Chapter Nine – continued
“You have known her longer,” James pointed out. His voice turned teasing, “And you have been mooning over her for years. Fae! It became annoying when you asked after her in every letter. Her father’s always away from court, so I only saw her at the important functions for the entire family or when her father was home to escort the ladies. Besides, what do you know of Gail, other than that she’s really good at picking out gifts? She probably does that for her master every year when it’s his wife’s birthday.”
“I suppose that’s true,” Adrian said pensively. “She reminds me of Abigail. Quiet, shy, but such a good listener, always helpful.” He laughed softly. “Unbending when she wants to be. She would love Murant Holdings.”
Camille’s eyes flew open, but she smiled when she saw Andalissa picking her way through the trees and bushes on silent feet.
“Did you find him?” Andalissa whispered in her ear as soon as she pressed her own back against the tree.”
Camille jerked a thumb over her shoulder as James’s voice came crystal clear, “I’m sure she’s here tonight.”
“What’s going on?” Andalissa whispered.
“James and Adrian are talking about Abigail and Gail.”
Andalissa rolled her eyes. “I thought men didn’t talk about things like that. Come on. I’ll tell you what I know about what happened between Adrian and his market friend.”
Quietly, the two women picked their way back to the ballroom. It was hot and stuffy, an unwelcome change from the chilly, quiet courtyard. The orchestra was still playing, couples were dancing in the middle, and everyone else was gathered in groups on the outskirts of the dance floor. Along one wall were long tables draped in shimmering white linens, heavily laden with small bites and desserts.
“I thought this was supposed to be a soiree,” Camille said as Andalissa linked her arm through Camille’s and started leading her around the room.
Andalissa snorted. “That’s what I told Mother I wanted. But you know her. She’ll take any opportunity to throw a ball.” She gestured with her free hand. “Everyone’s here. It’s been so long since we’ve hosted anyone here, I suppose everyone just had to jump at the invitation.”
“The king and queen?”
“Absent. But James is here, avoiding wedding details, I think.”
“I heard him say the betrothal is imminent.”
“I’ve heard that, too. Father has come back from some meetings saying it would be any time now. Apparently, the mer king is ready to hand off his daughter and make the alliance a done deal.”
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