“He loves her, doesn’t he?”
Alistair sighed and cracked open one eye. “Just when I was about to fall asleep, too,” he mumbled, and rolled onto his side. By the light of the fire across the room, he could see Aisling staring up at the ceiling. The firelight cast shadows across her face, illuminating her frown and scowl. “What are you babbling about?” he asked, squinting at her as he rubbed his face.
“Please, just call him Sonny. He only stopped cringing at his title a few years ago, and I don’t want him to revert back to it.”
“Trained him like a dog, did you?”
“Can’t do less with Cantons.”
“No, I suppose not.” She brushed her hair off her face and rolled to face him. “Sonny. He loves his wife?”
Alistair shook his head—well, as best as one could when on a pillow. “He likes her, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say he loves her. It was an arranged marriage, but they like each other well enough. Plus they have Kyrie, and Jeanie’s pregnant again, so the children help.” She grunted thoughtfully, but said nothing. Alistair watched her for a bit, wondering why she had to be questioning and curious in the middle of the bloody night, then let out another sigh and mumbled, “Why do you ask?”
“Well…” She gave him a long stare, one that carved through his flesh and bone and saw straight into his soul. “It seems to me that noble marriages are ones of necessity and not love.”
“They’re usually arranged. Not saying all arranged marriages are bad,” he said, seeing her frown deepen, “since my brother quite liked his wife and Sonny likes Jeanie. But we don’t get to marry for love unless we’re very minor nobility. That’s all? This is the first decent bed I’ve had in months and I would like to use it for more than rolling about with you, lovely though that was.”
“No, it isn’t all.” She didn’t even notice his comment. Something was wrong.
He pressed his face into the pillow and held back a third sigh. Why tonight? Yes, the beds in Auber would be just as good, maybe even better, but he really wanted to enjoy the first night back in civilization. Bringing his face back up to breathe, he asked, “What’s on your mind, then?”
He wished she would look away. He hadn’t missed her penetrating stares in the years apart.
“Today I was rather stunned to learn that Sonny not only has a family, but enjoys their company. To see him act with his daughter the way he does… I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” she admitted. She still sounded surprised, as if the truth of what she had seen hadn’t quite sunk in yet. “I always assumed he was a piggish Canton.”
“Oh, he is.”
“But he genuinely likes his wife and adores his daughter.”
“Mm-hm. Cut back on whores after Kyrie was born, too.”
“So behind his rather grimy exterior, his unbearable Cantonness and outlandish behaviour, he is a good man. It makes me wonder who people really are behind their masks.” She pursed her lips and blinked after what seemed like an age. Alistair returned the stare as best as he could, but could feel his strength slipping with each passing second. “I am lost in infatuation,” she murmured, and a line formed between her brows. “But you are the twenty-eight year old prince to me, not the forty-six year old king. I don’t know what happened in the years lost between us. I don’t know who you really are.”