Home > The Crown (The Selection #5)(4)

The Crown (The Selection #5)(4)
Kiera Cass

As I went to exit the studio, I stopped short because my path was blocked by a row of gentlemen. The first face I saw was Hale’s. His expression lit up as he held out a flower. “For you.”

I looked down the line and saw they all had flowers in their hands, some with roots still noticeably attached. All I could assume was that they had heard their names on the announcement, rushed from the Men’s Parlor to the garden, and come down here.

“You idiots,” I sighed. “Thank you.”

I took Hale’s flower and hugged him. “I know I said something every day,” he whispered, “but let me know if you need me to up it to two, okay?”

I held him a little tighter. “Thanks.”

Ean was next, and though we’d only ever touched during those staged photos of our date, I found myself unable to refrain from embracing him.

“I get the feeling you were coerced into this,” I murmured.

“I took mine from a vase in the hallway. Don’t tell the staff on me.”

I patted his back, and he did the same to me.

“She’ll be okay,” he promised. “You all will.”

Kile had pricked his finger on a thorn and held his bleeding hand awkwardly away from my clothes as we hugged, which made me laugh and was perfect.

“For smiles,” Henri said as I added his flower to my messy bouquet.

“Good, good,” I replied, and he laughed at me.

Even Erik had gotten me a flower. I smirked a bit as I took it.

“This is a dandelion,” I told him.

He shrugged. “I know. Some see a weed; some see a flower. Perspective.”

I wrapped my arms around him, and I could feel him looking at the others as I held him, seeming uncomfortable to be getting the same treatment as they had.

Gunner swallowed, not able to say much, but held me gently before I moved on.

Fox had three flowers in his hand. “I couldn’t pick.”

I smiled. “They’re all beautiful. Thanks.”

Fox’s embrace was tight, like he needed the support more than the others did. I held on to him as I looked back at my Elite.

No, this whole process made no sense, but I could see how it happened, how your heart could get swept up in the endeavor. And that was my hope now: that somehow duty and love would overlap, and I’d find myself happy in the middle of it all.

MOM’S HANDS FELT SO SOFT, almost papery in a way. The feeling made me think of how water smoothed out the edges of a stone. I smiled, thinking she must have been a very rough stone once upon a time.

“Did you ever used to get it wrong?” I asked. “Say the wrong words, do the wrong things?”

I waited for an answer, receiving nothing but the hum of equipment and the beat of the monitor.

“Well, you and Dad used to fight, so you must have been wrong sometimes.”

I held her hand tighter, trying to warm it in mine.

“I made all the announcements. Now everyone knows about Ahren getting married and that you’re a little … indisposed at the moment. I cut the boys down to six. I know that’s a big cut, but Dad said it was okay and that he did that when it was his turn, so no one can get upset.” I sighed. “Regardless, I have a feeling people will still find a way to get upset with me.”

I blinked back tears, worried she’d sense how scared I was. The doctors believed that the shock of Ahren’s departure was the catalyst for her current condition, though I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d contributed to her stress daily, like drops of poison so small someone didn’t realize they’d ingested something dangerous until it had overtaken them.

“Anyway, I’m off to run my first advisory board meeting as soon as Dad gets back. He says it shouldn’t be too difficult. Honestly, I feel like General Leger had the toughest job of anyone today, trying to get Dad to go eat, because he fought so hard to stay here with you. The general was insistent, though, and Dad finally caved. I’m glad he’s here. General Leger, I mean. It’s kind of like having a backup parent.”

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