“He may be dead,” Esgred agreed, “and if he lives, why, he has spent so long at sea, he’d be half a stranger here. The ironborn would never seat a stranger in the Seastone Chair.”
“I suppose not,” Theon replied, before it occurred to him that some would call him a stranger as well. The thought made him frown. Ten years is a long while, but I am back now, and my father is far from dead. I have time to prove myself.
He considered fondling Esgred’s breast again, but she would probably only take his hand away, and all this talk of his uncles had dampened his ardor somewhat. Time enough for such play at the castle, in the privacy of his chambers. “I will speak to Helya when we reach Pyke, and see that you have an honored place at the feast,” he said. “I must sit on the dais, at my father’s right hand, but I will come down and join you when he leaves the hall. He seldom lingers long. He has no belly for drink these days.”
“A grievous thing when a great man grows old.”
“Lord Balon is but the father of a great man.”
“A modest lordling.”
“Only a fool humbles himself when the world is so full of men eager to do that job for him.” He kissed her lightly on the nape of her neck.
“What shall I wear to this great feast?” She reached back and pushed his face away.
“I’ll ask Helya to garb you. One of my lady mother’s gowns might do. She is off on Harlaw, and not expected to return.”
“The cold winds have worn her away, I hear. Will you not go see her? Harlaw is only a day’s sail, and surely Lady Greyjoy yearns for a last sight of her son.”
“Would that I could. I am kept too busy here. My father relies on me, now that I am returned. Come peace, perhaps . . .”
“Your coming might bring her peace.”
“Now you sound a woman,” Theon complained.
“I confess, I am . . . and new with child.”
Somehow that thought excited him. “So you say, but your body shows no signs of it. How shall it be proven? Before I believe you, I shall need to see your breasts grow ripe, and taste your mother’s milk.”
“And what will my husband say to this? Your father’s own sworn man and servant?”
“We’ll give him so many ships to build, he’ll never know you’ve left him.”
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