The silverware was perfectly polished, the napkins were carefully folded, and the table was laden with a shining silver tablecloth. Despite the fact that all the servants were already rushing around and making sure the table looked flawless, Amadeo found himself circling around and straightening every chair. He looked up and saw one of the servants watching him with an amused look on her face. Blushing at his own obsession with making everything beautiful for Cassandra, Amadeo good-naturedly waved away the servant's stare. The two shared a smile, but Amadeo's attention was immediately stolen when the doors to the dining room opened.
There stood Cassandra, with Gabelle only a few steps behind her. But Amadeo's attention was fully on Cassandra. He swallowed hard, before stepping forward and offering Cassandra his arm.
In that moment, Amadeo forgot where the proper place to seat Cassandra would be. To blazes with etiquette! he thought. He pulled a chair out for Cassandra, a place right next to his chair at the head of the table. Was it mannerly for Cassandra to sit at the opposite end of the table? Where did special guests normally sit? It didn't matter. Amadeo wanted Cassandra as close to him as possible.
"You look lovely," Amadeo said, but inwardly, he reprimanded himself. Lovely? Lovely? How much more of an understatement could I have possibly managed?
Cassandra's face flushed bright pink, but she remained silent.
"Close your mouth, Amadeo, lest you catch flies," Gabelle quietly teased, patting Amadeo's shoulder. "I know; it's a little hard to take in. She's captivating."
Shocked at Gabelle's openness, Cassandra exclaimed, "Oh, Gabelle! You don't have to say that."
"I say what's true," Gabelle shrugged. She winked at Amadeo, before seating herself.
"Oh, sorry," Amadeo muttered. "It was my place to pull your chair out for you, wasn't it?" He ran a hand absently through his hair. Something about Cassandra turned him into a lovestruck sap.
"I'm capable of pulling my own chair out," Gabelle laughingly replied.
Xandria, who was also present for the meal, entered. She waited a moment, as though expecting Amadeo to seat her, then laughed and took her chair at the opposite end of the table. Amadeo was far too engrossed in Cassandra's incredible beauty to notice Xandria's arrival. But when he looked across the table, a pang of pain struck his heart. Other court members who he'd invited to the dinner had arrived, but Marcos' chair was blatantly empty.
And the dinner began.