Isaac Duplo looked around the room, looking for the Marquess of Wishburn’s daughter. But she wasn’t there. He figured she might have already left the party.
Ethan was relieved that she wasn’t there. He was then angry at feeling relieved. He was humiliated by a fifteen-year-old girl and now he was glad he didn’t need to face her. He was the son of a duke! He had trained as a knight! He shouldn’t be in a position to be intimidated by a mere teen girl!
It was only because I was drunk, Ethan rationalised. He had been drunk and she had come upon him very suddenly. Yeah, that was it…
How dare she threaten him saying she would cut out his tongue?! Doesn’t the Marquess teach his children anything? Nobles should behave appropriately! The whole family has gone mad.
“She’s beautiful and has excellent manners. She was so confident even in front of the Princess. Everybody thought it was her victory.” Hugo jutted out his chin as though he was proud of her.
Ethan snorted. His father and brother turned to him. He could see his father’s face twist in disgust. His father had never ever been proud of him in his life. He was the black sheep of the family. A son who was always lacking something or the other. Not like his elder brother. The obedient son. The favourite son who followed his father’s footsteps.
“If I kill you here, will anyone even care?”
That girl’s voice echoed in Ethan’s mind. Those words had pierced his heart. Even if he disappeared or was found dead in the royal garden, his family wouldn’t care. They would only use it as a tool to turn things against the royal family. They will use his death to their advantage.
“That was a risky thing,” father said to Hugo. “Dancing before the princess led the dance. It would have been dangerous if her partner hadn’t been the Grand Duke of Glouster. His Majesty looked very displeased.”
“But she only did that to diffuse the situation,” said Hugo, “The Princess very suddenly accused the Wishburn family of murdering Count Thoreau. And what was it about the… thing she said? I couldn’t understand what she was getting at.” He frowned. The Duke of Ayble shook his head.
“It’s probably related to the ‘gift’ the princess allegedly has,” said the duke, “She had a lot to say but it seems to be fake. I wonder what it might mean for the future…”
“The Princess… um…” Hugo wanted to say something, but as if he couldn’t find appropriate words, he shut his mouth.
“But you can’t go against the Princess so bluntly,” said the duke, “No matter what, she’s a successor to the throne, so she’s powerful. Sooner or later, the royal family will hold another event to clean up her reputation. There wasn’t even time to greet her today, but be more forward next time.”
“Oh, that….” Hugo’s unwillingness was obvious.
Ethan wasn’t sure what actually had happened. He had heard the commotion and realised from the whispers that the Princess and Lady Wishburn had had a row. He didn’t know the full story. He had been busy drinking and making eyes at other noble ladies. But there was something about Count Thoreau doing ‘something terribly bad’ to Lady Wishburn. However, when he tried to find out more, the nobles had nothing further to share except giggle at the Princess’ outrageous dress.
He didn’t care then, but he did now. If the Princess had had to deal with that crazy girl, then she must have had a hard time too. He was on the side of the Princess. The crazy girl might have done something to draw such a reaction from everybody to shame the princess. No doubt about it.
Perhaps he could talk with the princess. “I will do that,” he resolved.
His father and his brother turned to him. Ethan put his hand in his pockets and crouched his shoulders. He hadn’t realized he had spoken aloud. He looked at them solemnly. “I think Hugo has feelings for Miss Wishburn,” he said, “So, he should focus on that. I will handle the princess.”
“You?!” exclaimed his father, mockingly. “I wouldn’t even trust you with handling your drink, much less a princess!”
Ethan was accustomed to such words. “Then what do you want?” asked Ethan, “Do you intend to hand around the princess hoping she will catch your eye and make you the King’s son-in-law? You think that will happen?” he turned to his father. “What then? Will you leave the title of the Duke of Ayble to me, who you “wouldn’t even trust with handling a drink”?
His father’s moustache quivered. If they were home, he would have hit him. Hugo intervened. “Enough, Ethan,” said Hugo. “I should be the one to handle…”
“No, Hugo,” said his father, “As much as I detest this, the boy is right. It’s a waste to leave that job to you right now. Next time, there is a party, you go and handle it.” The duke turned to Ethan. “You seem to have your own ability to seduce women, so let’s see how you can attract the princess.”
Ethan bowed. He had intended to bow and take a step back but restrained himself. His one poor part wasn’t properly healed. His father dismissed them and walked towards the entrance. Hugo watched Ethan with worry.