Chapter Fifteen – continued
Abigail stiffened even while her flesh wanted to shudder with the cold. Her feet were cemented to the sparkling floor as Adrian slowly walked towards her and reached out to take her hands. For once, the gregarious Duke was silent, his eyes solemn and serious.
Adrian’s hands tightened around hers, almost as though he were afraid she was going to run again. She couldn’t fault him. She had run the last two times she’d seen him. She took in a deep breath, remembering that last time she had run from the manor without a word, and then had stayed hidden until after he’d left.
“Abigail,” he said softly, ignoring protocol that demanded he call her Lady Olidan.
“Adrian,” she whispered, barely audible, likewise foregoing protocol.
She could see his lips wavering, and her own curved into a small smile, remembering how his lips did that when he wanted to say something but wasn’t quite sure of his words. Just like she used to when she was twelve and he was holding her hand, she gently squeezed his fingers, time warping and melding around them.
She saw the tension leave his shoulders at the same time his own lips smiled. “You’re beautiful, Abigail. It’s an honor to escort you tonight.”
An impish dimple flashed, a memory from a decade before. “I don’t believe I was left with a choice.”
Adrian laughed, the rich, deep sound filling the hall. Then, just as he used to when they were children, he leaned forward and gently kissed her cheek. “It’s good to see you again, Abigail.”
She raised an eyebrow, but didn’t say anything. At least he wasn’t calling her Gail. And he was still the boy she’d grown up with and loved silently.
“And it’s an honor to have you escort my daughter as well,” Muriel quickly put in.
Abigail watched with fascination as the boy she had known shifted and vanished to become the perfectly groomed Duke Murant, second in line to the throne. His spine stiffened and he dropped Abigail’s hands as his eyes finally traveled to the woman hovering behind Abigail’s shoulder.
“I apologize for my wife,” Lawrence quickly said, stepping forward, leaving Muriel and Camille behind him. Abigail looked over at her father as a frown creased his face and Adrian slowly turned after studying Madeline for a long moment. “I’m afraid she’s new to society and, as I’ve been away to the Pearl Kingdom, I have not been able to acclimate her as I should have. The Lady Olidan erroneously thought you would be escorting all three ladies.”
Abigail saw Muriel’s lips pinch and her hands fist at her sides. A space away from her, Camille was struggling to tamp down a smile, her fingers lacing together.
But Adrian merely bowed, every inch the Duke and nephew to the king himself. “It would be my honor to escort the Ladies Olidan.”
Lawrence openly frowned and cleared his throat. “I do not wish to impose on you generosity, Your Highness.”
“It would be an honor to escort Abigail and her sisters,” Adrian said again, though his voice was stiff.
Abigail fought the urge to chew on her lip. She didn’t want to be alone with Adrian, not yet anyways. But she couldn’t fathom why Adrian would go from escorting just her to her and her sisters.
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