Chapter 32: Unspoken Agreements
Anna still hadn’t had a chance to change into anything nicer. The shower with Elsa had been all too brief. In the full light of the bathroom her eyes had drunk in every square millimeter of Elsa’s naked body, and she felt sure Elsa had been doing the same to her. They had been so straightforward as they shared the narrow stall, but she hadn’t been able to put what Elsa had just done to her out of her head. She had had two lovers in the past who’d done that to her reliably, one woman and one man; the others had all tried, but they had lacked that something, that je ne sais quoi, that had so reliably unlocked her trust and desire enough to give her such uncomplicated and astonishing ecstasy.
Even as she zipped up the back of Elsa’s dress, she couldn’t help but wonder: why this woman? It wasn’t her exalted position; pocket monarchies were a dime a dozen in Silesia, and Anna had spent four years in Silesian space hunting pirates for her Navy. The official government of Silesia could barely afford a Navy strong enough to keep its borders intact, internal piracy was rampant, and Silesia was all to happy to let Manticore “practice” naval maneuvers on its criminal class. Manticore was equally happy to have a place where it could legitimately blood its commanders on how to kill bad guys and accept the responsibility for doing so.
It wasn’t just Elsa’s beauty. It wasn’t Olaf. “Olaf!”
“Where’s Olaf?” Anna said, suddenly.
“He’s on Manticore. He said he didn’t want to be there for our reunion, not yet. He said we had matters to work out on our own. He’d catch up with us. He’s with Eugene and Rapunzel right now.”
“They’re still together?” Anna liked Eugene, and Rapunzel, but trying to picture the two of them making a reliable couple was a bit beyond her imagination.
“Yes,” Elsa said, with a smile that said she wasn’t sure she believed it, either. “Apparently, Olaf has some… friends? Family? I’m not sure what to make of the hand signs he gave me. Anyway, he has some relations at Queen’s College, and since that’s where Rapunzel is going for her advanced degree in political science and interstellar relations, he thought he’d go with her.”
“I see,” Anna said slowly. “Well, she’s very safe with him.” Elsa nodded. Anna couldn’t help but see the thin while scar that curled up just above Elsa’s left cheek just above the jaw toward her ear. God forbid, if either of them ever got hurt again Olaf would become a danger to everyone.
She finished buttoning her blouse and pushed her feet back into her low-heeled ankle boots. If she was going to be dragged to her father’s Club, she’d be damned to do it in high heels. “Ready. Now, you said you’d tell me after our shower. Where are we going?”
Elsa smiled. “Your mother’s.”
The door opened. Calhoun was grinning at them. “Ready to go, ladies?”
“Yes.” “No.” Elsa and Anna looked at each other. “Elsa, tell me what’s going on.”
“When we get to your mother’s house. Really, Anna, it’s a surprise. Trust me?”
Anna looked into those soft, winsome eyes. “Oh, what the heck. Let’s go. Mom will be thrilled to see me.” She looked across at Elsa. “And she’ll be even more thrilled to meet you.”
Anna wasn’t sure how Calhoun managed to switch out the motorcycle for a town car, but she wasn’t complaining if it meant she got to sit in the back cuddled next to Elsa, sharing the other woman’s body heat. She was still flying from the incredible sex, remembering that less than an hour ago they’d been in the heat of lovemaking, and Elsa… “God.”
“You’re amazing,” Anna said, trying to repeat every memory of the last hours in her mind, from the thrilling motorcycle ride– Anna hadn’t ridden a motorbike since her Saganami Island days– to just seeing Elsa again, through that… that… She sighed. “You’re just amazing.”
“I wonder if you’ll still think that after this afternoon, or… later.”
“I will,” Anna said. “At this point, there’s no way I could think otherwise.”
Elsa smiled tolerantly at her, then grinned and said, “We’re at your mother’s.”
“Great.” Calhoun had parked, and the three of them had been waved through when the concierge recognized Anna. On the elevator ride up, Anna looked at Elsa and wondered at the thoughts bubbling in the back of her mind, the things she hadn’t yet said to Elsa, or to anyone, or even coherently formed in the privacy of her own mind. She was still mulling when they reached the door. Anna knocked. “I’m not even sure she’s home,” she said to her companions.
“Who’s there?” came a voice through the door.
“Well,” Anna said. “It’s me, Mom!”
The door clicked open. The woman standing there was short, stout, dark-skinned and dressed in a bathrobe. “Anna, dearie! You didn’t tell me you were coming over!” She lunged out of the door and grabbed Anna in a powerful hug, lifting her daughter off the ground before noticing there were other people in the hallway. “You brought guests!”
“Um, yeah. Sort of.”
“You really should have called, dear. I would have liked some warning before greeting your friends in nothing but a bathrobe. I don’t think they’re those kind of friends!” Her bright and cheerful laugh was one of those infectious things. “Come in, come in! Give them seats while I go get changed into something better!” She disappeared into the apartment, leaving the door open.
Anna shrugged. “I didn’t even get a chance to introduce you.”
“You’ll get that chance.” Elsa’s eyes were twinkling. Anna didn’t think that brightness was entirely joy.
Anna’s mother returned, dressed in a slate pantsuit with an untucked blouse, to find Anna and Elsa sitting on the two couches set a-corner in the living room. Calhoun stood by the large glass doors that looked out over the fjord. “Now, what’s the issue, dear? You didn’t come give me a surprise visit, with friends you haven’t even introduced yet, unless there’s something up.”
“No. Mom, I’d like you to meet my, um, friend, Elsa.” Anna introduced the currently black-haired woman. “And Tamora Jean.”
“Ma’am,” Calhoun said gently.
“Anyway, Tamora, Elsa, this is my mother, Cassidy Cinnamon DuVar.”
“I’m very pleased to meet you,” Elsa said. “You’re not at all what I expected.”
Cassidy’s laugh rang sourly. “Nobody in this family is what we expected. But Elsa, why does that name sound familiar? I don’t think we’ve met, so you’re not one of Anna’s friends from around here. You weren’t at the launching party. Did she meet you…” Cassidy’s eyes went enormous as she stared at Elsa. “You dyed your hair!” She turned to Anna. “You always were crazy, Anna, but this is crazier than ever! You brought the Queen of Arendelle here? Why? Where’s your security detail, your highness?”
Elsa waved a hand dismissively. “This ‘incognito’ seems to be holding up well. Security Captain Calhoun there is a terror to behold when…” Her face fell. “Well. I hope her services won’t be necessary.”
“I hope not as well. But why are you here? Aside from the obvious, I mean.” She shot a glance at Anna. “For that, you could have sent a courier.”
“As you probably know, Ms. DuVar, this Monday your queen and I will meet to sign the Understanding of Commonwealth. Compared to Manticore we’re not much of an economic powerhouse, but the introduction of gravitics has given my people something to do, and the once bored and dissolute have found new passions to indulge.” She grinned at Anna. In the few hours they’d had when they weren’t desperately tearing each other’s clothes off, they’d talked a lot about how Arendelle’s people were stymied, bored and looking for direction. “Your daughter was responsible for much of that, and I want her at the signing ceremony. I sent several letters to Anna that she says never arrived, and she says she sent me at least one letter that I never received.”
“She better have sent you a letter!” Cassidy said. “The way that girls was pining about you, I would have expected her to send more than one.”
“Mom!” Anna said with all the dignity she could muster. “I was not pining. And I couldn’t send more than one. I didn’t want to seem like some kind of psycho stalker.”
“You were so pining, dear. It was in your eyes. You could tell the story just fine, but every time you said her name–” Cassidy pointed a finger at Elsa– “It was plain as day. ‘Elsaaaah.’” She ended with an exaggerated sigh and the kind of grin of which only mothers seem capable. Anna blushed.
Elsa grinned. Anna settled, but when she glanced at Elsa, was that a wink? That was totally a wink. Anna blushed harder. Her dignity was taking a lot of abuse these days. Sure, she had told Elsa how much she loved the name, but that didn’t mean she always said it as if she were on the verge of ecstasy.
Elsa went on. “I sent Anna an invitation. Last week, Elizabeth sent Anna a request-but-not-require invitation that she attend the ceremony, state dinner and reception for the signing. Anna never RSVPed.”
“I never got an invitation,” Anna said. “And you sent… no, this isn’t an accident.” She looked up at her mother. “I bet Dad had something to do with this.”
“Why?” Elsa said.
“Because he heard the rumors too. About me and you. Everyone did. Doctor Pine even tried to have them introduced into evidence at my Inquiry. They got quashed even before they were voiced in the open, but by then everyone knew that something had gone down between you and me.” She blushed at her unintended double entendre. Elsa seemed to miss it entirely. “He wants to make sure that any ‘inappropriate impulses’ I might have toward you aren’t allowed to gain in strength, because he wants me to marry Hans.”
“That stick?” her mother said. “Still?”
“They haven’t given up, Mom. And…” Anna sighed.
“Were you serious about accepting?”
Anna said. “I accepted his ring. I haven’t put it on yet. Like I told Elsa, it really did seem like a good idea once upon a time. Look, Mom, all the email to the house goes through the household servers in the basement because Dad likes it that way. Physical security and all that. I bet he has some of the best filtering and management software in the world, and he has people who’ll do his work for him. I bet he has a lawyer who checks every piece of email sent to me. He’s filtering Elsa out of my life.”
“Well, he can’t do it if she’s right here,” Cassidy said, pointing to Elsa.
“And as the official guest of Monday’s event,” Elsa said, “I have certain discretion as to who is invited. Ms. DuVar, would you be willing to accompany your daughter to Manticore?”
Anna’s mother grinned. “Absolutely.”
When the phone beeped, Robert DuVar, Earl Iron Fjord, nearly leaped out his chair to push the ‘accept’ button. Anna’s face materialized on the screen. “Anna, where are you?”
Anna looked calm. The background looked familiar. “I’m at Mom’s, Dad.” She smiled.
“And your friend?”
“Tamora and I went to a cafe to get caught up, and then she dropped me off here. Mom and I going to have dinner together, so don’t wait up, okay?”
He bit back a reply. The connection was to his ex-wife’s home, so he could hardly order his adult daughter to stop visiting her mother. Anna continued, “Dad, it’s okay. I’m sorry if it caught you off guard. Tamora’s just a friend, service and all that. I’ll see you soon.”
He nodded. “Just do the right thing, Anna.”
She nodded and the connection went dark. He looked up into the clouded face of the man sitting across the desk from him. “‘Tamora,’” Hans said, “is Captain Tamora Jean Calhoun of Her Majesty’s Palace Security on Arendelle.” Every word was bitten off with cold fury. “Your simple ruse has failed, Earl Iron Fjord. What are you going to do to make sure I marry your daughter?”
Robert DuVar swallowed his own roiling bile, most of which he’d have gratefully projectiled onto Hans’s perfect uniform if it would just make the last leap into his throat. He sighed and reached for the phone. “Book me an express flight to Landing on Manticore. I have to be there by Monday afternoon. If you need a charter, book it. I don’t care. Get me that flight.” He closed the connection again, then pulled up a spreadsheet and prepared to cash in too many favors.