(Chapter 8 continued)
Robert found Elaina in the dining room. It wasn’t quite time for dinner, but she had a small plate dusted with crumbs and a tea cup nestled in her hands. She was sitting at an angle to the table, turned just enough so she could stare out the window her back had been to just that morning and reach whatever she had eaten. Her hair was pinned up and a light shawl was resting over her shoulders. She reminded him of a portrait of a lady from a long time ago, romantic and sad at the same time.
He swallowed hard, pausing in the doorway. His previous companions had been wide eyed and eager. He was used to them leaping up, throwing her arms around his neck, and exclaiming about every beautiful detail of the Hall. He was not used to seeing his companion look sad. Did she miss her family already? Was she regretting their agreement?
Was he willing to let her go after less than a day?
A bolt of panic struck him. He couldn’t let her go. He needed her if he was ever going to be free of his mother.
He swallowed incomprehensible words about fairy tales before they could escape his lips and make him look like an idiot.
“I hope my mother wasn’t too hard on you today,” he finally managed, stepping cautiously into the room.
She turned her head quickly, her eyes startled, her spine stiffening. When she saw it was him, though, she relaxed and settled back in her chair. A small, soft smile helped make the tension flow off of her, putting him at ease as well.
Robert returned her smile and took a seat adjacent to hers. “What was it my mother wanted with you?”
“It was time to dress me.”
“She’s very nice.”
“She’s been around awhile. Knows the drill.”
“Your mother seems sad.”
That stopped him and he couldn’t help himself from staring at her. Elaina met his eyes as she slowly put her tea cup on the table. She seemed serious, but he was baffled. His mother was in complete control here and her husband had been dead for eight years. She’d cast off the black six years ago. Why would she be sad?
“I don’t understand,” he finally said.
Elaina’s brow creased. “She’s your mother. How can you not know?”