I'm an amateur, freelance editor and I'm currently working on a MS. The author uses "the air was thick with anticipation" frequently and I can't seem to find a replacement phrase for this specific passage that's suitable.
A little context: in the scene I'm working on now, there's an argument between two major characters; two women who are leaders of a group of people. The argument is very intense and after one walks away, they calm down and go into a room to talk privately and resolve the situation. The group of people they lead are waiting for them to return. The text in question currently says:
The air on the main level grew thick with anticipation as the band awaited Jezz and Lilly’s return. So far, twenty minutes after Lilly had ascended the stairs to work things out with Jezz, there had been no yelling or raised voices. Katalina took that as a good sign as she sat in the high backed chair by the hearth, fiddling with the frayed seams. No one spoke, but everyone could feel the anticipation that hung thickly in the air.
I'm looking for a phrase to replace the end of the final sentence. It's not necessarily a hopeful situation, but it's also not negative. More nervousness or anxious anticipation. I've looked over a few Q&As on here and the most frequent suggestions I'm seeing are "dread" and "trepidation" which set a rather negative tone that I don't feel apply to this specific scene. Any suggestions would be wonderful. Thanks!