Sisters of String and Glass, Part 31

Chapter Nine – continued

Somewhere in this manicured garden was the conflicted Duke. What she was going to say to him, she wasn’t sure, but she and Andalissa were still on a mission to see their siblings married to each other. Besides, guests were still pouring in. It would be a while yet before Andalissa was free to let her in on what was happening with her brother. She might as well find out on her own.

The gravel was rocky beneath her slippers, so she was glad to be wearing flat silken slippers instead of the heeled glass slippers most of the ladies of nobility wore to functions like this. After all, no one looked under her gown, so how were they to know if she was being fashionable or not? She might live in the Glass Kingdom, but all she cared for was the sea glass.

Soft male voices pulled at her and she heard the light crunch of gravel. It didn’t grow quieter or louder, so she assumed whoever it was wasn’t walking. Like a ghost, she stepped into the garden itself and silently made her way around the trees and bushes until the voices grew louder, her movements remembered from years practice of practice.

“Well, if you intend on saying something, why are you hiding in the courtyard?” a familiar male voice asked.

Camille peeked around the trunk of the tree she hid behind, recognizing the Crown Prince’s voice.

The two men looked like brothers, the prince and the duke. They had the same dark auburn hair, worn short, and were of a similar height. The prince was just inches taller then his cousin. Both had heavy winter coats on, so she guessed they had planned to be out here a while.

The Duke cracked an almost pained laugh. “To which one?”

“I highly doubt a maidservant would be here,” James said dryly. “Though, if you intend to pursue her, this is probably the best time to find her at home without her mistress roaming around.”

“I wonder if I could guess which household she belongs to.”

“You said Gail was there to buy fabric from the Sun Kingdom. Very few families can afford it. Mine, yours, the Olidans, the Greshins, the Leightleys.” She saw the prince shrug. “And a few others, but I think one or two have yet to return to the city.”

“Speaking of all of us returning, how are the negotiations going?”

“Changing topics, are we? Don’t worry, cousin, we’ll return to your dilemma soon enough. As for me, the Count Olidan is doing an impressive job. The mer king is becoming more amendable to losing his daughter to the land permanently.”

“I wonder why.”

The prince shrugged. “The Count works wholeheartedly for the interests of my parents and the kingdom. He’s very good at wearing down people. I just wonder what he promised in return.”

“So we’ll be seeing the betrothal proclamation soon.”

“By the spring, I expect. If not sooner. There have been some rumblings about a spring wedding. My mother is already speaking to the fae about ensuring the flowers will be in full bloom. Hmm. Maybe even before spring.”

“Ready to be married?”

A crunch of gravel had Camille peeking around the tree again. The prince had turned to more fully face the Duke. In the warm light, she could just barely see James’s serious face, the one he always put on when in public.

“There is no question of whether I’m ready,” James said crisply. “I’m the heir and I need one of my own. You know duty as well as I do.”

Adrian’s head dipped once. “I suppose, then, when you put things that way, Abigail would make the better bride.”

Camille rolled her eyes as she rested her back against the tree. Men! Always talking about women like they were wares on a shelf. It would serve him right if Abigail turned him down. No matter how much she wanted her sister to marry the man, it was, after all, Abigail’s choice. Maybe getting stuck with Madeline wouldn’t be so bad for him.

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