Chapter 19 - The Dance

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The king was right. I did not expect to be dancing with him so soon. Or at all, actually. Even though he was at this ball and I saw him dance with Sabine, I somehow thought I would miraculously be spared such a venture.

Not knowing what else to do, I dipped into a curtsy. The king bowed as expected and offered his hand to me. I took it, my heart beating a mile a minute as he laced his fingers through it. He placed his other hand on my waist, causing me to bristle at the touch. Nervously, I put a hand on his shoulder, hyper aware of our proximity. This was all too much and too soon.

It was difficult to breathe and not because of my bodice. My eyes darted everywhere, the dance floor, our clasped hands, anywhere but his eyes.

"You look breathtaking tonight," he whispered as the music began.

Are you going to say that to all the girls? I wanted to snap, but held my tongue.

"Thank you," I said curtly. "You um, look good too."

It was an understatement. The king should give his stylist a raise for the way he looked tonight. The black tailcoat and silver vest and tie gave him an air of opulence and refinement, while accentuating the pallor of his skin. His hair was perfectly combed; shorter than the last time I saw him. He must have had it cut.

"So, did my friends bite? Metaphorically, that is," he asked.

Friends? I wasn't sure if that was merely an expression or if the king really did consider the dukes his friends. He mentioned the Virginian duke's tenuous loyalties before.

I shook my head. "They were very nice."

He chuckled. "Good? Nice? You're a girl of few words tonight."

"Aren't I always?" I said.

He smirked. "Perhaps that's a good thing. The last time I witnessed your words, I wasn't exactly thrilled by them."

I was silent as I followed his lead. His smirk waned and he cleared his throat.

"Pity I never saw your original poem. I'd love to know what it was about," he said.

"It was sentimental drivel," I said, realizing I echoed what Sabine had said to me right before she tore my poem to pieces. I had to concede by now that she was accurate in her judgement, though that didn't give her the right to do what she did.

"That doesn't tell me much about the subject matter," the king said.

"No, it doesn't," I replied coldly, wishing he'd dropped the subject.

He frowned, looking hurt. I briefly regretted brushing him off. But only briefly.

"Still, a pity I didn't get to see your true talent," he said.

"I'm not talented," I muttered.

He raised an eyebrow. "Oh really? I must admit, that awful poem you presented took a considerable amount of skill. I can tell you're capable of great things, you just have to apply yourself in a positive way."

I refrained from rolling my eyes. "You sound like my guidance counselor."

The king laughed sheepishly, his blue-green eyes glinting with delight. I looked away, not liking the emotions those eyes instilled in me.

"I suppose I do. But can you really blame me?," he said as our dancing slowed. "I see before me a bold young woman full of potential who doesn't seem to realize it."

My lips parted in surprise. Me? Bold? He was out of his mind. I shook my head.

"And to that I would say you are full of something other than potential," I said, cringing as the words fell out of my mouth.

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