“I have no intention of backing away from the choosing game,” I said,
He stepped closer. “Do as you wish, but know this. I will uphold my duty to protect the royal family from any and all threats. No matter in what form those threats appear.”
His words sent a chill up my spine.
I had thought that the guards were sympathetic of me and Elva, but now I wasn’t as certain. If their leader was someone who wanted me gone, maybe the guards were only pretending to be nice.
“I’m not a threat.” I said. “Neither is my daughter.”
“We’ll see.” He glanced around. “You should go inside now. It’s dangerous out here.”
The only danger out here was him, but that was enough for me. I stepped around him and headed inside without another word.
During the banquet, I struggled to keep up conversation, too distracted by Joseph’s words. Julian gave me curious looks across the table, but I avoided returning them. Just as I avoided glancing down the table to Nicholas at all.
I kept my gaze fixed on my food, replying only when necessary, and couldn’t wait until the banquet was finished.
When I was finally free, I rushed back to my room to relieve the nanny. Elva was getting ready for bed. I hugged her extra tightly when I saw her.
From then on, I noticed a change in the guards stationed around me. Gone were those that were kind and understanding to Elva and me. Now, we were glared at whenever we left our room.
Elva was afraid of them. She would try to hide behind me when we got too near them.
Once, toward the end of the day, when I was feeling bold, I tried to approach one to ask for information about my talkative maid.
I was met with silence.
I’m sorry,” I said, attempting to be kind “I know it’s a bother. But I haven’t heard anything about her, and I’m worried.”
The two guards at my door just stared ahead, looking straight through me like I wasn’t even there.
Unnerved, I retumed into my room
I wouldn’t forget, though. My maid had been someone almost like a friend, and I wasn’t about to let her wither away wherever she was, if there was anything I could do to help.
So the next morning, after making certain the guards were different this time, I asked them.
“Have you heard anything about my last maid? Or do you know where she is being kept? I’d like to see
her if I could.”
One of the guards ignored me entirely, but the other gave me a moment’s attention, even if only long
enough for a passing glance and a handful of words.
“For the sake of you and your child, you should stop asking.”
What did that mean? Was that a threat?
“I only want to make sure she is okay,” I said, but by then the guard had gone back to pretending I didn’t exist.
Later, my newest maid handed me a note Joseph had written me.
I was loathe to open it. I doubted that man could say anything I had wanted to hear. But I couldn’t exactly ignore a message from the head of the royal guards. That would be too reckless. What if it was al serious issue?
I opened the note and read.
I heard you were asking a lot of questions that are none of your business. Keep asking, and it will be bad
He hadn’t signed it, but I had no reason to doubt who this was from.
Joseph wanted me out. He was stonewalling me from any information. He’d changed my guards to stern ones that disliked me.
The threat in this note was clear.
I had to be more careful around him and the guards.
I couldn’t risk my life or freedom, or that of Elva.