Chapter Seventeen – continued
“Helene, is everything well?” she ventured.
“Shh, my Lady,” Helene murmured, guiding her over to the table. “They came just a few minutes ago, asking for you or your sister.”
Helene stepped aside and Abigail gasped when she saw James and the mermaid handmaiden seated at the table, enjoying a plate of sweet buns.
“James, what are you doing here?” she asked, startled.
In one swift move, James stood and pulled her close. “We need your help, Gail.”
She looked from him to the former mermaid. “My help?” she echoed. “I don’t understand.”
James took a deep breath. “Adrian won’t understand. And I’m sorry about what it’ll do to him, but I can’t marry Merike.” He glanced over at the handmaiden, her dark head bowed demurely. “This is Poppy. I’m in love with her.”
“But, James, the agreement. My father worked so hard on it.”
James inclined his head. “Gail, he did a wonderful job. It was perfect. But, when I met Merike, I knew I couldn’t do it.” He stepped closer. “The mermaid king did a good job of holding his ground, but, with how quickly he agreed to your father’s new terms, it said he wished Merike to be away as quickly as possible. She’s a cold, hateful woman, Gail. She would destroy me and the Glass Kingdom.”
Abigail gasped. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” He glanced at Poppy. “Merike doesn’t treat Poppy well. She even stripped Poppy of her given name so she doesn’t even recall it anymore. I had to give her a name, Gail. Merike will twist everything to ensure our kingdom lies in her hands instead of in both of ours. She’ll destroy everything to make it into what she wants.” He quickly grabbed her hand and squeezed it. “Gail, I can’t marry her and helplessly watch her take over. Because she will. Her father is desperate to marry her off, to see her gone from the Pearl Kingdom. She’s managed to turn most of his courtiers away from him. The only way I can protect the Glass Kingdom is by running away.”
“With Poppy? Do you really love her, or do you just want to save both of you from Merike?”
“I love her, Gail. I love her every bit as much as Adrian loves you.”
Abigail swallowed. “What do you need from me?”
“Help us get to Roderick Manor safely.”
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