Page 17 of Ruined Kingdom

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They’re at a charity fundraiser. According to the headline, my father is donating a considerable sum to children’s cancer research.

“They attended that party the same night we buried our sister. Just washed their hands and carried on like nothing had happened at all. Like lives weren’t destroyed.” His eyes meet mine. “But I guess for them, nothing had happened.”

He turns the page, and there’s a picture of me at a ballet recital. I remember that night. How proud I was in my pink leotard and magenta ruffled tutu.

“You had everything, didn’t you?” He flips through several pages too quickly for me to do more than glimpse a photo or a headline.

In my periphery, I see the little glass jar with the bunch of dandelions stuck inside it. They’re drooping over the sides.

He closes the book but remains where he’s standing.

“Does your brother still like to fuck little girls?”

My gaze snaps to his, and I want to ask what the hell he’s talking about, but he continues.

“How many others did Daddy pay off to keep silent? How many knees did he break?”

“My father…” I shake my head. “He wouldn’t do that.”

He cocks his head to the side, eyes narrowing, and suddenly, he looks like his brother. The emotion, the intense pain of moments ago gone. Now he’s just frightening. He chuckles. “No, you’re right. Wouldn’t want to get his hands dirty.”

“He wasn’t like that.” I stand. “He’s dead. You desecrated his body. You had no right—”

“That’s rich,” he says. “Back on your knees, dandelion girl.”

My heart pounds but I ignore the voice inside my head telling me to do as he says and stand my ground. It’s dangerous, I know, but I’ve never been good at taking orders.


One corner of his mouth curves upward as he exhales, shakes his head, and in the next instant, his hand is in my hair. Mine wraps around his forearm, and he’s pushing me down, crouching with me as my knees hit the floor. I think I should have saved my dagger for now. For this brother.

“I remember you. Hell, I can still hear the tune you were singing. Not a care in the fucking world,” he says.

“You’re making a mistake. I don’t know you and you don’t know me. Whatever happened to your sister, I’m sorry about it, but it has nothing to do with me or my family.”

“But you’re here now. Ours,” he says as if he hasn’t heard me at all. He brings his face closer and inhales like a predator might his prey. He’s so close I can feel his breath on my ear and down my neck when he speaks. “Ours to punish. To level the scales.”

His hand tightens in my hair, and a tear slips from the corner of my eye.

“When I say kneel, what do you do, dandelion girl?” He tugs my head backward painfully, and I make an involuntary sound as more tears come. I swear he’s going to break my neck.

“What. Do. You. Do?” he asks again.

“I kneel.”

He releases me and straightens. I stumble onto my hands and see the dirt on his shoes. I wonder if it’s from the cemetery. God. Did all of that happen just yesterday?

“Good girl,” he says condescendingly. “It’ll be in your best interest to remember that.” He looks around the room. “I think my brother was right to keep you.”

I don’t like the grin on his face.

He walks to the door, and I watch him go. “You get some reading in. There may be a pop quiz, and you won’t want to fuck that up.”

Tags: Natasha Knight Romance