Sisters of String and Glass, Part 63

Chapter Fifteen – continued

“Yes, of course,” Abigail said, nearly breathing a sigh of relief as Madeline’s body seemed to slacken a little.

“Thank you, Abigail,” Madeline whispered.

“I will introduce you to the Duke,” Abigail found herself saying just as voices beyond the parlor door could be heard and the sound of carriage wheels began to crunch on the gravel. She rose gracefully, her skirt falling perfectly around her body. “Come. He will be here soon.”

Her glass shoes clicked softly against the floor as she stepped past Madeline, whose envy at Abigail’s elaborate gown was just barely veiled, leaving enough exposed that it was easily missed, but Abigail still caught a glimmer of it. But she curved her lips into a smile as she walked past and into the hall.

The doors were just being pulled open when she and Madeline joined the rest of the family. Camille looked more demure than she actually was, though the netting rested on her soft curls in such a way that the glass caught the light and sparkled brightly. Abigail had to bite back a giggle. Her sister looked matronly. But Camille only raised an eyebrow at her from where she stood quietly beside their father and cut her eyes to the side.

Abigail’s eyes darted past their father, who was, as always, impeccably dressed in a dark suit complete with a black vest shot through with silver strands and a deep purple cravat decorated with tiny pieces of glass. On his other side stood Muriel. Abigail forgot herself just long enough for her eyes to widen, but not long enough for her jaw to drop.

It would seem that, with her husband home, Muriel did know how to dress fashionably. Or perhaps it was Clarice’s handiwork. For the first time, Abigail saw a surprisingly shapely woman in a plum ballgown. It had a high neck and fitted bodice with seed pearls sewn on in two slightly diagonal lines from her bosom to her narrow waist. From there, the taffeta skirt was tastefully crinkled and pleated, and thankfully much less voluminous than her usual gowns. Her hair was still powdered, but had been done in a thick braid resting over one shoulder and threaded with strands of pale pink pearls.

Abigail met her sister’s eyes, but Camille was looking behind her. Turning her head slightly, Abigail caught a glimpse of Madeline, whose lips were pinched in a tight line. But she didn’t get more than a quick look as the door pulled fully open, letting in a sweep of chilled air.

“Ah, thank you Geoffrey!” came Adrian’s cheerful voice. “Wonderful to see you again, old man.”

Geoffrey bowed low, solemn and dignified as usual, as he closed the doors. “A pleasure to see you again at Olidan Manor, Your Highness.”

Adrian, wrapped in a thick winter cloak, flung back his hood and looked around at the assembled family, a wide smile on his face. Until his eyes found Abigail, and his deep intake of breath seemed to echo throughout the hall.

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