Prince Anton Dovetail was bored. Not just with an evening of standing next to his parents greeting new comers to court. He was bored in general. He shouldn’t be. He didn’t usually find the yearly summer sojourn to Brightcoast boring, but this year everything felt stale. He glanced over at his friends who were having some kind of animated argument about something. Lady Olivia Bano, who really was more than a friend, he should admit, at least and Sir John Dugarry were both gesticulating wildly, even if he couldn’t hear what they were talking about.
He knew Olivia had also taken up with Captain Thomas Martin lately, which he should be more disappointed by, but wasn’t. Olivia had every right to live her life as she saw fit. Though he was reasonably sure that as early as a month ago they’d said they loved each other, he and Livvie had just as soon gone back to the comfortable companionship they’d shared since childhood.
“Anton,” his mother said, sharply, waking him up, “we’re nearly finished, but please try to stay engaged.”
“I’m sorry, Mother,” he nodded. He straightened his jacket, sash and the silver circlet around his forehead. “Who’s next?”
“Viscount Caleb of Pantona,” his father said, “who is asking to present Lord Lestat of Tumona and his sister Lady Marie.” Anton frowned.
“I met Lord Lestat two winters ago,” Anton said. “He’s back? And brought a sister?” Anne of Brightcoast would be pleased, Anton thought. Though that was another bride crossed off his mother’s list. She’d start importing girls from Rastan pretty soon. Queen Maura smirked at her son. They walked into the room.
The Viscount was the same as always, dressed simply, but cleanly, his red hair neatly brushed, Lestat of Tumona hadn’t changed either, from Anton’s mind, he was square shouldered and clean shaven, with his dark skin markedly standing against his white coat.
And the girl had to be his sister. She looked young, maybe sixteen or seventeen, her dark hair was brushed clean and tied into half a tail, with a wide bow. She was wearing a simple white gown with a red waist band.
And she was beautiful.
“Your Majesties,” The Viscount smiled and bowed, “Your Highness,” Anton inclined his head. “I am sure you remember Lord Lestat of Tumona,”
“Of course,” King Rupert said gently. “Welcome back, Lord Lestat, we’re happy to see you again.”
“I’m happy to be back, Your Majesty,” he said, his voice was gentle, “May I present my sister, Lady Marie Sanpierre.” Lady Marie dipped into possibly the lowest curtsey Anton had ever seen, her wide brown eyes now downcast.
“Lady Marie,” his mother said, “we’re glad to have you.”
“Thank you, Your Majesty,” she said. Her voice was beautiful too. Why was he fixating on her?
“There’ll be dancing later,” Anton managed to pipe up, she looked at him oddly, but then softened her face to a neutral expression.
“That will be nice,” Viscount Caleb said clearing his throat, clearly covering a laugh. Great, Anton thought, I’ll be in for a lecture after embarrassing myself in front of courtiers.
“Thank you, Viscount,” his father said, sending Anton a confused look. They all bowed and excused themselves. “Are you feeling well, Anton?”
“I think I need some air,” he said and walked out onto the terrace.
“That went well,” Viscount Caleb said and offered Marie a glass of the pink wine that was being passed around. She shook her head. “I won’t tell the High Mother if you won’t, Marie.” He teased. She giggled at that and took it.
“It’s not like at home, sweetheart,” Les said gently, “you can talk and everything.”
“I don’t know what I’d say,” she admitted and took a sip. “Why was the Prince looking at me like that?”
“Like what?” Les frowned. She sighed.
“Like he’d eaten something that didn’t agree with him,” she said, and covered her mouth, realizing immediately it was disrespectful to speak of royalty that way.
“It’s because you’re pretty and new,” The Viscount said in an offhand way, not like home, “Anton is often distracted by shiny things.” Marie frowned and he realized himself. “Not that you’re shiny, or a thing.”
“I don’t want to be a distraction for a prince either,” she said, “I came here to get away from that.” Prince Daniel had been insistent in his attentions, and she’d been unsettled by them. Les had suggested the trip to see his friends in Cammadan, to keep her away from the royal family. The Old King’s new young wife, Aimee, would have been a good excuse to bring Marie into the household. A place she absolutely did not want to be.
“Anton isn’t like Daniel,” The Viscount said kindly. “He’ll flirt, but it won’t go anywhere, it never does.” Marie frowned and played with the symbol of the goddess around her neck.
“Everything alright?” Tom Martin walked out. Anton looked at his friend and shook his head. “The little Phanian girl? You spent all of five second with her, man.”
“And here we are,” Anton said, “Cornan help me and Mariah’s blood curdle if I spend more time in her company.” Tom laughed and leaned across the rail. “Livvie will be disappointed.” Tom looked at him and raised his eyebrows. “Or not.”
“I’m hoping not,” he said. Anton nodded, and realized he was bored again. Three years of Olivia with him, or with Tom, back and forth, around and around. All the better if she’d chosen Tom finally. “Though she’s upset with me for going to Dorin.” Anton nodded. “You aren’t upset?”
“I should be,” Anton said, “I finally get her to admit to caring about me and you swoop in a minute later. And no one can compete with the great champion.” Tom laughed.
“It’s serious between me and her,” he said, “I wouldn’t have, if it weren’t.” Anton nodded. “So, what’s the plan, with this Lady Marie?”
“Ask her to dance, I guess,” Anton said. “She won’t say no, they’re really over polite in Phania. When I visited a few years ago I thought I would get beheaded for smiling at a servant.” Tom laughed.
Marie stuck to the side of the room when the dancing started. It was strange, she saw a tall blonde boy and a pretty girl with dark hair start the dancing, rather than the Prince and anyone else. It was different from home, and that was the first difference.
“Lady Marie,” she nearly jumped out of her skin, when the Prince approached her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to startle you.”
“I’m sorry Your Highness,” she curtsied and looked down.
“You don’t have to,” he said, “I wanted to know if you’d like to dance?” She puzzled at him. She hadn’t really looked at him before. He was handsome, she realized, with soft pinkish skin and a few freckles. His hair was a light brown color. And he was tall. Not quite as tall as The Viscount, but still.
“Oh,” she said, “I,” his hand was outstretched. “Yes, thank you.” She took it and they walked to center of the floor. The dark haired girl eyed her, as she followed the Prince’s steps. “When did you arrive?” He asked.
“A month ago,” she said, “The Viscount found us a place to stay, to recover.” He nodded. “He’s been very kind.”
“I’m sure,” Anton said, “he’s very kind.” Marie nodded. Until she’d met him, she’d half expected her brother to shove her at Caleb Pantona, who’d instead treated her with the kind of friendliness she’d never known. They stopped, as the music slowed. “It’s quite hot in here,” he pulled at his collar. She giggled. “Have you seen the view?” She shook her head and followed him out.
Not like Daniel at all, she thought to herself. They stood quietly, looking out over the sea. She exhaled, and reached for his hand again.
“Your hands are cold,” he said. She looked at him, confused.
“Yours too,” she said. “There’s a breeze.” He nodded. “I said thank you?” She’d forgotten herself completely.
“Yes,” he said, she nodded. “You’re very beautiful.” She swallowed and looked away. “I’m sorry, I,” he ran a hand through his hair. “I’m usually better at this.”
“You’re not making a joke?” She whispered. “Making fun of me.” He stared at her.
“No!” He exclaimed and took her hands. “No, I never,” he swallowed, “I wouldn’t know where to start.” She laughed.
“Marie,” Les appeared in the doorway, “Your Highness, excuse me, but we ought to go.”
“Thank you, again,” she said softly. “For the dance.” He kissed her hand gently. She bounced over to Les.
“Marie,” he called after her, she turned. “When can I see you again?” She smiled.
“I’m not planning on leaving, Your Highness.” She said, and followed her brother through the door.