Holding Elva, I walked further into my assigned room, bringing the man into focus.
It wasn’t Nicholas, but his brother.
I knew Julian from my days at the Royal Academy, though we hadn’t been friends. Since Julian and
Nicholas were arch–enemies, and I was Nicholas’s girlfriend, I avoided interacted with Julian as much as I
He quirked his lips into a playful smile. “You know, these days I go by, ‘Your Royal Highness.”
I swallowed hard, realizing my mistake.
I had to be careful here. Any perceived slight against the princes could cost me my life. But it was so difficult to reimagine the boys I knew at the Academy into the princes they presented themselves as now.
Nicholas and Julian were brothers, too. I never would have guessed.
I guessed Nicholas had plenty of his own secrets. Funny, back then, I had thought I was the only one with something to hide.
I’m teasing.” Julian clarified.
I exhaled the breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding.
“It’s been a long time, Piper,” Julian said, approaching me. “You must have questions.”
I had so many questions, I was dizzy with them. But I had no idea where to start.
Elva squirmed in my arms.
patted her back as I lowered her to the ground. “I packed some of your toys, honey. Why don’t you play for a while?”
Okay 7 Elva cast a distrustful look at Jullan. When Jullan waved at her, she quickly looked away. Then
uched over to her suitcase and found her dolls.
ber for a moment, before turning to Julián.
“My brother #77
He made a thoughtful humming sound. Even watching him, I couldn’t discern what he was thinking.
Julian had always carried an enigmatic presence – always smirking, but never quite revealing all that he
Normally he was not the type of person I would seek out for answers. But since he was here and willing
to talk to me, he was my only option.
Of the many questions I wanted to ask, the most pressing was, “Why am I allowed to stay?”
He shrugged. “I’m not sure how you charmed your way through the initial selection, but once it was
done, it cannot be so easily undone. Not without great embarrassment to the royal family.”
I supposed that made sense. The royal family had used their magic to select the initial list of names. For
them to admit a mistake would be to admit themselves fallible. This would only further tarnish their
already divisive reputation.
But even so, surely they could have made up some excuse.
“It doesn’t hurt that you have a compelling story,” Julian continued. “Sure, the King thought about making
you leave, but when he discovered your set of… unique circumstances, he decided to let you stay.
“I’m not special,” I said.
“Aren’t you?” Julian lifted a brow. He counted on his fingers. “Wolf–less. Unemployed. A single mother.
You tick every box.”
I frowned. “You make it sound like I’m only here as some kind of PR stunt.”
“A commoner candidate with your specific traits garners a certain amount of sympathy. We’d have to be
monsters to make you leave.”
His smile was boyish, easy and lopsided. Disarming, even. It didn’t quite match the weight of his words. He was talking about public relations of the highest order, and seemed utterly unbothered by any of it.
But if we let you stay, we become magnanimous. Generous. Willing to turn a new leaf and lead the nation into a new era of unity and opportunity for all, even the downtrodden, It’s a simple choice, really,”
So I’m here just for show.
Of course.” He laughed. “No one thinks you’ll actually win
Highness I can say backed out on my own. I won’t paint your family in a bad ligha