Chapter Twenty-Nine – continued
The early afternoon found Camille prowling around the manor, her gown clenched in her fists in a way that would have made her mother admonish her before forcing her back upstairs to change. But rain was lashing the windows, dark clouds were hovering, and winds swept through the city with such force that their herb gardens had nearly been uprooted.
She rarely felt nervous, but, with her father now onboard a ship, headed straight into the maelstrom, she was on edge and not even the calming warm fires of the kitchen and Helene’s sweet buns could soothe her. The single bright thing was her sister being snuggled up safe in the castle. Of course, she still insisted on kneading dough and tending to the dying, but the castle was holding strong thanks to Kyanan.
What wasn’t holding strong was the Queen. With her husband away, she’d taken to spending her time either closeted in her rooms or at Abigail’s side. Her poor sister wasn’t quite sure of what to do, whether the Queen was the Queen or her Aunt Coryn. Her husband had only been gone for half a day, but the woman walked around as though she’d already lost him, or so Abigail said when she’d gotten a quiet moment to speak with Camille.
Camille was, though, happy Abigail and their father had managed to have a quiet goodbye. Even if Abigail had admitted to awkwardness. She’d said their father had attempted some show of love, had mentioned how very much like her mother Abigail was, but she had no idea how to respond, answering with only an uncomfortable “I love you” that had seemed to please Lawrence, but made her feel terribly awkward and uncertain.
“My Lady,” a soft voice called.
Camille turned, startled at the sound. In the doorway stood a young woman, a maid Violet had taken on when the city had begun to clear out. She hadn’t had anywhere else to be and likely would have holed up somewhere to attempt to weather the storm and war. She’d been in the household for a few weeks, but Camille didn’t know her name.
“Yes?” Camille asked.
“A letter, my Lady,” she said, bobbing a curtsy with her head down and arm outstretched. “Addressed to Lady Olidan.”
Camille frowned as she approached the girl. Had Andalissa written to her?
With a murmured thanks, Camille took the letter and sent the young woman scurrying away. Across the front “Lady Olidan” had been written in a hand unfamiliar to her. Her frown deepening, she opened the envelope and pulled out a single sheet of parchment. An elegant script flowed over a few sparse lines:
All is prepared. When you are ready, just send the sign.
It was signed with a single name: Ephraim. It wasn’t a name Camille was familiar with.
Quickly, Camille refolded the parchment and slid it back into the envelope. Still frowning, she strode from the parlor and found another stray maid dutifully scrubbing at the same floor Muriel had once made her scrub more than once.
“A moment, miss,” Camille said, approaching the young woman, who looked up, startled.
A soft gasp escaping her mouth, the woman scrambled to her feet and curtsied. It was a little rough, but Camille doubted she had been long in the manor, either. Violet had been kindhearted and Lawrence hadn’t objected. The servants quarters were full, but no one seemed to mind. Murant Holdings produced in abundance and regularly sent supplies to Olidan Manor, so there was never any fear of having too many mouths to feed.
Camille held out the letter. “I believe this reached the wrong Lady Olidan. Please deliver it to Lady Madeline,” she said, her teeth clenching as she titled her stepsister.
But the woman didn’t notice. As flustered as she was, it was a miracle in itself she didn’t drop the envelope into a puddle of water and suds. Camille watched as the woman rushed up the stairs and out of sight.
Alone, she toyed with the glass around her neck and meandered back into the parlor to peruse the shelves for a reading book. Abigail still had much of their mother’s prized novels in her rooms, but Camille didn’t quite feel up to rummaging in her sister’s rooms; she missed Abigail enough as it was.
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