The middle-aged man standing before Synnova was not her husband.
But despite that, she clasped hands with him when the priest said to. Because her mother and father were watching like crowned hawks behind her. Because her kingdom depended on her.
The wedding ceremony lasted far too long for a girl of fourteen. She daydreamed most of the time. It wasn’t even the full ceremony. That would come in two years, but her parents wanted to secure their alliance with her fiance’s family now.
So Synnova behaved like a good princess and bowed to her fiance’s proxy and pledged her love to him as if he were Prince Bragan and the strange man returned her sentiments.
After it was sealed before the Heavens, the proxy led Synnova out of the chapel and into an adjacent chamber, her parents on their heels.
“You did a lovely job, Princess,” the proxy said. “Prince Bragan will be proud of how you conducted yourself.”
She had never met her fiance. Didn’t know if she cared either way if he was impressed with her conduct. But she returned, “Thank you, my lord.”
The proxy whispered an exchange with the King and the Queen and then took his hurried leave. Just like that. The man she “married.” Gone.
Synnova’s mother swayed over to her, shoulders bunched up with excitement. “So, how does it feel to be a married woman, my dear?”
Synnova shrugged. “Much the same as it did two hours ago. I’m not truly married, Mother. You know that.”
The Queen’s smile fell. “On paper you are. Stop behaving like a spoiled child. You’ll have your prince in time.”
Rubbing her arms, Synnova turned away from her mother and glanced out the window to the park below. Maybe she didn’t want Prince Bragan.
Maybe she wanted someone else. Maybe the whole time she was clutching the proxy’s hand she was imagining it was another hand. A warm, sun-kissed hand.
Synnova smiled, and a young lord with piercing golden eyes and hair the color of garnets, her Godrik, smiled back.