Chapter Sixteen – continued
Before she could study the woman further, though, King Gray stood and raised his arms. His usually serious mien was broken by a wide smile.
“Welcome! The Queen and I are delighted to have your presence tonight!” He looked over and nodded at the mer king, who nodded gravely and stood, the regal woman beside him rising a beat behind. “King Alon and Queen Merin of the Pearl Kingdom and Queen Coryn and I are delighted to announce the engagement of our children, Princess Merike and Prince James.”
From where she stood, Camille could only see the backs of James and the mermaid princess. They stood stiffly beside each other and James mechanically took the princess’s hand as the engagement was announced, though it looked more rehearsed than because he wanted to touch her. For her part, Merike stood still and tall, her slightly tilted head not even bothering to turn when James touched her, and her hand appeared limp in his as he raised their joined hands.
She frowned slightly, suddenly worried about what their reign would be like. But, at that moment, King Gray was gesturing to the musicians on the balcony and a waltz started. James, without even looking at his bride, stepped forward, pulling her along, into what was sure to be the most awkward dance ever.
But she was stuck where she was, watching along with everyone else as the mermaid princess danced on legs she’d only just been granted. Still, she was a foreign princess and everyone applauded them politely. As he whirled by, James looked stiff and uncomfortable, except when his eyes strayed to the dais and they suddenly lit for brief moments.
Her frown deepening, Camille turned her head and saw the plainly dressed young woman hovering behind the mer king and queen dip her head further, hiding a soft smile.
Camille straightened, but didn’t get a moment to think further on it. In front of her, her father was leading Muriel onto the dance floor and she had to fight the urge to cringe. She had no idea if Muriel could dance.
“Can your mother dance?” The words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them.
Madeline glanced at her sharply. “Don’t worry,” she bit out. “My mother will not be an embarrassment again.”
Camille’s eyes flashed as the crowd began to break apart, milling for the dance floor and the sweets being brought out. “I should hope not.”
She didn’t wait for Madeline to say anything else. And she didn’t feel any pangs of guilt when she spread her skirts slightly and swept out of her corner, intent on finding Andalissa.
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