Chapter Eighteen – continued
It was with a considerable degree of reluctance and trepidation that Camille headed back into the Manor, but it was cold, even in the summer-blessed trees. She furiously rubbed her hands together as she walked back in through the kitchens, replacing the cloak as she went.
There was a great deal of noise coming from the great hall as she left the warmth of the kitchens. Curious, she altered course and quietly walked over.
Muriel and Madeline had finally woken, just. Both were swaddled in dressing gowns and thin slippers. Though Muriel seemed to have at least taken enough time to powder her hair. Both women were getting in Lawrence’s way, both trying to help him into his cloak and shoes as Geoffrey very patiently tried to fight them off so he could prepare his clearly irritated master for the cold weather.
“What’s this?” Camille asked innocently, glad for the sweet bun Helene had shoved in her hands, as she ambled over. “Going out already, Father? Good morning, Stepmother, Madeline.”
Muriel barely spared her a look and Madeline glared, though she’d turned away from Lawrence so he wouldn’t see. Inwardly, Camille seethed, and was now glad to have been the second one awake. She would have to deal with these two. Quickly. Before her sister’s return, ideally.
“The King has summoned me,” Lawrence said, turning briefly to his daughter. “James and Princess Merike’s handmaiden have vanished.”
Camille opened her eyes wide in surprise. “What do you mean by vanished?”
“He’s nowhere on the castle grounds,” Lawrence said as Geoffrey finally fought off the two women and fastened the cloak at his throat. “I don’t have any further details. We do not know what happened, so stay at the Manor, Camille. Muriel, Madeline, I will be back as soon as possible.”
With that, the Count swept out the door, leaving the three women.
“Well,” Muriel said. “This is indeed a strange twist.”
Thinking quickly, Camille planted her hands on her hips. “Yes. It is. You wouldn’t have any idea of what happened would you?”
Muriel raised a brow. “Me? Why, I was dead asleep after the ball. The alarms only just woke me.”
Camille raked a glance down Muriel’s figure, taking in the dressing gown that had clearly been bought with her new husband’s money. “Clearly.”
Madeline stepped forward, her eyes small fires. “Do not speak that way to my mother.”
Camille folded her arms. “My father has returned. There is nothing you can do to me.”
“I wonder,” Muriel murmured, “where Abigail has gotten off to? Perhaps she had something to do with this. What a scandal! Abigail, the Count’s daughter, running away with the Crown Prince.” She placed a hand on Madeline’s shoulder. “Leaving behind a devastated Duke who can only be consoled by my lovely, charming daughter.”
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