Page 79 of Ruined Kingdom

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While the brothers are in the kitchen and I’m allowed upstairs unguarded, I slip back into Amadeo’s room, although I have no intention of sleeping there. During my exploration of the room while he showered, I found something that belonged to me. The small dagger he confiscated from me the night he brought me here was tucked into a nightstand drawer and forgotten.

I hurry to retrieve it, then walk into the closet to change into a pair of sleeping shorts and a silk tank top, one of the vast selection of clothes for me hanging here, tags still attached. I guess Amadeo figured out a suitcase with a week’s worth of clothes, most of which have been ruined wasn’t going to last and, considering the number of things he bought, I wonder how long he plans to keep us.

Taking a pillow from the bed, I tuck the dagger into the case. In case I run into one of the brothers or another soldier, I will be prepared. The bed is still rumpled from where we made love. No, not made love. Why would I even think those words? We fucked. And I don’t want to think about how I told him to do it. How I did not fight him. How I came.

The space between my legs aches as I make myself turn from the bed and walk toward the door. I can’t unpack what happened just yet. Things between us should be cut and dry. He is my captor. I am his hostage. We negotiated a deal. Period, the end. But it’s gotten complicated. Even seeing Bastian tonight with Emma asleep in his arms has thrown me off.

I give my head a shake. It’s late. I’m tired. That’s all this is.

Crossing the hallway, I quietly step into Emma’s room, grateful not to run into anyone on my way. Neither Emma nor Hyacinth stir as I slip the dagger from the pillowcase and look around for where to hide it. The room is stocked with toys, dolls, books, and clothes bursting from drawers in the closet. I choose a shoebox, take the sandals out and set them on the floor, then set the dagger at the bottom and stuff two sweaters on top. I place it on the highest rack where there’s no danger of my sister finding it. Then I return to the bedroom.

Hyacinth stirs, smiles when she sees me, and falls back asleep. She’s been with us since Mom died. And she loves Emma as much as I do.

Picking up the pillow I brought in, I slip into the bed next to Emma, wrap an arm around her warm little body, and smell the familiar scent of her shampoo as I close my eyes. But that’s not all I smell. The pillow I grabbed must be Amadeo’s. I pick up his scent as I turn my face into it. Something flutters in my stomach. He could have taken what he wanted to take from me and cast me aside. Locked me back in my room. Or worse. He could have denied me Emma and left my sister in my brother’s house. He didn’t do any of those things. And while I know he can use Emma to force my hand, he could have forced me anyway. He didn’t need to bring her.

And then there’s Bastian. The way his eyes look at me like they will see right into me. The fervor inside them that he doesn’t hide as easily as his brother. The way Emma slept so peacefully, her head on his shoulder. The gentle way he carried her.

He’s different than Amadeo. He is perhaps more comfortable with his hate of me. But there’s more, and I’m curious to know what is behind it all, which makes this harder. Which is why I need to keep one thing in mind. I need to get Emma and Hyacinth out of here. I need for Amadeo to keep his word, and if I have the opportunity to escape him, escape them, I will take it. So as much as I am aware of how deeply I’m inhaling the lingering scent of Amadeo’s aftershave on the pillow, I need to keep my goal in sight.


Get us out.

Once we’re safely away from the brothers, I’ll figure out the rest.

With those thoughts, I hug the tiny body beside me, and I let myself drift to sleep.

I wake to a squeeze of small arms around my neck that instantly bring a smile to my face. I open my eyes to find Emma’s locked on me in disbelief.

“Oh, sweetheart,” I say, hugging her tight to me, nuzzling my face in her soft curls and just breathing a silent prayer of gratitude that she is here, she is truly here in my arms and safe.

Safe from one evil, at least.

I draw back to look at her, masking anything but joy on my face. She sits up, rubs her eyes with her stuffed pig, Rosie, and looks around the room, big brown eyes huge, little mouth open. I sit up too and see Hyacinth is slowly waking.

Emma puts her hand on my cheek, and I turn to her. She makes a questioning motion with her hands, her shoulders hunching up. What I told Bastian and Amadeo was about the extent of it. My little sister hasn’t spoken a word since our mother’s death. Trauma. She can hear me. And she is capable of speech. But the death of our mother, and most likely being trapped in the car with her body for hours, literally left her speechless.

The therapy I insisted we send her to hasn’t helped at all. And the only people she has felt at ease with in the last year have been Hyacinth and me. Even at the daycare she attends for a few hours a week purely to get her around other children, she doesn’t speak. Hasn’t made a single friend.

There is hope, though. The condition can reverse itself.

“This is your new room while we stay with the brothers,” I tell her, not really sure how to explain it. “Isn’t it nice? And look at all the toys and books. I bet they have some of your favorites in there.”

She looks at the bookshelf, then scoots off the bed and goes to it. Hyacinth and I exchange a quiet glance as we watch her choose a book and, smiling, carry it back to me, climbing back up onto the bed after handing it to me.

The Gruffalo. It’s one of her favorites. Mine too.

She sits with her legs crossed and points at the book, then must see the rings on my finger. She cocks her head to the side and rubs the diamond, then looks up at me.

“Should we read it?” I ask, unsure how to explain that I am married, but she doesn’t seem to grasp their significance and nods, focusing on the book. I read it to her while Hyacinth goes into the bathroom to run her a bath.

“Lots of toys in here, too, Emma,” she says. “Even a pink toothbrush for you.”

Emma smiles, sets the book on her pillow, and climbs off the bed, then reaches for my hand.

I stand and let her lead me into the bathroom, where she brushes her teeth at the sink. Hyacinth switches off the water, and I can see the questions in her eyes.

Tags: Natasha Knight Romance