Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Six

Adelina looked up at the sky, letting the rain fall on her face, cooling her slightly. Even with the rain running down her face and neck, though, she still couldn’t get completely cool. The adrenaline running through her was keeping her from relaxing. Her entire body was rigid and she flinched at every little noise.  

A twig snapped behind her, and she took a deep breath. This time, she was sure that it was Drustan. She could do this.  

“Come any closer and I’ll kill you where you stand.” She stepped out from behind the tree and aimed the arrow at his chest.

Her confidence nearly wavered as her eyes met his- those wonderful eyes. Even though it was hard to see them through the pouring rain, she could see enough of them. Enough to make her want to lower the bow and leap into his arms. But she couldn’t do that. She had to stay strong. He could be here for any number of reasons. 

He stopped, looking her up and down warily. Then he had the nerve to smirk. “Why did I have a feeling it would begin like this?” He leaned against a tree, opening his arms welcomingly. “So go ahead, come at me. Kill me where I stand.”

She narrowed her eyes, stepping forward casually. “A bit smug for someone being faced with death, aren’t you?” She threw her bow down, pulling out her knife. 

He shrugged, crossing his arms. “Forgive me if I’m not giving you the reaction you desired. I don’t exactly find you threatening, darling.” 

She pressed the knife against his throat, holding him against the tree. “It would be so easy to kill you now. Nobody would know. They’d never figure out it was me.” So why couldn’t she just do it?

He didn’t struggle, but just stood there arms crossed, letting her threaten him. “Could you really live with yourself if you didn’t exhaust every other option?” He laughed a little. “I know you. You couldn’t kill me. You don’t have it in you. It really is a shame, though. I’m having so much fun at these little meetings of ours.” 

She clenched her jaw. “Don’t push me, Drustan. I will do whatever it takes to get justice for my father. And there is nothing that would hurt your father more than to kill you.”

He grabbed her hand suddenly, pushing her back and spinning around so that she was the one pinned to the tree. The wetness of the tree soaked through her dress, making her even colder than she was before. “Don’t you get it?” He pressed her knife against her own throat- she tried to push him back but it wouldn’t work. He was too strong, and there was a darkness in his eyes that she had never seen before. “Killing me would only help my father. It would give him at least another seventeen years before Kingsley starts trying to take his title. You’d be doing him a favor.” 

She stared up at him for a moment, blinking to keep the water out of her eyes. “And killing me would make sure that no one ever found out what he did. It would secure your title. So why haven’t you done it yet? We both know you have a lot less issue with killing than I do.” She wasn’t sure that it was the best approach, but maybe acting confident would help throw him off. 

He leaned so close that the water dripping off of his face fell onto hers. “I should. For the way you’ve treated me since you came back alone, I would have reason to kill you. You’ve threatened to kill me at least twice, and done nothing but insult and hurt me, for no reason. You would deserve it. But I’m no killer, Adelina.” 

She smirked a little even as her breath caught in her throat at his nearness- again. “Then why is there a knife against my throat?” 

His jaw flexed and she could see the conflict in his eyes. “Because if I don’t kill you, he’ll kill me. And I really do love living.” Even when he was so clearly unsure of what to do, he was still arrogant enough to rub this in her face?  

“Then do it. Prove me right, Drustan. Prove to me that you are exactly who I think you are. Kill me.”

“Maybe I will.” His eyes were wild. 

It was silent for a moment as they both searched each other’s eyes. 

“Do it.” She whispered. 

He pushed away from her, throwing the knife several feet away. He put his head against a tree, hitting the tree with his fist. 

“Why can’t you do it, Drustan?” She threw her hands up in exasperation. “Why can’t you kill me? What is holding you back? I’m going to take everything from you. Everyone you love, everything you were meant for. I’m the one that can take it all away. We hate each other, and yet you hesitate. You are no coward, Drustan, no matter how badly I want to say you are. So why can’t you do it?” She walked over, grabbing his shoulder and spinning him around. 

“Because of this!” He held a paper up, pressing it into her hand and turning away again. “That’s why I can’t bring myself to kill you, no matter how much I want to and how much I know I should.” 

She looked down at the paper, unfolding it slowly. “Meet me behind the stable. I have a goodbye gift. Yours always, Al.” She read it aloud softly. “You still have this?” 

He nodded, crossing his arms and keeping his back turned. “That’s why I can’t kill you. Because I didn’t meet you. I got scared and I didn’t come. The next day… you were dead.” 

“You can’t kill me… because of guilt?” She asked in disbelief. 

“Like you would feel any different.” He answered crossly. “You messed with my head, Adelina. I was raised to be stern and cold. To never feel things. But you… you make me feel things I’ve never felt before. Things I know I shouldn’t feel for someone who is trying to kill me and my father.” He laughed bitterly. “Everyone knows me as the arrogant, charming, witty soldier who always has an answer for everything. I’m never speechless and I never lose a fight because I can always find something that will stump my opponent long enough to get the advantage. But with you… I’m left speechless every time I look into your eyes.” 

“You didn’t seem so speechless when you had a knife against my throat.” 

He turned, raising an eyebrow. “You just can’t stop pushing it, can you? Do you want to die?” 

She held her arms up. “I want you to make a choice.” 

“You make it sound like it’s so simple. Choosing between my life and yours.” 

“It doesn’t have to be like that. Your father doesn’t need to know.” 

He laughed. “My father knows everything. He will find out eventually and when he learns that I knew, he’ll kill me.” 

“So forget your guilt- that was two years ago. Just kill me. It’s not that hard.” 

He shook his head. “You would say that. You haven’t been alone for the past two years, thinking your best friend was dead.” 

She pushed her wet hair out of her face, stepping forward. “You have no idea how alone I have been for the past two years. You can’t even begin to fathom it.” 

“Maybe I can’t. But I know that when I saw you at the ball that night… I felt like I could breathe again for the first time in two years. I wanted to live again.” He ran a hand through his hair, pushing it out of his eyes and spraying water everywhere. “Even just looking at you, it was like I had been dying of thirst and suddenly I had drunk a whole pond of water. And I know you felt the same way, Adelina. I saw it in your eyes. You felt the world stop, just like I did. You just can’t stop being angry with me long enough to admit it.” 

She shook her head, closing her eyes. “You don’t know that. You don’t know anything. You don’t know anything about me.” How could she love a man whose father had ruined her life? 

“I do, Adelina. I know. You might never admit it, and you might tell me that you hate me forever, but you feel the same way I do. And while you might deny it, I can’t. I can’t and I won’t. Two years ago, I was in love with you. I loved you more than life itself. And when I thought I lost you, I wanted to die too. That was how much I loved you. And even now… those feelings are still the same. No matter how much I hate that they are there.”

“Am I supposed to be flattered? That you loved me once and you still do, but you don’t want to?” 

“Let’s be honest here, Adelina- my life would be a lot easier if I could just kill you right now.” 

“Both of our lives would be easier if we killed each other right now.” 

“But I won’t do it- and if I recall correctly, you had a knife against my throat just a minute ago and I’m still here. You couldn’t kill me either. I saw it. You hesitated. You don’t want me dead anymore than I want you dead.” 

“You don’t know that.”

“Don’t I?” He laughed a little. 

“Maybe you are worth more to me alive than dead.” Adelina answered, raising an eyebrow and trying to act cold and confident. Trying and failing. 

“You would like to think that, wouldn’t you?” He laughed, shaking his head. “Oh, Adelina. You haven’t been able to lie to me in many years. That hasn’t changed just because you’ve been dead for two years.” 

“Will you stop saying that I was dead?” Adelina glared at him. “I don’t like it.” 

“Am I wrong? Because to me, you were dead. I mourned you, Adelina. I mourned your death. I’ve been mourning for two years. And now you are back.” He raised an eyebrow. 

“I wasn’t dead, though. I was just hiding. You know that now.” 

He sighed. “Fine. That doesn’t change because you were hiding for two years.” 

“Maybe I want you to think I am lying to you.” She turned away from him, crossing her arms, suddenly freezing. 

“Sure. We’ll say that.” They both knew that what she was saying didn’t make any sense, but she would never be the one to admit that. Not to him. 

“I didn’t bring you here just to argue.” She said after a moment of silence. 

“Really? I was actually enjoying it.” He answered. 

She turned back around. “I need to know whose side you are on.” 

He sighed. “What do you mean?” 

“You know what I mean, Drustan.” 

“I think I need a refresher. Being threatened really fogs my brain.” 

“Drustan.” She raised an eyebrow. 

He held up his hands. “Fine.” he took a deep breath. “You want to know whose side I’m on?”

“I wouldn’t have asked if I didn’t want to know.” She hugged herself, trying to still maintain some semblance of confidence while desperately trying to get warm. 

“I’m on whichever side gets justice for your parents and our brother.” 

“Please don’t call him our brother.” Adelina blurted out, then shut her eyes, grimacing. 

“Why?”

She bit her lip. “I don’t know. I guess it… it feels like it implies that we are related.”

A smile began to grow on his face. “What, you don’t like the idea that we could be related somehow?” 

“We aren’t related. In any way.”

He took a step closer to her, pushing away from the tree. “Why don’t you want us to be related?” 

“I don’t want to be related to a murderer- your father, I mean.” She answered quickly. 

He shook his head. “I believe you answered that a bit too quickly for it to be true.”

“It’s true. It would almost mean your father was my father- and we both know that isn’t true. In any way.”

“Ah, but there’s another reason, isn’t there?” He took another step closer. 

She shook her head, looking around- anywhere but at him. “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

“Adelina…” he took one more step towards her, so that he was right in front of her. “It’s a sin to lie.”

“I’m sure it pales in comparison to your sins.” She answered. 

He shook his head reproachfully, making a scolding sound with his tongue. “Coming after my past again?”

“Your past? You just held a knife to my throat.” She crossed her arms again, trying to put any distance between them. But if anything, it only brought them closer because now her forearms were brushing his chest. 

“That was after you held it to mine, love. You really should work on that memory.” She stared up at him, knowing she should step back but she just couldn’t. 

“Don’t ‘love’ me. You have no right to do that anymore.” 

“Ah, so I did at one point?” 

“Maybe. Before your father murdered my parents.”

He sobered. “Adelina, how many times do I have to tell you that I had nothing to do with that? I’m sorry. I wish I could go back in time and change it. But I can’t. How long are you going to punish me for something that I didn’t do?” 

She shrugged, her eyes beginning to water. “Until it stops hurting.” 

“I don’t think I can last that long.” He answered softly. 

“How do you know how long it’s going to last?” She looked down. 

“Because I know it’s never going to stop hurting. It never stops. Years can go by, and it’ll never stop hurting.” He whispered. 

She looked up at him. “Then I guess I’m never going to stop punishing you.” 

He shook his head. “Please don’t do that to me, Adelina. Please.” 

Why did he have to make this so hard on her? Why couldn’t he just accept it? 

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Drustan lifted her chin so that she would look up at him. Her eyes held so much pain and he wished he could just take it all away. 

“You are never going to understand, Drustan.” She said softly. 

“I’m trying, Adelina.” He forced himself to take a few steps back, taking a deep breath. “I’m trying. But I don’t think it’s ever going to be good enough for you.” 

“Your father killed my parents, Drustan. And he took my baby brother away from me. That isn’t something that I just magically get over as soon as I see you again. It doesn’t work like that.” 

“That wasn’t me, Adelina. I didn’t know anything about that.” Why couldn’t she understand that? 

“But every time I look at you, I see your father. I see the face of the man who murdered my father right in front of me.” She shook her head. “That isn’t something that I can unsee.” 

“Then why did you come back? Why send me a message? Why do any of this, if you are never going to be able to forgive me?” He crossed his arms, leaning against the tree again. “And you call me the cruel one.” 

She glared at him. “I’m not being cruel. I lost my parents. I have a right to be angry.” 

“And I lost my best friend. The only person who ever actually cared about me. The only person who loved me. I lost her. And now she’s back, but I’ve still lost her. Because the person I’m looking at isn’t my best friend.” He shook his head. “Whoever you are, you are a stranger to me.” 

“Then we are both strangers. Because I don’t know you either.” 

“Strangers cannot work together.” He answered quietly. 

“I never said you needed to work with me. I just need you not to work against me.” 

He sighed. “I’m not going to help my father, if that’s what you mean.” 

“That’s all I am asking of you.” 

“Don’t come crawling to me when your plan doesn’t work.” He answered coldly. 

“Why wouldn’t my plan work?” She raised an eyebrow.

He shrugged. “You don’t have me.” 

“I don’t need you to make my plans work. I can think of perfectly fine plans, thank you very much.” 

He held up his hands. “I never insinuated that you can’t. But without me, you can’t get any inside information. No one at my father’s house will help you but me. So good luck with that.” 

She was silent for a moment, staring at the ground. 

“You know that I’m right.” 

“You’re the one that said strangers cannot work together.” She shot back. 

He rolled his eyes. “So we don’t stay strangers. We get to know whoever this new person is that we are talking to.” 

She sighed. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.” 

“You can’t do this without me, Adelina.” Why was he fighting for this? He shouldn’t care this much- not when she was treating him like this. But however upset he was with her, her parents did deserve justice. 

“I could find a way.” 

“Any other way will get you killed.” 

“Fine. You have one chance, though, Drustan- if you mess up just once, I will make sure that you never get a chance to do it again.” 

He smiled charmingly. “I would never mess this up. Not when you’ve been so gracious as to give me a chance.” 

She glared at him. “I mean it, Drustan.” 

He sobered, nodding. “Oh, I’m very serious about this.” 

She glanced around. “The rain is stopping. We should go before someone finds us.” 

Drustan nodded again. “You’re right. You go first- I’ll make sure that no one is following. And then I’ll go home and see what information I can find.” 

She pursed her lips. “If you need to see me, go to Edwin and Anissa’s house. I almost never leave there, so you can find me there.” She began staring at the ground again.

“I will come to you as soon as I find anything.” He began to walk away, then stopped and looked back. “I wrote to Andrew.”

Her head snapped up to look at him. “Did you tell him I was here?” 

Drustan shook his head. “It was before I saw you at the ball.”

“Why did you write to him, then?” 

“I wanted to talk to him. I wanted answers.” 

“To what?” She asked- as if it wasn’t obvious.

“All of the questions I have.” He answered simply. 

“About?” 

Drustan sighed. “I knew that Andrew had suspicions about who killed your parents. I wanted to know what they were. Whether they had to do with my father, I don’t know. But I wanted to know what he thought.” 

“Where is he?”

“Half a day’s ride from here. He has a wife now- and a child.” 

“And you thought that the best choice was to write to him?” 

“I was careful what I said, Adelina. I wouldn’t have ever put him or his family in jeopardy.” 

“Did he write back?” For someone who was so angry with him, she cared a lot about what was in that letter.

Drustan shook his head. “He hates me, Adelina.” Her jaw fell open slightly. “Like you, he thinks that I had something to do with your death.” He had lost both of his closest friends all at once. 

She clamped her jaw shut. “I can understand that.” 

He nodded. “I’m sure you can. Nonetheless, I’m going to go see him soon and see what he knows. He may have evidence of my father’s treachery. You should come with me. He’ll be glad to know you are alive.” Drustan had written another letter, letting Andrew know that it would be a while longer before he was able to come. He wanted to have plenty of time to figure things out with Adelina before going. 

She was quiet for a moment. “I will consider it.” 

“Good.” He walked to a large tree. “You should go.” 

He didn’t turn around until he knew that she was gone. He couldn’t bear to look at her any longer. 

He had just admitted that he still had feelings for her and she had completely shut him down. He wanted to believe that deep down, she still felt the same, but after a reaction like that, he wasn’t sure. But she had to feel at least a little, didn’t she? He had seen the look in her eyes when they first saw each other at the ball. And he had seen the hesitation to kill him- and how breathless she had gotten when they were so close. So she had to feel something. And he was the first and only man who had ever kissed her- he knew for a fact that that had meant something to her. 

Or was that it? Was she in love with someone else? Had she met someone while she was in hiding that she planned to go back to after all of this was over? Was that why she was being so cold towards him? Because she didn’t want to give him any false hope?

But no- she didn’t care about not giving him false hope. She would rather crush his heart immediately. She would have already told him if there was someone else, just to get back at him for everything. She would enjoy seeing firsthand the pain it would cause him. 

So why did she keep shutting him out? 

In her defense, he wasn’t exactly being the most consistent. He was going between the cocky, arrogant son of a baron that he had been raised to be and the man he really was- the man that loved her with everything in him. 

She had to know it was all an act- right? She had to know that the “love”s and the “darling”s and the cold jabs were just to keep himself from getting hurt. He didn’t mean any of them- well, he meant the loves and the darlings, just not the way they sounded. He couldn’t let her just insult him and degrade him without getting in a few good lines for himself. 

It had always been easy to spar with Adelina- both with their words and their weapons. She had never quite been a match for him physically, but she had always been his equal when it came to words. Their innocent banter had been the highlights of his days at Rorick’s castle. Just because the words were harsher and meant more now didn’t mean that it didn’t still hold a hint of pleasure for him. He knew that no matter what he said, she would find a way to combat it- and he could do the same to anything she said. 

He shook his head, trying to clear his mind. All of their personal issues aside, the problem of whether or not he would truly help her was still there. He needed to make a decision- was he really brave enough to defy his father like that? Could he really do it? 

The answer to that was a firm, decided yes. 

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