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Kai held out a hand to Sapphira and she stared at it, blankly. “What are you doing?”
“I thought you might like to dance,” he explained. “Apparently, this is a time to be charitable to everyone, so I figured we should get along. I’m not very good at dancing, so I don’t care whether or not you are.”
“Who says I’m not good at it?” she demanded.
He gave an exasperated sigh. “You’re a mermaid. We live in the ocean and don’t spend much time on these legs. When would you have learned how to dance like a human?”
She frowned and didn’t respond.
“Look, I’m not doing this to embarrass you or anything. You never seem to have any fun at the parties and I thought you might try to have fun tonight. It won’t kill you, after all.”
She continued to stare at him without responding for a minute.
“You should do it,” Alizarin suggested, surprising both of them. When Sapphira looked at him, he explained, “You might enjoy it, after all.”
“Since when are you on his side?” she wondered.
“I’m on your side, as ever, princess. If you do not wish to dance, that is your decision, but you may wind up missing out.”
She looked at him a moment longer before taking Kai’s hand. “One dance and you had better not step on my toes.” She dragged him into the fray and did her best to copy the moves of the humans.
Aria had noticed the interaction and she stood beside Alizarin. “Did you just convince her to dance?”
“The prince asked. I merely suggested she might enjoy it.”
“And she listened to you?” Aria stared at him, scarcely believing that.
“I suppose,” he admitted. “She may have just realized it might not be so bad.”
“I doubt Sapphira often realizes things on her own.” She considered him for a moment. “I don’t get it.”
He looked at her in confusion. “Don’t get what?”
Aria looked at the princess. “She treats you like a servant, but listens to you more than other people, it seems. Sometimes, I think she might even care about you.”
“I wouldn’t go that far,” he argued. “After all, it would not be appropriate for a Glemoran princess to show affection for a red-tail, such as myself. People would surely frown upon such a thing.”
She stared at him as a thought occurred to her. “What would happen if she was nice to you in public?”
“It’s hard to say.” He looked away from the girl. “I suppose I would no longer be able to guard her if her parents felt we were growing too close.”
“So, she has to act like she doesn’t care about you if she wants to keep you by her side?”
He was silent for a minute, clearly choosing his words with great care. “Why would a princess care about me?”
“Right…” She continued to stare at him, trying to read something from his neutral expression. “I guess I just really don’t know the first thing about you two.”
The song ended and Sapphira made her way back to Alizarin, giving Aria the usual death stare. “Don’t you have something better to do than distract my bodyguard?”
“Not really,” Aria replied with a smile. “You looked like you were having fun out there.”
“It’s tiresome,” the princess said. “How do you humans not wear down from such a thing?”
“Here.” Aria grabbed a drink from a nearby table and offered it to the girl. “Rehydrate and you’ll feel better.”
Sapphira stared at the cup. “Is it poison?”
“It’s punch,” Aria explained. She was really feeling the Christmas spirit and decided she may as well be nice to the bratty girl, at least for the night. “I won’t force you, of course. I just thought you might like it.” She looked at Alizarin, deciding to test out her new theory. “You know I wouldn’t hurt her, right?”
“I have no reason to believe you would.”
“Don’t go dragging him into your arguments,” Sapphira commanded.
Aria raised her hands in a peaceful gesture. “Look, it’s Christmas time and I’m just trying to share the spirit of the season. For one night, can we just be nice to each other?”
Sapphira stared at her for a moment. “This is a strange holiday.”
Aria shrugged and held the drink out to her. Sapphira, begrudgingly, took it. She took a sip and stared at the drink for a moment.
“Do you like it?” Aria asked.