“Welcome, everyone! We are back for round three of our Q&A session! So far it’s been quite fun!” Jace and Kaden both give me a look. “Well, all right, not for some of you . . . but it is for me. Anyway, as I mentioned yesterday, we have a couple of new character guests joining us today.” I walk to the door and open it. “First is a guest I’m very excited about, Prince Daniel!”
Daniel walks in with his charming, mischievous grin, and I imagine a bunch of screaming fangirls. I hesitate and close the door for a moment. “Also joining us today, we have . . . Princess Davira.”
Everyone looks at me in alarm, and Kaden asks, “Wait, who invited her?”
“Well, I suppose that would be Kendra.”
Kaden gives an accusing look meant for Kendra.
“But don’t worry. Once she returns to Ilyon, she won’t remember a thing,” I assure them. “I am the author after all. Everyone just remain calm. I’ll see that she acts civilly.” I open the door and use my most refined tone. “Welcome, Your Highness.”
Davira sidles in, her chin held high. Her eyes land on Daniel and narrow. “What is he doing here?” Her eyes suddenly grow larger as she sees Kyrin and the others. “What are they doing here?”
I speak soothingly. “We’re all here for the same reason—to answer a few reader questions. They’re really quite curious.” Davira glares first at everyone else and then at me. I shiver. She really is quite scary in person.
“I refuse to be in the same room with such traitors.”
I hold her gaze confidently. “Well, today you have to. And there will be no trouble, all right? So, please have a seat.”
She takes an empty chair and gives everyone a killer look.
“Excellent. Shall we begin? Who wants to go first?” There’s a silence deserving of crickets. “Very well.” I turn to Davira. “We’ll give you the honor of starting. Kendra wants to know your favorite color.”
Davira pierces me with her emerald green eyes. “Gold.”
Daniel snorts. “Of course.”
She shoots him a glare.
I speak before she can. “And what is your favorite color, Daniel?”
Daniel rests back, smirking at his sister. “Green. My father hates when I wear it, so I do it as often as possible.”
I hear Davira mumbling darkly under her breath.
I clear my throat. “Isn’t that a bit odd that he hates it if your mother and sister both have green eyes?”
Daniel shrugs. “He just doesn’t like it around the palace, I guess.”
“Fair enough. Back to you, Davira—“
“You can address me properly as ‘Your Highness’.”
I raise my brows at her. “Quoting Kaden from a couple of days ago, ‘yeah, not happening.’ I’m your author, so I can call you Davira.”
Her eyes smolder. “What part of ‘princess’ don’t you understand?”
Mine widen at her audacity, though I really shouldn’t be at all surprised. “And what part of ‘I’m your author’ don’t you understand?”
She opens her mouth to speak, but I keep talking. “Kendra’s next question for you is who’s your best friend?”
Davira just glares at me for a moment, and I wonder if she’ll even answer. “That would be my father. I don’t need ‘friends.’ People are treacherous and untrustworthy.”
“Well, that’s interesting . . . coming from you.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
I don’t look her in the eyes. “Oh, just that you’re probably about the most treacherous person I know . . .”
Daniel laughs. “Amen to that.”
Davira’s mouth falls open. “How dare you!”
“Now, now, you two, we’ve barely started. There’s plenty of time to bicker later. Let’s move on. Davira, what do you consider your greatest accomplishment?”
Davira sits up tall and straight. “I’d say everything I’ve learned from my father. I could easily rule in his absence.” She looks down her nose at Daniel. “That is, if something were to befall my brother . . .”
I catch her reaching for something in the folds of her skirt, probably a hidden blade, and I prepare to intervene if necessary. “Hey, none of that. I will shackle you to that chair if I have to. I have them right here.” I reach behind my chair for the shackles I brought, just in case, as well as a blue-hilted sword. That’s the nice thing about being an author in my own little world. I can have anything I want and my characters technically can’t do anything without my say so.
Davira sets her hands primly in her lap, but sends silent death threats to her brother with her eyes before shooting one at me. I’m going to have to watch her closely. I turn to my next question for the princess. “So, my mom is curious, what is it you do all day?
Daniel cuts in. “Trust me, you don’t really want to know.”
Davira glares,and then looks to be pretending he doesn’t exist. “I learn, of course. Sometimes I read, but most of the time I observe my father.”
“Right.” Daniel’s voice is full of sarcasm. “And what about those times I see you sneaking off with different security personnel. Is that ‘learning’ too?”
“What I do with my time is no one’s business but my own.”
“Oookay, new topic.” I glance at the question cards again and take a deep breath. “These could be dangerous, but here it goes. Davira, do you ever think that you should have been born the son? And if you were queen, what would be your first act?”
“Of course I should have been born the son. My brother is a worthless heir—“
“So tell Father to disown me,” Daniel jumps in again.
“Oh, I’ve tried.” She looks back at me. “What would my first act be? To get rid of him. For good.” She gestures at her brother. “After that, I’d impose stricter worship practices. People have gotten entirely too lax about their devotion to our gods.”
“So, you think your father isn’t strict enough?” I can hardly imagine it.
Davira bristles. “No. I just think I would be a bit more . . . forceful.”
I raise my brows. “I’d hate to see the state of Ilyon under your rule. Which brings me to Erika’s questions. She wants to know, have followers of Elôm actually done harm to the nation or your father? Even if they might not grant him divine authority, have they ever defied or denied his authority in anything other than faith? If so, how?” Davira gives me a cold look. “What? I’m just repeating the questions.”
She sits stiffly with a poisonous look on her face. “Faith in Aertus and Vilai is the foundation of our country. If the people are willing to defy and blaspheme them, how quickly would do you think they would defy my father in other areas as well? Perhaps it hasn’t happened yet, but the moment my father would let such matters go, that would all change. Once people get the idea they can defy authority and get away with it, it could destroy the empire my father has spent his life building.”
I shift my attention to Daniel. “Since we’re on the topic of ruling, if you could change one of your father’s laws, which one would it be?”
“I’d stop all these executions and let people believe what they want—“
Davira leans forward and practically hisses, “They’re traitors.”
Daniel shakes his head and glances at the others. “You see what I have to put up with?” He looks at Davira again. “Seriously, I think you and Father just need to lighten up a bit.”
Davira looks to be thinking about reaching for her knife again. I grip my sword and clear my throat. “So, Daniel, who is your best friend?”
He gives his sister a cool look before focusing on me. “Well, that’s rather difficult to answer. When you’re prince, everyone wants to be friends with you simply because of your position and influence. It’s hard to tell who’s genuine. But I’d say the best friend I’ve had is Alex Avery. He’s the son of Baron Arther, who unfortunately had an ‘accident’ on the way back home from a meeting with me father.” He sends a suspicious look at Davira. “I haven’t seen him in a while, but we were really close growing up.” He smirks. “We had a lot of interesting adventures.”
I nod in agreement. “Yeah, that must be difficult to know who’s truly your friend. I know how much you hate being treated or seen a certain way just because you’re a prince. Here’s another question from Erika: why do you stick around the palace so long?”
“Don’t think I haven’t thought about running away. Quite often, in fact.”
Davira grumbles. “I wish you would.”
Daniel shoots her a look and then shrugs. “It’s harder than you’d think when you get right down to it. I might hate it, but it is my home. I think the one thing that truly keeps me from leaving is my mother. I’d hate to leave her that way.”
“Speaking of leaving home, Kendra wants to know if you have a girl anywhere?”
“Unfortunately, girls are like friends—hard to tell who’s genuine and who’s just after what a relationship with me would gain them. So, while I’ve had passing interests in some girls, no, I do not have any particular girl.” He grins. “But if you want that to change, you could always take it up with my author.”
“Hush, don’t feed them ideas. I already know what I’m doing. How about this question. What is your favorite thing to do when you’re avoiding your father?”
“Horseback riding. I like to get out of the city and into the woods. As far from his influence as I can get.”
“What would you say is the best thing about being the prince?”
“Well, you do get to have pretty much whatever you want, not that that’s always a great thing. And I can’t complain about the food.”
“I wouldn’t argue with that,” Kaden says with a grin.
I chuckle at them before going on to the next question for Daniel. “And the worst thing about being the prince?”
“The high expectations. You pretty much have your life planned out for you at birth. Just consider the pressure of knowing someday you’ll have to take over the throne whether you want to or not. It wouldn’t be so bad if my father wasn’t insistent on making me just like him.”
Davira sticks her nose in the air again. “You could only wish to be half the man he is.”
I shake my head. “Seriously, how have you two not killed each other yet?”
“Because you won’t let us,” Davira says in disgust.
“Well, as long as we’re on the topic, here’s a question from Morgan for both of you. Do you love your sibling?”
There’s a long, drawn-out silence as the two of them stare at each other. Daniel finally looks at me. “I would like to love her. She is my sister, after all.”
Davira huffs. “I don’t need your love.”
“I take that as a no then. You don’t love each other.”
Neither one speaks.
“Did you ever?” I ask.
Daniel shrugs. “Maybe, when we were young.”
“I doubt it,” Davira says with a sour look, as if the idea makes her ill.
“I guess that answers that then.” I flip to the next card. “Here’s a question for me. Faith wants to know who is my least favorite character to write and why.”
All eyes immediately go to Davira. She huffs again.
“Actually,” I say slowly, “I don’t think I have a least favorite character to write. I kind of like writing them all . . .”
They give me looks as if I’m crazy.
“Yes, even Davira. It makes for a lot of diversity and interesting scenes.” I look at the cards again, but trying to keep the peace has been exhausting. “I think we’ll call it a day. After all, we have two sessions still coming up. It’s probably best to stop while everyone’s still breathing.”