Sisters of String and Glass, Part 103

Chapter Twenty-Three – continued

Geoffrey was quick to leap for the doors to open them for Kyanan, who left with a small nod and a wave to Camille. She shivered a little as the cold briefly swirled in, but Geoffrey spryly leapt to clear the snowflakes that had strayed in. She smiled a little to see him happy again and turned to return to the parlor.

But something tall and warm met her nose instead and she yelped, just barely managing to not collide with her father.

“Adrian has kept Kyanan on, I see.”

Camille scowled. “A count’s daughter she may be, but she’s still quite capable.”

“Oh, I have no qualms about that,” Lawrence said breezily, his eyes on the doors. “I was afraid the court would eat her up and spit her out before Adrian had a chance to get himself situated.” He nodded absently to himself. “I’m glad to see he’s settled in quickly. The Glass Kingdom needs him.” He turned to look at her. “Abigail is at the castle.”

“Yes, Father,” Camille confirmed. “Kyanan just came by to notify us.”

Lawrence nodded, his eyes straying back to the doors. “I must go to the castle this afternoon. You’ll accompany me.”

“Yes, Father.” She hesitated. “And Stepmother and Madeline?”

“Hmm? Oh. No. Madeline was a disappointment at the engagement ball, huddling around pillars instead of mingling. No, Muriel and Madeline will be with an etiquette instructor all day.” He blinked and looked down to pull a small time piece from a pocket. “She should be arriving soon. Please be ready to leave after the midday meal.”

“Yes, Father,” Camille said as Lawrence abruptly turned away to head back into the parlor, not bothering to hide her smirk.

“Was that Mistress Lacey?” a cool voice asked, stopping her in her tracks.

Ice and fire raced along Camille’s veins as she recognized Madeline’s voice. She sorely wanted to continue into the parlor after her father, to ignore the infuriating voice of the woman she was forced to call her stepsister. But Madeline’s voice had rung out as clear as a bell, echoing softly in the nearly empty hall.

She allowed herself a moment’s debate of whether to turn around or not. In the end, she dearly wanted to see the look on Madeline’s face when she announced Abigail was a guest as the castle.

Forcing a smile onto her face, Camille turned and cocked her head to the side.

“Mistress Lacey?” she asked, forcing innocence into her voice.

Madeline, standing near the top of the stairs, scowled and brushed at her sapphire blue skirts. She sniffed and said primly, “Yes. Lawrence hired her to prepare Mother and me for our formal introduction to court. After all, the new Crown Prince requires a bride and,” Madeline said before pausing and smiling with her hands neatly folded before her, “as the daughter of a Count, I do believe I am eligible.”

Camille wanted to gnash her teeth, to lash out and say she would never be worthy of Adrian, much less the Queen’s crown. Her fingers shook slightly, but her upbringing by her mother, ever the proper lady, kept her from grasping her skirts in anger. It wouldn’t do her or Abigail any good if she became angry or launched herself up the stairs at the maddening woman.

“No,” she forced herself to say, “it wasn’t Mistress Lacey.” She forced her voice into an entirely too casual tone. “Lady Kyanan came by to inform us Abigail is currently a guest at the castle, at Adrian’s request.”

Camille took a moment to savor the gamut of emotions that flickered across Madeline’s face: confusion, anger, fear. It was a curious mix, but, as long as Abigail was far away from this woman, she wasn’t going to dwell on it too much. After all, she had the mystery of why Madeline was calling her mother by her name on her hands.

With a cool smile, Camille turned and returned to the parlor, listening as Madeline’s footsteps thundered back up the stairs.

She waited a moment, paused in the entrance to the parlor, watching her Father, who had returned to writing. Then she silently whirled, her skirts swirling around with her, and quietly raced across the hall and up the stairs.

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