Home > The Elite (The Selection #2)(2)

The Elite (The Selection #2)(2)
Author: Kiera Cass

“Us?” Maxon guessed.

I smiled, happy at how easily he understood me. “Yes. I want to know if there’s a possibility for us to be an us.”

He moved a lock of hair behind my shoulder. “I think the odds are very high,” he said matter-of-factly.

“I think so, too. Just … time, okay?”

He nodded, looking happier. This was how I wanted to end our night, with hope. Well, and maybe one more thing. I bit my lip and leaned into Maxon, asking with my eyes.

Without a second of hesitation, he bent to kiss me. It was warm and gentle, and it left me feeling adored and somehow aching for more. I could have stayed there for hours, just to see if I could get enough of that feeling; but too soon, Maxon backed away.

“Let’s go,” he said in a playful tone, pulling me toward the palace. “Better get inside before the guards come for us on horseback with spears drawn.”

As Maxon left me at the stairs, the tiredness hit me like a wall. I was practically dragging myself up to the second floor and around the corner to my room when, suddenly, I was quite awake again.

“Oh!” Aspen said, surprised to see me, too. “I think it makes me the worst guard ever that I assumed you were in your room this whole time.”

I giggled. The Elite were supposed to sleep with at least one of their maids on watch in the night. I really didn’t like that, so Maxon insisted on stationing a guard by my room in case there was an emergency. The thing was, most of the time that guard was Aspen. It was a strange mix of exhilaration and terror knowing that nearly every night he was right outside my door.

The lightness of the moment faded quickly as Aspen grasped what it meant that I hadn’t been safely tucked in my bed. He cleared his throat uncomfortably.

“Did you have a good time?”

“Aspen,” I whispered, looking to make sure no one was around. “Don’t be upset. I’m part of the Selection, and this is just how it is.”

“How am I supposed to stand a chance, Mer? How can I compete when you only ever talk to one of us?” He made a good point, but what could I do?

“Please don’t be mad at me, Aspen. I’m trying to figure all this out.”

“No, Mer,” he said, gentleness returning to his voice. “I’m not mad at you. I miss you.” He didn’t dare say the words aloud, but he mouthed them. I love you.

I melted.

“I know,” I said, placing a hand on his chest, letting myself forget for a moment all that we were risking. “But that doesn’t change where we are or that I’m an Elite now. I need time, Aspen.”

He reached up to hold my hand in his and nodded. “I can give you that. Just … try to find some time for me, too.”

I didn’t want to bring up how complicated that would be, so I gave him a tiny smile before gently pulling my hand away. “I need to go.”

He watched me as I walked into my room and shut the door behind me.

Time. I was asking for a lot of it these days. I hoped that if I had enough, everything would somehow fall into place.

CHAPTER 2

“NO, NO,” QUEEN AMBERLY ANSWERED with a laugh. “I only had three bridesmaids, though Clarkson’s mother suggested I have more. I just wanted my sisters and my best friend, who, coincidentally, I’d met during my Selection.”

I peeked over at Marlee and was happy to find she was looking at me, too. Before I arrived at the palace, I had assumed that with this being such a high-stakes competition, there’d be no way any of the girls would be friendly. Marlee had embraced me the first time we met, and we’d been there for each other from that moment on. With a single almost-exception, we’d never even had an argument.

A few weeks ago, Marlee had mentioned that she didn’t think she wanted to be with Maxon. When I’d pushed her to explain, she clammed up. She wasn’t mad at me, I knew that, but those days of silence before we’d let it go were lonely.

“I want seven bridesmaids,” Kriss said. “I mean, if Maxon chooses me and I get to have a big wedding.”

“Well, I won’t have bridesmaids,” Celeste said, countering Kriss. “They’re just distracting. And since it would be televised, I want all eyes on me.”

I fumed. It was rare that we all got to sit and talk with Queen Amberly, and here Celeste was, being a brat and ruining it.

“I’d want to incorporate some of my culture’s traditions into my wedding,” Elise added quietly. “Girls back in New Asia use a lot of red in their ceremonies, and the groom has to bring gifts to the bride’s friends to reward them for letting her marry him.”

Kriss piped up. “Remind me to be in your wedding party. I love presents!”

“Me, too!” Marlee exclaimed.

“Lady America, you’ve been awfully quiet,” Queen Amberly said. “What do you want at your wedding?”

I blushed because I was completely unprepared to comment.

There was only one wedding I’d ever imagined, and it was going to take place at the Province of Carolina Services Office after an exhausting amount of paperwork.

“Well, the one thing I’ve thought about is having my dad give me away. You know when he takes your hand and puts it in the hand of the person you marry? That’s the only part I’ve ever really wanted.” Embarrassingly enough, it was true.

“But everyone does that,” Celeste complained. “That’s not even original.”

I should have been mad that she called me out, but I merely shrugged. “I want to know that my dad completely approves of my choice on the day it really matters.”

“That’s nice,” Natalie said, sipping her tea and looking out the window.

Queen Amberly laughed lightly. “I certainly hope he approves. No matter who it is.” She added the last words quickly, catching herself in the middle of implying that Maxon would be my choice.

I wondered if she thought that, if Maxon had told her about us.

Shortly after, the wedding talk died down, and the queen left to go work in her room. Celeste parked herself in front of the large television embedded in the wall, and the others started a card game.

“That was fun,” Marlee said as we settled in at a table together. “I’m not sure I’ve ever heard the queen talk so much.”

“She’s getting excited, I think.” I hadn’t mentioned to anyone what Maxon’s aunt had told me about how Queen Amberly tried many times for another child and failed. Adele had predicted that her sister would warm up to us once the group was smaller, and she was right.

 

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