Chapter Thirteen – continued
The princess, in a swirl of light green fabric, settled herself on a sofa, ensconcing herself between a powerful, imposing man with long golden hair and beard and a slighter, curvy woman with pale hair and pale eyes that swept the room, missing nothing.
“First Handmaiden,” the woman beside the princess called out in a high, clear voice, not bothering to look behind her at the young woman hovering just behind them in the shadows. “Secure the gift in the princess’s quarters.”
The handmaiden bobbed a curtsy and hurried from the room. Adrian watched closely as James’s eyes followed the her. He desperately wished he could kick his cousin. If he didn’t keep his eyes on the mermaid princess, all of Lawrence’s hard work would have been for naught.
His lips briefly pressed into a firm line at the thought of the Count Olidan. With the Pearl Kingdom’s rulers here in the Glass Kingdom, surely Lawrence was already home or swiftly making his way home at this moment. Adrian had no idea why Abigail and Camille had been dressed like servants, why Abigail had pretended to be a maid, when he knew Genevieve had raised them to be the epitome of grace and royalty. But Lawrence would figure out what his new wife was up to, whatever it was.
His more pressing concern was ensuring his cousin didn’t ruin Lawrence’s hard work, didn’t jeopardize the direly needed alliance his marriage would bring.
Abruptly, James jumped to his feet. He turned and bowed awkwardly to the King and Queen, who had been sitting on either side of him, and then the rulers of the Pearl Kingdom. Adrian narrowed his eyes.
“Merike,” he said, placing a hand over his heart and bowing elegantly to her. “My most sincere apologies. I was informed gifts would be presented and exchanged at the ball. Please allow me the honor of presenting my gift to you.”
Her eyes cool and unshifting, Merike nodded.
James offered another round of bows before leaving the parlor in quick, long strides.
Adrian leaned towards his sister slightly as the rulers of the two kingdoms engaged in stilted, formal conversation. “I’m going after James.”
“Why?” Andalissa whispered back.
“Did you notice how he kept looking at the handmaiden? It bothers me, Anda. Nothing can jeopardize their marriage, but James is off to a fine start in that direction.”
Andalissa slid her eyes sideways and frowned at him. She gave him a tight nod, knowing that, should James endanger the alliance, Adrian was less than a step away from the throne. “Then go, Adrian.”
Plastering a smile on his lips, Adrian rose and bowed neatly to the mermaid princess. “Princess Merike, I am Duke Adrian Murant, nephew to King Gray and Queen Coryn. It’s a pleasure to make your acquaintance and to welcome you to the Glass Kingdom’s royal family.”
Her eyes still cool, her face like an expressionless mask, Merike inclined her head once. Her father looked him up and down, one large hand stroking his beard thoughtfully while her mother appeared bored and moved her legs while dissatisfaction twisted her features.
Adrian smiled and bowed. “With your permission, I’ll go and help Prince James bring his gift to you.”
Once again, the princess inclined her head to him before flicking her eyes away from him, boredom lacing her beautiful features.
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