Sisters of String and Glass, Part 42

Chapter Eleven – continued

She was almost at the great hall when she heard voices and the heavy front doors closing. Her heart kicked up and she picked up her pace, lifting her skirt slightly so she wouldn’t trip on it.

“Your Highness,” she heard Muriel say. “Thank you so much for gracing Olidan Manor with your presence. Might I present my daughter, Madeline?”

“Your Highness,” came Madeline’s clear, demure voice.

Inwardly, Camille seethed. Now Madeline sounded like the perfect shy lady, not the conniving wretch from last night. The woman would pay dearly for deceiving Abigail. For using her sister. For sounding so much like her right now.

“It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

Camille skittered to a stop. That had been Adrian’s voice. What was he doing here? Andalissa hadn’t mentioned anything.

Her feet stilled as her mind debated. Head into the great hall and confront the group or fetch Abigail? She could either discredit Madeline or push her sister into Adrian’s arms. After all, he had voiced his intent to court Abigail. He hadn’t made his intention known at Andalissa’s soiree, so this would be the perfect time, as long as she could get Abigail into the same room.

But time was of the essence. Abigail was too far away, and she’d have to go through the great hall to get to the kitchens as quickly as possible anyways.

Her choice taken from her hands, Camille lifted her chin and glided into the great hall as only a royal lady could. She smiled as she approached the group, Muriel and Madeline on one side and the Prince and his family on the other. The sight of a white basket, the kind of basket Abigail always carried to the markets, stopped her cold, though, her smile frozen in place.

“Ah!” the Prince cried out heartily, quickly making his way over to Camille with a broad smile while his wife smiled warmly from where she stood.

Camille barely managed to bob a curtsy before the Prince engulfed her in a hug. In many ways the solemn, serious king’s opposite, the Prince was tall and no longer slender but neither was he portly. At least, not yet. His dark hair, always long, was going gray and he’d grown a beard between when he’d whisked his family away and now. His eyes twinkled as he pulled back and clasped her upper arms to look her over properly.

She’d forgotten just how enthusiastic Prince Grant was.

“My, my, Camille,” he said before looking over his shoulder at his wife. “Our Camille certainly has grown, hasn’t she?” He leaned in close to whisper. “I hear my daughter finally learned how to hold a sword. Aloise would murder me, but I think Anda would be happy to show you what she learned.”

Camille couldn’t stop the grin stretching across her face, warmth flooding her chest. As a child, she, and Abigail, had affectionately called him Uncle, though their exact relationship was muddled by a great many marriages, divorces, remarriages, and generations. Still, it was clear he took the honorific seriously even though she was grown.

“It is wonderful to see you as well, Uncle,” Camille said warmly. “If you’d like, I could call Abigail to join us.”

The Prince finally withdrew from her and nodded thoughtfully. “It has been quite some time since I last saw little Gail. The soiree was just so chaotic and busy! I imagine she must have grown since I last saw her.”

“Oh, yes,” Camille said eagerly. “She’s become a truly lovely lady.”

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