'So there is an heir to the Handrian throne somewhere,' Eliza said, as shocked as I had been by the news. 'Is there any way of finding out who he is? If he shares our Iberian blood then he will be able to stop the war, no more people will have to die.'
'Angel didn't tell me any more than the facts. Apparently no one knows where the prince or princess are. They haven't been seen in years. But at least we have something.'
'I suppose,' Eliza sighed. I put my arm around her shoulders, trying to comfort her.
'I'm sorry for shouting at you about the James thing. I'm just scared that I'll fail and my poor brother will end up dead on some muddy battlefield somewhere, unknown and alone, so I'll never know what happened to him. I just feel like there is so much resting on us to get this right. It's a lot of pressure.'
'I'm not sure that makes me feel any better,' Eliza said, a half-laugh escaping from her lips.
'I'm not sure it was meant to be. I just miss talking to people and not having to pretend I'm something I'm not.'
'Welcome to court,' Eliza joked.
'I feel bad lying to Angel. He's a good man and I don't want to see him hurt by my actions.'
'I don't think we can have it both ways,' Eliza said sadly. 'Either we save Iberia and hurt the friends we make here, or abandon our roots and stay loyal to our Handrian friends.'
'I just have to tell myself that Seb is the most important thing.' I wasn't really talking to Eliza anymore, looking off into the distance wistfully. 'I'm doing this for him.' After a few moments silence I snapped out of my trance and prepared to leave. 'I think we need to go back. I know people will be starting to wonder where we are.'
'Should we leave together?'
'I don't think so. I'll leave first, don't follow until the door has shut behind me.' I gave her a peck on the cheek for luck and left the room. Music was still playing and the couples dancing around the floor were still smiling and gazing into each other's eyes.
Think of Sebastian, I told myself as I moved around the room, keeping as close to the wall as I could. It would be his birthday soon, Sebastian's. Twenty-one. I couldn't believe time had passed so quickly since we were children. Part of me wished we were still like that. Sebastian wouldn't have been called off to war, I wouldn't have met Jon and wouldn't be here.
But I couldn't turn back time, and I didn't regret my decision to come here. I was doing what I could for my country, for my family. I prayed that Brother Peter had kept his word and was looking after my mother. I felt so guilty leaving her alone, but there were bigger things at stake here.
'Beautiful lady,' a smooth voice said. I turned and smiled at the face of a young man I had not seen before. 'May I know your name.'
'Alexandra Ford sir. And what might your name be?'
'Isacc Serain, my lady, aide to his majesty the King.' There was a self-importance to this man that I didn't like. At least it meant I might get some information from him. 'May I have the pleasure of this dance?'
'You may,' I said in my sweetest voice, curtsying before he led me out onto the dance floor.