Aurelia beamed with anticipation and graced Robert with a smile.
At that moment he knew he was in trouble.
"Yes, it's Carnival, tomorrow night is Carnival, the Night of the Masks. We're old enough to go out in disguise now," Aurelia said. "You must wait for me before you go." She frowned. "It's no fun alone."
A trace of sadness in her voice made Robert promise despite misgivings. "All right, it's not like I can refuse the order of the princess."
Her voice fried to ash. "It's not an order, Robert, but even if it was, I expect my friends to have enough courage to refuse an invitation."
Nothing had lengthened her temper over the last four years. He sorted to humor, the only defense available, and swept her a mocking bow. "I'll be your lifelong friend then, since I won't put up with being pushed around."
"Really?" Her eyes danced. She splayed her hands against his chest and pushed, hard.
Robert held his footing without giving ground. "Yes, and thank you for the invitation." He encircled her waist with his hands and twirled her toward her anxiously waiting friends. His mind spun as he looked down at her laughing face. He could not imagine why someone was trying to kill her.