Chapter 23

They each bowed to one another as the dance ended, Sir Giddeon taking the Princess' hand and lightly kissing it. Cassandra could not help feel her cheeks warm, his striking eyes coming up to meet hers. "Thank you for the dance, Your Highness. You are a fantastic partner," he said gallantly.

"Oh, you are too kind," replied Cassandra half-jokingly, the playful tone in her voice making him smile.

She almost wished that he would ask her for the next dance, and the one following as well, but he simply guided her back to her place at the throne before bowing once more and departing into the crowd. As soon as his eyes turned away from hers, she slumped slightly in her stiff chair. There was a certain sinking disappointment inside her which replaced her warm, partly-anxious, and fluttering excited feeling. She could not help but feel as if there were a flock of butterflies jumping around in her stomach whenever he was around, the best of ways.

As much as she shouldn't have, Cassandra could not help having eyes only for the Duke, picking him out from the crowd and observing him, his expression, his manner, as he spoke, interacted with others. As much as she tried turning her eyes away, told herself it was quite improper to do so, her terrible curiosty pulled her gaze back over him.

She watched as he entered a circle of ladies, beautiful court ladies his own age in all their practiced style and fashion, and in his charming way spoke to them. There was a bitter taste in her mouth, a tensing of her muscles, as she watched him pick out, corner, a pretty woman with rustic blonde hair and a fine face, focus all his charming chatter, singular attentions, upon her. Cassandra blinked a few times as the lady blushed and fluttered under him, returning her flirtatious glances.

There was a tightening in her gut, a sickening, furious feeling. Sadness. Disappointment.....


The End

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