Author’s Note: So I couldn’t help thinking that this whole story fit with Sunday Scribblings’ idea of “resistant” because of the resistance against the king and his aides that runs all the way through it, and I suppose I could have linked to any of the scenes, but this is the one I was going to post today, and since the queen has to be resistant to Malzhi, again, it fits.
“What was that?”
Malzhi stopped, leaning back as though he was giving her words some consideration, unusual for him since he did not listen to her most of the time. “Sounds like Wenjige.”
“You know what she sounds like when she screams?”
“Yes,” he said with a smile that made the queen sick. She did not want any kind of specifics there. She did not want to hear him gloat or give her details. “Perhaps they have found Omamhi after all.”
The queen shook her head. She needed to get away from Malzhi, now, before she vomited. Between his repulsive behavior and the images returning to her of Omamhi, dead, she could not control her stomach for much longer. “You should not gloat so much.”
“Are you accusing me of killing him again?”
“I never made that accusation. Wenjige did. I would say that your behavior suggests that you are the one behind his death, but you do not care what I think or seem to hear what I say,” she told him, pushing past him, hoping to leave the balcony before he overcame himself long enough to stop her.
He caught her arm, and she grimaced, trying not to notice the pain from the existing bruises, but she knew that she was unprepared when it came to hiding her reactions or even coping with the pain. Her trainers had been dedicated but not vicious, and they had not forced her to endure a lot of agony in order to keep her from showing how much she hurt. She knew how to be silent, but she did not know that she kept the reaction from her features as well as her voice.
“You have acquired a sudden boldness, haven’t you? Perhaps you are gloating. You are not the one who killed Omamhi, are you?”
She felt like laughing, but she knew that would betray too much. Instead, she smiled at him. “I should be flattered that you think me even that capable.”
He put a hand under chin, lifting it up. She didn’t know if he was searching for her bruises or if he intended to use those herbs against her again. She wanted to move back, but she didn’t want to show him fear, either. “You are a challenge, but I am not certain that you are that much of one.”
She pushed his hand off her face. “Then you can let go of me and let me pass. If Omamhi is dead, then there is no point in being here.”
“The training ceremony is not finished.”
“It should be.”
He laughed. “Oh, you are just so… charming. I do enjoy my time in your company. One moment you challenge, the next you confound, and how intriguing you are when you do.”
She tried to step past him again, but he tightened his grip and held her in place. The back of his hand moved brushed against her cheek. She started to push him away, but his other arm went around her waist, holding her still. His hand continued to caress her cheek, and she figured that she was going to feel the herbs at any moment.
“Your land must have a lot of water. Your skin is very soft, softer than anyone here. Most of them have skin like empty riverbeds, cracked and dry.”
“Would you be so bold with me if the king were here?”
His hand dropped from her cheek, the other easing off her back. She stepped to the side, pulling away from him. He should not forget that she was a married woman—not that she thought that mattered to him after seeing him with Wenjige—but more so than that, he should remember that she was the king’s wife. His property, in the eyes of most people here, and that was not something Malzhi could play with, no matter how powerful he thought he was.
“Who gave you this? Was it the king?”
She looked down at the chain around her neck, shaking her head. She did not wear it often, for while it carried some value in sentiment, it meant pain as well. She did find it amusing that he would think the king would bestow upon her any sort of trinket, though. “Do you think the king so generous?”
“Not in the past, but you are… unique.”
“You are obsessed. You only want what you cannot have.” She shook her head. “Do not mistake me for one of those things. I am not someone you want to pursue. I am not so stupid as to be unfaithful to my husband, and if you make him think that I have been—”
“Who would tell him?” Malzhi laughed. “You?”
“Ah, the grieving widow. Yes, thank you for reminding me. I think it is time I go console her.”
The queen watched him go, letting out a breath. She could not help being relieved, but she was more disgusted than she was reassured. She needed a long soak to rid herself of his presence and his touch. “Bagquin.”