Home > The Favorite (The Selection #2.6)(8)

The Favorite (The Selection #2.6)(8)
Kiera Cass

My heart broke to see her look so scared, even though she was safe now. I didn’t know what she’d been through, but I was going to do my best to make it better. “I’ll always be here for you, America. You know that.” I smiled at her and brushed a lock of hair away from her forehead. “What in the world were you doing?”

I could see the debate in her eyes about answering. “It seemed like a good idea” was all she said.

I tilted my head. “America, you are full of nothing but bad ideas,” I said, trying not to laugh. “Great intentions but awful ideas.”

She pursed her lips as if to say she knew exactly what I was talking about.

“How soundproof are these walls?” Anne asked the guards. This must be their room.

“Pretty good,” one answered. “Don’t hear too much this deep in the palace.”

Anne nodded. “Good. Okay, I need everyone in the hall. Miss Marlee,” she continued. It had been so long since anyone besides Carter had used my real name that I wanted to cry. I didn’t realize how much my name meant to me. “I’m going to need some space, but you can stay.”

“I’ll keep out of your way, Anne,” I promised.

The boys backed into the hallway, and Anne took over. As she spoke to America and prepared to stitch her up, I couldn’t help but be impressed with how calm she was. I’d always liked America’s maids, especially Lucy, because she was so, so sweet. But this made me see Anne in a whole new light. It seemed unfortunate that someone who was so capable in a crisis couldn’t do more than be a lady’s maid.

Finally Anne began to clean out the wound, which I still couldn’t identify. America screamed into the towel in her mouth, and though I hated to do it, I knew I had to pin her down to keep her still. I climbed on top of her, focusing most of my effort on keeping her one arm straight.

“Thank you,” Anne mumbled, pulling out a tiny black speck with some tweezers. Was that dirt? Pavement? Thank goodness Anne was thorough. The air alone could leave America with a nasty infection, but it was clear that Anne wasn’t going to let that happen.

America screamed again, and I shushed her. “It’ll be over soon, America,” I said, thinking of the things Maxon had told me before I was caned and the words Carter had spoken as it was happening. “Think of something happy. Think about your family.”

I could see she was trying, but it clearly wasn’t working. She was in too much pain. So I gave her more brandy and continued to give her sips until Anne was finished.

When it was all over, I wondered if America would even remember any of this. After Anne wrapped the wound in a bandage, she and I stood back and watched America sing a children’s Christmas song while drawing imaginary pictures on the wall with her finger.

Anne and I grinned at her sloppy movements. “Does anyone know where the puppies even are ?” America asked. “Why are they so far away?”

We covered our mouths, laughing so hard we were crying. The danger had passed, America was taken care of, and in her head there was a puppy emergency.

“Let’s maybe keep this to ourselves,” Anne suggested.

“Yes, I think so.” I sighed. “What do you think happened to her?”

Anne tensed up. “I can’t begin to even guess what they were doing, but I can tell you for sure, that was a gunshot wound.”

“Gunshot?” I exclaimed.

Anne nodded. “A few inches to the left and she could have died.”

I looked down at America, who was now poking her cheeks with her fingers, seemingly just so she could see how it felt.

“Thank goodness she’s all right.”

“Even if she wasn’t my lady, I think I’d still want her to be princess. I don’t know what I’d have done if we lost her.” Anne spoke not simply as a servant but as a subject. I knew exactly what she meant.

I nodded. “I’m glad she had you tonight. I’ll go get the boys to take her back to her room.” I crouched beside America. “Hey, I’m going now. But you try not to break yourself again, all right?”

She nodded sluggishly. “Yes, ma’am.”

She definitely wouldn’t remember this.

The guard who had come for me was standing at the end of the hall, keeping watch. The other guard was sitting on the floor just outside the room, fidgeting with his hands while Maxon paced.

“Well?” the prince asked.

“She’s doing better. Anne took care of everything, and America is . . . Well, she had a lot of the brandy, so she’s a little out of it.” The lyrics of her Christmas song trilled through my head and I giggled. “You can go in now.”

The guard on the floor was up in a flash, Maxon right behind him. I wanted to stop them, ask questions, but now probably wasn’t the time.

I wearily walked back to our room, crashing now that the adrenaline had faded. As I approached, I saw Carter sitting in the hall outside our door.

“Oh! You didn’t have to wait up for me,” I said quietly, hoping not to disturb anyone else.

“I put her on our bed,” he said, “so I decided I’d wait out here.”

“Put who on our bed?”

“The girl from the kitchen. The one who was with the guard.”

“Oh, right.” I sat next to him. “What did she want with me?”

“It sounds like you’re training her. Her name is Paige, and based on the story she just told me, tonight was a really interesting night.”

“What do you mean?”

He lowered his voice even further. “She was a prostitute. She said America found her and brought her here. So the prince and America were outside of the palace tonight. Do you have any idea why?”

I shook my head. “All I know is, I was just helping Anne stitch up America’s gunshot wound.”

Carter’s shocked expression mirrored my own. “What could they have done to put themselves in such danger?”

I yawned. “I don’t know. But I have a feeling it was an effort to do good.”

While running into prostitutes and shoot-outs didn’t sound entirely wholesome, if there was one thing I knew about Maxon, it was that he always strove to do what was right.

“Come on,” Carter said. “You can sleep next to Paige. And I’ll sleep on the floor.”

“Nope. Where you go, I go,” I replied. I needed to be beside him tonight. So much was going through my head, and I knew he was my only safe place.

I remembered thinking America was foolish for being upset with Maxon over my caning, but it made sense now. Even though he had my utmost respect, I couldn’t help feeling a little angry with him for letting her get hurt. For the first time I was able to see my caning through her eyes. I knew then just how much I loved her, and how much she must love me. If she felt half the worry I felt tonight, it was more than enough.

It’d been a week and a half, and nothing felt quite normal yet. Everywhere I went, all the conversations still revolved around the attack. I was one of the lucky few. While others were ruthlessly murdered throughout the palace, Carter and I were safely tucked away in our room. He had been outside tending to the grounds when he heard gunshots, and the instant he realized what was happening, he raced into the kitchen and grabbed me, and we ran to our room. I helped him push our bed against the door, and we lay on it, adding to the weight.

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