Home > The Elite (The Selection #2)(6)

The Elite (The Selection #2)(6)
Author: Kiera Cass

“Why haven’t you ended this, America?” she asked sweetly. “You know he loves you.”

“He never said that,” I promised, and that was true.

“Of course he hasn’t,” she said, as if this would be obvious. “He’s trying so hard to catch you, and every time he gets close you push him away. Why do you do that?”

Could I tell her? Could I confess that while my feelings for Maxon went deep—deeper than I knew, apparently—there was someone else I couldn’t let go of?

“I’m just … not sure, I guess.” I trusted Marlee; I really did. But it was safer for us both if she didn’t know.

She nodded. It looked like she could tell there was more to it than that, but she didn’t press me. It was almost comforting, this mutual acceptance of our secrets.

“Find a way to be sure. Soon. Just because he’s not the one for me doesn’t mean Maxon’s not a great guy. I’d hate for you to lose him because you were afraid.”

She was right again. I was afraid. Afraid that Maxon’s feelings weren’t as genuine as they seemed, afraid of what being a princess might mean for me, afraid of losing Aspen.

“On a lighter note,” she said, setting down her cup of tea, “all that talk about weddings yesterday made me think of something.”

“Yes?”

“Would you want to, you know, be my maid of honor? If I get married someday?”

“Oh, Marlee, of course I would! Would you be mine?” I reached to grab her hands, and she took them happily.

“But you have sisters; won’t they mind?”

“They’ll understand. Please?”

“Absolutely! I wouldn’t miss your wedding for the world.” Her tone implied that my wedding would be the event of the century.

“Promise me that even if I get married to a nobody Eight in an alley somewhere, you’ll be there.”

She gave me a disbelieving look, positive that no such thing could ever happen. “Even if that’s the case. I promise.”

She didn’t ask me to make a similar vow for her, which made me wonder as I had in the past if there was another Four back home who she had her heart set on. I wouldn’t press her though. It was clear we both had secrets; but Marlee was my best friend, and I would do anything for her.

That night I was hoping to spend some time with Maxon. Marlee had me questioning a lot of my actions. And thoughts. And feelings.

After dinner, as we all stood to leave the Dining Room, I caught Maxon’s eye and tugged my ear. It was our secret sign to ask for time together, and it was rare to pass up an invitation. But tonight Maxon’s expression was disappointed as he mouthed the word “work” to me. I gave him a mock pout and a tiny wave before leaving for the night.

Perhaps it was for the best anyway. I really needed to think on some things where Maxon was concerned.

When I rounded the corner to my room, Aspen was there again, standing guard. He looked me up and down, taking in the snug green dress that did amazing things for the few curves I had. Without a word, I walked past him. Before I could turn the handle on my door, he gently grazed the skin on my arm.

It was slow but brief, and in those few seconds I felt that need, that sense of longing, that Aspen tended to inspire in me. One look at his emerald eyes, hungry and deep, and I felt my knees start to go shaky.

I moved into my room as quickly as I could, tortured by our connection. Thank goodness I barely had time to think about what Aspen made me feel, because the moment the door shut, my maids swarmed around me, preparing me for bed. As they chatted away and brushed my hair, I tried to let myself forget about everything for a moment.

It was impossible. I had to choose. Aspen or Maxon.

But how was I supposed to decide between two good possibilities? How could I make a choice that would leave some part of me devastated either way? I comforted myself with the thought that I still had time. I still had time.

CHAPTER 5

“SO, LADY CELESTE, YOU’RE SAYING that the quantities aren’t sufficient, and you feel the number of men taken in the next draft should be raised?” Gavril Fadaye, the moderator of discussions on the Illéa Capital Report and the only person who ever interviewed the royals, asked.

Our debates on the Report were tests, and we knew it. Even though Maxon didn’t have a timeline, the public was aching for the field to narrow; and I sensed the king, queen, and their advisers were, too. If we wanted to stay, we had to perform, whenever and wherever they said. I was glad I’d made it through that awful report about the soldiers. I remembered some of the statistics, so I stood a decent chance of making a good impression tonight.

“Exactly, Gavril. The war in New Asia has been going on for years. I think one or two rounds of inflated drafts would give us the numbers we need to end it.”

I really couldn’t stand Celeste. She’d gotten one girl kicked out, ruined Kriss’s birthday party last month, and literally tried to rip a dress off my back. Her status as a Two made her consider herself a cut above the rest of us. To be honest, I didn’t have an opinion about the number of soldiers Illéa had, but now that I knew Celeste’s, I was unwaveringly opposed.

“I disagree,” I said in as ladylike a tone as I could manage. Celeste turned my way, her dark hair whipping over her shoulder in the process. With her back to the camera, she felt perfectly comfortable blatantly glaring at me.

“Ah, Lady America, you think increasing the numbers is a bad idea?” Gavril asked.

I felt the heat of a blush on my cheeks. “Twos can afford to pay their way out of the draft, so I’m sure Lady Celeste has never seen what it does when families lose their only sons. Taking more would be devastating, particularly for the lowest castes, who tend to have larger families and need every member to work in order to survive.”

Marlee, beside me, gave me a friendly nudge.

Celeste took over. “Well, then what should we do? Certainly you aren’t suggesting that we sit back and let these wars drag on?”

“No, no. Of course I want Illéa to be done with the war.” I paused to gather my thoughts and looked across at Maxon for some sort of support. Next to him, the king looked peeved.

I needed to switch directions, so I blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “What if it was voluntary?”

“Voluntary?” Gavril asked.

Celeste and Natalie chuckled, which made it worse. But then I thought about it. Was it such a terrible idea?

 

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