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Consorts for ladies (Chapter 3)

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Elizabeth and Gabriel both woke with a start to a sharp rapping on the door.
"Yes, thank you, we'll be down soon," Elizabeth called out blearily.
"I'm sorry, but you're both needed in the entrance hall immediately," the serving boy on the other side replied urgently.
Already, Gabriel was out from between the covers beside her, reaching for his clothes.
Elizabeth sat up a little more slowly, perplexed. This was the first time anyone had tried to rush her anywhere since she had been checked in as a guest.
"Is something wrong?" she asked.
"Not wrong," the boy answered unconvincingly. "Her royal highness is here. The princess Phaedia. We had no forewarning that she would be joining us this season. Not that her highness is required to inform us of her movements," he corrected himself quickly, even while talking to the door. "It only means that we need to provide the best welcome we can, without keeping her waiting."
Elizabeth looked to Gabriel, who threw out a hand, palm toward her, to cover the fact that he had not yet refastened his corset after sleeping.
"Turn around!" he exclaimed.
Elizabeth left him to his modesty and turned her attention to sliding into her simple tunic and leggings.
"Where is my garter?" Gabriel demanded breathlessly of himself. "Where-- oh, thank goodness. My hair! She always has something to say about my hair. But there's no time..."
"Always?" Elizabeth asked. "You've met Princess Phaedia before?"
Even Elizabeth had only seen the queen's daughter a handful of times at court and never exchanged words with her. She was always off on some educational adventure, around the realm or abroad.
"A couple of times," said Gabriel, without evident pride. "She toured the Heartgarden twice while I was in training. Her tutors were showing her how to treat a man, and how it didn't matter if none of the noble sons she might choose to marry were pretty enough, because she could keep as many consorts as she wanted as well. Whenever she had time to spare, she found something to tease me about."
"When she shows up, it must override the whole program, mustn't it?" asked Elizabeth.
"Of course," Gabriel answered, with tightly compressed resistance. "She's the princess. And now, I'm not going to have time for makeup, or even--"
"Here." Elizabeth turned around.
Gabriel was mostly dressed, cinched into his usual tight hourglass form, with his petticoats and gown all in place. He was wrestling a stiff brush through his long hair.
"I can at least help you with that." Elizabeth reached for the brush.
"With respect," Gabriel hesitated to relinquish it, "what would a lady know about--"
"With respect," said Elizabeth, "I have hair too. And the kinds of tangles yours can support? Child's play."
Gabriel skeptically eyed Elizabeth's naturally rather spectacular black curls, already tied out of the way in her usual, simple ponytail, and handed her the brush.
Holding his slippery-smooth, barely wavy hair near the roots so as not to hurt him, Elizabeth deftly worked the minor knots out of its length while he applied his subtle, berry-toned lip color.
"Do you...?" Elizabeth slowly put words to the uneasy feeling in her stomach. "Do you think she'd remember you?"
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