The Crown and the Crud — first page

She was as beautiful as ever; clad in swaths of royal blue and glittering with gold trim, from the ornate slippers gracing her delicate feet, to the tiara’s circlet tucked among her soft, dark curls.

“Lady Orcosa,” Carey murmured obligingly. Bow, he reminded himself, his waist tucking with the appropriate ritual of respect… even as his jaw tightened on a crudload of far less appropriate disrespect.

“Your Highness.” Elrianne Orcosa’s slender frame dipped in a similarly forced curtsey, her eyes glued viciously to the toes of Carey’s polished boots.

Arm. Carey proffered the obedient appendage as he pivoted to face the banquet hall’s doors. He locked his gaze on the ornate woodwork before them as the light touch of his lady’s fingertips drifted over his forearm, with all the poisonous delicacy of an allergic viper. Gloved fingertips, of course.

“How fares my beautiful bride?” Carey murmured sidelong at her, surreptitiously observing her for a reaction. It would be a shame to lose ground, this late in the game. Especially when every step of ground gained made for irresistible entertainment.

But Elrianne was good at this game; her touch did not even stiffen against his arm, her gloved fangs light on his sleeve. “I am well, my lord,” she purred back through her teeth. Of course she was good at this; she’d had over five years of bridehood to perfect her technique.

Five years his bride, and none of them his wife. Wifehood would require the removal of the gloves. For starters.