It took very little time to find Adam: he was wandering up the corridor I was walking down. When I saw him, I ran up to him and hugged him.
"Are you okay, Selena?" he asked, holding me tightly.
"Yes - everything's going to be okay." I didn't tell him anything else, remembering his feelings for me.
"I missed you, you know," he said, his voice intense. "Even though you were only gone for several hours, I kept longing to see your face: your beautiful eyes and your wonderful smile."
I couldn't admit to the same thing so I kept quiet.
Adam let go of me and said "I've got your invitation to the Summer Ball in my room - let's go and get that before we talk."
He led me to his chamber. I waited outside as he picked up a piece of card on his bedside table. He returned to me and handed me the invitation, smiling.
The details were bordered by a gold-coloured pattern, like paintings are bordered by frames. Above this box was a picture of a golden eagle, bronze paint having been used for the features and amber for the beak. The eye glinted if you turned the card in the light.
According to the invite, the ball was to take place on August 1st and commence at 7 o'clock in the evening. Guest rooms were apparently available for any royals who lived far away.
"Won't it be grand?" Adam asked, beaming.
I smiled. "It will."
I find these events so exciting. I can't believe there are only ten days between today and August the 1st."
"Yes, I didn't realise it would be so soon. I shall probably have to spend the next ten days choosing my attire and getting enough sleep so I don't look awful."
"I can't see you looking awful," Adam murmured sincerely.
"Oh, believe me: it happens."
Adam sighed slightly and then led me to a great conservatory where plants grew in huge pots and fans blew air across seats.
It was in one of these delightfully cool areas that we sat.
"So, how have you been?" Adam asked, as though it had been months rather than hours since we'd seen each other last.
"I've been well," I replied truthfully. "Today was great fun: I met six infants and read them a story, helped midwives deliver triplets and learnt a couple of new tricks involving water. Our local sorceress gave me this." I fumbled around with my necklace until I undid the chain. I showed Adam the ruby.
"The magic people seem to like their birthstones," Adam observed, pulling out a milky-looking stone from his pocket. Looking closer I could see many different colours across it. It was like a rainbow had been grated onto the surface.
I gasped at the beauty of it.
"This is mine - opal."
I suddenly remembered the sapphire in the pocket of the dress I had worn yesterday hanging up in the wardrobe. I felt a twinge of guilt.
"It's really pretty," I told him, truthfully.
"As is yours. Would you like me to help you put it back on?"
"Okay," I replied shyly as he pocketed his opal and I handed him my ruby. I turned. My heart beat nervously in my chest as Adam gently put the pendant round my neck.
I turned back and quietly thanked him.
"You're welcome," he replied, but there was a look of longing in his eyes that nearly made me cry for my lack of love for him.
"Will you stay an hour or two?" he asked.
I sighed, looking away from his love-filled eyes. "I'm not sure, Adam. I don't want to hurt you or let us suffer awkward silences which could spoil our future meetings. As I said last night, I could grow to love you, but I need time to develop those feelings. Time and distance from you so that my mind isn't clouded with guilt when I look at my emotions."
I looked up at Adam to watch his reaction. His expression was unfathomable.
"That is truly kind of you," he said, his voice almost painfully tight with control.
"I don't want to hurt you," I repeated.
The suppression of Adam's emotions was nearly tangible.
He nodded. "I wouldn't have expected anything else from a young woman with such a pure soul as yours."
Tears pricked the corners of my eyes.
"I'm sorry," I whispered.
"Don't be. The last thing I want is your sadness."
Adam turned and shut his eyes tightly for a moment.
When he opened them, he said, in a calm, devastatingly neutral tone, "Let's find your sister and then get you home."
"Thank you," I whispered. "Thank you for understanding."