Home > The Crown (The Selection #5)(12)

The Crown (The Selection #5)(12)
Kiera Cass

Kaden’s expression showed he wasn’t satisfied with that answer. “Do you think he’ll come back?”

I took a deep breath. “Let’s not worry about that tonight. I’m sure he’ll call soon, and he’ll be able to tell us everything. For now, all you two need to know is, your brother is happy, your mom is going to be okay, and I have everything under control. All right?”

They smiled. “All right.”

Osten’s expression went from perfectly fine to completely distraught in seconds, and his lip began to tremble. “It’s my fault, isn’t it?”

“What’s your fault?” I got on one knee in front of him.

“Mom. It’s my fault. She always told me to calm down a little more, and then she’d run her hand through her hair like she was worn out. It’s my fault. I made her too tired.”

“At least you didn’t bother her over school so much,” Kaden said quietly. “I was always bugging her for books and better tutors, and making her answer questions when she had other stuff to do. I took up all her time.”

So we were all blaming ourselves. Perfect.

“Osten, don’t think that. Ever,” I insisted, pulling him in for a hug. “Mom is a queen. If anything, you were the least stressful part of her life. Yes, it’s hard to be a mother, but she always had us to run to if she needed a laugh. And who’s easily the funniest of the four of us?”

“Me.” His voice was weak, but he did smile a little as he wiped his nose.

“Exactly. And Kaden, do you think Mom would rather you ask her a dozen questions or have you wander through life with the wrong answers?”

He fidgeted with his fingers some more as he thought it over. “She’d want me to come to her.”

“So there you go. Let’s be honest—we’re a pretty intense bunch, yeah?” Osten laughed, and Kaden’s expression brightened. “But whatever we put her through, it was welcome. She’d rather have forced me to learn my penmanship than never have had a daughter. She’d rather have been your living encyclopedia than not connect with us. She’d rather have begged you to sit still than have had only three children. None of this is because of us,” I promised.

I waited for them to turn and run, to get past showing this tiny chink in their armor. But they didn’t budge. I sighed to myself, knowing what they were hoping for and realizing I was prepared to lose some much-needed sleep on their behalf.

“Do you want to stay here tonight?”

Osten bolted over to my bed. “Yeah!”

I shook my head. What was I going to do with these boys? I crawled into bed, and Kaden pressed himself against my back as Osten rested his head on the pillow across from me. I realized that the bathroom light was still on, but I let it go. We needed a little light at the moment.

“It’s not the same without Ahren,” Kaden said quietly.

Osten pulled his arms in close, bundling himself up. “Yeah. It doesn’t feel right.”

“I know. But don’t worry. We’ll find a new normal. You’ll see.” Somehow, for them, I would make that happen.

“GOOD MORNING, YOUR HIGHNESS.”

“Good morning,” I replied to the butler. “Strong coffee, please, and whatever the chef has prepared for the Elite is fine.”

“Of course.”

He returned with blueberry pancakes and sausage links, and a hard-boiled egg sliced in half. I picked at my meal while I skimmed the papers. There was news of bad weather in one area and some speculation over who I might marry somewhere else, but in general, it looked like the entire nation had lost the will to do much more than worry about Mom. I was grateful. I had been positive the country would revolt when I was named regent. Part of me was still worried that if I gave the slightest indication that I might fail, their hatred would slam into me without mercy.

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