get four of them.” Kemble waggled her eyebrows playfully. “One for each in our party.”
“Well.” Marcelo shrugged. “At least our relationships have existed for long enough that we would all at least remember our partners even if we were—and I agree this is most unlikely—ever again dosed with that awful stuff.”
“Indeed,” Efren said. “To worthwhile risks!”
“Hear, hear!” Marcelo and Kemble replied in unison.
With Marcelo in the middle, they all linked elbows and walked far more sedately than they felt toward what would probably be an enjoyable but uneventful afternoon.