Jessica’s tone gentled. “Look, your life is your business. I don’t blame you for enjoying yourself, not for one second. But those clans see it as a dream come true when they get selected for the lottery. When they waste one of their five opportunities on a woman who has no intention of clanning—”
She threw her hands up in the air to finish her statement.
Tasha’s shame of that afternoon returned. Jessica was right. Her behavior had not been fair to Clan Deg. It hadn’t been fair to the few dozen clans she’d met with since she’d gotten to Kalquor several months earlier.
She clutched her hands together on her lap, knotting her fingers together. “I do want to find love. I just – I guess maybe I should take myself out of the lottery until I figure out what it is I’m looking for.”
Jessica’s shoulders sagged, illustrating how little pleasure she’d had in bringing up the subject. She deflated, much the way she did when her children’s actions forced her to be the disciplinarian. “If it was simply a matter of you breaking hearts, I’d leave it alone. But Tash, anything to do with the Imperial Clan is under such close scrutiny these days. It’s not fair that you’re lumped in with us, but you are. Everything you do reflects on the throne.”
Tasha nodded, feeling guiltier than ever. “I know the strain you’re under, and I’m not helping with my wild ways. I’ll pull out of the lottery first thing tomorrow.”
Jessica dropped onto the lounger and several gown next to Tasha to fling her arms around her cousin. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be so rude about it. It’s just I’m hearing such unflattering things about you, and that makes me want to slap the snot out of the people saying stuff because I know you’re wonderful.”
Her words made Tasha laugh even as they stung. She’d always been the low-profile twin, the one who didn’t make waves. It didn’t sting so much that she was being talked about as it did that Jessica and her family suffered for it.
She hugged Jessica back, hard. “Thanks for being my knight in shining armor and saving me from myself. I will do better.”
Jessica sat back and caught a tear with a finger to her lower lashes before it could smear her carefully applied makeup. “Ugh, now I feel terrible. Why do you have to be sweet? I never feel guilty when I yell at your sister.”
Releasing April 22, 2016