“That’s enough,” said a firm low voice through the microphone. Nathan had passed it to Nicholas. Please discover all the facts before making accusations. Piper proposed her deal last night. The
announcement about the blood moon did not come in until this morning.”
The second girl relented, lowering her head. “He’s right. She couldn’t have known…”
“But…?” said the first. “Surely the timing was too perfect to be a coincidence.”
“Sorry,” I said. “I don’t tell the future. I don’t have the internet. I just made a guess for the sake of the deal.”
The girls‘ looks of outrage slowly morphed into those of annoyance instead. Gradually, they slipped away from me.
Susie returned to the place she’d been pushed away from. “You okay?”
“Piper,” Nicholas said, approaching me. He’d left the microphone on the stage, back with Nathan.
He stopped when he was before me. “What did the physician say about Elva?” After I told him, he sighed,
Susie glanced between the two of us. Then she pretended to see something and left us. It was a very
obvious show. She was not a good actor.
I didn’t know whether to thank her or be mad at her. She clearly wanted to give Nicholas and me
privacy, but after last night, I wasn’t sure I was ready to face him again so soon.
He’d been so kind. I didn’t know if I could handle him hating me right now.
“I’ll hold up my end of the bargain,” Nicholas said. “Sometime during this event, I will let Elva ride on
“She’ll enjoy that. Thank you.”
“A deal is a deal.”
I thought he would leave now, with what he had wanted to say sald. Instead he lingered, quiet.
The other girls were being led away, over to the dining room for breakfast. I watched them go, unsure if should follow.
“Also, I should thank you on behalf of my family,” Nicholas said. “If it weren’t for your bet, we would have
either had to hunt during the blood moon or cancel the event ourselves. Either would have been a bad
omen. Your deal helped us save face.”
I couldn’t possibly take credit for that, especially when Nicholas was the one to try to give it.
1 was just worried about Elva. Everything else was just an accident.”
Nicholas glanced around. Seeing no one was close to us, he said, “Caring for your daughter is just as
worthy of praise, if not more so. As far as I’m concerned, the life of a child sharply outweighs the reputation of the royal family.”
His words were kind, but he should not give them.
“Your reputation is important.” Not as important as Elva, true, but with as serious as the royal family was treating this event, I knew there had to be more going on under the surface than I understood.
He didn’t reply, to agree or disagree. He just slowly lowered his gaze, then turned and walked away.
I ate breakfast in a hurry, eager to return to Elva in our room. I’d swiped a few muffins for her on the chance she might be hungry, tucked into the pockets of my dress.
Yet at the corner, just before turning to the hallway where my room was located, I saw Lena talking to a
My maid. The strange one.
I couldn’t hear what they were talking about, but, after the incident with the gloves, I did not give them the benefit of the doubt. They could have been sharing laundry tips, sure. But they could just have easily
been conspiring against me.
I walked straight toward them. The maid jolted when she saw me. Lena closed her mouth.
“Good morning, ladies,” I said, as chipper as I could. I wanted them to know I was onto them.
The strange maid quickly excused herself.
Lena stayed. “Seems you were quite lucky today. We’ll see if your luck holds out.”
That was an odd thing to say, but seemed fine enough.
I nodded, eager to continue walking and forget this exchange.
1 hope you don’t have any accidents tomorrow, Piper,” Lena said.
“It would be such a shame for that little girl if something happened to you.”
I turned again, to confront her, but she was already walking away.
It could have been nothing, but that had sounded like a threat.