Delia and her witch-green eyes, her dimpled smile, her easy charming mask: she has never lacked for admirers, when she wants them. The hot kind of admiration stoked by her beauty is a fickle thing, though. The men that fall at her feet one day continue to do so as long as she remains solely theirs; the minute her attention strays, they snarl and call her faithless, their precious honor the only thing that stops them from spitting out the word whore. Sometimes not even their honor is deterrent enough. Delia will see them with another girl on their arm after that, at the next ball, and a different one the ball after that, and the hypocrisy of it all is entirely lost on them.
Her lip curls in contempt when they can’t see her. It would take only a moment of true interest, an actual desire to listen to her, to realize that her brain is as much her triumph as her beauty. Not one of those men has yet to learn it.
Whether they wear a crown or not, men are after one thing and one thing alone from her: more fools them.
Delia will make them take notice when the time comes.
There is madness in her line, though not well-known. Josiane would never speak of it; if she were for any reason inclined to completely ruin her standing in court, she would ensure it be for something she does, at least, rather than an accident of family.
I am not one of them, she thinks to herself as she puts her face on in the mornings, sweet Josiane, temperate Josiane, who balances so well on the Prince’s arm and laughs gaily at all his jokes, even the ones that aren’t particularly amusing. I am more than my blood.
(Never mind that temper she had when she was a child. Never mind the rock she threw at that boy’s head when he tried to pull her braid, years ago, and the other rock she threw when he was already bleeding. Her mother had broken her of that, after all. Princesses just smile.)
And then Jonathan, who has been determinedly attentive to her thus far, for reasons all his own—Jonathan loses interest, retreats, finds the politest possible way of declaring himself done with her and decides that is the end of it.
A prince may leave a hundred princesses in his wake and never hear a word about it; Josiane is his cast-off, and who will have her now?
And why do you think of it in those terms? she asks herself one day, white scored lines in her palms from the sting of her nails, that familiar anger rising like a deadly, old friend.
If they will not have her, let them all burn.
"Yes," Delia says, tipping Josiane’s chin up to examine her with a cool, evaluative gaze. Her voice is creamy with feline amusement. "You’ll do nicely."
Josiane is well-bred and practiced at hiding her emotions, steeped in manners to her very bones. She is unfailingly polite, no matter the provocation she might face.
Delia’s nails pierce the soft underside of Josiane’s chin, and Josiane bares her teeth in wordless answer, watches delight flash in Delia’s endlessly green eyes: it is like looking into a mirror and discovering a face she never knew she had, a lover, an enemy, a twin.
“The things we will do,” Delia says quietly, like a promise and a kiss and the raking of nails down Josiane’s back, and maybe the madness belongs to her blood or maybe the madness is entirely her own, but all Josiane knows is that with Delia there, the next time she has to smile at someone she would rather kill, she will just kill him instead.