Chapter Fifteen – continued
Abigail bit the inside of her cheek as she watched Clarice and Violet hover around Camille. She knew Madeline and Muriel would be arriving soon for the final touches to their gowns. She had no idea what Muriel was wearing, but, considering the Count had returned, Abigail assumed she would be in something more fashionable.
But, whatever her stepmother was wearing, she didn’t want to be in the same room.
Silently, Abigail moved from the room, not meeting anyone’s eyes as she left. The hallways were quiet as she made her way down to the great hall. Most of the servants had been given the night off, to celebrate the engagement in their own ways. Geoffrey still stood at attention by the doors, straining his ears for the sound of carriage wheels. She only offered him a small smile before vanishing into the parlor.
Even though no guests were expected and most of the staff had been dismissed from the Manor for the evening, a soft fire still flickered in the fireplace, keeping the room warm and dimly lit. But Abigail didn’t need to see; she knew her way to the window seat with her eyes closed.
Spreading her skirts around her, she sighed softly and settled onto the soft cushions. Outside, soft lamplight lined the drive, otherwise all was dark. There was no sign of a Murant carriage, only the Olidan one that would take the rest of her family.
The door opened, stirring the air and alerting her to someone entering. Quickly, Abigail swiveled her head to see Madeline poking her own in.
Madeline glanced around the room before she saw Abigail. She offered a small smile before stepping in and closing the door behind her with a soft click.
“I hope you don’t mind my intrusion,” Madeline said softly as she slowly advanced on Abigail. Her sky blue ballgown swished softly against the floor, her glass shoes tapping quietly with every step. Her hair was done up in a mass of curls gathered behind her head and arranged to cascade around her shoulders. “My mother is making things difficult for Clarice and your father sent me out.”
Abigail nodded, silent as she watched Madeline slowly make her way to her. It felt strange to look on her, to see the shy stepsister she had gotten to know as well as the manipulative woman Camille had made her out to be. Every soft movement seemed tinged with danger, but her smile was still exactly as she remembered.
So she held herself stiffly, hardly daring to breathe, wondering what Madeline would say or do. She no longer knew if it was Muriel’s or Madeline’s will that Madeline marry Adrian. Either way, Camille wouldn’t lie to her. Yes, she was Madeline’s sister. But she was also a relative of Adrian’s, a childhood friend who had always loved her in his own way.
“My mother insists I ride with you and the Duke.” Madeline stopped in front of her and tilted her head slightly. “Would that be acceptable?”
If she were Camille, she would be saying, “No,” and would then sweep out of the room, every bit a Count’s daughter. If she were her mother, she would be calmly and politely informing Madeline it would be Adrian’s choice.
But she was Abigail and this was still Madeline, the young woman she’d befriended.
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