That was what someone had done to my bow. They had purposefully cut a tiny fracture into the wood so when I attempted to fire, the entire thing would snap.
And it had, right at the crucial moment. Because of this, I had nearly been gored.
Nicholas gently touched my calf, directing my leg how he needed it. With a slow but deliberate touch, he
my boot off and inspected my swollen ankle.
The moment felt too intimate, so I spoke to break the tension.
“The last time I saw you both, you were in a swarm of eligible ladies.”
“We lost them in a hurry,” Julian said with a snort. He continued to inspect my bow, particularly where
the slice had been made. “The cameras, too.”
“No one knows these woods as well as us,” Nicholas agreed.
Julian laughed. “Poor Joyce, though. He’s never really been the outdoor type. He didn’t have a chance at
“He wouldn’t know what to do with the boar if he found it. It’s better if stays to the side.” Nicholas
wrapped the bandage around my ankle, giving me some relief from the pain.
“That’s true.” Julian lowered the bow and looked at me, then to Nicholas. “We should tell her what we
“Julian.” Nicholas’s firm tone sounded like a warning.
“She deserves to know, especially now. If they are willing to go far enough to put her life in danger, she
needs to be able to take precautions.
“You know something about this?” I asked Nicholas. When he couldn’t meet my eye, I turned my gaze to
“Nicholas didn’t want to worry you,” Julian said.
“We weren’t certain yet. We still aren’t, fully.” Nicholas secured the bandage, then sat back on his heels.
I didn’t want to needlessly upset you, but… Jullan’s right, in this case. If they are willing to do you harm, you should know what we suspect.”
“Did he just say I was right? Say it again, brother. Wait, I need to get my phone out and record.”
Nicholas ignored him. Instead, he finally lifted his gaze to mine and held it.
“We have reason to belleve Lena and Joseph are conspiring against you. It is for this reason that I had
assigned my own guard to protect you. Mark is there specifically to protect Elva at all times.”
Nicholas sighed. “They have both served this family for many years, but I cannot deny their shift since
the competition began.”
“They’re well liked and trusted by the King and Queen,” Julian chimed in. “It will take a lot to convince
them Lena and Joseph had a part in anything this horrific. Even to bring them under suspicion would need
some concrete evidence.”
Their words did not surprise me, especially after the threat made the night before.
“I have my own reasons to suspect Lena.” Then I told them what she had said, I hope you don’t have any
accidents tomorrow. It could have been a coincidence, but at this point, I highly doubted it.
Nicholas’s face grew even stemer. Julian’s good humor slipped away.
“Lena and Joseph are traditionalists,” Nicholas said. “They believe very firmly that things should stay as they always have. They were against the competition from the start, but they at least tolerate the other girls. You, though…”
“You are a wild card, Piper,” Julian came closer. “You aren’t noble. You don’t even have a wolf. They
have no idea what to make of you.
“They can believe whatever they want,” Nicholas said. “None of that is reason enough to place you or Elva in danger.” He straightened his shoulders. 1 will speak to the King about this myself.”
Julian’s attention shot to him. “Have you lost it? He’ll never believe you.”
“I’m the oldest.”
“That never made a difference before.”
“I’m not going to let these two run around making attempts on Piper’s life without consequence.”
My heart beat a bit faster, hearing his protectiveness. I knew he’d likely say the same if any other girl had been threatened. But that didn’t change the fact that in this instance, it was me he wanted to defend.
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