Chapter Ten – continued
“What is the meaning of this?” the Princess demanded, her soft, cultured voice sweeping through the room.
Muriel apparently had no compunction about raising a finger at the minister. “This woman has insulted me. I am the Countess Olidan.”
“I know who you are,” the Princess said, her voice icy. “But do you know who you are speaking of?”
Muriel sniffed and tossed her head slightly. “No one ranked above my station. I am certain of that.”
“You are wrong,” the Princess said, fury tinging her words now. “This is Minister Cecile Edelwood, one of the King’s Ministers who directly oversee the city. She has the King’s ear more than your husband does. Now, I believe you have insulted my daughter’s guests enough tonight. We bid you good night.”
With that, the Princess turned on her heel, pausing just long enough to nod to Camille as the two women passed.
“Come,” Abigail said softly, finally pushing her feet into movement.
Quickly, the two women made their way over to Muriel, who was pale under her cosmetics as everyone of notable society flowed away from her like water.
“I-I don’t…” Muriel stuttered before her voice completely escaped her.
Camille, stern and unamused, didn’t even bother to be gleeful at her stepmother’s embarrassment, Abigail was glad to see. Instead, she took Muriel’s arm before turning to Andalissa, who had a twinkle in her eye she was trying desperately to hide.
“My apologies,” Camille said stiffly as her hand tightened on Muriel’s arm. She offered a curtsey, pulling Muriel down with her. “I wish you a fortunate year.”
Andalissa smiled and gave a single nod in acknowledgement. “I am sorry to see you leave so early, but, perhaps, if my mother is amenable, we may visit again soon.”
Abigail watched as Camille cut a glare over at Muriel, who was still staring vacantly, her mouth moving like that of a fish out of water. Madeline was just as pale as her mother, her hand still clamped around Abigail’s wrist. She was certain this was not the formal introduction to society either woman had expected.
“Abigail,” Andalissa said, turning her way.
Quickly, Abigail dipped a curtsy, keeping her head low. “My apologies, Duchess, on behalf of my stepmother.”
“Nonsense,” Andalissa said softly, just loud enough for Abigail to hear. She lifted her head to see the twinkle in Andalissa’s eyes and the smile playing at her lips. “Your stepmother was certainly in the wrong, but it made for some much needed entertainment.”
Abigail raised an eyebrow. “Your mother would not agree.”
“No,” Andalissa agreed. “But my father will. He’ll be roaring with laughter later and reminding Mother why we retreated to Murant Holdings.” She sighed. “I’m sorry to see you leave so early, especially as Adrian and James have yet to return from the courtyard.”
Abigail stiffened at Adrian’s name, masking the wildly beating heart under her white gown. She wanted to bolt from the manor, but her family had already caused enough of a scene.
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