He was there.
The crown prince of Elwaira, was there.
He was there and he was staring right at her.
For Serrina Black, it was not that odd to be greeted by nobles and royals wherever she went- after all she was of noble blood herself- but being faced with the prince upon her arrival to a cheap tavern in the middle of the capital city was certainly not what she had expected of her night.
The moment she had arrived, strode down the stairs leading to the basement-looking tavern and stepped into the crowed, her eyes had spotted only one thing, prince Azriel. She had not dared move her gaze, and he had not moved his. It had been only a matter of seconds and a few whispered hushes from Alina, her maid. But it had felt like ages to be under his stare. Yet, she had held her chin high and smiled.
Because she was Serrina Black. She was the daughter of the king's righthand-man and she was also a vital member of not the queen's but the king's court. As much as she loved to melt away under the young boy's gaze, her pride would not allow it. Her insides were burning with maybe fear and she would probably vomit all the tea she had drunk earlier if she was alone in her rooms. But there, in front of so many, she could not afford to lose image. She could not afford to lose face in the presence of Azriel.
"My lady, do you want to head back home?" said Alina from behind her and Serrina did consider it for a moment. In the morning, after she had taken a bath, she had decided that all those balls thrown in her name for her sixteenth name day were utterly useless, and that she was done playing her father's puppet. She was no woman of age waiting to be swept away into marriage, her status was higher than that. And through the years spent as Elwaira's head-emissary she had proven both to herself and the court that her life was hers and not her fathers. So, she had decided that instead of playing "noble woman of age" it was time she finally stepped into the depth of her city. She had not considered herself to be wrong, until the very moment she had spotted Azriel.
When Alina suggested leaving, she considered it. But she knew it was too late for that when the boy came walking towards her and her maid. "Prepare your...friends." She whispered without looking behind. She knew well enough that her servant had called upon some others to keep them company tonight. She had allowed it, expecting no one to see them there, it was not acceptable for Serrina to be seen this deep into the city. Now she knew what a foolish decision that was.
Her companions, including Alina, somehow managed to hide themselves in the crowd as the prince came closer and closer. The music now seemed to have matched its beat with Serrina's heart, both were throbbing and fast. If only she had not come...she would have spared herself the embarrassment of this moment.
As he was getting close enough for a proper greeting, Serrina dropped into a curtsey and held her face down. If they were in the castle, Azriel would hold her chin, move her face and gently lead her to stand up. But before he could do that Serrina was up and smiling like they were lowly nobles, pretending to respect rank and tradition.
"My prince." She said with a hushed tone that none would hear but her and Azriel and he lightly but slowly bowed his head. "I was not expecting you here, I am sure that I can explain." The prince smiled as she calculated what she could offer as a reason and in those moments his smile turned into a laugh. "my dearest Serrina, do you really believe that I would not ask where you are from my servants? I'm sure you know how things work between the castle maids. What one knows, the rest know as well. How could I ever miss your birthday?"
At his words, Serrina smiled. Her body felt less tense and maybe, just maybe she could let her mind rest for one night. "Do as you please Serrina, today is the day you are finally free from the court's grip." She felt her body tense as he whispered behind her ear, she stared into his eyes the same way she had upon her arrival. Their gaze unmoving and solid while her heartbeat matched the music.
Maybe she had not made the wrong decision after all.