Chapter Sixteen – continued
Abigail squeaked softly as Adrian suddenly pulled her into his arms, sweeping her along with him into the thick of the dancers. Her heart lurched as his arm went around her waist, though her own hand automatically lifted to his shoulder and her other met his free hand. After all, she was a Lady Olidan. Genevieve had instructed them in dancing from the time they could walk.
He grinned at her as their steps fell into a rhythm right away. They glided around other dancers, Adrian leading her gracefully, her skirts twirling around their legs but never catching on anything. Clarice’s work was brilliant in every way.
“Nice to see we can still do this,” he said, a smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
She blushed, lowering her eyes. They’d danced exactly once before, the night his father had argued with the king, which only ended in making Adrian second in line for the throne. The Murants had whisked off to Murant Holdings the day after. All those years ago, they’d danced a waltz at the king’s birthday, Adrian leading her in circles until she was dizzy and giggling. But their steps had been just as synchronized as they were now.
“I suppose there weren’t any balls at Murant Holdings,” she said shyly.
“Not a one,” he said cheerfully. “Mother was aghast at first, but she quickly settled into country life. We didn’t actually host many gatherings, just the holiday ones we were expected to do. Father held court a few times a year and Mother had the women in for teas and sewing circles. But it was quiet. I think you would like it.”
Abigail’s blush deepened. There was no way out of it; Adrian had made his intention clear as he’d escorted her in and her name had been announced alongside his own, and it was now her decision. Madeline would be furious when she found out. Her hand trembled a little in his.
“Abigail?” he asked, concern in his voice.
“Madeline wants to marry you,” she whispered, lifting her eyes a little so she could look at his face.
He scowled. “I have no interest in your stepsister. There’s something odd about her. Besides, my parents are expecting me to have a royal bride, one of royal blood.” His voice softened and he gently squeezed her hand. “My parents adore you and I’ve loved you since I was thirteen. I promise our life together will be full of pastoral days, surrounded by books and extensive lands and gardens. The people are few, but they’re hardworking and proper. You’ll love them and they’ll love you.”
“Madeline’s going to kill me.”
“Stop thinking about that woman.”
“How can I?” Abigail muttered. “She’s lurking in the shadows. Everywhere you turn me, I see her.”
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