There was a large clatter, as Jaedyn suddenly dropped her cutlery, this noise was joined in unison by the clatter of crockery as Muirean who’d been listening intently from the corner with the rest of the servants struggled to recover the serving tray she almost dropped.
Gabriel looked stunned, not quite sure how to respond he just stared, at Christopher and then towards Jaedyn who looked even more shocked than he did.
Christopher sat calmly watching the pair, Jaedyn had performed wonderfully, her very real shock was just as he’d wanted it to be, he could have told her of his plan but the look she had on her face at this moment could not have been faked.
“As I said” He continued, ” I don’t think the breakfast table is the place to discuss this”.
Gabriel nodded and stood, ” lets go to my study” he replied highly unimpressed, Christopher nodded and followed, throwing a still shocked Jaedyn a confident grin.
Reaching the study Gabriel turned “Has there been something going on between you and my wife?” he asked sternly.
“No of course not” Christopher replied ” what kind of man do you take me for, I only met her for the first time yesterday”.
“Then why?? I’m not sure I understand??” Gabriel asked.
Christopher shook his head “It’s quite simple, Jaedyn is the daughter of the king, surely you understand how important that makes her. My father has been in discussions with the king on and off all week discussing a betrothal arrangement between myself and your niece Maegan. Nothing is legally binding yet and it would be a number of years before she’s ready to marry. So when I heard Jaedyn maybe available soon I saw an opportunity a change of brides would certainly hurry things along somewhat”.
Gabriel stood looking unimpressed “So you thought you’d ask my permission??” he asked sarcastically.
Christopher shook his head “Not exactly, its not really your permission I need, I just thought perhaps we could do each other a favour”
“A favour??” Gabriel replied.
“Yes its clear things are not going well between you and your wife and I thought perhaps she could come and stay with me and the Vaux estate, until the annulment could be arranged. Allow us to get to know each other, save any delays on producing and heir once where married. My father has agreed to hand the estate over to me on the birth of an heir… So as you can imagine I’m eager to produce one as soon as possible”.
“And exactly how is this doing me a favour?” Gabriel growled.
“You can rest assured nothing improper will occur until your marriage has been dissolved. I have no wish to cause you any embarrassment. However I thought you’d appreciate getting rid of your wife sooner rather than later, especially considering to situation with your mistress, after all with Jaedyn gone you’d be free to do what ever you liked”.
“Do you understand the terms under which I seek an annulment??” Gabriel asked in disbelief.
“I believe so?” Christopher replied.
“What makes you think she’ll provide you with an heir??” Gabriel replied, unable to comprehend the sudden feelings of jealousy ” I’ve been married to her for 5 years and she hasn’t produced one for me”.
“Well…. ” Christopher began trying to look like he didn’t want to answer, ” Rumour has it the problem doesn’t lie with her ability to provide a child”.
“What exactly is this rumour??” Gabriel snapped.
“Lord Hamdun, you not need to get yourself worked up” Christopher replied “I’m not suggesting that you have a problem, just that you and your wife haven’t really given each other a chance… and that during your marriage she did produced a child, that was unfortunately not yours”.
“I wasn’t aware that was public knowledge” Gabriel replied honestly, suddenly worried his attempts to keep the matter quiet had failed ” does this rumour tell you to whom she provided a child??”
Christopher nodded “but I’m sure no one blames you for that”.
“I’m not sure you quite understand what you’re getting yourself into” Gabriel protested, suddenly feeling very ashamed, ” She can be quite difficult”.
Christopher nodded “I’m sure she can, but then again can’t all noblewomen?? I’m quite aware of how emotional and demanding she can be. However I think I could control her with a heavy hand. I’m not suggesting you couldn’t control her, but I think perhaps you’ve been too good to her. She’ll quickly learn her place with me.”
Gabriel looked concerned, he did care for Jaedyn and didn’t want to see her hurt, he didn’t know much about the Vaux’s as a whole other than the distorted view he’d gained from his father. Looking at Christopher he tried to assess what the young man meant by a heavy hand, the last thing Jaedyn needed was the sort of brutality she’d met at the hands of his father.
“To be honest” Christopher continued ” I’m quite honoured by your concern, your lucky to have inherited an estate that’s secure enough you can get away with something like this. Not many lords could boast sending a princess home in shame, and still retain their political and social position, not to mention the financial side of the affair. Unfortunately I was not so lucky, my father hurt my estate sorely divorcing my mother and marrying that commoner, which pales in comparison to what you’re doing so I really admire you for risking it”
Gabriel nodded numbly and managed to mumble ” Yes it was a difficult decision”. he knew he should feel offended, angered but instead all he felt was suddenly sick.
“Personally I won’t deny I need a high profile marriage to secure my family’s long term future, Your wife maybe difficult but I feel she’d be worth it politically in the long term. Your annulment gives me the perfect opportunity to gain some extra favour with the king. Marrying her will save him from being lumbered with an un-marriable daughter and the associated financial burden. Besides if I re-call she came with quite a hansom dowry which would come in handy on the estate”.
Gabriel went silent, he’d not even considered the dowry, it was customary for the marriage portion to return with the woman to her father after an annulment, and it indeed had been quite a substantial amount of money and land, losing that and the cost of renovations would indeed leave the Hamdun estate struggling.
Christopher had certainly opened his eyes to the financial and political ramifications of his actions and suddenly the whole idea of the annulment didn’t seem like such a good idea.