Chapter Fourteen – continued
Muriel sniffed as Camille and Abigail joined her and Madeline in the great hall. Camille suppressed the urge to roll her eyes at Muriel’s garish skirts, so wide they could engulf mother and daughter. Madeline, at least, was more fashionable in a sky blue gown with a full skirt and a matching ribbon in her hair.
Camille silently guided her sister to the other side, standing so they flanked the doors and faced their stepmother and stepsister. She caught something akin to an awkward glance between Abigail and Madeline. Madeline’s cheeks flushed slightly as she looked away while a covert glance at Abigail revealed a small puzzled smile.
“Abigail?” Camille murmured.
But her sister only gave the slightest shake of her head.
Geoffrey bounded into their midst, sharp and perfectly groomed for his master’s return, breaking the tension in the hall. He came to stand tall and at attention in his place by the door. His white gloved hands hovered on the elaborate door handle. Silence settled over them, though Geoffrey appeared unaffected by the tension he was in the middle of.
The clattering of carriage wheels broke the silence. Muriel shifted slightly, drawing herself up taller while Madeline shuffled awkwardly beside her. Camille quickly masked her smirk, as though Lawrence would actually notice any of them; he was usually more interested in stripping the gloves from his hands and calling for one of the servants to pour him a glass of the best liquor in the manor.
Geoffrey heaved the doors open as soon as the clattering ceased. A cold winter breeze blew in, but the sky was blue and cloudless. Camille shivered, wishing she’d brought one of her mother’s shawls with her. Beside her, Abigail clutched at her skirts, careful to hide her hands in the folds.
She heard her father calling to the driver as Geoffrey went out into the cold to arrange for Lawrence’s luggage to be brought inside. She drew herself up just as her mother had taught her, waiting patiently for Lawrence to sweep in, cast his eyes over the women waiting for him, and retreat to his study.
The scuff of boots just outside the door was the only sound to herald the Count’s arrival. He stepped into the warm manor, stripping off his gloves. His dark eyes swept around the room, taking in the wife and daughters waiting for him. He nodded once before stepping in and kicking the doors shut behind him.
But, instead of sweeping past them and calling for his liquor, he stopped, his dark eyes trained on Abigail. Camille felt her sister stiffen and go still beside her, catching the murderous look Muriel cast in Abigail’s direction at the same time. Her heart kicked up. When Lawrence left again, she’d have to step up more to shield her sister.
“The Duke Murant will be escorting you to the engagement ball,” the Count said, his voice clipped. “Do not disappoint me, Abigail.”
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