From U.S Bah ❤ ✌🏽
It had been the first Isabelle had seen of
Graham for almost a week. As he stood with
his parents before their thrones, surveying the
ballroom, she could see an edge of strain on
the faces of both the king and the prince.
Whatever was transpiring in their council
meetings had clearly exhausted the pair of
The room remained bowing as the prince’s
steps echoed down the stairs. Isabelle didn’t
dare look up, grudgingly waiting for him to
stand before her. As she waited,
skirts rustled and conversations resumed as
the rest of the guests straightened. Fighting a
frown, Isabelle rose as well, only to find herself
staring directly at Prince Graham over Anna
The prince held her gaze for a moment, his
arrogant half-smile in place before he turned
his attention to Anna. He smiled down at her,
the two of them conversing as the rest of the
ballroom floor filled with pairs of dancers.
Blinking away her stupor, Isabelle regained her
composure and made her way towards the
edge of the floor, searching for a friendly face.
Her eyes, however, were traitors.
When the music began, Isabelle found herself
constantly glancing towards Anna’s pink dress,
that same little knot twisting in her stomach
as she said something to make the prince
You can’t allow him inside your head so easily,
Sam’s cautionary words rose to the forefront of
her mind, followed swiftly by Byron’s insulting
@ssertion about Graham’s wants. Of course
he’d asked Anna when Isabelle was in plain
sight. It was the same reason he’d asked for
the foolish girl’s ribbon when he knew Isabelle
would notice. He was trying to bait her once
Two could play at his game.
Biding her time with a plate of food, Isabelle
tucked herself into a corner and observed. She
watched as the prince danced with Anna
Hindersley, then bowed before Henrietta
Barclay. Between each dance, the debutantes
flocked towards the prince like bees towards
honey, the prince relishing the attention a little
too much for Isabelle’s liking. Each time, he
looked over the lot of them before selecting
his next partner with that same, arrogant grin.
Isabelle discarded her plate when he chose
Cora for his third dance.
He was baiting her, she knew that he was. But
how to bait him back? Cora’s smile sparkled
as they twirled, her once-friend resplendent in a
shimmering green silk gown.
help but think that green was very much Cora’s
colour, before mentally chiding herself. She
hadn’t come to the ball to sulk in a corner and
judge the other debutantes. Forcing her
thoughts back to the task at hand, she chewed
her cheek as she watched the dancing prince.
Graham had purposefully chos£n to dance with
the others. Earlier that week, he had taken
Anna’s ribbon. Earlier that week, he had also
told Isabelle that he wouldn’t stop pursuing her
until she removed her ring.
When the music wound down, Isabelle decided
that she needed to discover just how
determined a prince she was up against.
Emerging from her hiding place, Isabelle joined
the wave of debutantes surging towards where
Cora had curtseyed to the prince. While the
rest of them tilted their chins and threw back
their shoulders in a bid to catch his attention,
Isabelle remained immobile, folding her hands
demurely at her waist as she watched him.
Even though she was near the edge of the
group, standing there completely still while the
other women dimpled and batted their lashes
drew Graham’s attention almost immediately.
Their gazes met through the throng and a
potent mix of pleasure and dismay warred
within Isabelle’s chest.
It had worked. Or perhaps she’d only done
exactly what he’d expected she would do.
Either way, she was about to have the prince’s
undivided attention for an entire dance. As he
strode towards her, she tried to focus her
thoughts to best make use of her time. She
wanted to know where Byron was getting his
information. If she felt brave enough, she’d ask
the prince outright whether he was telling
people that he wanted her as his queen. But as
he stalked towards her, the many questions
she’d been queueing in her head vanished.
All she could think about was the last time
he’d walked towards her so purposefully.
Forcing thoughts of their klzzes from her mind,
she gathered her skirts to curtsey, her
sweetest smile prepared to cover the blush
rising in her cheeks.
To her great surprise, however, the prince kept
The corners of his mouth twitched as he
breezed past her, leaving the dance floor.
Isabelle’s cheeks heated as she rose from her
reverence, refusing to turn around and look for
him. If his repressed grin was any sign, he’d
guessed at her ruse and had outplayed her
Unless, of course, he hadn’t meant a word he’d
said at the picnic and he had changed his
mind about her.
Annoyed that she had no clue what was
happening, Isabelle left the dance floor, only to
see Sam, Cora, Violet, and Byron chatting
amicably in a circle.
Violet was beaming as
she looked up at Byron, while Cora smiled at
the pair of them. Sam’s eyes kept straying to
Cora even as he attempted to converse with
Byron, who swirled his drink and maintained
his pleasant veneer.
Seeing the four of them standing there,
conversing like old friends while she looked on
as the outsider, s£nt a cold dart of loneliness
through Isabelle’s stomach. She missed
Leopold. She missed the way he looked at her
and how easily she could make him laugh. She
missed the way he’d allowed her to keep her
hand in the crook of his elbow when they’d
toured the room at a dinner party back in
Kentshire. She missed the rumble of his voice
and the way he ran a hand through his hair
whenever he was lost in thought.
Her stomach plummeted when she realized
that it had been three whole days since she’d
written him a letter. Horrified with herself, she
turned on her heel to go and do just that
before she slowed her steps. Unbidden, Julia
Andover’s name rose into Isabelle’s thoughts,
halting her departure with cruel images of
some other woman on the arm of her
Even as her stomach turned at the mere
thought of Leopold with someone else, her
traitorous mind pulled her back to the picnic.
She couldn’t ignore the fact that she’d almost
enjoyed it when Prince Graham had tucked her
hand into his arm, nor could she deny that
something giddy had flickered within her when
she’d caught his attention on the dance floor.
All at once, the bright colours and swelling
music of the ballroom were too much, the sea
of nobility stifling her.
Desperate for fresh air and quiet so she could
sort through her thoughts, Isabelle fled to the
garden terrace. As soon as the [email protected] doors
closed behind her, the music faded to be
replaced by the rustling of the wind wind in the
autumn leaves. The gardens were by no means
vacant, with servants [email protected] out warm
refreshments and nobles conversing around
heavy stone fire-pots to chase away the chill.
The stars twinkled happily overhead, heedless
of the turmoil in Isabelle’s thoughts.
Pacing by the stone railing, she forced herself
to calm down. Leopold was in Ardalone for the
royal wedding, he wasn’t off wooing some
other woman. The date of the Ardalonian’s
nuptials was fast approaching, which meant
that he would be returning soon. He had surely
written to her, but she hadn’t received any
replies because they had probably gotten lost
in transit. She needed to stop fretting like
some pathetic, lovesick fool.
She still hadn’t heard back from her father, but
she was expecting a reply in the very near
future, She hoped that he’d enlighten her, at
least to some degree, about why he’d been so
resistant to her marrying Leopold. Perhaps
there was something to these rumours and her
father was only looking out for her by ensuring
that Leopold would be faithful before allowing
her to marry him. Perhaps there was nothing to
the rumours at all and her father had some
other reason for delaying their wedding.
It was all so complicated that Isabelle wanted
to tear her hair out, but that would have ruined
all the [email protected] work Lissa had done to pin her
curls up so artfully. Giving up on puzzling it all
out, Isabelle abandoned her plan. She did not
want to stand around and watch everyone else
enjoy themselves at the ball while she
grappled with so many questions and worries.
Escaping the chill of the gardens, she waded
through the cacophony of noise and colours
that was the ballroom towards the entrance
hall. She forced her eyes to remain forward,
preventing them from seeking out the sandy-
haired prince. She was upset enough as it was
that she wouldn’t be able to endure whatever
torment he’d foist upon her. She could find the
answers to her questions on her own, even if it
would be more difficult than seeking Graham’s
@ssistance. Beyond that, her father would come
through and explain everything, she was sure of
When everything was in flux around her, she
had to believe that Papa would remain the very
same oasis of calm and stability that he had
To be continued…..