Katherine's Alter Ego
He was Pietor, and yet he was not her Pietor. The young man to whom she'd pledged her undying
love in a spring meadow had become a man she couldn't bear to be near. Pietor Gabris had betrayed
his country as well as Chesna's heart. And her fury at his disloyalty made her want to see him suffer
the tortures of the damned.
"I suppose this is why you haven't bothered to write me in the last six years," she remarked in a tone
as emotional as a tree stump.
She grabbed a lit torch from a nearby wall sconce and proceeded forward. But with the torch held
aloft in her left hand and Zarek's tenacious grasp on her right, she had to wait for Pietor to pull open
the door to the staircase that led to the cells. He brushed past her, and his profile called up visions
she'd rather forget.
…I will rush home to you…
…I swear upon the soul of my late mother, I will return to you…
…I will not forget you. I will not forget my promise to you…
The moment he yanked on the handle, the musty air of centuries of misery assailed Chesna's
nostrils. No matter. No prison could compete with her bitter memories of Pietor.
"I would have wagered the lure of the whores of St. Petersburg made you forget me," she said.
"Had I known you'd join their sisterhood so soon after my departure, I might not have forgotten you
The barb struck tender flesh, but with right on her side, she shook off the sting. "You were far too
busy becoming one of Napoleon Bonaparte's lackeys to remember the lonely girl waiting for you in
"Obviously you found a way to occupy yourself in your solitude."
"I didn't wish to wither on the vine," she replied with an impudent toss of her head.
"Wither? You barely waited until you were ripe before you allowed yourself to be plucked." He gave
a curt nod in Zarek's direction. "Is he really King Jarek's son?"
Did she hear a touch of jealousy in his tone? Oh, she hoped so. She squeezed Zarek's arm, a silent
reminder he must do nothing to reveal the truth to this traitor. "Yes, he is. Look closely at him. He
has the stamp of his father all over his face."
As they stood at the bottom of the stairs, Pietor, two steps above, scrutinized the boy. Chesna
waited, fully aware of the conclusion he'd eventually draw. Even without the regal demeanor, this
child was King Jarek in miniature. He had his father's golden hair, warm gray eyes, and clefted chin.
Pietor's lips compressed again, and Chesna hid a smile.
Her heart chastised her for finding pleasure in his anger. But after years of bitter loneliness, the
revenge of the moment tasted too sweet not to savor for a while. "The resemblance is startling," she
said. "Isn't it?"
"Yes," he replied softly. "There is much of his father in him."