a sample of today’s writing:
Mari carefully wove her way around the edge of the ballroom, smiling at the occasional bow or curtsy. She met her mother’s eye across the room and inclined her head toward the kitchens. The Queen arched an eyebrow, but Mari had told her in no uncertain terms that she was expecting to be able to take the occasional break to get some air and check on Sofia. Her mother gave a nearly imperceptible nod before returning to her dance with her brother, the King, laughing easily at something he said and cuffing him playfully on the arm. Mari shook her head in amusement. She knew that rumors abounded that her mother and uncle secretly hated each other and only played at their friendly relationship in public, but she knew that Uncle Tomas was her mother’s best friend as much as Daniel was hers.
She slipped her way through the servant’s entrance to the kitchens, gracefully dodging a liveried kitchen maid carrying a tray of champagne flutes through the door. The kitchens were bustling with activity and she kept carefully out of the way, edging along the walls to where a tray of water glasses sat on a counter, waiting to be carried out. She plucked one off and sipped at it, grateful for the way the cooks and their assistants ignored her this time around—the first few times she’d snuck in, they had tried to see if she needed anything, but now they seemed content to let her stay out of the way and drink her water.
A familiar head of curly auburn hair caught her eye, and she raised an eyebrow as one of the guards disguised as general servants came towards her, leading the way for a woman in a dark blue dress. “Emilia?” she asked. “What are—”
The woman behind Emilia came fully into view, and Mari caught her breath.
She had hoped, when she caught sight of Ella on the stairs, that Raya wouldn’t be far behind her, but after the first dance she shared with Daniel it seemed clear that she had come alone. But here she was, standing in the kitchen, resplendent in a midnight blue gown that glittered like starlight and clung to her perfectly, and Mari felt her mouth go dry.
Raya stared back at her, just as wide-eyed, and Mari found herself amazed at how strange it was that she hadn’t really realized how bright the other woman’s eyes were when they’d met a fortnight ago. “Princess,” she said, seeming too surprised to even duck a curtsy. “What are you doing in the kitchen?”
She sounded utterly dumbfounded, not that Mari could quite blame her. It probably was odd for her to be hiding from her own ball. “I needed a break,” she admitted, and raised her eyebrows. “What are you doing in the kitchens?”
A soft flush darkened Raya’s cheeks. “I was worried I’d trip down the stairs,” she said, her smile soft and sheepish.
It was such a genuine answer that Mari laughed honestly for the first time that night. Her laughter seemed to relax Raya, and Emilia shook her head with a fond roll of her eyes, dipping a bow and leaving the way she had come. Wiping surprised tears of mirth from her eyes, Mari set her water glass down on the tray. “I was thinking I’d go to the gardens and get a bit of air,” she said. “I don’t suppose you’d like to join me?”
Raya looked surprised, but the smile that spread across her lips transformed her face from lovely to gorgeous. “Princess, I can’t think of anything I’d like more,” she said, and she took Mari’s hand.