Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Four

Adelina stepped out of the carriage and took a deep breath. 

“You’ve got this.” Anissa was right next to her, supporting her. 

“We are right by your side. Just act natural and no one will figure it out.” Edwin whispered, leading them all into the castle. 

“If I get found out, we all die.” 

“Let’s focus on the positives.” Adelina could tell Edwin was nervous, but he was doing a good job of not showing it. 

Adelina kept her gaze down as they were greeted by Haimon and Katerina. She doubted that Haimon would recognize her, but she wasn’t going to take any chances. 

“This is my cousin, Mary.” Edwin introduced her. 

“My son will be delighted to learn that Edwin is having a wonderful young lady like you stay with him.” Haimon smiled. 

Adelina forced a smile as Anissa put a hand on her back. Whether it was a hand of support or to hold her back, Adelina wasn’t sure. 

“I will be delighted to meet your son.” Adelina answered, forcing her voice higher than normal. 

They continued into the ballroom, putting as many people between them and Haimon as possible. Adelina kept her eyes down, only focusing on Anissa’s skirt in front of her. Suddenly it disappeared from her view and Adelina looked up quickly. Several people were in between them now, but the crowd was becoming so tightly packed that it would be nearly impossible to get back to them. 

Adelina looked around, trying to find a place where she could find shelter. She was too exposed here. 

She looked across the dance floor and her heart dropped suddenly. There he was, talking to another young man across the dance floor. Even with his mask on, Adelina could tell that it was him. His stance, his posture, the way he carried himself. It was Drustan. 

He finished talking to the man and turned around, looking around the dance floor. He turned and his eyes met hers. He froze, his lips parting slightly. 

They stared at each other for a moment and it was like the entire world had stopped moving and it was just the two of them. The music became faint, as if it was far away. All that Adelina could see was Drustan. She was a fourteen year old girl all over again, bumping into him in the garden. She had nearly fallen over and he had steadied her. All at once, things between them had changed. She had never been able to look at him as just a friend again. All of those emotions came rushing back to her now as she stared into those brown eyes for the first time in two years. She knew he recognized her by the way his mouth formed her name silently. 

All too soon, his jaw clenched and he shook his head, taking a step forward. The moment was over. Now he was going to come after her. 

She took a few steps back, nearly tripping over someone. She finally tore her gaze away from his face and turned, pushing her way as gently as possible through the crowd. She looked around, frantically trying to find someone to protect her. Edwin and Anissa were on the other side of the room now, looking for her. She met Anissa’s eyes and looked back over her shoulder. Edwin and Anissa looked between her and Drustan anxiously. They were too far away, and causing a scene would only draw more attention to Adelina. 

There was nowhere for her to go. It was only a matter of time before Drustan found her in this room. And now that Drustan knew she was alive, it was only a matter of time before he found her and killed her. 

She stood against the wall, feeling for her knife in the back of her dress. It was too hard to get it when she was standing against the wall, but by now she was too crowded to move. 

Drustan pushed through the crowd and stopped right in front of her, staring at her. She clenched her fists, ready to do whatever she had to in order to protect herself. 

“Adelina?” He hissed. 

“Surprised?” She answered, forcing the nervousness out of her voice. 

“They told me you died.” His demeanor and tone were cold but his eyes held something else- something warm and longing. 

“It’s going to take a lot more than a fire and killing my parents to get rid of me.” She glanced around, making sure no one was listening to their conversation.

“What do you know?” 

She shook her head. “Did you really believe that I would let them kill me? That I wouldn’t put up a fight? And you should’ve told your father to check his surroundings before he killed someone. He’s going to regret that mistake.” 

“My father?” The distant attitude was gone for a moment, replaced by confusion. Then, just as suddenly as it had disappeared, it was back. He was good at this. 

“Don’t play dumb, Drustan. You know what he did. You know what you did.” She shook her head. “I just can’t believe that you think I’m going to let you get away with it.” She started edging along the wall away from him but he reached out and grabbed her wrist, keeping her from leaving.

“What are you planning?” His voice was low- low, and dangerous.

“Whatever I have to do to make sure my parents didn’t die for nothing. Whatever that includes, I’ll do.” She didn’t have to tell him exactly what she meant- she knew that he understood. 

“Is that what your father told you to do?” There was judgment in his tone.  

“Don’t you dare bring him up. You have no right to talk about him-  you didn’t even know him. And you don’t know me.” She glared at him. “So don’t act like there’s some moral standard you can hold me to.” 

“I knew your father and I knew him well. Whatever you are planning isn’t something he would have wanted.” He said through gritted teeth.

“You would say that, wouldn’t you?” Adelina said, looking around again. Her eyes locked on Haimon walking towards them over Drustan’s shoulder. 

“I have to go.” He still had her arm in his grasp and she couldn’t get away. “Please, Drustan. If you ever cared about me at all, let me go. If your father figures out that it’s me…” 

Drustan clenched his jaw. “He’ll never let you leave this place if he wants to find you. The only way to get away from him is to get out in the open.” He pursed his lips slightly. “Lady Adelina, will you dance with me?” 

She stared up at him, not wanting to accept. But did she have any other option? His father was getting closer, and he clearly wasn’t going to let her die until he got the answers he needed. “Fine.” 

He led her out onto the dance floor as the next song began, in the opposite direction of his father. She stared at his chest, forcing herself not to look up at him. 

He pulled her closer and she could feel his fingers pressing against the blade hidden in the back of her dress. He knew. 

Adelina looked up at him quickly and he smirked, his cold outward demeanor returning now that everyone could see them. 

“You didn’t think I’d get so close without checking, did you darling?” He asked reproachfully.

Adelina smiled gracefully, as if enjoying the dance. “No. I’m just surprised that you thought that about me.” She met his eyes again as she pulled his dagger part of the way out of his sleeve. It had been a wild guess and she was glad that she had been right. Wiping that smug smirk off of his face for even a little while was worth it. 

He pulled her closer, whispering in her ear. “Kill me here and everyone will know it was you.” He had definitely understood her meaning earlier. 

Her breath caught in her throat at his nearness. Her knees nearly buckled and it took everything in her not to lean on him for support. This just became a much more difficult mission- falling back in love with him had not been a part of the plan. It would make killing him so much harder if it came down to it. 

She pursed her lips, attempting to force the feeling away. “It might be worth it.” 

He raised an eyebrow, though she could barely see it under his mask. “You couldn’t kill me if you tried. And besides, you don’t mean that, love.” 

“Maybe I do.” 

“You do know my father will kill you if he figures out who you are.” It wasn’t a question- it was a threat and a very clear one. And as much as she hated to admit it, he was right. Killing him here would make things all too simple for Haimon.

“Are you implying that you won’t, now that you do?” If he thought his father would kill her, then he knew his father wanted her dead. He had to be lying to her about not knowing anything. 

“It depends on what you plan on doing with this.” He tapped the knife. 

She laughed bitterly. “That is purely for self defense tonight.” 

“Just tonight?”

“If I get what I want, then yes.” 

“And what do you want?” 

“You and your father behind bars.” She answered casually. “Which you are probably opposed to, so my knife may come in handy.”  

“And what exactly do you think is going to get my father and I behind bars?” There was something cool and calculating in his voice- she needed to tread very carefully here. 

“The fact that I witnessed your father kill mine, and give orders to his men to kill my mother. And told his men that you especially mentioned killing me.” 

“If I had wanted you dead, Adelina, I would have killed you myself before I left.” At least his ever present wit and charm hadn’t left in the past two years. “And don’t say I couldn’t have- I would have found some way. I wouldn’t have left my father to do my dirty work, and you know it. I’m no coward.” 

“I would disagree.” She glared up at him. “I’ve never met a bigger coward.” 

“You are in no place to be insulting me, Adelina. I could stop this all right now and tell my father who you are. I hold all the power here, so I would be careful what you say next. I don’t even know how you snuck in here.” 

“You wouldn’t turn me in even if you needed to.” She taunted. “Everything in you goes against it. And no one will believe that I- the innocent cousin of one of your guests- poses any threat to you.” 

“Ah, but you forget- I ‘don’t know you and I never have’. Remember? Turning in a stranger is easy.” 

She leaned closer, all of the old feelings being replaced with pain and anger. “Don’t you dare mock me, Drustan. Don’t you dare.” Hot tears filled her eyes and she blinked a few times, trying to get them to disappear. 

His smug expression fell and his mouth opened slightly as if he wanted to say something but couldn’t. He glanced around, his eyes locking on someone. By the look in his eyes, it was his father. Had she underestimated him? Would he truly turn her in? She sent up a silent prayer, hoping that he hadn’t changed that much. 

***************************

Drustan tore his gaze away from his father who had been watching their every move. He looked back down at her, taking a deep breath. 

“They were your words, not mine, love.” He resumed his cold demeanor, unable to show her his true emotion. It was all too much to process and he certainly wasn’t prepared to do it in front of Adelina. It was easier to act cold and confident rather than try to figure it all out now.

A child’s cry rang through the room before she could respond and Adelina’s face turned ashen. Drustan felt her start to go limp and prepared to support her but she caught herself in time. What was so upsetting to her?

 Everyone turned as Kingsley ran to his mother. 

“Momma!” He squealed and jumped around her, waiting for her to pick him up. 

“What are you doing here, Kingsley?” She asked softly, patting the top of his head and trying to calm him down. 

“Claire fell asleep so I crawled out of my bed and came to see you!” His small voice held so much hope and joy.

“Kingsley.” Their father’s voice boomed. The child cowered against their mother in fear. “You aren’t supposed to be down here. What did I tell you about what happens when you interrupt parties?” 

Kingsley whimpered and hid behind their mother. 

“Drustan, take him back to bed. Make sure he is properly disciplined.” Haimon didn’t even look over his shoulder at Drustan- which was a good thing, because he probably would have noticed how pale Adelina was. 

“Yes, sir.” Drustan made sure that Adelina was stable before walking forward and picking up Kingsley. He tried to make it appear rough but he was careful not to hurt the child. 

Kingsley cried in his arms the whole way to his room. Claire, his nursemaid, was awakened by those cries and stood quickly. 

“I’m so sorry, Lord Drustan. I must have fallen asleep and not noticed when he left.” 

“It’s alright, Claire. I’ll make sure that he stays in bed this time. You are clearly tired so you can go to sleep in your room.” 

She curtseyed. “Thank you, Lord Drustan.” 

Drustan sighed as she left, sitting down in the chair she had vacated with Kingsley in his lap. 

“You know you shouldn’t interrupt parties, don’t you Kingsley?” He asked softly.

Kingsley looked up at him through tear filled eyes and nodded. “Hurt me, Drustan? 

Drustan shook his head. “It’ll be our secret. I’m not going to hurt you.” 

“Father hurts me.” Kingsley sniffed. 

Drustan clenched his jaw. Was he wrong about his father?  If his father was willing to hurt his son so badly in order to discipline him, how could he be a good father? And if Adelina was right, and his father had killed her parents, then what kind of person was he? If his father was willing to kill a newborn baby, he clearly wasn’t the kind of person Drustan thought he was. 

Drustan froze, looking back down at Kingsley. It couldn’t be… could it? Wouldn’t Adelina have mentioned that when she was accusing him of killing her parents? Unless she didn’t know. But it would explain why she was suddenly so shaken when Kingsley came into the ballroom. 

He stared at Kingsley a moment longer. It would make sense. Kingsley had light blonde hair with blue eyes. While their mother had dark blonde hair, no one in their family had blue eyes. Was Kingsley really Asher? Had his parents been lying to him this whole time and telling him this was his little brother, when it was really Adelina’s? 

“Okay, Dru?” Kingsley asked, his eyes wide. 

Drustan blinked a few times. “Yes, I’m fine. Let’s get you back to bed.” He pushed away all of his doubts and confusion, focusing on Kingsley and calming him down enough to sleep. 

  He made his way back down to the ballroom quickly, searching the room for Adelina from the doorway. She was nowhere to be found. She had made good use of him being distracted- he would never be able to find her now that she was gone. She hadn’t even revealed who she was here with. The only way to see her again would be if she came to him of her own accord. It would be pointless to go to all of the houses in the area, demanding they turn over a dead woman. They would only laugh at him.

The only person he was slightly suspicious of was Edwin. But Edwin would have told him if Adelina was alive, wouldn’t he? He would have known how happy Drustan would be. 

Because underneath it all, Drustan really was happy that Adelina was alive. Seeing her across the ballroom… he had known her instantly, even with the mask. And it was like the life had been breathed back into him. He had acted cold and distant but only because he didn’t want anyone to know just how much he wanted to shout from the rooftops that his best friend was alive. No one could know that- especially not his father. Even more so if what Adelina had said was true. If she was right, his father would do whatever it took to make sure that she was silenced forever. 

How could Drustan get behind that? He couldn’t. That was the simple answer. He would never be able to get behind his father killing Adelina. The realization- though so obvious- hit him like a stone wall. Everything his father did from now on would be to make sure that no one found out about what had happened. If Drustan was being honest, everything his father had done in the past two years had probably been for that sole purpose. And once his father found out Adelina was alive- and he would- things would only get worse. 

Drustan scanned the room again, taking note of where his father and his mother were. They were both in separate areas across the room- his mother was talking to a guest and his father was talking to one of the guards. Drustan watched his father for a moment, trying to figure out what he was saying. Was he telling the guard to go after Adelina? Was he angry? He didn’t look angry- there was a smug smile on his face. Drustan let out a small breath of relief. Just knowing that Adelina- and thus Drustan- was safe for now was enough to almost put a smile on his face. Almost. 

“You look lonely, Lord Drustan.” A young woman sauntered up to him. “Did that dance partner of yours leave you?” 

Drustan cleared his throat. “On the contrary, I’m afraid. I left her.”

“Ah yes, to help with that little brother of yours. I remember now.” She batted her eyelashes at him. “It must be so difficult, needing to attend to a child’s every whim.” 

Drustan wanted to retort but he knew that if he did, his father would hear of it. “Children can be quite trivial sometimes, I’m afraid. But I don’t mind. Kingsley is my blood, after all.” Or maybe not. 

“Yes, I completely understand.” She smiled, as if she had agreed with him the whole time. “I have several little siblings of my own and I would lay down my life for them if I had to.” 

Drustan nodded, forcing a smile. “They can be quite endearing creatures.” 

She- Drustan was fairly certain this was Lady Edna- smiled even wider, though there was a fakeness behind it. “Yes, quite endearing. But they can be rather burdensome, don’t you think? I know that when I have children, I will have a nurse to look after them all of the time. I will only be with them when I am bored and have nothing else to do. And of course, when they are old enough to behave on their own, I will be involved in helping them learn their duties.” If there was ever any doubt in Drustan’s mind, it was gone now. This definitely was not the kind of woman he wanted to marry.

Drustan nodded a little. “I believe I see someone I must speak to across the room. Please excuse me.” He bowed slightly and walked away, trying to make it as far away from her as possible. 

He stopped to talk to someone for a moment, then continued walking, making his way out into the garden. There weren’t many people out there, so no one noticed when he sat down on a bench. He took a deep breath, putting his head in his hands.

“You look like you got caught in a trap.” A young woman’s voice said softly.

He looked up quickly. “Marie.” His cousin sat down next to him, staring down at her feet.

“I saw you talking with Edna. Is she one of the women you are considering?” She asked.

He laughed bitterly, shaking his head. “No. She may be one of the women my father is considering, but not me.”

“She’s a nice person.”

“She wants her children to be raised solely by nurses. They will be her playthings when she is bored but she won’t see them otherwise.”

Marie scrunched her nose. “I can see how that would be a problem.”

“Father keeps trying to push women off on me. I don’t want to marry any of the women he has introduced me to so far.”

“That’s because you don’t want to marry at all.” 

He scoffed. “What makes you say that?” 

Marie laughed. “Let’s be honest, Drustan- Adelina was the only woman you will ever love. And now that she is gone, you have no plans of moving on. Even if love smacked you in the face, you would look past it to Alina’s grave.” 

Drustan sighed. “Adelina was different from anyone I ever met. She understood me. No one else will ever understand me like that. So if I can’t be with her, I can’t be with anyone. It wouldn’t be fair to whoever I married anyway.” 

“You make it sound as if you have a choice. Your father will make you marry someone eventually- you know that, right?” 

“He’ll try.” Drustan answered quietly. 

“Drustan, she’s dead. I’m sorry, but she is. You have to move on.” 

Drustan glanced over at her. “What if she isn’t?” 

Marie raised an eyebrow. “What do you mean?” 

“What would you say if I told you she wasn’t dead?” 

Marie laughed, standing and turning her back to him. “You are crazy, Drustan. If she survived, she would have come back by now.” 

“She did. Tonight.” He could trust Marie with this secret- and he had to tell someone. 

Marie shook her head. “She wouldn’t have come back here. You must have just seen someone who looked like her.”

“I saw her, Marie. I talked to her. It was Adelina.” 

Marie blew out a breath, sitting back down next to him. “Does your father know?” 

Drustan shook his head. “And you can’t tell him. If he finds out, he’ll kill her. He killed her parents, and he’ll kill her if he can.” 

“And you are sure it’s her?” 

Drustan nodded. “Positive.”

“Where is she now?” 

Drustan sighed. “I don’t know. I lost her when I had to take care of Kingsley. I don’t know where she went.” 

“Why is she here?” 

“To put my father- and I- in prison.” 

“And yet you are still in love with her?” 

“I never said that.” 

“It’s in your eyes.” She countered. 

“I never could hide anything from you.” 

“It comes in handy.” She ran a hand through her loose hair. “You do know that this is crazy, right? Trying to keep a secret like this from your father… if he finds out that you know, he won’t just kill Adelina- he’ll kill you too.” 

Drustan nodded. “I know. But I can’t turn her in, Marie. I just got her back. I can’t lose her again. Especially not to my father.” 

“Is she worth more than your life?” 

Drustan sighed. “She’s worth more than everything, Marie. I’m loyal to my father- I have always tried to be a good son- but I can’t go that far. Even as it is, it makes me reconsider everything. I don’t know how to deal with anything anymore. If my father killed Adelina’s parents, how many others has he killed? How many people have I helped him kill?” He rubbed his face with his hands. “I can’t do that anymore, Marie. I can’t help him hurt more people. I have to find a way out.” 

Marie covered his mouth with her hand. “Are you crazy? What if your father hears you?” 

Drustan pushed her hand away. “Relax. He won’t. And besides, I can find some kind of excuse to protect myself.” 

“Drustan, you need to be careful here. Your father has never hurt you, has he?” 

Drustan stared at her for a moment, trying to determine whether or not she was serious. “Every day since I was six.” 

Marie’s eyes widened. “What?” 

“He told me that it made me stronger and a better leader. So every day since I was six, he has hurt me in some capacity. And I believed he was right because my mother and him both told me it was okay.” Drustan propelled himself off the bench, pacing back and forth. “I accepted what they said because they were my parents. I thought that I must just be misunderstanding something. But I was right this whole time. How am I just now realizing this?”

Marie watched him with her mouth open slightly. “Maybe he does have a good reason, Dru. Maybe you are misunderstanding things.” 

Drustan shook his head. “What good reason is there?”

This realization changed everything. And it proved that Adelina was right

He had to find her. He needed answers and she had them. She couldn’t hide from him forever. He would find her. And he would get answers.