Adrianna didn’t sleep well that night. She lay in bed awake, waiting for the commotion that would occur when her father returned. It wasn’t until the early hours of the morning that she heard the servants rushing to the front door to greet the Duke. She half expected him to come to her room and demand a full account of what happened between her and the Prince, but she didn’t hear his footsteps linger outside her door as he passed by on the way to his quarters.
The following morning Adrianna was up and dressed as soon as it turned light outside, waiting to be summoned by her father. She formulated her story; ready to tell the Duke exactly what happened so he would see it wasn’t possibly her fault. She had a long time to work everything out, as she wasn’t called for until three hours after sunrise.
She knocked on the door to her father’s study and entered. This was becoming a far too familiar scene for Adrianna, seeing her father sitting at his desk as she moved to sit in the seat opposite him. That morning he was looking sterner than Adrianna had thought possible, creases across his forehead showing his worry and anger.
“I think you know what I’m going to ask you,” he said slowly and carefully, “but in case you’re unsure I’ll ask you anyway. What happened last night that meant I had to pull Prince Niccolo away from you and excuse you early?”
“He approached me,” Adrianna said, immediately going on the defensive to protect herself. “After Alberto had given me his necklace and walked away, Prince Niccolo appeared and said he wanted to get to know me better. He asked me to dance and I couldn’t refuse him. I wasn’t expecting him to act in the way he did.”
“You must have done something to provoke him. People don’t just act like that.”
“I think he’d had a lot of wine,” Adrianna said, fighting her corner fiercely, “which made him act in the way he did. It was certainly nothing to do with me.”
“Don’t lie to me Adrianna,” the Duke shouted. “If you think you can get away without being reprimanded for what you did then you are very wrong and delaying your punishment by lying to me is just going to make things worse, I assure you.”
“But I’m not lying,” Adrianna protested, growing frustrated. “I’m telling you the whole truth. Why on earth would I want to lie about what happened?”
“Because you did something to provoke the Prince into believing he could get something from you, jeopardizing your possible relationship with Count Alberto. I knew you were out to sabotage by plans, just like you always are. There had to be a reason for why you’ve been acting so well these past few days.”
“Can’t you trust me to do anything right?” Adrianna shouted, finally losing it. “Just because I’m a woman I’m incapable of doing anything you tell me to or behaving properly without an ulterior motive. Is that it?”
“No it’s because I know you, Adrianna,” the Duke shouted back, his voice booming around the small room. “You never to anything for the benefit of your family, you are consumed by your own personal desires to fulfill this strange idea of women being equal to men. It will never happen, I can promise you that, so give it up and do exactly as I tell you.”
“But I don’t want to!”
“Then that’s just tough luck because I am your father and I can make you do anything I want.” The Duke was breathing heavily as he leant over his desk towards his daughter who was on the edge of her seat. She didn’t say anything in return, letting the tense silence hang in the air while her father regained his composure. “Besides, I’m already having to give way to the Prince’s wishes,” he sighed, sitting back down. “If I had my way you wouldn’t be attending any of the celebrations for the Ferserian envoy but as it is your presence has been requested.”
“Why don’t you want me to be there? Scared I’ll get ideas?”
“Yes, as a matter of fact, I am. Queen Rowena is a powerful woman, too powerful in my opinion, and I don’t want her influencing you into causing more trouble. As it is there is nothing I can do about that except escort you at all times and prevent you from speaking to her. It won’t be pleasant for either of us I assure you, but it has to be done.”
“As you command, your Grace,” Adrianna muttered mockingly. The Duke heard, she could see it in his face, but he chose to say nothing and keep his temper. He didn’t see the point in entering into another pointless shouting match with his eldest daughter.
“Well, as you refuse to tell the truth about what happened last night I suppose you are done here.”
“Thank you, Father,” Adrianna said, rising.
“As a punishment,” he said, halting her as she began to head for the door, “you shall receive no visitors and attend no social gatherings until the arrival of the Ferserian royals. You are to keep to your room and only converse with the rest of your family at mealtimes.”
Adrianna held her tongue, knowing that to protest now would only make things worse.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?”
“Perfectly, your Grace.”
“Good, then leave now. I don’t want to hear another word from you for the rest of the day.”