Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Five

Adelina stared out the window, searching the fields for any riders coming towards the house. She hadn’t seen anyone but Edwin and Anissa in a week, but she couldn’t help watching. She knew that a week should be enough time for her to be satisfied that she was safe but she just couldn’t shake the nervousness. 

“Adelina, you are going to drive me crazy if you keep staring like that.” Anissa walked into the room, stopping and watching her. 

Adelina tore her eyes away from the trees. “I can’t stop. What if Drustan sends someone and we aren’t prepared?” 

“He doesn’t know where you are, Adelina. And he would have already come himself if he did. He wouldn’t send someone else- you know that. Then his father would find out and he doesn’t want that. If he wanted his father to know, he would have turned you in the moment he saw you.” 

“You don’t know that. Maybe he wants to earn my trust so that he can betray me somehow- or maybe he wants to find out who I am working with so he can kill you too.” 

Anissa rolled her eyes. “You have a vivid imagination, Alina. But I doubt that is his plan. He just has no idea where you are right now so he can’t do anything. It might be wise of you to send him a message, though.” 

“Why would I do that?” 

“So that you can meet and sort this all out.” 

“And get myself killed?” 

“You are seriously overthinking this, Adelina. Drustan is not going to kill you. If anything, he wants to help you. He’s always hated his father, so he wouldn’t help him. He’d help you.” 

“He’s always told us that he hates his father. He could have been lying to gain our trust since he knows that we don’t like his father either.”

Anissa sighed. “You are hopeless, aren’t you?” 

Adelina shrugged, smiling a little. “I can’t help it. And you can’t deny that it is suspicious that his father mentioned him when talking about my death.” 

“I’m definitely with Edwin on this issue- it seems like you must be misunderstanding something here.” 

“I wish I was- you know I do. But it just seems like too much evidence against him.” 

“Too much evidence to you is barely any to me.” Anissa sat down in one of the chairs. 

“Think what you will, but Drustan was working with his father. It’s the only thing that makes sense.” 

“You are overthinking this, Alina. You want to believe the worst about him because it makes it hurt less. But you cannot just say it makes sense because you want it to make sense.” 

Adelina shook her head, forcing herself to fully turn away from the window. “I’m not saying it because I want it to make sense- I’m saying it because it does make sense.” 

“We could go around like this for hours, Adelina, and I really don’t feel like doing that. You don’t need to admit it to me but you know that deep down, I’m right.” She held up a hand before Adelina could protest. “I don’t want to argue any more- I need to go check on dinner. But I need you to understand that as long as you keep denying this, you are never going to heal.” 

She stood and left the room, shutting the door softly behind herself. 

Adelina watched the door for a moment, willing Anissa to come back so that she could get the last say but the door remained closed. Adelina turned quickly, staring out the window again, frowning. 

Anissa wasn’t right. She couldn’t be. Adelina had thought about this a million times- it had been all she could think about for two years. So how could that thinking have been wrong? 

But before that day, Drustan had never given her any reason to believe that he was like his father. He had always talked about how much he hated his father, and Adelina had never seen him do anything that would give her doubts. 

At the ball though, his presence had been threatening. She hadn’t gotten the safe, warm feeling she used to. She had felt like cowering in a corner and running away. The fact that he was carrying a weapon- and likely would have used it- was enough to make her suspicious. But he had also told her then that he hadn’t known about his father’s involvement in her parents’ deaths. Why would he have continued to deny it unless it really wasn’t true? She already knew that his father was involved, so it would make sense for him to just admit to it. 

She knew she should just give up and admit that Anissa and Edwin were probably right but part of her didn’t want to give this up. She had been harboring this resentment for so long that she didn’t know how to let go of it. And if she couldn’t hate him, it made it a lot harder not to love him.

She didn’t want to love him. She wanted to hate him. Whether he was innocent or not, she wanted to scream at him and hit him and make him feel as much pain as she had felt the past two years. It would feel so right. But even as that fear had filled her when she first talked to him again, dancing with him and staring into those brown eyes had made her feel something she hadn’t felt in two years. She still felt as if he would betray her at any moment, but there was a subtle security in knowing that he wouldn’t. It was even more present now that it had been a week and she still hadn’t been caught. 

It had been two years since he had held her. Two years since she had looked into those brown eyes that made her feel so alive. Two years since she had been able to trust him. And she wanted all of it. She wanted to be held again. She wanted to be loved again. She wanted to be near him again. She wanted to know him again. What was he like now? Was he close with Asher- or Kingsley, as everyone knew him now. Was he different now that he knew how to rule and had been working so closely with his father for so long? Had he been corrupted? Or was he the same as always? 

She crossed her arms, leaning against the window frame. She shouldn’t want to know all of these things. She shouldn’t want to know what he was like. She should hate him, even if he was innocent in her parents’ deaths. He was no fool- he had to have known something about what his father was doing. He couldn’t be that clueless. He must have aided in someone else’s death somehow. And that was enough to make Adelina hate him. She had to hate him. She just had to. She couldn’t be hypnotized by those brown eyes any more. She couldn’t think about them or dream about them. She had to stay strong. 

But she also had to find out what he knew. She needed to know if he could or would help her. Which meant meeting with him again. 

She took a deep breath. She wouldn’t look into his eyes. She would avoid eye contact the whole time, and stare at his shoulder. Then she would be able to keep her resolve to hate him. 

She silently promised herself that she would never let herself fall for his charms again. She wouldn’t let him fool her like that, and she wouldn’t let herself be swayed by that deep, husky voice. She would ignore his perfect, dark brown hair. She wouldn’t pay attention to the way it brushed the tops of his shoulders- not too long but not too short. The perfect length. She wouldn’t notice the way his lips said her name so softly and gently when he was trying to convince her that he was sincere. She wouldn’t notice any of those things. 

She furrowed her brow in frustration. In her promising that she wouldn’t notice, she had started noticing everything. Now she couldn’t get him out of her head. She turned, putting her back to the window and staring at the ground angrily. 

There was a knock at the still open door and Edwin poked his head in. 

“May I come in?” 

Adelina didn’t stop frowning. “Yes.” 

He laughed. “Someone sounds happy to see me.” 

“My mood has nothing to do with you.” She answered darkly. 

“Well, Anissa said that you might want to see me so I figured I would check in on you.”  

Adelina pursed her lips, glaring at the floor. “She was right.” 

Edwin laughed again. “You don’t seem too happy about it.” 

“I’m not.” 

“Why?” He leaned against the wall.

“Because it means admitting that you were right.”

“About?” He raised an eyebrow. 

“Drustan.” She answered crossly. 

He nodded slowly. “So you don’t think he is a monster anymore?” 

“I think it is open for negotiation.” 

“So why do you need me?” 

“Because in order to determine whether or not you are right or not, I need to see him again. And you are the only person who can get a message to him without seeming suspicious.” 

Edwin nodded. “Okay. Write it out and I will get it to him safely.” 

“You know that this will make it so that he knows you are helping me? If I turn out to be right, both of you will be in danger.” 

Edwin shrugged. “I invited danger into my house when I let you stay here. I was ready for whatever came next. So I understand the stakes, and I’m prepared to deal with the consequences.” 

“You are sure?” He needed to be absolutely sure that he was ready for this. 

He nodded firmly. “I’m sure. And I have faith that it won’t be something that we need to worry about.” 

She took a deep breath. “Then let me write the message. The sooner you can get it to him, the better.” 

“I can get it to him tomorrow. He is planning to come to the work site for the new castle and I will give it to him then. No one will see or be suspicious of anything.” 

Adelina nodded. “Okay.”

“This will change everything, Alina. How he responds will either bring us to the front door of victory or throw us in the darkness of failure. Personally, I’m inclined to believe it will be the former. But my point still stands- if you want justice, this is it. This will be the first step in getting that.” 

Adelina nodded again. “I know.” She blew out a breath. “I never thought I would get this far. But now that I’m here, I’m ready.” 

Edwin smiled. “I hope so. We would be in a whole lot of trouble if you weren’t ready. We can’t have our leader hesitating just when we need her most.” 

Adelina scoffed. “Leader? I’m just the one trying to get justice for her parents.” 

“Whatever you want to call yourself, we will follow you. Your choices are our choices.”

She smiled in spite of her inner conflict. “Thank you, Edwin.”

“Now get writing.” He motioned to the desk, which already had a piece of paper and quill on it from earlier when Anissa had been writing a letter. He left the room, closing the door behind him. 

Adelina sighed, walking over and sitting down. 

“Dear-” she stopped before she wrote it. Best not to start with ‘dear’- “Drustan, meet me tomorrow- the day after you receive this- at noon in the Whispering Willows. Come alone. We have some things we need to talk about. Destroy this note once you have read it. Alexandria.” She couldn’t take any chances that someone found the note and recognized her name. Drustan would know it was her- he had always called her ‘Al’ because Alexandria was her middle name. 

She stood, folding and sealing it with some of Anissa’s wax. She took a deep breath and walked downstairs quickly. 

“I have the note.” She held it out to Edwin as she stepped into the kitchen. 

He took it, slipping it in his pocket. “No one will know that it was you that sent it, correct?” 

Adelina nodded. “I signed it under a different name that he will recognize. I also told him to destroy the note once he read it but who knows if he will do that.” 

Edwin nodded. “I’ll make sure that he does.”

Anissa smiled. “I know it wasn’t what you wanted to do, but for what it is worth, I think this was the best choice.” 

“I know you do.” Adelina sighed. “And I think eventually I’ll think so too. I can’t quite accept it right now, though.” 

“I’m proud of your decision.” Anissa answered. 

Adelina rolled her eyes. “You sound like my mother did when I picked a dress that she liked.” 

Anissa shrugged. “I always was the mother type.”

“I should go, before I draw too much attention to myself.” Adelina turned to go. “Make sure that he gets that tomorrow.”

“What will you do if he doesn’t come?” Edwin asked suddenly. 

“Bring him down with his father.” Adelina answered simply. 

“And you think that’s the best choice?” 

“It’s the only other choice there is, Edwin.” 

He nodded slowly. “Okay.” 

She left the kitchen before either of them could say anything more. She didn’t like how Edwin questioned her. He called her their leader but couldn’t seem to accept her decisions. She knew it was out of loyalty to Drustan but she couldn’t understand how he would take the side of a murderer’s son over her. She also knew that he was just trying to do what was best for her and make sure she didn’t do something that she regretted, but it rubbed her the wrong way. 

Edwin had been right about one thing- this would change everything. She had told him she was ready, and she really hoped that was true. She wasn’t entirely sure, but she knew that it would be in two days. She would make sure of it. 

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

Drustan paced back and forth across his room, crossing and uncrossing his arms. He had been doing this for nearly an hour straight, trying to figure out how he could contact Adelina. He had no idea where she was or what she was doing, and it had been over a week since the ball. If she had wanted to send for him, she would have done it by now, right? So she must expect him to come find her. 

He continued pacing, trying to determine how he was supposed to find her. Where would she hide that no one would find her? She was smart- she would hide somewhere in plain sight because his father would never think to look there. But where? 

There was a loud knock on his door and he stopped pacing. 

“Enter.” 

His father stormed in. “Why haven’t you given me an update on the castle this morning?” 

Drustan sighed. “I haven’t gone yet. I had training this morning- I plan to leave for the building site in a little bit.” 

“I told you that you needed to give me a progress report by today.” His father crossed his arms. 

“Forgive me if I’m wrong, Father, but today hasn’t ended yet.” Drustan crossed his arms too, determined to stand his ground. 

His father looked him up and down slowly. “You will leave immediately and come and see me as soon as you get back. Am I understood?” 

Drustan nodded. “That was my original plan, so I will continue with it.” He couldn’t bring himself to let his father think he was right or had control here. 

His father grunted, then turned and left the room, leaving the door open behind him.

Drustan sighed and walked to his table, picking up his vest and pulling it on. It was a cold day and he knew that if he didn’t wear several layers, he would regret it. He felt a lump in one of the pockets and frowned- he didn’t remember that being there this morning. 

He pulled out a small wad of paper and unfolded it. 

Watch your back, Drustan. -E 

Drustan stared at the note for a moment. The only person it could be from was Ellian. It would have made sense for it to be Adelina but she would have signed it with something significant. She wouldn’t have signed it with something random. And besides that, Ellian had trained with him that morning and Drustan had beaten him several times. He must have snuck into Drustan’s room while he was eating breakfast with his mother. 

Drustan crumpled up the note, throwing it in his fire. Ellian was getting too bold with his threats. Drustan was starting to get worried that eventually, he would actually become physical. He would need to stop training with Ellian- it was far too easy to fake an accident that ended up getting Drustan killed. And if Ellian went any further, Drustan would bring a complaint to his father. 

He grimaced- he probably should have kept the note as evidence if he was going to accuse Ellian of anything. He would just have to hope that there was some other evidence he could use if it actually came to that. 

He clenched his jaw, drawing his mind back to the present issue. He didn’t want to ride all the way out to the castle building site but he didn’t really have a choice. If he didn’t have a report for his father, things would only get worse for him. His father was already upset with how little he had socialized at the ball. Not that Drustan really cared- he would have done the same thing again if he had to. 

But that wasn’t important now- what was important was staying on his father’s good side. As much as he hated sucking up to his father, it was necessary. 

Drustan finished dressing and walked out to the stable. Ellian and a few of the other knights were relaxing on the barrels against the outside wall and they watched him walk past. 

“Do you need help saddling your horse, Lord Drustan?” One of the younger ones jumped up, walking after him. 

Drustan shook his head. “Thank you, Sir Aret, but I can do it myself.” 

Aret continued following him. “Is there anything else I can do for you?” 

Drustan stopped. “Yes, actually. I noticed that some of the weapons in the armory were getting dull. Will you and the other knights out there go and take them to the swordsmith to be sharpened?”

Aret nodded. “Which ones were dull, my lord?” 

Drustan pretended to think for a moment. “Come to think of it, all of them could use some touching up. Take all of them. And I want you to make sure that all of them are done well. Practice with each one a few times to ensure that they are sharp enough. This will likely take you several days but I want you to make sure that every last one of them is sharp and ready. We need to be prepared in case someone were to attack- we cannot be caught off guard.” 

Aret nodded more slowly this time. “Yes, my lord.” He turned and walked back out to the other knights. 

Drustan sighed and began saddling his horse. That would keep the knights off of his back for a few days- they would be too busy trying to please him to bother him. Other than Ellian, of course. Ellian would likely find a way out of it. And he would make sure that Drustan knew that he was still around and still waiting for the perfect opportunity. 

Drustan took a deep breath, leading his horse out of the stable and mounting. It felt good to be in the saddle without struggling to keep it. He disliked fighting on horseback- it put a lot of pressure on both him and his horse. It was nice to just be able to ride his horse- he didn’t have to worry about someone attacking him or being pushed from the saddle. 

He rode slowly to the building site for the castle, taking his time. It took him nearly an hour but he was okay with that. He liked being able to look around and enjoy nature without needing to rush by it and get to his destination quickly. And besides, he needed a bit of a break to think. There was so much to process and think about and he hadn’t really had a moment to breathe since the ball. 

How was he supposed to get a message to Adelina? He had no idea where she was or who she was with. She had to have some kind of help but nobody in the area would risk his father’s wrath. 

So who could it be?

He thought it over and over in his mind as he rode up to the building site and dismounted. 

“Drustan.” Edwin walked over, smiling. “I’m surprised you are here so early- I wasn’t expecting you until much later.” 

Drustan smiled a little. “According to my father, this is too late.” 

Edwin nodded. “I’m sure.” He was fidgeting with his hands, as if he was nervous about something, but Drustan couldn’t tell what. 

“Well, what progress have we made?” Drustan looked around. 

“We are nearly finished with the stable. The foundations have been laid and we are starting work on the North Tower.” 

Drustan nodded. “It seems that you are making good progress. My father will be pleased.”

Edwin smiled slightly. “Good.” He glanced around. “I need to talk to you about something Drustan. And it is something very serious and important.” 

“You know you can talk to me about anything, Edwin.” Was Edwin having trouble in his marriage to Anissa? Was that why he was so fidgety?

“Nobody can ever know that we had this conversation.” Edwin raised an eyebrow. 

“Okay.” Drustan held back a smile- what could be so serious that Edwin was nervous to tell him? It couldn’t be his marriage- he wouldn’t care if someone found out they had a conversation about that. 

Edwin reached in his vest and pulled out a small slip of paper. 

“I have a message for you.” 

Drustan took the paper, slowly unfolding it, glancing up at Edwin as he did so. Edwin wasn’t looking at him- he was watching everybody else, as if he was making sure they weren’t watching. 

Drustan read the note quickly, his eyes widening when he read the signature. He looked up at Edwin quickly. “It’s you? It’s been you this whole time? The one hiding her?” A million emotions were running through him all at once, and he wasn’t sure how to process all of them. 

Edwin finally looked over at him. “I’m doing what is right, Drustan. I can only hope you’ll do the same.” 

Drustan looked back down at the note. “You smuggled her into the ball?”

“In plain sight.” Edwin answered quietly. “It was easier than you would think. Your father really should rethink the masquerade balls.” He began to walk away but Drustan grabbed his arm, stopping him from leaving. 

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Drustan clenched his jaw, willing away the emotion. 

Edwin looked down at Drustan’s hand on his arm, then back up at Drustan. “Because it wasn’t my secret to tell. And while I hope I know what you’ll do, she isn’t sure. She wouldn’t let me talk to you about it until now.”

“Does she have so little faith in me?” 

“She has no faith in you, Dru. She has no faith in anyone, really. Not even God, whether she says she does or not.” 

“But I don’t understand why.” Drustan sighed. “I didn’t have anything to do with what happened to her parents, Ed. You have to know that. I would never have done that.” 

“You don’t have to tell me that, Drustan. I know you. I know that you would never have willingly let this happen. But it isn’t me that you have to prove it to. It’s her.” 

“I know. I just-” 

“I would love to talk more, Drustan. But not here. Not now. Follow the note. When you see her, tell her those things. It will take a while to get her guard down. But somewhere under that tough exterior, she wants to let you back in. You just have to try. And keep trying- she won’t make it easy on you.” 

Drustan took a deep breath, nodding. “Thank you.” 

“For?” 

“For taking care of her. And not turning her over to my father. Most of the people here in town would’ve done it because of how afraid of him they are. So thank you for protecting her.” 

Edwin nodded. “It was my honor.” He smiled wryly. “And besides, Anissa wouldn’t hear of leaving her alone or turning her in.” 

Drustan laughed. “I’m sure. They always were close.” 

“The only person closer to…” he trailed off.

“Alexandria?” Drustan supplied, shrugging slightly. 

Edwin nodded. “The only person closer to Alexandria is you.” 

“Was.” Drustan corrected, looking down at the ground. 

“Not for long.” Edwin answered reassuringly. “She’s going to bring change, Dru. A lot of it. I just hope that when she does, you’ll be a part of it.” 

 Drustan smiled a little. “I hope so too.” 

“Tear up that note.” Edwin said as he walked away, resuming his position as overseer. 

Drustan nodded, walking back towards his horse and tearing up the note as he did so. He left one little piece, folded up in his hand. He looked down at it one last time before walking over to his horse. 

Alexandria. 

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