Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Ten

Nearly a week passed before Drustan could get away again to fully relay all of the information he had learned. Adelina had spent the entire week pacing anxiously around her room, desperate to know everything that he had heard. Soon after their conversation about Sarah, they had been able to slip out of the closet and she had snuck out of the castle through one of the back ways. 

She hadn’t really meant to show him any sort of vulnerability when talking about Sarah, but she couldn’t help it. She wanted to make sure that he took care of it. She couldn’t lie- he was a good man for helping her. He would keep his promise in this. She knew that much to be true. She hated that it made her want to open up to him again.  

“You can stop pacing now-” Anissa interrupted her thoughts- “he’s here.” 

Adelina spun around. “He’s here?” 

“Yes. You look fine, just to be clear.” She had noticed Adelina’s frantic look towards the mirror. Wonderful. 

“I just wanted to make sure that I look presentable. I can’t give him anything to use against me.” 

“Right…” Anissa trailed off, a smile growing on her face. 

“That isn’t funny, Anissa.” Adelina called after her as her friend left the room. 

“I’ll bring them up.” 

Them? Who was them? Had he brought her Sarah? Or was it Ellian’s parents? Or Drustan’s grandparents? Adelina scowled- Anissa had to be more specific. Anissa knew that she didn’t like suspense. 

Adelina took a deep breath, smoothing her hair down and walking slowly to a chair. She would appear composed and ready for whatever came through the door. If it was one of their potential allies, she needed to command respect. She had to convince them that she was ready to do this, and she could handle the responsibility of bringing such a terrible man to justice. She had already convinced herself and the other three of this- she just had to convince everyone else. 

It would take them a bit longer to get to her than normal because she had finally moved to a bedroom down the hall from Anissa and Edwin. She had her own living quarters, and bedroom, which she was extremely grateful for. She could finally have her own space to spend time alone and think. She was still in Edwin and Anissa’s room often, as they conducted most of their meetings there, but any other time, she was in her own room. 

“Thank you for coming. She- we- have been very anxious for news.” Anissa said to whoever was with her, her voice carrying down the hallway. 

Adelina glared at the door. Anissa was not helping the situation with Drustan in any way. 

“I’ve been anxious to hear her news as well.” Drustan answered as they walked in the door. “However, I think I have something that she wants more than news.” He smiled a little at her as his gaze met hers. 

“Lord Drustan.” She stood- she didn’t know who was coming through the door, and she needed to seem formal. 

“My lady, may I introduce Sarah of Finchley.” Drustan held out his arm and a young girl stepped into the room, taking it. She looked up at Adelina nervously. 

Adelina breathed a sigh of relief- she could relax a little now. “Please, come in. Sit.” She motioned to several chairs around the room. 

“Sarah, this is Lady Alexandria-” they had decided that at least in the beginning, it was best to keep her identity a secret- “She has taken an interest in your situation, and would like to offer you a job.” 

Sarah’s face turned red. “So you… know?” 

Adealin nodded, smiling sympathetically. “I do.” 

“And you are okay with it?” 

“I am.” 

Sarah looked at Drustan before sitting down. He nodded, walking her to one of the chairs. “I promise, she’ll take good care of you.” 

Once he made sure that Sarah was comfortable, Drustan walked to the chair next to Adelina and sat down. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye and barely stopped herself from rolling her eyes. Of course he would choose the chair next to her. 

“You will live in the room off of mine.” Adelina motioned to the door in the wall on her right. “You will wake up when I wake up, and help me get ready. You’ll assist me throughout the day with whatever I need and be my companion. I promise, it won’t be anything strenuous. When you are no longer able to work, you will be able to stay in your room and we will have other people to help you and take care of your duties until you are able to work again.” 

“Are you sure? What if something happens and it takes me a long time to come back to work?” Sarah asked, her expression troubled. 

Adelina smiled. “I wouldn’t take you on as my personal servant if I wasn’t prepared to deal with the difficulties of your situation.”

“Thank you so much.” Her face was filled with gratitude. 

“I do have one condition, Sarah.” Adelina didn’t want to get her hopes up if she wasn’t ready to agree to this. 

“Yes?” 

Adelina took a deep breath. “As I’m sure Lord Drustan has informed you, my situation is also delicate. Nobody can know who I am, or even that I’m here. Nobody can know who you work for. Especially not Baron Haimon. Which means that you cannot speak to anyone at your old job for quite some time. Really, the only people you can talk to are the people within these walls.” 

Sarah nodded slowly, looking between her and Drustan. “Lord Drustan mentioned that you are a very private person.”

“Are you prepared to maintain a private life until I decide to make my appearance into society?” Adelina raised an eyebrow. 

“I am.” Sarah nodded quickly. “I won’t ever leave this house, if that’s what you want.” 

Adelina smiled. “I don’t know that I will require something quite so extreme. We’ll see what happens.”  

“Thank you, Lady Alexandria.” Sarah stood, coming forward and kneeling at her feet. “Thank you so much for being so gracious to me.” 

Adelina smiled. “It is my pleasure.” She motioned for the girl to stand up. “Now go, get situated and comfortable. The rest of us have some business to attend to in private. I’ll come back for you when I need you, and we’ll talk some more.” Adelina smiled again and stood. 

Sarah nodded and rushed over to her room, slipping inside and shutting the door behind her. 

“You are doing a good thing.” Drustan stood, looking over at her. 

“I know.” Adelina took a deep breath. “I just hope I can help her enough.” 

“You will.” 

“Come, you two.” Anissa motioned towards the door. “We have other matters to discuss.” 

“Yes, we do.” Adelina and Drustan followed Anissa out of the room into her own room. 

Edwin was sitting at the desk, writing on some paper. He looked over his shoulder as they walked in. 

“Did you get everything figured out?” He asked. 

Adelina nodded. “I did. And from now on, in front of other people, I am Lady Alexandria, your cousin from several regions away. Eventually, I do want to tell Sarah the truth. But for now, I want to be careful. She seemed very attached to Ellian when Drustan and I first heard them talking. I’m afraid that if he changes his mind and finds her, she’ll go running back to him. And if she knows my secret then she’ll definitely tell him. So we will have to wait until we know for sure that she has cut all ties to him.” 

“Would Lady Al suffice?” Drustan asked, sitting down in one of the chairs. 

Adelina rolled her eyes, sitting in a chair as far away from him as possible. “Call me that once, and I will make sure you never do it again.” 

He smirked. “I figured.” 

“And if you give Sarah any indication that we are anything more than two people being forced to work together, there will be swift and painful retribution.” 

“Are we more than that?” Drustan raised an eyebrow. 

“Alright, cut it out you two!” Anissa had her chin in her hand and did not look happy. “If I have to keep pulling you two from each other’s throats, I am not going to be very happy. We agreed to be civil.” 

“That we did.” Drustan didn’t break eye contact. 

“Now, Drustan, what do you have for us?” 

He sighed and finally looked away from her, over to Anissa. “Well, I found some letters from my grandfather to my father. He said something along the lines of knowing my father was a bad man, but he could marry my mother anyway. That may mean that my grandfather has evidence of my father’s treachery. I plan on writing to them soon to find out.” 

“Your grandfather would be a good ally.” Edwin nodded. 

“I looked through his journal from around the time that he killed Adelina’s parents, and he never directly admits to it, but alludes to it. It isn’t enough to be solid proof though.” 

“Was there anything written on the day that they died?” Adelina rested her elbows on her knees. 

“At some point, there was. But the pages had been ripped out. I don’t know where they are.” 

Adealin frowned. “I doubt he would admit to it anyway, even in a private journal.” 

Drustan nodded. “I agree. I also found a secret drawer in his bookcase that I’m going to check periodically to make sure that nothing else is added or taken away.” 

“What was in it?” Edwin asked. 

Drustan shrugged. “The letters from my grandfather, my father’s signet ring from when he was younger, and an old, dried up rose petal.” 

“A dried up rose petal?” Adelina stared at him. 

He looked over at her. “Yes. Is that significant somehow?” 

She shook her head. “I don’t- I don’t think so.” She thought for a moment longer. “My mother loved roses. There were fresh roses in every room of the house throughout the year, that she grew in a greenhouse a few miles away.”

Drustan’s eyes widened. “Yes, I remember that. She would put roses everywhere, especially when they were in season. The outdoor garden was filled with them in the summer.” 

Adelina nodded. “The garden burnt down with the rest of the house. And I don’t know what happened to the greenhouse. But could it mean that… that your father wasn’t lying when he said that my mother loved him? If he had a rose petal?” 

“But didn’t you say that Haimon said he never loved Anabelle? So why would he have something that reminded him of her, if she was the one who was in love with him?” Anissa asked. 

“I can’t tell what is real and what are Haimon’s mind games anymore.” Adelina put her head in her hands. 

“I don’t think any of us can.” Drustan answered quietly. 

“If it really is a petal from Anabelle, then why would he keep it hidden away?” Anissa looked between all of them. “If he cared enough to keep it, why wouldn’t he put it somewhere he could see it all of the time?” 

Adelina wasn’t sure why he would keep it hidden- she didn’t really care.

All she knew was that she did not want to admit that there was even the smallest possibility that Haimon had been telling her father the truth. 

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Drustan could see Adelina beginning to shut down- the idea that his father and her mother could truly have had a relationship was too much for her. 

“It doesn’t matter.” He said abruptly. “Until someone has real proof, we don’t have to worry about it.” He looked over at Adelina. “Have you found out anything more?” 

Adelina was silent for a moment, her expression vacant. 

“Adelina?” Anissa prompted. 

Adelina blinked a few times. “What?” 

“Have you found out anything more?” Drustan repeated his question. 

She took a deep breath. “Not much. I found some people in the village that will trust me and tell me if they find out anything important. They all suspect that your father was behind the fire, but no one will say it openly. They are too heavily guarded by your father, and are afraid of being thrown in the dungeon.” 

Drustan nodded. “Unfortunately, people are thrown in there far too often for far too little.” 

“But they trust me enough to tell me if they hear anything.” 

“Do they know who you are?” Anissa asked. 

Adelina shook her head. “No. They have no idea. They think my name is Alexandria, just like everyone else. They just don’t know about the duchess part.” 

“And they still trust you?” Drustan raised an eyebrow. 

“I’m someone who ‘doesn’t know the gossip’- they’ll jump at the chance to fill me in on everything. Though I do worry that they will recognize me at some point. They’ve seen me before, when I was younger, shopping in the market.” 

“I thought your father wouldn’t let you go to the market?” Anissa asked, walking over to the mirror and beginning to fix her hair. 

Adelina’s eyes met Drustan’s for a moment- a moment so brief that the other two didn’t notice. But it was enough. Drustan knew exactly when they had seen her. There was only one person that Duke Rorick had trusted enough to accompany Adelina into the market. And that was Drustan. 

He inhaled quickly. “When did they see you? Your father really didn’t let you go there very often at all. It must have been a rare sighting.” How far would she go in order to not explain this?

Adelina sent him a warning look. “I think it was just one of the few times that I was there with my father or his guards. They weren’t too specific.” 

Drustan raised an eyebrow. “But they don’t recognize you?” 

Adelina shook her head. “No.” 

“Good. We can’t afford to have people recognizing you in the town. Word spreads too fast there.” Edwin answered. 

“I’m not going to stop going, though. I know it’s risky, but I think it’s necessary. If I’m building allies in the village while they don’t know me, they’ll stick by me when I do take my place.” 

Anissa turned around from the mirror. “But is it necessary enough to take the chance?” 

Drustan spoke before anyone else could. “I think it is. The people are already on the edge of turning against my father. If we can get them on our side now, then, when the time is right, they will join us.” He wanted to make it clear that he supported her here. Anything he could do to help his case with her, he would. 

He knew that she wasn’t exactly happy with him for alluding to their relationship in front of Sarah. He hadn’t said anything about it, but he had addressed her in a less than formal manner, and had sat right next to her. He hadn’t necessarily meant it that way, but he wanted to make it clear to Sarah where his allegiance was. She didn’t know why now, but she would. And when the time came, he wanted her to know exactly where he stood. He wasn’t going to take any risks on her doubting his loyalty to this cause and telling Adelina about it. Even if right now it put him in a position where Adelina was angry with him, he hoped that it would pay off in the future. 

“Exactly.” Adelina answered. “I have it handled.” 

Anissa looked at the grandfather clock in the corner as it chimed. “Well, I need to go see about dinner and see how it is coming along. Drustan, you are more than welcome to stay for dinner if you want.” 

“Thank you, Anissa. I believe I will.” He could see Adelina narrow her eyes but she didn’t say anything. 

Anissa walked to the door. “Edwin, darling, I have some things that I need to discuss with you. Will you please come with me?” 

Edwin stood. “I’m coming.” 

The two of them left the room, leaving just Drustan and Adelina, sitting in silence. 

“That wasn’t obvious at all.” Adelina glared at the door. 

Drustan smiled, looking down at the ground. “Not at all.” 

Adelina stood. “If you want to talk, I have some things to straighten up in my room. We can talk there.” 

“And what about Sarah?” Drustan stood, following her out of the room. 

“The walls are thick.” Adelina answered over her shoulder. 

Drustan sat back down in the chair that he had been in before while Adelina walked to her wardrobe and opened it, organizing dresses. 

“When did the people see you in the market?” He asked after a moment of silence. 

Adelina’s hands hesitated on the dress that she had picked up. “What do you mean?” 

“I saw the look that you gave me. And Anissa is right- your father rarely let you go into town. There was only one person that he let you go into town with, and it was me. Because he knew that I would protect you, no matter what happened. So obviously, if they saw you in town, and you are avoiding the question, they saw us together.” 

She sighed, turning around slowly. “They did. They saw us kiss in town.” 

Drustan thought for a moment. “I don’t remember ever…” he trailed off, suddenly remembering. He smirked a little, unable to resist. 

“You have quite a few admirers in town from that kiss.” She smiled, biting her lip and holding back a laugh. 

He rolled his eyes. “It was one, innocent kiss.” 

“According to Claudia, it was the most passionate thing she’d ever seen, and she could practically feel the love from it.” Adelina turned back around, picking up another dress. 

“Claudia?” 

“One of the women that I met in town.” She turned back around. “I forgot to say this when we were with Anissa and Edwin, but I am covered as far as the ball. Everyone thinks that I was the king’s daughter.” 

“The king’s daughter?” Drustan felt his eyes widen. 

“They say that’s why you danced with me- oh, and that you were quite smitten with your wonderful dance partner. After all, she’s supposed to be the most beautiful girl in all of the land.” She laughed softly. 

“Well, I suppose one cover story is as good as another.” Drustan shrugged, not addressing the part about being smitten with her. He had teased her enough for the time being. 

“And if your supposed auspicious match with the princess doesn’t work, Claudia will gladly leave her husband and children to marry you. Or Maude will give you her daughter.” 

Drustan raised his eyebrows. “Is there anything else I should know about these townswomen? They seem to have quite a lot to say about me.” 

She was silent for a moment. “You used to buy apples from Claudia and give them to the poor. When you were younger, training at my father’s castle.” 

Drustan thought about it, trying to remember what she was talking about. “I think I remember doing that sometimes, when your father would give me some money as a treat.” 

“They think that the little angel is still somewhere inside that roguish, mischievous exterior- their words, not mine.” She smiled over her shoulder. 

“Roguish?” 

“It was an interesting choice of words, to be sure.” 

Drustan laughed. “Well, my apologies to Claudia and Maude, but I don’t really care whether they think the angel is in there somewhere- or that I’m roguish and mischievous. Their opinions don’t mean much to me.” 

“Ah, and whose opinion does mean much to you? Your father’s?” She stopped, and he knew that she had realized what she said. 

He laughed. “No. Someone much more important, and caring than my father.” 

“That isn’t hard- this person could be anyone.” She wouldn’t look over her shoulder again. He could tell she was forcing herself to look forward- she had walked into a trap that she couldn’t get out of, and she knew it. 

“You’re right. But she exists, nonetheless. Her opinion means more to me than anyone else’s.” 

“That’s a lot of pressure for one woman.” She answered quietly. 

“She can handle it.” 

“Your mother is strong- I don’t know if she’s that strong.” She was desperately trying to draw the conversation away from this strange interaction. But he wasn’t going to let her. 

Drustan smirked, holding in a laugh. “Please- we both know my mother is nearly as uncaring as my father is.” 

“True enough.” She answered. 

“No, this woman is much more important. Much more caring.” 

“She must mean a lot to you.” She was being abnormally vocal about this. 

“More than anything.” He sighed. “She isn’t too happy with me right now though. I can’t seem to say the right thing.” 

“Maybe you shouldn’t say anything at all, then.” She answered, crossing her arms. 

“Maybe. But it is so interesting to see her squirm.” He smiled a little. 

“Maybe she doesn’t like squirming.” 

“Fair enough.” He answered quietly. “Maybe she wouldn’t squirm if she would just be honest with me.” 

“She doesn’t sound like honesty is her strongest trait.” 

“It used to be. She used to tell me whatever she thought, and wouldn’t let me walk all over her. She still does that, but something is different now.” Everything was different now. 

“People change.” 

“She could change into a completely different person, and I would still love her. I’d still kiss her in the middle of the town square like I used to.” 

She froze, her hand still on a dress. “You shouldn’t kiss girls without their permission.” 

“I always had permission.” He answered quickly. 

“Well, you don’t anymore.” 

“Hence why I haven’t tried to kiss her yet.” 

“Yet?” She asked.

“Yet.” He confirmed. 

She looked over her shoulder at him slowly. “That seems awfully bold for a man talking about a woman who hates him.” 

“My apologies- the rogue in me cannot help but come out at times like these.” He was not helping his case at all and this probably wouldn’t end well. But it was definitely worth seeing how it played out. 

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