Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Seven

Adelina looked up quickly as Edwin walked into their bedroom, preparing to run for the closet. 

“There’s someone here to see you.” He said with a slightly amused smile on his face. 

She raised an eyebrow- hoping that it wasn’t who she thought it was. It had been nearly a week since their meeting in the rain and she still hadn’t heard from him. She was hoping that meant he would mind his own business and leave her alone. 

He opened the door wider and Drustan walked in behind him. Adelina held back a groan. 

“It would appear we have an ally.” Edwin smiled even wider. 

Drustan smiled a little as he stood next to Edwin. 

“It’s good to see you, Dru.” Anissa stood from her chair, smiling. “I’m glad that you chose to come here and help us.” 

Drustan nodded. “I wouldn’t be anywhere else.” 

“So where do we start?” Edwin asked, sitting down in a chair. 

Adelina started to open her mouth but Drustan spoke first. “Can I request that we start at the beginning? Starting the day that I left?” 

Anissa and Edwin glanced at Adelina, waiting for her to answer. 

Adelina settled back into her chair. “Fine. What do you want to know?” 

He shrugged. “Everything.” 

She sighed. “The morning that your father took you away, I stayed in my room all day. And the day after that. The day after that, I finally got up enough strength and will to go to the library. I was in there all day. I stayed hidden behind one of the bookshelves, where no one could see me. Only one of my servants knew where I was- though I’m sure my parents figured it out eventually.” She took a deep breath. “I was there until late at night- when everyone else was asleep, I stayed there, reading by candle-light. And then, suddenly, the doors opened. My parents walked in, talking to Baron Haimon.” 

“And you are sure that it was him?” Drustan asked. 

She nodded. “I’m positive. My parents called him by his name several times- and he mentioned you. It couldn’t have been anyone else.” 

Drustan nodded slowly. “Okay. I just… I had to be sure.” 

Adelina forced herself not to glare at him- she couldn’t really blame him for wanting to be absolutely sure before starting anything. 

“They argued for a few minutes- your father was trying to convince my parents to turn on the neighboring nobles and help him take their land. He claimed they were traitors and deserved to be stripped of their titles. My father told him that he didn’t want anything to do with helping your father get land from people who didn’t deserve to have it taken.” 

“So what did they do?” Edwin was leaning forward, very invested in the story.

“Haimon told my mother to leave the room and attend to Asher. He was only two days old at that point and Mother needed to take care of him. She left the room quickly- why she didn’t just stay longer, I don’t know. If she had stayed… maybe my father would still be alive. But I think she was too scared of Haimon to stay.” She took a deep, wavering breath. “And then Haimon killed my father right in front of me. He told him that my mother had always loved him- but it couldn’t have been true. She was never even around him. I think he was trying to make my father’s death as painful as possible by lying to him.” 

Drustan stared at her for a moment. “Are you sure he was lying?” 

She nodded. “He had to be. My mother loved my father- and you’ve said that your father and mother are devoted to each other.” 

“They are devoted but my mother’s devotion stems from fear- not love. And no one will make someone they love fear them.”

“It has to be a lie, Drustan. My mother wouldn’t have loved a traitor and a murderer.” 

“I hope you’re right.” 

Adelina chose to ignore him, forcing herself to focus on what she knew had to be true. Drustan couldn’t be right- he just couldn’t be. 

“Now, to continue with my story.” She sighed. “Once he had killed my father, his head guard came in. Haimon told him to kill my mother and I and burn the whole castle to the ground. He told him to take Asher back to his castle as a replacement for Katerina’s failure. And he said…” she faltered for the first time. “He said that you had mentioned me especially.” 

There was silence in the room. It was nearly suffocating her. 

“I talked about you, Adelina. But I never told him to kill you.” Drustan was watching her reaction intently. “I would never have told him to do that. Even if I didn’t feel the way I did about you. I would have died before I let him lay a finger on you.” 

She stared at him for a moment, her eyes beginning to tear up. “Do you promise me that you had nothing to do with it? With any of it? And you had no idea it was going to happen?” 

He nodded. “I promise.”

And she believed him. She really believed him. 

“What did you do after that?” Adelina had already told Anissa this several times, but she seemed equally interested every time. 

Adelina took a deep breath, pulling herself out of those brown eyes. “I took some of my father’s books and I fled. I should have… I should have found some way to save my family. I should have alerted the servants. I should have told my mother what was going to happen. But I didn’t. I ran. I took Alistair and I rode for two days, hiding and sleeping during the day. Once I knew that I was in Duke Prescott’s domain, I settled down. I found an old couple who was willing to take me in and keep my secret. They protected me, even when everyone else was suspicious of me. I don’t know why they did it, but I wouldn’t be here without them. They taught me how to take care of myself. And when I get back to my rightful place, I’m going to bring them here and give them everything they have never been able to have.” 

“Is there any way for my father to trace you back to them, once he figures out that you are still alive?” Drustan asked before she could continue. 

“No- no one there knew who I really was, and they are going to stay in hiding as much as possible until I come for them. Chadd was one of the king’s men when he was younger, and knows how to protect himself and take care of them. I made sure that nothing would happen to them before I left.” 

“And you trust them to keep your secret, even now that you are gone? Especially once my father starts pressuring those in the surrounding area to give him answers.” 

“I trust them with my life. They won’t tell anyone about me, no matter what it costs them.” She trusted them more than she trusted him. “You don’t have to doubt their loyalty.” This time she really did glare at him.

Edwin held up a hand. “He’s not wrong for asking, Adelina. He is trying to protect you just the same as we are.” 

She pursed her lips. “I wouldn’t have told them my secret if I didn’t trust them.” 

“And we wouldn’t be your friends if we didn’t make sure everyone who knows the truth wasn’t committed to this.” Drustan crossed his arms. 

“Last time I checked, we weren’t friends.” Adelina raised an eyebrow. 

Anissa put her head in her hands. “We are never going to make any progress if you two won’t agree to at least be civil to each other. Unless we can work together, we aren’t going to be able to get justice for Adelina’s parents. So will you two please just cut it out?”

No one spoke, as Adelina and Drustan continued glaring at each other. 

“What is more important? Hating each other or justice?” Edwin stood up. “Because I think it is a shame that the two people this affects the most are the two people who care the least in this room.” 

Adelina tore her gaze from Drustan. “You know that isn’t true.” 

“Then act like it.” It wasn’t an insult or a threat, but a reprimand. Edwin was reprimanding her. 

She pursed her lips, fighting the urge to storm out of the room. She didn’t want to give in and be nice to Drustan. But Edwin and Anissa were right- she couldn’t let her hatred for Drustan get in the way of her mission. As good as it felt to insult Drustan at every chance she got, she knew that it was better to just let it go and give in to Anissa’s pleas. 

“Fine. I’ll be civil as long as I have to be, until this is all over.” 

“That’s all we are asking.” Anissa glanced at Edwin and Adelina wasn’t sure that she liked the meaning of the look. 

“And I’ll be civil as long as she is civil.” Drustan said finally, his voice quiet. 

Edwin sent him a sharp look and Drustan shrugged a little. Adelina didn’t think that they had wanted anyone to see that exchange, but it intrigued her just the same. Why was Edwin so concerned with Drustan’s answer? It was what they wanted to hear, wasn’t it? 

“I’m going to go get something to eat.” Adelina pushed herself up out of her chair, feeling the need to get out of the room as quickly as possible.

“Adelina!” Anissa stood. 

“I’ll be back in a few minutes.” Adelina said over her shoulder, shutting the door behind her. 

She walked down to the kitchen, taking deep breaths. She couldn’t look at Drustan anymore- not when the amount of emotions in her body were threatening to overwhelm her at any moment. She had convinced herself that she hated him- that she had to hate him. But after their talk in the rain and now, when he had been so intensely honest that he had no clue about what his father had planned two years ago… She wasn’t so sure that she could hate him. Not when he looked at her with those deep brown eyes that had once held so much love for her. 

“Come on, Al.” Drustan laughed, pulling her forward by the hand that wasn’t holding her shoes. “It’s just a creek!” 

“It’s a cold creek!” She squealed a little as the water met her feet, sending a chill through her whole body. 

“Well, we have to cross it to get to the meadow, so you have to come.” He smiled, walked backwards so that he could face her.

“It’s so cold though!”

“It’s not that cold.” He laughed.

“You were born with fire in your veins if you don’t think this is could, Drustan of Nyro.” She resisted, not wanting to go any further. 

“Then I was born with fire in my veins.” He shrugged. “We are almost to the end, so just come on! It’s colder if you just stand in it.” 

He took another step backward and his eyes widened as he slipped on a piece of moss, sending him flailing to the ground and pulling her with him. She screamed, flinching as she slammed into his chest and rolled off. 

They were both still for a moment as the cold water began to seep through their clothes. He looked over at her, a smile beginning to grow on his face. 

“I told you this was a bad idea!” She fought to keep her own smile from showing. 

“What’s a little water?” He began to laugh- for the first time in a long time, he really laughed. She hadn’t heard his genuine laugh in forever, and it was so soothing.

“My mother is going to kill me for getting my clothes wet.” She laid her head back in the water, laughing. 

“By the time we get back, they’ll be dry.” 

She looked over at him. “I hope you’re right.” 

He stood, holding out his hand. “We still have to get to the meadow- and our shoes are all wet now so we are going to have to wait for them to dry too.” 

She let him pull her up. “You slipped on purpose, didn’t you? Just so that we could be out longer.” 

He rolled his eyes. “I’m not that smart, Alina.” He rolled his shoulders, stretching out his back. She tried- and failed- not to notice how his shirt stretched across his chest, the water only making his muscles more clear. “I wouldn’t have willingly done that if I had a choice.” 

“Does it hurt?” She asked, pushing some of his hair off of his forehead. 

He shrugged and smiled a little. “I’ve had worse.” 

She frowned, raising an eyebrow. “I’m serious, Dru.” 

He grinned, putting an arm around her shoulder. “So am I.” 

His gaze strayed down to her lips and she inhaled sharply. He bent down slowly, kissing her gently. 

She pulled back, biting her lip. “We should get to the meadow.” 

He took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Adelina. I should have asked.”

She laughed, shaking her head. “It’s not that.” She laid her head against his shoulder. “You are what love is, Drustan of Nyro.” 

“Adelina! Running out when you don’t like the way things are going isn’t the way to deal with things.” Adelina was abruptly pulled out of her memories by Anissa’s voice scolding her. 

She looked around- she was in the kitchen, slowly eating a piece of cheese. She hadn’t remembered getting here or getting the food- she had been so caught up in remembering that day at the creek. She had nearly forgotten about it, and she wasn’t sure if that made her happy or sad. She had tried so hard to shove all of the good memories of Drustan down, only remembering the times when she was angry with him- which hadn’t really happened in the three years preceding her parents’ deaths. She had had to go back to when they were kids to think of when he had truly made her angry. 

 Why had that memory specifically come to mind now? It wasn’t the first or the last time he had kissed her. But for some reason, it seemed important. It seemed special. 

“Adelina?” Anissa repeated. 

Adelina took a deep breath. “I’m sorry, Anissa. I just got very hungry all of a sudden.” She couldn’t let Anissa know what she had really been thinking. No one could know that. Ever. 

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

Drustan stared at Edwin. “I’m not going to tell her how I feel. She already knows. I already told her. And I don’t even know that I feel that way anymore.” 

“Why?” Edwin raised an eyebrow. 

“Have you seen the way she treats me? Why would I love someone like that?” Edwin didn’t need to know that no matter what, Drustan loved Adelina. No matter how badly she treated him. 

“She’s scared, Dru. She’s scared but she refuses to show it. We are just going to have to work with her.” 

“And I am working with her. But that doesn’t have to mean that I love her.” It still did, but that didn’t mean it had to. 

“Just don’t give up on her, alright?” 

Drustan didn’t answer, just crossed his arms, sinking lower in his chair. 

“We are back.” Anissa announced as she walked into the room, Adelina in tow. “Now that we’ve heard Adelina’s story, we need to figure out a plan.” 

Adelina glanced at Drustan and there was something in her eyes- something different. It wasn’t burning hatred anymore- it was something else. He couldn’t quite place what, but it wasn’t hate. And that was a step up from before- he would take it. 

“How suspicious is your father right now? Does he have any idea that Adelina is alive?” Edwin asked, leaning forward. 

Drustan shook his head, sitting up straighter. “No idea. Not yet at least. Eventually, he’ll get wind of it. There’s no way to avoid it. But for now, he is in the dark. We need to work quickly- the more we can get done before he figures anything out, the better.” 

“Where does he think you are right now?” Adelina asked suddenly, addressing him civilly for the first time all day. 

“Out in the meadows, practicing my riding.” Drustan answered. 

A strange look crossed her face, but she nodded. “He won’t send anyone to make sure?” 

Drustan shook his head. “I’ll be fine for another two hours at least. Even if he did want to make sure, there are hundreds of meadows to check in this area. I could also use the excuse that I was in one he didn’t check.” 

“Then we have plenty of time to think of a serious strategy.” Anissa nodded. “Good. We can work with that.” 

“We need an audience with the king.” Adelina stood, walking to a desk and pulling out a piece of paper. “However, we have to do that, we must do it.” 

“We can request an audience with him.” Edwin suggested. 

Drustan shook his head. “No- he won’t meet with just anyone. We will have to get close to him somehow. It’s about being in the right place at the right time.” 

“There were rumors that he would be at your father’s ball three weeks ago.” Adelina pointed out. “Is there a chance he will come to another one, if there is one?”

Drustan thought for a moment. “If we can fuel the rumors that my father is a traitor- because he is- the king may come. If he believes there is enough cause for concern, it will get him to come.”

“Then we just need to get people talking.” Anissa smiled a little. “I believe that falls under my area of expertise.” 

Adelina smiled for the first time all afternoon. “I believe you would be right about that.” Anissa knew everything about everyone in the area- she was the trustworthy type. “Anissa, you’ll be our eyes and ears in the upper class. If you hear anything about me, tell us. And try your best to shut it down.” 

Anissa nodded. “Yes, captain.” 

Adelina rolled her eyes slightly, but there was a hint of a smile on her face. “Edwin, you make sure that none of the men among the working crew know anything. If they know something, it means all of the townspeople know.”

“I have a good relationship with most of them so I’ll make sure that if they know anything, I find out about it. And I’ll do my best to dispel rumors if I do hear them.”

“And I’ll keep my eyes and ears open at my castle to see if anyone there knows anything.” Drustan asserted, knowing that was what was coming next. 

“We need to do more than just start and listen for rumors. We have to take some action.” Anissa raised an eyebrow. 

“I know.” Adelina chewed on her lip but Drustan forced himself to focus on her eyes. “Drustan, you need to find a way into your father’s office and see if there is any evidence that he killed my parents. Just in case the king doesn’t view our testimonies as enough, we need physical evidence.” 

Drustan nodded. “I’ll do my best.” It was silent for a moment as everyone thought of what else to do. “We still need to figure out what we are going to do once the king actually comes.” 

Adelina shrugged. “I’ll get close to one of his daughters- engage in conversation with her, and get her to introduce me to him. When she does that, I’ll introduce myself using my proper title. I’ll tell him everything. I met him once when I was younger and he’ll know who I am- he’ll recognize the name. Your father won’t be able to do anything- he wouldn’t dare to kill me in front of so many people.” 

Drustan nodded slowly. “It could work. If it doesn’t, I’ll step in and do something to help you.” 

“So we have that all planned out- but who knows how long that could take?” 

Drustan thought for a moment. “My father is already planning his next ball to commemorate the new castle being finished. Since he wants it done by the end of the year- that is seven months from now. So we have seven months to get everything set up.” 

Edwin smiled. “Then we had better get to work.” 

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

Drustan took a deep breath as he walked out to the stable. He needed to get back before the evening meal so that his father didn’t get suspicious. They had spent all afternoon planning how to convince the king that it really was Adelina, and not a fraud. Adelina had spoken to him and looked at him like he was an actual human being, and not the enemy. He doubted this would last long, but it was a step in the right direction. 

“Drustan!” He turned at Adelina’s voice. 

She walked up to him quickly. “I need you to get me into your castle.” 

He raised an eyebrow. “Why?” 

“I believe there may be a knight there that I need to speak to.” 

“Who?” 

“You won’t know him.” 

Drustan hesitated, forcing himself to remain expressionless. “It’s my family’s castle, love. I’ll know him.” He couldn’t help but tease her a little. “Unless you just don’t want to tell me who this mystery man is.” 

She rolled her eyes. “I made a promise to be civil to you- that does not mean I won’t keep you in check when you get on my nerves.”

Drustan smirked. “Likewise.” 

“His name is Ellian.” 

Drustan’s jaw fell open. “Ellian?” 

Adelina nodded. “So you do know him.” 

Drustan clamped his mouth shut. “I’m not sneaking you into my castle to meet with him.” 

Adelina raised an eyebrow, crossing her arms. Her defenses were going up again. “And why not?” 

“Because Ellian is my father’s favorite guard and is intent on making my life miserable. If he finds out that you are alive, he’ll tell my father immediately and all our plans will be ruined.” 

“He was my friend as a child- he won’t turn on me.” 

“Adelina, believe me. He will. Childhood friendship is not a thing to base trustworthiness off of now.”

“I need to find out where his parents are- his parents were friends with mine. They may be willing to help us, if we need people to testify that my father wasn’t a traitor.” 

“I’ll find it out myself, Adelina. I’m not going to let you meet with him.” 

“How do you know that he isn’t just putting on an act- as you say that you are?” 

“As I say that I am? So what, you don’t believe that dutiful son is an act?” Drustan scoffed. “Thank you for your trust, darling.” 

Adelina pursed her lips. “I didn’t say that. My point is, maybe he’s putting on an act.” 

“If you meet with him, he will either tell my father- who will kill you- or Ellian will kill you himself.” 

“You don’t know that.” 

He took a deep breath, trying to remain calm. “I do, Adelina. Please, just trust me.” 

“I don’t.” 

He clenched his jaw. “I know. But I’m asking you to on this. Please, Adelina.” He took her hand, squeezing it tightly. “Please.”

She pulled her hand away, glaring up at him- he had thought her good mood would last longer than this. He should have known that trying to protect her would take it away. “If you don’t tell me where his parents are in the next week, then I will find out for myself.” 

“I’ll find out, Adelina. I promise. Just please, don’t do anything stupid.”

“I would never.” She turned and began to walk away. 

“He threatened to kill me, Adelina.” Drustan said, sighing. 

She stopped and turned back. “What do you mean?” 

“He wants my title. He wants me dead even more than my father does. And killing you would be just one more step towards that.” 

“I’ll find a way to convince him.” She shrugged. “How hard can it be?” 

Drustan shook his head- he had hoped that Ellian threatening to kill him would have convinced her. But it wasn’t enough. “Fine, Adelina. Get yourself killed. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.” 

He turned quickly, walking to the stable. 

“Drustan.” She called after him, but he ignored her. 

He couldn’t talk to her right now. If she wasn’t willing to care about her own personal safety, that was her problem. He wouldn’t fight with her about it. It wasn’t worth it. 

He had no right to tell her what to do- not in her eyes anyway. He was tired of trying to prove to her that he was just trying to look out for her. He hadn’t even been around her again for a month, and there had been nothing but pain from it. He couldn’t keep hoping that she would open up to him again. 

He would help her get justice for her parents, and he would help her get rid of his father. But beyond that… he was done helping her. 

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