Varranor is paying for another night of heavy drinking with a hangover. Although the wine helped him forget for a night, the next day, his problems are still waiting for him.
Varranor’s head was killing him. He stared at the reports on his desk without really seeing them. After Orivan had run off, he had spent a restless night alone, going over their conversation in his mind time and again. He didn’t want to drink, and he didn’t want to lure someone else to his bed, but he didn’t know what else would ease the torment he felt. The bottle disappeared before he’d even realized it, followed by a second one, until he finally passed out.
He couldn’t figure out how things had gone so wrong between the two of them. Two years ago, he thought Orivan had fallen in love with Tatiana. When he learned they were only friends, he thought he could have another chance with the younger man. He’d spent so much time planning what to say as soon as Orivan came back to him.
But Orivan pushed him away again. He said he didn’t want to play games—and then he confused things with that kiss. His actions didn’t match his words. What was the truth?
Varranor thought he’d won for a moment, but despite the passion in that kiss, Orivan had broken away. He called it a mistake and ran away.
He was a fool. Despite all his years of experience and the countless lovers, Orivan made him feel like a lovesick youth again. They danced around each other, neither one quite willing to open up.
And he couldn’t go to Navera for advice because he knew she would tell him the same thing again. Orivan wanted a commitment from him: not a marriage, but close enough.
Mercenaries weren’t allowed to marry, but since marewing riders were in the company for life, many of them formed unofficial partnerships. Just like Navera had Itychia, other couples had formed. Varranor understood their attachments and made sure to always post these couples to the same fort so they wouldn’t have to be apart.
But could he fall in love with someone like that? He usually got bored of his lovers after a short time. His longest relationship had been a few months, but he had never been exclusive with anyone. He chose lovers who would understand he didn’t want to be tied down.
Yet if he only had a passing fancy for Orivan, he would have gotten over him after the first rejection. Why did he still fill his thoughts for years? Was it the fact that Varranor had never gotten what he wanted—or had he actually fallen in love?
He couldn’t think like that. He had to push the other man out of his mind.
Pouring himself another glass of wine, Varranor turned back to his reports with a fierce determination to concentrate this time. His eyes caught on a letter from Duchess Korinna.
She confirmed what Orivan had already tried to tell him: mages had also spotted a dragon, and Tatiana had taken their report to Duke Galenos in Petropouli. He was annoyed that Korinna took action without consulting him first, but he realized that he had opened the door when he assigned Tatiana as the duchess’s personal messenger. He couldn’t complain that things had backfired in his face.