Chapter 33

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*Elizabeth's P.O.V*

Max eventually drifts away from me, more interested in the dessert table than guarding me. I keep a close eye on him, watching as he stuffs himself with the sugary treats. I take one or two as well, eating them more slowly and making sure to savor the taste as I am usually blocked from partaking in the dessert table.

I flinch slightly when a hand brushes my arm and I turn my attention to see Duchess Grey, seeing her giving me a soft smile. I furrow my eyebrows in confusion, accepting the glass of wine she is offering me. She leans close, her lips close to my ear as she speaks.

"Enjoy yourself Elizabeth, stop worrying so much. You aren't a child anymore," she murmurs and I nod my head slightly, taking a sip from the glass of wine in my hand.

"Now, little Lord Margaster. I have been keeping an eye and ear out for your name and I think you should know I have it on good authority that your grandmother is not happy you've managed to run off from your father's manor," Duchess Grey turns her attention to Max who is currently shoving some sort of pastry in his mouth. His hands are coated in sugar and I can tell they're starting to stick together.

"Nu uh, doesn't know. No one knows," Max denies, reaching for another sweet. His hand is caught from someone behind him and I see his eyes widen as he tilts his head back to look back at who had grabbed his hand. His smile drops completely when he sees his grandmother, Lady Pembrose or Lady Dahlia as some call her.

"And what are you doing eating dessert this close to bedtime? Not to mention sneaking out and running off when you should be in bed," Lady Dahlia starts to list off. Max looks to me for help and I press my lips together, reaching out to touch Lady Dahlia's arm.

"I am sorry Lady Dahlia, Max was just fulfilling his duty of being my bodyguard. I'm sure he was just so excited about that, that he simply forgot that it was close to his bedtime so failed to inform you that he would be running late," I state, making her hum as she presses her lips together and looks at Max who nods his head eagerly.

"That doesn't excuse your running off baby," Lady Dahlia says as she pulls Max close, the boy burying his head into the side of her dress. She doesn't seem to mind him getting whatever was stuck to his face and hands on her dress.

"Didn't run off," Max mutters as he lifts his head. She sighs as she runs her fingers through his hair.

"I count sneaking out as running off," Lady Dahlia says.

"And you shouldn't be encouraging it either," she says as she playfully scolds me, making me smile.

"I didn't encourage anything," I hold my hands up in surrender, giggling as I sip my wine. I step behind Duchess Grey as she gives me the look.

"Ma, she's going to punish me too at this rate. You must protect me," I laugh as I bury my face into her shoulder, making her laugh. She moves her hand to touch my cheek.

"Don't hurt the queen," Max says as he tugs on his grandmother's sleeve. She chuckles as she lifts him up, resting him on her hip.

"I wouldn't dare," Lady Dahlia says as she smiles softly. "And you shouldn't be lecturing me, seeing as you have a sword and I most certainly don't think that's appropriate for you or this event," she starts to fake lecture him, making him whine and hide his face into her shoulder.

"See, Lady Dahlia is a bully just like I said," I whisper to Duchess Grey, squealing when she flicks my arm. I pout at her, pulling away as I refuse to let her know that she had any effect on me.

"These children nowadays just don't know how to watch their tongues. Where's the soap when you need it," Duchess Grey says, making me sulk slightly. I couldn't believe that she would say something so mean and cruel.

"I watch my tongue," I argue, ducking away when she tries to grab my face. I avoid her touch, looking for my mother in hopes that she would save me. My heart pangs when I see her talking with Zelene, seeming to have a good time. I can't help it, the jealousy I suddenly feel making my stomach turn with how upset I am.

She was my mother! Why did she like Zelene so much? It wasn't fair that she liked her more than me! I was her daughter, not Zelene. I have to look away when I see Mother touch Zelene's arm, feeling like I'm going to burst into tears or throw a fit if I watch anymore. I wasn't sure why I was so jealous...

My eyes drift to Max and Lady Dahlia, seeing how she holds him. I glance at Duchess Grey, seeing her staring at me. She raises an eyebrow, already trying to decipher my mood change. I don't know how she knows I'm not happy...that is until I look down and see that my nails are digging into my palm.

I sip my wine glass as I unclench my free hand, glancing at the passing tray of drinks. I continue to slowly sip my wine before I decide to excuse myself.

"I...have business to attend to," I inform Duchess Grey as I turn away, walking away before she can try to stop me. I finish my glass of wine, setting it down on a nearby table before Baron Carp seems to materialize out of nowhere.

"I was hoping that the queen would be a bit more excited at the end of my event. Ending the event now will tarnish my reputation," Baron Carp says, making me smile weakly.

"It's a lovely event Baron, it's just....I'm not in the proper mood to enjoy it. That's all," I explain weakly, purposefully not allowing my gaze to waver in case he sees why I'm so upset and uses it against me.

"Ah... well I've heard the best way to lift the spirits is to find someone that you can enjoy drinking with," Baron Carp says as he grabs two glasses of wine from a nearby tray, offering one to me. My eyes flicker towards my mother for a split second and seeing as she is still talking to Zelene I decide to say screw it and just accept the wine glass.

"To a wonderful drinking partner," I hold my glass up and he clinks his glass against mine. I take a sip, feeling his hand resting on my waist as he smiles at me.

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