It was just another ball, and more men asking me to dance really. Yet none of them were the man I desired, the man I had my eyes set on. I had searched the crowd for him, hoping he would enter, that he would walk towards me and ask me to accompany me in the next dance. And enter he did, but it was too that Olivia he had walked to, not me.
They had danced, seeming deep in conversation as they did so, lost in their own world. I had watched them with stolen glances, trying to not make it seem obvious that I did so. Then the dance had ended, his eyes still on hers, until she had said something and he had finally, at last looked my way, as if at her urging.
It was that moment that had decided me to reveal what I had to James. The rational part of my mind was saying that in doing so, and then watching to see if the news reached her ears, I would be setting a trap, but still a part of me was hoping to impress him with my superior knowledge, impress him enough so that his attention turned my way and not hers. A position as the Queen's escort was of course a very high and respected position, even the Queen being what she was. But the information he gleaned as a result of that position was nothing, not compared with all I had learned. It wasn't about what you knew but who you knew after all.
James had picked up on my desire to tell him something and soon I was led to a private room. I had tried to pretend not to notice the door was left ajar despite a very deliberate act of closing it on James' behalf. It only confirmed my suspicions but despite that I tried not to let my hope fall. This man would one day be mine someday, even if it currently seemed his loyalties lay elsewhere.
Carefully, I had divulged tidbits of information, careful to not let him know where this information came from. It was just enough information to whet his appetite, just enough to require action to be taken. Action that would surely confirm what I was already so sure of.
James had excused himself shortly after I had finished telling the small portion that of information that I had decided to tell, claiming that it would not be proper for us to spend any more time alone, with much laughter and side glances. I had agreed cheerfully, and we had both returned to the hall, he to pick the first woman he saw to dance, while I took a seat on the sidelines, watching and waiting.
He danced with another woman after that, then another, before disappearing for some fresh air. As I glanced around, I noticed with a grin that Olivia was nowhere in sight. It seemed then that my suspicions were correct and not just mere jealously as had been suggested when I had first voiced them. I was sure that if I was to search I would find the two of them together, and be able to catch them exchanging compromising information. Yet catching them was not the goal of tonight's actions, not yet at least.
We had learned through our sources that the Iberan's had spent spies among us, a fact that would have caused little commotion if not for the revelation that the spies were women, as had been confirmed by some rather peculiar happenings in the country. After all, in war spies were to be expected. It would have been more worrying to not have discovered spies. And yet, the spies traditionally used were men, and not women as these had been. These spies had seemed the common sort, and I had been scoffed at when I suggested that similar spies might have been placed in court. While women of the lower classes might resort to spying to turn a penny, apparently the task was beyond those with the poise and dignity to pass for a court lady, so I had been told.
But we had had newcomers to court recently, and Olivia had been one of them. Her manners were perfect, despite being from some backwards country village, and while a good governess and maid and the right training might account for this, something didn't seem right to me. On learning of the others spies, I had become convinced that Olivia must be one of them. I wasn't sure if the other newcomer, Alexandra, was also in on the act or not. It was possible that Olivia had seen the sense of befriending another newcomer to the court, to take suspicion off her. But it did seem that James, my James, had become involved.
I pondered the thought, reflecting on the fact that others had long suspected that the Queen's Escort had moved beyond the realm of royal bodyguards, and that she was not the passive bystander she pretended to be. Perhaps the Queen was somehow involved with these spies in some way, or maybe Olivia and her other spies had discovered the Queen's Escort were not the loyalists they claimed to be, and were now working in concert with the traitorous bunch. Surely, if that was the case though, there would be some way to free James from being implicated and, in return for my silence, he would see sense and marry me.
It was with this thought that I considered the information I would relay, and my future actions. One thing was for sure, I was going to find a way to ensure that whatever scheme that Olivia was planning, it would not work.