Doubt is the killer inside the room, the murder weapon that cannot be found.
— The Troubled Queen (Act 3, Scene 4)
The brief respite between each dance brought a number of other men coming to the table for a few minutes of carousing or to request their names be placed on Glorias’s dance card. Every time they approached, Glorias was sure they were there to reveal her secret, or to distract her enough that her magic would fade.
Only her mother’s comforting hand underneath the table cloth and a few pointed reminders kept her focused enough to maintain her appearance while spinning her lies about being a country niece.
As the men left, both of them let out nervous giggles. Every time, Glorias felt like she had survived an interrogation where one wrong word could ruin everything. However, country life was always different than the city and the few mistakes she made were easily passed off as being from outside town.
That would change after the Social Season, if she made it that long. Glorias couldn’t go back to being Galadin again, it felt too right to being Glorias. At the same time, it would be risky for her to remain in the city after the country story faded.
To her surprise, she wasn’t scared. Glorias smiled to herself and nodded to a passing besire. She was living her fantasy, doing something she dreamed about for years. If this was the only time in her life she could live it, so much the better. Anything, if she didn’t have to go back to being Galadin.
Maran reached out and gently took Glorias’s hand. She squeezed and smiled, her eyes shimmering. “Keeping daughter thoughts?”
“Yes, Mother,” Glorias said with a smile of her own.
“Good. The next one on your card is Besire Rilar. He’s sweet and charming, a bit of a dandy, but everyone knows he has his eyes for Bedame Larkimas who is currently stealing hearts over there.” She nodded with her head toward a blond surrounded by dozens of men. “From the rumors your father heard on the docks, she already has a dozen offers and her father is drowning from the bottles of whiskey and wines poured into his glass. He has no chance but he isn’t ready to admit it.”
Maran shook her head in bemusement. “He really does listen to everything.”
“We asked him to come up with a plan. Father’s good at that.”
“He is. He’s a good man.” Maran kissed Glorias’s cheek. “You are doing beautifully.”
A handsome man came up. He was broad-shouldered with a square jaw. Gold trim marked his black suit, no doubt to show off his wealth and figure.
A longing filled Glorias. Even though it could never happen, Rilar was close to the fantasies that warmed her at night. She could only imagine what it would be like to have his body tight against hers. Gulping, she realized she was getting hard and had to put on her best smile while thinking about ice water.
“Tadame Maran da Kasin de Kamer, I believe I have the honor of being the next dance for your niece.”
Glorias beamed as she rose up, lifting her hand for his. Her heart fluttered inside her chest, carefully hidden behind the dress.
He took her hand, brought his lips close to the gloved knuckles, but stopped before kissing. He looked at her mother.
His mother smiled. “You are welcome, please enjoy yourself.”
Rilar kissed Glorias’s knuckles and the touch sent a ripple of heat along her skin.
She smiled as he drew her away for the next dance.