XXV. Arriving at the Destination
James was wearing a black Ditto suit as his brown hair was highlighted by the sunlight. They had left the manor before dawn as James claimed that they did not want to miss the festivity. Or you don't want to miss someone that might be interested in you, she thought as she was looking at her mortal enemy.
Last night was a blur. Darla did not remember what she told James when she was lightheaded and right now, nothing on his face gave any clue. If anything, James was indifferent to her like before. Only, he was not teasing or taunting Darla.
Maybe I did say something that made him stop altogether, she thought before the hooves of the horses were hitting the cobblestones, knowing that they have arrived at the Walled City of Red Cast. Darla's nose immediately hit with different spices and aromas that made her mouth watered for food.
"Looks like we're in the market now," James said as he was looking out at the window before drawing the curtains so that Darla could see it as well. She was leaning over the window as she was looking at the bustling and hustling of the market.
The market was known as the Dragon's Bazaar as people were swarming around and different languages were spoken. Some of them were something that James thought to the students back at the orphanage.
"I bet you explore this market all on your own and use the knowledge of the foreign languages to your advantage," Darla said as she turned to look at James. He smirked before shaking his head.
"As much as I would love to do that, I don't since I am away in Hamptor and I don't have any business to be here. So, I practiced with my colleagues instead,"
And of course, some of them are beautiful young women, Darla mused before she noticed that James was staring at her. She cleared her throat.
"Well, maybe tonight you can use your charms on the foreign languages at the ball. I heard many delegations from all over the Kingdom will be there," she said before turning to look at the market again as the carriage rode past them. James was quiet on the whole ride until they reached the castle.
"Welcome! We have been waiting for you for so long now," the princess of the realm, Princess Christy, who was known as Casey to James, greeted them as his sister-in-law was hugging him and Magnus was embracing him as well.
"We're worried that you might be delayed or perhaps wasn't coming at all," Magnus said as he was looking at James. He smiled at his older brother.
"Come on, brother. You would think that I would skip this festivity? If it was William, then I will believe you," he said before someone snorted.
"As if grandma would leave me alone to not participate in this festival," Will said before James smirked at him.
"Well, what do you know? My prayer has been answered," James said before he hugged Will and sensed that Darla was waiting for him to introduce her to the family.
"Ah!" he said before James was pulling Darla by her waist to his side. She stiffened but relaxed as she knew that they have to play the perfect couple right now.
"Everyone, I would like you to meet my betrothed, Lady Darla Lockwood of Scatterford," James said before everyone was looking at the new lady. Darla blushed before another voice interrupted them.
"Well, I see that you are well and in one piece," Lady Ashley said before James was smiling at her. He went to hug the old dowager countess before he turned to look at Darla. She curtsied to her but the old woman pulled her into an embrace that James never thought Lady Ashley could ever give to anyone.
Maybe she likes her, James thought as the old dowager was whispering to her. Darla blushed as Lady Ashley was smiling at their group.
"Now, shall we get inside? I am sure the king and the queen are eager to meet you, Casey and Magnus," the old dowager said before she pulled Darla to her side and they walked toward the castle. James looked after them.
"It would seem that grandma is favoring your lady, James. I think something smells fishy," Will said before Magnus was walking with Casey and they were at the rear. James rubbed his neck before he sighed.
"You have no idea," he said as Will arched his eyebrow but did nothing else for they were about to greet their sovereign.
Darla was impressed by the luxury as well as wealth that was on display by the royal family. Magnus, James' older brother who married the princess of the realm, was whispering with his wife as they were waiting for the royal family. Darla was sitting next to the old dowager countess who was known as her mentor once upon a time.
"Will your parents be here, dear? I was hoping to catch up with them about your betrothal," Lady Ashley said before Darla was turning to look at her.
"I don't know, my lady. I was hoping that they would tell me through the 'gram but nothing came," she said as the old dowager was looking at her face, perhaps trying to tell if Darla was lying or telling the truth.
"Hmmm," was the only answer that she got from the old dowager before the king and the queen were burst into the painting room as they were walking to greet their daughter.
"Casey, my dear," the king said before he was hugging the young princess. Casey kissed his cheeks before greeting her mother, the queen with kisses on the cheeks as well.
"How are you, Papa, Mama? Where's Chad?" she asked before Darla's training kicked in. The crown prince, Prince Charles Donavan was known as Chad to the royal family, especially his sister.
"He's away on business and I don't know if he will be on time for the Tempest Ball," the queen said as Casey pouted.
"But I have planned this ball for him to snatch a wife. I don't see the outcome if he was not here," the princess said as Magnus shook his head and the royal sovereign was laughing.
"I'm sure he will be here, dear. For now, why don't we have luncheon together and then perhaps, retreat to chambers to rest for tonight?" the queen said before they were moving toward the dining hall.
Darla was about to walk with Lady Ashley when Will, the youngest Flemington, came to take her away.
"I would like you to walk with James. He is familiar with the route as well," the old dowager said before Darla noticed that Will was smirking underneath his stoic face.
So, it was one of their deploys to make me suffer from James, Darla thought before her betrothed was right next to her.
"Shall we?" James said before Darla sighed and put her hand on the crook of his elbow and trailed the others to the dining hall.
The luncheon was a simple affair and afterward, they were leaving for their chambers. To Darla's surprise, she will be sharing bedchambers with James. She did not know if it was a curse or a blessing.
But one thing for sure, she did not want to be alone with him for she worried that she might jump on him with her confusing feelings for her mortal enemy.
"Come on, it was not that bad. I will not be doing anything untowardly to you since we both know that we will never be in love with each other," James said as he inclined on the bed as Darla was rolling her eyes at him.
Then, why did you kiss me again and again until I cannot think about anything but that? She wanted to ask that but Darla just shook that thought away before went to the bathing chambers. Before she forgot, she went to look at James again as she narrowed her eyes.
"I will be bathing and I don't want any interruption. You can do anything but do not come in here," Darla said as she was pointing at their shared bathing chambers with her finger. James smirked.
"As if I would peek at your naked body, Darla darling. You know others are willing to spend their time in my bed willingly," he said and something inside Darla's chest ached for she knew that she would never be in his bed.
Then, she was off and closed the door. She was looking at the copper bathtub that was filled with steaming water and a maid was helping to shed her clothes from her body. Darla sighed with relief when she went inside the bathtub and immersed herself, washing away the grime and dirt from her travel.
But one thing that will not get off from her mind was the fact that James did not find her intriguing enough to take a peek at her nakedness even when they were separated by a wall apart.