It was hopeless
To clear my head. I suggested to Elva that we go for a walk in the gardens. She eagerly agreed.
Twenty minutes later, we were hand in hand among the flowers and the fresh air. The world did seem
more peaceful out here in nature, and I began to let some of my anxieties slip away.
Until I looked up and saw Kirsten coming toward us Her smirk was so smug I could see it across the gardens
Remembering how she pushed Elva, I quickly pulled Elva behind me, shielding her with my body.
“There you are. I’ve been looking for you,” she called to us as she approached,
Where Elva and I had kicked off our shoes to stretch our toes in the grass, Kirsten seemed utterly unwilling to step away from the garden pathway. She stopped at the edge and turned her nose up at the sight of our bare feet.
Her smirk stayed firmly in place, however.
“Aren’t you curious how I knew where to find you?” She turned around and pointed at a third–story room with a balcony. “Prince Nicholas moved me there. It was such a sweet little favor, a mere pittance compared to the gift I gave him.”
The gift she gave him? She meant my gift, the wrist guard.
“What do you want?” I asked her.
“To gloat, mostly.” She shrugged. “And to tell you that you and your little leech don’t belong here.”
“Don’t call her that.”
“Maybe you thought bringing a cute kid along might win you some favor with the public? Well guess what? That brot isn’t even much to look at ”
Behind me, I heard Elva sniffle
“That’s enough,” I said, more forcefully.
“What did I hurt the little roach’s feelings? Kirsten fake pouted. “Are you going to cry? Good. Can’t make you any ugler than you already are, dressed in that pile of rags.”
This is my Sniff. Gown Elva pulled her hand away from mine to wipe her face.
“Kirsten, I’m warning you Stop talking to my daughter like this”
“Or what? You can’t touch me. But you bet I can tum Prince Nicholas against the two of you. All I have to
do is bat my eyelashes just so” She demonstrated, closing and opening her eyes in a quick rhythm.
“Nicklass“” Elva’s cries elevated into sharp sobs. Then, all at once, she turned from me and darted
toward the tree line.
“Elva“” I meant to give chase, but Kirsten caught my arm, yanking me back.
“Let her go. Maybe she’ll get eaten by a bear and do us all a favor.”
I saw red.
That was it.
Swiveling on my heel, I smacked Kirsten clean across the face with an open palm.
Kirsten released me at once. She was stunned, her eyes wide.
I didn’t have any more time to waste on her.
Turning. I sprinted across the grass, chasing after Elva to the tree line. I followed the straight path from
where I’d seen her last, but by now, I had totally lost sight of her.
Panic clawed at my heart.
She had to be okay. What would I do if something happened to her? How would I go on?
She was my whole world.
I sucked in a deep breath, ready to shout my lungs out, calling her name, when I heard a soft sniffle and
a deep voice.
I followed the sounds through the thick tree line, until I popped through to the driveway. Just beyond, I
Elva had run the whole way to Nicholas.
He knelt beside her with her tucked into the safe cradle of his chest. Mark stood beside, observant and
Relief flooded me so hard, that I felt a bit dizzy. Wobbling, I steadied myself against one of the trees, but the bark was slippery from a recent rain. I fell backwards, out into the grassy meadow.
I hit hard enough to knock the wind out of me.
Taking a moment to recover, I was flat on my back when Kirsten came to stand over me, accompanied by Lena and two guards.
Kirsten rubbed her reddened cheek, though her smirk remained just as smug
“You shouldn’t have done that, bitch.”