Chapter Twelve – continued
Abigail groaned and dropped her head into her hands. “I realized my mistake too late when I told him where to meet me.”
Camille cleared her throat and went on. “Olidan Manor was on his list, so he came along when he learned the rest of his family was coming to receive Muriel’s apology. Of course, Muriel intended on using it as a matchmaking opportunity, while Adrian came to find his lost maid and Andalissa intended on prodding her brother towards you, Abigail.”
Silence fell on them for several moments as Camille’s words sank into Abigail’s thawing mind. Spoons and pots clattered and the fire crackled, but, otherwise, the kitchens were quiet. Even Camille sat quietly, waiting patiently.
Suddenly, Abigail lifted her head and blinked wide eyes at her sister. “Did you say Adrian has always been smitten with me?”
“Yes,” Camille answered simply.
“You’re sure on that? Me? Abigail, Lady Olidan?”
Camille huffed out an annoyed sigh and said emphatically, “Yes.”
“You’re sure,” Abigail pressed.
“Well, he and Andalissa certainly didn’t say Madeline. Or my name, for that matter. This afternoon, Adrian looked Muriel squarely in the eye and said he intended on courting you. That’s uh, about when everything ended. Muriel collapsed into a heap,” Camille said with a roll of her eyes, “and Geoffrey and Madeline helped her up to her rooms.” She narrowed her eyes slightly and studied her sister. “Why?”
Abigail looked away, her fingers clenching around her skirts, creating unseemly creases Genevieve would have admonished her for. Crinkling fabric was certainly not something ladies did, especially in the Great North where, when people were so swaddled in warm clothes, outward appearances took on an exaggerated importance. Especially if it was almost all anyone saw of a person.
“I never knew,” Abigail said softly. “I always felt like he was being nice by letting me tag along with him and James. He tolerated me, I thought. I always felt a little foolish for following him around. Of course he wouldn’t want anything to do with a young girl who could barely swing a tree branch.” She cocked her head to the side. “I always did wonder why Mother always allowed me to play with them.”
“Mother knew,” Camille said softly. “A few days before she died, she was combing my hair and, quite sadly, actually, told me she wished she had encouraged you and Adrian more.” She shuddered. “It was almost as though she had known she was going to die.”
“Maybe she did. Her mare had been acting out of sorts and she was intent on taking one final ride on her before they had to send the horse away. You know Mother was sometimes careless, a little too reckless. Geoffrey tried to stop her, but she was insistent.”
Camille sighed, almost as though she were exhaling all the sadness that might have welled up in her. Then she pressed a smile onto her lips.
“Are you telling me, Abigail, that you have similar feelings for the dear Duke?”
The last time Abigail had felt a flush that hot was when Adrian had touched her in the book shop, when her heart had jumped and she’d both wanted him to stop touching her and to keep his fingers on her.
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