From London, With Love by Bec McMaster

“He frustrates me frequently,” Sir Gideon admitted. “He wears all the arrogance of his class, though his loyalties cannot be questioned.”

The queen set her book aside. “He may be a blue blood, and yet, it was his voice that recommended I choose you for the new council in the wake of the revolution.”

Sir Gideon’s eyebrows rose. He’d always wondered about that. He’d been head of the Humans First political party, the son of a minor house who’d forged a career in politics with his pacifist ways. Though he’d worked with the Duchess of Casavian to channel funds to the revolutionaries in the streets, he’d never expected to be named to the council.

“And now I owe him a favor,” he grumbled. “I do wish you hadn’t told me that.”

“I trust him,” she continued, “because while he is a managing busybody who cannot keep his nose out of anyone’s business, he is also able to make decisions for the good of the realm, even when they do not necessarily benefit him. He makes suggestions he doesn’t like, because he knows they are the right suggestions to make. And if you tell him I said that, then I will deny it with all my breath.”

Sir Gideon shot her a faint smile. “Malloryn doesn’t need compliments. He’s already filled with his own sense of self-importance. And I would never repeat your confidences.”

“I know.” Her voice came soft. “I wouldn’t take you into them if I didn’t think you too were loyal.”

The fire in the grate crackled in the ensuing silence.

“I would never betray you,” he murmured.

“I know.”

“And I would never—”

“I know,” she snapped.

His lips thinned, but he hadn’t won his way to the head of a political party by buckling at the slightest hint of stubbornness. “You don’t know. For you didn’t allow me to finish my sentence.”

The queen stared at her hands. “You would never betray me. You are my most loyal subject. You believe in me. I’ve heard it all before, Gideon.”

“I would never hurt you, is what I was going to say.” He poured the pair of them a cordial. “Though I’ve never had cause to say that before.”

Their eyes met as she accepted the cordial, and he could feel the faint tremor in her fingers as they brushed against his.

“I know,” she whispered. “You would never hurt me.”

It eased some of the tension within him.

Ever since he’d kissed her and she’d shoved him away, he’d felt as though a hot coal lingered in his stomach.

He had never set hands upon a woman who had not wanted his attentions, but this one most crucial time, he had misread her affections. And it curdled inside him, a secret shame that ate away at the honor at the very core of him.

“You should be resting,” he told her. “Not sitting up and waiting for Malloryn to return.”

“I barely had a sip of the poison, Sir Gideon. And you are not in any position to be telling me what I should or should not do.”

Frustration got the better of him. “Forgive me for caring about my queen’s health.”

She shot him a startled look, then her eyes narrowed. “Your queen is going to survive the night, Sir Gideon. Lay your mind at rest. You won’t be forced to deal with my replacement just yet.”

“That wasn’t what I meant, and you know it.”

She set the empty glass aside and stood. “Do I?”

He wanted to tear out his hair.

It was one thing to watch her marry another. He’d always known it would come to this. She was the Queen of Britain, and he was merely a minor nobleman’s son who’d risen to prominence through his political aspirations during the revolution. There had never been any hope for them.

But the foolish part of his heart that squeezed in his chest every time he saw her didn’t care.

She was the woman he loved.

She was the woman he would always love, come what may.

Gideon threw back his cordial, then set the glass down with a hard crack. “I think we need to discuss what happened at Haver Hall.”

“You kissed me,” she blurted.

“And I apologized for that, most profusely. I had… misinterpreted your intentions and I was swept away in the moment. I should never have dared lay—"

A sharp rap came at the door, startling the pair of them.

The queen swished away from him, looking cool and regal. He hated how she could seemingly wipe the storm of emotion from her face in the blink of an eye—for all his skill with diplomacy, he could never quite manage it.