The Bed You Make
Chapter 26
~ Fall Back and regroup ~


Dara stirred in her sleep. She rolled away from Stefan, effectively removing the soft, warm flesh pressed trustingly against his back. Despite her earlier assertion that sleep would be difficult to come by, Dara had drifted off instantly.

He did not sleep, as his mother had perhaps intended with her parting shot. Stefan lay on his right side and stared into the growing light of the bedroom suite. He was not a man accustomed to second-guessing himself. Confrontations with Helena, however, inevitably led to moments of self-examination. Her exchanges held just enough truth to be plausible.

And therein lay the difficulty of dealing with her, Stefan thought. Had she noticed on his part some burgeoning affection for Dara? Or were Helena's words just her calculated attempt to derail the momentum he and Dara had gained?

Either way it did not matter, Stefan decided. The boundaries between he and his ‘wife' were once again firmly in place. There was no room for outside indulgences if Nikolas' future was to be secured. For a moment he had allowed himself to be distracted from the goal by Dara's intelligence and wit. It would not happen again.

Stefan forced his attention back to the matter of Helena's late-night visit. Whatever his mother's intentions, she had managed to single-handedly propel Stefan's agenda forward. Thanks to Helena, Dara was more determined than before to see her end of the agreement through to its conclusion.

He was not surprised by Dara's reaction to his mother's veiled threats. When backed into a corner, his ‘bride' tended to come out fighting. What he had not quite anticipated was Dara's swift decision to return to the suite they shared. Oh, he'd considered that she might return, but was by no means certain of it. Throughout their short marriage, Dara's unique response to situations was enough to keep Stefan off-balance where she was concerned.

Stefan sat up and swung his legs over the side of the bed. It was a bit earlier than his normal rising time, but Helena's visit hours earlier had changed the day's itinerary. Though he might choose to disregard her words about the status of his marriage, Helena had made one other point that Stefan could not discount. Nor did he wish to.