Danielle bit her lip and backed away from the buggy. "Maybe it's best if I stay here."

Albert glanced at her while heaving one of her bags into the back of the carriage, and sighed. Wiping sweat from his brow after finally getting the blasted bag to cooperate, he realized he would have to take extra time in order to coax Danielle into getting into the buggy. "Look. What are the chances you're going to see Henry?" He asked, and before she could reply, continued, "None! He's forged way in some little town, as far away from Paris as you can imagine. You won't see him, Danielle."

Danielle sighed and brushed her hair out of her face, a little annoyed that he had taken her excuse away from her. Suddenly, a thought struck her and she gave him a funny look. "What did you call me?"

Albert sputtered, his face paling considerably. "uh- Danielle. That's your 'real' name, isn't it?"

Frowning, Danielle stared intently at Albert, trying to tone down the alarm sounding in her head. "But," she said slowly, "I don't remember telling you."

"Of course you told me, or else I wouldn't have known it," Albert retorted, chuckling.

Something prodded the edge of her mind, begging to be noticed. But, she couldn't figure out what it was. All of a sudden, suspicion reentered her mind, but she had no idea why. Trying to brush it aside as nothing, she took another step back from the buggy. "I still don't think I should go anymore."

"Danielle," sighing heavily, trying to supress his annoyance, he said, "I can't change the plans now. It's bad enough my mother backed out at the last minute." Running his hand through his hair, he shot her a pleading glance.

The fact that his mother wasn't coming with them was part of her anxiety about going. Marie was a mid-wife to one of the women in the village, and she had quite suddenly received notice from a mesenger that she was needed. Apologizing hurriedly while running out the door, she'd left little time for argument. Danielle would have preferred to stay at Manoir Lorraine.

"Are you afraid?" Danielle's eyes flickered over to Albert in surprise. "You are, aren't you?" He shook his head and leaned back against the buggy, crossing his arms over his chest. Rolling his eyes to the sky, he laughed quietly and muttered something under his breath.

Squaring her shoulders, Danielle glared at him. She wasn't afraid. She was being reasonable. Fear had nothing to with it. "I'm not afraid," she muttered, sending him the evil eye.

"Yes, you are." He lowered his head and glanced at her, nodding his head in affirmation.

"I'm not," she repeated, her throat almost stopping on the words. Pride bit at her, making her shift uncomfortably. Fire flickered across her eyes. She'd face too many dilemmas already to be afraid of just geting in a buggy and riding back to Paris. "And, I'm going."

Without another word, she threw her last bag in the buggy and jumped in the passenger side. She settled herself diligently, trying to ignore the butterflies flying about her stomach. She stomped on her nerves with fierce anger. She wasn't afraid.

Albert still stood next to the buggy, trying to hide the pleased expression on his face. But, she was satisfied to see his shock at her change of mind. Raising an eyebrow at Albert, she smirked and asked, "Aren't you coming?"


"A ball?!" Henry snorted in disbelief, shaking his head. "You actually want to throw a ball when my father is on the verge of death?" Emotion rose in his face, his furious eyes turning on one of his advisors.

This particular advisor sputtered, raising his bifocals higher on his face."Sir, it's in the best interest of the kingdom if you -"

"I will not give the order for this!." Henry shouted, glaring hard at the advisor.

"You don't have to. Your mother has." Seeing Henry's eyes bug out in rage, the advisor stepped backed, trying to not to shake too visibly. "It is her- her wish, your highness, that y-you-"

Henry narrowed his eyes, waving his hand in dismissal. "Go," he uttered in a low, threatening tone. "Just go."

Happily, the advisor obliged, scurrying from the room with relief.

Pressing his fingers to his temple, Henry sat heavily on a chair, and leaned back, brooding. He knew his mother wanted him to find a bride before his father's - death. But, Henry had grown to despise balls, as well as every woman that appeared there, hiding behind a charming fa├žade, waiting to sink his claws into him. It seemed to be such a sacrifical practice. And, there was not a woman in the realm of Paris that so much as made him look twice, or even tempted him into picturing her dressed in the robes of a queen. There was only one; only one face that came to mind. Danielle. A deep wrenching formed in the pit of his stomach, as he realized Danielle was lost to him. He'd searched all through Paris, searched every face of every village he'd ever visited, hoping to catch a glimpse of her long, almond colored hair, and her sparkling light brown eyes in the crowd; but there had been nothing, no one that had even resembled or came close to her beauty.

"Henry?" Glancing up at the doorway, Henry sighed as his mother floated over the threshold, extending her hand toward him hopefully. "My advisors have given you the news, I expect?"

Henry nodded remorsefully, taking his mother's frail hand in his own. When had her expression become so worn, so weary? Yet, despite everything, she still carried herself as a queen. "Must we have another ball?" he asked, grinding his teeth together.

Queen Marie seated herself on a soft cushioned chair by the window. Waving her hands before her eyes, she sighed and gazed beseechingly at her son. "Please, Henry. You must be married soon." The urgency in her voice was unmasked and poured in every word. "The time of your reign is close at hand."

Wincing at the insination, Henry felt his shoulders slump heavily. "I know, mother," he replied, his face falling. "I know."