This conversation was cut from a VERY early draft of Ice Like Fire (and therefore it is horrifically unpolished, MY APOLOGIES). It took place near the beginning of the story—Meira gets taken by surprise while looking for her chakram and hides, only to overhear this exchange between Noam and Theron.
“This kingdom’s rebirth was questionable to begin with,” Noam continues, his voice unhindered and growing stronger as he walks through the weapons tent. “But this child doesn’t know how to use the magic that has been bestowed on every other monarch. She is unworthy of this position, and I will not let her drag Cordell down too.”
“You don’t know what she’s capable of,” Theron growls and a wave of shame washes over me. I tighten my arms around my knees. I shouldn’t be spying. I should let them know I’m here.
Or . . .
“You made up your mind about her long ago,” I can feel the sparks leaping off Theron’s tongue, “and you’re blind to any of her qualities now. If you would set aside your prejudices and see this kingdom—”
Noam snorts. “Prejudices? You think I am narrow-minded enough to be persuaded by prejudices?”
I stifle a snort.
The two of them keep walking, pacing through the tent. They get to the end of one aisle and start down this one, and I pull myself deeper under the table.
“Season or Rhythm has nothing to do with it,” Noam says. “She is unfit to be queen. She is unfit to be your wife. This kingdom has potential, that much is true, but she will only lead it—and us, if we stay linked with her—to disaster.”
I dig my nails into my knees. He’s calling off the engagement. He’s done with being linked to Winter.
No. Not to Winter. To me.
Noam still wants Winter. He still wants what he’s always wanted, what every Rhythm has always wanted—the Klaryns. But he isn’t willing to marry his son to me anymore.
My heart twitches, realizing with a sudden burst of clarity that I don’t know how this makes me feel. Sad? Angry? Relieved? I do know one emotion with annoying certainty though—hatred. I hate that we need Noam and Cordell at all. I hate that we’re so broken that we have to depend on the greediness of a Rhythm to keep us afloat.
“You will leave,” Theron breaks through my thoughts. “But I’m staying.”
Noam growls, a throaty tear that echoes through the empty tent. “Excuse me?”
Theron stomps closer to him. “I. Won’t. Leave. Her.”
Shivers pull through my body as he eases each word out, and I can imagine the glare he’s giving to his father right now. A fiery kind of passion that suffocates me and fills me up all at once.
“This isn’t your kingdom. Your responsibilities lie in Cordell. Your future lies in Cordell.”
“But my heart lies here.”
“Damn your heart! You will return to Cordell when I will it. You will return to your duties when I will it. And you will leave that girl when I will it.”
Theron exhales. “You killed my mother this way, you know that?”
A pause, then the crack of a fist meeting flesh. I see everything happen as I move—the weapons rattling when I leap up and bump the table, Noam’s body hunching in the motion of punching his son, Theron dropping over the table from the force of being hit. And Noam turning to me, his fur-lined cloak swinging around him as he spins, his eyes wet, showing me the smallest flash of what he looks like unraveled.