Chapter Six – continued
She quickly made her way through the empty main hall. Not even Geoffrey was bustling around, so she was sure Muriel had him running all over the manor as well. Camille was, apparently, off cleaning the floor again, but she was mostly glad to see Muriel was no where around.
The door shut quietly behind her and she took off at a quick pace for the markets, tucking her head as far into the hood as she could. The air was crisp and clouds were wandering into the sky, but had no where to go. As much as she wanted to be away from Muriel, she also wanted to be back before the rain started.
Biting her lip and tightly gripping her basket, Abigail wondered if Adrian or Andalissa would be around in the markets. She had promised Madeline, after all, she’d do her best. Madeline had listened intently when she’d told her about Adrian a week ago, but her stepsister had been more interested in helping Helene butterfly the chickens than listen to anything about the Duke.
“Hello there,” a familiar, cheerful voice said as a pair of boots suddenly started walking alongside hers.
She couldn’t help it; she startled easily. Fortunately, Adrian had quick reflexes and grabbed her basket before it tumbled to the ground. With a grin, he offered it back to her, and she saw his hood covered his face nearly as well as hers did. He was still coming to the markets incognito.
Well, that was fine with her. As long as he didn’t figure out who she was.
“I hope you don’t mind,” he said, stepping in a little closer so he could lower his voice. “I was hoping to see you again.” He pointed at the basket. “I recognized your basket. Not many people carry a white one. Anyways, you were such a big help last time, I was hoping you could help me again. See, my sister’s birthday is coming up, close to the Midwinter Festival, and I’ve always been terrible at giving gifts. She even threw one back at me, she hated it so much.”
Abigail blinked at him. Camille was wrong. If she didn’t work hard on Madeline, it wasn’t that Andalissa would eat Madeline alive. It would be Adrian completely steamrolling over her. She had to fight the small smile that always tugged at the corners of her mouth whenever she thought of that word. Her grandfather had brought it back after seeing one in operation and had been quite taken with how flat it left everything.
“Hmm?” Abigail said, tilting her head.
He gave her a nervous smile. “Will you help me?”
She blinked blankly at him for a moment, right before her cheeks started to feel warm and then hot. Right. Andalissa’s birthday was coming up. The Murants would surely host an extravagant ball in her honor, where all of the gifts would be presented. Abigail was sure Adrian wouldn’t want to be embarrassed in front of all the nobility, never mind the fact they were all distantly related and most knew how dreadful Adrian was at giving gifts.
Now the only problem would be to help him without letting on she knew anything about his sister.
“I’m afraid I am not familiar with your sister,” she said carefully.
At that, Adrian looked a little abashed. “Ah. Right. Of course you would have a better idea about what to gift a mermaid.” His eyes turned earnest. “I can tell you all about her and then maybe you can point me in a good direction.”
“I, er, suppose,” she stammered.
Adrian grinned and held out an arm. “Here, let me escort you to gather what you need and I’ll tell you all about Andalissa.”
If she were a different sort of woman, she might have slid her arm through his and smiled prettily. It didn’t matter he was incognitio; it was still easy enough to see he was a handsome man. Or she might have backed up and run into the crowd to escape the oppressive air preventing her from breathing and the constant heat in her cheeks she was sure was glowing from beneath her hood.
But she wasn’t. She was Genevieve’s daughter. No matter how she disliked having to be cordial to people when she’d rather curl up in a corner.
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