"I was always the worst of influences on his Highness," Jacques smirked, "Although, I'll bet him a thousand franks that I still get twice as many women."

Cal shot him an agitated glare, an amused smile on his lips, "That is besides the point," he chuckled, and turned back towards his father, who had shut his eyes, "Papa?" He asked, alerted, "Papa?"

A man emerged from the french doors, racing to his fathers bedside, "The King needs rest, Your Highness," he said breathlessly, "It will take him time to recover."

Cal eyed the man suspiciously, wondering how the doctor had been able to come so quickly. He looked to Jacques, who shrugged.

Cal watched the King, who's breathing began to slow. He felt as though his life was caving in on him.

Jacques led him out of the room and shut the doors behind them. He turned to Cal and rested his hand on his shoulder, "It's good to see you, mon ami, even under such unfortunate circumstances."

"And you as well, Jacques," responded Cal, as they continued on their walk down the corridor.

Jacques paused for a moment, "It was actually your Mother who invited me here from Le Blanc, if that means anything to you. She mentioned your Father's illness and begged me to join her at the Palais."

"My Mother, the Queen?"

"You do only obtain one Mother, Callan, and she does happen to be the Queen," he smirked, "But yes, if it was up to me, I'd still be at Le Blanc with my mistress. Do you know of my newest installment to Palais Blanc? It was wonderfully designed by Rodéric-"

Cal had lost interest by this point, his mind wandering back to his mother. He couldn't wrap his head around why she had invited Jacques and not him. He had to hear from Jacques himself, or else he would've never known. All of it was suspicious, to say the least.

When they finally managed to make it back to the royal apartments, and Jacques had finished with his absentminded rambling, Cal turned to leave, but was caught by a hand.

"Don't fret, Cal, everything will work it's way out," he said, a small smirk hiding behind his lips.

Cal nodded, and gave his friend a hug, "Will you join me in the billiards room after dinner tonight?" He asked, off-topically, "I have someone I'd like you to meet."

"Oh, I do love a good surprise."

~

Ariella sat alone in her chambers, picking at her hair that was held up neatly into a fashionable hairstyle, which Mae had styled before she ran down to the service quarters to empty a tea tray.

As she sat staring at the door, waiting for the time to dwindle by before dinner, she noticed a little piece of paper wedged underneath the door. She smiled, excitedly, and ran over to retrieve it.

Mon Amour,

I request you join me in the billiards room this evening after dinner. Find me outside of the dining hall, I'll be waiting.

Most sincere regards,
Callan.

Her heart warmed and she blushed. It was if she hadn't seen him in ages, but it had only been a day.

When dinner finally arrived, Ariella inspected herself in the mirror before leaving her chambers. She wore a cream colored gown with light pink ribbon accents and a diamond earring and necklace set that she had found in her new wardrobe. She couldn't help but admire herself in the mirror, even if she wasn't one for fashion.

She arrived minutes later at the entrance of the dining hall, where a profusely long table sat and at least a hundred chairs to accompany it. As usual, gold furnishings laid about the room, with a large chandelier above the table and fifty golden candlesticks across it.

She glanced around the room to find a familiar face, until her eyes landed on Louis, who on one side sat his wife and on the other, an empty seat.

She smiled as she approached the pair, but only Louis returned the favor. Instead, Gabrielle glared at her.

She took her seat next to Louis, and settled her gown against her legs, and was greeted by Louis, in which she responded appropriately.

She glanced around the room until she met the eyes of a man she'd never seen before, who seemed to be looking straight at her. He was strikingly handsome, with tanned skin and ruffled blonde hair. It was hard to tell whether he was looking into her eyes, or rather the darkest part of her soul.

She looked away.

A few moments later, the The Prince and The Queen arrived and took their seats at the head of the table. She overheard a few whispers about the Queen and her role now that the King was unable to preform his duties, but most of the comments were directed at the Prince, and how he began an animated conversation with the man seated to his left, the very man with whom she had just locked eyes with.

After the main course had been served and desert was placed in front of them, Ariella could barely touch her food. The richness of the chocolate in the desert was making her ill. She placed her fork down on the table aside her plate and took a sip of champagne to calm her nerves. She hesitantly looked back to Callan and his friend, and was met, yet again, with the same dark eyes.

She averted her gaze immediately and turned to Louis, who had just placed the last bite of his desert in his mouth, "Louis?" She asked, "Who is that man that sits next to the Prince?"

Louis cleared his throat and followed her gaze, and then chuckled, "Thats the Duke de Palais Blanc, Jacques de Morterre, and he seems to be eyeing you very intently."

"Oui, I know, that's why I asked you. It's been happening all evening," she muttered, and gave him a disapproving glare.

When dinner finally ended, Ariella left to find Cal. He was leaning against the archway of the entrance to the dining room after most of the nobles had retired for the evening.

She approached him hesitantly, glancing around the area to make sure there was no one in earshot before she ran into his arms.

"Why, if it isn't my sweet Ariella. Quite funny seeing you here," he chuckled.

"Be quiet and kiss me," she muttered and pressed her lips to his.

He wrapped his arms around her tightly, and held her against him for a moment before releasing her. She looked up to him with her
pulchritudinous green eyes.

"You're absurdly beautiful, mon amour, I don't know how I've ended up with you."

She smiled, "I could say the same."

"As much as I'd like to stay here forever, I did make arrangements for us to meet someone tonight."

Ariella had an unsettling feeling in her stomach. She knew who she was meeting, and she wasn't looking forward to it.

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