The prince took my sister into his confidence, if she would only help him. My sister was not one to deny him, ever curious as she is. The prince told her his mother, the widowed queen, insisted he marry a princess, keep their bloodline pure. My sister snorted at that, as unladylike as she could get, but listened intently when the prince described a young woman he had fallen for. She wasn’t a princess, nor was she even a noble’s daughter. A mere miller’s daughter, she was the one he wanted, so he’d had a tiny metal pea created to trick his mother and gain his chosen bride.
Supper was a quiet, formal affair now that the Count Olidan had returned home. Camille, though, was thankful for it. Abigail had told her just a few hours before that she was finally on her way back to the Glass Kingdom, but she wouldn’t be arriving until the following day. She had come up with answers to explain her sister’s absence, but refused to say a word unless directly questioned. It would be easier that way. She hoped.
The formal dining room at Olidan Manor hadn’t been opened since Lawrence and Muriel’s marriage feast. Camille knew the woman had been itching to get back into the opulent room, complete with tasteful golden decorations that had been gifts from the Great North and pastel curtains from the twelve chieftains of the Sun Kingdom, all wedding gifts from Lawrence’s marriage to Genevieve. As beautiful as the rest of the manor was, the formal dining room was meant for hosted affairs. But it had also, it seemed, become Lawrence’s favored room since his beloved wife’s death.
Her fingers toying with the sea glass around her neck, Camille had to hide a smile at that thought. Her father hadn’t requested supper here to appease Muriel or to make her feel more like a Countess, but to feel Genevieve’s spirit around him. The chandeliers had been gifts from the Glass Kingdom’s King and Queen, to illuminate a couple beloved by Their Majesties; the tablecloth of the Sun Kingdom’s finest material a gift from Genevieve’s dearest friend, to better join a most adored couple; and the tableware gifts from the Queen of the Great North, for the cherished couple to serve each other with love.
Out of the corner of her eye, she spied Muriel, shifting in her seat for the third time in the last five minutes. As the Countess, she sat at one end of the long table and Lawrence at the other. With the table being so long, Camille could see conversation must be difficult for her father and stepmother, and she had to take a bite of warm, buttered bread to hide her sneer. Lawrence, as always, wasn’t interested in his family, a fact Muriel didn’t seem to understand.
Unfortunately, Muriel was a persistent sort of woman.
“I adore this dining room,” Muriel said brightly. “It’s so lovely. And, my goodness, this tablecloth must have cost a fortune.”
“A wedding gift,” Lawrence muttered into his dinner, just loud enough to be heard.
Camille whipped her head around to look at Muriel with a curling smiling. “When Father married Mother. Mother’s dearest friend is one of the Sun Kingdom’s finest weavers, and she spent every day of their courtship and engagement creating it.”
Muriel stilled for just a fraction of a second, but long enough for Camille to see she understood what this room really was. She watched with great pleasure as Muriel’s face, briefly, faded to the same color as her ridiculously powdered hair.
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