Chapter Fourteen – continued
Quickly, her friend’s expression shifted into seriousness. “Your father told Abigail my brother intends on escorting her.”
“In front of Muriel and Madeline.”
Andalissa winced and muttered, “Men.”
Camille couldn’t disagree. Then again, her father hadn’t expected Muriel and Madeline to turn out to be who they really were. He’d only known a simpering woman and her demure daughter. The perfect coddling stepmother and a stepsister who wouldn’t step on her royal sisters’ toes.
Andalissa tucked her arm through Camille’s and turned them so they could walk up the long road to Murant Manor. Her lips were pursed and Camille recognized the thoughtful look on her friend’s face, the one that said she was plotting something.
“Abigail isn’t interested in being thrown at your brother,” Camille said quietly.
“Why not?” Andalissa asked, turning her head sharply. “Certainly, he has his flaws, but he’s a good man.”
“Oh, Abigail is very aware of what kind of person he is, Anda. She just…wants everyone to stay out of her life. I think. She was upset when she said everyone seems to expect her to marry Adrian.”
“Well,” Andalissa said, turning her head away slightly. “I suppose she isn’t wrong. They’re just perfect for each other. Abigail’s the only one who will willingly listen to my brother. And he’ll protect her. He’s always understood her need to be in the shadows and corners better than the rest of us.”
Camille’s spine suddenly stiffened as Andalissa spoke. It was true. Adrian had never seen anything wrong with how quiet and shy Abigail was. A touch of guilt threaded it’s way through her heart, wiggled into her thoughts. He was the only one who had ever really accepted her exactly as she was while she, Camille, Abigail’s older sister, always worked to protect her and gently nudge her to be different.
Andalissa sighed and hung her head slightly. “I can tell my brother Abigail intends on being escorted by her father instead.”
“Was it his idea?” Camille asked.
“Of course it was,” Andalissa said with a light laugh. “My parents have never been able to corral him, so it’s a good thing they very much approve of Abigail. She’s already like a daughter to them. They’re thrilled he intends on courting her.” She sighed. “It’ll break his heart if she feels otherwise.”
“It’s hard to tell with her,” Camille admitted as they finally approached the doors to the manor.
There was a flurry of activity as the house guards on either side of the doors pulled them open. The housemistress spotted them right away and quickly ordered tea to be served in Andalissa’s favorite sitting room. Their cloaks were delicately removed and soft hands ushered them down the hall as more maids rushed ahead to open and air out the room.
Andalissa laughed as she and Camille settled across from each other, a low rosewood table between them. “I often prefer the understated elegance of how Olidan Manor cares for guests.”
Camille smiled as the door opened and three maids filed in, carrying trays of tea, cakes, and small bites. She and Andalissa smiled and nodded their thanks as the young women quietly set the trays down. Andalissa waved them off when one attempted to pour for them and they quickly scampered out.
“Father hates the fuss,” Camille said as Andalissa poured a cup for her. “Muriel has no idea what she’s missing as she has never before been in a royal’s household before.” She smiled over her tea cup. “I quite prefer letting it stay that way.”
Andalissa laughed. “I’m very much looking forward to the day your father dismisses her. He still has the cottage the King granted him to the west?”
“He does.” A wave of nostalgia hit her. They used to spend a couple of months each year there when she was young. It was the one time the Count Olidan relaxed, loosened his shoulders and doted on his wife. They hadn’t been since the Prince and his family had retreated to Murant Holdings.
“Seems like the perfect place to send her,” Andalissa murmured just before taking a sip of tea.
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