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The Retriever--Chapter 7 by Mark Dawson
When the princess rode up to the camp the night before the battle, Armand dropped his dagger. He had been sitting with Horta, sharpening his weapon against a whetstone when Horta pointed for him to look behind him. What was she doing here? He thought her father had taken care of her.
She had come through a cluster of bushes, riding side-saddled. Her curly brown hair was swept up in a braid before she took her hand and pulled it loose to let it cascade down her shoulders. A smile ran across her face.
The men rose to their feet and whispered among themselves. Some of them then looked over at Armand, waiting to see what he would do. Flustered, Armand cursed under his breath, walked over and grabbed her bridle. He spoke in a hush, evened tone.
"Majesty, how nice to see you."
He said "majesty" only because he was in front of the men. Usually, he'd call her by her birth name Nan like he had done on many bedroom nights before when she reached across the pillows and pulled him close to her. He narrowed his eyes as he looked down at her belly and then back up again. The firelight flickered, its illumination softening the features of her face. She dropped her smile and leaned over.
"You didn't think I was going to let you take my battalion into battle without me, did you?"
Her gray eyes stayed locked on his. A silence ran between them before she looked away in utter indignation.
She ordered the men to sit down and proceeded to climb off her horse. When Armand reached out to assist her, she slapped his hand away.
"Oh, no you don't, I'm angry with you."
"Don't ‘highness' me. You know fair well why I'm angry with you. How could you?"
Her voice was loud enough that the men standing near heard her. Some of them chuckled as they watch and said nothing, making him feel more embarrassed. He gently took her under the arm.
"If I could escort you this way, your highness. We could discuss whatever is on your mind."
He walked her away from the campfire into some trees a few feet away, applying more pressure to his grip. She struggled to break free the whole time. When they were out of sight of the others, he turned her around.
"Soon as the sun rises, my love, I'm having a man take you back where you belong."
"Where I belong? Watch your tone, sir. Remember, I am the sovereign."
"But I am the husband, and you are carrying my child. I love you, but the matter is closed."
He turned to walk away, and made only three steps before she spoke again.
"No," she said.
"You heard me. I said no."
Something inside him knew that was what she was going to say, and he had to steel himself. It had been years since he had hit a female, and that was when he pushed his little sister into the pig's mud at eight years old. But at that instant, for the first time in their short marriage, he wanted take his open hand and slap her. He was not one among the men to ever lose his temper, however looking at her stomach, the child inside it, and thinking about the selfishness and the absurdity of her response, he felt a tiny jolt race down his arm.