“His Majesty the King!” cried a voice.
Trumpets blasted from the minstrels’ gallery, bodies all around us spiraling into bows. Alice folded elegantly forward, her arms outstretched like a ballerina’s.
And then all the air escaped my body like a popped balloon.
The beautiful guy from the Tower of London stood in the archway, bounded by a sea of bending bodies. A line of guards behind him scanned the crowd like the secret service. His eyes found mine and locked me in his gaze, one of his brows lifting. Alice tugged my dress hard.
I dropped into a clumsy curtsy, my heart hammering. He was too young to be a king—too gorgeous. Kings were old and obese or had mean faces, like Nicholas the Ironheart. Mia would call this guy the King of Pants-Dropping Hotness.
When I stood back up, he was sauntering right to us, and Isobel was shuffling from one foot to another. The king walked with a confident elegance, all long legs and muscular shoulders. The Dowager
Countess of Warwick kissed his jeweled fingers as gentle chatter resumed around us. Every eye was on the king.
“I trust you have had a fine morning, my lady countess,” he said in that velvety voice that sucked strength from my legs.
“Delightful, Majesty, thank you. The lutenist performed a lovely tune in the south garden.” She smiled, exposing three black teeth.
The king tipped his head slightly in greeting. “Lady Isobel... Mistress Grey.” There couldn’t be a girl at court who wasn’t in love with him. His eyes moved to mine. “And this is?”
I felt the surprise overcome my face.
“Oh, this is Mistress Emmeline Grace,” the countess rasped. The way the king blinked at me blankly made me understand how quickly I’d been forgotten. “Doctor Martin Grace’s daughter, visiting from Hatfield,” she added. “I cannot say his work is familiar .”
“I was not aware you are an authority on physicians,” he said coolly.
“Certainly not.” She curtsied, blushing through her white face paint. “That is a gentleman’s position.”
A pair of men approached the king with feathered caps in their hands, but a bald-headed guard rebuffed them. The king never moved his eyes from mine.
“I trust you will enjoy my court, Mistress Grace. You are in fine and gracious company.”
My voice barely registered. “Thank you.” The king held his hand out to me in invitation. I dropped into a shallow bow until my thigh wound pinched and took his fingers, nervously pressing my lips to the back of his hand that smelled like a bouquet of roses. His warm fingers curled into mine, and something shifted in my chest, until a shock of cold metal brushed my bottom lip. My eyes flashed open, meeting the blue-diamond ring glistening from the king’s third finger. The room started to spin. When I let go of his hand and rose back up, his eyes held me steady, entrancing and curious.