“I don’t care what the King thinks of me,” Nicholas said. “I will see justice done.”
“That’s incredibly noble of you, brother Julian rolled his eyes. “But I have a different scheme. It would provide the same result, with less mess.”
Nicholas shook his head like he didn’t even want to hear him out. But I disagreed. We should hear every
option before acting, especially if Nicholas’s plan would hurt him in the long run.
“Please explain, Julian,” I said.
Nicholas shot me a look, which I pointedly did not acknowledge.
“If we call out the bullies directly, we could back them into a corner and make things worse. It would be
so much simpler if we lifted up Piper instead. We could make her untouchable.”
Nicholas thought a moment, then asked, “How?”
I had the same question.
Julian nodded toward the boar carcass that the wolves were protecting.
Understanding crossed Nicholas’s face. I still wasn’t sure.
“Very well,” Nicholas said. “We can try it. But if it fails, we will do it my way instead.”
“Fair enough.” Julian shrugged. “But give me a couple days, anyway. I think I can work with this for a while, really lay it on thick.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
Julian winked at me. “You’ll see.”
“Trust us,” Nicholas said. Then, after a quick scowling glance at his brother, amended, “Trust me.”
Nicholas wasn’t wrong. I wasn’t sure I could trust Julian. But Nicholas? Even with the misunderstanding of betrayal looming between us, I knew I could still trust him with my life. Elva’s too.
That counted for something. A heck of a lot, actually
“I trust you,” I told himn.
His face didn’t change, but he seemed satisfied with the way he tapped my shin.
“We have to get her back to the palace.” Julian waggled his eyebrows. “Maybe I could carry you, Piper.”
“Absolutely not,” Nicholas said at once.
I glanced between them. “I could try to walk…?”
Nicholas shook his head. He turned so that his back was to me. “I will carry you.”
With his guidance, I draped my arms over his shoulders, and he hoisted me up onto his back. He held my
legs, giving me support.
My cheeks burned a bit, especially after Julian gave me a knowing look. I couldn’t deny the position was nice though, pressing into the long expanse of Nicholas’s back. His strong hands pressing hard under my
I desperately tried not to think too much about it. Nicholas was only doing this for my sake, to get me
safely and swiftly back to the palace. Romance had nothing to do with it.
That didn’t fully explain why he hadn’t wanted Julian to carry me instead, however.
No, none of it mattered. I had to let those thoughts go. Nicholas no longer cared for me like he used to.
I’d only hurt us both believing for a second that we could be amicable again.
When we made it back to the palace grounds, it was clear the news had spread about the end of the
hunt. I realized later that the wolves had announced it, through their howling.
Being the only one in the room who couldn’t speak to a wolf was… upsetting. At the very least, I wished I
could have properly passed my gratitude onto Silver, who had saved my life. Even now, she trotted along protectively behind Nicholas and me.
Nicholas led me through the sea of girls, who whispered cruelly as we passed, likely jealous of the way! was being carried
Julian, still holding my broken bow, gave a sharp smirk to whoever whispered too loudly, making his displeasure known. With his help, the mumbling quickly died down.
When we came before the King, he looked between the three of us with obvious annoyance in his eyes, though a wide, kindly smile on his lips.
“Which one of you downed the boar?” he asked.
Theld my breath. I hadn’t been sure which of the two had fired the finishing blow. I’d only seen the two arrows hit their mark.
Nicholas and Julian spoke at once.