Abel had been hunting for his sister for several hours it was late, sometime past midnight but Ailana had a knack of finding herself a quiet place when she was upset or hurt and she could often be difficult to find.
Daniel had told him he’d seen Gabriel arguing with her earlier and though he admitted to choosing not to interfere he’d approached Abel and informed him and for that he was grateful.
Eventually he found her in the Aviary hidden behind the boxes of feed. “what are you doing down there he asked?”
Ailana shrugged and kept her head down, so it wasn’t till he sat down beside her that he noticed the bruising around her jaw.
“Damn Ailana, did Gabriel do this?” he asked, lifting her chin so he could see it better in the dim light of his lantern. She didn’t reply but nodded, her body letting out a small muffled sob. “Why?”
“Because I told he I wouldn’t do what he wanted” she replied her voice barely a whisper.
“And what did he ask?”
“He wants me to distract Joseph” she replied meekly “Distract him in the same way I distracted Thomas”
Abel sighed it didn’t take a genius to work out why, Gabriel had set his sights on the young Dawn Shaw, but she was betrothed to Joseph. If Aliana could catch Joseph’s eye perhaps Gabriel could convince Vince Bendett to agree to a switch.
As his father in law he knew Vince and Joseph well, Joseph was several years younger than Ailana barely more than a boy, Abel wasn’t even sure he shaved yet. Still old enough for rampant hormones and fumbles in the dark. Which would be what Gabriel was counting on. While Vince would undoubtedly reject any reasonable trade as Aliana was not only spoiled but too old for Joseph, Vince had a unyielding sense of honour and if Gabriel could catch Ailana and Joseph compromised.
His sense of honour would force him to consider the trade, especially if Ailana could convince Joseph he was in something as foolish as love and Gabriel made Aliana’s dowry attractive after all if she was good enough for a King….
“Is that all I am” she sobbed “A whore to be sent when he needs something, Abel I want more than that”
“I know you do precious” Abel nodded, “But perhaps in this case it is not such a bad idea?”
“What?! You agree with him?” Aliana asked clearly horrified.
“No of course not, but perhaps if Danson isn’t playing you need to widen your options”
“But… oh.. Abel.. I don’t want too” she sobbed.
“I’m not suggesting you do anything too extreme, I know he’s younger but a few years will be barely noticeable by the time he returns from university”
“He’s a boy” she protested.
“He’s the same age as Maegan and she’s already married” he pointed out.
“And what if he just uses me for his own enjoyment?”
“The Bendett’s aren’t that way” Abel reasoned “If he likes you he will take chase but I don’t think he has it in him to disrespect a lady in that way. Which is why you’ll have to pull out all the tricks you have, make him love you or at least think he does”
“Surely you can’t expect me to catch his eye and keep it till he returns from the mainland?!”
“I don’t suppose Gabriel is thinking you hold it for that long, just long enough that he forces the trade.. he’ll have a wife and you’ll be betrothed. University will turn him from a boy to a man”
“I can’t believe your siding with him” she protested.
“I’m not siding with anyone but you” Abel reasoned, placing his hand on his sisters shoulder. “As selfish as Gabriel’s plan is, it will get you a husband”
“I don’t want to trick one, I want one that wants me”
“He will.. if you can convince him of how wonderful you are. Then he will want you I promise”
Ailana sighed “And if he doesn’t?”
“Then you are no worse off, than you are now”
Ailana sighed resigned “I don’t even know him”
“I can help, Joesph always comes back from his lesson’s just before the dinner bell, he always head’s to the library, he likes to read. Meet him there, introduce yourself if he ask’s why your their say your meeting me, i’m going to help you with your letters”
“I can read perfectly well” she reasoned.
“He doesn’t know that” Abel smiled “Use your charm, strike up a conversation… I’ll come in just after the bell. I’ll tell you I’ve got to spend the evening with my wife. I can even suggest that I’ll give Joseph some coin to help you in my absence”
“Do you think it will work? And what about Dawn didn’t he spend time with her the last week?”
“He did but I don’t think he warmed to her. I know Vince was concerned about it as he mentioned it to me”
“This seems terribly unfair”
“It’s not” he assured her “You’ll get a husband, and he will get a beautiful wife. What is unfair about that?”