Page 52 of Ruined Kingdom

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I give it a good hour after he’s gone before I knock on my own bedroom door to get Oaf’s attention. He opens it and raises his eyebrows.

“What do you want?”

“I left something in Amadeo’s room last night. I need to get it.”

“No.” He starts to pull the door shut.

I put my foot out to stop it from closing. “Look, I don’t want to be gross, but I have my period and left my tampons in his bathroom. I need to change, or I’m going to make a bloody mess here.” Oaf looks as awkward as I imagined he would. “It’ll take a minute. I’ll just run over and grab the box.”

“Fine.” He opens the door and takes my arm before I step out into the hallway. “Don’t try anything.”

“What would I try? How could I ever get away from someone like you? You’re obviously too big and strong for me.” I want to puke. “Besides, even if I somehow managed it, there are more armed men on-site. I’m not stupid. I just really don’t want to bleed all over Amadeo’s nice things,” I say, purposely circling back to the topic. “Obviously, this room belonged to someone important once.”

He walks me to Amadeo’s room, opens the door, and steps in with me.

“I’ll be a minute. I need to slip a tampon in. I had to take the one I was—"

“Do what you need to do,” he says, holding a hand up in a gesture for me to stop talking. He steps back into the hallway, and although I’d love it if he’d close the door, he doesn’t. But he’s reasonably busy on his phone, so I hurry toward the dresser where I saw Amadeo drop my father’s ring and open the drawer. It’s just tossed in there like it’s nothing. I grab it out, slip it onto my thumb, even though it’s too big, and close the drawer. It jams.

“Hey. You done?” Oaf calls out.

“Yeah, thanks,” I say, pushing my hand into my pocket. “Grabbed some.”

“Good.” He takes my arm to walk me back to my room and is about to lock me in, but I stop him.

“I won’t tell Amadeo about you letting me out. I know he won’t like that, and I don’t want to get you in trouble.”

He considers this, then nods. I assume that means he won’t mention it either, so I slip into the bedroom and let him lock me in, smiling as I draw my hand from my pocket and look at my prize.

Although my win is bittersweet. Wholly bitter, in fact. There’s nothing sweet about this. My father is dead. Gone. This is the last thing of his that I have, and he should have been buried with it. Buried properly in a coffin, not dropped into a hole in the ground facedown.

I look around the room. It hasn’t been used for a while but has good views. Better than Amadeo’s, actually, if I think about it. I open each of the drawers in the dresser as well as the antique armoire and find it all empty except for a blank notebook and one framed photo that must have been missed in the back of a drawer. I take it out and see how the glass has cracked. It’s the only personal thing in here.

A white-haired man stands proudly in the center. Beside him is the one I met last night, Sonny. He has a deep scowl on his face. Next to him and with their arms over each other’s shoulders are Amadeo and another man his age. Younger than Sonny but so similar in appearance, I am sure this is Sonny’s son. I wonder if this was his room once. Or Sonny’s. Did they live here?

I set the photo on a shelf when a knock comes on the door. I quickly slip the ring into my pocket as Oaf opens it to let a woman in with a tray of food. Breakfast. I thank her and settle in to eat, knowing it will be a long day.

Amadeo returns as I’m lying on the bed throwing a paper airplane, one of a dozen I’ve made using pages from the empty notepad, across the room. He catches it, eyebrows raised when he looks at the discarded planes all around him. He unfolds one.

“Don’t worry, I didn’t use any of your precious newspaper articles. Only blank sheets of paper.”

“Interesting way to pass your time, Dandelion.”

“It was a long day.”

“Did you behave yourself?”

“Of course.” I smile as fake a smile as I can muster. “Who are the men with you in the picture? I recognize the one from last night, but who are the others?”

“What picture?”

I point at where it’s now displayed beside that book of Russo crimes against his family.

He walks over to it and picks up the frame. Unexpected emotions darken his features. Sadness. Loss. It makes me curious.

“Where did you get this?”

Tags: Natasha Knight Romance