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The twinkling orbs of fire in Charlotte's brownish blond hair blazed blue-white, and she hoped no one would notice. With every turn of her head, they flashed little azure tongues of flame. Blue, not pink. She had specifically ordered a charm carved with a spell for pinkstars from the spell shop in Trinidon, to match her gown of sprigged rose muslin.
She sighed, and brushed her fingers against the lettering etched onto the mismatched charm — a glass bauble strung on a gold chain around her neck. Serves me right for purchasing store-spelled charms instead of making one myself. However, given her weakness with Fire, she might have ended up with her head in flames — actual flames — so she would have to be satisfied with a glamour of blue stars that glittered harmlessly against her hair.
Stiffening her spine, Charlotte shoved her worries to the back of her mind when she saw Harold Peever. Spotting her, he manoeuvred through the smothering crush of people in the ballroom, two glasses of star wine clutched in his hands.
She smiled at him. She simply had to convince herself if she was charming and graceful enough, no one would notice her face was plainer, squarer, and longer-nosed than the feminine ideal. Or that she was too clumsy with Fire to cast her own glamours onto jewellery, but had to purchase store-spelled charms like some woefully middle class debutante. Surely, in the entire nation of Allmarch, there had to be one bachelor who wouldn't care.
Mr. Peever showed every sign of being that one bachelor, and that's what mattered. Proper but not stuffy, cheerful but not foolish, with eyes a neutral grey and hair an unassuming brown, Mr. Peever maintained a comfortable middle ground in nearly every aspect of life, society, and appearance. He drove his horses at a moderate speed, played cards poorly with good cheer, was most attuned to Earth magic, and held the position of Glenson's most fondly regarded and least memorable bachelor.
In short, he was perfect.
Mr. Peever arrived at Charlotte's side at last, his face ruddy and his cravat slightly wilted in the ballroom's oppressive heat. "I thought you might need some refreshment."
"Thank you." Charlotte took his proffered glass of star wine and sipped daintily at the lukewarm, bubbling drink, resisting the urge to guzzle. Ladies did not guzzle.
"You are incandescent tonight," said Mr. Peever, squinting appreciatively at the stars in her hair.
Charlotte's former good cheer cooled, although she maintained her facade of calm disinterest. So he did notice. Was he just being polite to the one girl in the room who had to purchase charms because she couldn't make any herself?
She schooled her mouth into a coy smile. "Only tonight?"
Mr. Peever brought a hand to his heart. "You've caught me in my own words, Miss Charlotte. I'm a hopeless tangle with compliments."
"You do yourself an injustice, sir."
"What I meant to say was…" Mr. Peever trailed off, and his lips pulled upward in a rueful smile. "As a boy, I dreamed of going on an adventure to see whether the stars were really blue, or white. Your charm reminded me of that. I should have said that at the start, instead of smothering it under a stale bal opach." He stumbled a bit over the Selencian phrase. Charlotte opened her fan and fluttered it to hide her surprise. She would have preferred a bal opach, a lovely bit of nonsense or a faded compliment that melted away with the slightest breeze. She could handle those. This sudden burst of romantic sensibility seemed entirely unlike the staid, amiable Mr. Peever she'd grown to appreciate over the last three months.