Chapter Twenty-Four – continued
She felt the Queen’s fingers gently touch her wrist and turned back to see the kind eyes of her aunt instead of the cool, commanding ones of the Queen. The tension melting from her shoulders a little, she obeyed the unspoken command for her to step closer to the throne.
“I’m afraid there isn’t much we can do about the wet clothing,” Coryn said softly as Abigail came to stand beside her.
Abigail made a small gesture, a little wave, and shook her head. “I don’t mind.” The ends of her mouth quirked a little. “I’m not like the rest of court.”
“No,” Coryn agreed, leaning back in her seat. “And that’s one reason why Gray and I are so relieved Adrian has chosen you. If he’d even been a day later, he’d be betrothed to Merike.”
Abigail suppressed a shudder. The sea witch was, after all, the one who had sent the tidal wave, the one who was intent on taking over the Glass Kingdom.
“Adrian’s duty is to assist the King,” Coryn said softly. “Yours is to stay out of harm’s way until you marry him.”
Abigail swallowed hard. That was, of course, her plan, but to hear the Queen so casually mention her marrying Adrian, it made her future just that much more real to her. She had to suppress a shudder, but, in her heart, she knew she was committed.
“Stay out of the clutches of the court,” Coryn quietly warned. “I know my son’s heart. Court has changed since all of you were children despite our best attempts. Oh, they would never undermine the crown, but that doesn’t mean they don’t connive and maneuver. My son was not strong enough to take that on, but Adrian has the strong sense of duty to the kingdom my son lacked.”
“Do you,” Abigail asked slowly, choosing her words carefully as her heart began to pound in her chest, “know where he went?”
“I have my guesses, but, no, I don’t know for sure. I just hope he’s safe and happy.”
There was wistfulness in her voice, a sadness a mother would have over the loss of her child, but also an understanding of why her child did what he did. She heard the pain, but no disappointment.
“Even if it means war?”
“I may be Queen, Abigail, but I am also a mother. One day you, too, will be faced with blood or kingdom. The choice will always be yours.”
Abigail nodded, her eyes not resting on Adrian, but flitting over the court she would one day rule. It wasn’t something she was ready to think about.
Abigail paced the bedroom of her new quarters. After Kyanan had fortified the castle and after the King and Queen had managed to calm the court enough to send them back to their quarters, Abigail had been moved to an interior wing designed specifically for the ruling family.
Half a dozen or so quarters ringed an interior courtyard. On one side were the King and Queen’s chambers. To another were Adrian’s and what had been James’s. She was on a third side, across from the chambers that would be hers when she was crowned Queen.
It was quite a statement to the court, considering they’d only just learned of Adrian’s intent to court Abigail. But, after the chaos of the day, no one was going to think too hard on it, so the Queen had decided now was the best time to move her somewhere safer.
Here, the rooms were dry and the wardrobe had been filled with gowns close enough to her size. The moonlight filtered down into the courtyard three levels below her balcony. She missed the sight of the city, but she’d never had more than a few minutes to enjoy that view. She missed the comfort of her childhood rooms, but, with Madeline and Muriel there, it wouldn’t be safe for her.
Swallowing, Abigail fingered the piece of sea glass before she brought it to her lips.
“I’m here,” came her sister’s voice. “Don’t worry. All is well. The manor was flooded, but it’s being taken care of. Father will be at the castle tomorrow. And I will keep an eye on the rest.”
Abigail let out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding. “Thank you, Camille.”
She could practically hear Camille’s grin. “After I worked so hard to get you and Adrian together, I’m not going to let anyone get between you. But, Abigail, tough times are ahead. The city is half in shambles. Ships were destroyed. They’re working all night to repair what they can. The first of them, bearing soldiers, set out tomorrow morning.”
An icy vise gripped Abigail’s heart and she gripped the glass just as hard. “This is the start,” she whispered, half to herself and half to her sister.
“Yes,” Camille said softly. “I stopped by to see Andalissa. The King is sending them back to Murant Holdings. They leave tomorrow as well.”
“I would have thought they would be needed.”
“Uncle wants to protect as much of the royal family as possible. He can’t send Adrian away, so at least the next heir will be safe.”
Abigail’s pacing had put her far from sofa and chair and bed. She sank down onto the carpet, her knees hitting against it.
“Do they really expect it to be that terrible?” she whispered, her hands gripping the sea glass so tightly they began to tingle.
“They expect it all. Merike showed her strength. Who knows if that was with all her power or only a small part of it. Abigail…”
“I’ll be safe,” she reassured her sister despite her pounding heart. “You be safe, too.”
“I will be,” Camille said, confidence filling her voice. “I’d be more afraid for, well, you know.”
A ghost of a smile curved her lips up. “Thank you, Camille. Thank you.”
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