Kordahla took a deep breath and pulled a lock of her walnut hair over her shoulder, wondering what she could say.
“I have received a rather thought-provoking missive from Lord Ahkdul,” Father said, relieving her of the burden.
She nodded. They had met the ambassador’s ship for no other reason than to accept it. “Is he pleased with the ship’s progress?” she asked.
“He doesn’t mention it. This concerns another matter entirely.”
“Porrin smuggling,” Vinsant said, rolling his eyes.
Father frowned but immediately returned his attention to her. “As it happens, no. Lord Ahkdul has expressed a desire to meet Kordahla.”
Kordahla’s heart beat more quickly. “If he intends on guesting here, our re-acquaintance is assured.” She would not follow her thoughts to a logical if distasteful conclusion.
Father rose and took her hands. “His words imply he would like to cultivate a more serious relationship. He has even suggested you accompany him to Verdaan for a time.”
She was trembling now, though Father’s eyes were not unkind as they gauged her reaction. She shook her head in disbelief, glanced askance at the ambassador, decked out in Verdaani saffron, and kept her voice low, though there was every chance he would hear. “You cannot be entertaining the notion of a marriage alliance with Ahkdul?” Years of forced propriety kept her from saying more. They all knew the rumours.
Father touched the back of his fingers to her cheek, an affectionate gesture from childhood. “Perhaps we shall allow events to run their course when he arrives? You will, naturally, avail yourself of his presence.” His gaze held steady. “And it would be most fitting for you to don the veil while he is here. We would not wish him to think you uncouth.”
The djinn stitched her mouth until Father had turned from her. “Since it is Ahkdul who will be the guest, shouldn’t it be he who adapts to our customs?” She had meant to sound reasonable, to have the air of one asking for instruction in royal etiquette, but her trepidation had coloured the words with a touch of rudeness. As always, the hint of that tone, from a woman no less, wiped the cordiality from Father’s face.
“Perhaps it is time the women of the court resumed the ways of old. I am told you caused quite a disturbance yesterday, and not one Vae’oenka’s most ardent followers welcomed.” His stare shamed her into looking at the green lines through the black marble.