And worse, Aelfwerd was looking down his long, perfectly formed nose at her, clearly not thrilled with what he saw.
“Sooo…” he said unhappily. “Have you picked out your gown for the Crystal Ball yet?”
“Of course she has! It’s being tailored for her as we speak,” her mother called from the back of the store.
The Crystal Ball. Fiona’s heart throbbed dully in her chest. She’d moved out of her mother’s house four years ago, when she was 21, and hadn’t attended the Crystal Ball since. What was the point? There was no beau for her, no warlock to dazzle her with a grand and magical proposal.
She’d accepted her fate early in her teens; no warlock would notice her among all the slender witches who graced the social scene with their beauty. It didn’t mean that her life was over; she had friends, she had talents which healed, she had a purpose in life. She just wasn’t meant for love.
Especially from the one warlock she yearned for the most.
She mentally shook herself, annoyed; there was no point in bathing in self-pity. There were many worse off than her.
“Actually, I’m working at the Crystal Ball this year, not technically attending it, so there’s no point in wearing a gown,” Fiona said with a shrug.
“Working?” Aelfwerd’s eyebrows flew up like the wings of startled birds.
“Oh, that Fiona! Such a marvelous sense of humor she has!” Desdemona rushed back to stand next to Fiona, with a huge smile plastered on her face that didn’t reach her bright, angry eyes. “Of course she’s not working!”
Renoir was leaning on the glass counter, eyes darting merrily between the three of them, enjoying the show.
“I’m going to be working with the Florists Guild for some live flower displays,” Fiona added, ignoring her mother as hard as she could. “Neverending rose bushes, that sort of things.”
Aelfwerd scowled at Fiona, then turned back to her mother. “Well, she is a Rosewood,” he said grudgingly, as if Fiona were a cow that he was contemplating buying. As if she weren’t three feet away from him.
“Exactly! Her father’s been knighted for contributions to the Realm! She’s a Lady! Technically,” Desdomona added, shooting Fiona a severe look of disapproval.
“That will definitely help me when I run for the Council seat.” He looked her up and down again, then turned back to Desdemona. “And you promise she can lose 50 pounds by the wedding?”
Fiona couldn’t help herself; she gasped in horror, at the exact same moment as Renoir, who added a muttered, “Bitch, please,” with a lip curl of disgust at Aelfwerd.
Furious, Fiona turned to Renoir, grabbed the remaining half cupcake from his hand, and stuffed it into her mouth, turning to shoot Aelfwerd a challenging glare. Crumbs spilled from her mouth onto her generous bosom. He took a step back, glancing at Desdemona questioningly.
“Hey! You owe me!” Renoir squealed indignantly, then turned to Aelfwerd with a malicious gleam in his eye. “That is the sixth cupcake that girl stole from me today. My Goddess, what an appetite. And if I have to let out her dress again this week! I swear, she’s gained like four sizes.”
Aelfwerd gasped audibly, and began backing towards the door, while Desdemona made frantic shushing motions at Renoir.
“Just remember,” Renoir called out to Aelfwerd’s retreating form, “You’re going to need an extra wide doorway on the wedding carriage. She’ll probably be up 30, 40 pounds by then. And I’d go for reinforced wheels and four extra horses. And in the wedding suite – hey, where you going?” the door banged shut, and Fiona swallowed her cupcake and flashed Renoir a grateful look.