Cassandra could tell she'd taken the King by surprise.
It wasn't as though she was dressed in royal finery or some such thing. All she was wearing was a crimson dress that flattered her figure without revealing it. It was the only modest dress she owned...even the lavender one had been somewhat "fetching," as Lizzie would have described it. She'd piled her hair atop her head and woven a string of -albeit fake - pearls through it. And she'd taken great pains to make sure her cosmetics had been applied just so.
The strange thing was, as soon as Cassandra had laid eyes upon the King, her fever had seemed to vanish.
"You can breathe now," Cassandra said, suddenly self-conscious. Did she really have the kind of beauty that was capable of taking a man's breath away? Yes, she knew she was attractive - many men had said so - but beautiful? Not even Hadrian had ever told her that. Or was she reading too much into the King's reaction? Perhaps he didn't think she was beautiful - perhaps he was simply surprised she'd not abandoned their plans for lunch.
At Cassandra's words, the King visibly swallowed before speaking. "You look..." His voice trailed off.
Beautiful? Do I look beautiful? "Well, what do I look? Good? Bad? Ugly?"
It took a moment before Cassandra could respond. It felt as though some sort of cleansing magic had washed over her, erasing her fears of spending time with the King. Heart fluttering, Cassandra ducked her head and blinked away tears. Finally, she managed a soft, "Thank-you."
"Has anyone ever told you that before?" the King asked, offering his arm to Cassandra. She gingerly took it.
"What did you bring for lunch?" Cassandra asked, avoiding the subject and nodding toward the basket on King Amadeo's arm.
"Oh, all kinds of things."
"Like what kinds of things?" Cassandra pried further, still trying to collect her emotions. He said I look beautiful. He said I look beautiful! She realized a spring had been added to her step.
"Do you have any favorite place to picnic in Nicu?" the King asked, smiling down at Cassandra in such a way that she felt as though someone was tickling her stomach from the inside out.
This is ridiculous, Cassandra! Get a hold of yourself! "Do I honestly look like the type to go on a picnic?"
The King laughed. Cassandra was still blinking away tears. But at the sound of the King's laughter, a giggle bubbled up through her throat and burst from her lips. It was so unexpected, the girlish giggle, but for some reason, it seemed right.
Their day looked perfect. Yet only time would tell if it really was.