No, that was a foolish notion. He was kind to Elva because he was a kind person. At the end of the day, Elva and I were going to be eliminated from the competition.
We’d leave the palace, return to our little apartment with Anna, and never hear from Nicholas again, We’d probably see him on television sometimes, with updates on his new family.
It might hurt to see, but that was life.
Dreams were dreams. Reality was reality.
I couldn’t have both.
“It’s so nice of Prince Nicholas to spend so much time with you and your daughter,” said one of the other girls to me
“Looks good for the cameras, too,” said another girl, pointing as a cameraman came close to Elva.
Odd, I hadn’t really noticed them before.
Neither, apparently, had Nicholas. Because the moment he spotted the camera following Elva, he swung her the other way, out of the camera’s line of sight.
“You don’t think he’s doing it just for show?” said the first girl.
“Not exactly, no,” the second girl relented. “It just shows off a side of him people don’t get to see. I’m not sure why he’s trying to hide from that.”
I knew Elva and I were only here as a publicity stunt. But even so, Nicholas was not the type of person to take advantage of that. He danced with Elva because he didn’t want her to be sad. That was that.
“Well, it’s fun to see while it lasts,” another girl said. “Hope you are enjoying yourself too, Piper. We all know you’ll be the first one out.”
I gave her a polite smile but didn’t say anything. I knew I’d be gone soon as well as anyone, but it still hurt to hear other people say so.
“Oh? Are those guards headed this way?”
I looked up where the other girls were staring. True enough, a pair of guards was weaving their way through the crowd, coming right for us.
What do you think they want?” I asked
The guards came closer. I waited for them to go by, but instead they stopped night in front of me.
“Miss Piper one asked
“Looks like they’re here for you,” whispered one of the girls into my ear
Yes that’s me.” I told the guards
They watched me with blank expressions. These must have been more of Joseph’s guards, the ones
who didn’t like me. I wondered what happened to the ones who had initially been kind to me. I hoped they hadn’t been fired.
One of the guards began to walk away. The other waited for me to follow the first, then fell in line behind
It was unnerving, like I was being arrested or something. But how could that be?
I searched out Elva and Nicholas. They were still dancing, now with her standing on his shoes. He paused, though, when he spotted me. His eyes narrowed as he took in the sight of my armed guard.
The guards led me away from the ballroom and into a side, sitting room. The Queen herself sat on a plush sofa, bracketed by a pair of older women nobles, Lena stood behind the sofa, to the side.
“The Luna will speak with you,” the guard said, and motioned for me to move inside.
I nervously hovered in the doorway, unsure of the proper procedure for approaching the Queen like this. Thankfully, she spotted me right away and said, “Enter, girl. Come and stand before us.”
I obeyed at once, and moved further into the room. I stopped in the center of the room, standing before
The Luna touched her chin. Her disapproving scowl slid from my face down to my gloves.
I tugged at them, self–conscious.
Tell me, girl, the Queen said. “Why have you chosen to insult me tonight?”