Home > The Guard (The Selection #2.5)(2)

The Guard (The Selection #2.5)(2)
Author: Kiera Cass


We couldn’t make out the words, but we watched as their crimes were announced to the world. I focused on America and her family. May looked like she was trying to hold herself in one piece, arms wrapped around her stomach protectively. Mr. Singer’s expression was uneasy, but calm. Mer just seemed confused. I wished there was a way to hold her and tell her it was going to be all right without ending up bound to a block myself.

I remembered watching Jemmy being whipped for stealing. If I could have taken his place, I would have done it without question. At the same time, I remembered the overwhelming sense of relief that I had never been caught the few times I had stolen. I imagined America must be feeling that way right now, wishing Marlee didn’t have to go through this, but so thankful it wasn’t us.

When the canes came down, Mary and Lucy both jumped even though we couldn’t hear anything but the crowd. There was just enough space between each lashing to allow Woodwork and Marlee to feel the pain, but not adjust to it before a new strike drove the burn in deeper. There’s an art to making people suffer. The palace seemed to have it mastered.

Lucy covered her face with her hands and wept quietly while Mary put an arm around her for comfort.

I was about to do the same when a flash of red hair caught my eye.

What was she doing? Was she fighting that guard?

Everything in my body was at war. I wanted to run down there and shove her in her seat while at the same time, I was desperate to grab her hand and take her away. I wanted to cheer her on and simultaneously beg her to stop. This wasn’t the time or place to draw attention to herself.

I watched as America hopped the rail, the hem of her dress flying in the fall. It was then, when she slammed into the ground and regrouped, that I saw she wasn’t trying to take refuge from the nightmare in front of her but instead was focused on the steps it would take to get to Marlee.

Pride and fear swelled in my chest.

“Oh, my goodness!” Mary gasped.

“Sit down, my lady!” Lucy pleaded, pressing her hands against the window.

She was running, missing one shoe, but still refusing to give up.

“Sit down, Lady America!” one of the guards standing by me yelled.

She hit the bottom stair to the platform, and my brain was on fire from the pounding blood.

“There are cameras!” I shouted at her through the glass.

A guard finally caught her, knocking her to the ground. She thrashed, still putting up a fight. My gaze flickered to the royals; all their eyes were on the red-haired girl writhing on the ground.

“You should get back to her room,” I told Mary and Lucy. “She’s going to need you.”

They turned and ran. “You two,” I said to the guards. “Go downstairs and make sure extra protection isn’t needed. No telling who caught that or might be upset by it.”

They sprinted away, heading for the first floor. I wanted to be with America, to go to her room this very second. But under the circumstances, I knew patience would be the best. It was better for her to be alone with her maids.

Last night, I had asked America to wait for me, thinking she might be going home before me. Again, that idea came to the forefront of my mind. Would the king tolerate this?

I was aching all over, trying to breathe and think and process.

“Magnificent,” the butler breathed. “Such bravery.”

He backed away from the window and went back to his duties, and I was left wondering if he meant the couple on the platform or the girl in the dirty dress. As I stood there, still taking in all that had just happened, the caning came to an end. The royals exited, the crowd dispersed, and a handful of guards were left to carry away the two limp bodies that seemed to lean toward each other, even in unconsciousness.

 

 

CHAPTER 2


I REMEMBERED THE DAYS OF waiting to run to the tree house, how it seemed like the watch hands were moving backward. This was a thousand times worse. I knew something was wrong. I knew she needed me. And I couldn’t get to her.

The best I could do was switch posts with the guard who was scheduled to watch her door tonight. Until night fell and I could see her again, I’d have to bury myself in my job.

I was heading to the kitchen for a late breakfast when I heard the complaints.

“I want to see my daughter.” I recognized Mr. Singer’s voice, but I’d never heard him sound so desperate.

“I’m sorry, sir. For safety reasons, we need to get you out of the palace now,” a guard answered. Lodge, by the sound of it. I poked my head around the corner, and sure enough Lodge was there trying to calm Mr. Singer.

“But you’ve kept us caged since that disgusting display, my child was dragged away, and I haven’t seen her! I want to see her!”

I approached them with an air of confidence and intervened. “Allow me to handle this, Officer Lodge.”

Lodge dipped his head and stepped away. Most of the time, if I acted like I was in control, people listened to me. It was simple and effective.

Once Lodge was down the hall, I bent in toward Mr. Singer. “You can’t talk like that here, sir. You saw what just happened, and that was over a kiss and an unzipped dress.”

America’s dad nodded and ran his fingers through his hair. “I know. I know you’re right. I can’t believe they made her watch that. I can’t believe they did it to May.”

“If it’s any consolation, America’s maids are very devoted, and I’m sure they’re taking care of her. There was no report of her going to the hospital wing, so she must not have gotten hurt. Not physically anyway. From what I understand”—God, how I hated saying this out loud—“Prince Maxon favors her more than the others.”

Mr. Singer gave me a thin smile that didn’t quite meet his eyes. “True.”

Everything in me fought against asking him what he knew. “I’m sure he’ll be very patient with her as she deals with her loss.”

He nodded then spoke under his breath, as if he was talking to himself. “I expected more from him.”

“Sir?”

He took a deep breath and stood up straight. “Nothing.” Mr. Singer looked around, and I couldn’t tell if he was in awe of the palace or disgusted by it. “You know, Aspen, she’d never believe me if I told her she was good enough for this place. In a way she’s right. She’s too good for it.”

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