Home > The One (The Selection #3)(3)

The One (The Selection #3)(3)
Author: Kiera Cass


I felt his hand snake around my back, and I brought my face down. There he was, eyes looking into mine, our lips millimeters apart.

“How much have you missed me?” he breathed.

His stare, combined with his voice being so low, was doing funny things to my heartbeat. “So much,” I whispered back. “So, so much.”

I leaned forward, aching to be kissed. Maxon was confident, pulling me closer with one hand and stringing the other through my hair. My body wanted to melt into the kiss, but the dress stopped me. Then, suddenly nervous again, I remembered my plan.

Sliding my hands down Maxon’s arms, I guided his fingers to the zipper on the back of my dress, hoping that would be enough.

His hands lingered there for a moment, and I was seconds away from just asking him to unzip it when he burst out laughing.

The sound sobered me up pretty quickly.

“What’s so funny?” I asked, horrified, trying to think of an inconspicuous way to check my breath.

“Of everything you’ve done, this is by far the most entertaining!” Maxon bent over, hitting his knee as he laughed.

“Excuse me?”

He kissed me hard on my forehead. “I always wondered what it would be like to see you try.” He started laughing again. “I’m sorry; I have to go.” Even the way he stood held a sense of amusement. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

And then he left. He just left!

I sat there, completely mortified. Why in the world did I think I could pull that off? Maxon may not know everything about me, but at the very least he knew my character—and this? It wasn’t me.

I looked down at the ridiculous dress. It was way too much. Even Celeste wouldn’t have gone this far. My hair was too perfect, my makeup too heavy. He knew what I was trying to do from the second he walked through the doorway. Sighing, I went around the room, blowing out candles and wondering how I was supposed to face him tomorrow.

 

 

CHAPTER 3


I DEBATED CLAIMING THE STOMACH flu. Or an incapacitating headache. Panic attack. Really, anything to get out of going to breakfast.

Then I thought of Maxon and how he always talked about putting on a brave face. That wasn’t a particular strength of mine. But if I went downstairs at least, if I could just be present, maybe he’d give me some credit.

In hopes that I could erase some of what I’d done, I asked my maids to put me in the most demure dress I had. Based on that request alone, they knew not to ask about the night before. The neckline was a bit higher than the ones we typically wore in the warm Angeles weather, and it had sleeves that went nearly to my elbows. It was flowery and cheerful, the opposite of last night’s getup.

I could barely look at Maxon when I entered the dining hall, but I walked tall at least.

When I finally peeked at him, he was watching me, grinning. As he chewed his food, he winked at me; and I ducked my head again, pretending to be very interested in my quiche.

“Glad to see you in actual clothes today,” Kriss spat.

“Glad to see you in such a good mood.”

“What in the world has gotten into you?” she hissed.

Dejected, I gave up. “I’m not up for this today, Kriss. Just leave me alone.”

For a moment, she looked as if she might fight back, but I guessed I wasn’t worth it. She sat up a little straighter and continued eating. If I’d had any level of success last night, then I could justify my actions; as it was, I couldn’t even fake being proud.

I risked another glance at Maxon, and even though he wasn’t watching me, he was still suppressing a smug expression as he cut his food. That was it. I wasn’t going to suffer through a day like this. I was about to swoon or clutch my stomach or do anything to get me out of the room when a butler came in. He carried an envelope on a silver platter, and he bowed before placing it in front of King Clarkson.

The king took the letter and read it quickly. “Damn French,” he muttered. “Sorry, Amberly, it looks like I’ll be leaving within the hour.”

“Another problem with the trade agreement?” she asked quietly.

“Yes. I thought we’d settled all this months ago. We need to be firm on this one.” He stood, throwing his napkin on his plate, and made his way to the door.

“Father,” Maxon called, standing. “Don’t you want me to come?”

It had struck me as odd that the king didn’t bark out a command for his son to follow when he exited, seeing as that was his usual method of instructing. Instead he turned to Maxon, his eyes cold and his voice sharp.

“When you’re ready to behave the way a king should, you’ll get to experience what a king does.” Without saying anything more, he left us.

Maxon stood for a moment, shocked and embarrassed by his father’s choice to call him out in front of everyone. As he sat down, he turned to his mother. “Wasn’t really looking forward to that flight, if I’m being honest,” he said, joking away the tension. The queen smiled, as of course she must, and the rest of us ignored it.

The other girls finished their breakfasts and excused themselves to the Women’s Room. When it was just Maxon, Elise, and me remaining at our tables, I looked up at him. We both tugged our ears at the same time, then smiled. Elise finally left, and we met in the middle of the room, not bothered by the maids and butlers cleaning up around us.

“It’s my fault he’s not taking you,” I lamented.

“Perhaps,” he teased. “Trust me, this isn’t the first time he’s tried to put me in my place, and he has a million reasons in his head why he thinks he should. It wouldn’t surprise me if his only motive this time was spite. He doesn’t want to lose control, and the closer I am to picking a wife, the more of a likelihood that is for him. Though we both know he’ll never truly let go.”

“You might as well just send me home. He’s never going to let you pick me.” I still hadn’t told Maxon about how his father had cornered me, threatening me in the middle of the hall after Maxon talked him into letting me stay. King Clarkson had made it clear I was to keep my mouth shut about our conversation, and I didn’t want to cross him. At the same time, I hated keeping it from Maxon.

“Besides,” I added, crossing my arms, “after last night, I can’t imagine you’re that keen on keeping me anyway.”

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