Nicholas did glare harder then, for a moment. When nothing happened, he turned away and made his
way to his own seat.
Liiliana was still seated beside him, though she didn’t say a word as he sat down. If they didn’t like each
other, why hadn’t Nicholas asked someone else to sit there?
“Shall we, Piper?” Julian asked, a smug grin on his face.
We walked the two feet to our chairs. Julian held mine out for me, then helped push me in after I sat. He
took the chair beside mine.
Sitting like this, I couldn’t even see the Queen unless I leaned forward, Relief washed over me.
I still wasn’t feeling all the way better. I wasn’t sure I would have had the energy to wade through royal
At least, not the Queen’s kind.
Julian was his own mess of royal riddles.
“I did try to talk her out of it,” Julian whispered to me. “Your punishment, I mean. I went to take responsibility for the morning I stole you away, but she wouldn’t hear of it.”
I softly shook my head. “That was only one of the things I was punished for.”
“A rule–breaker, huh?” He winked. “A girl after my own heart.”
I rolled my eyes. “Be serious.
“Why?” he asked, deadpan. Then he straightened. “Don’t look now, but Nicholas is glaring at me again.”
I turned my head, and locked eyes with Nicholas, who was leaning improperly far over the table to look
“I told you not to look,” Julian hissed from behind me.
Nicholas stared a moment longer, despite having been caught. Then his gaze shifted to the Queen.
Wait. He hadn’t been worried about me being so close to the Queen, had he? But then why hadn’t he
asked me to sit near him?
Unless Julian beat him to it.
No, that was impossible. Nicholas had made clear that he had many girls he admired here at this table.
Nicholas sat back in his chair, and I did too.
“He’s such a sore loser,” Julian said with a sharp laugh.
Before I could ask him more, the King touched his knife to his glass, creating a sharp ringing sound that
drew everyone’s attention.
“We thank you all for joining us this evening,” the King said, speaking mainly to the cameras. “As you
know, it is only a few more days until the first round of eliminations, and therefore you should be using
your time to improve your ranking.”
He cast his gaze around the room but never focused on any one girl for long. He did, however, frown at
Linda’s empty chair for a moment before continuing.
“You will have your chance at our next royal event. Tomorrow we will begin a three–day hunting event.”
Oohs and ahs resounded around the table, some girls excited to show off their miscellaneous talents.
Many others seemed nervous, glancing around the room.
I used to have many skills that would have beneficial during a hunting trip, but I hadn’t practiced them in
years. I could still shoot a bow, it seemed, but I doubted other skills would return as naturally.
If they expected anything other than straight aim from me, I’d be in trouble
“Here at the palace, we hunt differently than hunters of modern day. We reached back to our roots, and
use our brotherhood with the wolves to help us.”
I frowned. What did that mean?
“As such, each candidate will be paired with an actual wolf for this event.”
Suddenly, the tension in the room dissipated, replaced by excitement.
“How rare!” said the girl beside me. “I’ve heard our inner wolves can connect with actual wolves. I’m
dying to see if it’s true.”
“It’s true,” Julian said, smiling wide. It only dimmed marginally when he looked at me. “Oh.. Well, I’m
sure they’ll have an alternative for you, Piper.”
I felt small and insignificant. Perhaps they had not considered me when they designed this challenge.
didn’t want to consider the alternatives…
Yet, even without looking, I could feel the cold eyes of the Luna upon me.