Home > The Heir (The Selection #4)(4)

The Heir (The Selection #4)(4)
Author: Kiera Cass


“Camille will be queen when her time comes, and she, like you, will have to ask her partner to marry her. If it was Ahren’s choice, we’d consider it; but it’s not.”

“What about Kaden? Can’t you have him do it?”

Mom laughed humorlessly. “He’s fourteen! We don’t have that kind of time. The people need something to be excited about now.” She narrowed her eyes at me. “And, honestly, isn’t it time you look for someone to rule beside you?”

Dad nodded. “It’s true. It’s not a role that should be shouldered alone.”

“But I don’t want to get married,” I pleaded. “Please don’t make me do this. I’m only eighteen.”

“Which is how old I was when I married your father,” Mom stated.

“I’m not ready,” I urged. “I don’t want a husband. Please don’t do this to me.”

Mom reached across the table and put her hand on mine. “No one would be doing anything to you. You would be doing something for your people. You’d be giving them a gift.”

“You mean faking a smile when I’d rather cry?”

She gave me a fleeting frown. “That has always been part of our job.”

I stared at her, silently demanding a better answer.

“Eadlyn, why don’t you take some time to think this over?” Dad said calmly. “I know this is a big thing we’re asking of you.”

“Does that mean I have a choice?”

Dad inhaled deeply, considering. “Well, love, you’ll really have thirty-five choices.”

I leaped up from my chair, pointing toward the door.

“Get out!” I demanded. “Get! Out!”

Without another word they left my room.

Didn’t they know who I was, what they’d trained me for? I was Eadlyn Schreave. No one was more powerful than me.

So if they thought I was going down without a fight, they were sadly mistaken.

 

 

CHAPTER 3


I DECIDED TO TAKE DINNER in my room. I didn’t feel like seeing my family at the moment. I was irate with all of them. At my parents for being happy, at Ahren for not picking up the pace eighteen years ago, at Kaden and Osten for being so young.

Neena circled me, filling my cup as she spoke. “Do you think you’ll go through with it, miss?” she asked.

“I’m still trying to figure a way out.”

“What if you said you were already in love with somebody?”

I shook my head as I poked at my food. “I insulted my three most likely candidates right in front of them.”

She set a small plate of chocolates in the middle of the table, guessing correctly that I’d probably want those more than the caviar-garnished salmon.

“Perhaps a guard then? Happens to the maids often enough,” she suggested with a giggle.

I scoffed. “That’s fine for them, but I’m not that desperate.”

Her laughter faded.

I saw immediately that I had offended her, but that was the truth. I couldn’t settle for any old person, let alone a guard. Even considering it was a waste of time. I needed a way out of this whole situation.

“I don’t mean it like that, Neena. It’s just that people expect certain things from me.”

“Of course.”

“I’m done. You can go for the night; I’ll leave the cart in the hallway.”

She nodded and left without another word.

I grazed on the chocolates before completely giving up on the food and slipped into my nightgown. I couldn’t reason with Mom and Dad right now, and Neena didn’t understand. I needed to talk to the only person who might see my side, the person who sometimes felt like he was half of me. I needed Ahren.

“Are you busy?” I asked, cracking open his door.

Ahren was sitting at his desk, writing. His blond hair was end-of-the-day messy, but his eyes were far from tired, and he looked so much like the pictures of Dad when he was younger it was eerie. He was still dressed from dinner but had taken off his coat and tie, settling in for the evening. “Knock, for goodness’ sake.”

“I know, I know; but it’s an emergency.”

“Then get a guard,” he snapped back, returning to his papers.

“That’s already been suggested,” I muttered to myself. “I’m serious, Ahren; I need your help.”

Ahren peeked over his shoulder at me, and I could see he was already planning to give in. He used his foot to push out the seat next to him casually. “Step into my office.”

Sitting, I sighed. “What are you writing?”

He quickly piled papers on top of the one he’d been working on. “A letter to Camille.”

“You know you could simply phone her.”

He grinned. “Oh, I will. But then I’ll send her this, too.”

“That makes no sense. What could you possibly have to talk about that would fill an entire phone call and a letter?”

He tilted his head. “For your information, they serve different purposes. The calls are for updates and to see how her day went. The letters are for the things I can’t always say out loud.”

“Oh, really?” I leaned over, reaching for the paper.

Before I could even get close, Ahren’s hand gripped my wrist. “I will murder you,” he vowed.

“Good,” I shot. “Then you can be the heir, and you can go through a Selection and kiss your precious Camille good-bye.”

He scrunched his forehead. “What?”

I slumped back into my chair. “Mom and Dad need to boost morale. They’ve decided that, for the sake of Illéa,” I said in mock patriotism, “I need to go through a Selection.”

I was expecting abject horror. Perhaps a sympathetic hand on my shoulder. But Ahren threw back his head and laughed.

“Ahren!”

He continued to howl, pitching himself forward and hitting his knee.

“You’re going to wrinkle your suit,” I warned, which only made him laugh harder. “For goodness’ sake, stop it! What am I supposed to do?”

“As if I know! I can’t believe they think this would even work,” he added, his smile still not fading.

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know. I guess I thought, if you ever did get married, it’d be down the line. I think everyone assumed that.”

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