Traitorous Hearts: Chapter Twenty-Three

Adelina took a deep breath, tying her horse to a tree and walking slowly towards Drustan. He sat against a tree, looking straight ahead. He knew she was there but he wasn’t acknowledging her. She couldn’t really blame him for it- she had hurt him deeply. Her distrustful nature had gotten the better of her and she hadn’t been able to pull it back in and hide it from him. She had known, deep down, that he would never have turned her in. But in a moment of weakness, she had spoken her irrational fears and now they were here. 

She sat down next to him slowly, careful not to touch him. He was likely still angry with her and she wanted to respect that. 

“I’m sorry, Dru.” She said after a moment, staring up at the sky. “I was just scared. I shouldn’t have accused you of doing something that I know you would never do.”

“The thought was in your mind from the moment I said that he knew. It was the first thing that you thought of, Adelina. If your first instinct is to accuse me of betraying you, how am I supposed to feel? If you can’t trust me, how can I trust you?”

“I do trust you.” She answered weakly. 

“Clearly not enough.”

“I never meant to hurt you, Drustan.” She looked over at him, holding back tears. “I know that I did, but I didn’t mean to. I just didn’t understand how he could have found out. But I know that there are other ways he could have figured it out. It was wrong of me to treat you this way.” 

He was silent for a few moments, clenching and unclenching his jaw. 

“You have to trust me, Alina. I don’t know what I did to deserve this distrust from you but it just doesn’t work. We can’t live like this our entire lives.”

“You didn’t do anything. It was all me.” She sighed. “I’m sorry, Dru. I am so sorry that I hurt you. And I won’t let it happen again, I promise. Please, just give me another chance.”

He looked down at her. “I’ll give you a thousand chances if that is what it takes, Adelina. You hurt me, and I won’t minimize that. But you can never hurt me enough that I stop loving you.” 

She took a deep breath. “I’d rather not hurt you at all, much less get to the point that you could decide to stop loving me.” 

He took her hand gently. “I don’t want that either. I know there are going to be times though, that because of what we went through, we aren’t able to control our words and feelings as well. And that has to be okay. We have to work through these issues instead of getting angry or upset with each other. I know I didn’t do the greatest job at that this time, but I want to get better at it.” 

“You mean more to me than anyone in this world, Dru. I will do anything to be better about this.”

Drustan nodded, kissing the top of her head. 

She sighed softly. This was how all of their arguments always went. They let their tempers get the better of them for a little bit, and then they remembered how much they loved each other. They always worked things out quickly, no matter how angry they got. Whether it was because they had so few people supporting them in their lives or because they truly loved each other so much that they could let anything go, Adelina was thankful for it. His support was what was getting her through this entire ordeal. Without him… she wasn’t sure that she would be able to make it. And she was fairly certain he felt the same. Their love for each other outlasted their anger, every time. It was a love that she had so desperately wanted her entire life. She had seen it in her parents- or at least, she thought that she had- and she had wanted someone to love her like that. Enough to see past her flaws and past her moments of fear. 

“We are in the final stages, Adelina. We can’t let him come between us now. Not after everything that we have been through.” Drustan’s voice broke through her thoughts. 

“I know.” She nodded. “And we’ll make it. We’ll be okay. He won’t win. Not this time.” 

Drustan took a deep breath. “We need to figure out how to get Kingsley out of there before anything happens. I don’t want him getting caught in anything dangerous.”

Adelina nodded. “I agree. Is there a way that we can convince your father to send him away, where we can secretly bring him to one of our safe places instead?”

“Do we have any safe places?” Drustan laughed a little, looking down at her. 

Adelina smiled. “That is a good question, my love.” She thought for a moment. “There is only one place that I believe he would truly be safe. No one would find him.”

“Where?” 

“The same place that I ran to the last time that I was desperate.” She nodded. “Chadd and Clemence will take care of him. They’ll look out for him until this entire ordeal is over and we can take him back.”

“And you trust them completely?”

“They would never do anything to hurt me or someone that I care about. They will make sure that no one finds or hurts him, whatever it takes. They did the same for me when I was a stranger- they will do the same for one of their family.” 

Drustan nodded. “Then whoever is taking Kingsley to his safe place- which I assume will be my mother’s parents’ home- will need to be someone we trust. I’ll talk to my grandparents and convince them to tell my parents that everything is normal and act as if Kingsley is with them. My parents won’t discover that he is under our protection until my father is already in a prison cell.”

“Is there a reason that he cannot stay at your grandparents’ home? Would they not protect him?”

Drustan was silent for a moment. “They would- and, if things go according to our plan, it would be a good idea. However, if my father somehow gets wind of our plan and decides to retrieve Kingsley, he will know exactly where to find him. By sending him to Chadd and Clemence, we ensure that if my father does try to get to him, he is unable to.”

“Then sending him to Chadd and Clemence sounds like our best option.” 

Drustan nodded. “I believe that it is.”

Adelina nodded. “And, when we go to get him, it would give you a chance to finally meet Chadd and Clemence.”

Drustan smiled down at her. “I would like to meet the people responsible for bringing the joy back into my life.”

“And I would absolutely love for them to meet you- and I know that once they know how the situation is here, they will be very happy to meet you too.” Adelina smiled. 

“Then we are agreed? I will convince my father to send Kingsley to my grandparents’ home, before which the guards will change course to your friends?”

“Exactly.” Adelina nodded. “I will send a letter with the guards explaining the entire situation to Chadd and Clemence. They won’t hesitate to accept him into their home.” 

“Good.” He pushed himself up, holding out his hand. “We should both be going. My father will be wondering where I am and Anissa will be worried about you being gone for too long.” 

She groaned, taking his hand and allowing him to pull her up. “We only just got here.” 

“I know.” He kissed her cheek, smiling. “But we have so much to do and so little time. And when we do it all… we will have all the time in the world.” He brushed a piece of her hair out of her face. “To do whatever we please. And no one will ever be able to stop us.” 

She looked down at her hands, smiling. “No one?”

He shrugged. “Except maybe Kingsley.” He winked. “Now go, before Anissa sends out a search party. You know how nervous she has been lately.”

Adelina rolled her eyes. “She has no reason to worry about me. I am very responsible with my safety. I leave the house often and rarely get caught.” 

Drustan nodded. “I know. But my father is likely watching their home now that he has determined that you are there. You will need to be even more careful than ever before.” 

“Are you worried about me too?” She teased, poking him. “Is the infamous, roguish Drustan of Nyro worried about me, his father’s enemy?”

He looked away, laughing. “And what if I was?”

“Then I would say that you have absolutely nothing to worry about and I am being very careful.”

“I might need a little bit more convincing than that, my lady.” There was a mischievous glint in his eye. 

She raised an eyebrow, trying to hold back her smile. “Is that so?” 

“I believe I might need proof that you are okay- and that you are really standing in front of me, and not some figment of my imagination.” 

“I cannot possibly imagine what sort of proof you could need.” She began to turn away but his arm came around her waist, stopping her. 

He pulled her back quickly, pressing his lips to hers and wrapping his arms around her. She kissed him back until she could no longer contain the laughter welling up inside of her. She held his face, smiling in a way that only looking into the eyes of the man that she loved with her whole heart could make her smile. 

“Was that proof enough?” She asked, raising an eyebrow. 

He grinned. “I suppose it will suffice. Seeing that beautiful smile does help it a bit.”

She smiled wider, feeling the heat rushing into her cheeks at his compliment. “Good.”

He looked around, sighing a little. “We really should be going before anyone sees us. I’ll speak with my father when I get home and determine whether or not it will be possible to convince him to send Kingsley away. I have been in brief contact with my grandfather these last several weeks and I believe that he will help me, if I explain the situation.”

Adelina nodded. “Good. I just want him to be safe.”

“If Chadd and Clemence are anything like you describe them to be, he will be very safe. And if we need to leave an extra guard there just in case, we will make sure that he also finds a way to fit in.” 

“We could send one of Edwin and Anissa’s men, so that your father won’t realize anyone is missing.” 

“That may be wise.” Drustan nodded. “Now really, you should go. We have stalled long enough. And as much as I would love to hold you like this forever, we both know that it isn’t safe. The sooner I go home, the sooner I can ensure that Kingsley is out of my father’s grasp. For good.” 

She nodded, sighing slightly. “I know. I do like shutting out the world for a moment though.”

He smiled. “I do too.” He kissed her forehead. “Now go, love. I’ll come to see you as soon as I can. In the meantime, I need you to write directions to Chadd and Clemence’s home for the guard to memorize. And a letter explaining the situation.” 

“I’ll see you soon.” She pulled away reluctantly. She just needed to focus on them being one step closer to victory- it made saying goodbye again sting just slightly less. But only slightly. Nothing would ever make it easier. 

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

Drustan rode into the yard, dismounting quickly. He gave his reins to a groom and walked towards the entrance to the castle. 

“My lord! My lord,” A guard came running up to him, “your father has been looking for you.” 

Drustan took a deep breath. “Thank you. I’m on my way to see him now.” 

The guard nodded and walked away and Drustan took another deep breath. Maybe this meeting would give him the opportunity he needed to present his idea to his father. 

He walked quickly through the castle to his father’s office, knocking on the door. 

“Enter.” 

He opened the door and stepped inside, bowing slightly. 

“My apologies, Father. I was out on a ride and only just now returned.”

His father looked up at him. “A pleasure ride?”

“Of course not.” Drustan stared straight back at him. “I was practicing my riding skills.”

His father pursed his lips for a moment, but motioned for him to sit down. “There is something I need to discuss with you.”

Drustan sat down slowly, unsure how to react to the strange way that his father was acting. 

“Is there a problem?”

His father folded his hand on top of his desk. “We have not been making any progress in finding this traitorous girl. And as long as she lives, her father’s treachery will live on.” 

Drustan was silent for a moment. “Is there a possibility that when she learned that we had caught onto her, she fled?”

His father shook his head. “She wouldn’t do that. If she is anything like her father was, she will refuse to run. And if she has run… she may truly have gone to the king to tell him of our actions.” 

Drustan raised an eyebrow. “Our actions?”

It was quiet in the room for several moments. “There is something that I have never told you, Drustan. I never trusted you with this information before but I believe that you have proved your trustworthiness by now.”  

When Drustan was younger, those words would have made his heart soar. His father trusted him? That used to be all that he ever wanted- just one ounce of approval. But now, it didn’t make his heart soar, it made it sink. Had he been playing his part too well? What had made his father believe he could trust him? Drustan forced himself to pay attention to his father’s next words- he could deal with his apprehensions about this conversation later.

“Rorick was a traitor and he deserved to die. This you understand, of course. You lived there long enough to realize that.” Drustan nodded slowly, acting as if he truly did understand. “So I did what I had to, and I killed him- and his wife.” He laughed slightly. “She was in love with me and it was too easy to manipulate her into believing that I loved her and would leave your mother for her. She believed that there was something Rorick wasn’t telling her and that he truly was a traitor and-”

“But he was.” Drustan interjected. “He was a traitor. You just opened her eyes to the truth, did you not?”

His father paused, staring at him for a moment. “Yes, of course. Of course. Moving on… I convinced Anabelle to turn on Rorick. The night of the fire, she got me into the house. At her request, we tried to convince Rorick to join us. I knew he wouldn’t, but she refused to go along with my plan if I didn’t at least try. She always was weak minded like that.” He laughed bitterly. “But as I thought, he wouldn’t agree with us. So I sent his wife out of the room and I killed him. I had my men take their newborn child and kill Anabelle and their daughter.” 

Drustan stared at his father for a moment, pretending to be confused. “Kingsley?”

His father looked satisfied with himself, as if he had pulled off a brilliant plan when taking Kingsley. 

“Your mother had just given birth, but the baby was dead. We needed another heir in case something ever happened to you. They had a son that was exactly the right age, and no one would dare question me. It all came together perfectly. Except for that girl. She escaped my men and the fire that they set to cover their tracks.”

“Did your men not ensure that she was dead?” 

“I have begun questioning some of the men that I had with me that night. But most of the men that were there have retired and disappeared in the past two years- likely because they are cowards and didn’t want me to catch them. From what I have gathered from rumors that other knights, they never even found the girl in her room. She was missing from the very beginning.”

Drustan shook his head. “How could she have been overlooked? Did they not realize what a grave error that would be?”

“I am dealing with the men who were so careless as to allow my worst enemy’s daughter to live. I need you looking to the future. She cannot be allowed to escape again.”

Drustan was silent for a moment, a plan formulating in his mind. “Do you suppose that she knows that Kingsley is her true brother?”

His father nodded. “I can only assume, if she has heard anything at all, she knows. Why else would she be attempting to get back into the castle? She must be trying to get him back.” 

“Then we must make doubly sure that he is protected.” Drustan answered. 

“What do you have in mind?” Was his father really asking his opinion? He had to be getting incredibly nervous about the information that Adelina had if he was asking for Drustan’s opinion.

“If we secretly send Kingsley to somewhere safe, he will be out of harm’s way. She will continue coming after him because she believes that he is here but she won’t actually be able to get to him.” 

His father stroked his beard, nodding slightly. “Yes, that could work. But where to send him?” 

Drustan paused, waiting the proper amount of time to make it seem like he had just thought of this idea. “What about Grandfather and Grandmother? They would be willing to protect him.” 

His father nodded. “Yes, of course. I will write them a letter immediately.”

Drustan shook his head. “You shouldn’t allow any of this information to be written on paper, even for the briefest amount of time with your most trusted courier. Send two trusted men with him that know the information and have them tell Grandfather. It will be difficult for Mother, of course, but once he is there, there should be no communication between us and them. This will ensure that no one can possibly intercept information for the girl. We don’t know who she could be working with and who is on her side.” 

His father stared at him for a moment. “I have taught you well then, my son. You are truly learning how to win the game.” 

Drustan bowed his head slightly. “I have been watching and waiting for this opportunity for a very long time. I am well prepared.”

“I’m glad to hear it. I would expect nothing less from you after all of the work that I have put in to get you ready for this.” 

Drustan inhaled slowly, forcing himself to stay calm. “I am only trying to make you proud, Father.” The words were bitter on his tongue and he had to fight to keep the sarcastic tone out of his face. 

“Ensure that everything goes well in getting rid of this girl once and for all, and you may just do that.” 

“I would suggest Berthold and Amos as men to send with Kingsley. In training, I have found them to be more than proficient in their fighting capabilities and more loyal to you than anyone else.” Drustan nodded slowly. “And they could stay with Kingsley to make doubly sure that nothing happens to him.” 

His father thought for a moment, then nodded. “Yes, that will work. I don’t trust that grandfather of yours very much anyway. Leaving my men there will make sure that he doesn’t harm Kingsley in order to thwart some of my plans.” 

Drustan nodded. “It is settled then.” He stood, bowing. “I will make sure that everything is attended to properly.” 

“Before you go,” Drustan turned back as his father spoke, “are there any new developments at the Caspell house?”

Drustan was silent for a moment. “No. I have been there frequently recently to work on plans for the castle with Edwin- and to look out for signs of the girl. I haven’t seen anything suspicious yet. I will return there in the morning to see if there is anything more that I can discover. Edwin trusts me- if I work at it hard enough, he will cave eventually.” 

Drustan wasn’t sure if he should feel bad for lying so blatantly to his father, but he didn’t. He would do anything to protect Adelina, Edwin, and Anissa. He would lie as many times as he needed to if it would convince his father that Adelina was nowhere near Edwin’s home. 

“Good.” 

“There is the possibility that they are telling the truth and that the girl truly isn’t there. It may be wise to continue searching the rest of the town and other homes in case someone else is hiding her.” 

His father stared at him, a strange look in his eye. As if he was truly seeing Drustan as an equal for the first time. Like after years of underestimating and belittling Drustan, he was finally seeing just how much power Drustan held. 

“Yes, that would be wise. I will send out some men tomorrow to continue searching for her in the houses in town.” He swallowed hard before continuing. “It is imperative that no one knows the information that I have shared with you today, Drustan. No one can know who the girl really is and what she intends to do- not even the guards. And no one can know what I did. If I find that you have spread such traitorous lies to anyone, I will have you treated as the traitor that you are.” 

Drustan nodded solemnly. “Of course, Father. I would never dream of sharing any lies with anyone. You have worked far too hard to get us in our current position of power for dishonest people to stop you now.” 

His father smiled, sending a chill down Drustan’s spine. “I’m so glad that we are on the same page, son.” 

Drustan bowed slightly. “I will begin preparations for the men to escort Kingsley to safety. I want to make sure that nothing happens to him that we don’t allow to happen.” 

“I am glad that you are so invested in the boy’s future, Drustan. You will be the one taking care of him when I am gone. I trust that you will raise him and take care of him in the way that I would have wanted. The way that would be best for him.” 

Drustan nodded. “Of course, Father. I would never want anything for him but the best that the world has to offer, just as you would give him. The future- his future- is incredibly important to me.” 

His father was slow to answer, staring at him a moment longer. “Good.” 

Drustan turned around, allowing the smile that he had been holding back to make its way to the surface. There had been a look in his father’s eyes just now that he had never seen before and he doubted he would again for a long time. But it meant something. 

It meant that his father was afraid of him.