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Octavia reached over and tapped her finger on my nose just like Pedro would do if he were really here with me right now. “I trust you.” I said to him.
“Good.” He replied. “Now, the issue of what happened with the council tonight.” That usual sarcastic tone was back in his voice.
“Why do I feel like you’re about to lecture me?” I asked.
“Because I am.” He said. “I know that Marco is an ass, believe me, that man has been biting at his nails just waiting for the day I’d let him have my spot on the council.” He laughed. “He’s awful, and so are most of the rest of them, but they are good at what they do. We can use their dislike of you to our advantage. You don’t want the people to like you more than Lexton. That will only make it harder for Calvin to pick her in the end. You can’t give the people a reason to love you, and that’s what you did tonight. I was very proud of the way you stood up for yourself, but you have to remember the end game here.”
I nodded my head. “I know.” I sighed. “I just let him get under my skin.”
“You’re just going to have to keep that temper of yours in check.” He told me. “Let them drag your name through the mud. Then there will never be a reason for anyone to care where you end up when the new queen is crowned.”
He had a good point. The way the council smeared me today in front of all of the people and made Lexton look like she had been the one cheated out of the crown in the first place was a good thing for me. It made them want to see her succeed, and me fail.
My bucking back against Marco only made people like me. “This is why I wish you were here.” I told him. “You know how to keep me in check.” I smiled, the action feeling foreign after everything that had happened tonight.
“I trust the people with you to do that.” Pedro told me. “You’re in good hands.” I looked over at Patrick and then up to Octavia. “I know.” I whispered.
“We shouldn’t stay on this long.” Pedro said. “I will have Rose call you tomorrow.”
“Thank you.” I sighed and the line went dead.
I handed the phone to Octavia and she turned to go put it away but I grabbed her hand, pulling her to me and hugging her. “I’m sorry I snapped at you.” I told her. “You didn’t deserve it.”
“I understand.” She smiled at me as she pulled away.
The door kicked open and Calvin rushed in with Cromley behind him. He came straight to me, grabbing me by the face and looking me over. “Are you alright?” He asked urgently.
“I’m fine, Calvin.”
He drew his brows together and his eyes were intense. “What the hell happened?” He asked.
I explained to him everything and he stared down at me. “Why didn’t you say something in the ballroom?” He demanded of me, letting me go and pacing back and forth in front of me.
“What was I supposed to say in there?” I snapped at him. “I couldn’t exactly call out, and I did try to get your attention to point him out but you were too busy arguing with Marco for no reason.” I pointed out. “What the hell was up with that?” I asked.
“You just let him play those videos and call me a whore in front of all of your people!”
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Even though I had just had the conversation with Pedro about why it wasn’t really such a bad thing, it didn’t mean I wasn’t still pissed about it.
“Are you kidding?” He laughed.
“I don’t know what you find funny right now.” I said. “You let them walk all over you.”
Calvin shook his head and ran his hands through his hair. “Yeah,
I did.” He snapped. “Because Marco threatened to show another video of an upset queen who invited a male guard to spend the night in her room.” He said sharply. “If he had showed that then there would have been grounds to have you executed for treason right there in front of everyone, so yeah, I let the council run over me..” He yelled. “Why on earth would you go running around here without a guard again?” He asked, changing the subject. “After everything that happened last time you were here and feeling reckless, you still put yourself in harm’s way that way again.” Enjoy more interesting stories
I stepped back and widened my eyes at him. “Really?” I snapped.
“Maybe I wasn’t thinking clearly since you ran off on your date and left me to Marco’s mercy to torture me some more. I really enjoyed being forced to watch
you and Lexton play your little game by the way.” I said sarcastically. “I left in a hurry and Cromley wasn’t there was I decided to go to Patrick.” Calvin looked furious, but so was I.
Calvin looked away from me and stared back at Cromley. “And where the hell were you?” He snapped at him.
“Sir, I was caught off guard while I was waiting outside of the ballroom for the competition to end.” He explained. “Someone put a bag over my head that was laced with juniper and they drug me off somewhere. I was tied up for about an hour before someone set me free. I never saw who it was.”
“If they used juniper on you does that mean the person was a human?” I asked.
Cromley shook his head. “No, Majesty.” He said. “I smelled a thick leather, most likely gloves that the person was using to be able to handle the bag.”
“This is unacceptable.” Calvin sneered at him.
Cromley bowed his head in shame and turned to look at me. “I’m so sorry, Your Highness.” He sighed. “I should have been there for you.”
“You would have been if you had been able to.” I told him.
Calvin began pacing again while the rest of us sat down at Octavia’s table.
“Did the man you saw say anything to you about Rose specifically?” He asked and I shook my head.
“I told you exactly what he said.”
Calvin groaned loudly, almost snarl like. “It still doesn’t make any sense who they got onto level six.” He said. “Without the passcode it should have been impossible, even if the guards were off duty at the time.”
“How many people know the code?” Logan asked and Calvin narrowed his eyes at him, obviously not happy that he was here.
“Too many apparently.” He snapped. “Octavia, that needs to be first order of business.” He told her. “Go to the engineers and find out how to change the code, and then do it. Don’t let them do it for you. I want only the people in this room to have access to the sixth level until after Rachel is gone.” He directed her and she stood, going to the door.
“Anything else?” She asked.
“Go ahead and clean out Rachel’s room too.” He told her. “Pack up her things and move them into my suite. I also want that lock changed, only she and I are to have keys.”
“Got it.” She called over her shoulder as she left.
“What are you going to do about these guys?” Logan asked. “If Rachel is in danger here, then she needs to leave.”
Calvin was shooting daggers at him again but he tried to gain control of himself again. “For now, we do nothing.” He said.
“Nothing?” I asked.
He nodded his head. “We isolate you, make it impossible to get you alone, but other than that, the plan moves forward.” He told me. “You were alone tonight and they had multiple opportunities to do you harm if that was what was intended. The plan was obviously to spook you, and that worked, but you can’t let it show. They had access to your room even.” He mused to himself. “If they wanted to hurt you, they would have.”
“So everything stays the same?” I asked.
“Unless something else happens, yes.” He told me. “I can’t over extend my trusted men to be searching the castle for this man and anyone who he may be involved with and have them mounting an attack on the rebels in Britain. I also can’t keep bringing more and more people in on the secret. When that happens, secrets get out. So right now, we need to keep cool heads, and take it a day at a time.”
“Fine.” I muttered, unhappy with it, but understanding why we needed to do things this way.
Calvin looked down at his watch. “I want you to go back to my room with Cromley and stay there.” He said to me in a rush.
“Where are you going?” I asked him, standing from my seat.
“I have to go back.” He sighed.
My face got hot instantly. “To Lexton?” I snapped.
“Logan, why don’t we go finish our drinks.” Patrick said as he nudged Logan’s arm and they both stood from the table.
Logan came to my side and looked down at me carefully. “You good, Rach?” He asked and I nodded to him.
He and Patrick went to the door and Cromley excused himself with them.
“I don’t have a choice, Rachel.” Calvin told me. “I have to go back. That is what is expected of me.”
“So you’re going to spend the night with her?” I demanded, crossing my arms over my chest.
“Of course not.” He sighed. “I am going to finish the date, and then I am coming back to my room where you better be with your guard.” Calvin said down to me.
“Don’t tell me what to do, Calvin.” I snapped. “I know I said I didn’t want to talk about her, but now I do.” I told him. “What is going on with you two? Are you still drinking from her? Is she still bonded to you?”
Calvin checked his watch again and I wanted to knee him in the groin too. “Rachel, I don’t have time.”
“Make time!” I snapped.
“Nothing is going on with us!” He yelled. “I told you that. I have been telling you that. I know that my getting close to her had been a mistake. I feel bad for leading her on, and I am dying that it hurt you too, but I have no feelings for her beyond friendship.” He said. “We aren’t bonded anymore. I never took another sip of her blood after you left here because you asked me not to. Any feelings she has in return for me are of her own heart, not a chemical dependence on me. We aren’t blood bonded anymore.
We never will be because I don’t want her, not in any type of way. She has pushed herself on me for years, even going as far as to cut her skin in my presence to try to trick me into drinking from her again.” He told me and I wanted to gag. “I didn’t do it, and I stopped being around her at all after that. Now I need to rebuild a friendship and a trust with her if I am going to be able to be a good king with her beside me. She isn’t like you, she doesn’t easily fall into the role. It will be hard with her as a queen.” He sighed shaking his head. “I have to go, because this is my duty as the king.” He said, then looked over at me. “Let’s not forget whose idea the competition was in the first place.”
I stared at him dumbfounded for a moment that he was actually throwing that back at me.
“Go back to your date then.” I said coldly. “I hope you enjoy your night.”
Calvin ran his hands through his hair again and he sighed, walking towards me and grabbing my shoulders. “I’m sorry.” He whispered. “I didn’t mean to say that to you, Rachel.” He said.
“I’m just frustrated, like I know that you are too. I was worried when I get the message something had happened, and it is easier to feel anger, than it is to feel this overwhelming pain in my chest at the thought of something happening to you or Rose.”
“It’s fine.” I said with my eyes down.
“Rachel…” He whispered and I looked up into his sad eyes.
“It’s fine.” I repeated again. “You need to go.” I reminded him.
He leaned down to kiss my forehead, and then he turned slowly to go to the door.
When he exited, Cromley came back in. “Ready to move back up?” He asked.
I nodded my head slowly and walked behind him mechanically, onne bare foot in front of the other until I saw Logan waiting for me up ahead.
“Rachel, are you really ok?” He asked when I got to him.
“I’m trying to be.” I answered.
He pulled me into a hug and sighed. “Rose is going to be alright, and so are you.” He told me then leaned away. “Remember how I told you that you didn’t ever open yourself up to me? How I said I always felt like there was something beneath the surface that you weren’t letting me see?”
I furrowed my brows at him. “Yeah, I do.” I told him. “Why?”
“Because I just saw it.” He said. “I still don’t like the guy, but I think he is doing the right thing. He’s trying to anyway.” He explained. “You never fought with me on anything.” He said. “I can’t think of a single argument with you. You always submitted to me, and I never knew why, but now…You and him.” He said lowly. “You fight for each other. You come alive around him, even if it is just in the way that you called him on his shit. You weren’t like that with me.”
“I’m sorry, Logan.” I said honestly. “I never should have gotten involved with you when I knew I would never get over him.”
“Hey,” He said. “I’m not trying to make you feel bad.” He told me.
“I’m telling you I understand it now. Plus, I got a pretty good deal out of it.” He said. “I love Rose, and if you had never taken a chance on me, I wouldn’t have her, so I wouldn’t change the way things played out, Rach. I just want you to be happy.”
“I want the same for you.” I smiled at him.
He hugged me again before he ducked into what I guess is his room.
Cromley took me to Calvin’s suite and I went into the bathroom and got a shower, then dressed for bed and went into his bedroom. I left the light on, that way I could still see the little picture on the table of me holding a little baby Rose. She was always so beautiful. From day one.
After a long time I was almost asleep when I heard Calvin come into the bedroom. I listened as he went over to the closet and took off his clothes, then moved over to the dresser to get clothes out.
He turned out the light and I felt the bed dip to one side as he climbed in, getting beneath the covers.
I knew we were both still mad.
Me at him for stupid reasons.
Him at me for stupid reasons.
We both lied on our opposite sides of the bed, trying to sleep. At some point our feet found each other under the blankets, needing to be touching each other even if only a little, and even if we still had angry words and hurt feelings between us.
Before I finally fell asleep, I found myself pressed against him, my head on his chest and his arms around me, because that was where I belonged.
ANYTHING FOR RACHEL