You and Nicholas have a special bond, and I can’t wait to see how far I can bend it.
I didn’t understand Julian at first. Nicholas and I hadn’t been a couple in three years. Whatever bond we
had was assuredly broken by now. The plans Julian had for us would make no difference anymore.
But then I realized, this wasn’t about me, or me and Nicholas as a couple.
Julian’s hostility was aimed fully at Nicholas himself.
They had always seemed like fierce enemies at the Academy. Perhaps the addition of them being brothers didn’t make that perception untrue. Maybe it only intensified their rivalry.
“If you are planning on using me against Nicholas, you are making a big mistake,” I said. “Nicholas no longer cares for me. In fact, he likely hates me. You’d be wasting your time.”
Julian’s smile neither grew nor wavered. He merely watched me a moment, then dipped his head. “Good luck in the selection, Piper.”
Without another word, he turned and exited the room.
I had no idea what he was thinking.
I stayed in the room for a while, after that. The maids that were assigned to me had yet to appear. That was fine. I didn’t need anyone to look after my daughter and me.
I began unpacking our suitcases, placing our clothes into the empty drawers of a nearby dresser. Elval was diligently following me from the bed to dresser and back again. She pointed at everything she could
“What’s that, Mommy? A painted vase atop a cabinet held a bushel of lavender.
“Who’s that? On the wall, a portrait of a couple hung in an elaborate golden frame.
“Look at that!” Out the window, a pair of horses grazed in a fenced–in field behind a stable.
humored her, answering her questions as best I could, until she grew disinterested and returned to her toys. Ed pulled the comforter off the bed and draped it across the back of a tall chair, giving her a
eshift fort to hide under and play.
restond to impacking
ck sounded on the door, Thad only blowed the door parties
As the door swung open, Nicholas stood there with a few of his guard.
Despite my best efforts at holding back my feelings, my heart leapt into my throat at the sight of him. It must have been a reflex. So many times he’d sneaked into my room at the Academy. Seeing him now, in my doorway, sent me straight back in time.
For a moment, his gaze held mine. I wondered if he was there in the past with me.
But then he looked away.
“May I come in?” he asked.
“Of course,” I said. Then, remembering myself, I added, “Your Royal Highness.”
His brow furrowed at the use of his title, but he didn’t say anything against it.
Maybe the reminder was good for us both.
“We’re making the rounds, taking note of each candidate’s needs.” He waved forward one of the guards, who stepped diligently to his side. “This is Mark, my Beta.”
I bowed a little. “Nice to meet you, Mark.”
Mark’s eyes went wide, like he was surprised by my greeting. Surely the other girls would have been as polite
Although thinking of that girl in the pink dress, and how she had roughly shoved Elva… Perhaps not.
I didn’t want to call out Mark’s reaction and potentially embarrass him, so I motioned toward my mostly- empty suitcase on the bed.
1 think we have it covered here,” I said.
Nicholas and Mark both frowned.
You unpacked your own bags?” Nicholas asked, his voice lower than before. “Where are the maids assigned to you?
Oh I immediately felt guilty. I didn’t want to get anyone in trouble. Lena said they had other duties to attend to first, before they came to me.”
Uld sha Nicholas said. It didn’t sound like a question so I didn’t answer, He shifted his eyes to Mark
“Thank you, Mark.”
“It’s really not a big deal.” I said, taking a step forward. “I don’t mind.”
“You are a guest here, miss,” Mark said. “It’s inappropriate for you to not be treated as such.”