Delphinia awoke to sunlight softly warming her blankets. For a moment her mind was untroubled till like lights all of the present issues in her life lit up. Her gaze lifted to the opposite wall of hard stone, reminding her of her presence in the Markgraf’s castle. Next to her bed in a saucer lay a sparkling ring, a diamond encircled by pearls and gold scrolling. It was a princess’s ring, a token of ideal love. Her gaze fell further to the breakfast tray her maid had brought, and on the tray was a small vase of velvet pink roses.
A susurration across the room caught her attention. She saw Gervaise’s stooped form in the drifting light, laying out her clothing.
“Gervaise? You brought me flowers?”
“They were lying in a cluster at your door. I put them in some water for you.”
“Oh.” Delphinia fingered the roses. A sick feeling washed over her as she realized all signs pointed to Christoph actually loving her.
She sat up in the bed and slipped the ring onto her finger. As she swung around she heard shouts from the courtyard below. She made a small sound of dismay, bringing Gervaise’s attention to her once more.
“Allow me to assist you, Fraulein.” Gervaise pulled Delphinia’s wooden leg carefully from its trunk and moved to her quickly, helping her to affix its harness beneath her nightdress. She watched Delphinia for a moment as she moved unsteadily to the window.
She is as useful as Beatrice, Delphinia mused, and unlike the old nurse, Gervaise had the good grace to stay out of Delphinia’s business. Or at least she did not try to hinder it, even if she suspected Delphinia’s secret longings.
Delphinia cried out as she looked below. Her fiance was engrossed in a duel with Oskar Weisse. She felt a chill of horror till, at closer look, she saw the protective blunts on the ends of their swords. Both men were thoroughly immersed in their contest. Christoph was an expert fencer, and Oskar had a high color that Delphinia had never seen across his blanched face, and believed he might be experiencing real enjoyment.
Delphinia withdrew the cluster of roses from her bedside and clutched them as she moved to the balcony. As she did so, the men were finishing their contest. Christoph had won, and Oskar was pulling himself from the paving with a satisfied grin. As they clutched hands, Christoph glanced upward to her window.
“Guten morgen, my betrothed.”
Delphinia curtsied briefly. “Guten morgen. I see an introduction is unncecessary.”
Oskar followed Christoph in his glance with a more thoughtful look at Delphinia. “An agreeable fellow is this young lord you’ve promised to wed.”
“What is that you hold, darling?”
“Flowers from you, of course,” she responded.
Christoph cocked his head. It was not often that he looked bewildered. “Not I.”
Delphinia stepped back from the balcony rail briefly as she contemplated the import of his words. “Then…”
Suddenly her eyes met Oskar’s. His skeptical glance confirmed her fears. The Markgraf did not know of Christoph’s presence in the castle. It was a great deal she must communicate in a moment of silence, but she managed with a baleful look at him.
“I must confess the part of the rake,” Oskar said readily. “I am aware of your lady’s passion for pink.”
Christoph looked taken aback. “You have been bringing gifts to Lady Delphinia?”
“I would own to it did I not fear you would remove the blunt from your sword.” Oskar lifted a brow carelessly.
“My lord Christoph, there is no reason for alarm. Oskar has been kind to me in my stay here, but I believe his heart…” She realized she chanced to say more than she should about Oskar’s private business.
“… is elsewhere,” Oskar finished briefly, and a shadowed look covered his face once more.
The conversation died away and Delphinia moved back into the shadows of her room. Gervaise was gone, but her clothing was laid out, and she knew the maid would return to help her dress and collect her breakfast dishes. For a moment her heart turned over as she breathed deeply of the fragranced roses, longing and hope sending her blood tingling.
But amidst the hope was doubt. The Markgraf was betrothed and had shown every sign of carrying out his promise to Adelia. What did this gesture mean, and what would her acceptance of Christoph mean to him?