Her momentary disquiet over the continued issues she had with committing were forgotten as Jessica’s voice rose in irritation. “No, no, no! How many times have I told you I wouldn’t wear that obnoxious thing? Get me something simple, for heaven’s sake.”
Tasha looked at the necklace one of the Dramok stylists held up, offering it for Jessica’s slender throat. She snickered. The thing was chunky with monstrous amethysts, sapphires, emeralds, and rubies. No doubt each stone cost a fortune, even discounting the rose gold chain they hung from. Tasha thought no one could possibly wear the necklace and hold their head up straight.
Jessica was not someone to boast of status and wealth, though as empress she possessed them in spades. Had she deigned to wear such a bauble, she would have gone from boasting to flaunting with no hint of modesty whatsoever.
The Dramok lowered the horrendous piece of jewelry, though he didn’t put it away. “My empress, your gown is minimal. You need something eye-catching.”
Jessica looked at her image in front of the full-length mirror. “Fine, find something elaborate then. Just not that gaudy thing.” Her reflection caught Tasha’s gaze, and she rolled her eyes. “Don’t think for a second I picked that piece out. It was a gift from the ambassador to Tratsod. Have you ever seen anything so outrageous? Oh yes, this one is better. Thank you,” she added without taking a breath as the Dramok showed her an intricate but not so heavy yellow gold piece. She held still as he fastened it around her neck.
The attendants went still, looking Jessica over with critical eyes. She looked too, turning this way and that to catch the full effect of her appearance in the mirror. Even though she nodded, her expression was far from approving.
She stated the subject of her displeasure in a flat tone. “These state functions are such a waste of time. I swear we’d get a lot more done if we weren’t eating dinners and being pleasant to dignitaries who are only interested in watching the Empire tear itself apart.”
Jessica’s stylists exchanged looks of nervous horror. Every few weeks the news vids recounted a new protest or riot. Outbursts of violence were happening monthly now. The diatribes from those who counted the past and current Imperial Clans as liars and traitors to the Empire were frequent and getting louder.
Jessica saw the looks and shook her head at the lot of them. “Oh please don’t pretend we’re not on the verge of a civil war. You know it, I know it, I think even Noelle knows it.”
At the mention of her name, Noelle looked at her mother and smiled. Everyone relaxed to beam at the adorable person of their princess, and some of the tension bled from the room. Noelle had inherited her fair share of her parents’ tempers, but when she was happy, every heart in her vicinity melted.
Jessica’s gaze filled with love. Tasha saw her eyes brighten with emotion. In a choked voice she said, “That’s my girl. What do you think, gentlemen? If I have you dress your princess up and we blanket all frequencies with a vid of her precious little self, will everyone be too overcome to fight?”
The men added their enthusiastic agreement, many bowing in respect to their tiny steel-haired princess. Tasha saw in their eyes that they wholeheartedly concurred with Jessica’s assessment. Noelle was as natural a charmer as was possible for a three-year-old to be, just by virtue of her sweet face. Noelle giggled and waved to everyone, unsure why she was the center of adoring attention but enjoying it just the same.
Releasing Spring 2016