Home > The Crown (The Selection #5)(9)

The Crown (The Selection #5)(9)
Kiera Cass

“Yes!” he exclaimed. “I can still picture it perfectly. He was so rude to everyone, falling down drunk by noon two days in a row, and your mom finally grabbed him by the ear and dragged him out the front door.”

I shook my head. “I do. I also remember the endless phone calls afterward trying to smooth things over with their president.”

Kile brushed that detail away. “Forget that. Just remember, your mother doesn’t let things happen to her. When something tries to ruin her life, she drags it into the street.”

I smiled. “True.”

We stood there, quiet for a moment, and it was pleasant and still. I’d never been so grateful. “I’m busy the rest of today, but maybe we could spend some time together tomorrow night?”

He nodded. “Of course.”

“There’s a lot to talk about.”

His eyebrows knit together. “Like what?”

We both turned at the same time, noting the figure in our periphery.

“Excuse me, Your Highness,” the guard said with a bow, “but you have a visitor.”

“A visitor?”

He nodded, giving me no information as to who it might be.

I sighed. “Fine. I’ll get in touch later, okay?”

Kile gave my hand a quick squeeze. “Sure. Let me know if you need anything.”

I smiled as I left him, knowing that he meant that. In the back of my mind, I felt certain all the young men in that room would rush to my side if I needed them to, and that was a small silver lining on an otherwise dreary day.

I rounded the stairs, trying to guess at who was here. If it had been family, they’d have been brought to a room; and if it was a governor or some other official visitor, they’d have sent up a card. Who was so important that they couldn’t even be announced?

As I descended to the first floor, the answer to my question stood there, his bright smile making my breath catch.

Marid Illéa hadn’t set foot in the palace in years. The last time I’d laid eyes on him, he was a gangly preteen who hadn’t quite mastered conventional conversation. But his round cheeks had turned into a jaw line sharp enough to cut, and his stringy limbs had filled out, hitting the seams of his suit with perfect precision. He held my gaze as I approached, and even though his hands were full with an overflowing basket, he bowed and smiled as if he was completely unencumbered.

“Your Highness,” he said. “I’m sorry to come unannounced, but as soon as we heard about your mother, we felt we had to do something. So …”

He held out the basket toward me. It was full of gifts. Flowers, thin books, jars of soup with ribbons around the lids, and even a few bakery items that looked so good it was hard not to take one for myself.

“Marid,” I said, a greeting, a question, and an admonition all at once. “This is above and beyond, all things considered.”

He shrugged. “Disagreements don’t mean a loss of compassion. Our queen is sick, and this was the least we could do.”

I smiled, moved by his sudden appearance. I motioned to a guard.

“Take this to the hospital wing, please.”

He took the gift basket, and I turned my focus back to Marid.

“Your parents didn’t want to come?”

He shoved his hands into his pockets and grimaced. “They were afraid the visit would seem more political than personal.”

I nodded. “Understandable. But please tell them not to worry about that in the future. They’re still welcome here.”

Marid sighed. “They didn’t think so, not after their … exit.”

I pressed my lips together, remembering it all so clearly.

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